Monthly Archives: June 2015

Monday Motivator – June 29

If and when you get into trouble and if and when you cry out to God, would He recognize your voice because He is used to hearing it? Or is worship and prayer just a nice idea?

Do you notice how some people react to hardship and tragedy? It would seem that the most irreligious or nonreligious men and women suddenly position themselves for God’s attention and help, even though they seem to have ignored Him for a long time.

It happens a lot when “breaking news” jolts us with yet another act of senseless violence. It is not surprising when all kinds of people cry out to God for rescue and strength. Public officials even petition the Lord for His presence and provision when people face great loss due to natural disasters. It’s ironic though that while most folks ignore God regularly, their instinct is to call on God, not the devil, for assistance and relief.

It is amazing to consider the heavenly Father is always on call and waiting to send the immense resources of heaven to our rescue. Yet according to Scripture, that is not necessarily the case. God may instead use the difficulty to reveal to us the emptiness of our self-centered and created values and the powerlessness of the gods we tend to trust in.

Read Jeremiah 2:26-30.

Prophets like Jeremiah were covenant enforcers, mobilized and used by the Lord to remind the Israelites of the agreement they made with Him. They agreed at Mt. Sinai to live in obedience to their Creator, and, “have no other gods.” Through Jeremiah, the Lord challenged His people, Israel, on many occasions as to who really was their Lord.

They were in deep trouble in this instance because they had been trying to get help from the idols they had set up and were worshipping. So the Lord forced them to face up to the futility of honoring and trusting in other false gods.

It is fair to assume God can (and does) ask you or I the same question He asked Israel. Imagine He said, “Why call on Me now that you are in trouble? Where is your mobile device, smartphone, apps, and Google chat to lean on? Where are your Twitter followers, techno dudes, and Facebook friends? Where are your movie stars, latest trending fad setters, political voices, and entertainment gurus? Why not seek help from your Apple TV, regular paycheck, new wheels, gym membership, or debt relief strategy? You have been serving these gods faithfully. So let them help you now.”

Jeremiah often used the analogy of an immoral, adulterous prostitute to illustrate the depth of the Hebrews unfaithfulness to God (2:33). New Testament writers referred to the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-27, for example). The idea is believers should be careful to remain faithful to the Lord and not abandon Him for other lovers.

Can we learn from the mistakes of others? Sadly, we often do not. God does not want us to think we can trust in the gods of this age and still expect Him to protect us from the consequences. Walk wisely. He will forgive us if we repent. He offers us help as we lean on Him in good times and bad. What (or whom) are you really trusting in, if it’s not the Lord?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 22

I remember learning from an old friend that his wife had been lying to him about an incident she had denied being involved with years ago – until the facts emerged that she had been involved with another man. My friend was crushed by the admission of deceit and infidelity. They tried marriage counseling but the wife was not very interested in repairing the damage she caused. She even had the gall to leave her husband for this rogue “boyfriend” and took their young children with her after an ugly custody battle.

Read Joshua 7:1-25.

One of the realities of Scripture is we are introduced to heroes and zeroes: examples of men and women who live lives worthy of emulating and those we can also learn from due to their poor choices. Achan, an ordinarily minor character in the larger narrative of Israel’s pilgrimage to the Promised Land did something that catapulted him to the front pages of history. He tainted a major victory of the Israelites by his deceit.

Just as Israel prepared to enter Jericho, God gave Joshua instructions about dealing with this city and its inhabitants. In addition, God told Joshua to warn the Hebrews that they were not to take any of the silver, gold, bronze, or iron for themselves, because all of the spoils of the capture of Jericho would be sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury (Joshua 6:18-19).

In spite of the warning, Achan took some of the riches for himself, assuming no one would ever know. This is where the old song begins to play in our heads…”Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” When Achan’s sin was discovered and exposed, he and his family were judged guilty by God and destroyed.

I understand this Old Testament story sounds harsh and unforgiving and seems like an example of unfair punishment. Consider the New Testament account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, first century participants in the young and growing Jerusalem church. Dr. Luke (author of the Gospel that bears his name, as well as the book of Acts) records that their deaths were attributed to their doing one thing and trying to make it look like another (5:1-11). They were declared guilty of deceit and lying to the Lord.

