Monthly Archives: July 2017

Monday Motivator – July 31

Let’s be honest. Some of Jesus’ words to his first century disciples about having faith in God are startling and leave me wondering. Can I really exercise that depth and level of faith in prayer? Do I really trust that God can do whatever I ask of think? Am I bold enough to believe He can throw a mountain into the sea if I merely ask?

One of my heroes, Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China said that Jesus’ words in Mark 11:22, “Have faith in God,” should really be understood to mean, “hold onto the faithfulness of God.”

Read Mark 11:20-26.

In a July 28, 2017 edition of the Pentecostal News, a weekly update from the Assemblies of God, an article caught my attention. The story centers on the tiny Southern Asian island nation of Sri Lanka. A Chi Alpha team of 14 students from the University of Arkansas – Little Rock arrived this summer as a monsoon swept across the island.

Partnering with the local Assemblies of God church in one of the most devastated areas, the Chi Alpha team brought a vanload of food to supply flood survivors with meals during the initial response. They helped clean flood-affected schools so children could return as soon as possible. Books, desks, computers and supplies were in complete ruins.

They could never have imagined the unprecedented response to this outreach. The Chi Alpha team members were invited by the Sri Lankan government into a prominent Buddhist temple to share stories of truth, encourage, and, most importantly, share the love of Christ with refugees of the flood. The local pastor, who has served this highly-persecuted area of Sri Lanka for over 25 years, was astounded at the barriers that were broken down by the team’s simple acts of love and service.

The week after the Chi Alpha team completed their relief work, the Ratnapura newspaper wrote that a team had come all the way from America to serve flood-impacted villages by cleaning up local schools. The partnering pastor was overjoyed with the positive effect the team had on his relationship with community leaders and on the public perception of Christians.

Think about the impact of this summer mission trip. Despite the challenging obstacles and circumstances they faced, they held onto the faithfulness of God. They modeled that faith does not look at the difficulties. They embodied a perspective and work ethic that faith does not look at itself, or the person or people exercising it. Their faith looked at God and they were motivated in joining with Him in His work in Sri Lanka. They discovered what God could do to address suffering and injustice. Their exercise of faith contributed to meeting the practical needs of people and resulted in God being praised.

Faith is interested in God alone and His glory. Faith is a measure of one’s knowledge of God and it results in action. As pastor James says, faith without works is dead.

Serve globally. Life is not always fair, but God is always faithful. Hold onto Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 24

What decisions do you face this week? How about in the next few months? What about in the next year or so? How do you prepare to consider your options and come to the best route to follow in your decision-making?

How do you makes choices in your personal and professional life? How do you make decisions that not only affect you but family members, friends, colleagues, etc.? How do you make choices in these important areas that glorify the Lord?

I have made errors at times due to rush or rash judgments, not gathering enough information, improper motives, lack of prayer and godly counsel, and sometimes sheer stupidity. I have also not consulted Scripture and asked God for wisdom and discernment about a matter I was facing. I reacted with fear, little faith, and ended up not able to move ahead with clarity, confidence, and commitment to the course of action I chose.

I have known and worked with students who followed similar paths I have and learned the hard way that acts have consequences. Often the consequences are hard to deal with. Such as: 1) Cheating on an exam not once but three times, getting caught, and later expelled in your senior year; 2) You have been dating someone for a semester and feel pressured to have sex. You have sex before marriage, get a sexually transmitted disease, which almost kills the young man; 3) Nursing a bad attitude for weeks about a lower than expected grade on an assignment. Instead of listening to the professor’s admonition to study and work harder, the student stiffened his pride and argued that the professor was against him all along. The student became arrogant, stopped going to class, and no one wanted to be around him. Eventually, the student had to drop the class and start over.

How many times have we made choices and/or rushed into important decisions that looked pretty good, only to be sorry later on? I know it’s happened to all of us.

Read 1 Samuel 12:14-25.

