Fall 2008 President's Dinner Message
Fall 2008 President's Dinner - 9/26/08
Listen to the recorded version here:
He Who Began a Good Work…
Good evening. As you know, I stand before you as the 12th President of Northwest Nazarene University. I assure you, I am keenly aware of the weight and responsibility of this high honor. Fortunately, I am equally aware of the fact that I do not stand alone. Look around. Assembled here are people who share in the mission and success of NNU.
Consequently, if I may paraphrase Yogi Berra, there are some things I want to say, before I say the things I came to say.
The first thing I would like to say is thank you!
Joel Pearsall and UA
Alumni and friends
Second, I would like to introduce our new Vice President for Financial Affairs, Mr. Dave Peterson and his wife Linda.
Thirdly, I would like to highlight the wonderful days being enjoyed by Northwest Nazarene University.
Record Enrollment, Largest Freshmen Class
Science Building, Science giving (Soccer, sculpture garden/fountain)
Centennial Master Plan
Resources—89 President Associates--$1000 or more to the University Fund, 389 members of the Centennial Club—making NNU a part of their estate plans, 406 named endowments.
For all of these generosities and accomplishments we give thanks to God, and to you, for you have stood with NNU across the years. It is because of God and you that I selected this evening’s theme — He Who Began a Good Work…, for truly, God continues to bless us through you.
The Story of God & His People
Now it is time to turn our attention to what lies ahead. As you might imagine, Presidential Search Committees, early faculty gatherings, Foundation Directors’ meetings and soon to be held Board of Trustee sessions all wonder about and have a stake in the future of Northwest Nazarene University. In fact, in my new role as president, the question I am most frequently asked is, what is your vision for NNU? The temptation is great for me to rush to answer that question. After all, isn’t vision casting one of the primary roles of a leader? Yet, as much as I would like to address the multi-layered concept of vision, I have repeatedly felt checked. There is something that needs to be said first. Before we gather to say, “this is where we are going”, I am first compelled to say, “this is who we are”, more explicitly, “this is whose we are.”
I stand before you this evening to declare, this is God’s place. The story of NNU and her people is in reality the story of God and His people. This is where to begin. We start with God, to learn of Him and listen for Him. From this place and this posture, vision will emerge, then we will follow. This evening, in order to properly underscore our institutional spirit, I want to highlight two episodes in the lives of God’s people, the people of Israel, and relate them to NNU; first, Samuel the prophet, then, David the King.
Samuel & Ebenezer
We all remember certain elements of the life and times of Samuel the prophet, called by God early in life to serve Him and Him alone. Able to hear the word of the Lord, Samuel became God’s prophet, a voice for God among His people. Across the span of his life, Samuel was used by God to point His children to God. Unfortunately, on more than one occasion, the people of Israel lost sight of God and withdrew their allegiance to Him. Repeatedly, Samuel called them back to God. In one particularly telling chapter in First Samuel we read how the people of Israel misused the Ark of the Covenant to achieve their own ends. Consequently, this sacred symbol of the presence of God in the midst of His people was captured by the Philistines. Samuel steps forward and calls upon the people to return to the Lord, to forsake the idols they have been worshiping, to direct their hearts to the Lord and to serve Him and him alone. The people of Israel repent, cry out to the Lord and He hears their plea and answers.
As a result of this act of obedience, the Ark of the Covenant is returned to God’s people and their Philistine oppressors are defeated. Samuel is careful to direct the victory celebration toward God. You will recall that Samuel gathered a stone to serve as a symbol of God’s help and faithfulness to His people. He called this stone of remembrance, Ebenezer, for it symbolized the Hand of the Lord helping His people. Samuel wanted to create a visual reminder for the people, that the goodness they experienced was directly related to the Hand of God upon them and their faithful allegiance to Him. He was and is the God who listens, guides, supplies and delivers. For generations, the Ebenezer, the Stone of Help, highlighted the action of God on behalf of His people. Restoration and help was from the Lord. Given by Him to the obedient people who earnestly sought Him. Every time a child passed the Ebenezer, that great stone of remembrance, their parents would tell them the story of the Lord’s help. On more than one occasion, and across many generations, the people of Israel had to learn, and relearn, the lesson of seeking God first, the Ebenezer served as a continuing reminder of a faithful God, ready and willing to guide and help a faithful people.
