Tag Archives: Jesus

The Great Tribulation

Typically, Evangelicals who have believed in a Pre-Trib Rapture have considered something the Bible calls “the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14) to be a period of time synonymous with the seven year treaty made by the anti-Christ written about by Daniel in Daniel 9:27.  That verse also speaks of an event which will occur at the midway point of the seven years called the “abomination of desolation.” That event is also referenced by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-21, by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, and by John in Revelation 12-13.

In Matthew 24:15-21, Jesus told His disciples that when the abomination of desolation occurs (which from Daniel we know will happen at the midway point of this seven year “treaty”) THEN there will be great distress like the world has never seen nor will ever see again–the “great tribulation.” the rapture

Fast forward to Revelation chapter seven where John sees a great multitude that cannot be numbered. He is told that that vast multitude is comprised of those who have come out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). Modern Pre-Trib Evangelicalism has taught us that these are those who missed the Rapture but made it out of the tribulation period without taking the mark of the beast. I find five difficulties with that interpretation of Revelation 7 and the multitude we see there.

One>A Wrongly Defined Great Tribulation

As shown above, the Bible refers to the Great Tribulation as a time of unparalleled trouble that will come upon the earth at the midway point of the seven year treaty. So, it is a mistake to say that the Great Tribulation mentioned in Revelation 7 is a reference to the seven year treaty period which the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib church calls the Great Tribulation but which the Bible does not. Why does this matter? It matters because when the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib church declares that the Church won’t go through the Great Tribulation, it means it won’t go through any part of the seven year treaty period that it calls the Great Tribulation. But, if the Bible declares that the Church will not go through the unparalleled time of distress that it calls the great tribulation, it means that the Church will not experience the last three and a half years of the treaty period!

Two>The Size of the Multitude

If the multitude of Revelation 7 is comprised of those who have missed the Rapture, isn’t it odd that there are so many? In the Matthew 24 passage mentioned above, Jesus said that if the days of the terrible time of trouble were not cut short even the very elect would be deceived! Does it seem, then, that an innumerable host of people would survive the great tribulation after having missed the Rapture? Should we not more reasonably expect that those times will be so difficult that only a small amount of people who were not found faithful at the time of the Rapture would be so successful at resisting the anti-Christ?

Three>The Celebration of Revelation 7

Revelation 7 speaks in such victorious tones concerning this great multitude.

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

In fact, it seems pretty glorious to be a part of this crowd. Are we to believe that the Bible makes no reference to what would be an even more innumerable crowd of believers caught away by the Rapture, but makes a glorious reference to those who have missed the Rapture?

Four>Out of Sequence

If the book of revelation beginning at chapter four or even from chapter six on is meant to be taken chronologically (which perhaps it shouldn’t be), then the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib believer would have us believe that the multitude of Revelation chapter seven is mentioned there six chapters  before we read about the anti-Christ, the mark of the beast, and the punishment for not receiving the mark of the beast.

Five>Revelation 15:2-4

In Revelation 15:2-4, we get the account of those who were “victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name (Revelation 20:4-6 tells us they were beheaded).” There is no reference to a vast multitude, no focus on their faith in the blood of the Lamb (see Rev. 7:14), but rather a sober praise of God’s greatness and holiness and righteous acts:

Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages.

4 Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

So, if those who have survived the beast’s image and number are mentioned in Revelation 15 (chronologically sensible with the flow of Revelation), then who is this innumerable multitude in Revelation 7?

No Wrath!

One of the demands of the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib believer is that Christians not go through the great tribulation because that would mean that they experienced the wrath of God and the Bible declares that we are not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). True enough. But the problem here is that the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib believer equates the full seven year period with the great tribulation. Therefore, in their view, the Church cannot go through that period without violating Scripture. But Scripture does not refer to the full seven year period as the great tribulation. If we line up our expectations with the Bible’s timing of the great tribulation,  then the Church can be present on the earth right up until the time of the abomination of desolation, three and a half years into the seven year period.

No Surprise!

One last issue that arises with this subject is the idea fostered by the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib believer that the Rapture must be a surprise. However, the 1 Thessalonians 5 passage says differently:

4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, the idea that a Rapture that does not take place until sometime after the beginning of Daniel’s seven year treaty period violates the “no wrath/no surprise” expectations of the modern Evangelical Pre-Trib believer is actually not the case when we look closely at Scripture.

