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Monday Motivator – June 11

Have you ever watched people at a tourist site? Places like Disney World, Busch Gardens, the Grand Canyon, even the Mall of America? It is incredible how people strain their necks to get a better view. Some call this action, “rubbernecking,” which means to “observe with curiosity.”

I just got back from visiting two baseball stadiums in Florida and observed fans looking around the ballparks at their design and unique features. I heard lots of “oohs and aahs” and saw a lot of pictures being taken.

The Bible reveals that such sounds and actions also take place in heavenly places. The apostle Peter wrote in such a way as to pull back the curtain of heaven and give his readers a glimpse of the angels gazing at God’s plan of redemption.

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12.

The last part of verse 12 says, “things which angels longed (or desired) to look into.” The Greek explanation of the word “look” means to “stoop and examine carefully with curiosity.”

Why would angels be so fascinated by the salvation of men and women? I think the answer is they are continually amazed by the way God solves the problem and consequences of sin and evil. The cross was the means by which He provided His Son as the only righteous substitute to pay the penalty of sin while upholding His holy standards. God now provides forgiveness and redemption to any human being who will repent, believe, and receive it.

Note the impact of verse 2 of chapter 1, where Peter explains the Father’s role in initiating salvation of humans. “All of us were chosen according to His foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ…”

Peter writes in verse 3 of the Father’s great mercy through which He provides new birth into a living hope. Verses 4 and 5 reveals God’s plans for a Christian’s future – an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us, while we are shielded by God’s power. Incredible.

Peter then reveals some helpful perspective on suffering in verses 6-7, reminding us that even grief and trials of many kinds have a purpose in God’s Kingdom. He adds that despite suffering, our spiritual relationship with God and outlook on life in general, can be positive, meaningful, and redemptive. Suffering does not have to make you bitter, but you can become better.

Are you thankful for your salvation? Peter is as he writes his letter to first century followers of Jesus in the Roman Empire. The angels are! They rejoice each time a sinner repents and turns to put his or her faith, hope, and trust in God.

As you read, study, and reflect on the first twelve verses of 1 Peter chapter 1, can you pause to “look” or “examine with curiosity” what God has done to bring you back to Himself? Grow devotionally. The cross of Christ is the bridge between God and man. That’s a heart turner!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 4

I just finished reading “Highest Duty,” the story of US Airways pilot Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III. On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed a remarkable emergency landing when “Sully” skillfully glided US Airways Flight 1549 onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew aboard. His story was made into a movie entitled, “Sully,” a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography “Highest Duty,” and starring Tom Hanks as Captain Sullenberger.

Captain Sullenberger wrote that on January 14, 2009, his life had been a series of thoughtful opportunities to be the best pilot, leader, and teammate he could be. He said he was an anonymous, regular guy, a husband, father, and US Airways pilot. On January 15, circumstances changed everything, a reminder that none of us ever knows what tomorrow will bring.

As his parents raised him, Chesley told his daughters over and over that each of us has the responsibility to prepare ourselves well. He wanted them to invest in themselves, to never stop learning, either personally or professionally. Regardless if they are ever noticed, Chesley urged his girls to ask themselves a simple question: Am I ready to make a difference?

The story of Captain Sullenberger was a riveting account of a man trained to do his job, one he did well for decades, outside of any recognition. He says he went to work every, like many in other professions, quietly, ready, and prepared to do his best, his part, and to serve others.

It got me thinking of people in Scripture that operated in a similar manner. The Bible records stories of men and women who took their gifts, calling, and sense of responsibility to do Kingdom work. Sometimes they are named, and sometimes they did their part in obscurity. But God recognizes and appreciates them.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Hebrews 11:13-16.

Consider Bezalel in Exodus 35:30-35: Then Moses said to the Israelites, “…the Lord has chosen Bezalel…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs…in gold, silver and bronze…and the ability to teach others. The Lord called this artist and gave him great skill, understanding, and the ability to teach. Bezalel used his gifts faithfully for God’s purposes.

Consider the unnamed widow in 1 Kings 17: 8-24: Then…the Lord came to Elijah, saying…”See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” In providing hospitality for the man of God, the widow received miraculous blessing – food for many days and her son brought back to life.

