Monthly Archives: May 2020

Monday Motivator – May 25

Are you aware of what your spiritual gift is? If so, what are you doing to get better at using it? If not, how can you find out? Who can assist you?

I had the pleasure of attending New Life Assembly of God as a graduate student and as a young married man. Our pastor, John M. Palmer was dedicated to equipping and releasing the saints (i.e., followers of Jesus) for the work of the ministry, or the church. I saw firsthand how pastor John and the church leaders recruited men and women for service, taught them about service, helped them identify their spiritual gift(s), gave them opportunity to learn how to exercise their gift(s), and provided situations to practice using their gift(s), and gave feedback to each person as they gained confidence in using their gift(s).

Pastor John was secure in his identity and leadership and would often defer to people such as altar workers who had been prepared to pray for people who came forward at the end of a sermon for prayer. While pastor John was trained and qualified to pray for anyone, he allowed others of us to step forward to pray. We learned that we could be used by the Lord to minister to one another and accomplish His purposes as members of the Body of Christ.

You cannot imagine the excitement of men and women who were trained and encouraged to use their gift(s) and lead in their particular area of ministry (i.e., nursery, Sunday school, home Bible studies, worship teams, visitation ministry, and so on). We not only grew in our confidence that God could use us, but we grew in our skill and competence.

Having played on some championship athletic teams, I saw a similar dynamic happening in church. We had mostly “players” and very few “spectators” at New Life. All of us were engaged in “being the church” and doing our best to handle our responsibilities with joy.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.

The apostle Paul described God’s ideal environment for His church. While some might expect the pastor (and any other paid staff) to do everything, Paul wrote the role of pastoral leaders is to equip the people to do the work. Often people expect the people up on the platform (or stage), the one(s) who are always out in front, the more prominent ones, to do the majority of the labor. After all, isn’t that why they are paid? The pastor went to Bible school, and/or seminary. He or she knows so much, and they are trained, aren’t they? Or our Sunday school teacher has taught that class for years. There is no way I could do that job.

The apostle Paul wrote deliberately and extensively about the way the church is supposed to function. Besides the passage above, take a look at Romans chapter 12 and Ephesians chapter 4. When a person puts their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, they automatically become a member of God’s family (i.e., the Body of Christ). They are given spiritual gifts for works of service so that the Body may be built up as each person does their part (see 1 Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 4:12). Leaders are there to equip them for work.

We all possess different gifts that complement one another. Like Paul wrote to the church Corinth, all of us are needed and none is more important than another.

If Pastor John was insecure and threatened by other’s participation at New Life, he would have stunted the growth God intended. He could have sabotaged God’s purposes. But he didn’t. He followed Paul’s instructions and showed us that church is everybody’s job.

Live communally. Do your part to grow the Body of Christ. Use your spiritual gift(s).

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2020 by Mike Olejarz

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Monday Motivator – May 18

How much profanity can you tolerate? In what situations are you likely to use profanity?

I have grown less tolerant of popular culture activities being laced with poor and vulgar language in music, movies, TV shows, and even political discourse. It is sad how accepting people and society has become of ugly four-letter words being okay. I have found myself asking people in public spaces to use someone other than Jesus’ name when they swear, reminding them that God does not have a swear word for a last name, and urging them to use less foul language in public. It is not okay.

One college student told me that he “cusses because that is what he does.” He said he swears because it expresses anger and pent-up emotions and confessed it does at times lead to more aggressive behavior. I asked him if his swearing led to physical violence in a pick-up basketball game on campus, or road rage when he drives his car around town. He said not really, because he saw swearing as a way to blow off steam and not cause serious damage.

I told him that I offered a “cuss-control” class on campus that I created to help students (and faculty) learn how to curb their tongues and restore some courtesy, manners, and dignity to campus life. He was not interested at the time. I added that he should start by not using Jesus as a swear word because there would be a reckoning if he didn’t.

Read Matthew 12:33-37.

Jesus had a lot to say about the power and value of every word we speak. “I tell you that men (and women) will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

Read His words again and listen to what He is saying. According to Jesus, the need to change is far deeper than using mouthwash and/or reducing the use of a few poorly chosen words. He said to “make a tree good and its fruit will be good…for a tree is recognized by its fruit…for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (v 33-34).

My mom taught me the GIGO principle: garbage in and garbage out. Clean speech comes from being clean inside. She reminded me that it is not enough to scrub my mouth with soap (which was one of her effective methods to reinforce the lesson to me), but I needed help to purify the water in the well of my heart. That was where God intersected my life and showed me the ability He had to work in me.

I had a friend in school whose daily speech was so bad we called him, “Potty-mouth.” He said he even swore in his sleep. His parents used to throw water on him at night to shock him to stopping this profane habit. But their efforts were a failure due to the external nature of their tactic. Their son needed an inside and deep cleaning.

Fortunately, the Living and True God works in the realm of the impossible and necessary. When my friend became a Christian, he began memorizing Scripture, a few verses at a time every week. He came upon Psalm 119:9 and 11 and was inspired by the truth and power of God’s Word. It was not an overnight transformation, but his night time commentary was changing. No longer swearing, he began quoting the Bible in his sleep.

Think theologically. The most effective cuss-control happens when we allow God change our hearts. Clean words come from a clean heart. Scripture memory is necessary, too.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2020 by Mike Olejarz

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Monday Motivator – May 11

I needed a new and updated devotional routine.

