Monthly Archives: June 2014

Monday Motivator – June 30

Remember the scene in “Forrest Gump” when he was running across the country and a truck passed by that threw mud onto him? He wiped it off with a towel, unknowingly creating the yellow smiley face logo? It does not take much for me to smile. My face muscles are creased with smiles and I tend toward a sunny disposition. I used to have a pen with a smiley face on the end of it. I’d rather use my energy to smile, than frown, fret, or whimper. How about you?

The sight of a smile brings a grin to my mug. I just cannot help it. That is why Piglet is one of my favorite characters from Winnie the Pooh. Piglet would rather walk around the neighborhood smiling than face the day with a frown (sorry, Eeyore), or a look of utter boredom.

During reading time one day in grade school, one of my teachers described a good smile as “an upward curl of the corners of the mouth and a brightening of their eyes.” I know some of you can see Dr. Seuss’s, the “Grinch” right now up on the mountain looking down over Whoville, but that is a different kind of smile with mischievous intent. My point is a smile lights up a person’s entire face. That kind of smile may lead to gut-busting belly laughter that is hard to stop.

The Older Testament describes a woman who was not afraid to chuckle a bit, even at her own expense. Once she even laughed at the wrong time. In Genesis 18, Sarah, the wife of Abraham, over heard God telling her husband that she would have a son. The abruptness of the declaration from the Almighty was startling not because she heard it seemingly by coincidence. The irony was that Abraham was then 100 years old and Sarah herself was 90! Not surprisingly, she laughed out loud in incredulity and shock. Wouldn’t you? After all, when and where do ninety-year old women have babies?

God’s response in verse 14 was, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Sarah’s disbelief did not last long. When she later gave birth to a son, her laughter turned to joy. She was so affected (tickled maybe?) that she said in Genesis 21:6, “Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” She named her boy, “Isaac,” which means “laughter.” Think she giggled a bit whenever she looked at him over the years?

The implication in Scripture is that God’s provision made Sarah rejoice. She did not try to hide her enthusiasm, but hoped others would join her in recognizing God’s gift. What a delight that Sarah found late in her life. She was able to make a habit of finding joy in God’s gifts.

Read Philippians 4:4-9.

It seems clear to me that God desires us to experience joy in our lives. It is one of the nine fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5, as by-products of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Paul, the author of the letter to the first century Christians in Philippi, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice.” Simply stating it was not enough. The apostle Paul said it twice in Philippians 4:4 to make sure the message got through.

List five things you can rejoice in today. If you read from Philippians 4:4 to verse 9, you’ll learn how to keep the joy in your life. Grow devotionally. Focus on how God has blessed you. Say thanks. Practice rejoicing. Smile, too. You may even find yourself laughing out loud.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 23

What do you usually do when you are confronted with someone who strongly disagrees with the message of the gospel of Jesus?

Bob had a serious edge to him. His mind, words, and questions stirred up the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship chapter at Ohio University. Many tried to befriend him, but he enjoyed asking challenging questions about the Christian faith and arguing back and forth with many students, including student leaders and staff.

It would have been easy to try and ignore Bob, or even ask him not to hang around. What are you going to do with someone of his intellectual prowess? He appeared to be unmovable in his attitude about Christians, defiant in his objections, and stubborn about the reality of God.

Many tried words. Many listened for underlying assumptions for his reasoned defiance to the teachings of Jesus. Many spoke confidently and lovingly about the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all, the God who revealed Himself in history, nature, to the Israelites in particular, and most clearly and succinctly in the person of Jesus. Many asked questions as to what Bob believed what he did and why he believed it. Many prayed and fasted for Bob’s salvation.

Ultimately, the Lord (who knows what He is doing) used the changed lives of Bob’s friends to reach him. He could not refute the difference in thought, word, and behavior he observed in those closest to him. Somehow Bob began to realize that no matter how good he thought he was – especially in comparison, he argued, to those weak-minded Christians who needed the crutch of Christianity – he could never measure up to God’s standard.

Bob finally humbled himself at the feet of Jesus and fell broken. He received salvation and began to serve Him on campus. No more sharp edges. No more attitude. No more arguments. Peace, contentment, and a concern for others began to emerge as descriptions of the new Bob. Word spread on campus of his change. He passed from death to life and it was impressive. The process taught students valuable lessons of what it meant to work with God. Nice work, Lord.

Read Exodus 34:1-10.

Moses said in verses 6 and 7: “The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, (is) slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” That is whom Bob met at Ohio University.

Do you know any people with sharp edges? Learn from our experience with Bob not to give up on them too soon. Keep praying for them. Ask them what they believe and why (without badgering them every time you see them). Keep speaking of the Lord of Exodus 34:6-7. Plead with God to open their eyes and heart and mind…even though they are stiff-necked (v 9)…and hold steady that they will turn to Christ and repent. Then trust God to do it on His timetable. Remember that God doesn’t change everyone’s mind in a sheer instant after you pray a prayer.

