Be an Eternal Survivor with Christ

My daughters, and many others, enjoy the television show, Survivor.

If you’ve not seen the show, it is a competition of random groups of strangers, living in a remote area. Each person hopes to eventually be the last man or woman standing after the participants undertake a series of team and individual challenges, form alliances, scheme, plan, plot and stage a series of elimination votes that eventually lead to one final Survivor.

The other day, I watched as four women were tasked with getting into a locked box. They didn’t know what was inside, but they knew it would help them in their quest to win. The box had a series of four rotating sets of numbers 0-9. The first to figure out the combination would open the box and gain immunity from elimination during the next vote.

A note came with the game’s instructions that read: “You have everything you need to win this challenge.”

The women pondered, tried random combinations, looked under nearby bushes for clues, but nothing they tried worked. Finally, one woman re-read the note: “You have everything you need to win this challenge.”

She thought a bit, then remembered a shell necklace that came wrapped around the note bearing the instructions. The necklace had been discarded in the sand.

In secret, she found the necklace and began counting the shells. Sure enough, they were grouped in bunches of two shells, then a space, then four shells, another space, five shells, a third space, and seven shells.

She discreetly made her way to the locked box and dialed in the numbers: Two…four…five…seven.

When the box opened and she obtained the immunity prize inside, the woman shrieked with joy.

Why don’t we engage and immerse our minds to embrace the simple truth of the Gospel ?

It made me wonder, Why don’t we place the same value on a relationship with Christ? Why don’t we engage and immerse our minds to embrace the simple truth of the Gospel:

  1. God is holy and perfect.
  2. We are sinful people and can never achieve perfection on our own.
  3. God cannot corrupt His nature by accepting us the flawed way we are.
  4. He sent His son, Jesus, to live perfectly, die as punishment for our sins, providing a path to forgiveness for the wrong we do.
  5. We can borrow Jesus’ perfection and claim it as our own to be acceptable to God and therefore live forever with Him in heaven.

Just like that game of Survivor,

“God’s divine power gives us everything we need for life and Godliness.”

2 Peter 1:3

Jesus doesn’t obscure the way to eternal immunity from the consequences of our sin. Revelation 3:20 says,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.”

Jesus doesn’t obscure the way to eternal immunity from the consequences of our sin.

I love the visual image of Jesus, ever the gentleman, knocking on the door of our life. He has paid the price for our sins with his death on the cross. There is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) awaiting us for the bad things we think, say and do if we take the immunity Jesus provided and claim what He did as payment for our failures.

The woman in the Survivor challenge would not give up because she knew there was something she needed in that locked box. Don’t let your life pass without answering Jesus’ knock on the door of your heart. Invite Him in to unlock the treasures of what things He has in store for you that are,

“immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.”

Ephesians 3:20

Why I Share my Faith

Kerry Coombs was a successful high school football coach for 18 years and a outstanding assistant coach in college for 11 years after that before taking a job in the NFL.

After two seasons with the Tennessee Titans, Coombs returned to Ohio State and said something interesting about the difference between coaching in high school and college, compared to coaching in the NFL:

“In high school and college, I’d pretty much say, ‘Go do that,’ and you know what? They’d go do that. In the NFL, when I’d say, ‘Go do that,’ they’d say, “Why?’ When you have to contemplate every drill and why, it makes you a much better coach.”

The Apostle Paul gives essentially the same reason in the book of Philemon for why it’s essential for Christians to share their faith in Christ with others.

He writes in Philemon 1:6:

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

Sharing your faith requires you to know what you’re talking about. And the best way to know what you’re talking about — to have that, “full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ,” to which Paul refers — is to devote yourself to reading the Bible, praying and growing your relationship with Christ.

Without Bible reading, you won’t know what God promises to do in your life. You won’t avail yourself of the guidance, direction, comfort, conviction, enlightenment, encouragement or inspiration that are in the Word.

You can’t grow a friendship, or any relationship, without spending time and having deep, meaningful communication with the other person.

Without prayer, you won’t give God the chance to communicate with you through the Holy Spirit inside of you. You won’t grow closer to Him. Think of it as growing a friendship. You can’t grow a friendship, or any relationship, without spending time and having deep, meaningful communication with the other person.

There are two other reasons Christians must take seriously the privilege of sharing their faith.

