Monthly Archives: March 2015

Monday Motivator – March 30

I remember an occasion in 1982 when I felt led by the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere and general plan of Tuesday Night Live – our weekly large group Chi Alpha meeting. We gathered that semester in a large room at New Life Assembly of God, at the south end of the Ohio University campus. I had been reading through the Book of Exodus and was learning about why and how Moses was commanded by God to build the Tabernacle.

I believed the Spirit inspired me to set up a mini-tabernacle. When students arrived that night, I asked them to take off their shoes as they entered the “holy” presence of God. They were then asked to wash their hands in a large tub of water. Then they were instructed to sit on the floor between two rows of folding tables spread out 10 feet wide and 30 feet long. At the north end of the tables was one square table with 3 lit candles that I explained symbolized the holy, majestic, Triune God of Scripture. The last instruction I gave was we would sit in silence and reflect on the character of God for 30 minutes while we listened to “Come to the Quiet” by musician John Michael Talbot. I sensed the Lord wanted us to wait on Him and listen for His leadership.

It was awkward for some, but as we approached the thirty-minute mark, one student said, “I came here not knowing what to expect, but I need to know God!” Another said they felt hungry for more of God and wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit – and he was!” I sat there amazed at the work of God in our midst as we enjoyed worshipping the God who showed Himself to us – without me having said a word after the initial instructions I had given.

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries believes the best way to impact a campus is to establish a “community” of students on campus who love God, one another, and are committed to sharing Christ with students and faculty. Following the pattern in the Book of Acts, we strive to build communities of worship, fellowship, discipleship, witness and prayer. By “community” we mean a “gathered people on campus” is more visible and effective than a few isolated individuals.

By “community of worship” we mean that as a gathered people of God on campus, we must establish ministry to God as the highest call of Christians. We practice the following principles:

First, we recognize we were created by and are now reconciled to God to bring glory to Him (Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 1:11-12); Second, As Christ’s family gathered, we become the dwelling place of God for the very purposes of ministry to Him as His priests, and for proclamation of His greatness to the world (Ephesians 1:10-22; 1 Peter 2:4-10); Third, we believe the presence of God is made more real among people when believers worship (Psalm 22:3).

Staff and students in Chi Alpha express ministry to God by: First, directing adoration to His person in giving thanks for His acts of loving kindness toward us (Psalm 100; 150); Second, learning to sit at His feet like Mary and respond to Him (Luke 10:39; John 10:4-5); Third, allowing the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12-14 to flow through us to the Lord; Fourth, learning to worship Him with our actions (1 Corinthians 10:31; Hebrews 13:15-16).

I believe our growth in Christ and our service for Him matures when nurtured in an atmosphere of ministry to the Lord. I have taught students the first three and called them to practice the last four principles mentioned above. I have seen the fruit of all seven Biblical ideas listed above. That Tuesday in 1982 taught me that God knows how to get His kingdom work done if we will listen, trust, and obey His voice. Grow devotionally. It starts with sitting at His feet in adoration.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 23

Steve Lehmann stepped down after eight productive years as the Great Lakes Area Director (AD’s) at the end of February 2015. He was the gold standard of AD’s.

Bill Snyder was serving in national leadership for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in the early 2000s and first approached Steve about considering leaving Eastern Michigan University (EMU) after 17 years to assume a much-needed larger missionary role as a full time Area Director. Bill told me: “Ever so often a couple comes along that bless so many with their vision, character, talent, and grace. Steve created the model for what an AD and their team could accomplish. They enabled us to become a better mission organization and moved a generation forward.”

I asked John M. Palmer, President of Emerge Counseling Services (Akron, OH), and chair of the Great Lakes Chi Alpha Board to describe their impact. John wrote, “I first met Steve and Belkis when they participated in our Missions Convention in Des Moines, Iowa in the fall of 2004. They shared God was stirring their hearts to be a blessing to other campus missionaries and they desired to plant new ministries out of their Chi Alpha group at EMU.

Little did they know how God would bring their desires to fruition. About a year after they had spoken in Des Moines, Steve was asked to be the Director of Great Lakes Chi Alpha (GLXA).  Shortly after he accepted this new role, God gave Steve the idea to develop an Advisory Board of pastors and lay people who would lend their influence, insight, and input to Steve and Belkis.

I have been privileged to help lead this committed and resourceful team of committed leaders as we came alongside Steve and Belkis, helping them to fulfill their dream and mission. To see what God has done since January of 2006 has been nothing short of amazing. When Steve and Belkis assumed the leadership of GLXA, we had 22 affiliated Chi Alpha groups. Today, we have 74 groups. Hundreds of college students have come to have a personal relationship with Jesus, our living and loving Lord! Additionally, their ability to recruit, resource, and release leaders made possible the unprecedented work that God has done here in the Great Lakes.

