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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Approval Ratings

We live in a world that is obsessed with approval.

I saw this morning that President Obama's approval numbers are slipping. No doubt his staff is scrambling to do some serious image adjustment in the weeks to come. If you watched the Master's golf tournament last weekend, you know how concerned Tiger Woods was about the reaction of the crowds and whether or not he would get their approval. If only he had been so concerned about keeping his wife's approval! Around the country, high school seniors are waiting for word of approval from their college or university of choice. They are asking the question- am I good enough for you?

In this culture of approval, we can easily transfer this question to God. We wonder- God, do you approve of me? There's a passage in the New Testament where God voices his unqualified approval of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 3, Jesus is baptized by John, and as they are coming up out of the water, God says, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy!" What an amazing declaration of God's affirmation towards his son.

What is interesting to note about this scene is how much Jesus had NOT done at this point in his life. As far as we know, Jesus had never preached a single message, never healed a single person, and he didn't have a single follower. It was just Him- a carpenter from Nazareth with nothing on his resume. AND YET, this is the very time when God expresses His approval of Jesus. God approved of Jesus not because of what He had done, but because of who he was. Simply put, God loved and approved of Jesus because he was God's son.

This has tremendous meaning for you and I. You see, the Bible says that when we follow Jesus, we become sons and daughters of God. It also says that Jesus calls us his brothers and sisters. We are so connected to Jesus that what can be said of God's heart towards him can also be said of us! Apart from anything we have (or haven't) ever done, before we accomplish anything of real significance or value, God looks at His children- at us- and says, "This is my son. This is my daughter. I love them dearly, and they bring me great joy."

Have you ever thought of that? You bring God great joy. Not because of how much you can do for Him, but simply because you belong to Him. And when we grasp this truth, it can change the way we live. No longer do we run into the world at a feverish pitch trying to get God to like us and approve of us. He already does. So we can move out intentionally into our world as people who are approved by God Himself. When we know that approval, we truly have something to offer the world around us.

Affirmation always precedes mission.

May you know God's approval on your journey today-

Nick

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Rest of the Story

This weekend at our Easter Service, I shared the story of when I totaled a Montana State Highway Patrol Truck. If you'd like to hear how that happened, you can go and listen to the sermon on our website. It's a pretty good story!

But I had several people ask about how the story ended. So, here goes...

When our car came to a stop, I sat in the silence wondering what to do next. I didn't have to wonder long as I heard people shouting in our direction, "Don't move! Don't move!" I guess our car looked pretty bad and they were concerned about serious injury. One of the ambulances approaching the scene had stopped right near our car and the EMT's jumped out and began peppering me with questions about my name, age, etc. I made the mistake of complaining that my neck felt tight, and I was immediately put in a neck brace and escorted to the waiting ambulance for my first and only ride in one.

My sister had been sleeping in the back seat of the car, but the personnel on hand assumed that she had been thrown into that position. They ended up cutting off the entire roof of our car with jaws of life so that they could carefully lift her out and not further any damage she may have sustained. We were both taken to the hospital where we had multiple x-rays and tests run, which all came back negative. We were fine. We were sore, banged up and bruised, but okay.

Before I left the hospital (we were put up in a local hotel for the night until our parents could come and pick us up), I was informed that the state patrol was charging me with reckless driving. They didn't seem to care that another car had cut in front of me at 45 MPH- which was clearly the cause of the accident in my mind- or that the entire freeway in that section was nothing but black ice. They were more concerned with my speed (72 MPH) and the fact that I had totaled their precious truck. Did I mention that a post from the fence, which the truck went through, had gone up through the floorboard and ruined all the radio equipment? Yeah, they were not happy. About $25,000 in damages on that vehicle. I don't think my parents insurance company was very happy either.

My parents came and picked us up the next morning. They were grateful to have their children alive, and never once did my Dad make me feel guilty about wrecking his car. They were wonderful models of love and care that morning. We drove over together to look at the car- the mangled mess made me feel incredibly blessed to be walking upright that day.

So, minus a nice, reliable car and a few days of recuperation, the only lasting effects of the crash were a lot of memories and one great sermon illustration. Ten days later my sister and I were both in Florida playing for our college basketball teams. Life went on, but every time I reflect on that night, I am grateful for God's provision and care. He protected us, and all of the people standing around the first accident that night. I do not know why sometimes people die and other times they live, but I do know that on that night, God spared us. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

And so, in the words of Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

Peace-
Nick