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Monday Motivator – November 5

What are the some of the characteristics that you admire in your friends? How can you model those to others?

I enjoyed the high school and college friendships that I experienced. I recall the enthusiasm and openness of these age groups and particularly the independence and zeal for adventure. The idea of making a difference among college students has resonated with me the past few decades as I’ve worked in and among them.

Donna, Scott, Linda, Chris, Tammy, John, Jill, Steve, Patrick, Skip, Mark, Jeanie, Robbie, Dave, Jeff, Quintin, Teresita, Chris, Huzie, Samantha, Celeste, Mark, Jake, Steve, Patrick, Katie, Tony, Liz, Fish, Melissa, Brenna, Roy, Mariela, John, Hoe-Phong, and Andrew are just some of the ones I remember. There are many more, of course, that elicit fond memories of divine encounters, road trips, campus conversations, Bible discussions and outreaches, skits and laughter, academic, life, and spiritual integration. Men and women I was blessed to know for a short period of time, yet long for our eventual reunion in heaven.

I love these men and women because of the traits I saw in them – honesty, vulnerability, a thirst for success and excellence in their field of study, integrity of faith and vocation, humility, a love of life. Each of them brings to my mind wonderful stories of redemption, varied paths to meet and surrender to King Jesus in the Academy, and continuing to know and serve Him afterwards in the marketplace. Being with them for a semester, a year, or longer was a rich period of access, friendship, and service together in a collegiate environment.

Being around them was a reminder of the influence of Jesus: His forgiveness changed us at our core; His grace enabled each of us to strive for our potential; His power put us on a path to flourish as masterpiece creations of His.

Read Romans 15:1-7.

I learned through my relationships with so many college students (and staff that joined me over the years) that it is possible to provide an example to others of who Jesus is by the way we openly and joyously live. I still remember how Taylor was influenced by Stacia at M.I.T., to eventually put his faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. She radiated the characteristics of Jesus in a way that made Taylor, and many others, feel as if they had, in a sense, been with Him.

Jesus loved sacrificially and intentionally. Jesus cared for the forgotten ones. He actually touched a leper, a woman who was sick, and unlovely (even dead) children, and gave them all life. Jesus obeyed the Father. Jesus lived within His means. Jesus prayed earnestly. Jesus met needs unselfishly. Jesus reflected and represented God’s holy name. Jesus served well. Jesus lived well. Can we agree to respond to His pursuit of us with a requisite hunger and thirst to be like Him?

The students listed a few paragraphs above represent dozens, hundreds, even thousands, that I have interacted with that are loving Jesus and serving others. Next time you are with a group of people, think about how you can reflect the characteristics of Jesus. Nothing flashy or to gain their praise. Just be a friend who lives a Jesus-like life among them. Live communally. Our friends should see Jesus in us through our words (verbal & non-verbal) and our actions.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 29

I have seen and experienced the dark side of my human nature. If you asked the average person if human beings were generally “good” people, I think many would say yes. What about you?

My parents had to train me as a child not to be so self-centered, which came naturally to me. My language and motives were focused: “Me, me, my, mine,” and “I” were default positions. My parents intensified their efforts to help me realize the universe did not revolve around me.

Mom and dad did not give in to my tantrums, or let me get away with using “kid-power” tactics on my younger brothers and sister. Pushing them around was met with correct, appropriate, and consistent discipline. My parents had to play two-on-four with diligence and teamwork against 4 kids. Children need to learn how to play nice, use their manners, and control their base instincts.

I benefitted from growing up in a time when two parent families were common, and sacred and secular views about parents using discipline were clear and supported. Parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, recreation leaders, and community leaders were on the same page. Children need loving discipline to “root out the bad tendencies” (or the dark side), learn to walk uprightly, and represent their families well once they left the home. We still had kids causing more trouble than they should, many stretching the limits of what was allowed, and a few mavericks who really raised a ruckus at times. But they reaped what they sowed. And often learned their lessons.

When I became a parent, I saw the process my wife and I were in for in raising our two kids up close and personal. Not that our children were anything but normal, yet I could have written an article at times on “the dark side of children.” When it comes to developing people, younger children go through growing pains to become self-sufficient, mature people. Without parental loving discipline, kids can go off the track at times with dire results. Eighteen years is about what it takes to see the fruit of most parent’s effort to help their kids learn how to live life well. Actually, that is all parents have before kids move out and on to see what lesson(s) actually stick.

Read Mark 7:14-23.