The truth is anytime we lie, pretend, or deceive, we take a step back from the light. We deceive ourselves, thinking no one will know. Gradually over time, our initial feelings of guilt turn into a lazy, self-justification of our behavior. We convince ourselves (and others) that what we did was actually right and proper, not wrong. The reality is that whether quickly or gradually, deceit kills from the inside out.

Deception erodes our relational trust with others long before it is discovered. It even deadens our heart toward others (and God) while it is hidden. The only cure is honest confession and repentance, first to God, then to the person(s) involved.

Is there something you are trying to hide from God and others? Remember the truth of 1 John 1:8-9. Live communally. Walk in the light. When we deceive, we begin to die. When we embrace the truth, we begin to live…again. Deceit kills, but truth gives life.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 15

My wife plays the piano and both of our grown children are gifted musicians. Although I never played any instrument regularly, I enjoy music written by composers and executed by musicians. With Jurassic World in theaters, I am reliving the wonderful scores of the first Jurassic Park by composer John Williams.

The creativity, artistry, and skill of musicians amazes, moves, and inspires me. Take the piano. I just returned from a business trip and saw a custom designed player piano in the main lobby of the Richmond (VA) International airport. I came around a corner and saw this shiny, black structure with a row of black and white keys. Yet under the hands of an artist like Billy Joel (one of my favorites), or one that was pre-programmed in the airport, it becomes alive. I paused, closed my eyes briefly, and enjoyed the sound.

Whenever I listen to a gifted pianist, I am reminded of how God uses me as His instrument. It’s almost as if I am the keys and God is the grand master player. Whatever good and pleasing music comes out of me and enriches others is the direct result of the creativity of God Himself.

I remember the first time I had to speak as a high school athlete at a junior high awards banquet. It was my first foray into being in front of a crowd of younger fellow athletes, coaches, and parents, and I was understandably nervous. I wrote, rehearsed, and memorized my eight-minute speech but still wondered if I would stumble and stutter and look foolish in my effort. Remarkably, I got through it without mistake and received kind words of affirmation from many. I did not have any sort of relationship with God back then, but generally thought I could make a speech again if I had to.

Without becoming cocky, I gave a few more speeches before I realized that I really was an instrument God chose, gifted, and used. My understanding matured to where I viewed myself much like the piano, and God as the great Musician who produced good music in and through me. That realization developed humility and perspective in me. I remember a quote I came across in an old Sports magazine that a pro athlete used as his motivation. It read, ”Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God” by Leo Buscaglia. I have used Leo’s insight for decades to keep me grounded.

Read 2 Chronicles 26:16-20.

I was reminded about this idea of instrumental fruitfulness recently in a church service where the story of King Uzziah was used. The sorry reality was after he became powerful as the ruler of Judah, he also became proud, ignored the priests appointed by God to help Israel, and defied God Himself with his arrogance. His pride led to his downfall as the Lord had to teach him a painful lesson that involved leprosy.

The writer of Chronicles and the rest of the older Testament books intended readers to remember the Lordship of the One True God and not reject His rulership in their lives. I suggest we pay attention and remember as well to be humble before God and honor Him with our available service. Think theologically. He made us to be His instruments. As you get better, avoid pride. Allow Him to make beautiful music in and through us today.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 8

I was in a Habitat for Humanity store and noticed six attractive dining room chairs and an eight foot table. As I examined the quality and design, a store worker came up and asked me if I had any questions. I mentioned the attractiveness of the chairs and he said that it was a recent donation from a family that moved out of the area.

He added that the family had redone the chairs a few months ago and the results of the makeover were the new color and design scheme. He was surprised the chairs had lasted this long and was certain they would be purchased by the end of the day and/or week. The reason for his optimism was the work of the upholsterer and explained what he had heard happened when the chairs were delivered.

That craftsman did not just cover over the chairs with new material, as some might expect. That would not work because the new fabric would ruin the shape of the chair. Instead a competent upholsterer recognizes and demands on tearing the chair down to its fundamental framing and then putting on the new material. Sound familiar?