NNU & Ebenezer
As I said earlier, the story of NNU and her people, is in reality the story of God and His people. We serve and seek the God of Israel, for He has extended His love and grace to us His children. Furthermore, He has called us to be salt and light and leaven in the Treasure Valley, the Northwest and around the world. Time and again, God has blessed Northwest Nazarene University, as those who have gone before us have earnestly sought and served the Lord. You see, much like Samuel and the people of Israel, we have stones of Ebenezer in our story. It was only last April that many of you gathered here to remember the legacy and impact of Richard Hagood, eleventh president of NNU. In effect, you engaged in a time of Ebenezer, a time to remember the faithfulness of God, to celebrate His help, both seen and unseen.
My friends, the history of NNU is marked by stones of remembrance, signifying God’s direction, help and sufficiency. Allow me to describe the landscape of Ebenezer in the living history of NNU:
1913, Eugene Emerson answers God’s leading and founds Idaho Holiness College
1916, H. Orton Wiley, NNU’s first president
First baccalaureate degrees
Establishes our mission and our motto to “seek ye first the kingdom of God”, and crafts our theology
1926, J. G. Morrison, second president
Samaritan Hospital is established reflecting our desire to serve those in need
1927, Russell V. DeLong, third president
College received first level of accreditation
1932, R. E. Gilmore, fourth president
God sustains NNU throughout the Great Depression
1935, Russell DeLong, returns as the fifth president
Accreditation as four year college
1942, Lewis Corlett, sixth president
Post WWII, sense of momentum and revival
Buildings such as Williams, Science
1952, John E. Riley, seventh president
Specialized accreditation, NNU reaches new levels of size and accomplishment
Residence Halls, Student Center, Library
1973, Kenneth Pearsall, eighth president
Masters degree offered, residence halls house significant growth
1983, Gordon Wetmore, ninth president
75th anniversary celebration
1993, Leon Doane, tenth president
1994, Richard Hagood, eleventh president
Kurtz Park, Brandt Center, Helstrom Business Center, Johnson Sports Center, soon to be completed Thomas Family Health & Science Center
Each of these seasons was etched by the Hand of God, working through His obedient children. Therefore, we pause to give thanks, to rejoice in His faithfulness from generation to generation, and to say to ourselves and to God, like them, we will seek You first.
David Inquired of the Lord
Allow me to further underscore this commitment by returning to the world of Samuel. Let us turn our attention to the young boy that Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed as King. I’m referring, of course, to David the Shepherd King. David is an often studied character, filled with contradictions and frailties, yet he was a man after God’s own heart. Tonight, I want to highlight one of the David’s key character traits, exhibited throughout his life, seen first in his encounter with Goliath. You recall the scene; David has consented to fight Goliath, Saul the King has attempted to “prepare” David for battle, offering to equip him with the finest in worldly armor. Yet David refuses Saul’s offer and instead arms himself with sling and stone and approaches the giant. Goliath, the most powerful warrior the world had to offer, mocks the young shepherd. Yet before David let fly with the stone, he stakes his claim not on his might or his power or his cunning. He declares to Goliath and the Philistines, and perhaps more importantly, to the people of Israel, “the Lord will deliver you up into my hands… that all the earth may know, that there is a God in Israel”. I Sam. 17: 46. The stone flew and Goliath fell. David prevailed because of God. David sought God; on many occasions we hear him say, I will not act “until I know what God will do for me.” I Sam. 22: 3.
David was not the first King of Israel. Samuel the prophet had first anointed Saul. Yet Saul had lost sight of the fact that it was God who blessed his rule. Saul began to make his own plans and then go to God, testing God, saying, “perhaps the Lord will work for us.” I Sam. 14: 6. The self-serving schemes of Saul’s own crafting proved to be his undoing. He repeatedly sought God’s involvement and approval after his plans had been made and his schemes had been laid. Because Saul turned from God and did not seek God first, Saul lost the favor of God.
David, on the other hand, in the midst of all his human frailties and shortcomings, consistently sought the Lord. Throughout his reign we read of episode after episode where “David inquired of the Lord.” It is a frequent theme of the writer telling Israel’s story. When considering whether or not to do battle, David inquired of the Lord. When seeking guidance, David inquired of the Lord. When seeking to build the temple, David inquired of the Lord. David understood that the success of his reign as God’s chosen one was directly linked to the Hand of God, not the hand of man. Repeatedly David inquired of the Lord and repeatedly, God was faithful to guide and provide. God’s guidance and sufficiency were David’s source of strength, refuge and blessing.
