Monthly Archives: April 2019

Monday Motivator – April 29

What mysteries of God trouble you the most? Do you talk with Him about the questions you have? Do you discuss your concerns with other people to gain insight and perspective?

My wife and I have a great relationship that has endured ups and downs for almost thirty-seven years and counting, but we do not always understand each other completely. She is an early morning person while I am a late-night person. She is very quiet, keeps to herself, and enjoys a good book in a comfortable chair under a blanket. It is a mystery to her why I watch sports on TV and I watch in amazement as she accomplishes shopping in such short periods of time, and her efforts always results in great bargains.

Barbara and I have learned that to love someone does not mean you have to understand them completely. Being together so long means we still have questions about one another that we pursue because there is much more to know. We also realize there is so much we have not learned about each other yet and we will not really know each other fully. And that is okay.

That realization should come as good news regarding our human relationships. It also should be good news because there is no way we can even begin to grasp the mysteries of God. Mr. Beaver in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (from the Chronicles of Narnia) said, “He is good, but He is not safe.” God sometimes does things that do not make sense to us, because they seem so different from how we might have considered the situation.

In our finite and often self-centered way of thinking, we really struggle with why God allows suffering. We cannot begin to imagine why God does not seem to answer prayer, why He seems to let the innocent suffer while the proud and evil get away with so much. Why do evil men and women find their way to power so often and cultural and societal institutions accommodate them so willingly? Why are our leaders allowed to continue in their roles after their policies continue to produce terrible results, yet they continue to promulgate ideas that never do more than keep them in power and in the current news cycle? Why do bad ideas hang around so long?

Some people look at these situations and turn their back on God because they assume their finite knowledge is better than His infinite wisdom and perfect knowledge.

Read Isaiah 46:8-11.

There is another way to look at things that happen around us. If we could figure God out, and He were a mere glorified (i.e., higher) human type with a higher IQ than most of us, but not much more than the smartest professor at an Ivy League school, what would do with the lost awe, wonder, majesty, and transcendent view of Almighty God?

I believe that one of the best reasons to believe that God is great is that we simply cannot define Him, discover Him on our own, and ultimately figure Him out. Isaiah posed a great question in chapter 40, verse 14 of his book, “Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him?”

Think theologically. It is good to trust in Someone who knows everything, is all-powerful, and very good. If God were not mysterious, He would not be God. Mr. Beaver instructed his visiting friends to Narnia that even when we do not understand His ways, we can still trust Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 22

How strong is your defense against sin and evil?

It is amazing to consider how prevalent sin and evil are in the world. TV, movie, and many book plots seem to have a tension between good and evil. The first few minutes of one of my favorite TV shows starts out with a crime against a seemingly innocent person and the detectives on “Law and Order” were tasked with solving the mystery.

The story of The Lord of The Rings is an account of evil rising up to destroy the world and all that is good in it. Sherlock Holmes fights off the consistent attempts of Professor Moriarty to push evil agendas across the British Empire and the European continent. Batman and Robin were endlessly battling evil characters such as the Penguin, the Joker, the Riddler, and many others bent on the pursuit of crime, power, and greed.

Another character I enjoyed was James Bond. The handsome, suave, charismatic British spy was always on the go in a rush around the planet to save the world from total destruction from a tyrant, despotic ruler, and/or fiend.

I was attracted to Bond’s investigative abilities, his state-of-the-art weapons and gadgets, the fast cars with the latest technology, as well as his ability to handle a series of breathtaking stunts.

The Bond movies always started with the threat of evil encompassing the world and 007 was available and eager to face it and stop it. Bond would sneak into the enemy’s camp (often in broad daylight) and discover the missing piece of a puzzle and ultimately prevent a diabolical plot for world devastation.

Read 1 Samuel 17.

A shepherd boy named David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, did not have high tech weaponry, jump from tall buildings to another, or use computers in the bat-cave to solve problems. But God used his availability and humble means to deliver the Israelites from danger and the oppressive hands of an enemy nation.