In this passage, Jesus showed compassion to sinners and outcasts, yet He talked about evil in the human heart. All of us should call and thank our parents (again) for the job they did in raising us to know right from wrong and reinforce it until we got it.

In 1961, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi engineer of the death camps of World War Two, was put on trial for war crimes. One of his former victims saw him in court, and stricken with emotion said, “This Eichmann was an ordinary man in many respects. I saw I was capable of what he did. I am exactly like him.” Like Eichmann, you and I are as capable of sin as he was.

The universal reality of human sin has infected all of us, and, it has a remedy. Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead to redeem us from the penalty and power of sin. Our dark side should not be rationalized away, but submitted to God for the redemption only He can provide.

Think theologically. Who are the people you know that need to hear the gospel news? What sinful attitude or action do you need to confess and repent of to experience His cleansing (1 John 1:9)? Believe it – Receive it – Live it (John 1:12). The gospel cures the dark side of the heart.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 22

Does God’s strength and love make sense to you? Do they seem at odds with one another at times?

As a young Christian, I was equipped to learn and develop competence in some of the essentials of Christian living: assurance of salvation, assurance of answered prayer, victory over sin, forgiveness, guidance, putting Christ first in my life, relying on the Lord’s strength, the importance of the Bible, giving, the church, good works, and witnessing.

Each of the lessons helped me learn what it meant to walk like Jesus did. They helped me learn and implement some of the fundamental “holy habits” of the Christian life as I explored the Scriptures. I was inspired to realize I could live victoriously over my old way of life as I followed Jesus into the life He gave me. I even memorized Scripture verses with each lesson, which deepened my trust in God because of how He is revealed in His Word and in nature.

I attended a Sunday School class for college students that introduced concepts and characteristics about God to me. His omnipotence (all power), omnipresence (ability to be everywhere at once), and immutability (perfect, unchanging nature) were a few of many that challenged my perception of who and what God is. I had never thought much about God until my collegiate years and was unaccustomed to consider how awesome He might be.

As I read Scripture that described God’s character, I was struck by His sovereignty, wisdom, loving and forgiving nature, juxtaposed against His holiness, righteousness, and His judgment. He was an overwhelming Presence and Person to consider.

Read Psalm 62:5-12.

The first time I read through the Psalms I paused at this song of King David. He wrote that if there were two things he knew about God, they were that, 1) God is strong, and 2) God is loving.

Strong and loving.

God the Creator of all is strong. Look around at the world. With a few words, He created the heavens and the earth with an explosion perfectly unfolding in force. With too little velocity, the universe could have collapsed back on itself after the initial impetus. With too much velocity, matter may have streaked away so fast that nothing had time to form.

God the Creator is loving. He filled the earth with the color of green grass against the backdrop of blue skies and a yellow sun. He made the fragrance of flowers to be enjoyed as someone lay in the lush grass of a field. He is a Father to the fatherless and a defender of widows. He is a Shepherd who seeks out the many prodigal sons and daughters who drifted away from His loving care, not treating us as our sins deserve.

Strong and loving. God is strong and loving. We need God to be both of those in order to be Someone we can lean on. Grow devotionally. Scripture reminds us that whether our lives are easy or difficult at times, God is there to help us through the highs and lows of life. It is hard to realize how strong and loving God is, until you need Him. And He is there.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 15

I attended Ohio University in the 1970’s to play varsity baseball. I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus when I went to college, and barely knew much about the One True God. I met several Christians on the baseball team, a few athletic trainers, and their friends, who began to engage me with the person and claims of Jesus. Through their prayer and efforts, I became a convert, then a growing Christian, a disciple, a disciple-maker, and finally a reproducer.

Read Matthew 28:18-20 and 2 Timothy 2:2.

I learned back then that Jesus’ emphasis was not just helping someone become a follower of His, but actually a disciple who makes disciples who makes disciples. If we understand what is called the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, He demands we disciple the nations. He also gives us the power to follow through in Acts 1:8.

Let’s consider the scope of this demand: first, the purpose Jesus calls us to is to make disciples of all nations; second, His program involves teaching these new followers (or teammates) to obey everything He has commanded; third, His provision entails receiving power when the Holy Spirit empowers each of us for godly and Kingdom service; and fourth, His promise reveals He will be with us always, to the very end of the age.

