Monthly Archives: May 2014

Monday Motivator – May 26

Are you ready for your death? My wife and I have put our trust in Christ. We also have our will, end of life instructions and financial papers in place, and I even have an outline for my funeral sketched out. Hint: I’ll be the one in the casket with the fork in my hands as I head to a better place and a great banquet (and His banner over me is love).

As a campus minister and chaplain who has served on many public and private colleges and universities over three decades, I have dealt with the death of folks associated with the Academy. I also have served as a resource to local churches and parishioners by conducting hospital visits, crisis interventions, and funerals.

I recall visiting funeral homes in the span of several weeks. One visit was with a family celebrating the homegoing of their eighty-six year old Christian matriarch, who had suffered long and desired to be with her Lord and her recently departed husband. Yes, there were many tears (and tissues being shared) along with silence and deep joy because Grandma was finally where she longed to be. Sure, the family left behind was grieving but there was more relief than sense of loss. Her citizenship had been in heaven, she finished her race and she kept the faith. What a legacy to cherish and remember. Conversations around the funeral home, the gravesite, and later “Grammy’s” home were filled with good-hearted laughter as stories were told from generations past. Everyone seemed to recognize that it was time for her to “go home.”

Read John 11.

The other visit concerned a family who lost their twenty year-old daughter in a drunk driving accident around campus. This family was full of Christian people, yet the tone of the funeral home was decidedly different – it was somber. The silence of the room was palpable and reflected the shock everyone felt. Yes, she too, had “gone home” to be with her Lord – but it seemed so unreal, so untimely, so wrong. Her death at such a young age did not seem right, and we all cried tears in the stillness, trying to make sense out of it.

I remember something a dad wrote and shared at a similar funeral years ago after losing his young daughter. He wrote, “The death of my only child has redefined my trust as never before. Because of Susan’s death, her life is more cherished. The poems and songs she wrote, the smile she carried throughout life, the memories of her swinging on the tire hanging from the backyard tree, the times she asked to hear a story before bed time – all these and many more are markers and reminders of the gratefulness her mother and I have for God giving her to us. It was a sacred trust that we are humbled to have experienced. We decided God must have a greater need for Susan in heaven than down here. And she is home now. Free! When we laid her body to rest, I never felt more on holy ground, never more sure of heaven…of the gospel’s power…and never more aware of the anchor that Jesus truly is. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Death is an enemy only to those who are willingly dead to God and alive to themselves.”

How would you be remembered if God took your life tomorrow? Do you trust the Lord not only with your life, but your death? Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Think theologically. We never die in Christ, because there is life even in death.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 12

I do not like it when I send an email to someone and learn later on that it never got through. It happens because I may have typed in an incorrect address, or the recipient has changed their address and not notified me. Either way, a message I created and sent and thought was received did not make it through the invisible pathways of the e-world.

I also get frustrated when I send what I think is an important prayer and it comes back to me. I never get a message from heaven saying, “undeliverable,” but the silence is daunting. James 5:16 says the “prayer of a righteous man (or woman) is powerful and effective.” But sending and receiving an answer to prayer is not always so cut and dried.

We can live in such a way and talk to God with a spirit that our prayer doesn’t get through. Pastor James spoke of praying with wrong motives (James 4:3). The Psalmist described prayers that are not answered because sin is cherished (Psalm 66:18-19).

Consider three prayer blocks that I have encountered that cause the communication channel between God and me to fail:

1. Disobedience: Why should God listen to you if you and I have chosen to plug our ears to His commandments and leadership?

2. Sin (secret or not): Why should God offer a helping hand to you or me when we are holding one of our hands back, clutching at sinful choices?

3. Stubbornness: Why should God give in to you or me when we are refusing to yield to His Lordship? “No, Lord” is an oxymoron because we are acting like a moron before the King of heaven and earth…who is the One who knows what is best for us.

If you had to evaluate your prayer communication status right now (and you do since I am asking you to), which of these prayer blocks is troubling your prayer life today?

Read 1 Samuel 14:24-37.

The writer suggests King Saul is an impulsive man. He had disobeyed God at Gilgal (chapter 13), and did not want to be rebuked by Samuel again. The passage shows the interplay between Saul, his son Jonathan, and Israel’s troops by questioning Saul’s right to make an oath (24-28), Jon’s right to criticize it (29-30), and the troops right to ignore it (31). Saul then offered sacrifices (33-35) and took steps to find out God’s guidance. Verse 37 says that, “God did not answer him.”

The impression I get from this narrative is that Saul is out of touch with God’s will, well meaning, but stumbling along to please God and keep his job. Ultimately the writer asserts that God can give victory to Israel against more powerful enemies, and that Saul’s prayer and leadership achieves little, due to previous prayer blocks.

Grow devotionally. Prayer is a privilege because it allows us access to talk directly with Almighty God. Take advantage of it. Avoid prayer blocks. Prayer is “knee-mail” to God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 5

A friend of mine who works in a restricted access country told me of a fascinating story that took place when he first arrived years ago. A man with a guilty conscience sewed his lips together, put a barbed wire crown on his head, strapped a large wooden cross on his back, and walked around the town he was from.

The man left a note with his wife stating he wanted to be forgiven for stealing food and supplies from merchants for his family. So he carried his cross around and through town, eventually arriving at the police station where he turned himself in. The police heard his story (later from his wife), arrested him, and fined him for community offenses.

The man simply wanted his sins to be forgiven. It was evident, my friend said, that the guilt he felt weighed heavier than the cross on his back (see John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is To Come,” published in 1678, for a great allegory about guilt and freedom). Sadly, the arrested man’s actions were not required by God for absolution. They were not part of how God dealt with human guilt.

The apostle Peter wrote in his first letter that, “Christ died for our sins once for all” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus took the punishment for our sins and restores our relationship with God when we acknowledge and receive His gift of salvation.

The troubled thief tried to punish himself for his sins. He tried to play God. Haven’t you done the same before? I sure have. We all do the same thing, often more than once. Don’t you mentally beat yourself up over a sin that God has forgiven – a sin you’ve confessed and turned away from? Has the weight and guilt of past sins ever driven you to do “good stuff” to try and appear “better” in His eyes, and try to even the score a bit?

It’s not needed. The apostle Peter, who knew the pain of rejecting Jesus a few times, realized we can never do enough to earn God’s forgiveness. Peter had to simply (and humbly) receive it by the grace of God through faith, which the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:8. Peter and Paul knew that through Jesus, all of our sins, past, present, and future, were nailed to the cross ONE time.

Read Colossians 2:9-15.

It should grieve us when we sin. But when we have truly repented and turned away from our sin, we must leave it on the cross of Christ, and not try and create our own cross. Keep in mind that we confess our sins to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and to a trusted brother or sister for healing (James 4:16).

If your conscience is bothering you over sin(s) you’ve previously brought to the God and turned away from, that’s a cross you should not be carrying. God has forgiven you. The opportunity you have at the foot of the cross of Christ is for your conscience to experience freedom and peace. The peace of God comes from knowing the God of peace.

Serve globally. The cross of Jesus means he died for all of us – once for all – to bring us to God. With a radically clear cross-conscience, let’s go reconcile others to our Savior.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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