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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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Monday Motivator – September 17

What kind of clothes buyer are you? I tend to be an in-and-out shopper at places that I have bought clothes I have enjoyed. For example, I go the Kohl’s for their men’s cargo shorts and get my shopping down quickly. I know what I need. It’s quality for me over style, at least in this case. Now and then my wife suggests I buy a little better quality of shorts, and I recently did.

What clothes do you wear when you really want to look your best?

Read Colossians 3:1-17.

The writer of this letter is the apostle Paul, from prison I might add, and he gives the Colossians quite a recipe for life, character, and action. First, take a look back at chapter 2:16-23 and see how that description contrasts with the beginning of chapter three. First century false teachers had tried to turn Christians from their trust in Jesus to a system of religious philosophy and do’s and don’ts that was worthless when compared to what Christ provided. It was a system of ideas that were man-made rather than of divine origin.

Paul starts out chapter three by describing how we are supposed to grow in our spiritual life. What two things does Paul say should happen since followers of Jesus have been “raised with Christ” in verses 1-4? How is “setting your heart and mind on Christ” connected to what Jesus has already done for us as described by Paul in verse 1?

Verses 1-10 outline the state and standing of the Christian before God. Once a person puts their faith, hope, and trust in King Jesus, His resources are made available to them. Paul states that the believer is dead (v 3), has been raised with Christ (v 1), is “with” Christ, i.e., hidden with Christ, (v 3), has taken off the old self (v 9), and has put on the new self (v 10).

As a result of setting his/her mind and heart on Christ (v 1-2), they are to put to death old practices that belong to their earthly nature (v 5), rid themselves of any behaviors that reflected or characterized their unregenerate self (v 7-9), and become in daily experience what they are now positionally in Christ (v 10-14).

Just as one takes off dirty clothes and puts on new ones on a regular basis, the Christian is called and empowered to turn away from their old ways and now live in accordance with the demands of the Kingdom of Jesus (v 12-14).

Paul is keen to affirm that while the Christian has received the gift of salvation from God by divine grace, the follower of Jesus must put forth every effort to walk with and in the Spirit in order to live a godly, Christ-honoring life.

I know how attached, or comfortable I get, with my day to day clothes. Which aspect of your old nature needs to be replaced with a piece of Christ’s wardrobe? Paul says it’s an ongoing “put off the old self” and “put on the new self” that are daily keys to walking with Christ.

Grow devotionally. Let the Word of God (verse 16) dwell in you richly as fuel for your journey. Whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus. Be a grateful person. Allow your small group to help with your clothing selections. Those are good and wise clothing decisions!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

 

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Monday Motivator – September 10

Did Jesus really walk on the water or did he use nearby sandbars where people “thought they saw something mystical” take place? Did Jesus actually multiply bread and fish to feed 5,000 men, women, and children, or did he merely hypnotize them into thinking He did?

I’ve heard those questions from skeptical and cynical college students and professors for decades. They start from the premise that miracles are not possible, therefore it had to be magic or mass hallucination that enabled Jesus to do what has been attributed to Him. When I asked the same students and professors why they argued that the supernatural was possible in some areas “like UFO’s or horror movies,” they meekly responded that it just was.

From many conversations I have had, it seems a lot of people cannot set aside their personal beliefs to examine the Biblical record of miracles done by Jesus with an open mind. If so, they can come to a conclusion that Jesus could not have tricked people into believing they had witnessed a miracle.

One of my favorite stories of such a turn-around came from lawyer Frank Morison. He is best known for writing the book, “Who Moved the Stone?” It was first published in 1930 in England and has been translated into several languages. The book analyses his review of biblical texts about the events related to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The strangeness of the Resurrection story had captured Morison’s attention, and, influenced by skeptic thinkers at the turn of the century, he set out to prove that the story of Christ’s Resurrection was only a myth. His research and reading of the resurrection accounts of Jesus led him to discover the validity of the biblical record in a moving, personal way. It is a well-researched book that is as fascinating in its appeal to reason as it is accurate to the truthfulness of the Resurrection.

Read John 10:22-42.

Many who actually saw Jesus’ miracles in real time refused to believe that He was the Anointed One – God on two human legs. They were ready to execute Him for claiming to be God (John 10:30-31). Jesus responded by saying, “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (v 37-38).

The miracles of Jesus authenticated Him as the Son of God, the Savior who had come to give His life for the sins of men and women. His works and resurrection were not tricks or illusions, but miracles of grace, truth, and love.

In the 1987 version of “Who Moved the Stone?” author Lee Strobel wrote, “I owe Morison a great debt of gratitude. His book was an important early link in a long chain of evidence that God used to bring me into his kingdom. Morison’s stirring intellectual exploration of the historical record proved to be an excellent starting point for my spiritual investigation.”

