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I have enjoyed the thrill of visiting several Presidential Libraries.  The newest one to open is in close proximity to my home.  President George W. Bush’s Presidential Library is located on the campus of SMU in Dallas, TX.

There was a time when I was younger that I thought that the greatest privilege in the world would be to serve as President of the United States of America.  After all I love leadership, I want my life to make a difference for others, my patriotism for this country is off the charts and I have given my whole life to benefit the lives of other people around me.  Over the course of decades I have served others no matter how difficult the challenge.

As I strolled through the exhibits and contemplated the facts of history, it became very apparent to me that the task of running this nation requires something beyond what is humanly possible.  No one in their right mind who cannot stand up against the negative onslaught of unchangeable minds would do this job.  Power and privilege is a difficult match against the constant scrutiny and immense implications of national and international demands.

I stood a long time in the library gazing at this seal.  It stirred in me another level of respect for what 43 did for our nation, the dignity with which he performed it and the class with which he treated the office.  No, I no longer think of wanting to serve in the office any longer.  My youthful aspirations have taken it off my life list.

Yet, what an amazing country the USA is.  What a remarkable honor to be the single representative of this seal of the great nation.  It is a symbol of all that has been exceptional and will continue to be exceptional about this democracy created under God.

Yes, I still love this country.  I relish the privileges that each of us enjoys as citizens.  While this office will never be mine apart from these occasional historic visits, I will long dwell in my thoughts over the burdens that 43 carried for us all.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

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lockwood_header_finalDan Lockwood and I met in Dallas, Texas in the mid 1970’s.  He was embroiled in his doctoral studies and I was immersed in my masters studies.  We had a mutual friend that gave Dan an excuse to invite me to his apartment for a meal.  It was a new beginning that would blossom into a professional connection for decades.  That’s the way Dan was.  Splendidly welcoming and hospitable.

That first meeting set the mood for every conversation that followed.  Dan always had a reason to smile and chuckle over something that was germane to our bantering or not.  It brought a kind of cheer when others might just erode into a dour melancholy.  I liked that about him.  That’s the way Dan was.

Years later he contacted me in Aberdeen, Scotland.  He was the new Dean at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.  We talked about life, chuckled about studies and then he offered me a teaching post at the seminary.  He was willing to take a risk on me!  That’s the way Dan was.  He saw the best in others.

For a decade I thrived under his leadership.  First, he was my Dean.  Second, he became my president. Both were honored positions for me under his direction and vision.

His cheer never left.  Thoughtfully and Biblically he measured his decisions.  I marveled at his skillful leadership and ability to move among the generations and personalities that funneled through the Multnomah campus.  That’s the way Dan was.  He liked people and people liked him.

He let me teach, shepherd and engage our students with great freedom.  Building into their lives with creativity and adding extended ministry beyond campus were always smiled upon by Dr. Dan.  I loved my stint at Multnomah under Dan’s leadership.

Then, for a decade he and I were colleagues as fellow presidents in theological education.  We laughed together, spoke somberly together with understanding and had a quiet moment or two that only presidents can understand.  It was fun cheering each other on in His goodness and grace.  That’s the way Dan was.  Generous in encouragement.

During his last years in his leadership role we happened to find a moment together in San Francisco.  We had our normal cheery banter and reflection over God’s blessings.  Then, he spoke about his hardest year ever while in the Lord’s service.  That was the closest he got to complaining.  No one would have ever heard a tone of regret, fussing or grumpiness in his voice.  There were no names or actions of others that were maligned.  That is the way Dan was.  Superior in graciousness.

Dan is now with the Savior forever.  He left this earth with an impact on so many lives.  Each of us will spread the cheer and joy that he deposited into us.  That’s the way Dan was.

photo credit: Multnomah University photo

Joshua 23
Part 6 of 6

When someone has marked our lives, their last words to us are forever fixed in our minds. We remember vividly what a special person has said to us in their retirement, their death or their departure. It means a lot to us when those final words are a charge to us and our choices and behavior.

Joshua was an amazing leader for Israel. This historic moment of this faithful general to his leaders has a piercing impact on his hearers. Everyone receives, understands and initially embraces this direction from their leader.

