Monthly Archives: October 2015

Monday Motivator – October 26

I saw a number of large inflatable animal figures at a Frank’s Nursery store and stopped for a closer look. One of my favorite characters that the store had in front was of Tigger, from the story about Winnie the Pooh. The inflatable Tigger was several feet high, plugged into an AC outlet in order to stay blown up, and he appeared to be bouncing up and down on his tail. Can’t you picture him romping around the field, with Piglet and Mr. Rabbit watching his antics?

I have heard some suggest Tigger can get on people’s nerves with his infectious enthusiasm and laughter. I suppose seemingly “look at me” type self-serving statements from animated characters can be excused or even tolerated more so than if they came from real people.

Most of us realize that professor Maslow was right in that we all have basic human rights we need to take care of. It is not wrong to think of our own needs first in order to take care of ourselves. Hopefully our parents helped us not get too preoccupied with “me-myself-and-I” and we learned (and believe) the world actually does not revolve around each of us.

Yet the messages are all around us, from sports to reality shows to politics to movies, etc. Many still ask the selfish question: “Where is the payoff for me?” It seems we live in a day where there are a lot of Tigger-like people clamoring for their time in the sunshine. Or to be fair to Tigger, there are a lot of men and women saying, “It’s all about me…and I want to be paid for it, too!”

Read Colossians 1:15-23.

The apostle Paul gave a tremendous scouting report of the Person of Jesus in the opening part of his first century letter to the Christians at Colosse. He penned a loud declaration about the preeminence of Jesus as God’s Son in these verses, stating that, “ by Christ are all things created” (16) and “He is before all things and holds all things together” (17).

Jesus stepped into our world to rescue us from the source of all human trouble – sin. Paul adds the idea from verse 21 that, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But in verse 22 he continues by saying, “But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight.”

Think about what the apostle Paul is saying. Those whom put their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus can be free from the pain and penalty of sin. We were created by Him and for His purposes, but all of us rejected His Lordship for our own selfish pursuits. In spite of our rebellion, we were won back (i.e., reconciled) to God by the death of Jesus on a cross. God became human in order to rescue us from our narrow-minded preoccupation with our own self-glory.

Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected in order to pay for our selfishness and give us a second chance. That is why I tear up when I read the last few words of verse 22. Based on what Christ accomplished, He can present us “holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

In life, there is only room for one Lord. It does not make any sense to become free from sin in order to serve our selves any longer. Let’s use what Christ’s death provides to serve Him instead.

Grow devotionally. Use Colossians 1:9-14 as your pattern for a life that honors the real Star.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 19

Are you envisioning your life story to be a fifteen minute grab for fame or an eventual biography of God-honoring service?

A sense and understanding of your calling can give you a story line towards fruitfulness and fulfillment that is often missing in today’s fragmented world. The information overload of social media, the impact of modern pluralism plus economic and personal mobility contributes to confusion and alienation. I know from talking with alumni of mine that moving away from their parents and extended family and friends, while often professionally lucrative, does yield a loneliness that is difficult to escape and deal with.

Consider my parents who have lived in the same house on the east side of Detroit for almost 55 years, while my wife and I have lived in houses in five cities in three different states. Some of the neighbors they moved into the old neighborhood with are still around, not to mention friends they have made throughout their lifetimes. My dad shoots pool with some guys he has known for decades. My mom still sees and talks with friends from high school in the metro Detroit area.

By contrast, I have lived in several places, had several jobs, known many people for shorter periods of time, and often feel less linked to friends of my youth, family and relatives, due to the calling on my life to be a missionary representative of Jesus. I am not complaining, but having moved around so much it is hard to make sense of it all at times. Having lived the past thirty-six years away from my roots, I do feel disconnected from the first twenty years of my life in Detroit, but I realize it is not a jumbled set of experiences.

I have to remind myself that followers of Christ are referred to as “citizens of another place” and we are not the first mobile travelers. The reality is there have always been nomads and their calling gave them meaning. Father Abraham who left his home at God’s call for a place he had never seen or been to. Moses later led the people of God through a challenging desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Over the course of forty years they were dependent on the Lord for direction, meaning, and provision. They could not rely on their foresight, cunning, or their ability to figure out how to get from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were on their way to the land of promise, not really realizing God was leading them to fulfill their national and global calling. Ultimately Israel came to understand the Lord was trustworthy because His word was the promise and call they needed.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

Has anything really changed? We are all nomads again and again. We may live in one town a long time or switch colleges after a short stay. We may be employed after graduation and be paid real well or switch careers and see our income rise and fall. Hopefully we’ll have mutually rewarding relationships more than we have thin and unsatisfying ones that disappoint us. But as followers of the risen Christ, none of these things really determines who we are and the meaning of our lives. What matters is if we follow the call of God on each of our lives.

Serve globally. Avoid the worldly temptation to be diverted from God’s call by a fragmented and overloaded life. Follow the call of Christ despite the chaos and uncertainty of modern life. Do not let the transient nature of the good derail you from what is best and eternal.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 12

How are you at keeping your focus?

I learned early in life that to be single-minded is critical if you want to get somewhere or become something. Multiple choices, an entitlement mind-set of today’s culture, and the fast pace changes of life are often barriers, threatening our pursuit(s).

