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Monday Motivator – October 16

I have had the benefit of a background in competitive athletics where I was taught why and how to prepare for a long season as well as the need for consistent performance. There are reasons why some teams outperform others, one of which is their preparation before the actual game.

When I encountered the person and teachings of Jesus and decided to put my faith, hope, and trust in Him, I learned there were spiritual practices that would help me live a life of faith. Due to a number of coaches who helped me understand the realities and necessities of proper practice leading to consistent performance, my approach to spiritual growth took a similar trajectory.

I have not struggled to think God wanted me to grow just because I was lacking something, or that He was disappointed in me. I did not wrestle with the idea that I was never good enough for a holy God, or that He needed me to be better so He could squeeze more out of me in ministry.

I have come to understand why spiritual disciplines and growth are important. One of the reasons is that I can experience a deeper understanding of God’s love by putting myself in His presence through the use of ancient traditional spiritual practices. I invest my time and energy in my spiritual growth so I can be with God, plain and simple. In sports, the better we practice and are prepared for our opponent, the more relaxed and confident we will perform in the game.

Read Ephesians 3:16-19.

The apostle Paul wrote a great overview of what God has done for all of us in this first century letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He sought to raise the understanding of God’s goodness and grace to men and women. Paul wrote to describe the “what” as well as the “how” of God’s redemptive actions. The first half of the book addresses the doctrinal foundation of what He did and why, and the second half addresses what that could and should look like in the lives of Christ-followers.

I look back at a championship season and remember the mental, physical and emotional exertion it took to practice and perform at a high level. If I desire to experience the goodness of God, I need certain practices to be in play just to be with Him. Here are a few of mine:

First, practice slowing down with Scripture. My parents helped me learn not to stuff myself with food and run from the table to my homework. Eating slowly is healthy for my body and for conversation around the table. Therefore, I like to read large chunks of Scripture and let it saturate my mind. Learn to linger in the Word, meditating on its riches, listening to the Spirit.

Second, practice praying without ceasing. While we should set aside regular time for focused prayer, invite Jesus to walk with you throughout the day as you navigate the realities of life.

Third, practice solitude on a regular basis. How can you build in pockets of time each week or month where you have no agenda? How can you block out time in your calendar to be unavailable to anyone else but God? How can you silence your phone usage each week?

Grow devotionally. Your spiritual growth is worth the investment in yourself. If you are on God’s team, you do not have to earn God’s love but can merely enjoy it. So practice well.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 9

We live in a time of growing dividedness at many levels of society and our own personal interactions with others. It seems that conversations on or off of social media and subsequent actions are contributing to an alarming divisiveness and disrespect.

I attended the Global Leadership Summit in August of this year. Bill Hybels, the founder of the GLS, gave the keynote address and called for all of us to take the initiative to model civility in our families, neighborhoods, organizations, and communities.

Read 1 Peter 2:17.

Bill Hybels, like the apostle Peter in the first century, echoed the call to “respect everyone always.” He suggested that, “Who I am as a senior leader is the place I need to start. If I’m going to be on the solution side, I need to make sure I’m acting in the appropriate way.” He then outlined ten rules we should consider applying in our relational contexts to practice respect to those in and outside of our sphere of influence.

1: Leaders must set the example on how to differ with others without demonizing them.

2: Leaders must set the example of how to have spirited conversations without drawing blood.

3: Leaders must not interrupt others who are talking and must not dominate the conversation.

4: Leaders must set the example of limiting their volume levels and refusing to use incendiary or belittling words that guarantee to derail a discussion.

5: Leaders must set the example of being courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.

6: Leaders must never stereotype.

7: Leaders must apologize when they are wrong, instead of denying or doubling down.

8: Leaders must form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.

9: Leaders must set the example of showing up when they say they are going to show up and doing what they say they are going to do.

10: Leaders must set “Rules of Respect” for everyone in the organization and enforce them relentlessly.

Bill mentioned another leader who developed a civility code for their company: 1) We will greet and acknowledge each other, even with a smile. 2) We will say please and thank you. 3) We will treat each other equally and with respect. 4) We will be direct, sensitive and honest. 5) We will address incivility whenever it occurs.

