Lessons from My Father, Part One
If I were a holiday, I’d hate to be a June holiday. There’s just no recognition. Let me be Christmas or even President’s Day before being a June holiday, because when it comes to June, holidays for some reason are forgotten. Does anyone even know what day “Flag Day” is? Hmm, does anyone even know that Flag Day is a June holiday?
The other big June holiday, of course, is Father’s Day. I don’t know why it is that Mother’s Day is so big, and Father’s Day is an afterthought. I think some serious gender discrimination is occurring, for who can say that one parent is more important than the other? God has so designed families that we really need both parents, and when we don’t have them, we encounter special troubles, not insurmountable troubles, but special troubles nonetheless.
My father entered the presence of the Lord two years ago. I continue to draw inspiration from his life. Six months ago, I became a grandfather, and I've found myself thinking about my father's influence on his grandchilden. So, as a way to honor his influence in my life and to pass some of what he taught me along to you, I'm going to share 20 lessons that I learned from my father. We'll have 10 this week, and 10 next week.
1. Keep the Gospel at the heart of all you do. Dad saw that the only reason he had any wisdom at all was that God opened his eyes to the Gospel. He never forgot the grace of God. Everything else was an outflow of the impact of the Gospel upon his life. Although Dad was a man of principle, those principles were not ends in themselves. They derived from grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ took Dad’s punishment, there was freedom to live for God, to serve Jesus Christ’s church, and to be led by the Holy Spirit.
2. The Bible is the clear communication of God to us, and I should read it for a feast for the soul. My Dad read, taught, and lived the Bible. The discussion of the Bible was part of our natural discourse and conversation. We simply could not have a conversation in our home without some reference to scripture.
3. Love your wife. My Dad’s earthly affections were always and only for my mother. He often told us that all he ever wanted was a wife and family that loved the Lord. And he never got over the fact that the Lord indeed gave him those treasures. He never got over that Mom said, “Yes.”
4. Pray for the individual members of your family by name every day. My Dad did this for each of his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, and their spouses. He went to bed in prayer for his family. His prayers were no mere formal, “God bless” prayers either. He prayed specifically for our spiritual encouragement, most especially that we would stay true to Christ and the Gospel. As a child, I remember not just that Dad would pray for me, but he would pray nightly with me. What a powerful way to introduce the wonder of the Divine!
5. Spend time with your children; have fun with them; worship with them; instruct them. My Dad spelled the word “father”—T I M E. He gave us his time. He played with us, read to us, told us stories. He made a priority of worship attendance. He taught us from daily life how to think Christianly. His instruction was more from real encounters with God and the world than it was a systematic teaching. And while there is a place for systematic teaching, the teaching that happens “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7) indelibly connects life to the scriptures.
6. Laugh at yourself--a lot. It makes you more approachable and fun to be with. My Dad might not have enjoyed being the brunt of the joke, but you could never tell it by being with him. He enjoyed retelling his blunders in life, and he equally enjoyed it when others retold them. There is a strong humility in this that made my father attractive and approachable.
7. It is worthwhile to love people who are not very lovable and to do so for many years without getting much in return or response. My Dad loved and cared for a stepmother in her old age who, many years earlier, had been an active participant in the breakup of his parents. Seeing such grace in action was a powerful testimony that the Gospel is real.
8. Be compassionate to those to whom life has dealt tough blows. My Dad always seemed to be helping and counseling men who had made wrong choices or who had been dealt great misfortune. His compassion was practical but not naïve. It was measured with good boundaries, but it was a real extension of the grace of God.
9. Always stay in the arena of discipleship. Keep mentoring and discipling people. Keep teaching the Word of God. Right until the last weeks of his life, my father was meeting with men, young and old, and encouraging their walk with Christ. He never retired from the service of the King.
10. Give away as much as you can. My Dad had a long list of Christian ministries that he supported over and above his regular giving to his church. If Jesus’ words are true, that a man’s heart is where his treasure is, then my father had his heart in a lot of places but always with one goal—the advancement of the Gospel and the kingdom of Jesus Christ.