Can the Rapture take place right now? Today? I believe it can. In fact it might! But Scripture does not nail down a Pre-Trib view of the Rapture definitively.

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Answers on the Left, Waiting on the Right

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...

“Praying Hands” (study for an Apostle figure of the “Heller” altar) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something encouraging occurred to me some time ago concerning prayer.

There were two or three things I was intensely praying about, needing an answer. I watched as the Lord supplied all but one of those needs. Because the need that went “unmet” was so intense, it got nearly all of my focus and I began to struggle with why God had not answered. That led to questions. Guilt. The sense that I had perhaps done something wrong. I wasn’t focusing on what God had done, but what He had not done. Then an encouraging word occurred to my heart: How can I imagine that God is distant from me when I consider the unmet need, but near to me because of the prayers He did answer? God is not divided. He is not loving and kind on my left as He answers prayer, and then angry and rejecting on my right. If He has been near to me and answered prayer on my left, then I must allow that He is loving and attentive on my right as well, even though He has not yet answered those prayers or met those needs. If God is loving me on the left, He’s also loving me on the right!

So, live in the grace of God as you wait for answers, and as you wait, allow yourself to be encouraged when you remember what God has done. Look for the blessings He is showering on you right now and understand that His heart for you is the same whether He is pouring out blessings in some areas or asking you to wait in others.

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The Two Questions . . .

The Passage of Time

The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

(The following questions are put forth as concisely worded reminders to help you be accountable to the all-important privilege and opportunity for daily prayer. The key, if your answers are negative, is not to become discouraged, guilty, or to find a way to justify yourself, but rather to consider the questions honestly and on a regular (daily) basis so that the Holy Spirit can carve out a place for prayer in your thinking and in your life.)

Question 1: Did you set aside quality time in a location where you would not be disturbed or disturb others for the intentional purpose of being alone with God in the secret place?

Anyone who has a relationship with Jesus understands the need to pray every day. But because we are frequently pressed for time we may try to turn our commute time into our secret place time. Don’t get me wrong: we should pray everywhere and at all times! But there is no replacement for time alone with God in a place where no one can see or hear you. Why? Well, first of all, it says something about our commitment to our love relationship with Jesus that we spend uninterrupted time with Him. It also allows for us to respond fully. As a Pentecostal believer, there are times in my prayer time when I need to cry, or shout, or clap my hands. I may feel the leading to lay prostrate before the Lord in surrender. I may even feel compelled to dance before the Lord. I’m less likely to feel the freedom to do that when I know others can see or hear me. Finally, if others are able to observe my secret place time they may be inclined to criticize, judge, or otherwise hinder my freedom in the Lord.

Question 2: If your answer to Question 1 was yes, was the balance of your time in the secret place spent pursuing your love relationship with Jesus or did you spend most of the time asking God for His help with needs?

We are exhorted to let our requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). But prayer is first and foremost about our relationship with God! What would any of our other important relationships be like if all we did was ask for things? No! All of our petitions before the Lord must flow out of our close relationship to Him and be led by Him. Sometimes we convince ourselves that because we are praying for ministries that we should spend all of our time interceding for ministries. But that says to God that the mission is more important than He is! If we will delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4)!

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In Plain English . . .

At a certain, specific moment in time, the Second Person of the Godhead, came down to earth and took on a human form and identity in order to reach the human race that had been lost due to sin. He did not “heist” a human body, but rather was born just like everyone else with at least one colossal exception: He had an earthly mother but no earthly father, since His Father was God.

At birth, He was given the name Jesus.  After living a sinless life, during which He performed many mighty miracles—the accounts of which, if written down, the world would not be able to contain according to John 21:25—He was crucified on a cross.  His death was planned and prophesied:  the ransom necessary to redeem all of mankind.

After being in the tomb for three days, His body took on life again and resurrected.  After spending another forty days on the earth, during which time He taught His disciples and appeared to as many as five hundred at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6), He ascended into Heaven in plain sight of His disciples just ten days before the Day of Pentecost. He is alive and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. He hears our prayers and He prays for us.

We expect to see Him for ourselves someday.  Of course, in death we expect to immediately leave this body and be in His presence, but, we also expect to see Him return in the air to rapture, or catch away, His church, and again to bring about judgment upon the earth at which time He will insert Himself into history again—the term “insert” used here only to help us grasp the concept since history is actually “His-story” and something He has always been a part of and actively involved in— this time to remain.