David’s defense mechanism on one occasion were five smooth stones, and the Spirit of the Living God. David stood alone and faced down the obstacle of an actual giant of a man. That giant stood and harassed the people of God for 40 days, taunting and ridiculing them. David finally stood up to the giant bully on the basis of his awareness of God’s definition of Himself.

Jesus sacrificed Himself by dying on the cross so that all humanity would be spared the judgment of God and eternal destruction. Jesus rose on the third day, victorious over sin, death, shame, guilt, and the grave. His act was the greatest defense mechanism of all time.

The Christian’s defense mechanism is Scripture. Read a brief description of God’s provision in Ephesians 6:10-18. God left us His Word so that we can defend ourselves, resist the enemy, and trust the Lord to deliver us from evil. Grow devotionally. The weapons God gave us to fight evil in the real world have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4), and cause people to find true freedom in Christ. The best defense and offense is the Word of God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 15

Where do you see darkness? How can you more fully hope in God’s work in our world?

Two sets of our neighbors recently were blessed with the birth of their fourth child. When their kids are outside and I open my garage door they often come in to see what I am up to. What snacks are available? Is it time for a popsicle? How about getting out the Magic Tracks cars on the driveway?

The questions they ask and the chatter they engage me in are fascinating. They often experience something new, like climbing the tree in my front yard, playing with the wind spinners in our garden, or using my box of chalk on the sidewalk. Any and all of these activities include a sense of wonder, as opposed to the commonplace view older people have of similar activities.

Last summer eight or ten kids sat on milk crates and enjoyed a movie in my driveway as it got dark. They enjoyed popcorn, water to drink, and an old Disney movie on videocassette in a portable TV-VCR unit. Then one of the kids noticed fireflies for the first time. Immediately the kids were jumping and trying to catch a firefly in their little hands. It was a brief yet fun tangent to movie time and a wonderful moment.

As we returned to finish the movie, several kids started saying, “Hey, it is dark out here.” Their world was forever altered by the reality and discovery of the nighttime. I’m sure the older kids were more familiar with the darkness since their parents helped them get to bed on time each evening. They were more used to the difference between daylight and darkness.

The movie ended and I asked the kids to lie in the grass and look up at the stars. They peered up at the dark sky and looked at black nothingness, dotted with stars on a clear summer night. With branches of the neighborhood trees swaying in the slight breeze, they paused to enjoy the dark.

Read Isaiah 5:18-21.

Later that night I went out on my back porch and peered up into the sky. The night felt different than it normally has. It was the same in most aspects – dark, quiet, stars, and so on. But it was also different in a way I cannot clearly describe. It was fascinating, eerie, dark, and it was something else, something I can’t remember seeing before as I sat in the dark.

It was not like I had never experienced the dark before, because I had. I even had some unique experiences being deep under water, in a cave, and of course, experiencing it every day of my life. It was as if the darkness did not seem as dark as before.

I was able to understand the people Isaiah wrote about, the ones who confused God’s light with the darkness of sin. I was gaining insight into those who allow themselves to mingle in such a way as if there is no distinction between light and darkness. I was able to see the difference between the light and truth of God’s Kingdom and the dark more clearly than ever.

The painful reality (and truth) of our world (including our campuses) is that the fallen world is dark. Serve globally. Seeing what is dark will help us to hope in the light. See the light. Hope in the Light of the World. Walk in the Light. Allow God’s Spirit to shine His Light through you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 8

Have you had trouble making decisions at times?

I have dealt with college students who were learning to make all sorts of decisions about life, morality, marriage, career, and even their attitude. Some were required to be made daily, such as how best to tackle and manage their homework. Others included longer lasting decisions such as a career pathway that required classes and a choice of major.

Many young people express frustration with decision making demands. Some expressed the desire to discover a literal twelve-step program to assist them. One said to me that even if one existed, they would struggle to decide if they should go. Or if they went, they would spend a lot of time and energy wondering if they made a good decision to go.

Some students have told me they wrestle with basic decisions on a regular basis – where to go for lunch, what clothes to wear on a particular day, when to go to sleep at night, should they get a dog or cat for their dorm room (even when the school prohibits pets of any kind).

