Monthly Archives: November 2015

Monday Motivator – November 30

What do you believe about who you are and why you exist? What are you supposed to do to make your various expenditures on planet Earth worth your space here? These are some of the “big questions” we used to be encouraged to find answers to in order to find meaning in life.

I’ve always thought the irony was many folks who purported to be authorities in my life were not sure the questions should be asked, and, they could never agree on where the answers could come from. Think about the confusing amount of voices we have needed to navigate (and weigh in importance and accuracy) in order to find insight and wisdom for a life well-lived.

In terms of the “who am I? question, some in science would argue that I am no more than a cosmic accident, a mere fluke of nature. Why should I assume any moral significance as compared to a butterfly or an elephant? Some in government would suggest my reason for being is to pay my taxes so the elite rulers of a given society can subsidize their vision of cultural equality, while they accrue various benefits short and long term.

When answering the “why am I here?’ question, some in the media would argue that people like me from a European ancestry are the reason for so many things ailing society today. Filmmakers make movies and artists sing about the the narcissistic angle of outwitting my nosy neighbors to make sure I get ahead at all costs…even as a last survivor. Financial advisors stress saving, investing, and mobilizing my assets in order to leverage my cash and earnings into profitable endeavors so I can enjoy a few pleasures before death and not become a liability to society.

When answering the “where am I going?” question, some in politics, social media, and the academy want to silence any critics of their view of life, and reject free speech and religion, individual rights, and the classic approach to tolerance. Others in technology suggest it doesn’t matter where I’m going because machines will take over in due time and render humans obsolete. Or at least try and get there first while not becoming irrelevant, old, uncool, too traditional, and outdated on the way.

If these are the only choices, human existence appears to be little more than an endurance challenge. If we consult the best-selling Book of all time, another set of answers emerge.

Read 1 Peter 2:9-10.

The Bible says I am “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (verse 9). God also says in verse 9 that I am here “to declare the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Jesus adds in John’s Gospel that we belong to the Father and He is preparing a place for us to be with Him (John 14:2-3).

We live in a world where people waste a lot of time trying to find meaning in temporal stuff like looks, money, academic achievement, careers, and personal posturing. Ultimately, these pursuits are sure to disappoint. Instead of trying to find yourself where popular culture tells you to look, try looking in the one place God says He can be found. He has time tested answers to the big questions that contribute to human flourishing.

Grow devotionally. The Bible was written by the Author of life. Get anchored in what He says.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 23

I have never been a real music collector, but find songs that resonate with me. I have had a few tracks, vinyl albums, cassette tapes, cd’s, and mp3’s over the the past five decades. Various artists, sacred and secular, have written songs that captured my attention and helped me process an event, season, or stage of life. One example is songwriter and musician Bob Dylan and a song he wrote called “I Threw It All Away.”

After an early and bumbling dating relationship that disintegrated, Dylan’s words hit me like a brick in the face: “I must have been mad, I never knew what I had, until I threw it all away.” It captured my sense of failure and pain. I listened to it for months and replayed my mistakes in my mind, wishing I had understood its meaning before making such a stupid error.

That incident, and many others like it, taught me early on in life that many have already navigated the ups and downs of life. A gifted and/or reflective few have charted their experience in words that could help me learn so I have been on the lookout for stories, quotes, and insights that could assist me in determining various courses of behavior. Choices that did not just make sense, but were beneficial morally and ethically, and helped me make a difference in the world.

My parents modeled the value of living life well, that good was better than evil, character more critical than mere performance, and your word should mean something. The seasoned experience of my folks (and other relatives) impacted me since I saw the fruit of such lessons in their lives.

Read Proverbs 2:1-11.

The Bible’s Book of Proverbs also has the ring of time-tested experience. These are not the ramblings of ivory tower mystics, but the wise conclusions of real life practitioners who have walked the same path many of us face today. All of us struggle with issues of competence in the marketplace, relational conflicts, fear, isolation, loneliness, sexuality, money, identity, guidance, etc. Not amazingly, you’ll discover the writers of Proverbs have a word from the Lord on the core kinds of questions we face today.