Ultimately, all creatures that have ever existed will acknowledge Him as Lord and will bow down before Him (Philippians 2:9-11)!  It is estimated that 107 billion people have thus far existed on the earth1—several billion less than that if you throw out evolutionary hallucinations— and Christians believe that none of them will go to heaven unless they have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord.

 

Notes

1 http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedon Earth.aspx

 

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A Father’s Letter to His Daughter upon Her Graduation

To My Sweet Katie,

Though the feeling has swept over me many times already, it has not yet come to stay. That is, the realization that my little girl will soon be leaving me to go and pursue her dreams. Since I am convinced that your dreams have been birthed in you by God, I can only help you pursue them. Many times in the last year I earnestly cried out to God that He would make a way for you to pursue your dreams, which was tantamount to asking Him to make a way for you to leave me. So, I won’t ask you to stay here with me, though I wish you could!

So many times, as you were growing up, I took the time to stop and remind myself that the day would come when I would find myself missing you— the little girl who would sing around the house or make some of the worst noises anyone has ever heard; the teenager who delighted in picking at me just to get a reaction; the girl who at times would be so desperately hungry but completely unable to describe what she was hungry for; the one who, when she was little, imagined a back yard carnival that we simply could not live up to; the one who has been such a friend to me! And now that time has come. Oh, I know you will be back for summers and holidays and special occasions, but a visit home will never be enough for me! But once you have gone out into the wide world I know you will never be content just to watch television with me on a Friday night. But, once you have really experienced the wide world, it will probably be just the medicine you need. I will be right here waiting for you!

Earlier this year, when we were all walking through what seemed to be the loss of your dream to go to college in the way you had planned, I found myself in your room thinking about all those people who, if they only knew you like I did, would clamor to give you all the scholarships you needed. While there, I saw the handwritten notes stuck to the wall arrayed around the mirror in your bedroom; notes you had written to encourage yourself in the Lord, expressing your desires for Him and for His call on your life, and of Scriptures that had become most important to you. That’s when I realized, even more than I had, that your love of God was real and that your commitment to His purpose in your life was sincere and that you deserved to have your dreams come true. The notes weren’t hung there for show. They were just the outflow of your joy and anticipation; the reflection of high hopes and dreams. Just notes written by someone who had caught a glimpse of what is possible in this world and who was not waiting on others to motivate her to reach for those dreams! In that moment I admired you all over again and wanted so much to make all of your dreams come true. I wanted to step in and show people, “See, this is my daughter! She is genuine and deserves a chance to take her place alongside others of her generation as she offers her life and times to God!” Then, God answered our prayers and made a way where there didn’t seem to be one! A way for you to follow Him even more intentionally! A way for you to—leave me! Bittersweet.

My dear Katie, I appreciate your integrity and your passion. I am convinced that you really do love Jesus. And I have confidence in you. And though it may add pressure to you in some way, I admit that I expect great things from you! Not great as defined by a fallen world drunk on its own materialism, but great in terms of other, deeper things. I expect you to live truthfully. I expect you to face your imperfections head-on and allow the grace of God to guide you through the changes that invariably need to be made in all of us. I expect you to be real in your relationships. I expect you to live in the light of eternity. I expect you to call home. A lot!

I do have some regrets. Sometimes I have worried that I did not show you enough affection. Maybe I should have held your hands more. Maybe I should have put my arms around you more. If nothing else, these regrets are a reflection that whatever affection I did show, it was only a small part of what I have always profoundly felt for you! I hope you are at least sure of that.

I am not really ready for this. Not yet. It is encouraging to remember that you are not going to the moon, just college. But I know how things work and I know that Robert Frost was right in The Road Not Taken when he said, “Way leads on to way.” But always remember: the path that leads you away from home can be travelled home again. And even though very soon you will be spending most of your time away from me, it will be the rare hour that passes and does not witness my thoughts and prayers for you.

It’s just that you have been with me practically every moment for all these years! And now, once you take this step, that stage in both of our lives, in the life of our family, will be over and it will never be just like it has been ever again! I know it is a normal, healthy step that must eventually be taken by all of us. I took it. But I can’t let it happen without paying respect to the blessing God has given me in my children—in you!