First, it’s what Jesus commanded us to do just before he ascended to heaven after his resurrection.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28:19-20

Second, as Christians we are to love others as Jesus loved us. This command is contained throughout scripture, either implied or in specific words. One instance is in 1 Corinthians 16:14, where Paul writes,

“…do everything in love.”

That doesn’t leave much wiggle room, does it?

to not share my faith — which is the most important thing in my life — would violate my obligation to others.

Do everything in love means that to not share my faith — which is the most important thing in my life — would violate my obligation to others. How loving would it be if I told friends about a great movie or restaurant and didn’t tell them how to secure their eternal salvation?

So, that’s why any Christian living obediently to God’s call on their life will share their faith with others:

  1. to be fully aware of their own blessings
  2. to fulfill Jesus’ direct order, and
  3. to demonstrate genuine love toward others.

The Armor of God

It was easier for me as a kid to fall in love with Ohio State basketball than it was Ohio State football because many of the Buckeyes’ hoops games were on television and back then only two of their football games each season could be televised. (Look it up, kids).

I have so many memories of those OSU teams of the 1970s, with Allan Hornyak (the Bellaire Bomber), Jim Cleamons (the Cougar) and then the first great recruiting class of the Eldon Miller era.

Jimmy Crum, the 40-year sportscaster on Channel 4 in Columbus, did most of the games on TV back then. I can still hear him accent a great play by the Buckeyes with his signature call, “HOW about that?”

Miller’s OSU teams frustrated the daylights out of me — actually, Miller did more than the team — because he always preached defense, defense, defense and wouldn’t play fast-break basketball with talents like Kelvin Ransey, Carter Scott, Herb Williams, Clark Kellogg or Ronnie Stokes.

Every post-game interview, Eldon would drone on and on about defense, defense, defenzzzzzzzzzzzz. I remember complaining to my brother, “Even if you play the best defense in the history of basketball, you have to score at least once to win!”

That reminds me of a spiritual lesson in Ephesians 6, where the Apostle Paul is talking in verse 10 about equipping ourselves with the “full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

If you continue on in the scripture through verse 17 you will see that Paul outlines six things a believer in Christ needs to arm themselves with:

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Notice that the first five things are defensive weapons (Eldon Miller would be happy) and only one — the sword of the Spirit (v.15) — is an offensive weapon.

It stands to reason that one offensive weapon is essential, since it’s the only one you have. And what does Paul say it is? It’s the word of God…which is, the Bible.

I’ve found in my life when I’ve drifted spiritually, when I’ve taken those tiny steps away from my faith, those tiny steps that accumulate over days and months and years (if I don’t get back in the Bible), that’s when I get woefully off track. Those tiny steps add up!

It’s pretty amazing that the Bible has been preserved over thousands of years for our benefit. Paul, after all, wrote 14 books of the Bible, several from a Roman prison…without a floppy disk, laptop, zip drive or cloud to save them on.

And yet there they are, in the Bible, for our instruction, inspiration and guidance.

If God went to all that trouble to preserve things Moses wrote thousands of years before Christ’s birth, and thousands of years after Christ’s death and resurrection, doesn’t it stand to reason He’s going to want an accounting from us if we ignore the wisdom, comfort and direction of His word, but spend hundreds of hours reading blogs, web pages, books, magazines or newspapers?

I can’t and won’t attempt to say it any more clearly than Paul did in Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Spend time daily in your Bible and let the truth of God’s Word take root in you and change your life.

You are Priceless

The splendor of the temple that Solomon built is well-documented in the book of 1 Kings. Cedar, gold, silver, bronze, ornate sculptures and art work…every detail was meticulous and marvelous.

The stones were chiseled into exacting shapes off site, so no noise would be heard on the holy ground where the temple stood.

The expertise of the craftsmen, the effort placed on obtaining the very best of everything from distant lands…all of it came together in a process that took seven years start to finish.

Think of all the cathedrals and stadiums and venues of the world, every mansion and castle, none in their most majestic condition could match the splendor of the temple, because it was ordered and ordained by God to be his holy dwelling place.

Fully aware of all that, now consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:19-22:

We are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In Him, the whole building is joined together to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him, you, too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”

Wow, how should that impact our self image and our commitment to avoiding sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors?

We are the very temple of God in which his Spirit dwells!

So often, when I encounter or associate with difficult people, I pray for God to help me see them as He sees them.

