Fall 2004 State of the University Address
Be Transformed continued
At the core of Azusa Pacific University’s mission statement lies the belief that a community of disciples and scholars come together for the purpose of transformation. Both of those words – disciples and scholars – paint the picture of a journey of transformational change. In Romans 12:2, Paul builds this journey of transformation on a renewed mind and says it is the exact opposite of the world’s pattern. Paul says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In fact, again in Philippians 2:5, Paul says that we are to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus. The effect of spiritual transformation is evidenced when our mind looks and responds like the mind of Christ. But for what purpose?
History reveals many examples of communities that came together under spiritual disciplines and holy living, primarily so they could live apart and separate without the influence of the world around them. God does not call APU to follow that path. The transformational journey of disciples and scholars opens the door for God to renew His image in our minds and in our hearts so that we can impact our world through our very engagement in it.
As a beginning point to our APU experience, all of us – every faculty, staff, administrator, and Board of Trustees member – confessed in common Christ as Lord and Savior. Each of us willingly professed that we have joined a transformation of self empowerment by the living God – He in us and we in Him. We recognize that the university’s mission is built on the strong belief that God, in His power, works through us to transform our students. We are obedient and open to the work of God in our life, so that through us, His transformation can affect our students. God uses a transformed self to then transform students. But God’s redemptive vision does not stop there.
The transformation of a lost and dying world – the transformation of our society – is the third step of this process. God utilizes our transformed faculty and staff in the transformation of our students to bring about His act of transformation in our world. Self, students, and world – that is our picture of transformation.
This work often happens through the purification of God’s fire. Max Lucado describes it as being on the anvil – that painful but necessary process where we are shaped by the hands of God – willingly submitting to His work in our life, so that His reflection might be seen in all we say and do. Or more accurately, so that His reflection will be seen in our love for Him and others. This process most often occurs when we least expect it, and often through pain and loss when we least want it.
Several days ago, I got an email from my son, David, who is studying this semester in Lithuania. He’s a senior this year, a double major in business and religion. And because in our family we view cross cultural study as very important, he looked at all his options and settled on study at a Christian university in this Baltic country, still emerging from the harsh conditions of more than 50 years of Soviet rule. Not unlike many of our students, he had some concerns. Somewhere near the top of the list was food. In his email to me, he described moving into his room where he will share space with three other Slavic students, including the resident advisor, a student from Latvia. David asked him about food, confessing that he was a little anxious and wondered what this student generally ate. The student replied, “I eat boiled potatoes because that is all I can afford.” In his email, David talked about that sudden “aha” moment of transformation, where he realized he was conditioned to think about food in terms of enjoyment, while God gave him a roommate who thought about food as survival. Another crack of transformation, which I am certain will grow even wider, has emerged in my son, one of our APU students.
The craft of pottery presents a unique reminder of the call of God on our lives to perfect His will through the transformation we are in. Witness cones measure the effect of time and heat when firing a pot in a kiln. They consist of three “cones” aligned in a row on a clay base. The potter brings glaze and clay together in some useful shape, and then must fire it at exactly the right temperature. In the door of the kiln there is a small and very thick glass window. Because the temperature inside the kiln can vary, the witness cones are placed as near as possible to the pot to be fired, and then observed by the potter through the window. The three cones all melt at different temperatures.
The first cone, called the guide cone, is the coolest and the first to melt. The second, called the firing cone, is the cone number recommended to the artist for the kind of clay and glaze used. When it begins to bend, optimum time and temperature has been reached. The final cone, called the guard cone, is one cone-number hotter, and is a reminder to the potter not to allow the internal temperature of the kiln to damage the pot. If this cone begins to bend, the pot is in danger of damage through cracks or a deconstructed glaze.
About a month ago, I asked Peggy Hunker who works in my office, to find a way to provide a witness cone for everyone in attendance tonight. Un-fired cones were stacked in university kilns and fired until they bent. We decided that we liked the outcome of lots of different kinds of cones, melted at many different temperatures according to where they were placed in the kiln.
Some of you have cones that perfectly fit the description I gave: guide cone melted, firing cone bent, guard cone erect. A perfect example of staying in God’s fire, in exactly the way and for exactly the time He has called you. Others of you have cones that show little or no change, evidence of perhaps the greatest temptation we all face: that of leaving the firing when it gets uncomfortable – too hot to handle. Some of you have cones where are all three are completely melted. These represent those who are not prepared to move when God says move or change when God says change. Because of fear or comfort they stay in the hot fire and become useless for His purposes.
I would like you to place these fired witness cones, (guide cone, firing cone, and guard cone) on your desk or near your place of work as a reminder that we are called both into personal transformation and to be a part of God’s transformation in the lives of our students and our society. All of us go through seasons inside God’s kiln. His fire burns for exactly the right amount of time at exactly the right temperature. It is for us to determine which one of those witness cones measures our obedience. If it gets too hot we exit early; if we experience the fear of failure or if we cannot leave our comfort zone, we stay way too long; if we are responsive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting we lean into His work of transformation and the image of Christ grows up in us – in our mind and in all we say and do.
This willingness to stay in the fire has been powerfully demonstrated to me
in the life of my father, who is in God’s furnace of cancer. As I have
watched him move with patience, resolve, and faith, I’m reminded that
it is his obedient journey in the hands of his loving God that is working continued
transformation in his life. He is modeling for me what it means to stay in the
fire, even when I think it’s unfair or unreasonable or wrong.