Listen to Proverbs 2:9: “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path.” Through these spiritual sound bites, God Almighty promises to help us find our way in a loud, noisy, distracting, ultra-competitive society. That is, if we will take the time to listen and heed His advice. Proverbs 2:6 says, “The Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:11 reads, “Discretion will protect you, and understand will guard you.” Notice the “if” of verses 1, 3, 4, and the “then” of verses 5, 9.

Can you see the value of considering a proverb a day for a week, a month, or even a semester? For the next week, try reading the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the day on the calendar. Choose a phrase or verse that speaks to your need, concern, or question. Then write it down and ponder it throughout the day. Ask God to show you His will regarding the situation facing you. The promise of God in Proverbs 2:10 is, “wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” 

Serve globally. Our world needs wise people. Whether you are on campus or in the marketplace, and regardless of the guidance needed, remember that a proverb a day keeps foolishness away.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 16

I have had a few emotional ups and downs over girlfriends. I did not have a lot of dating experience and was caught off guard by how to handle infatuation in my high school and college years. I often became an emotional wreck as I struggled to communicate how I felt and discern how to build a healthy relationship with girls. But my dog still loved me unconditionally.

I stumbled along with little assistance in my social/dating life, but it started to come together when I got interested in Barbara in grad school. We were friends as fellow grad students and I was interested in seeing where our relationship could go, but she was not at the time. Initially I was crushed, anxious, and even a little depressed. I mistakenly began to worry about what might never be, and took my eyes off of trusting the Lord for patience and guidance.

My dating frustrations were mounting as I tried to reconcile my growing love for Barbara against her reticence to deepen our relationship. Full disclosure: she had told me she was busy in school and dating another guy back home. I began attending church regularly as a grad student and was being exposed to some basic Christian habits like reading Scripture. I was introduced to a man who appeared to have it much harder than my non-existent dating relationship with Barbara. This guy lost his children in dramatic ways. He lost his wealth, property, and livestock. Then he broke out in painful sores and boils all over his body. He was left with a cynical wife who suggested he should, “curse God and die.”

His seemingly close friends gathered to suggest that their friend, a man of known godly character, must certainly be receiving punishment for his sins. And since God was not apparently listening, Job felt more and more alone.

Read Job 42:1-6.

Finally, God spoke. But He did not speak up with reasons for Job’s “why me?” questions about his suffering. Instead the voice of the One True Lord of heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land, thundered as He approached Job with a bevy of questions of His own. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand?” (Job 38:4). “Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave the mind understanding?” (verse 6). “Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?” (39:27).

Have you ever had your toes stepped on? Consider how Job must have felt under the holy, piercing gaze and questioning of the Creator? Job was silenced. The sovereignty, goodness, wisdom, power, and love of God could not be more clear and unquestionable. If he had wondered for a second, Job now realized God Himself was the Source and Answer to any and all questions, worries, fears, and concerns he may have.

I’m sure you can say with me that we have felt abandoned by God at some point. I’m also sure you join me in wondering at times if God is actually in control of our lives? This presents us with a choice: in our times of greatest struggle, doubt, and heartache, will we turn to or away from our Creator? Will we remember Job 42:5 and recall who God is and how He wants to walk with us in our pain? There is an Answer to our sob stories and He is the God of Job.

Walk wisely. Even when blinded by confusion, sorrow, and pain, look to Jesus.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 9

I remember being a young follower of Christ in college and being taught by the student-athletes who reached me with the Gospel about the “one another” statements in the New Testament. I was amazed at the plethora of declarative “love one another,” “serve one another,” “care for one another” instructions from the apostles. I was discipled that these were applicable for all followers of Christ and should characterize our behavior.

Part of my early discipleship efforts were aimed at memorizing verses from the Old and New Testaments. Ephesians 4:29 was one of the first selections I was encouraged to commit to memory: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I am aware that gossip is a human problem and affects men and women at home, in schools, neighborhoods, the workplace, and mainstream society. In contrast, I saw and experienced the value of clear and helpful speech and conversation on some of the championship athletic teams I participated on. Coaches and captains did not tolerate less than stellar words to help us as a team stay focused and purposeful toward our goals of high performance and achievement. I benefitted from an environment that recognized the contribution of each player on offense and defense and challenged us to use our words to build up, not tear down one another.

