Monthly Archives: August 2019

Monday Motivator – August 26

What gives your life purpose and meaning?

I watched a documentary on Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow, an American couple who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression, known for their bank robberies. Their exploits captured the attention of the American press and its readership between 1931 and 1934. They are believed to have killed at least nine police officers and several civilians. They were killed in May 1934 by law officers in Louisiana.

Someone was quoted (as they defended Bonnie and Clyde robbing banks to give to the less fortunate), “I reckon it is the only thing to do. There ain’t nothing else for people like us to do. It is the best thing to do.” Clyde’s father admitted to police that his son would not give himself up. He would probably need to be put down in a gunfight with lawmen.

Why do people deliberately excuse wrong doing? Why do some take the easy way out, even taking their own lives? Scripture presents scenarios that suggest a few reasons why:

One. Defeat. See 1 Samuel 31:4-6 where King Saul took his own life.

Two. Being disgraced. See 2 Samuel 17:23 where Ahithophel hanged himself.

Three. A sense of guilt. See Matthew 27:5 where Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus.

Four. Failure. See Acts 16:27 where the Philippian jailer attempted to kill himself, but Paul stopped him.

Five. Deception. See Matthew 4:6 where the devil attempted to entice Jesus to kill himself. Dark forces of the evil one are constantly working to cause us to internalize and succumb to guilt, defeat, and failure. That is why Jesus called satan the father of lies, and one who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

Read Psalm 139.

Life is a sacred gift from God. Therefore, we must value and cherish it, and live life to its fullest, because God created us to flourish. It seems apparent that those who attempt to take their own life, and/or harm others like Bonnie and Clyde did, have a distorted view of the value of human life. Committing suicide or killing others is usurping God’s sovereignty over life.

Because He is the Creator, He has authority over His creation (Psalm 139:11-15). Having that authority means He is in ultimate control over life and death like Moses described in Exodus 23:25-26. God has a purpose for our lives, even if we have trouble at times recognizing that, bearing up under it, and prospering from it. That being said, people are often consumed with the idea that life is meaningless.

Your life is no mere accident. God carefully crafted you and says you are His poem, or work of art. (see Ephesians 2:10). The purpose of your life is not derailed due to a few mistakes along the way, or poor choices. The death and resurrection of Jesus erases the mistakes of your past, reveals the depth of God’s love for you today, and provides hope for a brighter future.

Walk wisely. Know who you are as a child of God. You belong to Him. Do not take the easy way out. Learn to embrace the gift of life. Help others find meaning and purpose in Christ.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 19

How active are you praying for others?

I was catching up with an old friend and he gave me an update on a young lady he asked me to join him in prayer for. Susan was bitter against God and the church she was raised in. She had made some bad choices after college that led to difficult consequences. Friends at church offered to work with her to address them but would not succumb to Susan’s insistence that she was a victim of other’s prejudice against her. They responded that Susan did what she did of her own volition and needed to own up to her actions and act like an adult. Susan felt betrayed.

Susan had started down a path that was leading straight to jail. After one incident, she ended up in court and faced the possibility of a year in jail. The judge was lenient and allowed Susan to go through counseling and work to pay back what she had stolen. The judge also allowed her to get back on track for a better life by finishing college. She transferred to a Christian college, but she “felt” others looked at her with judgment even though they did not know her backstory. Susan just assumed they were hypocritical and she had a hard time making friends because of her stand-offish persona. She simply would not give her new roommate and dorm/class mates a chance to see her for who she really was – a hurting young lady who needed a friend.

My friend heard about Susan from her parents now and then. They asked him to pray for Susan, which he did. He also suggested they talk to Susan about attending a summer camp led by Christians who cared for children with special needs. Maybe Susan could get over her self-centeredness by learning to serve others who had needs as well.

The summer following her college graduation, Susan attended this camp. The orientation for camp counselors pushed Susan to deal with her own story. She begrudgingly became willing to acknowledge she was broken, but wanted to get better. The tools and training provided by the camp director gave Susan insight into her life and she began to think of herself differently.

The second from the last night of the week-long camp found Susan in a personal wrestling match for her own soul. She was in a spiritual battle with God over who’s view of her life she would live by. She fought with God, voicing her anger, her frustrations, and her bitterness to Him. Hours later, just before sunrise, she humbly mouthed, “Okay God…if you are real and want me, come and get me. Give me a sign.” Later that morning, she received one.

The sign was the morning Bible teacher’s message that Susan heard and responded to for salvation. One key was a testimony of another camper who said they woke up just before sunrise to pray for someone who was “wrestling with God” that morning. Susan’s eyes were opened to God’s grace and power over sin and death. Susan began a new journey toward life!

Read 2 Kings 6:15-18.

Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened, and they were.

Live communally. Do you know someone who is doubting God? Does he or she need opened eyes to the reality of God? For whom do you need to pray for today? Will you pray with confidence (Hebrews 4:16)? Praying for others can open their eyes, because God is involved.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 12

On what basis do you put your faith, hope, and trust in Jesus? What does it look like to “live by faith?” In or on what or whom does that faith reside?