Consider the unnamed 288 skilled musicians in 1 Chronicles 25:1-7: David and the captains of the army separated for service some…who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. Music is not merely for our enjoyment, but for the honor of God and His battle.

Most of us will never get our 15 minutes of fame, even if we wanted to. But God gifted and designed us to live meaningful lives and make a difference. Serve globally. Be inspired to join the ranks of the not-particularly-famous-and-maybe-never-noticed-but-much-needed Kingdom volunteers.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 28

People want to be good at what they do. Agree or disagree? If you agree, what does it take to get there? Angela Duckworth says, “Grit” is a big part of the answer.

I heard an inspiring presentation by Angela at the 2017 Global Leadership Summit. She is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” a 2016 New York Times bestseller.

First, what is Grit? Grit is sustained passion and perseverance – especially for long-term goals. It is the hallmark of high achievers in every human domain.

Second, how do you build Grit?Angela says with age and experience, character qualities like grit get stronger. Our capacity to build grit can grow. Make no mistake. Grit is not talent, not intelligence, not beauty, and not luck.

Third, effort counts twice.Talent is real, but counts for nothing if you don’t apply yourself. Angela provided two equations: Talent x Effort = Skill. Skill x Effort = Achievement. If you read those two equations closely, you’ll notice that talent counts, but effort counts twice!

Fourth, how do you become a world-class expert?Research indicates you need to engage in “deliberate practice.” What distinguishes experts from the rest of us is: A) They have a goal; B) They focus their attention on doing their work a little better than before; C) They get feedback from a mentor; D) They reflect and refine; E) They do A-D over and over. Why don’t more people do more deliberate practice? It really isn’t fun. It’s sustained passion and perseverance.

Fifth, how do you build Grit? A) Start with developing your interests, the seeds of passion. B) Engage in deliberate practice with 100% focus. Take criticism. Refine. Repeat. Feeling frustrated isn’t only normal, it’s essential to growth. C) Cultivate purpose by choosing a path that will benefit other people. Be a part of something larger than yourself. Purpose and grit have a direct relationship. The higher your commitment to other people, the more meaning you see in your work. D) Develop a growth mindset. A fixed mindset believes intelligence is static, and has a tendency to avoid challenges. A growth mindset believes intelligence can be developed, and has a tendency to embrace challenges. A growth mindset in both children and adults predicts grit.

Angela gave two examples: Those who performed best at the Spelling Bee engaged in the most deliberate practice. Those who survived summer training at West Point had higher grit scores. Therefore, individuals who are passionate and persevere in what they do, generally are also deeply satisfied with their lives. Grit and happiness go hand in hand.

Read Hebrews 12:1-3.

Like the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned above, Angela stressed the value of the people surrounding us. She told the story of an Olympic swimmer, who at age 11, wanted to quit. “My parents loved me so much that they didn’t want me to quit on a bad day.”

Walk wisely. Grit is something you can build in yourself and in others. It unlocks ambition so we can be as excellent as we are able to be. Grit and “running your race well” go hand in hand.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 21

How diverse is your church? Your Chi Alpha chapter? Your marketplace Bible study? Have you considered that others in the Body of Christ see you as one who is different, yet they accept you?

I love the story of the United States. Our history is a rich narrative where so many people came together in spite of incredible diversity to forge an uncommon commonality. Out of many, one. People from really different racial, ethnic, language, religious, and political backgrounds connected in a process our Founding Fathers envisioned to ultimately create the most powerful, influential, prosperous, generous, freest and God-honoring country in the world.

Many skeptics mused it could not happen. There was too much difference, too many variables, and too much ground to be overcome to offer dignity and equality for all men and women, religious freedom, opportunity for advancement, and the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

But those very differences and qualities have been our strength.

During the American Revolution, British soldiers scoffed at the American “soldiers” they encountered: common laborers like farmers, butchers, bakers, shoemakers, and blacksmiths. The Brits were convinced they would win simply by showing up as British gentlemen-soldiers.

