Monthly Archives: February 2016

Monday Motivator – February 29

What talent(s) do you have? What are you actually trying to accomplish with your life while on earth? Are you tempted now and then to value your abilities above your relationship with God?

I know the type and the temptation. Like you, I’ve had exciting plans for the future and was studying and preparing myself as best I knew how. I remember the old adage that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration…or hard work. Even while in school I dreamed about my ideas, aiming for the kind of promising career I thought would allow me success and achievement. I even believed I had the vision, character, and skills to be successful.

Meeting Jesus in college only seemed to sharpen my expectations that I was made for something special and unique to my background, training, and wiring.

A few Sunday school classes into my early years as a Jesus follower confirmed the idea that God made each of us to be able to handle specific tasks to make an impact while we are here. It reinforced a concept from athletics that each person on the team is a key contributor to our goals, progress, and ultimate success. It is a great feeling whether a starter or substitute that each of us can contribute.

Yet a danger needs to be recognized. If any of us allow our skills, knowledge, or abilities to become the focus of our lives, we tread on shaky ground. It is not a bad idea to train and prepare for that promising career you believe you are gifted for. You just need to realize that when we get too self-focused, we tend to concentrate too much on ourselves and often forget the Lord.

Read Philippians 3:1-14.

Paul, the writer of a first century letter to Christians who lived in Philippi, was prone to make that very mistake. In fact, he did so many times. The focus of his self-centeredness was due in part to his extensive religious training. Paul was highly educated, with a rich background in Judaism and its many ceremonies and protocols. He had many reasons to celebrate his Jewish heritage, his circumcision, his sense and conviction of his righteousness, and his zeal for the Hebrew religion. From his perspective, he had it all together.

But Paul came to discover something more critical to focus on. He realized (with God’s sovereign assistance) that real purpose emerged when he stopped thinking about his own greatness and became convicted that God alone was GREAT, and He had created Paul for one purpose: to know Jesus a lot better (verse 8).

The same insight applies to each of us. Regardless of your family history, talent, level of achievement, personal charisma, and even spiritual instincts and disciplines, each of us needs to realize that passionate (even selfish) pursuits only take us so far. Like Paul, we have been made to know Jesus as well. Consider the punch line capacity of Philippians 3:8.

It appears to me that whatever we do does not have ultimate value if it does not help us know Jesus. So take time to reflect on your life and circumstances. How can you know Jesus better? What two things can you do in the next week to start re-focusing your faith and life pathway? Walk wisely. Any ability can be a real liability until it is given over to Jesus.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 22

I saw an old episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” where Sheriff Andy Taylor got into a discussion with his Aunt Bee about who gossiped more – men or women? Andy suggested that gossip is more natural for women who are not working and have more time on their hands.

Aunt Bee and her friends set out to show Andy the narrowness of his assumption. When a traveling shoe salesman passed through Mayberry, Aunt Bee hints that he is really a TV producer who is looking for new “talent” for an upcoming show. Word spreads among the men and pretty soon men (and in many cases their children) are stopping by the hotel for an impromptu audition with the TV man. Ultimately Andy and the men learn the man really is a salesman and actually send him out of town with his greatest sales of the quarter. The men (especially Andy) realize that gossip can spread among men as easily as it can among women.

Does gossip stop when it gets to you? Is one of your weaknesses a propensity to pass it on? Why are we so curious about what may or may not be happening to others? What is it that makes us want to tell someone as soon as we hear something “gossipy?”

I think part of it is because of how we are made. We like to share stories, good or bad, about our lives. Often the bigger tales are told again and again, and they become part of the culture of our family, campus ministry, church, even the marketplace.

A vacation mishap when the car broke down which left some fun memories while stranded; a teacher in high school who got on the news for saving someone in an accident; another who was dating another teacher and it ended rather messily; or one of the eligible young men in church who shows interest in the preacher’s daughter – before you know it, the church has them getting married before they even had a chance to date one another.

Read Titus 2:3-8.

The apostle Paul gave instructions to one of his young apprentices, Titus, about how to help women and men in his church to be effective, particularly as it related to their speech. Paul knew that, “A gossip betrays a confidence” (Proverbs 11:13) and urged Titus to teach and model proper speech in order to “build up others.”