When it comes to faith conversations with college students, I heard often questions that seemed to bug or annoy them. The first was, “How do we know we are not fooling ourselves?” The second was, “We hear often about and even know someone who did something and attributed it to their faith.” How do you know when you leave faith and act on gut feelings, presumption, even foolishness? Those are good questions.

Read Hebrews 11:7-11.

By faith Noah built a boat in a dry land. By faith Abraham left home without a clear destination. As a senior citizen, his wife Sarah prepared to have a baby…by faith. These three examples are given of early heroes of faith, acting on faith, and doing something based on their faith. To some, they appeared to have taken a leap of faith…and it worked out.

But what do their stories have in common? In each instance, God told them what they were to do, and they obeyed. Based on what they knew of God, they acted in faith. Due to their trust of Him, or in Him, they obeyed Him.

Scripture is clear that God does occasionally call us to unusual ventures. Imagine Noah building a cruise ship in the desert. Friends all wondered when he took on such a task. Family worried. Enemies scoffed. Close friends asked if he had lost his mind. For a fun evening, watch the 2007 movie, “Evan Almighty” starring Steve Carell (as a Noah type) and Morgan Freeman as God.

Faith ventures defy conventional thinking and actions. As people of faith, we are called to live according to the directives of King Jesus. In His Kingdom, things are done differently, because of who He is. His will is paramount and must be followed. The reason? He is God and knows what is best for us. As we follow Him, we are enabled to grow, mature, and flourish. But the connection between God’s call and our response needs to be grounded in His character and His promise. Faith can be spelled r-i-s-k at times, but it is anchored in who God is.

God provides opportunities to test our faith in order for us to grow. Noah, Abraham, and Sarah remind us that He has already promised to provide what we need. Food and clothing, for example? Matthew recorded Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 that we should ask with the expectation of receiving. Need guidance and wisdom? Solomon instructs us in Proverbs 3:5-6 that God will give you what you need. Pastor James echoes the same idea in James 1:5-7.

The writers of Scripture are clear that their references to faith are not suggesting God is a candy machine, where someone has “faith to merely get what they want,” they just pull the lever and it arrives. The faith described in Scripture is an encouragement to have faith in God. Biblical faith is grounded in God’s character. I should think and act in accordance with how He would.

Think theologically. You could misunderstand and slip into presuming God’s promises are merely for your comfort. If so, He will redeem you from such poor thinking and give you a chance to learn and do better. The bottom line is God Himself is the object of our faith.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 5

What is your attitude toward and practice of kneeling in worship and prayer?

I love history, whether it be American, sports, or His-Story, i.e., God’s Story. For example, check out “The Story of Reality” by Greg Koukl.

One of my seminary professors helped me understand the Greek and Roman worlds of the first century through lectures and readings. I learned the Greeks and Romans rejected kneeling as part of their worship (unless they were commanding subjects to acquiesce to their leadership, of course). They said kneeling was unworthy of a free man, unsuitable for the Greco-Roman culture, and appropriate only for barbarians.

First century scholars thought of kneeling as a form of superstition. Some even called it a form of barbaric behavior. Yet throughout history people have knelt before their captors, their so-called superiors, or to victors after a loss in battle. Whether forced or chosen, kneeling happens.

Read Psalm 95.

The people of God have always recognized and willingly surrendered to the supreme authority of the One True God.

In Psalm 95:6, the writer indicates that kneeling reveals and expresses a deep reverence for God.

In verse six, the psalmist uses three words to define the attitude and posture of a true worshiper.  The first word is worship, which means to fall prostrate as a sign of honor to the Lord. The word also means that the person gives their allegiance to Him as their Ruler.

The second word the psalmist uses is bow. This means to sink down to your knees, giving and showing respect to the Lord. He is Almighty, matchless in love, and wonderful, so we bow.

The third word used is kneel, which means to humble yourself as you acknowledge the supremacy of the King. You go to your knees in order to give praise to God. He is to be revered.

According to the writer of Psalm 95, kneeling in God’s presence, whether in praise or prayer, is a sign of reverence not barbaric behavior. It means the kneeler recognizes Someone bigger, better, authoritative, and awesome. The sheer brilliance of His character causes us to bow down.

One of the keys to real and authentic worship is not just the physical response of kneeling, but a corresponding attitude of the heart. I remember an incident in high school when a bully tried to intimidate a friend into kneeling as a sign of his superiority over him. I was so proud of my friend for withstanding the pressure to bow down. There was no reason to give in to a bully.

Yet Psalm 95 gives us many reasons to gladly kneel before the Lord: He is our Maker, and the Rock of our salvation. He is great and the Creator of all. We belong to Him and He cares for us.

Grow devotionally. Our physical posture matters when we approach our King, so kneel as a form and discipline of worship and prayer. But the attitude of our heart matters just as much.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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