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I have been thinking about you. My thoughts have been mostly about how fortunate I have been to be your dad. A few honors in life outrank the others: Being a father is one of those honors. Being your dad has made it even more rewarding. It reminds me of what Paul told his friends in Philippi:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy (Philippians 1:3).
That pretty much sums it up. When I think of you, my soul warms. You make me optimistic about your future—a future I hope to be part of, but I know that may not be the case. Always sharing is a privilege, not a right. Not knowing our future together is why I began listing a few top-of-mind things that I would love for you to remember. Though I’ve written this for you and your sisters, I hope a few things will bubble up that will serve you in the future while blessing those who will be around you. These things are not in any particular order. I hope they will encourage, motivate, and help you do these four words well: Love God, love others.
1. Keep in mind how you treat your sisters and mother. Your treatment of them is how you will treat your future wife. Once the honeymoon is over and life starts happening, the real you will come through, whether good or bad. The real you is how you treat your sisters (Ephesians 5:25).
2. A key to living well is loving God and loving others more than yourself. If you can remember and practice those four words, you will have a life of contentment. You may not have everything you want, but you will be at peace, even in a fallen and disruptive world (Matthew 22:36-40).
3. Wash your feet regularly. The Lord has given you unique feet. Those close to you will find it easier to love you well if you keep them washed (John 13:5).
4. A man’s anger is more intense and damaging to those around us. If you never forget what the Lord did for you to regenerate you, hopefully, it will govern your heart and tongue as you interact with others (Matthew 18:33).
5. Don’t run from or try to hide your weaknesses. Hiding imperfection is a problem with too many men, in that we despise being weak or showing weakness. Being vulnerable is one of the beauties of the gospel—for when you are weak, you will be strong. That’s another key to living well (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
6. You are wired to serve. It’s a strength of yours. You’re a remarkable servant. You have peripheral vision; you see needs and regularly do them. That’s a gift from the Lord. Please guard your heart when others do not reciprocate with a similar servant-centered worldview. Sometimes servants like you become discouraged by the lack of other-centeredness they perceive in others (Mark 10:45).
7. You have learned well not to hit your little sister. Sometimes that has been a monumental challenge as she tempts you to sin. Keep leaning into this one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit—self-control. It will serve you well for years, especially if you marry (Galatians 5:22-23).
8. Don’t stop laughing. I pray that laughter and humor will always be part of your life. If you forget how to laugh, you will miss out on a lot of fun, and your relationships will struggle.
9. Brag on others. Always. Gossip about yourself. Always. Never forget this practice.
10. Be God-centered. Like a hub in the middle of a wheel, may God always be the center of it all. If He is, your God-centered worldview will influence all aspects of your life. If you’re problem-centered, your situations will control you.
11. Don’t be surprised when others sin. Your surprise at the failures of others reveals your lack of understanding of the doctrines of sin and humans. Fallen people fall, and you’re not perfect either. Be redemptive.
12. Lift the lid. You know why, and your wife will be glad.
13. Listen to your wife, even if she talks forever (1 Peter 3:7).
14. Hold your wife when she is crying (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
15. Always out-serve your other relationships. Do not let anyone out-serve you (Romans 12:10).
16. When someone asks who the biggest sinner you know of, make sure your answer is not just what I’ve taught you but what you believe: it’s you, from your perspective. It’s me, from my point of view. That theologically centered attitude can transform your relationships (1 Timothy 1:15).
17. Don’t give up playing games and doing fun stuff. Don’t let your hobbies or work take priority over your relationships (Hebrews 13:1-2).
18. Figure out the way you should go, and if you do, you will be a happy camper. The man working within his passion and his gifting will be happy while fulfilling the purposes in which the Lord has shaped him (Proverbs 22:6).
19. The Lord has given you an excellent memory and a passion for understanding the mechanics of things. You could be an engineer or maybe some other field where you build, invent, produce, or put something together. Think about this stuff; your career may be in that general direction (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
20. If your number one passion is the Lord, all the people following you will be led well (1 Corinthians 10:31).
21. Don’t settle for a church that does not get into your sanctification or does not have systems in place to help you mature. Think about it this way: if you were to die, what kind of church would you want to shepherd your wife and children? Settle for that kind of local assembly (Hebrews 13:17).
22. Enjoy all things in God’s world, but do not let anything in God’s world control you (Matthew 6:19-21).
23. Model the life you want others to live. NEVER ask a person to be this way or that way if you are not that way yourself. Deplore hypocrisy by not falling into the trap of, “Do what I say, not what I do.” (See Ephesians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:9)
24. Keep in step with the Spirit. Make sure you do what God wants you to do with every step you make. If you do this, one step at a time, you will have an illuminated life (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
25. You will never know all the details of any situation. Therefore, make sure you lead with questions, not with statements. Always ask questions because you will never know all the facts about any person or situation (Deuteronomy 29:29).
26. If the Lord gives you children, create structures, boundaries, rules, and regulations for their training. Let them know they are not omnipotent or omniscient. Your goal is to teach them early they are not the center of the universe and that they are to be humans under authority (Ephesians 6:4).