Loyalty to their leader, however, is not the primary basis of their life of obedience. Instead, Joshua points out what they themselves had experienced. They were eyewitnesses of God’s great favor and blessing in their lives. Each of the leaders saw God’s provision and miraculous intervention for the nation with their own eyes.

Do you remember God intervening in your life? How did that make you feel at the time? Has that attitude faltered over time? Is your life a life marked by obedience or by compromise?

Immerse yourself into God’s Word. Then, as you see Him active in your life, resolve to live a life of immediate and complete obedience to Him. Do not just remember His Words, live His words.

Thanks for joining me on this journey of living the Scripture

Joshua 23
Part 5 of 6

Joshua makes a bold but perfectly acceptable promise. With the LORD on Israel’s side, no one will be able to stand against her. This is kind of faith and trust that should lead the nation to step out boldly in precise obedience to God’s Word.

It is, however, not just God’s promise of His powerful presence that should move Israel to immediate obedience. Their love for the LORD their God must be their driving motivation. It is not a matter of a military pact. Rather it is a relationship of love that is at the core of this arrangement.

Any compromise on Israel’s part will exclusively be her responsibility. God will not shrink back on His love for the nation or His devotion for her. The only way that God will not provide for Israel is her own choice to turn away from God.

It is true for modern days as well. If we walk with God He will be faithful and provide for us. When we love Him and obey Him, He keeps on guiding our steps and leading us in the way in which we should go.

Joshua gives Israel a baseline for her confidence. God has fulfilled every promise that He has made to Israel in bringing them to the Land. This is without exception and should give the people confidence to respond in love and obedience as well.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 4 of 6

Since the leaders of Israel had been eyewitnesses of God fighting very clearly for them, they are now obligated to hear and obey Joshua’s charge to them. He commands them to “be very strong”. They must make this choice of their own volition. Each one of them must be determined with this step.

Too often we are fearful of the circumstances that we face or the doubt in our spirit to achieve or overcome. When God leads us in a certain direction, we can resolve to courageously be obedient

Furthermore, Joshua charges them to “obey all . . . the Book”. This makes it clear they must know the Word of God. The more time we spend in His Word the better we will know what He wants us to do.

Then, once knowing the Book is accomplished, it must also be obeyed. The charge to “obey” assumes that knowledge exists of what we are to do. This pattern is a constant in God’s Word. First, know what God has said, then obey what His Word has said.

Precision in obedience is essential to obedience. The response to God’s Word must not only be immediate but it must also be accurate as well as thorough. Humanly we wallow too often in partial, compromised or half-hearted efforts as our excuse for following the Lord.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 3 of 6

It was as rescue workers combed the devastated town of Castilian Springs, Tennessee, that firefighter David Harmon came across what looked “like a baby doll”.
“He was laying face down with his arms above his head… He was just laying there motionless, wasn’t moving,” Mr. Harmon said.
The baby was lying 100m or more from the ruins of his house. His mother, 23-year-old Kerri Stowell, was found dead in the same field.
He was taken to the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt University, but had only light cuts and bruises.
Dr. Tom Morgan said: “Maybe he landed on something that lessened his blow, maybe he, you know, came down against a bush or something. I think it was probably…God’s grace.”

When we are eyewitnesses of God’s grace, our lives are changed forever. It is not a story we read or something we heard someone else say. Rather, when we are a part of a story then our very lives are changed.

Joshua had led Israel from the crossing of the Jordan River to the completion of three major military campaigns. Now, God assesses Joshua’s age: he is old, very old. Perhaps Joshua had been in the land up to 20 years. His time is over so he summons the leaders to give them a charge from God. He emphasizes their experience as eyewitnesses of God’s amazing acts.

They know without anyone else prodding them, they were eyewitnesses of God fighting for them. The phrase “you yourselves have seen” highlights this first person reality that is undeniable.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 2 of 6

The nation of Israel is coming into her inheritance of the Land. It has not been easy. Many rigorous military campaigns have been waged to get to this point.

However, war wears on a people. There is a longing for peace and an end to conflict. Unfortunately, people in this mood can become careless.

Joshua is concerned for the complacency that he senses is creeping into the mindset and attitude of the people. They are looking for a shortcut, an easy conclusion to war. A compromise and a feeling of finding a settlement are pressing on their minds.

Israel too easily accepts the idea of joint occupancy. God has clearly directed through Joshua for the nation to clean out the Land of those who are not followers of YHWH. Yet, Israel falters, fails and justifies a compromise.

Israel fails to discern that living with people who do not share the same faith will lead them to accept a diluted faith. Partial obedience never provides satisfaction. Instead, a bondage and corruption of their own faith will be inevitable.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 1 of 6

There are humorous words spoken by people trying to make a career in business. Mistakenly, they were not prophets and guessed wrong on the future of their field. Those in the world of science, technology and music all let words fly. Later, they would likely have preferred not to be remembered by those attempts at prophecy.

The chairman of a major technology company estimated, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
The President of a major digital equipment company in 1977 declared, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
A memo in a major communications company in 1876 concluded, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
An Ivy League professor in management responded to a paper by Fred Smith, eventual founder of FedEx, on a reliable overnight delivery service, “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”
A major recording studio rejected a contract with the Beatles in 1962 concluding, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

More remarkable are the words of important leaders who speak memorable words. Joshua’s words are memorable and are captured in the last two chapters of the book bearing his name. Chapter 23 records the words Joshua speaks to Israel’s leaders. Chapter 24 records the similar words Joshua speaks to the people in general.
More later…

Our drive up north is becoming a familiar journey.  Every other month I schedule a trip from Houston to Dallas.  A face to face with key personnel is a small price to invest in our ongoing communication with the mother ship.

Dallas Seminary is branching out.  It has several locations around the nation and overseas.  I have the privilege to serve in the Houston Campus.

Part of my long list of responsibilities is to give oversight to the educational endeavors of our fine institution in the fastest growing city in the USA.  Emails, text messages, Skyping and phone calls are countless.  But, nothing beats 30 minutes of smiles, conversation, immediate feedback and details of initiatives with instant approvals.

Most of the time I drive up from our megalopolis to this gem in the heart of Texas. It is a four-hour drive compared to the 3.5 hours of commuting, checking in and flying via commercial airlines.  That comparison does not even include getting from the airport to the campus once I arrive in Big D.

When I arrive my credentials and permits get me to a safe parking spot and on to the campus without any delay.  A list of people are on my mind and I head for my first location.  Invariably, I see someone and we stop and talk.

It is the unplanned spontaneous serendipitous meeting in the parking lot, in the foyer, in a walkway or along a stairwell that makes for strategic initiatives.  Ideas are born.  Personalities meld into operational plans.

During the day I am taking notes.  When I end my day, I am at my computer rehearsing ideas, making notes, recording thoughts and linking those thoughts with people.  The future is born out of those providential gatherings.

The sun is now setting.  As I scan the changing hues and marvel at the city lights, the long trip has been worthwhile.  Questions are answered and relationships with key people are deepened.

On my long drive home I will rehearse every one of those discussions.  In my spirit certain thoughts will seal into further plans.  Others will keep the back burners simmering until the time is ripe.

Sixty days will pass before I make my journey north again.  But, by then several initiatives that were discussed today will be in the history books.  I intend to make good ideas into real results in the near future.  Tomorrow is all about today’s conversations.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Joshua 15-17
Part 3 of 6

Israel had completed the major battles to take the Promised Land.  Now, the tribes were receiving their allotments of real estate.  Caleb sets the example.

He accepted his designated land with relish.  His first reaction was to finish driving out the enemy on his own.  He did not complain that it was dangerous, too hard or infested with the enemy.  Instead, he assessed the challenge and took it on with a full frontal effort.

Caleb did not end there.  It was not enough to secure what was given to him.  He expanded his territories with continued courageous effort.

When he needed help, he called on his family and friends.  They joined him to widen their borders.  Othniel his nephew joined in on those swashbuckling ventures.

When God makes His will clear to us, do we moan about how difficult it will be?  Do we look for the easy way out?  Or do we jump at the opportunity to choose trust in God to continue His faithful work in us while we take and multiply what lies in front of us?

More later…

 

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