I never pray to see myself the way He sees me. It seems too self-centered or egotistical.

But Satan loves to beat us up and make us feel inadequate for evangelistic purposes or unsuitable for Christian service by reminding us of our shortcomings and failures.

Feelings of shame, being unqualified, unusable…none of that comes from God. It comes from the enemy.

When you feel that way, remember those feelings of shame, being unqualified, unusable…none of that comes from God. It comes from the enemy.

Think of the most beautiful, luxurious, well-appointed hotel or home you have ever been in.

God sees you as superior to that! As more beautiful than that! You are His holy temple, “built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles.”

You are an extremely valuable piece of real estate in God’s kingdom. You are priceless to Him. Because He paid for you with the life of His son.

You are priceless to God.

Living Dependent on God

My wife and I learned early in the lives of our three daughters that, while they came from the same gene pool, each was very different. That was a cool realization, because it added to our wonder of being parents.

Each little one that came along was its own bundle of mystery and intrigue on their way to becoming its own unique, surprising self.

Along the way, we tried our best to teach each of our girls all the polite things that would make them better citizens…like table manners, toilet training and waiting their turn to speak.

But there were two things we didn’t have to teach any of them.

Two things came naturally, not just to them, but to all of us.

We all come out of the womb knowing how to be stubborn, and knowing how to be selfish.

While most parents hope their child’s first word is, mommy, or, daddy, the greater likelihood is that it will be, “MINE!”

My daughters’ first two-word sentence was, “I KNOW!”

And their first three-word sentence was, “I DO IT!”

As true as that is behaviorally, it’s even more true spiritually.

That’s been my struggle for the better part of 40 years.

Maybe there’s something Biblical about that.

More accurately, it was just me being what my dad would call being, bull-headed.

I serve God best when I lean on Him for wisdom, guidance, direction and inspiration.

There’s no good reason it took me as long as Moses spent in Midian, or the Children of Israel spent wandering the desert, to figure out that I serve God best when I lean on Him for wisdom, guidance, direction and inspiration.

I’ve found all of that and much, much more in the past year simply by spending more time listening for His voice, either through quiet reflection, scripture reading or prayer.

You see, I finally stopped living independent of God and started living in dependence on God.

Trust me, there’s a big difference.

I’ve had spiritual hot streaks before and never sustained them, because this is the first time I’ve really understood the peace and privilege of just being a vessel for the Holy Spirit’s leading within me instead of driving the process of serving God on my own.

I start every day by investing in spending time with Him to assess my spiritual priorities for the day. What box do I need to check that day — sending an encouraging text, writing a blog, spending time with my wife or girls, praying for someone, etc.?

Before I try to do anything for God, I try to just be with Him, and let Him impress His agenda upon my heart.

I have some long-term things I sense He wants me to work on. I have some short-term things, too. The one thing I know I have to work on every day is my relationship with Him.

I can’t live independent of Him any more.

So many verses resonate with me in that regard:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5)

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)

“The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10).

Those verses have always been in my Bible. I’ve read them all before. So why do they resonate with me now?

The Bible…has the power to change your life literally every time you open it.

Part of it is the amazing impact God’s word can have on us, depending on what condition our hearts are in when we absorb its truth. The reason people say the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God is because it has the power to change your life literally every time you open it.

If you don’t understand that, pray that God would open your understanding and remove whatever barriers are preventing you from connecting with Him.

I think the other reason those verses impact me so much now is because I realize I’m on the down side of the mountain and I really want to make an eternal impact in gratitude for God giving me salvation through Christ’s death on the cross.

I’ve pulled against the reins as He’s tried to lead me over the years. Trust me, I’ve pulled hard. But you know what happens when you pull against something? You build strong muscles.

So my neck is good and strong, and capable of carrying a heavier yoke.

God has a long track record of using people’s failures for His greater good. It’s hard to find a giant of the faith who didn’t have a colossal screw-up at some point.

Abraham, Jacob, David, Jonah, Peter, Paul…Bruce.

I’m in good company.

Maybe you are, too.

Forgiving When it's Hard

Sometimes, you can say something so often that it becomes routine and the true meaning is lost.

That’s the danger of speeding through the Lord’s Prayer, or saying it based upon how you’ve probably heard it over and over, not how Jesus actually recited it in the Bible.