Serve globally. Believe in God and you can believe in miracles. Believe in His Son and you’ll experience one. Like Strobel and Morison, you can pass on your story as further evidence.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 3

The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”

What does it mean to walk wisely? How do you walk carefully, so your conduct is an outgrowth of your identification with Christ and His church? Paul says the Christian’s lifestyle is to be one that is given careful consideration. It ought to be the outgrowth of thought, purpose, deliberate, and disciplined action. Living a life that’s committed to Christ calls for following His wisdom.

Read 2 Timothy.

A recent study of this letter from Paul to Timothy uncovered 22 ideas of what it means to walk wisely. How would you rank your “wise walking” from 1 (low) to 5 (high) on each statement? How could you raise your wise-walking 1% in the next 30-60-90 days?

  1. Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you (chapter 1:6).
  2. Do not be ashamed of testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me, his prisoner (1:8).
  3. Join with me in suffering for the gospel…. (1:8).
  4. What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus (1:13).
  5. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you (1:14).
  6. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (chapter 2:1).
  7. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust (what you have learned) to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2:2).
  8. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2:3).
  9. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this (2:7).
  10. Remember Jesus, raised from the dead…is the reason we endure sufferings (2:8-10).
  11. Keep reminding each other of these things (2:14).
  12. Warn others about the danger of quarreling over words (2:14).
  13. Do your best to present yourself before God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2:15).
  14. Avoid godless chatter – those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (2:16).
  15. Flee the evil desires of youth (2:22).
  16. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart (2:22).
  17. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels (2:23).
  18. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2:24).
  19. Have nothing to do with godless people… (chapter 3:2-5).
  20. Continue in what you have learned and become convinced of… (3:14-15).
  21. Preach the Word [be ready in any situation to speak what is needed], with great patience and careful instruction (chapter 4:1-2).
  22. Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (4:5).

Walk wisely. Walking in wisdom requires that we continually practice a few basics: Know God, trust Him, listen to Him, and obey Him. Is this your pattern for living? Remember, a lifetime of careful and wise walking develops daily, one choice at a time.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 27

What is something “small” that seems insignificant to you now? What lesson(s) have you learned from those small things that are guardrails for how you live?

In 1942 a thirteen-year old girl received a diary for her birthday. There is nothing special about that small gift, right? A lot of girls and boys have received a diary from their parents. But this young girl wrote about her experiences in such a way that it captured the minds, hearts, and imaginations of many generations. Her diary has been translated into close to thirty languages.

The Diary of Anne Frank reveals her thoughts, feelings, and fears about hiding out from the Nazis for years during World War Two. Her writing is a riveting account of her world at the time, and her hope in the midst of hatred, brutality, and death. I saw a copy of Anne’s diary in Barnes and Noble recently and I was again glad we still have access to it. Imagine the difference it has made – all due to her faithfulness to regularly record what happened in her teenage years.

It makes me realize how significant small stuff can actually be. Many parents model and teach their children the benefit and practice of manners and chores to be done daily. Many of us learned rightly how to make our beds each morning, speak well to our siblings and parents (especially your mom), and do your assigned task(s) with a cheerful attitude, without groaning or complaining. Many of us were taught to honor our elders, respect authority, and be punctual. We were taught the value of handling money by receiving an allowance based on completed chores…executed with a proper attitude, I might add.

Many of us were also taught to honor God as our Creator. We were taught the two greatest commandments: to love God and love others as ourselves. One application of the second was to maintain close friendships by working out your conflicts sooner than later. It is easier to carry a grudge rather than admitting you contributed to the disharmony and ask for forgiveness.

Read Matthew 25:14-21.

Small stuff can make a difference. Jesus told his followers a story about a rich man who gave a few of his servant’s responsibility for some of his money while he was out of town. The one of the three who put his money to the best use was rewarded with ten times the authority and responsibility. Upon returning, the boss told him, “You have been faithful with a few things. Now I will put you in charge of many” (v 21). Small stuff does make a difference.

Life is full of a lot of stuff that appears so insignificant and does not seem to matter: Keeping your checkbook balanced, running errands, listening to a roommate with a dilemma, getting your homework in on time, cleaning your car and/or bathroom (again), treating others with charity. Yet through them we learn responsibility by taking care of the things entrusted to us.

God wants to see if we can handle what He has given us today. He wants to see us be able to handle bigger responsibilities down the road. If you can’t mend a broken relationship with a roommate now, how will you find the courage to resolve conflict when you are married?

Live communally. How can you be faithful with your responsibilities? One way to love God is to love others. If we prove faithful, we will hear what the servant did in the parable, “Well done.”

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 20

True or false: If you do not grow, your ministry, organization, non-profit, etc., will not grow.

There are a few principles about growth that have been shown to be valuable and necessary. Three areas about growth that need to understood and followed.

