Monthly Archives: October 2014

Monday Motivator – October 27

My buddies were on a road trip to Miami, FL back in the 70’s to play baseball. They loaded their baseball gear and suitcases in a friend’s lime green Volkswagon (don’t ask why that color) and hit the road from Ohio. They’d stop and play catch at rest stops and even played wiffle ball once. Heading south meant better weather, so they were excited about the chance to play more ball.

They got into Jacksonville, FL and immediately headed for the beach for some water, waves, and sun. They ran right out of the car down to the water’s edge, glad that the last ten hours of driving were done. They hadn’t changed into their swimming trunks yet, but just stood there, admiring the scenery and soaking up the sunshine and warm breezes.

Joe headed over to the beach area changing room, but Curt grabbed his beach bag and ran back to the car, yelling he’d change there. Hey, they were college students and a bit goofy. And he was half the size of Joe, so he could change clothes in a tight space.

Shortly into his quick change, Curt noticed a young woman looking in through the window at him. He gave a sheepish look and mouthed the words, “Do you mind?” She shrugged her shoulders and stood there. When Curt finished changing and emerged, he yelled at her, “What do you think you are doing? Do you get kicks out of watching people change?” “That depends,” she replied, “Do you enjoy changing clothes in other people’s cars?” Hard to believe there were two lime green Volkswagons in the parking lot, but it was the 70’s. Both were unlocked, too.

Curt told me the story when they got back. It occurred to me that it’s human nature to find fault and be quick to accuse, right? We tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we should be extending grace to others (and assumption of innocence) until the facts are established and both sides of a story are heard and explained. As my friend learned in the parking lot, making an accusation can be embarrassing, especially when you are wrong.

Read Matthew 7:1-5.

Jesus expressed the problem in stark terms. He compared the sins of others to a “speck of sawdust” (Matthew 7:3). But he called our own sins, “a plank.” Or in my paraphrase, a baseball bat. Jesus continued, “You hypocrite!” “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (v 5).

This same idea is addressed by the apostle Paul when he wrote the first century Christians in Galatia. He offered this challenge in Galatians 6:1. In attempting to address the sin(s) of another person, Paul said to be cautious. “You who are spiritual should restore him (or her) gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted.” Jesus and Paul will not allow us to get away from the Biblical concept of looking into your own heart first, as you work to reconciliation.

Do you instinctively blame others? How might this reveal a problem in your behavior and relationships? When was the last time you stopped and said, “I want to apologize. It’s my fault.”

Live communally. When you feel you’ve been offended, ask God for help to show grace to others. Before we try and remove their speck of sawdust, we should first pry the baseball bat out of our own eye. Jesus said the one without sin can go ahead and toss the first rock.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 20

As the duckling swam, the mother hen ran frantically along the shoreline, cackling to her young in a language you or I would assume was positive and nurturing in context. The hen, did I say? That’s right, careful reader. Read on for clarification. A farmer I talked to at church was explaining that if you slipped a duck egg into a hen’s nest, she will hatch it and allow the duckling to scramble around the barnyard with her new-found family of feathered friends.

Once you get near water though, the duckling will do what God created ducklings to do – dive in and swim like they were meant to be there. Except that the fearless move made by the duckling caused a panic in her frantic mother. The hen, fearing for the safety of her adopted baby, was noticeably shaken and concerned. Did she give birth to an actual outlier?

The farmer told me such a scene proved a theory. Ducks ultimately act like ducks and chickens act like chickens. Most of us intuitively understand this idea, right? I remember bringing a frog (and another time, a snake) to elementary school. I would extricate Fred in secret and shove him in the face of one of the girls sitting near me. The result? As you might expect…screams from the girl (and the rest of her kind), cheers from the boys, another march for me to the principal’s office, with the sigh of my teacher as I left the classroom, “Boys will be boys.”

Let’s consider another situation with another classification of humans – believers in Christ and those outside the rule of His Kingdom. They both live on the planet, but operate under two different worldviews. One loves God and avoids sin, while the other loves sin and avoids God.

Both are human beings, but spiritually they are as different as apples and oranges. Followers of Jesus should not go prancing around like they are King’s kids and declaring they are better than anyone else. In their case, God initiated and ultimately caused the change (and paid for it). He gets credit for the amazing transformation (He is really talented with dirt, isn’t he?).

If we are not careful, we can get confused at times. God has taken away our sin nature, but we still need to keep on trusting in Him and not ourselves. Yes, once you put your faith, hope, and trust in Jesus, you are forgiven of sin, and securely adopted into God’s family. Even though we recognize the presence of our old sin nature, and live in a community, country, and world system under the power of the evil one, sinning should be as unnatural for us as it would be for chickens. When we see fellow Christians getting involved in sin, we should follow the lead of the mother hen and do the spiritual equivalent of flapping our wings.

Read Ephesians 2:1-13.

As the apostle Paul taught the Christians in first century Ephesus, Christians were dead spiritually before they put their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. Not weak, not sick, not religious, but dead. Like Lazarus’ coming back to life from the dead in John 11, we who put our faith in Christ now have life. In Christ, you have moved from death to life (John 5:24).