Please note that discipling is a task that requires much more than simple programs or techniques. Discipleship at all times requires the power and presence of Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus entrusted the Kingdom of God into the men and women He discipled. He didn’t write a holy book, left no manual, or tablets of commandments. He only trained and empowered men and women to continue His mission to save the world. Christ demonstrated that discipleship must be encased in a personal, relational model and not in a static, educational mode. This means the discipler must be personally involved in the lives of those he or she is discipling (i.e., “a more mature believer helping to nurture younger members of the community”).

The purpose of discipleship in a university setting involves: A) Providing students involved with a Chi Alpha chapter a pastoral discipler for Christian growth and nurture; B) Providing every student a few students in which to share the love of God with each other; C) Providing a relational learning experience in the practics of the Christian faith; D) Providing an atmosphere for leadership development among students for God’s work; and E) Providing for the continual development of a trans-generational ministry to the campus, as stated in 2 Timothy 2:2.

The making of disciples is not something that just happens. It is a very deliberate and specific process that requires strategy, time, and prayer. It basically is that process by which growing Christians impart their knowledge and experience in the Lord Jesus to newer Christians, in the context of personal relationships. By this process each member is thus given the basic knowledge and skills necessary to grow toward maturity in Christ and is equipped for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).

 Serve globally. We desire to follow the instructions of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2. In this way we perpetuate a continuous development of maturing leaders for the work of Christ on campus, heading into the marketplace, and throughout the world. Will you join us in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship’s mission to live out the words of Jesus and Paul?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 8

How does it make you feel to know you were “hand-crafted” by a God who loves you?

Imagine you had the privilege of being recognized for your character and achievements. The community in which you born and raised decided to honor you as a native son or daughter by setting up a museum exhibit that reflected your life.

You were in your later years when you received the news of this recognition and you plan to travel home for the occasion. There would be several “You’s” that will be part of the exhibit. The real-life “you” would be present to shake hands, pose for pictures, and greet the well-wishers who show up for the opening of the exhibit.

Researchers are busy creating a series of life-size paintings, pictures, and replicas of you during parts of your life: elementary-middle-high school, your university years, and then the next few decades of your life. The challenge is to find images and descriptions that will help specialists form and fashion what you looked like then and now. They are especially targeting three ages; 19, college sophomore when you decided to live by the values and teachings of Jesus; 40, when you survived a health scare and stressful job situation that tested your ethics; and 67, when you retired and were recognized for living a full, humble, and generous others-centered life.

Museum designers armed with lasers, 3D-computers, and other modern tools hope to create authentic looking versions of you, down to the minute detail of the scar under your nose where your brother hit you with a rake in a fight when you were ages 10 and 9. Your head will be the most difficult of all the tasks. It will initially be made of clay, then wax added, and the final painting will perfect the project. Of course, the replicas will be judged in comparison to your recollection of your likenesses, since you are still alive, before the museum is open to the public.

It is a painstaking process to attempt to put together several versions of a former citizen of your town. It requires significant research, analysis, and artistic and technological skill. Even when the experts are done, what they will have created is only a facsimile of who you really are.

Read Isaiah 64:3-8.

Verse eight says, “Yet, O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay. You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” The prophet declared that God made each of us out of clay (the dirt, or stuff of the earth) with the care only a loving Father could possess.

We often struggle with feeling less than God’s handiwork, or best work, and more like an after-thought. We often yield to comparing ourselves to others, which is always dangerous. We tend to be insecure about our looks, background, and personality. We are susceptible to envy, which leads us to do what everybody else is doing…because it is fueled by comparison.

The awesome God (verse 3) who is over all of creation made us! He calls us, “the work of My hands for the display of My splendor “ (Isaiah 60:21). How can you display His splendor?

Walk wisely. Do not play the comparison game. Do not let your insecurities define you. Do not succumb to envy. You are dirt with divinity. You are a masterpiece of a loving Father.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 1

Anger in relationships is inevitable. It’s impact can vary from emotional coldness to outright expressions of frustration. Often anger results from unmet expectations and frustrations that develop but are not dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner. Learning to overcome anger, a major impediment and destroyer of relationships is critical to healthy friendships.

Short term anger is common to many of us when we let hurt feelings drag into long-term frustration. Not dealing with anger can be damaging, as anger has the power to break down relationships. It can also lead us into darkness and tie us up emotionally. One skill is to learn to “keep your spirit open” to the other person. All that means is working to stay open and communicative with the person and not shut them out. Those who fail to deal with frustrations and hurt feelings are pushing that part of their friendship into a corner.