When I started following Christ, I did see a healthy use of words and speech in Christians which indicated Ephesians 4:29 in action. I also witnessed a practice of gossip among some.

All of us have experienced the pain that gossip can cause. The sense of isolation and ridicule, the inability to refute the lies, and the sheer hurt and betrayal can be unbearable to anyone of any age. I still remember the deep feelings of rejection I felt and was faced with when a colleague suggested to someone else that I had violated team policy. Sadly, he had gotten faulty information from another “gossiper” and both failed to go to the original source to make sure they were clear about what actually happened. Neither came to me to ask about what really took place and an ugly cycle of disinformation caused quite a bit of discomfort for me.

Somehow I don’t think educational efforts alone are going to solve the gossip problem that has been yet another consequence of original sin. Parental reinforcement, public service ads, even speech codes on campus will not change any hearts.

But I am puzzled about the inconsistent speech among Christians. Believers in Jesus have had a heart change. Our attitude towards Jesus and his ways used to be bad while our attitude to sin was good. Christ’s salvation and the Spirit’s power reversed that behavior. We’ve been transformed and given new life from above. The Holy Spirit is active in each of us. Why then are Christians such incubators of gossip? Do we forget that a “perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends?” (Proverbs 16:28)

Read Romans 12:9-21.

Is it possible that we’re too busy talking about others and not listening to God? If a “gossip cop” followed you, would he give you any tickets? For what? The solution starts with you and me, recognizing the authority of God and the dignity of others. Live communally. No more gossip.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 2

I have met, worked with, and enjoyed being around lots of college students who had low self-esteem. Some said they weren’t the smartest in their class (or even in their family). Others thought they were not pretty or handsome. Several did not think anyone thought well of them, or that they had potential to succeed at something. Sadly, a few confided in me that their parents doubted their significance. Most students said their parents loved them dearly and were their biggest cheerleaders.

I remember when my wife got pregnant with our first child. All through the pregnancy, Barbara (and I) thought about the tiny baby growing in her womb. At mealtimes, she would often gulp down some extra milk, fruit, or veggies as she was actually eating for two. I would do the same (in full disclosure) because I was simply hungry.

Barbara’s soon-changing wardrobe choices were a reminder about the new and growing life inside her. At night, increasing difficulty in turning made her conscious of the baby. Barbara would often say that daytime or night, regardless of what she did or was doing, there was seldom a time when our soon-to-be-born baby was far from her thoughts.

Mothers think a lot about their kid(s), before and after they are born. They sacrifice for them. They invest love thoughts, love words, and love deeds each and every day. They suffer for them and with them. They love to laugh, hug, and cuddle with them. They are eager to pray for, encourage, and inspire them to be their best.

Read Isaiah 49:13-18.

Scripture says God thinks about His children constantly as well. The prophet Isaiah wrote Spirit-inspired descriptions of a heavenly Father who never forgets any of His children. Mothers (and fathers) are not perfect and will make mistakes in raising and caring for their kids. Yet the Creator not only has more than one or two kids, or a few hundred, yet millions upon millions of men, women, boys and girls He calls His own.

He knows each of them by name (see Isaiah 43:1) and as Psalm 139 so eloquently describes, He knows and perceives all of our thoughts, understands our hopes, relates to and sympathizes with our fears, shares our dreams and aspirations, and sees the sin and darkness that we struggle with and our feeble attempts to keep secret.

What are some love thoughts, love words, and love deeds your mom has given to you? Now think of love thoughts, love words, and love deeds that the Lord has given to you. He loves and cares for us more tenderly than any earthly mother ever could. Keep in mind that it’s not a race or a contest. But, how do you thank your mom and God?

I recently lost my mother as she succumbed to cancer so close to her eighty-first birthday. I have so many memories of her love towards me. It was her life and love that made it easier for me to understand and relate to the love of God modeled by Jesus.

Think theologically. The next time you feel unloved, remember the Father is thinking of you with great tenderness. God’s mind is on us and it never wanders. Rest in Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2015 by Mike Olejarz

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