Hitler had similar sentiments during World War 2. He believed he was destined for global leadership and dominance. The Nazi’s could not fail because the Allied army had been “infected” with Jews, blacks, and all sort of “inferior” human beings. Hitler told his aides the Americans would never defeat his “Thousand-Year Reich” because they were a “mongrel” people. He mistakenly believed the strength and purity of the master race was sure to triumph because they would roll over the “scum of creation,” as he referred to us and our allies.

Read Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16.

I think the Church is in some ways just like the United States of America, but better. Its members are men and women from every nation, people group, culture, socio-economic layer, age group, and career path. Each and every person decided on their own to put their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus at the foot of His cross. This includes children and senior citizens, very rich and very poor, illiterate and highly educated, and every category of human being you could imagine.

The Church welcomes all who believe: athletes, bartenders, coaches, entertainers, diplomats, politicians, prisoners, prime ministers, kings, presidents, saleswomen, programmers, gamers, doctors, dropouts, drop-ins, single, married, broken, neutralized, vandalized…from every part of the world. In the two thousand years since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Church, in spite of its diversity, its tensions, its humanity, marches on. In spite of cultural chaos and decay, strident and severe opposition, the Church Jesus purchased marches on.

Hitler’s vision of a Thousand-Year reign crashed and burned. Just as America is not perfect, the Church has problems. Yet while America may be forgotten a 1000 years from now, the Church, the Body of Christ, will prevail because Jesus said it would, even in spite of the gates of hell.

Live communally. What can you do to become more aware of believers in other cultures and nations? God calls His people to unity in one Body, not uniformity. Do your part as best you can.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 14

What Biblical or modern day character do you consider courageous? Why? What can you learn from them?

I have been affected and inspired by the stories of Noah, who obeyed God when he built the ark (Genesis 6:9-22) in spite of severe criticism. By David, who faced and fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17). By Paul, when he took on the intellectuals in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). They were willing to face danger, wrestle with their own insecurities, and take risks in order to obey and honor God.

I remember being saddened by the tragic death of Pittsburgh Pirate All Star right-fielder Roberto Clemente on December 31, 1972. I was playing hockey that day and heard the news when I got home. He died in a plane crash while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was 38 years old. I was 14. I was struck that he died trying to help other people less fortunate than he was. Reports mentioned Clemente decided to personally accompany this flight after having been advised that their prior shipments may not have reached the intended recipients due to governmental interference with the relief efforts. Besides being affected by the deaths of my grandparents, it was the first time I recall crying over someone I did not know. I was inspired to live a life that affected others in a meaningful way.

I have read biographies of William Borden, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Corrie ten Boom, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, all of which put real-life events of history into perspective for me. They all faced tremendous pressure and adversity, yet showed courage in their response. I still carry one quote from Bonhoeffer with me to this day: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I think about the men and women who responded to the terrorist threat to Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. They learned through their cell phones that the plane they were on was now being used as a weapon. Options were limited and time was running out. It could have been easy to assume a mistake had been made and the hijackers would not carry out their evil plans. Or try to pray and hope the situation would go away. Or do nothing.

If they had, America might have lost its U.S. Capitol building, along with many lives. The White House (or other landmarks and people) may have been destroyed. Remarkably, a few men on Flight 93 responded courageously and many were spared more horrible consequences. Men of godly faith taught us again about the necessity of true faith – trusting God and taking action when action is needed.

Read Acts 6:8-15 and 7:51-60.

Stephen, one of the early Christians in the first century, faced a challenge of great proportions. His courage amid great resistance to the teachings of Jesus serves as a model worth emulating. He teaches us that when situations are frightening, beyond our ability to imagine, we can stand up for our faith. When it is time to act, we can act with God’s help, and He will be with us.

Think theologically. When we know we are doing what is right, that it will honor the Lord, and help others, we must take action with courage. Men and women for centuries have showed us how to do it. Be courageous. Lean on God and trust His presence and resources to aid you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 7

What difference can people notice in you because of the presence of the Holy Spirit?

A college student names Sam told me about walking into a house several of his friends rented for the year. It was final exam week of the spring semester and time to get the place squared away before they moved out and the landlord did the cleaning before the summer renters moved in.

The student walked in and one whiff told him: They had at least one cat in the house.