Have you been swimming in water you should be avoiding? This may be a good time to stop and assess which spiritual species you claim to be part of? Jesus has done the hard part and we who call ourselves His followers should act like we resemble Him. Think theologically. Chickens don’t swim. Do not be chicken about saying no to sin. After all, we’re dirt with divinity.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 13

Are you a good listener or a poor one? How do you know?

I have learned over thirty-two years of marriage that one of the hardest things to do in a relationship is to listen. My intuition and experience lead me to believe that listening does not come naturally to human beings. Most of us love to talk and even hear ourselves speak. Yet to focus in on what someone else is saying takes a whole lot of effort.

Whether I was trying to listen to every detail of my child’s description of their day of school, or paid attention to my wife as she carried in groceries and asked me a question…while I watched the end of a ballgame on TV, it is tough to listen for very long. Not to mention actually hear what they say and be able to engage in the exchange.

Why bother? Well, I have learned that listening demonstrates my love. When we do something like that, it can model that we care for the person. If listening were easy, it would be a lot less loving. But the hardest part of love is doing things that do not come naturally. When we do something that is tough, we demonstrate how much we love someone.

Scripture indicates that we can demonstrate our love for God by listening to Him. I suggest that to “listen” is a synonym for to “obey.” In this context, I mean that we should listen to the words that God has spoken to us through the Bible and act on them.

Read Proverbs 8.

Proverbs 8 personifies godly wisdom as a woman calling for listeners on a busy street. Imagine the noise and hustle-bustle of an everyday road. We don’t know how many customers she drew, but odds are it was few. People have not changed much over time.

Maybe wisdom needed a better marketing strategy. Who really needs or wants to listen to the demands of wisdom? Chances are she would require people to do things they did not want to do so they could achieve long-term health and success. After all, who wants to wait for something when they can get it given to them in real time these days? Why sweat, work at it, even persist, when you can cut corners, cheat, and depend on an entitlement?

Listening to God’s Word – His Wisdom – focusing on each word, understanding its implications and intentions, wrestling with its application – is as tough as listening to people. But I believe it is worth it just the same. The writer of Proverbs 8 says the goal is to gain wisdom and life.

As with any discipline, listening gets easier with practice. As you learn to pay attention, you will get better. You’ll have to confront the reality that listening is difficult and will require effort and a willingness to work at hearing the person you are with. But regardless of who it is, are you willing to get better at listening? Why not start today? Commit yourself to the labor of listening – to friends, family, and to God. Nothing says, “I love you” like saying nothing and listening instead. Honor people by paying attention. Honor God by listening daily (v 34) to obey.

Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” Grow devotionally. “Listen” is an active verb. Hearing God leads to favor from the Lord.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 6

What changes have you gone through recently?

We have been in Charlottesville, VA for three years now on our current mission assignment with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. It is interesting to get used to a place, learn some of its history, read about the development of the area, and get acquainted with the people and events that contributed to the historicity and vibrancy of the town. This place was uniquely and heavily influenced and envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.

What’s really fascinating, though, are the pictures. From early, blurry photos to modern photography, you can view the changes of Mr. Jefferson’s home, as well as his idea and vision of the University of Virginia (UVA). You can observe the changes in the town of Charlottesville and the surrounding area. Buildings seen in early pictures have been replaced in later ones, and some others replaced in even later ones. Streets built on top of dirt roads, old ones closed while new ones were added, and bridges, shopping malls, hospitals, and much newer housing developments were created. The expansion of UVA itself has been incredible in terms of student housing, academic and research buildings, its own health care system, and sports facilities.

The original landscape is long gone, thanks to progress and the relentless upward advance of man. Incidentally, while UVA was started in 1819, it did not become fully co-educational and admit women to its campus until 1970.

Change is inevitable in all of our lives, too. Most of us will graduate high school or college and move into the work force. Perhaps you’ll get married and eventually have children. You’ll switch jobs, move to a new area, even find new friends. You’ll set new goals, grow and mature, and look at life with hope, enthusiasm, meaning and purpose.

In the midst of all these changes, there is one constant that I have come to cherish: God. He never changes, never stops sustaining everything (i.e., when is the last time you prayed to remind God to keep the Earth on its axis?), never forgets to love and extend grace to people, and never turns His back on any of us.

The psalmist knew this. He had experienced continual changes in his life, yet understood that God is and was always there. That’s why he could write in Psalm 100:5, “The Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Read Psalm 100.

How wonderful that God promises us that His love and faithfulness will continue forever. How reassuring to know that God will never change.

Why is it so reassuring to know that God never changes? How can knowing God help you through the changes in your life? Not merely once or twice, but as often as you need Him.

Serve globally. God calls us to embrace change and be change makers. As you experience the upheavals of life, remember that God is always there. It is He who will love, sustain, and guide you through everything life has to offer. The changeless God helps us through our changes.

Love is  a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2014 by Mike Olejarz

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