Following Dad’s Footsteps

My very personal challenge to you

This past Saturday I spent several hours sitting atop my father-in-law’s tractor. I’ve worked hard, along with his two sons, to maintain the farm after his passing a couple years back.

But Saturday was very different for me.

As I sat atop my father-in-law’s tractor, it hit me the date was the fourth anniversary of my own dad’s passing. I mentally and emotionally recreated the days immediately following dad’s death, including the eulogy I delivered at his funeral. It forced me to examine if I’m following dad’s footsteps.

In transparency, I’ll say publishing this transcript is very difficult for me. This is the transcript of the eulogy I delivered at my dad’s funeral. Though it is difficult, I believe publishing this transcript is the best way I can challenge you to live the Christian life in such a way that at your memorial service, someone will be able to stand and say “their footsteps led me to Jesus.”

Dad’s Eulogy

Let me first say, on behalf of our family, that we greatly appreciate you being here. But also let me say that we greatly appreciate all the family, friends, and church family that have assisted us during John’s struggles. You all have responded and acted with such great compassion and love, and our hearts are full of gratitude for you all.

I’d like to quickly share with you a message about what I consider to be the “one thing” that John has blessed me with. Now don’t get the idea that I feel that John only blessed me with a single item. Understand that when I say “one thing,” I mean the most important thing.

Let me also say that I won’t apologize for the emotions or the tears, but I will explain that they simply come from selfishness. I cry because I miss my dad, not because I mourn his death – he is in a better place.

I could share with you today how I’ve lost so much.

I could share how I’ve lost my best fishing buddy. Our favorite was trout fishing in Tennessee. Folks often asked why we went all the way up there. The truth is I didn’t just think the fishing was better, I loved the long drive up there as we talked.

I could share how I’ve lost my best mechanic, my best carpenter, my best electrician, or my best plumber. I could share how I’ve lost my handy repairman. My children can tell you of countless times they’ve asked me while working on something “Daddy, how do you know how to do that?” And my answer is always “Your paw-paw taught me.” Now, who do I call when something is broken at my house and I don’t know how to fix it?

I could share how I’ve lost my advisor and wise counselor. I had plans to take the family to the house this coming Saturday to visit John. I’m facing some big decisions in life right now and it was my custom to share those with John and get his advice. I waited just a bit too long to ask him this time.

I could, of course, share how I’ve lost my dad.

But instead, I’d like to share with you the “one thing” that John gave me that I can never lose – a father’s love.

Now before you think, “ah, of course, a son talking about his dad’s love”. You need to recognize there is something unique and very special about our relationship. You may be aware, but John is my step-dad. Now know that I despise that phrase – step-dad. The phrase seems to take away from the relationship that I had with John.

So you need to recognize that when I refer to John’s love for me, that love is not rooted in biology. It isn’t rooted in a sense of responsibility. That love isn’t rooted in some sense of obligation. John’s love for me is rooted in choice. John’s love for me is rooted in his strong, principled will. John chose to love me.

Now some struggle with the idea that love is a choice. Most want to attribute love to an emotion or a feeling, but that’s just infatuation. Love, at its very core, is a choice.

John chose to love me. I don’t know why, but he did. He chose to love my mother and the little boy that came with her. He had absolutely no responsibility to me what so ever. He would have been completely justified to walk away with a decision not to raise and care for another man’s biological child. Instead, he chose to love me.

Now you may be thinking, “well you mentioned the one think John gave you that you could never lose. Death has taken John’s love away from you”. Ah, but listen, John’s love for me pointed me to and equipped me to understand the love of God The Father.

In times of trouble or times that I need encouragement, I turn to my favorite two verses in the Bible. The two verses that I consider my life verses – Romans 8:38-39.

Let me read those for you…

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is the Apostle Paul; the Jewish Rabbi in training that had likely memorized most of the Old Testament. This is Paul; the guy miraculously converted to faith in Jesus during his Damascus road experience. And here he writes that he is persuaded. He writes this from a prison cell where he is imprisoned because he won’t stop telling people about Jesus. He writes that he’s persuaded even though he has endured beatings, stoning, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and left for dead on multiple occasions. Even after all this, Paul is persuaded.

Persuaded of what? Persuaded that nothing, not even death, can separate us from God’s love. Paul describes a very powerful list, he even mentions death specifically. He included things we know now and things that we’ll understand later. He even caps off his list with a catch-all phrase “nor any other created thing” will separate us from the love of God.

THAT’S FABULOUS NEWS!

Ah, but don’t miss Paul’s final few words there, “which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Like John, God has chosen to love us. But He has chosen to love us based on our response to His Son, Jesus. The single most important decision you’ll ever make in your life is what is your response to Jesus.

What is your response to the offer that Jesus makes to forgive you of your sins and be the Lord of your life? Based on your response of acceptance, God chooses to place a bond of love on you that absolutely nothing can separate. Or based on your rejection, God is forced — because of His holiness — to separate Himself from you for all of eternity.

Love, it’s not based on a feeling. It’s not based on an emotion. It’s based on a choice.

I recognize this is service where we gather to remember John and to celebrate his life. But I believe with everything in me that John would prefer that we make much of Jesus long before we make much of John. I’m reminded that mom told me that John just wanted this to be a normal church service. Well a normal church service worships Jesus. And even in this service, you can make the decision to accept Jesus and know the love of God for eternity.

You may feel that it’s inappropriate to ask people to make a personal decision at such a service. But if I’m not mistaken, we’ve all gathered here to honor John. I can think of no better way to honor John than to walk in his footsteps. I’ve been following John’s footsteps for 40 years and I can tell you exactly where they’ll lead you – they’ll lead you to Jesus.

John’s footsteps will lead you to verses here in his Bible. Verses that are written in red letters, words of Jesus. John’s footsteps will lead you to verses that he has highlighted. Verses that say things like “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Other verses like “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” and “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and “Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.”

John’s footsteps will most certainly lead you to “for God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I am persuaded that God loves me and that absolutely nothing will ever separate me from Him. And I’m persuaded of that because I know that John loves me and nothing has ever separated me from his love.

If you can’t say today that you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you find me after this service and I’ll take John’s Bible and show you how you can experience this love for eternity.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I challenge you to live the Christian life in such a way that at your memorial service, someone will be able to stand and say “their footsteps led me to Jesus”.

What about you? Are you living such a life before your family that leads them to Jesus? Do you have a relationship with Jesus such that you can lead your family to Him?

Do you have questions about leading your family the way my dad led my family? If so, feel free to shoot me an email at michael@michaeltanner.org or leave your questions/comments below.

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