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Ark. governor returns to seminary on Veterans Day

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus — and governor of Arkansas — Mike Huckabee returned to the seminary’s Fort Worth, Texas, campus to speak in chapel Nov. 11.

As commander-in-chief of the Arkansas Army National Guard, Huckabee said he wanted to pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who have served and continue to serve in the armed forces of the United States.

“It is a special day in our country,” Huckabee said in his Veterans Day message. “And today we honor an extraordinary people who are ordinary in every way until they are willing to accept the call of this nation to put on a uniform and follow their orders under the flag … and many have done more than simply served. They have ultimately sacrificed, if not their very lives, then their limbs. And if not their physical bodies, they have sacrificed their time away from family and friends.”

Arkansas currently has more than 4,300 of its 11,000 National Guard personnel deployed in support and combat roles. In fact, there is no state in America that has a higher percentage of its guardsmen on active duty. Not one soldier asked to stay home, Huckabee said.

“They were trained for this, for a time of war, and sometimes you’ll hear debate coming out of Washington about what happens if there is a war. But soldiers have no such luxury. Soldiers do not speculate on what happens if there is a war. They focus on what happens if there is not a war. Will there be continued tyranny … and continued violation of the most basic human rights? Will there be increasing genocide?

“Sometimes the only way to respond to the harshest human suffering is military action to stop the aggression before it becomes even worse. So today, we honor the peacemakers.”

Huckabee said Jesus did not say that peace-lovers would be blessed, but rather that those who made peace would receive a blessing as sons of God. And there is a real difference between the two, he said.

“Every single person in a uniform today is a peace-lover, but more importantly he is a peacemaker. And he knows far more about making peace and hating war than all the protesters ever will.”

Veterans Day is a time to honor American soldiers, Huckabee said, but it also is a day for believers to renew their own commitment as soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Citing the Apostle Paul’s frequent use of military metaphors to teach about Christian commitment and what it means to suffer, serve and sacrifice for the faith, Huckabee said some people in the church still misunderstand the role of a Christian soldier.

“I remember thinking in my first pastorate that what God wanted me to do as a minister in that church was to be the captain of a warship, building an army of believers to go and fight the forces of evil … to strengthen homes and families and rescue our children from oblivion. But I later found out that many people in their pews were not interested in their pastor being the captain of a battleship leading them to battle. The expectation was the captain of a love boat making sure they had a good time.

“The greatest curse today upon 21st century Christianity is that many people sitting in the pew have not enlisted as a soldier in service to Jesus Christ. What they are really interested in is whether [their] kids will have better youth trips than the ones down the road…. [A]nyone who thinks serving Jesus Christ is an easy task has never served Jesus Christ.”

A true soldier of Christ not only learns to suffer hardships, but he learns to sever himself from civilian affairs, Huckabee said.

“I have never heard of a soldier who got to boot camp and asked his commanding officer if his old buddies could come and spend the weekend … or if his mother could come and fix his breakfast and make his bed.

“In the military one must sever those relationships. And if someone is going to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ one must learn to sever whatever hinders the mission God’s called you to. Anything or anyone that keeps you from serving Jesus Christ has to be severed … your relationships and your rights,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee also challenged a false model of leadership that emphasizes position and authority over service

“Serving Christ is not a ticket to an executive position. One thing that horrifies me that I’ve seen as a trend in ministry is that the purpose of a pastor or church leader is to be the boss or a CEO. But I still subscribe to the idea that being called of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to be called as a servant, not as a boss, but as one who takes orders from the boss,” Huckabee said.

Christ gives to each of his soldiers the resources they need to accomplish the mission, Huckabee said. In fact, he gives them a very precious resource in His name.

Several months ago a young woman breached the security doors in the executive offices of the governor. She made her way hurriedly through two locked doors, passed by every security officer and within moments was standing behind the governor at his desk demanding money. What normally would have been a major concern for the state troopers assigned to protect the governor went without any notice or response.

“Some of you are wondering if the young woman is in jail, or did they arrest her? No, they didn’t because the young woman was my 21-year-old daughter … and she can have access like no other person in that office because she has my name,” Huckabee said.

The governor concluded his chapel message with an appeal for students to live their lives and minister with one focus alone: to please the One who enlisted them as soldiers for the faith.

Huckabee said that he did not make plans to enter politics when he was in seminary. He simply wanted to please the Lord in whatever he had been called to do, he said. At times, maintaining the desire to please the Lord was difficult.

“I literally came to Fort Worth with two $15 polyester suits and two pairs of shoes…. We lived on soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the first six months after we got here.”

Huckabee reflected on the times he would make his way to one of the seminary prayer rooms and find himself asking God to remember him.

“I wondered if God knew I was here. A lot of you wonder that same thing. Does God know I’m here? Does He know I’m preparing? Is He interested in knowing that I really do want to serve Him? As I can tell you from many years down the path, if you will make yourself available He will make you able.”

But God alone is able to determine the path that each minister follows, Huckabee said. “If I had prescribed the path for myself, I would not have been introduced as a governor today. It was not exactly where I thought I was going to end up.”

Others were surprised he was twice elected governor as well. In the state of Arkansas, Huckabee said there are still some people who are skeptical of an ordained Baptist minister in the highest executive office. There are even some who are critical of his Christian commitments.

“The first thing we did when I was elected was to rid the governor’s mansion of all the alcohol. We’d never had it in our home, and we don’t intend to now. That was a controversy you may well remember. People thought we had turned off the water in central Arkansas. And I guess for some people who had lived [in the mansion] we probably had,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee received two standing ovations from the seminary community during the course of his chapel message, and after the service presented a proclamation of appreciation for Southwestern Seminary and the role the school plays in preparing men and women for ministry in Arkansas. He said that speaking in chapel at Southwestern was one of the greatest honors of his life.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CITING A SIMILARITY.

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  • Benjamin S. Cole