With all my love,

Your Father

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The Bible on The History Channel: Final

So here’s a question: Would you watch The Bible on The History Channel again? I can definitely say I would not. As far as I am concerned it missed its mark–at least the mark I set for it as a potentially viable, useful, inspiring account of the Bible. It was needlessly violent, did not offer any real purpose behind the violence it did show (particularly violence that was not merely incidental and not tied to the furthering of Israel, etc.). God was conspicuously absent, and frankly it was kind of boring.1 Now, on to the final installment.

Roma Downey & Mark Burnett

Roma Downey & Mark Burnett (Photo credit: Sharon Graphics)

Don’t Bore Us With Details!

There were the usual liberties taken, with the story.

Not surprisingly, the passion followed a traditionally Catholic viewpoint and Mary the mother of Jesus was quite active, beyond scripture of course.

After the crucifixion, Mary the mother of Jesus is sent off to Galilee by none other than Mary Magdalene. Of course, Jesus’ mother was in the Upper Room at Pentecost (it’s not likely that she went all the way back to Galilee and back to Jerusalem, and of course she is not shown in the Upper Room in the Burnett/Downey version.

The Ascension was lame and incomplete. Peter looks at his fellow disciples ( and Mary Magdalene of course) and says, “We’ve got work to do!” No awe. No wonder.

Kudos for making an effort at depicting the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. There were actually 120 in the Upper Room and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. The reaction of the disciples after the experience was sort of  a “Hey, that was a cool experience!” Peter’s sermon was non-existent.

Mary Magdalene was prominent once again, even replacing John as Peter’s partner in the account of the crippled beggar’s healing in Acts 3 and 4. The account overwhelmingly is about Peter and John: the Burnett/Downey version was largely Peter and Mary.

The martyrdom of Stephen was anticlimactic; almost an add-on. It marked the beginning of the scattering of the church.

Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road was thoroughly botched. B&D had him shouting “No!” to the risen Lord! In fact, he was portrayed as maniacal before his conversion and referred to as Paul before and after (every Sunday Schooler knows better! Why not the world in on it?).

The beheading of James the brother of John was shown, proceeded by a fabricated story of fear and dispersion (the dispersion actually began after Stephen’s martyrdom five chapters earlier), and Mary Magdalene once again the voice of wisdom keeping the disciples straight. No sense of Holy Spirit boldness moving in the disciples, only in Mary M.

Too much was made of Peter, though his imprisonment after the beheading of James is ignored), and Thomas’s doubt was overblown. For Thomas seeing was believing, but not in the Burnett/Downey rendition (again due to the underplaying of Jesus’s actual bodily resurrection).

I sort of liked the summary scene depicting the various directions the apostles took as the Church began to grow and spread.

We see Paul as he is trying to minister to the Church that is afraid of him and then we see Paul reach out to Luke saying “I can’t do this alone!” while Barnabas is “chopped liver” or something, even though he was instrumental in helping Paul gain credibility in the Church. Paul was certainly not alone and the New Testament doesn’t depict such a needy Paul.

And then what is this appearance of Jesus to Peter? More “touched by an angel” type story telling. And then the angry “seizure” of Peter on behalf of Cornelius. Entirely misses the true essence of what really happened! I have to wonder what is going on in Burnett and Downey’s minds when they simply decide to tell the story differently than is written, even changing the actual details to form a different story! O course, the events that took place at Cornelius’s house were completely truncated to leave out the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them as Peter was preaching, an important detail.

The treatment of Paul in prison is good and his confidence at the end is inspiring. And, ignoring the reduction of the Book of Revelation down to something very ordinary, and Jesus’ last statement “May the grace of the Lord be with all God’s people!” (a possible nod to people outside of the Christian faith?), the final words of Jesus telling of His coming, etc. were effective.

 
The Resurrection

On a more serious note, I felt that the resurrection was not dealt with full on. It was treated as though somehow Jesus was “alive” but the story never really emphasized that He had risen from the dead. In fact in one place we hear Peter declaring, “He did not die! He is still with us!” I assume the B&D Peter simply meant that it was as though he had never died, and that His influence was still with them. Lame. The scene at the tomb was so sedate. In fact, coupled with their reaction at the ascension, you have to wonder what it is going to take to impress these people?

Conclusion

Oh, there’s plenty more. I do not have time to trace out the ways in which Peter was “pope-ified,” but you can watch it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s out on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow.

 
1 Any story can be told imaginatively and in an inspiring way that leaves the listener changed or at least informed. I don’t feel the BHC did that.

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“Messing with the Barbecue!” The Bible on the History Channel, Part 4

Don’t Mess with the Barbecue!

I’m from Texas and one of the things I miss here in New York is good-ol’ Texas barbecue. I have really only had barbecue at one particular New York establishment that I thought made passing marks. (Surely there are other places as well! I have to hope so anyway.) But, about four years ago someone took me to a place here on Long Island that was supposed to be “the best.” No. It was more like essence of barbecue. It was barbecue in caricature. I left thinking to myself, Can’t they just go to Texas and learn how to do what they do up here? Don’t mess with the barbecue!  An experience like that just leaves you nostalgic for the real thing. That’s how I felt about this week’s Burnett and Downey rendering of the Bible.

The High Points

Overall, this installment was an improvement over the first three. They chose a believable looking Jesus, Diogo Morgado. The actor’s disposition was engaging and there were some scenes that I thought were inspiring for their visual effects rather than any dialogue. The telling of the food multiplication miracle with a great thronging crowd around Jesus just as you imagine it would have been. The scene with Jesus and Nicodemus was pretty good, and I appreciate that B&D did not jettison the “born again” language. The scene at the Last Supper was visually nice and captured at least the emotional essence of the Eucharistic meal. Any problems with this version of Jesus were not due to the actor. I think his portrayal captured the compassion and vulnerability of the Scriptural Jesus, if not the strength.

Jesus: Kenotic, Weakly, Humanistic

But, alas, there were problems, and not just the usual trouble that comes when you ignore Scripture and put in your own details. No, these problems were more interpretive. For example, Jesus seemed to get premonitions that surprised Him (the crucifixion, Peter’s denial, Judas’s betrayal). It could be that B&D chose the less followed kenosis theory that says Jesus emptied Himself of His Divine attributes at the Incarnation, or at best willingly laid some of them down. Though some hold to this theory due to problems understanding how an omniscient God can be a baby, or how an omniscient Jesus does not seem to know important eschatological details (Matthew 24:36), there is not enough Scriptural evidence for this theory and, in fact, there is sufficient reason from Scripture not to hear it at all. Nevertheless, the B&D Jesus seemed entirely kenotic.

The Burnett/Downey Jesus was human as He should have been, but He was lacking in divinity. Last week, at His baptism there was no dove, no voice. And in the wilderness He said, “I will worship the Lord My God.” In the garden of Gethsemane, when He told the disciples, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” He seemed to be making a comment on His own status rather than giving an exhortation to them. But this was in line with the humanistic bent of the entire series.

The Thirteenth Disciple

Mary Magdalene was practically a thirteenth disciple in this story: standing near Peter most of the time and quite comfortable, very verbal; at one point uttering words that should have come from the mouths of the disciples. You will search in vain for anything like Sunday night’s depiction of Mary when you look in the real Bible. It is true that she, along with other women, including Jesus’ mother, did travel with Jesus and His disciples and helped support them out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3). But it is the inordinate emphasis upon Mary Magdalene that has given rise over the centuries to the idea that she and Jesus were married. Scripture knows nothing of the sort.

Nicodemus took quite a hit in this version. He carried the water for those opposed to Jesus for almost the whole story. Of course in the real Bible, Nicodemus is only mentioned five times and only in the Gospel of John, though still a significant figure because of the conversation he had with Jesus.

Other Stuff

Once again, there was plenty enough violence to go around. In fact, it was amazing that Jesus had the opportunity to speak at all since turmoil and suspicion and intrigue were so rampant. And, of course, there were the usual rewrites of the actual Bible to accommodate for the story. One of the most notable was Jesus practically force-feeding the bread to Judas at the Last Supper.

Judas: “But Master, I don’t want to do this!

Jesus: “Eat it, Judas! You are the guy whether you want to be or not!”

Judas: “But Master . . .”

Ludicrous!

Then, there was Jesus running out of the Last Supper all by Himself. Gone was the singing of a hymn (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). But this panicking Jesus helped to feed the surprised, weak, and humanistic Jesus we saw moments later. And what was this scene where Jesus was playfully tickling a little girl while declaring that the temple would someday be destroyed?! Oh yes, and at a peak moment in the Passover weak, as Jesus was preaching He exclaimed that the most important thing was to love others as you love yourself (or something to that affect). That falls in line with the humanistic “God and all of us” approach of the series. What Jesus really taught was

29 “The most important one [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).”

