50 years of preaching

God has blessed Todd (my brother) and me with a godly mother and father who both demonstrated the unconditional love of Christ to us. Today it is my honor to share a few words about our dad. Perhaps you will share some of our experiences and this will lead you to remember fondly or appreciate anew your own relationship with your Father. Todd and I have fond memories that we have far too often taken for granted.

As little tykes, Dad was a superhero. His “SpideySense” allowed him to always be there to catch us long before we ever knew we were about to fall. No one stood as tall, was as strong, or seemed so perfect as a little boy’s Dad. We learned early on from his example that God could be trusted and that a father’s presence brings a feeling of safety.

As we grew older, Dad taught us how to wrestle. Usually in the middle of the living room much to my mother’s chagrin. We learned that sometimes you have to say I give…but that doesn’t mean we ever like it.

Dad taught us how to throw, catch, and punt a football. He taught Todd how to hit a baseball, and he taught me how to look good swinging at one. He spared no expense when it came to supporting our sports efforts, but some things you just can’t teach.

That’s okay, Dad, one out of two or batting 500 is pretty good in baseball. And you did teach me how to throw a baseball and how to catch one.

Well, except for that day where I forgot to raise my glove the right way, and caught that ball with my eye. Dad and Mom helped me get ice and Dad even let me blame it on him for throwing the ball too fast.

Dad taught us how to fish. That’s also where he taught us really important life lessons…like how to eat Vienna Sausage, how to drown worms properly, and how to hold a fish without getting finned. Most of all we spent quality time together—just fishing.

We learned that our Dad was always more worried about us than material possessions—like that Christmas when I ran my brand new mini-bike up a tree. I learned on my own that motorcycles can’t climb trees very well, but I needed my Dad to show me where the break was and how not to keep my foot on it when turning the gas on the handle.

Or like the time that Todd tried to fly in a teal green Camaro that didn’t have wings. He went airborne, flipped and totaled the car. I distinctly remember he and Mom praising God that by His grace my brother is still here today.

One of my most fond memories came on the hour-long rides to Greenville, SC to take karate classes. We often listened to Kenny Rogers who taught me “when to hold them and when to fold them,” and others like the Oak Ridge Boys while we played Doodlebug. In between the great music and the diligent search for Volkswagen Beetles, we would talk. In those talks, I learned that my Dad always believed in me, even when I didn’t. He taught me how to fight, taught me when not to, and most importantly he taught me what was worth fighting for. He also taught me to dream and that with God all things are possible.

He tried to keep us from making mistakes but in the end, Todd and I both, like all of you, are human. Cursed with Adam’s fall, we all make mistakes. I think we made more because we hung out with the Deacons kids, but that’s a story for another time.

I remember clearly that Dad had rules and he enforced them. I am thankful that he applied the board of education to the seat of learning—more thankful now than then. Scripture tells us that he who spares the rod spoils the child and one who does not discipline does not love. Todd and I can tell you that we were loved…a lot. More importantly, no matter how big our mistake and no matter how much we deserved punishment, grace always followed. Dad and Mom would comfort, tell us he loved us, pick up any broken pieces, put us back together again, and direct us toward King Jesus.

One of these days, I hope to write a book called, When Daddy Cried. He didn’t cry often, but sometimes when the emotions of love for his children or Savior overcame him, he would cry. My Dad was always at his best in the pulpit. When he talked about his sin and his Savior, tears would often stream from his eyes. No one ever questioned whether my Dad believed what he preached. Those penetrating tears of faith made a larger impression in my soul than anyone would ever know.

I still to this day cherish what I call “weekly wisdom from Dad,” which used to come in the form of a Sunday sermon. Now it comes to my inbox in a weekly email. As a child, I did not cherish this wisdom as much as I do now. The longer I am a Dad with my own children, the more I cherish my Dad’s voice in my head. I often make decisions now when my Dad is not nearby…at least not physically. But in my head arises that calm steadying voice of godly wisdom. His advice is ever with me. What value can one place on truth? Proverbs tells us that truth is more precious than gold. Todd and I have an incredibly rich heritage.

That heritage is why I am thrilled to have another chance to listen to the wisdom of my godly father and to share this moment with all of you as he does what God created him to do. And what he has been doing now for 50 years. Preach the Word.

We love you Dad.

 

*Author’s note: I had the opportunity to say a few words about my Dad on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 as he preached at Mud Creek Baptist Church in North Carolina. He was preaching to celebrate 50 years since he preached his first sermon on April 21, 1965 at the age of 13. I am thankful for a faithful Father.