Monthly Archives: January 2016

Monday Motivator – January 25

Which of your friends, classmates, and colleagues do not know Jesus?  Are you sure of their assurance of salvation? If not, how can you get them to think about the good news of the gospel?

You would think that graduation is too late for someone to accept Christ, wouldn’t you? I mean, parents, siblings, and extended family are in town, the campus is packed with visitors, and the campus bookstore is doing a brisk business. Isn’t it too busy of a time for someone to be making new decisions about life? Good thing Mary didn’t think that way about her soul and future.

Mary was a high school athlete who came to campus and decided her competitive days were in decline, but she wanted to stay connected to sports. She pursued athletic training with a zeal and loved the concept of helping athletes get better and back on the field as soon as possible.

I had met Jesus a year or so before graduation and was a raw, not-knowing-much-about-my-faith follower, and a varsity baseball player, and catcher to boot. As such, I found myself in the training room often for the numerous and varied bumps, bruises, and wounds suffered from foul balls, home plate collisions, and occasional baseball bats in the head after an errant swing.

As I read the Great Commission of Jesus in my really new, New Testament (Matthew 28:19-20), I assumed those instructions were still binding on anyone else following Jesus, so I started to pray for divine contacts and opportunities to share my new-found faith.

Sitting in a training room with ice bags on a shoulder, leg, or back was a natural time to employ some of my chit-chat skills with other athletes or trainers nearby. Besides normal stuff like classes, sports, and weather, I often asked someone to tell me their story (i.e., where are they from, personal highlights, dreams, etc.,) and then asked about their spiritual story (their background, spiritual heritage, current practices, difference it made, and so on).

One day, I struck up a conversation with Mary in the training room, and over time got to know her better and better. I clumsily shared some of my story, including my recent decision to start following Jesus. I asked her about her spiritual beliefs and listened intently, asking a few more questions for clarity and understanding – why did she believe what she believed?

I didn’t think much progress was being made and a year had gone by. Amazingly, she showed up at my apartment the day before our undergraduate commencement and said she just became a Christian! And she added a lot of it was due to our conversations in the training room.

Have you ever thought that the efforts you make to talk to others about Jesus never (or rarely) bear any fruit? I realized God is working in people’s lives and it is never too late for someone to respond – even the day before graduation. I was stunned by Mary’s news and dumbfounded that I contributed to her deciding she needed and wanted to know Jesus. God used me in His work!

Read 2 Timothy 1:8-14.

You just read the apostle Paul’s mission statement about reaching out with the gospel. Ask God to give you divine appointments to share your story. It is never too late to reach out to one more person with the love of Jesus Christ. Walk wisely. You’re never too late to be a witness.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 18

Is there anyone for which you are withholding forgiveness? Are you hoping to make someone suffer a little longer before you forgive them? What does God expect of you?

I have a friend (who asked me to keep him anonymous) who served in the Vietnam War. He told me stories of his service and the pain he (and many others) have suffered. He has recurring images of conflict, blood, noise, gunfire, and utter insanity. He has scarred memories of people screaming in fear and hurt, even civilians, all caught up in a terrible season of suffering.

He remembers journalists and photographers embedded to cover the War and one in particular who covered his unit. This photographer captured the disturbing series of events one day that corroborated a friendly fire incident that left his unit injured, with some dead. Sadly, the event involved napalm.

Napalm, similar to jelled gasoline, severely burned several soldiers. They endured many operations and scars, mental and emotional turmoil, and ongoing pain that continued daily until their deaths. My friend told me about the pain, anger, and bitterness he initially experienced against his fellow soldiers and officers who made the mistake of firing on them.

Amazingly, my friend, expressed the need for reconciliation and healing for all who were involved in the war. He told me the Army chaplains played a great role in helping him and his unit members get through an ugly episode, and get on a path to healing and wholeness.

His attitude came from a heart of gratitude to God. Raised a Christian, my friend said he accepted Jesus at a young age, but drifted from God in high school. His time in the military caused him to be healed in many ways, even spiritually. “God used our suffering to bring me back to him,” he told me.

Read Luke 7:36-48.

Years ago, my friend recalled a reunion of his unit at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. He told his mates that “They had suffered a lot of physical and emotional pain, and he often thought of taking his life to escape. Yet God had saved him and gave him faith and hope to confront his pain and need to forgive.”

He spoke of forgiveness to those who contributed to the suffering of he and his comrades, as well as those they fought in Vietnam. When he finished, several of his fellow soldiers agreed and offered their plea for healing. They went so far as to track down the guilty soldiers and though it took time, many relationships were rescued from a very, ugly series of tragic events. Several wept. They all agreed that “for us to forgive those that literally wounded us personally means something. It was a step that helped all of us to fix some of the brokenness we all carried.”

Some of us have been greatly hurt by someone. Can we ever forgive them? Some of us may have caused emotional harm to someone else. Have we asked for forgiveness? My friend would argue that if he and his napalm injured army friends can forgive, why not you?