AT&T President Randall Stephenson wrote to his company: “I am not asking you to merely tolerate each other. Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing of you. But to be quiet and not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments without being challenged. Do not merely tolerate each other. Work hard! Move into uncomfortable territory and seek to understand each other.”

How can staff and students in Chi Alpha chapters show some “grit” in their peacemaking efforts? It can start with civility. Don’t settle for anything less than treating others with respect, since everyone is made in the image of God. May Jesus help us to be practitioners of civility.

Serve globally. The university, the marketplace, and the world needs people of civility.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 2

How open are you with family and friends about your faith journey? Or do you tend to be a “secret believer?” Why is that (for both questions)?

I enjoy reading the book of Jonah in the Older Testament. He is considered a minor prophet (due to the shorter amount of material in comparison to “major” prophets like Isaiah). Jonah was a prophet God had to call twice to go to Ninevah, because he ran away the first time.

To help you consider the context of Jonah’s experience, have you ever been in a situation where God had to tell you more than once to follow His directions? One of my students told me that sharing their faith with a roommate was always difficult because of a fear of rejection. Another said a hindrance was a fear of ridicule. Or of being unprepared. Or of making a mistake. Or of offending someone. Or of not knowing the Scriptures enough. Or a lack of conviction.

But we reviewed and discussed that Jesus taught his message (i.e., the gospel) was good news. Therefore, being involved in evangelism meant being the bearer of good news. To be a witness was simply to “relate what you had seen and heard.” Our commission was found in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus even provided spiritual empowerment for the task he described in Acts 1:8.

So men and women involved with my Chi Alpha chapter repented and reminded themselves of who they were serving, and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, they obeyed the Lord and went about their daily business on campus, ready to engage others with the message of their Lord and Savior. They would often ask friends and classmates in appropriate moments, “So, I was wondering if you would tell me what you think about Jesus and his teachings?”

On many occasions, they were pleased to hear people respond and share some of their thoughts about Jesus. In some cases, people said they were not interested in responding and went on their way. But in both cases, seeds were planted. My students had obeyed the Lord and He will bring about fruit from their obedience in His time and way.

Read Jonah 1:1-17.

When Jonah finally obeyed the Lord’s command, the result was astounding. He marched through Ninevah proclaiming this eight-word message: “40 more days and Ninevah will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4). The whole city, from the king down to the youngest citizen, repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God spared the city from destruction (3:6-10).

God may be moving in your own heart and mind, prompting you to speak to someone about Jesus on campus, in a class, your dorm, or back home. Often, the closer the person is to you, the harder it may be. Go ahead and obey the voice of the Lord. Overcome your shyness, and your fear(s) by the power of the Holy Spirit, and share the good news about Jesus.

People matter to God. Our good news is that God reached down to man in Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, rescue us from His wrath by offering us eternal life, and put each of us in right relationship with God so we can flourish. Don’t push God to use drastic measures on you.

Walk wisely. Inside a fish is not a fun place to find yourself. To obey is always the best way.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 25

Campus ministry staff and students of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries have made a deliberate effort to welcome, serve, and care for international students for more than four decades.

The Lord of the Harvest has made it possible for the brightest and best of almost 200 countries to come to the United States for a few years and study at our colleges and universities. That provides Christians all over America an opportunity to participate in foreign missions in reverse, without having to leave the land of their birth, raise a mission budget, learn a new language and adapt to a new culture, which takes years to figure out and become comfortable with.

Our Chi Alpha staff are always modeling, teaching, and equipping students to join in the adventure of international student ministry. Here are ten ways to ways to infuse your Chi Alpha chapter, small group, church, and even family with ideas and action steps to join the fun.

1. We want all Chi Alpha staff and each college student involved with us to live the three “I’s of Chi Alpha International (XAi) ministry: Informed: know the international student population and where they hang out on campus. Intentional: let’s befriend, serve, and ultimately disciple international students. Influential: help other students, ministries, & local churches to invest in and disciple international students.

2. Incorporate worship music in the languages of your campus international population. Make sure international students are part of the process, and even your worship teams.

3. Encourage international students to pray for their country (and in their native language) during large and small group gatherings.

