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Monday Motivator – July 15

Have recent events changed your attitudes toward and behavior about being an American?

The United States of America was born on July 4, 1776. Some say that the country was re-born when Lewis and Clark attempted to find a passageway to the Pacific Ocean. Or when the Civil War led to the dissolution of slavery. Or when women were allowed to vote. Or when we contributed to the winning of World War I and II. Or when we put a man on the moon. Or when we were attacked on September 11, 2001.

Do you own a U.S. Flag and put it out on national holidays? Do you know all of the words to “God Bless America?” What are some things about your country that you are thankful for?

We all experience times and seasons when our love of country is tested. I remember where I was on 9/11 and the tension, fear, anger, loss and pain many Americans felt was we dealt with the horrific images and consequences of 9/11. Many wondered if America would rebound from such a tragedy. Some asked if children would be able to grow to adults with honor and pride in their country?

Yet young people by the thousands volunteered for charitable activities and military service. Some just had the “thing” that you are supposed to have inside you. Others stumbled into it in the process of wanting to “do something, anything…” that would address the ache they carried.

The dictionary definition of “patriotism” is “love for or devotion to one’s country.” Of course, if you are a lover of God, you are on the right track and actually ahead of the pack.

One thing that is great about America is the freedom to openly worship God, or not. While not widely reported in the modern media, Christians in many countries around the world are routinely arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and killed merely for being followers of Jesus. It is hard to imagine worse responses towards Christians when they are actively talking about Jesus and trying to persuade others to consider the person and claims of Jesus.

The founders of America linked their patriotism to their belief in the Creator. They declared “all men were created equal” and that the Creator had endowed all men and women with “certain, unalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Each time we pledge allegiance to the flag, we affirm and recognize that the United States is “one nation, under God.”

Read Psalm 33.

In verse 12, the author writes, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” How can you emulate the lifestyle outlined in Psalm 33, where followers of the King are described?

What does patriotism look like in your life? I hope you will learn more about how America was founded and formed. Why did God place you here at this time? How can you and your generation make this a place where God is honored? It is okay to love God and country.

Live communally. How can we pray for America? How can we model gratefulness? What can we do to make God more famous here? God blesses America as we bless and honor Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 8

White space, or margin, is tough for some of us.

For good or bad, we live in a “doer” culture, that is characterized by slogans such as, “Live life to the fullest,” “Just do it,” and “If you want something done, ask a busy person…the other people do not have time.”

It is interesting that some of us measure the value of our lives based on our accomplishments. If we are working hard and hitting our daily-weekly-monthly marks, we are doing well. Yet if we fill our days with nonstop tasks and constant activity, we may be susceptible to believing this gives our lives more meaning.

In a fast-paced world, we may feel alone and in danger of becoming irrelevant if we are not doing something active or Carpe Diem, “seizing the day.” Could we be missing out on life? Should this sort of perspective characterize or define our lives as followers of Jesus?

Read Psalm 46:10.

What determines a good day for you? In Psalm 46:10, God says to, “Be still and know that I am God.” Making time to be alone with God, and in silence, is one of the best opportunities we have to seek God and meditate on His Word. It is the epitome of quiet time.

Whenever we are alone, we give ourselves the chance, or the opportunity, to avoid becoming anxious about life. Since we put value on our relationship with God, having time to meet with God centers us as we slow down to connect with our heavenly Father. We find comfort as we huddle with God and His presence has a way of reminding us we are in good hands. Nothing can get to us while we are with Him. Whatever may be on our mind can be released because we are in and under His protective care.

Like the author of Philippians 4:5b-7 asserts, “The Lord is near.” Do not be anxious about anything, but whatever is on our to-do-list should be given over to God and His peace will once again help us slow down and find peace, and a respite from the demands of life. That peace will “guard” our hearts and minds in Christ. What an image!

We all battle being trapped in a never-ending struggle to deal with the events of day-to-day life. How do we deal with the trials, tribulations, and difficulties of life? Jesus models that it is okay to work hard and pray hard, but then take a break and step back from activity. As children of grace, we know that God gave us life so we can have a meaningful relationship with Him. He also gave us His Word to aid in dealing with all of the challenges we would face.

There is nothing wrong with working hard, being active, and being diligent with our various responsibilities. The challenge is to find rhythm in work, play, study, and rest. It is one reason God gave us the commandment of sabbath.