Read Ephesians 4:17-24.

The apostle Paul wrote in the first century about the work God wants to do in each of us for our growth and maturity. He is not interested in taking our human effort and adding to them, or dressing us up, or covering us up. God knows better. Our old sin nature has the ability to continue to perform religious activities, but that isn’t the real work the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. God actually intends to replace our character with what Paul called the “new man.”

Paul understood and communicated the replacement principle that was critical if we were to become like Jesus. Consider his words about “putting on new clothes” in verse 24: “Put on the new self, created to be like God, in true righteousness and holiness.” He argued that as we exchange our old speech, ideas, attitudes, and actions for those of Jesus and His Kingdom, we encounter a radical change at the core of who we are. As Isaiah said in 40:31 of his book, we are recipients of an amazing exchange that we did not deserve – new for old.

My mom used to say “garbage in and garbage out.” The GIGO principle is still in practice today. I need to be disciplined in the use of my words as well as what my eyes and ears take in. Yet it is not enough to just conduct a cosmetic upgrade by ourselves now and then.

What speech or behavior patterns do you need to “put off?” What Kingdom behavior do you need to “put on” in its place? If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and we would not need the saving help of Jesus or the daily enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Inside each of us is the drive to be “good enough” in our view and strength. Yet we fool ourselves into dumbing down and excusing our behavior, especially with our moms no longer around every day, and little or no vital connection to the Holy Spirit.

Keep in mind that God desires to re-upholsterer us with the new man (or woman), so we are re-made in the image of Him who designed each of us. His laser-like focus is to make us into the likeness of Jesus Himself. We do our part by putting aside our old behaviors and yielding our hearts to the Holy Spirit. Grow devotionally. Put off the old and put on the new.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 1

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries exists to reconcile students to Christ: transforming the university, the marketplace, and the world. When our staff look at a campus, they see the potential of turning undergraduate and graduate, American and international students (and faculty) into Christ-centered and Christ-honoring laborers.

One emphasis we have tackled for decades is the recognition of what the Lord has done in bringing so many international students to America. Here are a few reasons we believe reaching these special visitors is a strategic way to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.

1 International ministry is a Biblical principle, or world missions in reverse.

2 Christian internationals return home as missionaries.

3 God has given us a way to reach people in countries closed to the Gospel.

4 International students are tomorrow’s world leaders.

5 God brought a very large number of internationals here so many Christians can touch their lives with kindness and hospitality.

Part of Chi Alpha’s general strategy is to determine how to serve the international students on each campus where we have a Chi Alpha chapter. We have many staff that work full and part time in this area of ministry, and I want to introduce and recognize one of the best I have observed.

Karen Keyser has been with Chi Alpha the past eighteen years, after starting out as a high school teacher. She served for many years at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and for the past ten years or so at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Karen recently got married and announced she is moving back to the land of her youth. She will join the Chi Alpha staff team at the University of Oregon and continue her vital work.

Karen has been a fruitful and faithful member of the Georgetown (GU) Chi Alpha team, the DC Metro Chi Alpha team, been the catalyst for Northeast regional development, as well as a vital contributor in national ministry development. In missionary street lingo, this lady can bring it, has done it, and is one of the best missionaries we have.

Listen to what Brooke Collins (one of her teammates at Georgetown) told me: “Karen is the kind of person I think of when I think of what it means to be a minister. She is one who spends herself for the sake of the Gospel. For years, she would give up her Friday nights to lead Bible studies for international students. In the process, she introduced many of them to Jesus for the first time. She would open her home to them for Christmas parties, nights away from campus, and home-cooked meals. She loved them like a mother loves her children. She went out of her way to make them feel at home when they were thousands of miles away from the only family and home they had known. Karen has been a gift to Georgetown and the number of students she has mentored over the years. Oregon has no idea what a beacon of the Kingdom is headed their way.”

Serve globally. Will you follow Karen’s example and invest in the life of an international student near you? Perhaps they will become a modern day Cornelius (Acts 10) or Lydia (Acts 16), fully committed to building the church of Jesus in their home country.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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