Look in both Matthew 6 and Luke 11 for Christ’s actual instructions to his disciples on a prayer model to follow. You’ll notice there is no, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever,” at the end.

But what you can gloss over in Jesus’s words (Matthew 6:12), or miss because it’s not quoted as part of the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15), is the requirement to forgive others for their wrongdoing toward you if you want God to forgive you for your sins.

“Everyone in heaven is someone who’s been forgiven.”

Forgiveness is essential. After all, everyone in heaven is someone who’s been forgiven, so that means heaven is also full of people who have forgiven others.

It is mandatory for us to forgive others because, given our inborn sinful nature and utter disqualification from God’s standard of perfection, we have all been forgiven much to be acceptable in God’s sight once we claim Christ’s death and resurrection as payment for our sins.

Second, forgiveness frees us from unhealthy obsessions, grudges, etc. toward those who have hurt us. Failing to forgive makes us bitter and ultimately damages us more than it damages the person we’re aiming our resentment toward.

That was hard for me 20-some years ago when someone I trusted betrayed my trust, hurting me and the people who love me very, very deeply. It hurt so badly I genuinely wondered, “Will I ever laugh again? Will I ever smile again.” Seriously, I wondered if I would ever laugh one time the rest of my life. The pain was that deep. That real.
Thankfully, I had been raised in the church and I knew I had to forgive because of what failing to forgive would do to me. I knew that harboring that pain, dwelling on it, plotting revenge, etc., would only empower the person who hurt me to hurt me again and again and again.

The difference-maker for me was realizing the depth of my own sins, and how much they grieved God. I realized I had hurt Him more than I had been hurt by this other person. So if God could forgive me, I had to forgive them.

I hope that thought proves powerful in your life with any struggles you might be having with forgiveness.

Please understand, though, that you can forgive someone and still: 

  • Feel/Acknowledge pain for what was done to you
  • Hate what someone did to you
  • Fail to trust that person ever again
  • Refuse to give the person access/license to hurt you again
  • Allow that person to experience the legal/moral consequences of hurting you

Forgiveness is releasing your right to seek vengeance for what was done to you.

Forgiveness is releasing your right to seek vengeance for what was done to you. That includes releasing thoughts about getting even, not wishing bad things on the person, and not taking pleasure in any misfortune that comes their way.

Extending forgiveness, Jesus makes clear, is an essential element to fully demonstrating that you have been changed by receiving His forgiveness.

My Tribute to Dad

On one of the many occasions over the years when my father found himself in the hospital for a medical procedure of some sort, a young, unsuspecting nursing student was dispatched to his bedside to record his medical history before surgery.

After 10 minutes or so of recording all sorts of accidents and maladies that had come my dad’s way, she began to become both a little exhausted and a little exasperated.

Her every, “Anything else, Mr. Hooley?” was met with my father, indeed, having something else for her to record.

Double skull fracture…hand in the cornpicker…finger lost in a carpentry accident…shoulder surgery…40 stitches from a malfunctioning saw…heart attack…another shoulder surgery….heart bypass surgery…cancer…knee replacement. On and on it went until finally she offered another weary, “Anything else, Mr. Hooley,” and my dad paused briefly before raising his right hand, where he was indeed missing four fingers from a cornpicker accident on the farm.

As he held his hand aloft, he extended his right thumb into the air, prompting her to say, “Your thumb? Is there something with that thumb, Mr. Hooley”?

My dad looked at me, sitting there amused, and said, “Yes. That thumb is about the only thing I haven’t hurt.”

After almost 91 years, my dad’s broken, but still strong body finally yielded to a final heart malfunction eight days ago and he went home to be with the Lord.

It is where he wanted to go, where he spoke of going, not just that night in his final hours in the hospital, but as early as a year ago when he told me one day, “Bruce, I just can’t wait to go to heaven.”

“Bruce, I just can’t wait to go to heaven.”

This surprised me and troubled me a bit, because I wasn’t ready then, nor am I now, to let him go. I told him his words surprised me and he said, “Oh, Bruce, my life has just been wonderful since I turned everything over to the Lord and put him in charge of everything.”

That certainty he had of eternal life with Jesus is why I can smile through my tears. You see, I didn’t lose my dad. I know exactly where he is, and I marvel at what he must be experiencing right now, and what he would urge everyone to make certain they get to experience some day.