27. As your children become older (three, four, and five years old), relax the rules because you will have trained them to submit. Then increase your teaching because they can process more (Deuteronomy 6:4-8).
28. Your character, who you are, is more important than what you do. What you do is essential, but it’s more important if what you do comes from a transformed heart/character (Luke 6:45).
29. Be biblically okay with your hypocrisy. The primary key is not whether you’re a hypocrite: We all wear masks. The key is which way you are leaning: are you pushing toward Christ to close the gap of your hypocrisy or heading in the other direction?
30. Pursue community. You will be happier if you live in a community—serving others while being served by others (Hebrews 10:24-25).
31. Pursue quietness. Be content with yourself and with the Lord—alone. Always carve out times to get away to think, reflect, and be grateful (Matthew 14:23).
32. There are only four problems in life—all solved in one specific order: (1) Problem with God, (2) problem with self, (3) problem with others, and (4) problem with the world. Prioritize your relationship with the Lord, which will reveal you to you, help you understand others, and best position you to live well in God’s world (Matthew 6:33).
33. Don’t work to please God. He became pleased with you when you accepted the works of His Son as your Savior. Your obedience should flow out of a heart of gratitude for what He has done for you. That will please the Lord (Hebrews 11:6).
34. The freest man in the world is not under the control of others’ opinions. Don’t submit your soul to having to have the favor, acceptance, or approval of others. Don’t fear anyone’s rejection. Be free. The principal opinion in the world that matters is the Lord’s opinion of you: He loves and accepts you everlastingly (Proverbs 29:25).
35. Lying is not just a black and white issue. Think about the other forms of lying like (1) withholding the truth, (2) adding to the truth, or (3) evading the truth. Guard your heart against these more subtle forms of lying (Ephesians 4:15).
36. When you choose sinful anger toward someone, remember the cause or the source of your anger. It’s in your heart, NOT what the other person did to you (James 4:1-2).
37. Repentance is not just confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness. Repentance is transformational. Confessing your sin and forgiveness-seeking is a good start, but you need to do more: you must change. Learn how to repent and practice it often (Ephesians 4:28).
38. Passing gas (flatulence) in your home is okay. Just don’t be annoying with it (John 11:39).
39. Don’t be late for anything. If you are late, call the person to let them know. Being habitually late does not honor the other person, and it is not keeping your word (1 John 3:18).
40. Distinguish between an episode and a pattern. E.g., if you are late episodically, you can own that and move on. However, if you have a habit of lateness, you need to figure out how to repent of it. We all make mistakes (episodes), but do not condone patterns of wrongs among your family and friends (1 John 1:7-10).
41. Learn how to calendar plan. Don’t be so structured that you cannot be spontaneous, but don’t be so spontaneous that you are disorganized. If you don’t figure this out, you’ll drive your friends crazy (Proverbs 25:28).
42. You are number one. Take care of yourself first of all. If you don’t, those around you will be negatively affected. You must be spiritually and physically fit. Caring for both parts of you is essential (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
43. Make people hold you accountable. An accountability partner will be useless if you do not make your accountability partner hold you accountable. You will have to tell him what questions to ask you. He will likely be a bit fearful about asking more personal questions. Go ahead and take the air out of the room: tell him what to ask you (Proverbs 27:17).
44. When your wife asks you to get milk, make sure getting the milk is your secondary purpose. ALWAYS seek the kingdom of God first, and He will add your milk to you (Matthew 6:33 paraphrase). By all means, get the milk, but go to the store thinking more about what the good Lord might be up to as your priority. You may be surprised at what might happen if you’re expecting God to be where you’re about to show up (Genesis 39:2).
45. Never get over the fact that Christ died for your sins. Remember what I taught you: hold up your hand and let each finger represent these words: Christ Died For My Sins. It’s an easy way to remember the best thing to happen to you (Luke 19:10).
46. Speaking of hands, remember how to set the table: The four-letter word fork goes on the L-E-F-T side of the plate. The five-letter words knife and spoon go on the R-I-G-H-T side of the plate (2 Samuel 9:7).
47. Die with a thousand unfulfilled dreams. Never stop planning, dreaming, desiring, imagining, and hoping (John 10:10).
48. Your most significant victories are on the other side of your fears. It is better to risk and fail than never to risk at all. Don’t be foolish. Don’t be fearful. Learn the difference and go for it (Matthew 14:28-33).
49. All decisions are born out of faith. If you believe it is biblically correct for you to do, you can move forward. When in doubt, don’t (Romans 14:23).
50. Doing things by faith does not mean there will be no future trouble. Peter stepped out of the boat by faith and began to sink. However, his faith was perfected (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Son, I hope these somewhat random and eclectic thoughts benefit you. These are some things I have learned after a lot of living, a lot of failing, and a few successes. Regardless of how your life rolls out for you or what the Lord scripts into your life, this one thing I want you always to know: I love you now and shall always love you. Your works—good or bad—or the things that will happen to you will not alter my affection for you. At all. You are a gift from the Lord, and I love you with all my heart. I am glad that I’m your dad. I’m grateful the Lord gave you to me. You have been a privilege and a joy to serve.
I love you,
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