What does being still and knowing God mean to you? How and when do you become still before God? The next time you choose to be alone with God, remind yourself it will be time well spent. Think theologically. Embrace silence and solitude. Enjoy the moment by being still.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 1

Devotion is defined in Webster’s Dictionary: a feeling of strong love or loyalty; the quality of being devoted; the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose; prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private rather than in a religious service.

Webster’s adds the use of devotion can be seen as “his or her courage and devotion to duty never wavered.” Synonyms include: faithfulness, fidelity, affection, constancy, and closeness.

Another way to consider devotion is in relation to our religious observance. “The aim of Chi Alpha missionaries is to live a life of devotion.” That kind of life should be practiced with piety, sanctity, and devotedness.

I had a seminary professor who talked to our class one day about the concept of slow-grow. He presented the idea that God calls us out of darkness into the Light of His Kingdom. Growth into Christ-likeness requires light, good soil, water, a host of nutrients, and regular care-taking. The idea of real devotion is it is our responsibility to cooperate with God in our own growth so we can attain the maturity He designed us for. Growth is slow and steady. It is our journey’s end.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians (chapter 4:14-16) and said, “No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”

Read Mark 1:35.

Jesus shows us from His own life how he cultivated a life of devotion. Amidst a busy season of ministry, He regularly pulled away from various tasks awaiting him to be alone with the Father. He shows us the necessity of silence and solitude in order to recharge and replenish Himself. Jesus enjoyed the closeness of being with His Father. We should too.

The apostle Paul faced some pretty nasty conditions. Shipwrecks, flogging, no sleep, little food (see more in 2 Corinthians 11:22-28). He did not have an easy life. Yet Paul thrived. He learned a lot through the difficulties that he encountered. His life and words became enriched in the understanding of God and His ways. Paul’s faith deepened and trust abounded because he stayed devoted to Jesus even in tough times. Paul realized that there was much to learn from the suffering, silence, and solitude that came from hardship.

We will grow up in Christ not only through our consistent and dedicated efforts to get alone with God, but also as we submit to His processes. As we, like Paul, face the harsh winds and bitter events of life, we can emerge more like Jesus. He learned obedience through suffering. As we persevere through tough times by trusting in God, our faith and character will deepen and mature and our life will be enriched.

Grow devotionally. Purpose to grow steadily in the midst of life’s often harsh conditions by constantly putting yourself in place and space to be with God. Slow-grow is for the devoted.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 24

I love the idea of making the most of every opportunity I have. I was raised by parents who modeled and taught me that life is a gift from God and to be the best I could be. I learned to enjoy a challenge. To be self-confident. To see failure as an opportunity to get up and try again. To be optimistic. To be open to feedback. To learn from others, including mentors. To be flexible. To aspire to improve. And to focus on results.

The good news about all of these traits is that they can be learned and developed. My parents, coaches, and teachers reinforced that I didn’t have to feel like those who advanced rapidly were somehow better than me. I simply worked on being the best “me” I could be while improving in these traits and using them to my advantage. With a little practice and evaluated experience (i.e., feedback in real time), I got better.

We have to remember that there are enough people in the world who are going to write you off. You don’t need to do that to yourself. Susan Boyle participated in some singing events to which others mocked her rather than judged her ability to sing. Her mother encouraged her to audition for Britain’s Got Talent back in 2009. She was hesitant because she believed people were being chosen primarily for their looks.

Through the constant persuasion of her coach, she took the courage to try as a tribute to her mother. She was 47 years old back then. When she stepped on stage and was asked about her dream, she responded: “I’m trying to be a professional singer like Elaine Paige.”

Some parts of the audience started rolling their eyes in disbelief of the kind of ambition she has. Despite the crowd’s doubt, Boyle chose to ignore them and went on singing her winning piece “I Dreamed a Dream.” As soon as she hit the first note, all of their doubts turned into awe. She managed to finish the song receiving a standing ovation from the audience and three YES’s from the judges. In fact, her first album “I Dreamed a Dream” at one point became the United Kingdom’s best-selling debut album of all time.

John Maxwell has written that decades ago he memorized a quote that shaped his life. “My potential is God’s gift to me. What I do with my potential is my gift to Him.” John believed he was accountable to God, others, and himself for every talent, gift, resource, and opportunity he has in life. He believed that if he gave any less than his best, he would be shirking his responsibility.