Those of you who are no longer in the dorms on campus probably know this. But allow me to pass on a word of advice to those of you college students who plan to live off of campus sometime.  When your landlord says, “No pets,” it is not just because of what they do to the furniture. Keep in mind that while you (or your parents) probably did not pay for the couch, the landlord did.

Landlords have learned that dogs, cats, lizards, chimpanzees, even birds, have an air about them that lingers and stays in the apartment long after you and your pet leaves. Believe me, I know from off campus experience that I had when I was a student.

But the students mentioned above did not learn. It was easy on the first day the cat strolled by, purred suggestively, allowed the guys to stroke her upraised back, and attempted to adopt them. No one smelled any odor that day. Or thought about it. It meant that none of them ever had pets before. They even thought having a cat would help them connect with girls.

It didn’t take long and the guys discovered an unpleasant aroma that filled their nostrils. People can tell if there is a cat in the house. Sam knew it and said to the guys: “You have to get rid of the cat before the landlord finds out and charges you for the extra cleaning.”

Question: Can someone detect just as easily when the aroma of Jesus Christ is in the house?

Read Mark 5:1-20.

Jesus delivers a man from demon possession. Imagine the scene: pigs running down a steep hill into a lake, while a once insane man now sits quietly and calmly, and he is fully clothed.

The man wanted to go with Jesus. But the Lord stopped him and sent him back to his family. He was to be a witness of his heavenly transformed life to those closest to him. His witness would reveal a powerful story of a loving and supernatural God. People would notice the difference Jesus had made in him.

Our lives should carry the fragrance of Jesus, too. People should look at us, smile with recognition and say, “Hey there, that appears to be a person who has encountered the Savior.” It should be as evident as cat smell, and a whole more pleasant.

Grow devotionally. Your landlord might not allow pets in his/her rental properties. But I am sure you, as a believer and follower of Jesus, would be more than welcome. Let God into every area of your life and people are sure to notice. How strong is your faith fragrance?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 30

How can you improve your attitude about unpleasant situations in your life?

I learned an early lesson in life from my parents as it pertained to my chores. As I grew older as a child (and as the oldest of four kids) I was given various tasks around the house that taught me the value of hard work. Regardless of the effort required, I was expected to do the best job I could, on time, and to the approval of my stay-at-home mom, all for my weekly allowance, or in some cases, just for the satisfaction of a job well done.

Later in life, I had other jobs where I was expected to be on time, work hard, have a good attitude, and in most cases I received minimum wages. Looking back, these were not jobs I would naturally rush out the door for, but they served a purpose in my overall development, and taught me the value of a hard day’s work for a hard earned wage.

Credit goes to my parents for instilling and reinforcing not only a good work ethic, but an attitude ethic. I learned to cut the grass the way my dad expected it; to wash and dry dishes the way my mom expected it to be done; to taking care of the trash each week without being reminded. There no wiggle room for half-hearted efforts with under-my-breath comments such as, “I can’t wait for this to be over, because I really despise this…”

Read Colossians 3:23.

When I started to read the New Testament for myself, it was uncanny how the Gospels and Epistles (i.e., letters) reflected so many things my parent practiced and taught my siblings and me. One example was the importance of attitude in honoring my parents and ultimately God. My parents expected that whatever I did, I should do my best, and that would satisfy them. They said I was made for doing things well, so why not strive to do it well from the start?

God expects that we honor Him in all we do (Colossians 3:23). The apostle Paul wrote that statement to early Christians in a town called Colosse as a way to highlight a perspective on how to live and work in the first century Roman world. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians to, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

So how is your attitude? Does your day at school and/or work drag on because it is filled with work that you detest? Do you grumble and groan when a professor or employer assigns a project to work on over the weekend? A thankful attitude can lighten the load.

Try thanking the Lord for what He has done for you lately. What about the project you finished and handed in? Or the project approval your team received? Was your first thought, “Gee, thanks God, for the chance to do well and use my gift(s)?”

Serve globally. Focus on God’s blessings with an attitude of thankfulness to Him. Hard work + a good attitude is a better alternative than slothfulness and grouchiness. From the campus to the marketplace, our work and chores can be a whole lot more bearable. It’s because of an old time adage that gratitude turns drudgery into delight.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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