That suggests gossip has an upside. Consider the rapid spread of news regarding a family in church having a health crisis, such as a death in their family, or bringing a baby into the world. Imagine how the formal or informal network gets started and soon others are making meals, offering support, care, and prayer. When a husband (or wife) loses a job, money and plates of food appear. A single mom in the congregation needs her grass cut, or a toilet fixed, and a handyman shows up to tackle the chores as a gift.

College is another place where gossip, or news, can spread like wildfire. As an imitator of Paul and Titus, how could you and your friends “use gossip” positively to show the love of Jesus? Who knows how God might use you to bring blessing to someone in need?

Live communally. Gossip is not always bad. Learn from Aunt Bee, Andy, and Titus and turn telling tales into acts of service.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 15

I learned a lesson about responsibility when I went to college. As a freshman athlete playing varsity football and baseball, I found I was expected to handle “rookie” tasks such as carrying equipment for the older players to and from the practice field, picking up snacks for the seniors, and generally being a “gopher” for goofy stuff (i.e., singing the school fight song on request) or more mundane stuff that upperclassmen thought of.

I recall freshman fighting against the idea of rookies being made to do anything like I mentioned above, and they got more pushback from the older players. There was a pecking order on the team(s), and it took a while to earn the trust and respect of the incumbent players. This one freshman, however, took a lot a ribbing for not doing his part. He was told he was slacking off and not carrying his weight when he refused to bring donuts to a weekend practice. I think he thought the seniors had no right to order him around and expect him to handle such tasks.

In retrospect, it was a part of building team chemistry. It was not “unnecessary or boring or insignificant” tasks. Most of the “rookies” like me did our part, to which we were on the end of some laughs at our expense, but no one was really harmed or hurt by pranks and donut runs.

Read Numbers 3:6-8.

Moses appointed the Levites to be priests and “do the work of the Tabernacle.” The Levites were descendants of Levi, son of Jacob. Levi had three sons (Kohath, Gershon, and Merari) and the work of the Levites was broken up among those three families.

For example, when it was time to move the camp, the Kohathites carried the “most holy things,” (Numbers 4:1-20). Moving camp included packing and taking care of the dishes, jars, bread, the table of the presence of the Lord, as well as the lampstands, wick trimmers, trays, oil jars, shovels, meat forks, and sprinkling bowls.

Moses and Aaron were also descended from Levi. Scripture reveals that as Aaron and his sons aided in the packing process, they did so by putting a blue cover over all the stuff and then wrap them in a cover of special hide. The idea was that the Kohathites were forbidden to touch or see the stuff they were packing or they would die. How is that an easy task?

Barbara and I have moved a few times in our married life together, but I was never threatened with death if I “saw” the china or any of our treasured possessions as I packed them in newspaper and UPS boxes for secure transmission.

The Gershonites were responsible for packing and carrying the curtains of the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:21-28). The Merarites (Numbers 4:29-33) transported the posts, crossbars, ropes, tent pegs, and bases of the Tabernacle. All three families had chores. Each person had to do their part or the Tabernacle could not be transported, and set up correctly, so all could meet God.

The apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12) that as each person has a body with many parts, so the Body of Christ has many parts, with distinct assignments. If one person doesn’t do their job, the community of Christ suffers. Get the picture? Think theologically. Avoid making excuses, being lazy, and get busy. Each of us has a job to do!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 8

What is your general approach to homework? Are you one who tends to plan it out in your schedule and work ahead, or do you tend to wait until the night before to tackle it.

I was trained as an educator and remember one of my teachers helping me because of his homework protocol. He argued that students needed assistance to develop healthy habits so he created homework outlines that included the actual assignment, deadline, length of the work, and a few tips on handling the work. I found his efforts paid off for me, even though I paid attention in class. When I got to the library on a study break, or home after sports practice, I could easily recall the type of homework facing me due to the outline.

That approach to homework benefitted many of us. If we had any questions, we merely refereed to the homework outline. With the expectations of the homework from that teacher’s class clearly written down, it greatly reduced potential panic and anxiety.

Read 1 Timothy 6:11-16.