One day the prophet Samuel gave out sage advice to the Israelites, all of which can help us today in making decisions about our attitudes and actions. Here are his words of wisdom from chapter 12. Fear the Lord (verse 14). Serve and obey Him with all your heart (v 14, 24). Reflect on what the Lord has done (v 24). Do not pursue idols (v 21).

If you are thinking about graduate school, getting married, or changing jobs, please consider what Samuel said. First, when making decisions, fear the Lord. Without the right view of God in your heart and mind, you will not make the right choice. Second, make sure your decision is about serving Him and His purposes, not just your own. Third, read His Word and see how others made wise decisions. Reflect on His ways and make sure your choices line up with His idea of flourishing. Last, make sure your decision is not based on idolatry, i.e., putting something or someone in the place of God.

Walk wisely. If you make choices without considering Samuel’s prudent advice, you will find yourself facing tougher circumstances that you expected. Wise people consider the implications of their decisions, intended ones as well as unintended.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 17

Picture me leaving for church one Sunday. After a quick breakfast, I was heading out the door when my wife noticed the grape jelly on my jaw that I missed when I brushed my teeth. She also noticed the jelly on my collar which I apparently moved from my cheek when I used my wrist/hand to clean the spot. I know, you’re asking, “where was the napkin?” Well, I wasn’t using one. For some of us guys, our hand/wrist still works.

What would I have done if my wife had not stopped me at the door? I guess I might have shown up at church looking a little jelly-ish, huh? I generally do not ignore a mess on me (or around me), and pretend no one will notice. Let’s be honest. Most of us would rather be late to church or work than be caught wearing their breakfast.

Picture me leaving for church one Sunday. I’m going to worship the Most Holy Being in the Universe. I’m going to hear my pastor deliver the Holy Scriptures to my head, my heart, and my hands. I’m going to give and receive ministry with other brothers and sisters in the faith community I participate in.

But I have a mess hanging over me. I may have had a fight with my wife and we had not reconciled yet. I allowed the conflict I caused to fester, I have not dealt with it, and we have not spoken in days. Or maybe I am carrying the burden of some work-related stress that I have not shared with anyone.

One Saturday evening, my wife comes to me and apologizes for the tension we have been experiencing. She says she is sorry for being impatient with me. Her words have a powerful impact on me, because I know that I am really the one at fault. But I am humbled and challenged because she took initiative before I did. She took a courageous step to face and clean off the mess before going to church the next day.

Read Matthew 5:21-24.

Picture Jesus stating the words that Matthew recorded in the first century. When we come before God in worship, we need to be aware of the stakes. It’s time to stop fooling around and to stop fooling ourselves. Hypocrites are not what God is looking for, even though He works with each of us as we work to align our words and actions in order to honor Him. It sure does take a while for the alignment, but He is patient with us.

God is not deceived by nice sounding words or a holy-looking exterior when we show up at His house. He knows our hearts. Ouch. That is startling, isn’t it? But it is true. That is why Jesus told His followers to make things right with others, to reconcile with others we have hurt, and clean up the damage before coming to the Lord in worship.

What mess (i.e., conflicts) in your life is the Holy Spirit bringing to your mind? What are you willing to do about them? Who is the Lord using to help you address them?

Live communally. Before we approach God, let’s be sure that we’re not covered with the mess of past or present hurts that we have caused or been subject to. With His help, and that of others, we can come clean with God before we come to worship Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 10

I recently re-watched “Amazing Grace,” a 2006 film and moving account of William Wilberforce and his colleagues who maneuver their way through the British Parliament, endeavoring to end the British transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century.

The title is a reference to the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The film highlights the experiences of John Newton on a slave ship and his subsequent conversion to become a follower of Jesus, which inspired his writing of the poem later used in the hymn. Newton is portrayed as a major influence on Wilberforce and the abolition movement. I took notes as I watched because I was inspired by the events portrayed.

First, nothing is as relevant as the eternal. Seeing Wilberforce become aware of the One, True, Eternal God in nature, Scripture, and even people was riveting.

