Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day Dad

This Father’s Day is extra special for me because this month also marks my father’s completion of forty years of preaching the gospel. We have been so blessed to have every conceivable convenience that the greatest challenge is to select a gift that conveys appreciation adequately. Children with godly fathers should know that there is no gift one can buy that can match the love they shed upon you freely. Thankfully, godly fathers are not materialistic.

I have read that earthly fathers have the duty of training their children to know their Heavenly Father (both father and son). The older I become as a father with my own son, the more I realize the truth of this. What characteristic does our Heavenly Father and our earthly Christian fathers have common? Love. John, the apostle of love, wrote “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8, ESV). Love is God’s motivation and is the root for our salvation, manifold blessings and hope of eternal life—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only [unique, DRK] Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV). Indeed a father’s love and life can provide a picture of the love the Father has for His creation.

As I mentioned before, this month marks the completion of my father’s forty years of preaching. He would be quick to point out, and I agree, that this is an accomplishment for my mother as well. He spent the first twenty years of preaching for congregations in Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio and Illinois. For the first twenty years of his preaching, my sisters (Hazel and Sherry) and I received additional specialized instruction from our father via the pulpit. Many fathers rely on preachers in the pulpit to provide the whole counsel of God to their family, but in our case we received this directly from our father. So, he was able to guide our minds and guide our steps to walk in the paths as in the day of Jeremiah—“Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.’ But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'” (Jeremiah 6:16, ESV) I have commented to my dad that his decision to relocate from Columbus, Ohio to attend the Nashville School of Preaching has had a profound impact on our family—on both his children and now his grandchildren. Sometimes I wonder how much young people give thought to the impact of this in the selection of their mate—there is more at stake than the happy couple themselves.

The first twenty years had its fair share of challenges as we did not have a large income to go on elaborate vacations or out to eat all the time. The ironic thing is that those things do not matter as much as I thought they would at one time. We took less expensive vacations such as camping in Monroe County close to family, which have provided the kind of memories money cannot buy. We did not have the latest in automobiles either, but I remember each of the ones we had and the memories shared in them. I did not participate in sports like some of my classmates did; however, I have cherished memories of playing ball in the gravel parking lot at church building in the New Philadelphia, Ohio. Being the son of a preacher meant not being able to do certain things that brethren were permitting their children to be involved in such as dancing. I shocked an elder of the church when I told him I had never been to a dance “including the Prom.” I have heard some say attending certain dances is a “rite of passage” to which I respond “a passage to what?” Parents, honestly ask yourselves where your children will do their dancing after they complete their passage into adulthood. We were also expected to do things that other children of members were not expected to do. Do you even have to wonder how many gospel meetings we were expected to be in attendance for? We had to be there for each and every single service—regardless of the time, homework, tests, etc. And this was not because the elders or members expected it. This is because my parents demanded it. If a grade was in jeopardy because of having to go without a full night’s rest, so be it. If homework was an issue, then we were expected to do it immediately when we got home. Whatever the situation, we were there and our lives are far more blest because of it. I almost laugh when I hear parents today make excuses for their children to miss a gospel meeting. Notice I wrote that parents are making excuses for their children! Their excuses are not funny and the loss is no laughing matter. I laugh thinking back at trying these excuses on my parents and the results. I have also had the blessing of becoming friends of my parents’ friends. Gospel preachers who visited were friends of our family and many of them remain cherished friends today. Indeed, the blessings have far outweighed whatever the costs and sacrifice that was made. Why more members of the church with children do not have visiting preachers in their homes is hard to understand. What a treasure to share with your children!

The second twenty years of my father’s preaching has been in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Ironically, one of the reasons I decided not to preach full time is all the moving that we had to do for the first twenty years. (Elders and church leaders, please take note of that!) When my parents moved to Martinsburg, I was a student at Freed-Hardeman University. So I never lived in Martinsburg as in the twenty years prior. Not being able to hear my father preach from the pulpit regularly has been a loss for me. I tell members where he preaches to make sure they appreciate (and demonstrate it) the preaching he does because places he formerly preached have members who wish he still preached for them! I have admired my father’s work at Martinsburg--a congregation without elders who went on to establish an eldership, install deacons, and hire an additional preacher for the work there because of the steady growth. Indeed, God gives the increase but there is still the work of planting and watering.

They say one of the highest compliments a son can give his father is for the son to want to be like the father or for others to see their father in you. My father has received that compliment more times than he is probably aware. I am thankful that he considers it a compliment. They say words are cheap, but these words were not cheap. They came at a great cost of sacrifice my father and mother made in our lives so these words can be echoed back to them.

Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you.

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