NNU Inquires of the Lord
My friends, there is much to decide in the months ahead. Buildings to plan. Programs to develop and refine. Resources to gather. Capacities to increase. Endowments to grow. A Centennial to celebrate. In the midst of all this we must remember that the God of David is the God of the people who call themselves Northwest Nazarene University. Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you this evening to declare; we are and shall be a people who seek the Lord. This is the posture and perspective in which we shall live and move and have our being. Just as David, we shall inquire of the Lord in all we do, say and are. For you see, as we seek Him, we keep covenant with Him, and in seeking and serving Him, we fulfill our mission and live out our motto—Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God!
As we engage in this exciting process we must remember that we are presented with a tremendous opportunity for growth, impact and success, but this opportunity can easily become a temptation. In our zeal to grow and prosper we must be ever vigilant to keep God first. The higher education landscape is overpopulated with institutions which once proclaimed Christ, but who now gauge their worth by the standards of the world and the secular academy. I declare to you this day, if we succeed in the eyes of the world and the academy, yet fail to keep Christ central we have failed our forefathers and our Father.
Our challenge is not only to grow and remain vital—fiscally and programmatically—our primary challenge is to seek to keep God central in the hearts of who we are: our trustees, our faculty, our students, our curriculum, our foundation, and you—our alumni and friends. The life of Saul is our cautionary tale. The heart of David is our God-centered guide. We must order and plan for the university as God’s people.
He Who Began a Good Work…
As our time together draws to a close, hear the words of the Apostle Paul:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.
For I am confident of this very thing,
That He who began a good work in you,
Will be faithful to complete it in you until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil 1: 3-6
It is my earnest desire to serve as NNU’s President in such a manner that people know that Northwest Nazarene University is God’s school. NNU exists because of the Hand of God. NNU is His doing. He began this good work. For 95 years He has continued His work. And now, with our centennial on the horizon, we have this opportunity to declare to God and to one another, that we are His, and that NNU is His.
Watch this video with me:
A bright future awaits Northwest Nazarene University!
NNU is poised to step into her second century,
Ready to serve her students, her church, the Northwest and the world.
As He has been for 95 years, God will be faithful,
But we must seek Him.
As He has before, God will show the way,
But we must follow Him.
As in generations past, God will provide for these His children,
But we have a special role to play.
It’s important for us to realize,
His will for NNU includes us.
He’s calling you and me to join Him.
NNU will thrive as we seek and serve, pray and dream and give.
Our faithful God,
Calls out for His faithful people.
NNU exists to show these young people, and hundreds like them,
the way to the Father.
God will be faithful.
He wants to continue to do a good work among us.
He has more in store for NNU’s future
Than we can ask or imagine.
Now it is our turn.
It is our time.
Thank you for your faithfulness in joining us on this exciting journey of faith!
Tonight has not been a time to celebrate accomplishments as much as it has been a time to remember God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of those who have gone before. Now it is our turn to participate in the gospel. I covet your prayers and your partnership as together we seek the Lord. I accept this role, knowing that God used people, not just presidents, to build NNU. Ebenezers stand because of faithful people who earnestly sought the Lord; they are the backbone of NNU’s story.
This generation is no different. As together we seek the Lord, God will bless us, in ways known and unknown. And in time, in the midst of the seeking and the serving and the sacrificing we will look up and say to one another, He has helped us in ways beyond our imagining. Then it will be time to gather stones of remembrance. Then it will be time to raise an Ebenezer for this age.
Right now, one of the NNU students at your table would like to give you a gift. It is given to you as a token of our gratitude for all you have done for NNU. Yet it has another function. This gift is shaped like a stone. It is meant to serve as a reminder to us all, of Samuel and David and Wiley and Riley and Corlett and Hagood and hundreds of laypeople and alumni and civic leaders and friends of the university.
Here is what I believe. One day, you and I will look back and survey the shadow of NNU’s presence and influence and see the Hand of God. At that time, we will gather together to give Him praise, and honor, and glory. And God willing, we will then place our stones of remembrance upon the Ebenezer of this generation. And together we will sing:
He who began a good work in you,
He who began a good work in you,
Will be faithful to complete it,
Will be faithful to complete it,
He who started the work will be faithful to complete it in you.