Monthly Archives: December 2013

Monday Motivator – December 30

Do you feel uncomfortable when you pray? How so? Do you tend to believe that God is not interested in hearing from you?

I remember the first time I was invited to a friend’s wedding. Certainly my friend from college knew who I was, even though his fiancée had never met me. It was a privilege to receive the invitation and one that I gladly accepted.

It would be a large wedding I found out later from other friends. When I received the letter, I had not read the smaller print that the invitation would serve as my credential to gain access once I arrived. When I did arrive, the doorman asked to see my credential. Once I presented it, the door was opened and I was allowed to enter and enjoy the festivities.

Credentials have become much more significant since the attacks of September 2001. Security is tighter than ever before and you need the correct card, badge, visa, letter, passport or credential to get to where you want to go these days. It is a lot more difficult, for example, to get into any federal building in America than it used to be.

Read Hebrews 4:15-5:10.

What a picture we are presented with in the text of Hebrews. The Sovereign Lord of all creation sits on His throne in heaven and is far above all kings, rulers, nations, and peoples. Remembering the image of Moses meeting God at the burning bush, you would think He is unapproachable. Only a select few would have access to the One True God – angels in good standing, men of note (and a few choice women like Deborah, Hannah, Mary) and the elders around His throne described in chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation.

Yet the Newer Testament says a hardy, “wrong!” Any of us can enter His presence whenever we desire. Any moment, any day, night, time, or occasion is now possible. We can walk right in through the practice of prayer and discuss with God what is on our mind and/or heart. How is that possible when we step back and contrast our broken humanity with His celebrated holiness?

Believe it or not (and you should), our credential exists through the painful death of Jesus on the cross in the first century. He identified with our sinful reality, was born as a baby in a manger and was referred to as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Because He sympathized with our weaknesses (v 15), we can now confidently approach His throne, knowing our prayers are welcomed by our heavenly Father. In sync with John 3:16, our high priest Jesus gives us “highest privileged status” in His Kingdom.

It is called the “throne of grace” because God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, power and justice all flow from such a place. Our new status as children of God means Jesus has opened the way to His personal presence where we can always ask for His help, counsel, and involvement.

How often do you enter God’s throne room? Christ Jesus has given you and me our essential credentials for access. Hebrews 4:16 says “we should then approach the throne of grace with confidence.” Think theologically. In our identification with Jesus we have credential power. Let’s be sure to use it often in order to receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 23

How does the true meaning of Christmas influence the way you celebrate Christmas?

There are a lot of things that I enjoy about Christmas: the lights, carols, cookies, family gatherings, time off from school and work, buying presents for others, snowball fights and sledding down hills, and hot chocolate. I love holiday movies like, “Miracle of 34th Street,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life,” along with animated shows like “A Muppet Christmas,” “The Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

All of those things are fun and enjoyable. Yet it is amazing how those aren’t central, but peripheral to the real reason we celebrate Christmas (and Linus got it right, didn’t he?).

Read Matthew 27:26-31.

Look beyond the Christmas lights, decorations, gifts and music, and there is a Person – Jesus Christ. He was born “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). His mother wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger (2:7). Shepherds sang at his birth about “good news for all people” that “a Savior has been born this day… Christ the Lord” (2:10-11). He grew up as a boy who longed to please His heavenly Father (2:49). He matured into an adult, fully God and fully man, showing power over evil, and comforted and healed those who were hurting (4:36-41).

Eventually, He became the Savior for all, willingly enduring shame, torture and death for you and me (Matthew 27:30-31). He suffered all of this to take our sin upon Himself and give us His righteousness instead (2 Corinthians 5:21).

People often dismiss our conversation when we start talking about the suffering of Christ at Christmas. They argue we miss the spirit of Christmas by being too “negative” at a time when we need to be cheery because of “peace on earth, good will towards men.” But if our primary thought is what presents we buy for others and putting on a happy face, we have missed the life-changing message of the incarnational message of Christmas. Immanuel – God with us, is the message of His birth. His life and ultimate death caps off the greatest story ever told.

