“Well Congratulations! I know great potential lies in your future, it is there for you to claim,” President Paul Larson declared as he greeted the newest NHS members during Wednesday’s chapel induction ceremony. He quickly noted that although he’s not in high school any longer, he has been a student most of his life. From high school, President Larson went on to CLB Bible School, graduated from Rocky Mountain College, and earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Brethren Seminary. After recounting memories of those school days, some good and some bad, President Larson proudly told the student body, “I overcame, and became who I am today.”
Moving into his message, President Larson invited the students, faculty, parents - the countless eyes and ears of the room - to his secret to success, happiness, and fulfillment of life. With much anticipation building in the room he repeated four letters, “OOTM.” Teasing the audience as to its meaning, President Larson enlightened the group following a series of snide comments and winks from his left eye. Only one thing matters, OOTM. He prompted everyone to figure out what that one thing is, but told the students that for the Larson family the only one thing that matters is to be in a saving relationship with Christ.
He then painted a picture of all the great things he hopes his children would achieve. After a laundry list of hopes and dreams he paused, and slowly hit students with reality. The only thing that really matters is their relationship to God. He focused his address back to the NHS members and acknowledged the great potential they each hold. “In the end, in the beginning, only, one, thing, matters.” He went on to tell everyone they truly have a choice between idolatry or God, encouraging the latter. Our achievements in academics, sports, work, and beyond can either be used for worship and dedication to God, or they become idols themselves. Once again, President Larson reminded the students, only one thing matters.
Addressing his children, Karina and Nate, and his nephews, Jake, Sam, and Danny, he looked to each of them saying he would trade all things for them to have a relationship with God. He referred to Isaiah 44:3-5. Then, taking a stroll down memory lane, he painted the picture of his brother and sister-in-laws’ graduation from Biola University. He recalled Dr. James Dobson as the speaker, sharing in great detail the graduation scene. Students in black graduation caps; thousands that sat before Dr. Dobson. President Larson recalled points from the address and the impact of Dobson's delivery, that sticks with President Larson to this day. And then, slowly, President Larson leaned forward, mimicking the stance that Dobson took on the stage at Biola. The words that President Larson next spoke were verbatim words Dr. Dobson spoke directly to his son, Ryan, who was graduating from Biola at the time. Picking out Ryan from the crowd, Dobson looked at his son and simply said “Be there.” To this day, that remains with President Larson, and those words cut like a knife through the pomp and circumstance of the NHS induction, calling students to know Christ and in response make Him known.