God gave me a great dad. He was the finest man I’ve ever known — and the best pastor, and the best preacher, by far. I drew strength from his love for me. I miss him today. I miss him every day.
Here are some reasons why I honor him. And these are just for starters.
Dad came to all my high school football games, and even to some practices. My friends noticed. I noticed. I knew I mattered to him. I wasn’t a “priority” in his schedule. I was his son. He liked watching me play football. I liked him watching me play football. We enjoyed it together.
He set me free to pursue God’s call on my life. He guided me in appropriate ways, but he did not fearfully cling to me or hope I would always live nearby. Just the opposite. He urged me to follow Christ anywhere. Now and then he’d make this speech: “I don’t care if you’re a ditch-digger, as long as you love the Lord with all your heart.” He was not at all impressed with worldly success and going to the right schools and all that pretense and bluff. He wanted something better for me, something I had to find on my own. But I never doubted now urgently he desired it for me. And I did find it, partly because my dad didn’t intrude himself into it but cheered me on as I figured things out for myself.
I remember going downstairs early one morning and walking in on my dad in the living room. There he was, on his knees, his face buried in his hands, absorbed in silent prayer. He didn’t know anyone else was up. So it wasn’t for show. It was real. My dad had a real walk with God. It never occurred to me, not once, to wonder what mattered most to my dad. It never occurred to me to wonder if Jesus was the Lord of his heart and of our home. Dad revered the Bible. He loved the gospel. He served the church. He witnessed to our neighbors. He tithed when he couldn’t afford it. He set the tone of our home, and our home was a place of joy, honesty and comfort. Jesus was there.
One day when I was 11 or 12, while we were doing yard work out front — I can’t remember the context — but my dad stopped, looked me in the eyes and said, “You know, Bud, before time began, God chose you.” I was floored. Almighty God thought of tiny me? Way back then? I felt so loved by God. Years later, when I became aware of the doctrine of election as such, I had no problem with it. I loved it. My dad had begun my theological education in my boyhood in the course of everyday conversation.
My mom told me once that dad had a practice as he came home at the end of each day. He worked hard throughout the day. He came home tired. His blood sugar was low. So as he walked up the back steps, before he reached out to open the back door, he would lift a simple prayer to God, “Lord, I need some extra energy right now.” And God answered those prayers. I never saw my dad walk in with no positive emotion to give. Instead, he’d walk over to my mom, kiss her with a borderline embarrassing big kiss, and then he’d turn to me and say, “Come on, Skip, let’s wrestle!” And we’d go out to the front room and wrestle on the floor and tickle and laugh and have a blast.
The Lord put his hand on my dad’s ministry. Sure, he went through hard times. He was accused of ridiculous things by crazy people. But he trusted God and kept going. And the Lord owned his ministry with obvious manifestations of divine favor. There were even times when dad was unable to finish his sermon there at Lake Avenue Church, because the Holy Spirit was so moving on the people that they were going into prayer and repentance. It was never forced or fake. It was the Lord, adding his unusual blessing to the ministry of “a vessel for honorable use.”
I honor my dad today, with thanks to God.