The message is that God came to change our hearts and lives through His consecrated life and death. Our sin does not have to control us any longer. We now have no more excuses to fall back on because our lustful and self-centered desires have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 5:24). This does not mean we will no longer struggle with temptation and sin (James 1:14), but we now have access to the power of the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ than our old way of thinking and living. The fruit of that new lifestyle can be ours: gentleness, patience, love, goodness, faithfulness and peace are by-products of choosing to follow Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23).

By following the life and example of our Savior and Lord, we can now be lights in a dark world, rather than examples of lives not well lived. We can invite those who do not have faith in Christ to consider unwrapping the gift of salvation, power, and human flourishing.

If you feel overwhelmed this season and can’t see past the cultural expressions of Christmas, look a little further to see the painful journey Jesus took and what that could mean for you. Grow devotionally. Christ came to take our blame and bring joy to the world.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 16

There is a country of several million that we need to reach with the message and life of Jesus. The reality of this small but vital population is that it includes men and women who are destined to occupy one fourth to one half of the world’s key leadership roles in the next few decades.

Sadly, most of the Christian church is currently neglecting this significant mission opportunity. Even most of the global missionary force is not working among these people. Yet if the followers of Jesus could influence the leaders of the planet when they are most open to ideas and change – politically, militarily, economically, academically, scientifically, and relationally – imagine the breadth and depth of such influence!

All of these people speak English, so no language learning is necessary. That means your missionary effort can start right away where you are. There is no need to raise a missionary budget to travel, work hard to get a visa and gain admittance to a country different from your own, and hope for religious freedom when you arrive.

Since you do not have to travel and go through cultural adjustments in a new environment, there is no need to change and adapt your food intake or general daily habits. The people you will meet in this country are friendly, well mannered, and interested in sharing and receiving hospitality. Even though they are from a different country, they are interested in meeting Americans in particular, and hoping to experience American family life and friendship.

The majority of the inhabitants of this country are serious-minded, hard working, and want to make a difference in the world. Many of them are even eager to learn about Christianity and most of them would receive a Bible if you offered them one and read it (especially if it was written in their language). They are also open to talk about their spiritual experience and compare it with the message of the Bible if the person connecting with them is sincere in desiring mutually supportive friendship, regardless of the outcome of the conversation.

The initial challenge when considering approaching this country is the short length of actual access time to its people. It is rare if the window of opportunity lasts more than four years on average. That means the time for reaching out, building trust, and engaging this culture is short. The other reality (and challenge) is when their time in America is ending, they will go on to touch and influence hundreds, thousands, even millions…in other countries around the world.

You may have heard of this country, even though its name is a bit odd. It is a bit peculiar because the United Nations does not have it on its roll. It is the land of NAOD, and its borders, language and culture is broad, diverse, and pluralistic. NAOD stands for “Nations At Our Doorstep.”

If I remove the letter “A” from this unusual name, I suggest it communicates the spiritual “blindness” that seems to affect the Christ followers in America. NOD may seem to indicate the drowsiness many of us find ourselves in when we are asked to reach the extraordinary people of this unique and valued land. For the name and sake of Jesus our Lord, we cannot fail in our task.

Never before in the history of the Church has a generation been given a greater opportunity to reach the nations of the world than we in America have right now. Serve globally. Let each of us determine how we introduce an international student in our area of influence to Immanuel.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 9

My great-grandparents wanted it for their children. My grandparents wanted it for their kids. My parents wanted it for my siblings and me. Barbara and I wanted Josh and Sarah to get it. Even God wants it for all of us. It = a balanced education. That’s why He gave us two books of His works: the first covers the material universe (i.e., the general revelation). The second is the Book of His words, the Bible (i.e., the special revelation).

Both books are critical to a balanced education. The cosmos tells us about His creativity, eternal power, sovereignty, and superiority over all things in heaven and earth (see Romans 1:20). The Bible introduces the Creator to any who would pay attention, informing us of the purposes of creation, how to know and relate to the Lord of all, and how to prepare to spend eternity in a loving relationship with the One True Creator (see Proverbs 2:6).

Read Psalm 119:97-104.

My first year Philosophy professor taught me about knowledge and ethics. Knowledge is everything I’ve come to understand about the world around me from all the sources I can access (observation, trial and error, family, relationships, skinned knees and bruised ego from various mistakes, the creation, experiences, and books (even the most famous Book of all time – the Bible).

Ethics is what I come to know and understand to be moral, good, and right. My professor gave us an equation to consider: Knowledge + Ethics = Belief + Behavior.

As a follower of Christ, the Bible is a significant source of understanding about ethics as well as the origin and purpose of creation. Our behavior flows out of what we know to be true, good, moral, and right. Or at least it should be, right? That is general, foundational understanding.

The modern, secular worldview does not acknowledge the Bible as a source of truth. For that reason, many of those outside the church ignore the value, insight, and truth of God’s Word, and its instruction about what is moral, good, and right. Unfortunately, they read from only one book – the natural world – to their loss and ultimate demise.

That is one reason why we hear so much about people finding and determining their ethical standards from the theory of evolution. That naturalistic view is why cultural leaders, educators, and politicians can justify so much modern behavior: shifting moral attitudes on integrity in the marketplace, sexual promiscuity as normal sexual behavior, the killing of innocent children in abortion, and even the rooting out of sacred traditions and practices from regular community life. That kind of thinking results from a seriously unbalanced education.

How do you weigh the value and truth of God’s books in your growth and maturity? Before you act on personal and professional decisions? How are you sharing with your friends and colleagues the importance of getting a truly balanced education and perspective?

God knew what He was doing in creating and providing two books for all of us. He gave us two major revelations of truth. Both are essential to guide people in their belief and behavior. He also gave us the “clearest” revelation of all when He was born as a baby in a manger – Truth came as a Person. Walk wisely. Pay attention. Don’t weigh and run your life on unbalanced scales!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 2

December means the end of the fall semester for students. The twelfth month means the end of the fiscal year for many companies. It means the last chance to make a tax-deductible contribution and get credit for it this year. It also means the season of Christmas is here.

Why it is so hard to “take it slow” through the next few weeks? How can you set a better pace?

I am aware of drive through restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and even funeral homes (it sounds creepy, doesn’t it?). But I was not aware of the popularity of drive-through “live nativities.” I guess the idea is certainly convenient once you stop and think about it. Consider the access for those who are disabled or elderly. Visitors who have time can get out of their cars and stroll among the sheep and cattle (a lot safer than Jurassic Park). But if you are pinched for time, drive through and be uplifted by the sights, sounds, and message, and get a hot cocoa for the road.

But let me warn you and your friends. You can get a Christmas “bump” in one night if you wish, but that is not how it was designed. I know it is tempting in our “5 hour energy boost” culture to default to a drive-thru mentality about Christmas. It is so familiar after all. We enjoy the lights, music, smells, and traditions. We love to sing the songs that are reserved for this once-a-year celebration. But sadly, most of the month of December is crammed, busy, and rushed so that it’s easy to forget about the meaning of this “holiday,” or “holy-day.”

Read Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, and Matthew 1:23.

At this time of year, we are remembering the birth of a baby who would transform everything. Isaiah had prophesied that the Savior would be born (Isaiah 9:6-7). The narrative is so easy to listen to and enjoyable that even Linus could tell his friends about it on The Charlie Brown Christmas. But it was just the start of an incredible journey because the rest of Jesus’ story includes pain, sacrifice, betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, death, burial, and victory.

Instead of speeding through this month, start now to plan to take time to reflect on the best present you have ever received (sorry mom and dad) – the gift of eternal salvation – and remember the sacrifice that was necessary to purchase and provide that gift for you and anyone else who believes in the Son (1 John 5:11-12).

YouVersion has released advent reading programs that can help you read The Story in a fresh manner. Think about the person of Immanuel: His life, ministry, words, death on a Roman cross, resurrection, and ascension. Read one of my favorite books by John Ortberg: Who is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus.  Watch and listen to John’s talk about it on YouTube and discuss it with your friends and family. Listen to Handel’s Messiah.

Slow down. Resist the temptation to overspend, party and eat too much. Avoid a drive-through Christmas. Take time in meaningful ways to remember what happened on that night so long ago. Imagine being out in the fields when the shepherds heard the angels declare, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you…He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Live communally. Like the wise men that visited Mary, Joseph and the new born King, what will you and your friends give the Lord this Christmas to celebrate His birthday?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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