Second, the poorest of all are those who do not recognize the greatness and goodness of God. Seeing Wilberforce thank God for sunshine, animals, and friends is a powerful reminder that those who don’t know God (or even acknowledge Him) are poor indeed.

Read Ephesians 2:8-9.

Third, we are saved by God’s mercy, not our accomplishments, social standing, professional status, or merits. John Newton wrote that it is because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, not our doing; by our trusting and not our trying.

Fourth, what God thinks of us is more critical than what others think of us. Wilberforce initially worried more about what family and government leaders thought about himself (and the eventual cause he took up), rather than the Sovereign Creator and Lord of all. William learned to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt, especially those who did not recognize or yield to the authority and majesty of God Himself.

Fifth, to change, one must want something else more than what we have now. William contemplates leaving politics to study theology, but is persuaded by his friends William Pitt, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More, and Olaudah Equiano that he will be more effective doing the work of God by taking on the unpopular and dangerous issue of the abolition of the British slave trade. His conviction in the cause deepens following a meeting with his former mentor John Newton (introduced sweeping a church floor dressed in sackcloth) who is said to live “in the company of 20,000 ghosts… slaves.” As a former slave ship captain turned Christian, he deeply regrets his past life and the effects on his fellow man. Newton urges William to take up the cause.

Sixth, we should use things and love people, rather than use people and love things. The story of Wilberforce’s conversion, entrance into politics, and eventual influence with the aid of many Christ-honoring colleagues is a lesson from history. This is how the gospel actually works in personal and corporate life. It is why it is called amazing grace.

Live communally. Work with others to practice and pass on God’s ideas. It leads us to the One who offers us the forgiveness, patience, grace, and wisdom we need.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 3

What has God gifted and graced you to be and do?

I remember sitting in a freshman philosophy class and could not stop daydreaming. It did not matter a close friend was next to me, and the professor was talking about Thomas Aquinas and moral relativism. I was tired and my mind shifted to future job prospects. I wondered what would I do if professional baseball did not work out as I hoped. What was I going to do with my life?

I knew becoming a philosopher of any sort was out of the question. I knew baseball had future pro possibilities, but what if it didn’t work? How would I use my abilities to serve others and contribute to their betterment?

I took a taxi later that week and found myself contemplating, if only for the ride…how about being a cab driver. It was not on my list of top 5-10-or-anything I might do with my life. I certainly had not thought of being a cabbie as I previously sorted out colleges to play football and baseball at, and waited and hoped for scholarship offers. I did imagine my parents being a bit miffed if after college and an earned degree I announced I was going to fulfill my dream of driving a hack for a living.

Yet the cabbie that drove me that day was a friendly conversationalist who took an interest in me. It later struck me that I had never thought of how being a cab driver could be an opening for someone to affect his or her world for Jesus. But it can and did happen. This guy, Dave, was using his job as a taxi driver to make a difference in people’s lives.

Dave told me once he was waiting for his next fare at the bus station and got a call from the dispatcher that a senior citizen had been injured nearby. Dave drove him to the emergency room and shared godly comfort as he transported his injured passenger.

Another occasion had Dave picking up a person for an early morning trip to the airport. He arrived to find a number of people in front of the house. The person to be picked up was shouting to Dave that their pregnant neighbor had gone into labor while her husband had left for work. It fell upon Dave to drive her to meet her husband at the hospital while another neighbor drove the original passenger to the airport. Along the way, Dave comforted the soon-to-be mother with stories of his own children being born and the grace of God that helped he and his wife through several child births.

Read 1 Peter 4:1-11.

All of us can serve our Savior at work through our kindness, competence, generosity, and words. We are to use whatever gift(s) we have received from God by “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (v 10).

Decide to use your current or future career, even the one you daydream about, to make a difference for Jesus. Depend on Him for strength to overcome obstacles to do so.

Think theologically. Just like Dave discovered, it’s not a job, but an adventure with God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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