Shortly before his father passed away, Pastor Cliff Lea pondered a verse tucked away in the 23rd chapter of Proverbs: “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). What did Solomon mean when he asked his son to “give me your heart?” Since we are to give our hearts to Jesus, how are we to give them to our earthly fathers?
In an easy flowing style filled with profound personal stories, Pastor Cliff describes how he “gave his heart” to his father and how the example of his earthly father—Dr. Tommy Lea—is still impacting his life some ten years after his death. Taking from his Dad’s example, he spells out a host of lessons he is still learning from his father. In doing so, he also describes the benefits and vital importance of having a strong heart connection between parents and children.
Dad was a Bible scholar. For more than twenty years, he taught Greek and the New Testament at one of the world’s largest seminaries. During the last five years of his life, he was the seminary’s dean of the School of Theology. His library was massive. There seemed to be few subjects in the realms of theology and the Bible that he did not have a precise comment about. To me, he was like an endless gold mine of Bible answers. Yet for all his learning, I was always impressed at how Dad maintained a simple love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He never lost the wonder of how great it was to know God in a personal way.
Dad loved the simple story about how sinners could be made right with God through faith in Christ. One time he preached at the church I was attending when I was a college student. This great professor of the New Testament preached on James 2:19 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.. He gave a simple talk about the nature of saving faith and encouraged the lost to place their faith in Christ alone for salvation. I remember people talking about that sermon for months afterward. There is something powerful about the simplicity of the gospel.
& n b s p ; & nbsp; I think Dad’s appreciation of the straightforward gospel message stemmed from his own experience of growing up as a child without ever truly hearing the gospel. Dad was raised in a warm, churchgoing home in Columbus, Mississippi. Though he was raised in church, the church in which he grew up did not emphasize a personal relationship with Christ. At twelve years of age, he and his friends went through a confirmation class that taught them the major tenants of the church. At the end of the class, the children were presented before the church. They recited some things they learned in the class, declared the beliefs they were taught, and officially became members of the church.
& n b s p ; & nbsp; One day Dad told me of this experience. He confessed that though he and his friends could recite some doctrines of the church, they had no idea of what it meant to truly know Christ in their hearts. They may have formally been inducted as members of their church, but they had no vital relationship with God through faith in Christ.
Cliff Lea serves as the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Leesburg, Florida, a multi-ministry church with a heart to serve the poor in Central Florida. He was previously the pastor of Yorktown Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Cliff has Bible degrees from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. His passions are God and his family. Cliff and his wife, Suzy, have five sons: Nathan, Luke, Joseph, Tommy, and Stephen.