Steve and Belkis live and model authenticity, transparency, total dependence on the Lord, passion, enthusiasm, and perseverance. Because of Steve’s ability to cast vision and recruit leaders, we now have four districts in our region with a full time district Chi Alpha director.  These directors, of course, will help ensure the continuation of the vision. Belkis has sought to develop and mobilize minority leadership, which continues to produce great people and is contributing to the growth and expansion of next generation leaders.

While we will miss them in the Great Lakes, we are excited for the next phase of their ministry assignment, the opportunity to invest in students at Southeastern University as Missionaries in Residence, beginning in the fall of 2015. In addition, Belkis was recently asked to serve in a national leadership role with Chi Alpha as a National Diversity Specialist. I am grateful for the privilege God has given me to have a front row seat in order to see the incredible work of God through Great Lakes Chi Alpha. Steve and Belkis are to be commended for a job well done.”

I agree with Bill and John. Steve and Belkis are an incredible gift from the Lord. Scripture says, “Honor them and imitate their faith.” Serve globally. Steve and Belkis demonstrate what godly overseers are like. Pray for them in their transition and send them a note of gratitude.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 16

Each day they work for our attention and loyalty. They use words, phrases, and expressions that are designed to drive their points home and get us on their bandwagon. Each day, another debate goes on around you and me. We have a heavenly Father who reveals Himself through creation, His Word and Spirit, and others. Yet another voice cries for our attention…the voice of Satan.

To choose between them requires discernment on our part. We have to be aware of the schemes of the Evil One (see 2 Corinthians 2:11). His subtle wooing will come in the warm tones of self-concern, self-focus, self-promotion, and sheer self-ishness.

The aim of the enemy of our soul is to get our eyes off God and onto ourselves – our wants, needs, goals, desires. The reason is clear as to why he does it. When we are absorbed with “me-stuff” we cannot be concerned with His-stuff. When we desperately look after taking care of ourselves, we actually sink deeper into despair that prevents us from being fulfilled in Jesus.

Consider the messages we hear about sex v.s. love. As with most issues facing us, the world (or popular) culture and their puppetmaster (the devil) are saying: “You have to do what right’s for you.” “The Bible’s standards are outdated.” “To stifle your natural sex drive is harmful and unnatural.” “Sexual experimentation and experience will help you when you want to settle down and get married.” “After all, God isn’t against premarital sex, only promiscuous sex.”

The world we live in is obsessed with a perverted view of sex. The world cannot offer you any clear, moral guidance, because it has no moral center, or absolute standard of right and wrong. The good news is the Creator has left us with a discernable trail to follow for our own (and societies’) flourishing. One way He has done this is through the proclamation and observance of the Ten Commandments. See www.prageru.com for a series of five-minute movies (with a quiz to test you) about the way God designed each of the commandments to benefit all of humanity.

Another way God gives clear and simple guidance is to forbid all sexual immorality. He does not look on all the immoral activity on Earth and shrug His shoulders and say, “Well, it is what it is…it’s just humans being humans.” He commands His people to abstain from sexual immorality (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3). The Greek language the apostle Paul uses refers to a wide range of improper sexual expression outside of a one-man and one-woman marriage relationship. The behavior to be avoided includes pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual sex, and even lust. God’s guidelines are meant to make sex a beautiful and meaningful experience when used in the proper way. Remember the context in Thessalonica…it’s for the followers of God to flourish.

It is natural to have questions about sex, but it’s even more important to look for answers in the right places. It is an ongoing debate between what popular culture says (i.e., 50 Shades of Grey is the current trendy topic) v.s. what God expects of His people, then deciding what you’ll feed into your life – fleshly, sensual pursuits or godly ones. Just remember, whatever you feed will grow.

Our Father gives the strength to turn away from temptation and find our fulfillment in Christ, His Son. We will avoid dead ends and emptiness if we follow the Holy Spirit’s leadings and not our own. Walk wisely. Anchor your heart in God’s Word – the Scriptures. It will keep you from making the world’s excuses your own. You will lose hope if you cling to the false words of Satan. Who will you give your vote to? It should be no debate about who has your loyalty.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 9

I have encountered many critics, skeptics, and cynics of Christianity, and even those who claim to believe in Jesus, but have doubts about faith, God, the Bible, and heaven. There were plenty of what I would call “doubting Thomas’” among the students and faculty I befriended, who were not sure if Jesus was who He said He was. I was careful not to ridicule them for “doubting” the existence of God, the validity of the Scriptures, or how to handle their own doubts about faith.

