Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:7-8 TNIV).
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The date was September 12, a Friday. Donna and I had made a long trip with our two month old son to east Texas so I could speak at a youth event. After the evening kickoff meeting with the sponsoring church, we received a call from Abilene that my dad was not expected to make it through the weekend. We climbed in the car that night and drove over eight hours to be with my dad in his last hours. Late Saturday, I returned to our home four hours away to get clothes and preach on Sunday. Sunday night, September 14, 1980, at 9:30 p.m., Donna called to say that my dad had gone home to be with Christ. She was with him when he peacefully drew his last breath.
Dad was just a month past his fifty-first birthday when his body simply quit functioning. I was twenty-five. His death occurred twenty-seven years ago. Yet today, that life-changing event is as real as if it happened yesterday.
Some years September goes by in a whirl of action and in a flash of excitement. In the whirl and flash years, remembering those days so long ago doesn’t seem so emotionally gripping. Other years are harder. This year was more along the lines of the whirl and flash variety, at least until this past Thursday.
As I sat thinking of dad this past Thursday afternoon, I decided to jot down things I remember learning from him — things that have shaped my life and my values. Little did I know that as I made my list of these seven things, technological difficulties with a video testimony were going to make me re-route my planned and prepared message for Sunday. Yet shortly after I completed my list of things learned from dad, I was informed the video would not get done. I had to start on a message for Sunday from scratch.
Suddenly, as I opened John 4 — my text for Sunday — to read once again through Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, those seven things and the story of Jesus with the woman intersected in a powerful way. What I had learned as values from my dad, Jesus had demonstrated long ago in an encounter with a person who was marginalized among her own people.
So yesterday, I shared these seven core values and several memories of my dad as I talked about the way Jesus invited this woman to come and see the grace of God. I believe the message was powerful and touching, but sharing this was also emotionally exhausting.
Remembering moments of grief is exhausting no matter how full of hope those memories may be. The old emotions are no longer old; they are fresh and real again. There is the joy of remembering good things. There is the rich, but painful, emotional memory of fresh-born grief.
Today, I find myself deeply thankful for this re-awakening because it made me profoundly aware of the vital truths my dad wanted me to carry with me through my life. I am challenged to make them my legacy to my own adult children.
Imitation is often called the highest form of flattery. Yet, I do not want to imitate my dad so much as I want to honor him by embracing the values he tried to teach me. I would do a poor imitation of dad, and frankly, there are some things he would not want me to imitate. Others are just not attainable for me. But these values, ah, they’re different. They’re God-kissed and rooted in Scripture. So I’m going to invite you to journey with me for several weeks as we look at each of those seven values.
Before we begin our journey, however, I want to urge you to think about the person who is most responsible for helping you know how to live. I want to encourage you to go beyond remembering them; honor them by reminding yourself of the core values you learned from them, commit to live the character they challenged you to embrace, and follow their example and teaching as it reflects the nature of Jesus. I would encourage you to share these insights with this special person if they are still living and give thanks to God for them and their influence.
Other Articles in this Series:
Who is the person who helped you know best how to live like Jesus?Respect Your Mother
Here are a few questions to help you think this through:
What values did this person teach you?
What sort of character does their teaching call you to demonstrate?
How has their teaching helped you to live more like Jesus?
(Please share your responses at: