Monthly Archives: April 2014

Monday Motivator – April 28

Can you think of a time when you took your eyes off of the Lord? Who or what contributed to you misplacing your vision? What or who helped you to refocus?

It’s no wonder we struggle at times when we take a look at someone in our community who seems like they have it together and we later learn they don’t. We may have looked at a celebrity in the news like an athlete, entertainer, or speaker (and a Christian they claim, to boot), and thought they are bright, influential, and charismatic. Later we learn they were not all they claimed to be…or we made them out to be more than they claimed by our adulation.

There are men and women who serve as healthy and honorable role models in all walks of life. We are wise to find mentors and models who embody Christ-like characteristics that live close enough that we might benefit from relational connection. Authors like John Maxwell and Bill Hybels have shaped my life and leadership for over twenty years through their writings, but I have never met them or had reason to doubt the veracity of their books or question their integrity.

Yet there is one person we absolutely have to keep our eyes on, and that is Jesus.

Read Hebrews 12:2 and Psalm 123:1-2.

Scripture and prayer are available to help us keep our gaze and life centered on Him.

The writer of Hebrews described Scripture as an anchor for our soul. The Psalmist said it was light for our feet. Matthew said it was food for our soul. Overall, the Bible is resolute through its sixty-six books in describing and defining the Author of Life and Savior of our soul. We do well to “study to show ourselves approved” and cultivate a life of obedience to “live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). In His Word, God speaks to us and we get direction from Him. Through His Word, we sink our roots down into His character and find Spirit-given strength to become like Him.

Through prayer we speak to God, having the opportunity and intimacy to praise His greatness, confess our sins, share our needs, and intercede for others. When we lose our focus and find ourselves in the desert of shame and guilt, we can return to His compassionate mercy and loving kindness by fixing our eyes on Jesus (Psalm 123:1). As the song says, we can “look full into His wonderful face” without fear or reprisal.

The reality is that when we fix our gaze on Jesus, we not only walk in His mercy, but also watch for His signal as to an upcoming move. God alone knows our next assignment, so it is vital for us to keep our eyes on Him and keep in step with Him (Psalm 123:2).

When we take our eyes off of Jesus and fix them on someone or something else, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Think of Peter when he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the water – he immediately began to sink. That is the image of what happens as a consequence of misplaced vision. Fear, worry, apprehension, misguided values, terror, and instability all result.

If we want to make progress in our faith journey, we must fix our eyes on the One whom our faith depends from start to finish. Doubt, fear, guilt, trials and struggles will come your way and threaten to overwhelm you now and then. Walk wisely. Watch and pray. Listen and obey. You will never be disappointed if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 21

Is there a better week to return home than Easter? I have had the privilege over the years to hear about and watch many prodigals find their way back. In a dorm room, a fraternity house, a locker room, an empty classroom, even a hallway of an academic building that was mostly deserted on a weekend, minus the muffled cries of a college student coming back to relationship with Jesus. You might have seen a similar occurrence recently at church.

It probably was not the same as the story Luke the doctor reported in his New Testament Gospel account. You may not even have recognized the person at first. He or she could have been sitting in the church when you arrived as you took your seat a few rows away.

Read Luke 15:11-32.

I remember one young man, probably a sophomore. I noticed him during the greeting time when we were asked to greet one another by moving out of our seats and mingle a bit. He looked like he just got up out of bed with his hair uncombed, wrinkled T-shirt and old pair of jeans. He appeared to be looking for someone over my shoulder as we exchanged small talk. Then he smiled, excused himself, waved his hand and walked away. I followed his eyes to a man coming up toward my row of chairs and guessing, thought to myself, “It’s his father.”

The older man walked a bit hesitantly, then stopped and altered his path swiftly to our row. The young man intercepted him at the aisle, and they stood and looked at each other momentarily. Both men stared at each other, and it seemed the older man was surprised to see the younger man. As he moved into the row, he suddenly threw his arms around the student’s neck and hugged him. I could not tell who started to cry first, but the sobs got louder. Soon both men’s shoulders were going up and down as they hung onto to one another’s necks. I stood just a few feet away, not knowing what was happening exactly, but marveling at what God was up to.

When I looked up a few minutes later, they had stopped hugging. They were still standing, forehead-to-forehead, talking quietly, their faces red with tears. They then took their seats and the father put his arm around the son’s shoulder as the pastor started his weekly talk. Throughout the rest of the service, the older man kept looking at his boy, eyes misty and full of love.

After the service, I walked over to introduce myself to the dad. He spoke exuberantly of his son returning to God after his mother died unexpectantly right after he finished junior high. There was anger toward God and many unanswered questions for years. He said he was stunned to see his boy in church that morning and knew God was answering prayers of many sleepless nights.

There was no fatted calf being grilled in the church parking lot that Sunday. But a son returned home. I was there and saw part of God’s redemptive work in real time.

What do you remember from the narrative in Luke 15 about the prodigal son? Which character in the parable do you tend to resemble? Have you wronged your parents in some way and need to finally repair the damage? Have you allowed something to come between you and your heavenly Father that needs to be forgiven? Is there someone you know who needs help to “get home?”

Live communally. God is calling – return home to Him. Or help someone else with open arms.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 14

Ever see the Hunchback of Notre Dame? I wonder if he got that condition from carrying too much in his sack from home to work and school? I have been carrying a backpack for decades, and feel the accumulation of soreness, despite soft, padded straps.

I see reports every so often of people visiting emergency rooms for backpack related injuries. One parent said he was in the Army and kids today are often expected to carry bigger backpacks that what he used to carry. No wonder so many children and teenagers are hunched over.

While all of us should be concerned good posture and healthy habits, there still exists a weight problem affecting every man, woman, and child on the planet. That is the issue of temptation. What are you being tempted to do today? What temptation is weighing you down? To lie, cheat, steal, be lazy, bully someone, watch porn, ease up on your values, or slough off at work?

The good news is that despite the long-term challenge temptation poses to all of us in the human race, God knows all about the weight problem facing us. The even better news is that He has given us a way to lighten the load. The process to relief and victory involves recognizing temptation. But since most of us find ourselves hunched over a lot due to the weight of temptation, we may have a hard time looking up and seeing the way out that Jesus provides.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.

In his letter to the Christians at Corinth in the first century, the apostle Paul reminded his fellow travelers of instances where the Israelites had yielded to temptation in Old Testament accounts. Paul seemed to think the Corinthians might be standing tall and strong in their newfound faith (v 11-12) and did not recognize the dangers lurking around in their contemporary setting. Even though the Hebrews were God’s elect, they could not dabble in sin, idolatry, and immorality and be free from its consequences (v 6-10). Consider a few lessons that Paul presented at Corinth.

First, learn to recognize when temptation comes calling your name. Sadly, some of us get so used to the weight that we don’t notice the pressure anymore. Know the ground rules of God’s Kingdom so you understand how King Jesus expects you to conduct yourself. Reading and deciding to live according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a good start in The Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. That way you’ll have an anchor to hold onto when temptation attempts to get you weighed down by enticing you to walk away a bit from the ways of Jesus.

Second, remember that, “the kinds of temptations weighing us down have also been experienced by others” (see v 13). Even Jesus was tempted in every way we will be (Hebrews 4:15), but He overcame the momentary challenge and will help us too. You are not alone.

Third, and most exciting, is the reality that when we are tempted, God will provide a way out so we can stand up under it (v 13). God wants each of us to learn to say that we do not have to give in to sin when or while we are tempted. We have better and healthier options.

Paul argued that God provided an alternative to giving in (and up). He said we can rise up from under the allure of temptation and look for the way God wants us to go. There is no longer a need to be hunched over. Think theologically. Don’t wait, but flee temptation’s weight.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 7

Imagine a long road trip and ways to stay alert with others in the vehicle. One game I created when our kids were young was the Old and New Testament maps. I would ask where a person, place, event, or idea was located. For example: in the Old Testament, where was Noah introduced? What chapter was Abraham first called to follow God? Where are the Ten Commandments listed? What books are called wisdom literature? List the Minor Prophets.

In the New Testament, what Gospel has the Sermon on the Mount? What chapter describes the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son? Where is Paul’s conversion story? Where does it say, “No temptation has seized you…?” Where are the fruit of the Spirit listed? What book and chapter describes the power of the tongue? Name the characters mentioned in Philemon.

Another game is to list the attributes of God you recognize and honor using each letter of the alphabet. This is a bit tougher than it appears. Here is an old list of mine:

A – Almighty; B – Beginning; C – Creator; D – Deliverer; E – Eternal; F – Faithful; G – Gracious; H – Holy; I – Immortal; J – Just; K – Kind; L – Loving; M – Majestic; N – Never Failing; O – Omnipotent; P – Powerful; Q – Quail Provider (it’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but true nonetheless); R – Righteous; S – Strong; T – Trustworthy; U – Unlimited; V – Victorious; W – Worthy; X – eXalted (another stretch, ouch); Y – ?; Z – Zealous?

Read Psalm 145.

“I will exalt you my God the King. I will praise your name for ever and for ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2).

Now you try this exercise and see if you can come up with words that I didn’t use. Go another step (and an even tougher one) by adding a Scripture reference to support your word (or mine). Then be deliberate and thank God for the wide variety of characteristics there are that describe Him. Worship Him for the ways He makes Himself known to you.

If you want another challenging exercise take a page from David, author of many of the Psalms of the Older Testament. This one involves a slight derivation of the first exercise. Use the letters of the alphabet again to find words that describe how God sees you.

Most of us learn about God from parents, experience, history, tradition, friends, circumstances, nature, failure, and of course, Scripture. What if you are new to your journey of faith and don’t know much about God? What if your perspective on how God sees you is also influenced and affected by some of the other reasons stated above? Let’s utilize Scripture, history, tradition, and experience to our advantage, but be dedicated to a first hand passion of looking for Him.

Many writers of Scripture state that if we look for God, we will find Him (1 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 8:17; and Jeremiah 29:13, to name a few). It’s not as easy as simply playing a road trip edition of the alphabet game. Make it a habit this week to stop and think of things that help you see characteristics of God. How can that help you discover ways to respond in worship?

Grow devotionally. Learn about God’s characteristics. God thoughts lead to a godly walk.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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