Monthly Archives: August 2014

Monday Motivator – August 25

As the oldest of four, I was the testing ground for my parent’s learning curve when it came to discipline. I generally did not like getting in trouble because I learned my folks were serious about reinforcing family, even Biblical, values and standards. I did not like getting in trouble, getting caught, and the worst of all, getting the repercussions of my disobedience. My mom and dad were equally capable of teaching and modeling that there are painful consequences to choosing to do my own thing without regard to their instruction, standards, and boundaries.

As I grew older I realized my parents disciplined me just because they loved me. They did not want me to grow up self-centered, rebellious, undisciplined, and with a poor attitude toward authority. The reality is if my parents had let me get away with my unacceptable-at-times behavior, including but not limited to: rudeness, disrespect, lying, stealing, and breaking family rules, I never would have learned how to behave. Imagine Bart Simpson as an adult! Even more significant is how could I love and respect my parents if they let me get away with anything.

Read Hebrews 12:1-13.

What would life be like if God never trained His children? What if He always let us do whatever we chose to and got away with it? Hint – look around the world for clues. We would naturally make a lot of bad choices, which would lead to brokenness on several levels – family, authority, work, local, state, national, and global. Just take a minute and consider how all of us have experienced a broken relationship with the resulting lack of peace and true satisfaction. In spite of our feelings, how could we feel loved by a God who would let us get away with anything?

But Scripture says God loves us and so He disciplines us when we sin. He says, “I love you too much to not stop you in your tracks when you break my standard. I call you to own up to your disobedience and ask for forgiveness. I will teach you the right way to go and give you the power to live according to the laws of my Kingdom. Hebrews 12:5-13 underscores how important God’s discipline is for our growth and for our maturity.

The writers of Scripture understood that God was after the love and obedience of all His subjects. The will of God according to the apostle Paul in Romans 8 is that we be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus. Discipline is for the development and maturing of our character…to become Christ-like as Christ-followers.

Without our surrender and the Holy Spirit’s help, we would go our own sinful way, never learning to submit to the good way of the Lord. God’s training at times is severe and feels painful, but when we submit to Him, it “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (v 11). I submitted to my parent’s authority and leadership, convinced they had my best interests in mind. I submitted to my high school football coach’s demands in order to play on the team, but also to get in shape and be trained to play to the best of my ability. In both cases, I needed help to attain what was possible for my growth, development, and a maximum level performance.

It is our choice. But I suggest it is wise to allow God to teach us what He wants to teach us, instead of getting angry and screaming, “No, I will do it my way!” That is acting like a child.

Walk wisely. How will you respond to discipline in your life? How will you respond to correction? If God did not love us, He would not discipline us. Trust Him and grow.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

 

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Monday Motivator – August 18

Every late October, the town of Athens, Ohio (home of Ohio University) saw thousands of people assemble to celebrate Halloween on Court Street (the four block long center of town). Athens was packed on those Friday nights by students from OU and well as other campuses and towns within a few hours drive. Did I mention the plethora of bars that did a healthy business that weekend? Others came for the infamous Halloween costume party, where revelers dressed up, down, or not much at all, and paraded up and down Court Street to been seen and ogled.

Our campus ministry prayed and fasted the weeks leading up to Halloween and waded into the masses to do street evangelism on Friday night. We had music and drama teams out on the streets, cup-of-cold-water stations (as well as hot chocolate for a frosty Friday night), and 2×2 witnessing teams out and about. Every year yielded testimony about a student deciding to follow Christ that evening, healings of all sorts, and a multitude of divine contacts worth shouting about. I remember one tipsy fraternity guy I was talking with, and in the course of the conversation got convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, sobered up by the same Spirit, and then dragged away by another frat guy who wanted to fight me for talking with “his frat brother” about Jesus.

One year Wiccans dressed in dark clothes showed up on Court Street. Some of our Chi Alpha students approached them and asked, “What are you dressed up to be?” When one replied, “Wiccans, or witches, leave us alone,” one of our students asked, “Why are you so afraid of the Light?” They chuckled at my enthusiastic young Christ-followers and left – all except for Sherry.

She wanted to stay behind and defend her right to follow her beliefs and practice her “dark arts.” She talked with my students a long time and something began to happen. My students asked questions about Sherry’s story and journey, and listened intently to why she believed what she believed. When appropriate, they presented some persuasive, powerful arguments for the person of Jesus that she could not dismiss. Before she left, they offered and Sherry accepted a Bible.

That night she began to read the small pocket-sized Bible. A few days later she left the Wiccan community and went home to her family near Columbus, Ohio. She started attending church again, confessed her faith and trust in Jesus, and was baptized. Sherry returned the next few years to Halloween at OU, not to celebrate Mother Earth, but to join us as a witness to the various partiers (and witches) of the person, love, and power of Jesus Christ.

The students who talked with Sherry never knew of her conversion until years later because they graduated and moved on. I found out because the pastor of Sherry’s church called one year and wanted to connect with our street witnessing efforts. Sherry told me, “I wish I could thank them in person and tell them how they changed my life.” They didn’t change it, of course, but God did. But they had made themselves available to Him on the streets of Athens, Ohio. In the power of the Holy Spirit, they had gone into a dark area with the light of the gospel, and Sherry responded.

God may not be calling you to witness to witches near your campus. If He does, Sherry (and I) would advise some special training and preparation. But many people around your campus need Christ. Ask for God’s help and then go out to talk about Jesus. We can never anticipate the impact of a witness. Live communally. Witnessing is taking the Light into the darkness.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 11

Dawn of The Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite summer movies of 2014. There are a lot of issues like family, community, leadership, trust, friendship, and forgiveness to deal with under grim circumstances that challenged my thinking. The movie also makes it hard at times to tell the good guys from the bad. Often a blessing became a burden. Things that should have made life easier contributed to conflict and difficulty.

I remember a TV show a while back about a woman who targeted another woman who she learned was having an affair with her husband. The mistress worked at a public school and one day her email was hacked. She was checking her email and saw the “mailer-daemon” subject listing…more than 100 returned messages.

It was baffling because she had not sent any of the emails that were returned. The mystery continued until she contacted the school IT department the next day. One of the IT staff poked through the inbox and found an electronic greeting sent to the school faculty from her address with the message, “stay away from my husband.” It was an attempt not only to expose the woman’s infidelity but publicly and professionally embarrass her.

It was not hard to imagine the hurt, guilt, and shame the woman felt that motivated her to lash out at a total stranger in an effort to damage another person. She certainly wasn’t stupid because she knew how to hack the teacher’s email account (she had a background in computer science and work as a computer programmer in this episode). Once in, she accessed the email addresses of the rest of the school faculty and sent nuisance email messages to a lot of innocent people in her angry response to repay evil with more evil.

Read Romans 5:12-21.

The TV show reminded me of how and why Jesus and His Kingdom is so different from any other system on planet Earth. Instead of making guilty people pay for what they did, He made guilty people innocent by what He (an innocent God-man) did for them. Instead of lashing out at them in anger for all the evil they each brought into the world, Jesus reached out in love and took all their evil onto Himself on the cross of Calvary. That’s why he is called, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” His grace may be free, but it is not cheap.

I won’t give away any of the plot of “Dawn of The Planet of The Apes” since the movie is still in the theater. There are a lot of questions raised in the movie about guilt, responsibility, owning your mistakes, paying the price for poor decisions, and forgiveness. One question to wrestle with is, “If you or I are trying to make ourselves (or someone else) suffer for our sin, what are we accomplishing?” Another is why are you hesitant to accept God’s forgiveness?

Jesus gave up all of His power to justify us. It is essential that each of us learns what to do with guilt – our own and that of others around us. The only good place for it to be (ultimately) is on the shoulders of the One who proved He is strong enough to bear it. Christ Jesus took the weight of everyone’s sin upon Himself when He died on the cross. He rose again in victory over evil.

Think theologically. Now sin, guilt, and shame cannot hold me in its power any longer because Christ took the weight of all of it. Since He took your guilt, why feel guilty?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 4

I was trained as an educator and learned a variety of methods of disseminating information, creating transferable concepts, and working towards the transference of information as well as the actuality of life formation based on the information. Yet I marvel at the way Jesus taught.

We default to talking a lot and assuming the audience hears, understands, and “gets” what we hope they will get. We might even use a “prop” to illustrate a point in order to help the student(s) learn more effectively. In contrast, Jesus asked a lot of questions and listened to the assumptions behind people’s statements in order to understand the people He was trying to influence. Consider His extensive use of parables. What was He trying to accomplish?

Read Matthew 13:10-17.

In Matthew 13, Jesus told his first parable – the parable of the Sower – in which he related a story from everyday life that explained a spiritual truth. But his followers (i.e., disciples) had trouble understanding what Jesus was saying. Was their education and life experience insufficient to understand a story centered around agrarian society? Was Jesus too intellectual for the disciples?

Midway through Matthew 13, Jesus paused (a good teaching technique) between the parable and its explanation (another teaching technique) and told them why (yet another teaching technique). He chose to use parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. As you read Matthew’s account, it is easy to assume Jesus deliberately used this technique because He wanted to hide truth from unbelieving listeners, especially Pharisees. The P’s were significant religious and cultural leaders in first century Jewish life and quite skeptical about the carpenter-turned-rabbi and his antics.

But why would Jesus do that? Doesn’t it seem a bit inconsistent that the “One who came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), whose life radiated life and love, who does not want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and who desired to teach everyone about the Father, would purposely hide any truth from anyone? Feel free to admit that Matthew 13:10-17 is a bit troubling.

A seminary professor of mine once said, “If you want to “get” a parable, you will, but if you don’t, you won’t.” I learned that Jesus is not hiding truth from anybody, but it is more realistic that we are not interested in seeking and finding truth. I recall many students who have told me “they will get serious about faith when they get older, have children, or get in trouble.”

In the parable about the Sower, Jesus taught about four different types of soil. The first, not so much like dirt, but concrete, could represent the hearts of the Pharisees, or your roommate, or English professor who used the Bible in Western Literature class as a relic, not inspired truth. No wonder the P’s did not get the parables. Their hearts were conditioned to rejection and cynicism.

Do you want to “get” the parables? Not just to understand, but learn, apply, and benefit from? If so, then the parables will be “food for your soul.” But if your heart resists God’s leadership, those passages will leave you scratching your head.

Jesus was not trying to hide anything by using parables. You and I have to be sure we are not hiding our hearts from Him. Grow devotionally. How can you make the soil of your life more receptive to the seed of God’s Word? God uses ordinary things to teach us extraordinary truth.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

 

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