The first is, you must grow yourself. You cannot take people where you have not been. The second is, you have to grow your people. You must put them in a place that energizes them (i.e., purpose, cause, or mission). It requires an atmosphere that enables growth. Third, you must grow your organization.

These three principles work in concert and cannot be ignored or reversed. If so, growth will not occur. Let’s consider why the first principle is such a crucial starting place.

Imagine a scenario where one of the senior student leaders of your Chi Alpha chapter becomes lethargic in his or her devotion to Jesus and their corresponding responsibilities. They appear disinterested in the cause, show up late to regular team meetings, and are lax in following through on agreed upon steps of action. What happens?

Morale could erode. The passion and focus on fall blitz follow-up efforts begins to drift. Younger student leaders wonder if they are allowed to act in such a manner. As go student leaders, so goes the Chi Alpha chapter. Knowing junior and senior student leaders set the tone and pace for what happens means you need the kind of people who will be “thermostats,” not merely thermometers.

Read Mark 4.

Jesus referred to four kinds of people who grow.

First, there are those who grow for the moment. They have no depth because circumstances tend to kill their growth. They appear to be ready to grow but still have “hard soil” in their hearts that needs to be tended.

Second, there are those who grow to the level of their emotions. They have no discipline yet. They appear to have such shallow soil of character that when emotion wears off and difficulties arise, there is not enough to build on.

Third, there are those who grow to the level of their circumstances. They have some commitment, but just enough to get out of their problem(s). There are too many “things” competing for their allegiance and they are not ready to clear away the clutter for the “better.”

Fourth, there are those who grow in their understanding and application of the words of Jesus. They have diligence. They hear the Word, embrace it, practice it, and reflect healthy growth.

All four kinds of people showed some growth, but most of the first three’s growth was unsustainable. Think theologically. Jesus said in John 15:5 that being a fruitful follower of His hinges on a growing nature. Abiding in Jesus leads to positive and demonstrative results.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 13

Here is your homework: Sit down and read the book of Ephesians in one sitting. Then jot down what you think are the primary concerns the apostle Paul wrote this letter.

According to Doctor Luke, author of the Book of Acts in the New Testament, Paul’s first visit to the city of Ephesus was brief – sort of checking it out. He later returned during his third missionary journey and spent over two years there. His ministry was effective and controversial.

Read Acts 18:18-22.

After 3 months in the synagogue, he was forced out and took up living in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-9). Paul probably worked as a tentmaker in the mornings and as a lecturer in the afternoons. News of his message spread throughout Asia Minor (Acts 19:10).

Extraordinary things happened: handkerchiefs touched by Paul were used to heal others (19:11-12); Demons were cast out in the name of Jesus – even by Jewish exorcists (19:13-17); Pagan converts burned their books of magic (19:18-20); Then a riot broke out in Ephesus over Paul. Demetrius, a silversmith, organized a city-wide protest, charging that Paul’s success posed a threat to the economic well-being of other craftsmen who made their living from the worshipers of Artemis (19:23-41). As a result, Paul moved on to Macedonia, and the church was firmly established in Ephesus. Paul never again visited Ephesus, but he stopped at the nearby port of Miletus on a return trip to Jerusalem. He called the elders of the Ephesian church to meet with him and he gave an emotional farewell (20:13-38). He later sent them a letter from prison.

In between the introductory greeting (1:1-2), and the concluding greetings (6:21-24) – both typical of a first century letter, Paul’s words fall into two distinct sections: Section 1(Chapters 1 to 3) focus on doctrine. Section 2(Chapters 4 to 6) focus on behavior. The ideas of section 1 can be summarized as the new life and community God created through Jesus. The ideas of section 2 can be summarized as the new standards of the new relationships expected of believers in Christ.

The tone of section 1 is that these are the facts of our new situation “in Christ.” This is what we must believeabout this Christian faith in light of this new reality. The tone of section 2 is what we must dowith the facts of our new situation “in Christ.” This is how we must live this Christian life in light of this new reality.

The emphasis throughout the book is on unity. In ch 1-3, Paul describes the great reconciling work of Christ, who through the cross overcame demonic powers (ch 1) and then broke down the wall between God and people (ch 2), and the wall between Jew and Gentile (2:11-22). In ch 3, Paul talks about God creating the church, a new social order of love and unity that transcends the racial, ethnic, and social distinctions between people. Then in ch 4-6, Paul exhorts us to unity via a series of imperatives – we are to live out this unity in our daily lives.

Grow devotionally. Meditate on Ephesians 1:3-14 for five minutes a day for the next three days. Work on memorizing those verses. Starting in v 4, what are seven things God has done for us? When did you come to appreciate all that God has done for you in Jesus? How does being adopted change your view of yourself and God? What does unity in diversity mean to you based on this letter? Rejoice that the cross of Christ leads to God’s new society of redeemed people.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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