John told a story about former President Dwight Eisenhower in his book, “25 Ways to Win with People.” The President told an audience once that he regretted not having a better political background so he could be a better speaker. He said his lack of skill reminded him of his boyhood days in Kansas where an old farmer had a cow for sale. The buyer asked the farmer about the cow’s pedigree, butterfat production, and monthly production of milk. The farmer responded by saying, “I don’t know what a pedigree is, or her butterfat production, but I know for sure that she’s a good cow and will give you all the milk you need.”

There you have it. That is all any of us can do. We can give all that we have.

Read Ephesians 2:10.

We are God’s workmanship, or His poem, or His masterpiece, created to do good. We were created to make the most of our gifts and opportunities. Serve globally. Strive to make the most of your potential today. That is always enough.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 17

Do you always have to have the latest, the coolest, the most expensive of whatever you have your eye on? What makes you that way? Could you be wrong?

I am amazed at the tennis (or gym) shoe industry. I passed by a Foot Locker store in a mall recently and saw dramatic shoe designs, powerful promotional techniques, and claims of high and improved performance that sought to capture my eye and my pocketbook. Signature shoes by a varied list of professional athletes invited me to buy their brand and be better, all the while why increasing their market share, influence, and profits. A pair of signature shoes could easily cost $200 or more!

I remember as a kid paying about $10 for my first pair of tennis shoes. They were made of black canvas and vulcanized rubber that seemed to have little suction cups on the bottom. The white circle logo over the ankle bone quietly said Converse, which were designed by Chuck Taylor. In those days Converse controlled most of the tennis shoe market. They offered great support, stop and go traction, and were affordable for anyone. We called them, “limousines for the feet.”

My junior high school basketball coach said Chuck Taylors were the best shoe ever made. No shoe holds the floor as well as that one. Twenty years ago I heard people saying if a shoe manufacturer said that Michael Jordan wore shoes with paper soles, kids would buy them.

Why are people so attracted to fancy designs and superstar endorsements? What makes us so gullible and susceptible to the hype and glamour promised in today’s call that, “You have to have this” advertising? What is wrong with functional, adequate, and inexpensive? Is it okay I still wear a comfortable pair of dress shoes that I bought twenty-five years ago and have had the soles replaced twice?

It happens in the Christian world as well. Musicians, speakers, and lead pastors with big names, conference resumes, designer clothes, and glossy marketing efforts are often sought after and emulated. We get the impression they have greater know-how of what looks good, has greater value, and it affects our perspective and ability to make our own choices and live with them. We seem to get the impression that they have greater insight and are more savvy, so to be like them we have to be cool and have the best.

Read 1 Peter 5:1-7.

There is nothing wrong with having good clothes, being well-groomed, and growing in your confidence and competence. Yet self-centeredness and worry about what others have, and a fear that unless we get that (whatever it is), we are missing out and somehow less-than-we-should be is wrong. The apostle Peter reminded his readers to clothe themselves with humility toward one another (v 5b), even as they cared for one another.

Are you envious of those who have things you do not have? Is their life really better than yours? On what do you base your opinion?

But let’s not be surprised. People were the same in Jesus’ day. When He humbly offered them what they needed most, they rejected Him and crucified Him. They preferred the shiny, shallow religious showmanship to the actual Son of God. All too often we do the same.

Walk wisely. Live simply, frugally, and generously. Less is often best.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 10

On college campuses, drunkenness and profanity was commonplace. Women were afraid to walk alone at night. A poll at Harvard revealed no Christians on campus. At Princeton, only two students admitted to being followers of Jesus. At Williams College in northwestern Massachusetts, mock communions were held. At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, students performed an “anti-church” play. In New Jersey, students burned the Bible in a public bonfire. The few Christians on campuses in the Northeast were intimidated into meeting in secret. This was not a description of the recent past. This was 1790.