Some wondered if their difficulties with decision making are a reflection of their personality. They assume they are merely a person who gets stymied by the stress of making decisions. Some are perfectionistic and wonder if they are making the right decision, even as they cannot accept making a wrong one. I’ve responded by asking them what determines whether they are happy or unhappy about a decision? I am not sure it leads back to their personality.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.

I have learned the secret of contentment from many writers of Scripture. I have been reminded that I could feel happy or unhappy in many situations. The key was never based on the circumstances, but on my mind and heart. If my identity was rooted in Christ, if my trust was in the Lord, and if my heart and mind were focused on the Father, I generally felt safe and at peace. If and when I felt out of sorts, entangled in my own personal thoughts, complaints, and emotional needs, I often felt reckless, restless, and divided.

I remember the words of Jesus from John 15 that if I “Remain in Him, He will remain with me.” Jesus said that no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain connected to the vine. Similarly, I cannot bear fruit unless I stay close to Jesus. He said He is the Vine, and I am a branch. If a man or woman remains in Christ, he will enable them to bear much fruit.

I would suggest to students that they consider a few things about decision making. First is the reality of the sovereign will of God, which we cannot affect. He makes everything run (sun, moon, stars, gravity, seasons of the year), and they run well. Second, His moral will is clear and provides great guardrails for us. The 10 commandments give us clear guidance on making decisions regarding loving God and others that lead to human flourishing.

The third and final area of decision making is our free will choices. We will do well here if we stay connected to the Vine. I can’t make clear and good decisions if I am unhooked from the source of all true wisdom. Walk wisely. Whatever decision I am facing is no great decision. Turning fully and yielding totally to the fear of the Lord is the perfect decision I can make.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 1

Have you noticed that it’s still cool to thank God?

I saw it numerous times in the first few weeks of the March Madness basketball tournament. The winning team was always interviewed after the game and the coach and top performing player often said something like, “I’d like to start by giving glory to God.”

I saw a news clip about an award-winning songwriter who said, “God has always been good to me. He helps me with his grace and strength and propels me onward with persistence and prayer. That’s what helps me perform night after night.” The interviewer asked him about the irony and/or conflict between his stated devotion and the lyrics he used to sing about cheating and wanting to break up on a recent album. No further comment was made by the artist about the disconnect between a life of faith and his songs being sold to the public. But he did add, “God has been very good to me. I’m blessed, you know?”

It is so easy to thank God for His goodness when things are going well. But the question we must face hangs in the balance to be considered: How are we being good to God? How is our behavior a reflection of our appreciation for His goodness? Don’t get me wrong. I am glad people want to thank and praise God. He certainly deserves it. But He deserves more than mere lip service.

Read Jeremiah 2:1-6.

The prophet Jeremiah received a message about what true relationship with God was all about. God told him to tell His people – “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me through the desert” (2:2). The word “devotion” is from the Hebrew word “hesed,” meaning a loyal love relationship that is intimate and very close.

God was declaring through His prophet that the devotion of the Israelites had once professed had grown cold and distant. In an ironic choice of words, God said the people “followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves” (2:5).

If we take this assessment to heart, we should consider our relationships with one another and God. Most of us can remember how thin some of our “good” friendships really are because we did not nurture them to grow beyond surface-level communication and infrequent time spent together. Is the status of our friendships a reflection of our lack of devotion to others?

Yet we often treat God the same way. We may often profess, “O God, You are so good!” We may do it when we get a good grade on a project, receive a care package from our parents, are the recipient of good news and achievement, and even an option for a summer internship we were hoping and praying for. But we must realize that it is not about telling God He’s good only when good things are happening. The reality is He is good all the time.

What God wants is our complete devotion to Him and others – good words and godly actions that reveal our close love relationship with Him and those closest to us. Let’s keep thanking Him with our lips and our lives. Then we can love others in word and deed as well. Both are needed.

Live communally. True devotion requires more than just words. What will it require of you?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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