4. Incorporate praying for international students and the countries into all discipleship venues.

5. Prayer walk the campus regularly asking God for favor among the international students.

6. Ensure that every Chi Alpha student leader has an international student English conversation partner. Make it an expectation of community life and service, not merely a choice for a few.

7. Train students and student leaders to incorporate international students into every small group. Recruit and mobilize international Christian students to do the same, even with Americans.

8. Expect, fast, pray, and work towards the goal of international students joining Chi Alpha, becoming student leaders, give-a-year candidates, and lifelong transformational leaders.

9. Design your Expeditions spring break and/or summer trips to destinations where you have a high number of international students on your campus.

10. Approach participating to international students as a listener and learner. Expect your life to be enriched as you open your heart to the people of the nations that Jesus loves.

Live communally. Like Jesus, we always need to have room in our life for one more friend. Let’s be sure to make room for the international students God has brought to our doorstep.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 18

My friend and colleague, Dr. Charles Spong, retired professor at Southeastern College in Lakeland, FL has written about the Protestant Reformation. With his permission, I am using his “Lessons from Luther” to inspire us to learn about such a pivotal event in church history.

The Reformation of the Church begun by Martin Luther in 1517 is more than about one person or an era (1517-1648). It is really about a continuing movement of the Church forward to what God wants it to be worldwide (Ephesians 4:11-16), a challenge yet to be fully met. 500 years (1517-2017) of church and contemporary life are reminders of the work that needs to be done.

*As evident by reading the life of Luther, it is important to know both the positive and negative turning points in ones’ life. He had numerous ones as evident beginning with his youthful days.

*Luther was open to God’s leading in the Word rather than essentially being influenced and controlled by parents and others, as well as political and social events.

*Luther was committed to the truth grounded in God’s Word. (“My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I will not recant…Here I stand.”)

*Two key truths were restored to the life of the church by Luther, sola fide, sola scriptura (faith alone, scripture alone). These are still affirmed and practiced today.

*Though difficult, Luther was willing to break with tradition and current practice to accept Biblical truth. A knowledge of Church history makes this clear.

*Luther was willing to break with powerful religious and political leaders when in error.

*As observed in the 14th to the 16th centuries, drifting from Biblical truth ultimately leads to failure whether within Catholicism or Protestantism.

*As observed in Luther’s life and ministry, it is evident and vitally important to work together.

*Luther lived in unexpected isolation for a lengthy time, as he was in hiding for a year. Through that difficult experience, the New Testament was translated into German, something never before available to the average person and something that dramatically changed the world.

*From Luther the Church learned anew that all believers are ministers/servants/priests, not just attendees, Ephesians 2:10, 4:12. Note Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian Man. The work of the Church is still done by a small number of church people. The 20/80 dilemma remains, perhaps more accurately 7/93. There would be a great surge in the Reformation Movement if 80 to 90% of believers were fulfilling Ephesians 2:10!

*The spiritual should take precedence over the social and political as witnessed in Luther and all Reformation leaders throughout the past 500 years.

Think theologically. Reflect on the lessons from Luther presented by Dr. Spong. Celebrate the 500 years since God inspired Luther to initiate the Reformation. Continue to build His church!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 11

I need help learning to pray and do it consistently. One practice of mine is to use Scripture.

One example is to take a portion of Scripture like Psalm 23 and read and reflect on it. Then use the text of the 23rd Psalm to talk with God. I’ll start with verse 1 and go through the verses line by line in our conversation. I’ll pause at each verse and listen for the Holy Spirit to speak to me, before I offer my petitions to the Lord.

Another example is to take a book of the Bible like 1 Thessalonians and mine it for key thoughts and ideas. Then use them for my prayer focus for the day, the week, or the month. Here are some samples from the five chapters of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica:

Read 1 Thessalonians.

Use the following verse and short sentence to pray for those staff and students in Chi Alpha leadership, or pray these qualities into those in your small group. “Lord, help John, my small group leader to cultivate a life of thankfulness and prayer according to chapter 1, verse two.”

1 Thessalonians 1:2, a life of thankfulness and prayer.

1 Thessalonians 1:3, a hopeful, pastoral mindset towards others.

1 Thessalonians 1:4, a vision for what God wanted to do in others.

1 Thessalonians 1:5, a clear, anointed messenger for the gospel.

1 Thessalonians 1:6, a transparent and imitatable example.

1 Thessalonians 2:2, a courageous ability to endure opposition.

1 Thessalonians 2:3, a life of discipline, pure motives and integrity.

1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, a tested life that pleases and honors God.

1 Thessalonians 2:7, a gentleness/tenderness in dealing with others.

1 Thessalonians 2:8, an authenticity that leads to truly loving people (and show affection).

1 Thessalonians 2:9, a willingness to set yourself aside for others.

1 Thessalonians 2:10, a trustworthy and blameless example.

1 Thessalonians 2:11-13, an encouraging, fatherly, disposition that calls others forward.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-19, an intense longing to see people mature.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-5, a concern for other’s stability, even from a distance.

1 Thessalonians 3:7-9, a sincere gratefulness for the success of others.

1 Thessalonians 3:10, an earnest effort and prayer to disciple others.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, a teaching capacity that exhorts people how to live to please God.

1 Thessalonians 4:18, an ability to comfort and instruct with sound doctrine.

1 Thessalonians 5:6, a watchfulness for those under your care.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22, a checklist for pastoral leaders.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, a firm reliance on the author of our salvation, the faithful One.

We can learn to pray in accordance with God’s will (and with confidence) by utilizing what God said in His own Word. Grow devotionally. Use Scripture to learn to pray and pray consistently.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 4

Why campus ministry? Why should Christ-followers be interested and involved in bringing the Person and teachings of Jesus to colleges and universities around America? We in Chi Alpha Campus Ministries always speak of four reasons regarding why we exist and work on campus:

First, we are reaching men and women outside of God’s Kingdom at a key time in their lives; second, we are protecting the investment the Church has made in its young people when they go off to college; third, we are serving and reaching international students while doing foreign missions in reverse; and fourth, we are reaching future leaders for Jesus. Here is a fifth reason: in the battle between good and evil, we are depopulating the ranks of evil.

Consider the most enduring theme of all time that is reflected in literature, movies, pop culture, even television. It’s Batman v.s. the Joker. It’s Luke Skywalker v.s. Darth Vader. It’s Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. It’s the white hat wearing sheriff v.s. the black hat wearing bully. It’s inherent in the opening theme music of any TV episode of Law and Order (i.e., something bad happens and we want things to be made right). It is Jesus v.s. satan.

The lines between good and evil are sometimes obscured in real life, making it difficult at first to tell the difference between what is good and what is unacceptable. Yet Scripture is clear on the authors of good and evil and which side best contributes to human flourishing.

Read Psalm 1.

The writer provides three guidelines in verse 1 for responding to the evil side of the tension.

First, do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Avoid evil by refusing to be influenced by it. Knowing what you believe and why helps the godly refrain from being influenced by the thinking of the ungodly. Proverbs 1:10 says, “If sinners entice you, do not give in to them.”

Second, do not stand in the way of sinners. The second way to overcome evil is to avoid places where sinners congregate to practice their lifestyle. It is wise and prudent to not put yourself in tempting situations if you desire to keep yourself morally pure. It is possible to live among the ungodly and thrive as a Christ-follower (see Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).

Third, do not sit in the seat of mockers. It is hard on campus not to find yourself in a class where a professor questions (or even criticizes) your faith. Psalm 1:1 argues that to walk with God means you do not join up with those antagonistic to Jesus and His teachings.

We in Chi Alpha Campus Ministries believe that God sends us into the world of the academy to reflect His glory and goodness. The good news is we have a God-given resource to counter the bad news (i.e., the negative and the evil). Psalm 1:2 says to immerse yourself in God’s Word each day. Scripture is part of God’s survival kit to enable us to stand strong in the midst of evil, know what is right, access God’s power to live a God-honoring life, and share it with others. How are you utilizing Scripture for your spiritual growth and enhanced testimony on campus?

Serve globally. The man or woman who delights in the law of the Lord can stand on campus as an example of Christ’s forgiveness, an example of a changed life, and beacon of hope.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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