The net result of unresolved anger is a power struggle. Neither one wants to own up to their contribution that led to the relational conflict. Neither one wants to appear “weak” or give up the strength of their position. It is a battle for who is in control, and it often takes time and wasted energy for power issues to come to the surface in a relationship.

Instead of giving up their rights to “be mad” or “right” or even “heard,” the friends begin using emotional “rights and lefts” to make a point, further alienating the person, and holding onto their seemingly high ground in the conflict. They may even attempt to use the conflict to demand changes in the person and/or the relationship.

I have found three stages develop when two people get locked in a relational power struggle: The first is when issues are raised but never resolved; the second is when the issue is ignored, the participants drop the issue, but then tend to pick on one another; the third is when one or the other person lash out and attack the other.

Read Colossians 3:12-14.

The apostle Paul instructed the believers in first century Colosse to regularly “throw off the old ways of doing life” (i.e., practicing unforgiveness, being angry, etc.), and regularly “put on the new self.” That meant Jesus people were expected and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live like Jesus did. In verse five, Paul said to put to death whatever belonged to the sinful (i.e., old) nature; in verse 8, he said to rid yourself of old attitudinal and behavioral patterns like lying to one another (verse 9); in verse 12 he said as God’s chosen people “to clothe yourselves” with new life patterns such as kindness, humility, and gentleness. He added in verse 13 to bear with one another and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another.

How do you practice verses 12 and 13 in daily life? Here are five keys: first, recognize your need to obey King Jesus and act like one of His people: second, be gentle and tenderhearted toward the person with whom you are having a conflict; third, acknowledge that your friend is hurting and admit when you have been offensive; fourth, listen carefully to what they say is the cause of the conflict between the two of you; last, ask for forgiveness, and/or give it.

Live communally. Jesus expects us to not let the sun go down on our anger. You and I have to face it and resolve it. He commands us to forgive as He, our Lord, forgave us. Use the keys!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 24

What are the best times each week to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word – the Bible? Hopefully you hear (and read) the Scriptures taught each week in your Chi Alpha large group meeting, as well as in your small group. I trust you have a regular Bible reading program as part of your quiet time that you follow on a daily and weekly basis. The YouVersion app has a tremendous amount of varied reading plans which can also help you study, memorize, and meditate on the Scriptures. But hearing and reading is not enough to grow deep in God.

I remember a key lesson my dad taught me when I was learning to drive in high school. Besides looking in the rearview mirror and the left side mirror to see if any vehicles were coming from behind me from that side of the car, he said to turn and look over my left shoulder as an extra step of preparation before pulling out to the left and/or changing lanes. The reason why was that there might be another car in my blind spot.

I still to this day, remember his advice when I think about changing lanes. I have avoided being sloppy by just relying on the left side mirror. On a few occasions my additional effort to turn and look over my left shoulder has revealed a car in my blind spot and an accident was averted.

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

Moses commanded the Hebrew people to make a consistent effort to take in the words of God each day. They were to talk about them as well as practice following them in their lives. The commandments of God were to be internalized at home, at work, and in every situation (v 6-7). They were not just to be heard, but talked about and practiced.

I have used the Hand Illustration as a teaching tool when our children were young as well as with college students. The Navigators created the Hand concept to help people know how and why to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word. All five practices are critical.

Training can help us pursue what is good and avoid what is bad. The Bible is God’s instruction manual for human flourishing in relationships, finances, service, and life. But just owning a copy of it is not enough. It must be heard, read, studied, memorized, meditated on, and obeyed!

Here are a few suggestions for building a Christian reference library to help you implement the Hand idea. First, purchase a New International Version Study Bible, which will complement your digital version (such as available via YouVersion). Second, purchase a one volume New Bible Dictionary and one volume Bible Commentary, both available from InterVarsity Press. Third, add a copy of “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Fee & Stuart, as well as their companion, “How to Read the Bible Book by Book.” The first one will help you know the ground rules to read, interpret, and study the various genres (i.e., kinds of literature) in Scripture, while the second gives you a brief overview of each of the sixty-six books of the Bible.

Listening to my dad’s driving advice enabled me to steer clear of trouble on the road. Learning and implementing the five fingers of the Hand illustration helps us avoid destruction while pursuing the kind of life God created us to enjoy. By practicing the Hand, you can stay on the right path and look over your shoulder(s) to see your blind spots earlier. Think theologically. You need more than just hearing the Word of God to grow. Use the Hand illustration to strengthen your intake of God’s Word and deepen your roots. Get a better grip on Scripture.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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