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Faculty/Staff Kickoff

Fall 2006 State of the University Address

Transformed and Surrendered to Live a God First Life continued

Let me tell you about one of the students in my Walk About group that didn’t help me in the morning when I hit Kenny with a rock. Jeff is an amazing guy. He’s got a big beard and a heart for the world that you can hardly imagine. He spent the summer in South Africa on one of our trips and went through an absolute transformational experience because of a South African pastor who took the time to explain what it means to live God First. What it means to place everything you have and are in God’s hands. This is how he explained it to Jeff. He said, take a blank piece of paper and write your name on it and then tell God that, regardless of what He puts on that paper, your name remains. Think about this for a minute. We’ve talked about this idea of transformation, and our call to live as God-First people is really moving from a head knowledge about Christ. But head knowledge is not enough. I have a friend who supports both APU and Notre Dame. He called me a month ago and said, “Jon, you are a failure as president.” I love this guy, he’s really encouraging. He said, let me tell you what they do at Notre Dame. When you come to Notre Dame you accept the Notre Dame mission in life. That strong, faith-based, Catholic community says to you, you’re going to come here. This is where we’re going and your life will never be the same. Well, let me tell you something, when you come to Azusa Pacific University, your life will never be the same. We have a bunch of students and parents coming tomorrow and I’m going to start spreading that message, God First. You want to know what God First in excellence looks like? Walk through the art display in the hall between Stamp’s Theological Library and the Department of Art and see what our faculty and students have done. Do you want to know what God First means in terms of excellence in service? Talk to Randy Burke on the grounds sometime and find out why he gives sacrificially to make this place look as it does. Do you want to know what God First looks like in your life? Talk to Lane Scott about the journey he made with his wife and the student’s lives that were impacted because he modeled what it meant to put God First in everything.

I was thinking the other day, what is there that I could not put before God first before I made a decision. I made this long list; I got down to pouring a cup of coffee. Could I pour a cup of coffee before consulting God? You know, probably not. If, in fact, I’m working through slaying the dragon of selfishness, which is really what I think Jesus Christ came to save us from in our sinful state, then everything in my life ought to be able to be God First. I ought to be able to say, what would I do if I’m putting this before God before I make that decision?

So here’s what I’m asking you: the same thing I challenged those 19 people at the retreat as well as myself. I said I’m going to talk to the faculty and staff at the KickOff evening and I’m going to ask them to write their names and be willing to live a surrendered life regardless of what God puts next to it: illness, financial challenge, angry students and parents, disappointment, fear, failure, and the good stuff too. Every single day, I’ll make the decision. Am I going to lead a surrendered life or am I going to lead something else? I said if you can sign up for that, don’t call me back, but if you can’t let me know by Wednesday, because I’m talking to them Thursday, and I won’t include your name on the list. No pressure. Yeah right, I read all the names on the list. You know what happened? A few days ago, people started dropping of papers at my office with their name on it. I told them they didn’t have to do that. Ilene Bezjian came sprinting up the stairs. I could hear her say to Marilyn, “Give this to Jon. Here’s my signature.”

The call to God First is a call to leave your name regardless of what Christ puts by it. I have, over the years, taken some heat for the life-changing, transformational things I have given at this banquet. I still remember many of the emails that Dr. Jon Milhon so kindly sent my way after that powerful flashlight that does nothing but light up like a flame or something. Last year though, that iron heart was pretty good. They had the names of students, and that wasn’t that bad. Here’s the thing, I hike with Jon Milhon Tuesday and Thursday mornings and, as this day approaches, I take a lot of heat for that first flashlight that was a pretty big failure. I have let Jon know that there is absolutely no way he can speak out against what you’re getting tonight and it goes back to my journey with cancer. I have never been so humbled as when I received notes from around the country and the world and all of you saying you’re praying for me. When the surgery was scheduled, Jon, and Shino Simmons, and David Peck tied prayer chords on their wrists and said we will keep this until you’re fully recovered and hiked to the top of the hill as we do everyday for prayer. But for the three months I wasn’t hiking, I was trying to make it to the stop sign and back. I am deeply grateful for those three and their support through that journey.Your gift tonight is inspired by something my main accountability partner, president of HomeWord Jim Burns, sent me: the One Year Bible. The nice thing about the One Year Bible is you can pick it up and start it at any point. When I began reading, I realized what it meant to live surrendered. My mornings became incredibly blessed. This morning, I read Job’s response to God the creator. I don’t usually read out of Job, it’s a depressing book, but it was amazing. So, not only could we drill down on Romans 12, but maybe, as a community 10-15 minutes a day, we could go through the year in God’s Word together, beginning tomorrow. What might He do if our name would remain and we would live a surrendered life?

I am deeply grateful to be a part of this community. My hope for where God is leading this university is higher than it has ever been. I wish I could share with you all of the exciting possibilities that sit on the corner of my desk, and I’m waiting to see how God is going to deliver. I believe this: if we live a surrendered life, a God First life, and carry it into the transformation of our students in the classroom, and the residence halls, and the mall, someday in heaven, God will point his finger to these times and say, thank you. Thank you for promoting who I am in Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. Blessings be with you.

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