I’ve been a father for nearly nine years, and it’s by far the most complex and demanding role I’ve ever tried to fill. It’s also the most fulfilling in many ways, but I quite frequently find myself perplexed by the variety of challenging situations presented by raising kids.

However, I’m blessed to have had a good dad that I’m now able to look toward as a model. No, he wasn’t perfect. As soon as he reads this, he’s likely to send me a note or call me and tell me how he failed in different ways. It’s not that I’m unaware of my dad’s flaws. As I get older, though, I find myself able to better appreciate his strengths.

Here are a few things my dad taught me that I hope to pass along to my own kids: 

1. Jesus died and rose for you. I first believed the gospel after listening to a kids’ record (yes, I said record) on which the speaker talked about what Jesus did to secure eternal life. My dad was out of town at the time, but when he came home he took me aside and explained the gospel more thoroughly. He was faithful to simply preach the Gospel to his kids, and we all still believe it. His example helped me see that pointing my kids to Jesus is my greatest responsibility and my primary mission as a father.

2. Doubt and faith are not incompatible. Dad struggled with very serious doubts over the years, but he maintained his faith in Jesus. That might seem like a small accomplishment to some, but it’s not. It’s not easy to keep believing and to keep encouraging your kids to believe. Life presents seemingly innumerable challenges and opportunities to ditch the faith, but Dad kept it. In the process he taught us that doubt isn’t something to fear, but to bring into the open where it can be discussed and dealt with.

3. Use your brain. My dad loves to debate and discuss ideas. Our dinner table was usually a lively place, filled with animated discussions about the Bible, politics, social issues, and a variety of other topics. Even today, Dad can’t let a bad idea pass by him quietly without challenging it. I didn’t realize it as a kid, but he gave me an invaluable tool: the ability to evaluate and consider different ideas. It’s a skill I use every day in my work as a pastor, and one that I hope I can pass along to my own kids.

4. Never stop learning. This is related to the previous point, but my dad is a voracious reader and writer. One Christmas, Shannon and I gave dad a thick book on the subject of creationism. We gave it to him at 8:00 in the morning, and he finished reading it by 4:00 in the afternoon. We were just a tad disappointed that our gift didn’t last longer, but that’s typical of Dad. He spent his free time reading, writing, and learning. He taught me that learning isn’t a chore, but a privilege.

5. Adversity is an opportunity to develop character. My parents have been through some major trials in the course of their marriage. Cancer, unemployment, difficult relationships, financial hardship, and even disobedient kids. Some people grow bitter at life’s trials and challenges. Yet I’ve seen my dad become more patient, kind, and open over the years. I attribute his growth to the Spirit of God in his life. Adversity seems to have made him stronger and better, rather than weaker and bitter. That’s the sort of character I hope to show to my own kids as they grow. I can’t control my life’s circumstances, but I can become more like Jesus as I face them.

So I’m grateful to my dad for helping me know how to be a dad to my own kids. And I’m grateful to God for him this Father’s Day.

In the spirit of Father’s Day, what are some things you learned from your dad that you hope to pass along to your own kids? 

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