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Christmas 2014 077

My life has been embroiled with leadership roles for most of my adult life.  The challenge to unite people, square off with great threats, achieve great gains for the organization and to resolve to press against the ever-present vehemently vicious critic are all a test of the metal that a leader is made.  Reading and watching great leaders in action inspires me to keep leading with determination.

One of the great leaders in my life time has a Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.  Visiting this museum and library of this leader was on my life list.  I was able to check it off with great satisfaction.

After entering the gorgeous grounds with breathtaking views, I remember pausing long at a portrait of President Ronald Reagan as he walked down one of the halls of the White House.  There is something special about leadership that can never be taught and this President possessed it in generous quantity.  It is called “leadership presence.”

There is very little about “leadership presence” that is external.  Instead, it is what exists in the soul of the man or woman who drives their choices, directs their initiatives and most of all manages the values the define their leadership commitments.  Reagan’s beliefs marked his life and leadership.

When a leader faces pressures and attacks, he or she must be able to draw from their own convictions to make choices and decisions to protect and advance the best interests of the organization that they lead.  That is what leadership is.  Anticipation and reaction based upon a consistent set of values that others can follow and embrace.

The influence of this President was also balanced with a whimsical ability to engage the lives of international leaders from around the globe.  His control of power was never carelessly dismissed but blended with discernment, resolve and vision.  He thought the best of this nation and devoted himself to lead it to become better and more positively influential in the world.

If blessing is accompanied with responsibility, then this great leader acted well in light of the extraordinary blessings given to the nation by Almighty God.  He could win the respect and cooperation of the opposing party, sooth the angry critic or stand stalwart against the belligerent opponent.  President Ronald Reagan was a uniquely effective leader and one of the most remarkably gifted Presidents in our nation’s history.

photo credit: brucefong photography

The grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley were warmly welcoming.  All of our now adult children joined us for this first-time experience.  Our first grandchild added a lot of joy to this visit.

It was breathtaking to take in the expanse of the 100 acre mountainous Southern California setting.  The land for this special memorial center was a private donation.  We paused several times to enjoy the vistas before we ever entered the library.

Our family gathered around the elevated bronze sculpture of President Reagan that greeted all guests.  His cheerful smile made me smile with all of the confidence that he poured into his leadership of our great land.  I remember the confidence that I hoped my children would someday sense as young Americans.

Inside of the museum we sat down to view a welcome video with words spoken by Ronald Reagan himself.  He told us of his intentions when he first stepped into the office of the President of the United States.  They were historic inspiring words.

His hope was to restore the American spirit.  He knew that the problems facing the USA were grave.  Our national economy was in trouble.

American morale was dangerously low.  Hope in the American dream was waning. Our national election gave Ronald Reagan our trust to change things back to the exceptionalism that was woven into the very fabric of this great country.

At the inauguration ceremony Reagan’s swearing in was done using his mother’s Bible.  Today that Bible is encased in the library opened up to 2 Chronicles 7.14  ”If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal the land.”

His mother inscribed in her Bible a thought for the day: ”You can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small.”  Did she have some inclination that this would help chart the course for her son?  It is a valuable piece of wisdom for any who would enter a position of notoriety and influence.

With every display and around every corner there were insights into what made this man into a remarkable leader.   Reagan would realign America with the great blessings in its founding.  He would also influence the world to find a better course toward peace.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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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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There is a special wall in the Oval Office of our Nation’s White House.  A tradition has followed one U.S. President after the next.  Both parties have found a common ground with the decoration on this wall.

Each elected president is welcome to change the portrait.  It is reserved for the past president that most inspires the current president as he assumes the duties of the most powerful office in the world.  This portrait is a reminder that all are human, all need inspiration from others and that great leaders are standing on the shoulders of others.

One of the most popular portraits has been Abraham Lincoln.  This portrait hung in the White House as an inspiration for President George W. Bush.  The 43rd President of the United States drew from the inspiration of this historic figure.

Lincoln certainly had his share of historical challenges.  The Civil War threatened to tear the nation apart.  Opinionated politicians on both sides of the war fragmented into local factions.

There was no shortage of animus that surrounded Lincoln.  He had to be courageous, shrewd and faithful.  Morals drove him.  Passion fueled him.  Faith directed him.

History paints him as an honest man.  He was honest to a fault.  Whether in public or private he chose not just a cliché to dictate his public leadership but genuine choices.

Once he was the postmaster of a small out-of-the-way post office.  He received word that budget restraints forced the decision to close several post offices around the nation.  His was one of them.

The end date of operations for his little post office was certain.  Lincoln complied precisely.  During his shut down of the office and locking it down, he set aside the remaining funds of a few dollars and some change.

Years later when the post master General caught up with each of the closures, he was pleasantly surprised that Lincoln handed over all of the proper paper work and the exact sum of several dollars and change that was rightfully the property of the US Government.  It had been years between the closure and the accounting.  That integrity followed Lincoln throughout his civil service and political years.

Leaders must be honest.  Every leader doing anything worth doing will run into opposition.  The truth will always be the best course.

Once the bad ones are left to history, the honest leaders will ultimately prevail.  Their success is never determined by their manipulation but by God’s directive grace.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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 12-14
Part 2 of 6

We all make decisions that end up being determinative in our lives. These decisions are the result of choices that we make. Some times these are agreements others are partnerships and still others are unilateral promises.

God leads us into challenging situations in life. When He does we must be ready. Decisions and choices will meet us. Wisdom to choose well and complete any steps of obedience will be essential to faithful living.

Over the years I have taught many students. I make them a promise that no matter where they are or what happens in their lives, if they are hurting and need someone I will be there. They can call me or come and see and I will help them.

Whenever that call has come I have answered. It calls for some immediate decisions and choices but God has always been faithful through helping those in need. Tough moments have come along with those cries for help, but God’s mercy has always been a part of those moments to come alongside someone in need.

More later…

Joshua 12-14
Part 1 of 6

A traveling salesman was on a routine drive through his Southwestern region.  His territory included the vast and sparsely populated area of New Mexico.  During his journey from one population center to the next, he spies a lonely Native American woman walking along the highway.

Not only was it odd to see anyone walking in the harsh desert, the notion of a woman walking alone was very curious.  As he drew closer, he was even more surprised that she had a burden.  In her arms she was carrying a saddle.

He pulls over and offers her a ride.  She climbs in and after a few moments he comments, “That is a very nice saddle.”
“Thank you…got for husband.”
Smiling while running her hands on the finely tooled leather works she nodded and then continued, “… good trade.”

More later…

 

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