In order to do that, each of us must do what my dad told the pastor who came to visit him in the hospital Thursday night. He quoted numerous scriptures to her and said, “I serve a Savior who came to seek and to save those that were lost. I was lost, but I know he loves me and I know he will receive me unto himself — not because of anything I did, but because of what he did for me by dying on the cross to forgive my sins.”

“You really know your Bible,” the pastor said.

And, indeed he did. Dad spent many hours reading the Word in his later years. Finding scriptures to read in his memory was hard only for the many we had to choose from given all those he underlined or highlighted in his Bible.

It wasn’t unusual for him to call me when he came upon a verse that struck him. Once, while I was working in Cleveland a few years ago, he called and marveled at Isaiah 41:13, which reads:

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

God takes us by the hand, like a father would his child, and tells us not to be afraid because he will help us.”

He was amazed by the tenderness of that imagery. “Bruce, just imagine. God takes us by the hand, like a father would his child, and tells us not to be afraid because he will help us.”

I think of that call from him and I smile, knowing that in the past week he’s gotten to experience that which made such an impression on him when he read it.

My dad was very open about his faith. He’d often engage a stranger in conversation and ask them, “Do you know my friend, King Jesus?” He wanted everyone to know that God’s grace was available to them.

I have many vivid memories of my dad when I was young.

One of the great lessons he taught me was that working hard wasn’t so much a means to an end, but a reward in itself. Many times, after he’d worked all day doing something either in the yard or outside the house, he’d end the day by walking out to the street to look at our property, surveying his handiwork. When I got my own home, I found myself, and still find myself, doing the same thing.

I remember my dad as someone who could fix anything or figure anything out.

After buying my first house, I told dad I wanted to remove a 60-foot pine tree in the back yard. He came over with his chainsaw and a rope and told me to climb on the branches of the tree up to about 15 feet and then tie the rope around the trunk of the tree.

I did that, and then he instructed me to walk to his van and tie the other end of the rope around the bumper. He then told me to walk about 15 feet up the rope line, away from the van, and hang on the rope while he cut the tree.

I asked him, “Are you sure that tree isn’t going to fall on me?”

“Stay right there and you’ll be fine,” he assured me.

My doubts magnified the longer his chain saw cut into the trunk, but if I’d learned one thing over the years, it was to do exactly what my dad told me to do, exactly how he said to do it.

So I stayed right there, clinging tightly to the rope, my feet dangling slightly off the ground, using my leverage as he designed it, to pull the tree into my yard and not my neighbor’s.

When I heard the crack and watched the tree start to fall toward me, it wasn’t confidence in what he’d told me that kept me where I was. It was more that I was too scared to move an inch.

Sure enough, the tree fell with a mighty crash, with the tips of the top branches, once 60 feet in the air, now brushing the laces on my shoes.

I don’t know how he knew the tree would stop just inches short of hitting me, but he knew. Dad always seemed to know things like that.

Like the time I asked him to help me move my neighbor’s yard barn into my back yard. Dad figured out a way to load it onto a trailer, move it into my back yard and position it in the corner where I wanted it.

He wasn’t satisfied, though, with how the barn sat on the edge of my property.

“It needs to go a few inches to the left,” he said.

I assured him it was fine.

The next morning, promptly at 7 a.m., my telephone rang and an authoritative voice greeted me: “Bruce, it’s dad. I know how to move that barn where it ought to be. I’ll be there in an hour.”

Sure enough, he showed up exactly at 8 with several pieces of iron pipe and a jack. He raised the barn into the air, slid the pipes underneath the foundation and then backed his truck up against one side of the barn.

He gave the engine just enough gas to — sure enough — slide the barn exactly where he wanted it. Fifteen minutes after he showed up, he was on the road and back to West Liberty to take mom to breakfast.

I’m going to miss having access to my dad’s ingenuity, and I’m also going to miss him telling he how much he loved his family. As he grew older, dad often spoke of how blessed he was to have such a close family.

In my mind, that is one of the most remarkable things about him — that he made it a priority to have the sort of family he did not come from himself, and he was able to do just that.

Of course, he couldn’t have done that alone. He had a perfect complement in mom. In his final hours in the hospital, as I sat by dad’s bed, he settled into a very restless sleep, during which he would occasionally say a sentence or two.

At one point, around 5 a.m., dad said very clearly, “Oh, mother, mother, mother, mother.”