Then suddenly at the turn of the new century, America experienced a spiritual about face that affected every level of society, from the frontiers to the cities and college campuses. Something so radically changed the campuses of America that the same schools which a generation before had mocked the person and teachings of Jesus, now began sending out workers to pass on the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

The beginning of this dramatic change can be traced to Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. In 1787, with the moral climate deteriorating rapidly, five college students decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask for God’s help. They locked themselves in a room, for fear of other students, and kept their voices down so they would not be heard or caught. However, other students discovered them and tried to break down the door. The president of the college heard of the disturbance and came to find out who had started the latest riot. One of the students outside said, “Oh, it’s nothing important, sir; there are just some fanatics holding a prayer meeting. Can you imagine? We thought we would rough them up a bit and teach them a lesson. But we won’t hurt them.”

The president rebuked them saying, “You don’t mind cheating, stealing from rooms, lying, and the profanity you get on this campus, but you object to a prayer meeting? Well, I do not!” He then knocked on the door and said with authority, “This is the president of the college. Will you please come out?” The students unlocked the door and came out not knowing what to expect. President Smith said, “Gentlemen, come to my study and we’ll pray together.”

This prayer meeting marked the beginning of campus revivals during the Second Great Awakening of the 1790’s and early 1800’s. Not only did half the students at Hampden-Sydney College turn to faith in Christ, but the revival spread to churches and cities. In college after college, students formed similar Christian fellowships. At Harvard, Bowdoin, Brown, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Williams, and Andover, students began to meet, pray, read, study, and discuss Scripture, while caring for the poor and evangelizing their classmates.

Read Matthew 6:33.

The students at Brown formed the College Praying Society, which met in a private room, for “fear of disturbance from the unrepentant.” In December 1802, at Harvard, seven students formed the Saturday Evening Religious Society, which also met secretly.

At Yale, president Timothy Dwight regularly preached apologetic messages in chapel, addressing and challenging the relativistic philosophy of the day head-on with talks like, “Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?” As a result of praying Christians and Dwight’s powerful preaching, one third of Yale’s student body accepted Christ in 1802.

Live communally. Seek His Kingdom first, Jesus said, and you will be blessed. Pray with others on campus. You never know the difference five students can make.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 3

How carefully have you studied the history of biblical faith?

You have probably heard the phrase, “History is written by the winners.” It is unfortunate that some historians – armchair, amateur, and professional – particularly in post-modern times, believe it is rare to find a truly accurate historical account.

They suggest that the “winners” control the information and publish whatever account(s) favor their narrative. They tell us that those accounts are mere propaganda, and contain made up “victories or achievements,” rather than demoralizing defeats.

It is true that historical events need to be carefully assessed because they in all likelihood contain truth and falsehood. Good historians will be certain to examine all the evidence and competing accounts before coming to their conclusions. They will consider the event in the context in which it took place, and make sure they have an accurate representation of what happened, especially before they consider it in the light of the present day.

Part of the pursuit of an historian is to assess history by the character and consistency of the witnesses. Dan Shaughnessy, baseball writer of the Boston Globe, chronicled the events that led to the historic championship. His columns captured the range of emotions New Englanders felt and experienced in the season long and playoff quest that resulted in a title. He catalogued the decades long suffering baseball fans that rooted for the Sox knew so well and finally triumphed over. Dan was an accurate scribe who recorded for all time the season that led to such joy in the six New England states after such long futility.

I lived in Boston in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox won their first major league World Series in 86 years. I read Dan’s columns that recounted the long march to the World Series. I watched the games on television. I can vouch for Dan’s truthful and careful documentation of a winning season. He was there. I was too. Eyewitness accounts still matter. Boston won. St. Louis did not.

Such is the case for the truthfulness of the Biblical accounts of the person of Jesus. The men and women who walked with Jesus were there. Their testimony of what they saw and heard of meeting Jesus, listening to his teaching, seeing him crucified, and later seeing him after his death and resurrection need to be considered as truthful. Their stories should be measured against what happened. Some critics argue that this is a case of the “losers” writing the history. Regardless of the forces arrayed against the early followers and witnesses of Jesus, who were tortured by the winners, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus has been unstoppable.

One of those so-called persecuted “losers” was the apostle John, one of Jesus’ earliest and trusted disciples.

Read John 19:31-35.

In John 19, we hear the words of John, a loving and tender follower of Jesus declaring that he “promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about his good friend, Jesus. John clearly declares the truthfulness of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Later John, along with Peter and Paul, who were actually killed by the “winners,” attest and assert that Jesus also rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Think theologically. Two thousand years and millions of Christ-honoring disciples later, the record and fact of history about Jesus’ victory over death is affirmed like none other.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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