I have to admit I am a big fan of the Thomas we meet in the New Testament, courtesy of the apostle John. My reasons emerged out of conversations in the early 1980’s when Gene and Lynn Breitenbach were traveling the country as national evangelists for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. We invited Gene and Lynn to Ohio University (OU) to conduct a week of evangelism. It was a focused effort of training our students in sharing the message of Jesus with others. We offered daily two-by-two evangelism opportunities to go out with Gene, Lynn, or I and talk with others; Gene led several dorm talks; Lynn, a dorm concert, as well as some outdoor drama and open-air preaching. All in all, it was a fun week with lots of great conversations and fruit.

As I watched and listened to Gene and Lynn lead our students out of their comfort zone, I heard them talk about a love of hard questions, even as they listened to people’s initial objections to the Person and claims of Jesus. Gene and Lynn exhibited great grace and confidence in God and were never rattled or threatened by questions, concerns, or arguments against the Gospel. Rather, they enjoyed encouraging people to wrestle with their doubts and sincerely look for answers.

They used Thomas as an example of a man they respected because he sought a personal experience of the risen Christ. He refused to settle for second hand information or the second-best account of someone else’s encounter with Jesus. Gene and Lynn discipled my students and their pre-Christian listening audience to read primary source materials and press in to know Christ for themselves. They inspired many that it’s okay to wrestle with good questions.

Second, Gene and Lynn acknowledged that Thomas did not bow to “peer pressure.” I mean the other disciples of Jesus were probably trying to persuade Thomas into accepting that the risen Christ has appeared to them. It would have been easy for Thomas to merely go along with them, rather than remain in a lonely minority of one who doubted. But he had the guts to insist on a firsthand experience! And as I overheard Gene and Lynn say on more than one occasion, God honored Thomas’ request and He would also “be found if you take time to seek Him at OU.”

Read John 20:24-29.

Jesus added words of blessing to those who, “have not seen, yet believe” (v 29), but I don’t think that is a tacit affirmation of what some might call “blind faith.” Jesus was also not angry with Thomas for wanting a first-hand encounter with Him. Instead, He gave Thomas undeniable proof, then told him to stop doubting and believe, which he did – immediately! The great newsflash is Jesus is not angry with any of us, skeptic or believer, for having doubts.

We have lots to learn from Thomas (and Gene and Lynn). Don’t run from hard questions or sincere doubts. Live communally. Encourage your friends that faith does not mean the absence of doubts. If God honored Thomas’ request, He will surely answer yours. You probably won’t be able to feel His wounds with your hand, but He will no doubt make Himself real to you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 2

The Old Testament is that portion of the Bible that was written before the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. It is made up of 39 books, which includes Genesis through Malachi. One of my favorite Old Testament books is Ezra, where the book is named for the primary character, but it does not declare its author. The book encapsulates the restoration of Israel after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.

Ezra, a priest, is shown as a significant contributor to the spiritual and moral reawakening of the Jewish people as they come out of their long exile, rebuild the Temple, and work to reestablish their way of covenant life with the One True God. This book is often read in conjunction with Nehemiah as a combined narrative. Scholars date that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the 7th year of the reign of Artaxerses (458 B.C.) and Nehemiah about thirteen years later (445 B.C.).

Read Nehemiah 8:4.

Picture Ezra standing on a newly built wooden platform within newly built walls surrounding the city. Now picture Ezra standing on that platform reading God’s Word (the Jewish Torah or Law, the first five books of their sacred writings) to the people for six hours! With no electronic projection or assistance (i.e., sound system).

Having begun the process of building a safe community for the Hebrew people, Ezra now is promoting a way of life that is centered on and renewed by unswerving allegiance to the Torah. As Ezra read the holy Scriptures to the people, they wept, worshipped, and prayed. If you read the rest of chapter eight and continue into chapter nine, they confessed sin, turned individually and corporately from sin to the holy God, and renewed their commitment to walk in God’s will and make God’s Word their rule for living. And they were grateful for it as well.

Think. God’s Word is so powerful that all you have to do is expose people to it and their lives are changed. Read the text again: “Ezra stood on a platform…they had made for a purpose.”

When Gutenberg invented the printing press, one of the first books produced was the Bible. It gave birth to the Reformation, influenced the Industrial Revolution, as well as the American Revolution, and changed the course of world history for the better. Think about how Christians have been dedicated to translating the Bible into the languages of other people groups for hundreds of years. Colleagues of mine with Wycliffe Bible Translators spent 25 years learning the language of an indigenous tribe in Papua New Guinea, created an alphabet into which they wrote and presented a copy of the New Testament to tribal leaders – so they could know the God of heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land. That tribe has come to know the One True God!

The writer of the Book of Psalms and the apostle Paul (writer of many New Testament books) agreed that God gave us the Bible (Old and New Testaments) to reveal Christ to us so that in Him we might have eternal life and walk pleasing to Him (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

We have been given a platform in our world today in order to reach others with the message of Jesus. The apostle John wrote, “These are written so that you may know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Think theologically. Read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word. Then go out and pass it on.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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