Not that my quiet time had become routine. But every so often I find myself getting a bit stale and like my physical workouts, I had to find some cross-training exercises to freshen up what I had been doing. I also learned that regardless of my approach to spending time with God, it is good once in a while to take time to review my approach. I wanted to ask if it was time to vary how I connected with the Lord.

For example, for a long time my daily approach consisted to reading through the Bible in a year. Genesis to Revelation, straight through. I would start in prayer and worship, read Scripture, ponder it, wait on the Lord for insight, and pray again to live it out that day.

There is nothing wrong with my approach as far as I can tell. Yet I heard a friend describing a new challenge to his Bible reading plan that sounded intriguing. He said it would stretch me and yet not take a long time…maybe a month to see results.

He called it a Proverb a day approach. The Old Testament Book of Proverbs is nicely structured in 31 chapters, which coincide with months on the calendar that have 31 days in them. That meant I could read a chapter a day for 31 days and do a deep dive in one book of the Bible for a month – something I had never done before. And the chapters of Proverbs were not that long, so it was a fine sounding idea. I was going to do it. And I loved it.

I discovered the longest chapter (#8) has thirty-six verses (verses 34-35 became favorites), and even that chapter fit nicely into my daily Bible reading practice. The other discovery was it was easy to know what chapter to read. The tenth of July meant it was time for chapter ten.

I put into practice other things I had learned. Read one chapter slowly. Mull it over, or meditate on the verses. What was it saying? What was the Holy Spirit drawing my attention to? How could I put the idea(s) of the chapter into practice that day?

Read Proverbs 1:1-7.

Pay special attention to verses one and two from chapter one. Listen to them as you read them out loud. Meditate on them. Work to memorize them. Study them. Live them out.

Imagine if you took the Proverb a day approach for a year. January, March, May, July, August, October, and December all have thirty-one days. Imagine if for seven out of twelve months, you read the Book of Proverbs every other month from January through July, did it again in August, took September and November off from it, while reading it in October and December. If you saturated yourself in Scripture by reading and focusing on one book of the Bible like Proverbs for seven months, you would become very familiar with it.

Why spend so much time in the Book of Proverbs?

Pastor James said in his New Testament book that if you need wisdom, you should ask God (1:5). Assuming you and I need all the wisdom we can get to live lives that honor the Lord, why not dig into the Book of Proverbs, one of the greatest sources of wisdom available to us?

Grow devotionally. Try “attaining wisdom and discipline (1:1-2)” through Proverbs and see if God will not change your heart and mind. A proverb a day diet is a great workout.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2020 by Mike Olejarz

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Monday Motivator – May 4

What would it take to stop from you from serving the Lord?

Would it be your academic schedule? Your struggle to pay your tuition bill at the start of the semester? Uninterested friends? What about a lukewarm heart?

Read Haggai 1:12-15. Hint: Find the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. Turn left into the Old Testament and it’s the third book from the end. And a short one to read in its entirety.

Haggai wrote his prophecy in 540 B.C. to urge the Jewish people to quit wasting time and get back to the task of rebuilding the Temple. That is why they left Babylon and returned to do. They had a mandate from God, the people to do it, and the materials to accomplish the task.

They had a good foundation to start with, which is always critical. But as the project got going, interruptions and distractions mounted. They started being concerned about the long over-due renovation on their own houses and a growing honey-do list of fixer-upper jobs.

So God tagged Haggai with the enviable task of refocusing the Israelites on the primary task of the moment. Haggai challenged the people to “give careful thought” to what they were doing (or not, actually). Since they had altogether abandoned the Temple project, God’s name was not being honored and the Jews were not prospering (Haggai 1:3-9).

God rebuked His people thorough Haggai’s message and told them in essence to get back to work. Imagine the correction they heard and how they felt: ashamed, embarrassed, and guilty as charged. They heard God say in 1:13 that He is with them, so they dusted themselves off and got back to the work site. God knew what they needed to hear and gave them the grace and strength to hear and respond accordingly and not wallow in a pity party. They soon got off course again and God reiterated his encouragement to be strong in chapter 2, verse 4.

It is reassuring to learn that we too, get sidetracked at times and we need bumper buddies (like bumper cars) to bump us back in line or on task. A good neighbor nudge does wonders at times, doesn’t it? Yet being in the role of a Haggai is never easy either.

Like the Israelites, we often get slowed down or stop altogether our effort to fulfill our responsibilities to build God’s Kingdom. It tends to happen when we get self-absorbed with ourselves. Yet when God bumps us out of our slumber and calls us back to Himself, we can (if we are not careful) rationalize that He is mad at us and/or disappointed in us.

At that point, we need to remember the word of the Lord from Haggai to the Israelites. “I am with you.” Those words are repeated throughout Scripture in places like Matthew 28:20.

We can get off track now and then from the faith building activities we are supposed to be actively pursuing. We can shy away from the tasks God is committing us to carry out. Sadly, we may put more effort into building our own resume than God’s Kingdom. If so, wake up. Change course. Get to the Father and ask for His help.

We have been bought with a price by the precious blood of Christ. His death and resurrection provide for salvation and a redeemed relationship with our Creator. So get back to God and His work. How can God’s promise of His presence encourage you to stay on course?

Serve globally. When God calls you back, don’t hesitate. Do it. He promised to be with you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2020 by Mike Olejarz

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized