I struggled with whether or not to share this private letter I wrote to my Dad for his 61st birthday, but I decided it may provide encouragement for others out there that have family members that aren't saved.
I read the letter below out loud to him after dinner tonight. He has heard the Gospel before, but this was the first time I was able to make it all the way through without it turning into a Catholic vs. Protestant debate. In addition to this letter, I gave him a copy of Mark Cahill's book, "One Heartbeat Away".
Please don't wait until it is too late to share the Gospel with those you love.
Happy Birthday! I just wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the past and let you know how much I appreciate the father you have been to me. I look back over the past 31 years and it is full of such powerful memories; some good, some not so good. Even with all the struggles, the memory that is always foremost in my mind is how you carted me around to every conceivable sports game in which I was a part of. While I would not have been able to play on those teams without transportation, the most important aspect was that you stayed for every game. I know I didn’t appreciate it fully (or even grasp this at the time), but looking out into the stands during my baseball games and knowing that you were always there was so incredibly comforting. It showed how much you cared for me. I never once felt alone, I never once felt like you weren’t there for me. I never once doubted how much you loved me.
I know these are the types of things I couldn’t possibly have understood as a child (or a teen), but now that I find myself in the struggle between family & career, I know how much you must have sacrificed in order to be there for me. As I look back through this new lens, I know that you were there because you wanted to be there …that is what means the most to me. I know I haven’t always been the easiest to love, but you were still there. I know I wasn’t kind, or appreciative, or even remotely loveable…but you were still there. I know I wasn’t always respectful, but you were still there. You were there because you are my Dad, and that is what “real” Dad’s do...they are there.
The other memory that comes to mind is in much of the same vein. I’ll never forget how you played ball with me in the back yard as a boy. Countless hours of ground balls, you playing catcher and chanting “Umdada Beee Umdada Boy” as I would pitch at you from our makeshift pitcher’s mound. I can still hear the symphony of the bug zapper and the crackling of the AM radio as we tried to listen to the Orioles. I thought I was Cal Ripken, but only because you made me feel as if I really was. I am now only starting to understand the joy you must have felt then, as I get to experience it with my boys.
If only I could just fast forward and forget all those years between then and now. If only I could just skip over all the hurt I caused, avoid all the pain that resulted, and just arrive to where we are today. But we can’t, and that’s OK. Each and every one of those experiences has helped shape my full appreciation of you as a father. If there is one thing I have learned in the past few years, it is that if you don’t see the bad news, you’ll never fully appreciate the good news.
You see, that perspective is also part of what has caused some dissension between us over the past few months. I finally understand the “bad news” of how I look to the Perfect, Righteous & Holy God. I finally realized that I am not “good” when compared His Holy standard. I used to compare myself to others, and compared to them I do look quite good. I don’t do what “they” do, or I’m not as bad as “them”. But that isn’t how God says it works. We are not going to be judged according to our standard, we are going to be judged according to God’s standard, God’s perfect law.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for men once to die and after this comes judgment”, and when we die we will each be judged. And the result of that judgment is eternal. You see “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). None of us can possibly be found innocent, we have sinned against an infinitely Perfect God, and His Word is clear that the punishment is an infinite punishment in hell. I finally realized that I deserve to go to Hell. I broke God’s law, and I deserve to be punished. So that is the bad news.
But here is the Good news. God doesn’t want us to go to hell. God is Love. And how does He demonstrate that love? “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) See, I deserve the punishment of hell. But God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to pay my fine. He didn’t “just” get beaten, bruised, and mocked, die & then rise again defeating death…He took the full wrath of God upon His head so I didn’t have to have it on mine. And He did the same for You.
The bible is clear Pop, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) You can see that John displays the meaning of the word “believe” by showing that the opposite of “believe” is “not obey”. Believe is much more than “acknowledging” Jesus is who He said He was. It is “obeying” Him. If you look throughout the bible you find that Jesus uses two words to describe this “belief”. In Mark 1:15 Jesus uses the words together as He arrived in Galilee, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” In Luke 13:3 Jesus says, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
If we repent (turn from our Sins) and trust in Jesus to save us He will cause us to be born again. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) He changes the desires of our hearts; we submit to His authority in our life, we are consumed by our desire to serve Him.
Pop, here is why I wrote this letter. Life is short, who knows how much more time we have left. I didn’t want to risk another day to go by without me telling you how much I appreciate what you’ve done for me. I don’t want to risk the chance that I would look back after you are gone and say, “I wish I would have told Pop how much I loved him.”
But at the same time, I also don’t want to look back and regret not sharing the most important thing I have, the Good News of salvation. I know you may think that I’m just trying to convince you I’m right, but that isn’t the case at all. Think about it this way, if I know this to be true (which I do) than how could I possibly hold it to myself? How could I possibly let my Pop, get a day closer to eternity without telling you one more time about the only way to avoid the wrath of God?
I love you Pop, thank you for all you’ve done for me. Happy Birthday, and I praise God for giving me such a dedicated dad.