Live communally. When we forgive, two people are set free.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 11

How does your family reflect the love of God?

I have met a lot of college students who are from a blended family. Social scientists say one out of three people are connected to a step family. While it’s not easy, many students have told me they love their family.

They tell me certain dynamics are critical if a blended family is to work and contribute to health and maturity. Adapting to a step-parent, getting used to new siblings, not knowing your birth parents but sharing a biological parent are just some of the obstacles to confront and deal with.

A friend of mine is a family therapist and he told me that he warns step families against trying to live up to the same expectations of a nuclear family. He further said research indicates a step family, unlike a nuclear family, takes more time to grow and connect. Loving feelings can develop, but they are not an immediate result. Significant time, patience, persistence, and plugging away are required so family members (parents and children alike) do not become disappointed too quickly and yield to despair. Family bonding just takes time.

Read Ephesians 1:3-14.

Family life is hard no matter what kind of family you are born into, find yourself in, or are adopted into. Yet Scripture declares one family far exceeds all the expectations of a hoped for, happy, safe, and secure home. That family is the family of God.

The apostle Paul wrote to the first century church in Ephesus that all of us who who put our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus are adopted as sons and daughters. He said we have access to all the spiritual blessings that are represented and available “in Christ.” Essentially, God does not hold anything back from us. He says, “Come on down, my children. See what kind of life I have created and purchased for you. If you accept and receive my forgiveness, you will not have to be afraid anymore. I am never going to forget you, leave you, or forsake you.”

In God’s family, there are no step parents to get used to, no shared parenting on weekends, no visitation schedules to keep track of. We are all fully accepted, first born children of the One True God, the Shepherd of our souls, with complete access to Him. There is no separation possible due to His love and faithfulness toward us.

Paul used precise words and phrases in the first fourteen verses of Ephesians 1 such as, “He blessed us (v 3),” “He chose us (v 4),” “He predestined us to be adopted (v 5),” “He freely gave us His grace (v 6),” “He redeemed and forgave us (v 7),” “He lavished on us wisdom and understanding (v 8)” to describe the heavenly family we all have opportunity to experience.

God gives us all a family, nuclear or blended, so we can grow up loved, cared for, and secure. He knows we need to connect and bond with others, as well as with Him. You can experience some of heavenly life while in an earthly family, but for certain it is available in God’s family.

Use Scripture like Ephesians 1 to build your life on the truth of God’s Word. Insecurity can be dealt with. Think theologically. All of us in Christ are adoptees and belong to our Father.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 4

In The Magicians Nephew in the Chronicles of Narnia, the divine Lion, Aslan, sings the land of Narnia into being. Author C.S. Lewis imagines the scene where “the Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land singing his new song…and as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool.”

The Psalmist said in 19:1 that “the heavens are telling the glory of God.” Everywhere we look we see clues and signs of the Creator’s Almightiness. All around are literally designer originals.

To be like Him is to sing and honor Him. What would happen to your relationship with God if you took time each day to worship Him? Would you consider reading and using the Book of Psalms in your daily habit of being with the Father? Find a month with 30 days and read and/or sing 5 a day as a way to deepen your worship of King Jesus. Let’s try one today as an experiment.

Read Psalm 98.

Psalm 98:1 says to sing to God a song of praise and worship for his victory and His salvation being made known. Think about something marvelous He has done (v 1). Thank Him for one way His powerful hand has upheld you (v 1).

V 2 says to consider the ways His salvation is being made known in the earth, among the nations, among your family, among the international students on campus. V 3 says God kept His covenant with the people of Israel. How has He kept His covenant with you?

V 4 reminds us to sing a song of joy to God. Play a song with an instrument (even your hands on a table or your thighs) – a song that reminds you of your joy before the Lord like v 5-6 suggest. V 7 urges us to contemplate the many ways God’s creation speaks of His presence. V 8 (as depicted from the screen shot on my iMac desktop display) shouts that the beautiful rivers and mountains glorifies God and lifts my understanding of His wonderful creativity.

V 9 instructs us to remember God is indeed a Judge – and how His salvation work on the cross puts us on the right side of His judgment. That is worth a praiseworthy shout, don’t you think?

Go ahead, I’ll wait as you lift your voice to praise Him for that. Thank Him for His righteous acts of judgment and justice.

Thank you, Lord, for showing us more about Yourself from Psalm 98. Help us to understand and grasp the greatness of Your works, especially the value and depth of the salvation You provided through Jesus. Help us to remember Your love and Your faithfulness in keeping Your promises. Enable us to praise You in song and action in ways that honor You. Help us to explore Your creation and appreciate your handiwork anew. We recognize and surrender to You as Judge and the Savior of our souls. Help us to do what You say is right. Help me to cultivate a daily habit of worshipping You in Spirit and truth.

Be honest and look for what may get in your way of such worship. Time? Academic pressure? Fear of intimacy with God? Grow devotionally. Worship is not a mood or feeling, but it is something we do in response to who God is and what He has done.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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