Many of us have also learned the reality of “burnout,” the “tyranny of the urgent,” the danger of self-doubt, not to mention the armchair critics that seem to emerge to throw water on any ideas or adventures we acknowledge. It seems that many of us have been “discipled” by feedback from friends and family and we ultimately yield to the naysayers rather than move “full steam ahead” in spite of those who don’t agree with our aspirations and dreams.

Fortunately I was raised in a family that encouraged me to pursue my lofty aspirations. It started in junior high when I dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal in wrestling, becoming an NFL linebacker, and/or becoming a major league baseball catcher and the first at that position to get 3,000 hits and make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It meant I sacrificed some stuff like hanging out with friends and dating girls (which was awkward for me, even though I did attend the prom in my junior year of high school – thanks Evelyn).

My folks said the remedy for not losing focus was to set wise goals and push aside things that may distract, discourage, or dissuade. When I became a follower of Jesus late in college, I came across the Book of Proverbs and realized my parents were on to something. Proverbs 15:21 says, “Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.” Looking back, I can agree that in order to accomplish anything, we must give up other things. It can be difficult to pursue (and if necessary) defend a path you wish to pursue, but it is possible.

Read Mark 10:46-52.

A blind man named Bartimaeus heard Jesus was passing by and yelled out to him for mercy. Many told him to give up his request but Jesus stopped when he heard him and asked him what he wanted. The same crowd of skeptics appeared to respond by saying, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you” (v 49). Bartimaeus jumped to his feet, came to Jesus and said he wanted to see. Jesus healed him and he started following him. I wonder if the skeptics and cynics did too?

We can learn from Bartimaeus. The circle of people we hang out with often tries to beats us down into submission. I was told not to pursue my dreams of gold medals and athletic achievement. A black friend of mine told me his friends told him not to go to college or he would become an uncle Tom and desert the “neighborhood of lackluster living, dropouts, and single women who got pregnant by irresponsible young men.” He broke out and emerged a better man.

God’s call for us to be made right with Him through Christ can put us on a path to flourish as he intends. It is possible to live a focused life amidst the blurriness of today’s noisy world. God has gifted and called each of us to fruitfulness and significance. It will start with renouncing all of your ambiguity and “good goals” for God’s will in Jesus. Once you are centered in and on Christ, you will be empowered for the purpose for which your gifts were given to you. Walk wisely. Jesus is asking you to go straight for the goal for which he calls you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 4

We’ve all felt the crunch of time, especially when it comes to assessing our relationships. I recall numerous conversations with students about time/life/dating/money management. I remember an occasion where Joel* (name used to protect many students with whom I’ve had similar chats) asked me to meet for lunch in the student center.

We bumped into each other on the walk over and started normal small talk. His phone rang twice and he answered it instead of focusing on me and the conversation we had going. As he talked on the phone he walked faster and actually forgot about me as he moved on ahead. He got to the student center, tuned around to look for me, recognized he had walked hurriedly away from me and raised his shoulders sheepishly to say, “Oh, there you are!”

Once I caught up, we went into the food court area of the student center and surveyed our eating options. Joel appeared fidgety and distracted as we decided on our lunch selection and then waited for our chance to order behind seven other students in the food line. During the meal, Joel kept checking his watch and looking at his phone when it beeped, indicating an incoming text, email, or app update. He made two calls while we sat and ate, answered several text/email with a “This will just take a second, Mike,” and appeared to be making notes to himself on his phone.

He was sending signals not to worry about dessert when I looked at him and said, “Okay, Joel, now what is it you want to talk about?” He froze. I waited 20 seconds. No response. He moved back and forth in his seat. I asked, “What is the real reason you asked me to lunch?”

He shrugged and finally said, “I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything. I’m always rushing and behind, and always feel like I’m losing something. Plus, my roommate and I are snapping at each other and it’s a tense place to try to sleep and do work.” “How is your relationship with God?” I asked. Joel replied, “I’m further and further distant from Him, it seems…you know? I never seem to have time to pray, read Scripture, even go to church.”

Knowing Joel, I figured he hoped for a one-sentence solution, but I did not have one. What he had not mentioned (again), was his propensity for video gaming that he played for long hours. Even his roommate and small group Bible study leader confronted him on it as they saw how addicted he was and how it was affecting his whole life.

What I said shocked him. “When I leave, put your phone under a wheel of my car and wait for me to start the car and crush it. Let it be run over and do not replace it for a few weeks. You are a slave to what it represents.” He was not ready to follow through, so I offered to drive him back to his apartment. On the way, he listened while I spoke. “Joel, you have all the symptoms of a ‘hurry up’ life style. You are always doing 2-3 things, which is a definition of multi-tasking, but you’re ignoring the people closest to you, and that leads to a social barrier of loneliness. You have no instinct for social connection – look how you treated me at lunch – and little time for friendship maintenance, much less building anything substantial with anyone else.”

Live communally. Joel started to share life with a few guys. He applied Romans 12:10 to his weakened friendships with his parents, sibling, roommate, even God. So slow down. Build (or rebuild) some relational bridges. Walk slow. Talk slow. Eat slow. Give God, your friends, and your family some of yourself, and not just leftovers. You can escape from a hurry-up life.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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