An older man in leadership in the early church named Paul took a younger man named Timothy under his wing for life mentoring and character development. While Paul had been in church leadership for years and been battle-tested in doctrine, spiritual warfare, and conflict management, Timothy was just starting out. Paul had high hopes for his young protégé and provided a list of expectations for him. Paul knew the sorts of challenges Timothy would face and worked to prepare him for the road ahead.

When you read the list of character qualities in chapter six of Paul’s letter, it appears clear and simple, yet downright challenging: “Flee the love of money and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”

Paul writes that the goal of following Jesus as a servant leader is not merely task fulfillment, but character development. Who we are becoming is as important to God as being able to preach, counsel, and pray for the sick. God is looking to develop Christ-likeness in us and as a result, the work of ministry will get done as a by-product.

Get a Bible dictionary and look up the qualities Paul wanted Timothy to grow in. Which one(s) do you need to work on? Ask God to help you in the process, and as verse 12 says, “fight the good fight of faith” as you follow Christ and lean on His power to grow.

All of us have been given homework, but the assignment Paul gave to Timothy is tricky. Becoming godly is not a one-time assignment that you complete and hand in. To become like Jesus will require a daily effort that is due every day we are alive. God expects us to display those godly qualities more and more. With the Holy Spirit’s help, it can happen.

Grow devotionally. Regardless of your academic standing and year in school, followers of Jesus are also in the school of the knowledge of God. Realize how much God believes in you to give you such a tough assignment. Will you trust Him that in His provision of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit, you will be empowered to get a passing grade on your work? Spiritual growth is a lifetime homework assignment. Use His outline.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 1

The Book of Esther in the Older Testament of the Bible is the story of a young woman forced to make a decision concerning the total commitment of her life…a decision she was reluctant to make. She had to be vigorously challenged, and many of us may be able to relate to that need for challenge, to break out of an insulated life, and for discovering the true meaning of life.

Read Esther 4:1-17.

The story takes place in the ancient kingdom of Persia, where a Jewish man named Mordecai lived. Mordecai had a young cousin named Esther, whom he adopted after her parents died, and raised her as his own.  Esther grew into a woman a grace and beauty. One day the king of Persia ordered a search made for the most beautiful single woman in the kingdom. Esther found favor in the king’s eyes and with her Jewish background unknown, was crowned queen of Persia.

Later, Mordecai learned that a top government official named Haman planned to murder all of the Jews in the entire kingdom. Mordecai immediately got a message to Esther and said, “You must do something…you may be the only person who can persuade the king to stop this plan!”

But Esther didn’t want to do anything. She quoted palace protocol and said, “Unless the king summons a person, you don’t go in unannounced…any one who does would be put to death. The only exception is if the king extends his royal scepter to the person and spares his/her life. And thirty days had passed since I was called into his presence. I don’t want to lose my life.”

Mordecai however, wasn’t dismayed by her refusal to help. Thousands of Jews were destined to die, so he sent a second message, which had three themes.

The first is problem. Mordecai said to Esther, “Don’t think that you’ll escape this situation any more than the rest of the Jews…you’ll lose everything you have if this plan is carried out…all comforts and benefits…they’ll find out you’re a Jew, too.” Mordecai is saying if it’s comfort and security that stops you from saving your own people, you’re no more secure than the rest of the people. Esther shares in the problem.

The second theme is privilege. “If you keep silent, Esther, at a time like this, deliverance will arise from another place. But God has given you the privilege to serve and if you don’t, God will give your role to another person to accomplish.” Do you recognize the privileged status you have as a college student? The family heritage you have? Your reputation in school? Your gifts?

The third theme is providence. “Esther, who knows but that God has placed you in such a royal position for such a time as this?” Mordecai’s final appeal finally struck home with Esther. Her response was, “Go gather together all the Jews and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days. I and my servants will do the same. Afterward I will go to the king, even though it’s against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” That my friends, is an example of total commitment.

Can you relate to Esther? The world is ripe for women and men who will recognize that they are not immune from the problems of today; are willing to accept the privilege of obedience; and who are ready to see that the providence of God may have brought them to such a time as this. Serve globally. Let’s transform the university, the marketplace, and the world for Jesus.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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