Still, you can’t help but enjoy the gentleness of the Burnett/Downey Jesus. Makes you nostalgic for the real Jesus. And in that I can find at least some value in this week’s History Channel presentation.

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A Father’s Letter To His Graduating Son

Dear Son:

Where to begin? All the years come suddenly to this moment and I am proud, I am thankful, I am emotional, I am nostalgic. And there is in me the dawning realization that every step you take from this day forward will be pregnant with the possibility that your path could take you further away from me than I am comfortable with.

For the better part of two decades, I have engrossed myself in your life. Much of my effort has been simply to keep you alive and healthy. I have sung songs, and played games, and answered questions, but more than that, I have loved you at depths that even now you are not able to understand and won’t be until you have a child of your own. Though at times I have tried to express and explain that love to you, I realize that, for now, between us, I’ll have to be content with knowing its depths on my own. Part of a parent’s lot I suppose.

Early on I saw that, from time to time, you went through changes as you grew and matured, and I realized that, if I were to continue to be close to you, I would have to adjust to the changes. As your interests changed, I adjusted mine so that I could continue to relate to you.

Starting out, I had clear goals. I always hoped that by the time you reached adulthood you would still love me as you did when you were just a little one. While that has been my hope, and still is, I have many times had to choose fatherhood over friendship in order to pursue another goal I had which was to give you direction and leadership. Sometimes choosing that road was hard and it left me feeling lonely, but my commitment was firm. And, if given the opportunity to do it all again, I would do it without hesitation.

The teenage years have been particularly unique in their challenges. Life goes along undisturbed, communication with your child is clear and good, and then it happens: adolescence! It’s a lot like losing radio contact. There is communication, then static, then the connection seems lost. But pretty soon, connection gets established again as long you try, which we both did.

For a long time now, you have demonstrated a growing desire to be independent. At first, I took that personally. Then I realized, with help, that your need for independence is the normal response of a child who has been nurtured, taught, respected, and appreciated. In the end, I have to admit that what I want is for you to be able to go out on your own and be OK.

There were countless lessons I tried to teach you that I hope have stayed with you. They were all important, but some of them rise to the top and are worth repeating in this letter. Like the fact that it is mathematically impossible for anyone to be right all the time and that sometimes, you have to say you’re sorry; that if you are going to stay close to those you love, you have to work at it; and that you should live everyday as though it were your last. I taught you that while we trust in God for the future, we have no promise of tomorrow, so you have to live today as though there were no tomorrow. Take time to look around and appreciate the blessings in your life today, especially the people. I taught you that these are the good old days! They certainly have been for me.

I also taught you about Jesus. That He is the only way to heaven, that He is coming back soon, and that He loves you and cares about you. That He expects us to live right and that He has given us the power to do so, not in order to earn salvation (which we cannot do) but in order to live up to what He has done for us (which, admittedly, we can’t do either but we should try). I taught you to call on Him, and that, no matter the situation, prayer will work. That advice will serve you well forever!

I tried my best to instill in you a confidence that there is nothing you can’t do if you try. I have believed in you your whole life and I believe in you now! I taught you that you can do anything through Christ and that nothing is too hard for the Lord, but that most of all it was important to find out what He wants you to do!

You should know that I still feel the sting of failures I made while you were growing up: Misspoken words, times when I was too busy or impatient. Times when I was slow to understand what you needed or just misunderstood things altogether. Thank you for loving me anyway. Just as I learned from my father’s mistakes, you have learned from mine and your children will learn from yours. That’s how it works.

It is my indescribable pleasure to be your father. But, for now, I am beginning to let you go. Not entirely; never entirely. As long as I am alive I will do everything I can to be here for you and be a blessing to you, just as I always have. My door will always be open to you. Wherever I am, you will always be welcome. And as long as I am on this earth I will be here for you. And if you ever look up and I am gone, just know that I am with Him. So, walk in faith and we will be together again. But for now I am here and for now it is time for you to spread your wings and begin to fly. No too far at first, but over time farther and farther, ever so certainly, until you find your place in this world.

With more love than I know how to express,

Your Father

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