Allow folks to hear and see of the relationship you have with Jesus. Hopefully, like Bob’s experience, your pal(s) will be taken to the edge of themselves and see the light. Keep talking. Keep praying. Trust God to take care of your sharp edges and those of the Bob’s in your life. Serve globally. A persistent witness is an effective witness.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 9

Imagine your Sunday morning church gathering, with a guest missionary like me speaking. Suddenly, right in the first third of my message, a female college student stood up and start saying in a loud voice, “Peanuts, popcorn, crackerjacks…get your favorite snack here.”

She walked up one aisle and down the next, repeating her words in the best carnival barker voice this side of Barnum & Bailey. “Peanuts, popcorn, crackerjacks…,” she kept calling out for almost 30 seconds, although it felt much longer. The funny thing was a bunch of folks joined her in the third or fourth time she called out her line. It was sort of distracting, you know?

On the morning that I actually did this, it took a bit for some folks to catch on, but it eventually dawned on them that I was illustrating how easy it was for college students to get distracted. I was getting to the point of how Chi Alpha staff help students deal with temptation while in college (and the girl I recruited before the service helped).

Read 2 Samuel 11.

King David got distracted one day and it led to a series of negative consequences. He appeared to be minding his own business one day when he noticed a woman taking a bath on a nearby rooftop, and she was a beautiful woman at that. What a distraction, huh?

That first look, then second look, and subsequent action to send an aide to find out who the woman was led to a number of terrible actions by the King. Note: If you lived close enough to the King where he could see you on your rooftop, isn’t it interesting that David did not know who Bathsheba initially was? That distraction led to temptation. And after the second or third or fourth look, David proceeded into sin. That action of adultery led to further deception, and finally the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, who was one of David’s finest warriors.

Another form of distraction starts with something good that could cause us to stumble and disregard God’s best for us. Doctor Luke tells a story in his New Testament gospel of a woman named Martha who became distracted by preparations for what she hoped would be a perfect meal when Jesus stopped by (Luke 10:40). She intended to offer great hospitality but got caught up in all that she thought, “had to get done.” She ended up missing a unique and special chance to enjoy the presence of her honored guest. Martha could have benefited from Hebrews 12:2.

We all get distracted at times. Our lives are full and it’s easy to forget that we need to focus on things of eternal worth, not just what our family, friends, or the campus culture says “should be” of value to us (especially since it tends to be temporary stuff). Remember that a distraction can lead easily to temptation, which can contribute to us slowly moving away from God’s best for us.

Scripture also presents the idea that we have to be aware of another distraction. This is the one where God is trying to get our attention and even pull us out of a cycle of spiritual apathy. A grade you did not expect. A reduction in a scholarship that ends up being a clerical error from the school. A family member’s deteriorating health leading to death. A breakup with a friend.

God’s distractions (according to Romans 8:28) are always meant for good and aimed at us becoming mature Christ-followers. Walk wisely. When God wants your attention, He’ll get it.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 2

Ever wonder why the Bible says to “remember what the Lord has done?” so much? The experiences you have had or are having are real, fresh, exciting, challenging, tough, and valuable. You can still probably remember your conversion experience, right? Have you written it down and kept it? If I asked you to write down several turning points where God showed up in your life, how would that be helpful to you? To others?

You are learning new things about yourself and God every week, sometimes even daily. He is providing opportunities for you to grow as you interact with His Scripture and real life, deal with various circumstances and different people, and learn to make choices based on your values. God has provided for your needs in so many ways – the parents he gave you, the family you were born into, the air you breathe, the struggles and hardships and hurt feelings, the good and difficult friendships, the education you have received (formal and informal), the jobs you have held, and a highlight or two.

It is good to remember our experiences with God. When we go through a tough patch, He gives us courage to face our fear and depend on His strength. When we face pessimism, we can remind ourselves how God’s goodness makes the sun shine again. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the memory of His presence can renew our confidence in his mercies that are new every day. When we are concerned about the future, God’s past direction and provision inspires us to “trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus.”

Read Titus 2:1-8.

The apostle Paul taught and trained his young disciple names Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine…teach what is good” (2:1,3).

Remembering what the Lord has done assists us in helping others. Paul told Titus that one of the benefits of growing in faith is mentoring new followers in Christ. As they encounter obstacles to faith, you can coach them how to keep moving ahead by sharing stories of how God helped you to overcome yours. As they struggle with temptation and sin, you can relay similar struggles and steps you learned to overcome sin by the Word of the Lord and the word of your testimony. You can describe how God showed you the way out, over, or around darkness according to 1 Corinthians 10:13. You can encourage others by telling them that you had trouble learning “holy habits,” but ultimately you learned with the help of others and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I remember how hearing stories of my Christian friends’ growing faith and God’s involvement inspired me to open the Bible and read the narrative accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, so I could see if what they said about Jesus was true indeed.

The memories you are building are important markers. You may want to think about jotting them down in a journal or on your mobile device. Live communally. Your growth is not just about you – if it was, once you became a Christian, we’d shoot you and you’d head to heaven. Build your memory bank. Then find someone to pass on what you know and disciple them. Experience becomes more blessed when it is shared.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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