He said it in a way that told me he was viewing something wonderful, something inspiring, something that he wanted to share with mom, so she could see what he could see.

“I think my dad had just caught a glimpse of the glory of heaven that awaited him.”

I think my dad had just caught a glimpse of the glory of heaven that awaited him, because immediately after he said, “Oh, mother, mother, mother, mother.” He said, with a touch of awe in his voice, “Oh, thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day.”

Those were the last words my dad ever spoke.

If you remember anything about my dad, remember that he dearly loved Jesus and he loved with all his heart, his bride of 67 years.

My brothers and I didn’t get away with much around home when we were growing up. But the one thing we never had any hope of getting away with was to disrespect our mom in any way.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but life has taught me that, as a father myself, there is no greater gift I can give my children than to love their mother with a fierce loyalty that nothing can divide or compromise.

So thank you dad, for that example.

When they met in the 1940s, by the standards in West Liberty then, my mom and dad were a somewhat unlikely match. It was probably a bit eyebrow-raising back then for a good Mennonite girl like my mom to date a bit of a rogue like Gayler Hooley.

In those days, it wasn’t appropriate for a Mennonite boy to move out of his parent’s home when he was in high school, and it definitely wasn’t proper for one to enlist in the United States Army and serve in World War II.

Besides that, my dad smoked, and he hung around the pool hall in town.

But when he came back from the war he became infatuated with Celia Yoder and so he called her and asked if he could take her to church on a Sunday night.

Somewhat shy, she told him, “I’ll have to ask my mother.”

And, so, she did, and her mom said, “I think you should go. I think you would be good for him.”

I never met my grandma, Katie, in this life. But when I meet her in the next, I will make certain to tell her how absolutely right she was about that.

I saw my father cry only once in my life, when my mom had an emergency surgery we weren’t sure she would survive. After she came through it, I remarked to him that that was the only time I had seen him cry.

He told me that, when I was born, he would wait until all of us were in bed, and then he would go onto the back porch, sit in the swing, put his head in his hands and cry, wondering how he was going to feed us.

When I learned about that, it put a lot of things about my father in a much different perspective for me.

When I was a kid, I’d be watching a ballgame on TV and my dad would be working outside and I’d hear him call, “Bruce David.”

When he used my middle name, it usually wasn’t good.

I’d run outside to help him do whatever it was, and then it would happen. He’d say something like, “Go in the garage, on the north side, in the third cabinet, on the second shelf, beside my Allen wrenches, and get me my hand plane.

I knew his directions were impeccable, but beyond remembering that the whatchamacallit he wanted was in the garage, I also knew I had no hope of finding it.

I didn’t know north from south or east from west. Was it the third shelf on the second cabinet or the second shelf on the third cabinet? And even if I got that part right, I didn’t know an Allen wrench from a crescent wrench or a hand plane from an airplane.

I’d like to tell you my dad handled my failures in such moments like Ward Clever would times when the Beaver disappointed him, but that wouldn’t be true. In times like that, dad was more likely to handle it like Archie Bunker, and I, of course, was the Meathead.

I tell you that not to criticize my dad but to underscore how little those times when he lost his patience with me came to matter. I always knew he loved me. I always knew he would do whatever he could to help me. And I came to understand that he’d let me make a mistake just big enough to learn from, but not big enough to cause dire consequences.

In other words, my earthly father loved me much like my heavenly father loves me — like my heavenly father loved him and forgave him for those times when he, like all of us, fall short.

My dad wasn’t perfect. But, as the bumper sticker says, he was forgiven, by his heavenly father and certainly by his three sons.

We’re going to sing a hymn near the end of this service. “When we all get to heaven.” The chorus of that song says that someday, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior will, “sing and shout the victory.”

I picture my dad now, shouting the victory he has in Jesus with that same strong voice of his that I could hear above all other voices in the crowd at my little league games, softball games, and cross country meets over the years.

His voice no longer struggles for every breath, because dad no longer needs the oxygen tank he wore for the last 5 years or so. His voice is more robust than ever and his glorified body is now perfect in every way — not just his right thumb that he held into the air as a way of joking with the nursing student who was recording his medical history.

How do you say goodbye to someone who will live in your heart forever? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just say, “I will miss you dad, but I will never forget you. And I will always love you for the man you were, and the man you taught me to be.”