Tag: Life and Life with Christ

Letter 7: God is Love

 

My Son,

 

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God, if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us… So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:7-12, 16).

 

The revelation that God is love wasn’t disclosed fully to humanity until the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC 221). This is an astounding revelation. Not only is God love, but we are also called to share in that love. It makes sense that God is love, since Jesus told us that the full summary of the law is to love God with all that we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). All that Jesus says and does comes from a place of pure love.

Many people that I have encountered in my life who do not believe in God or who do not like Christianity have never heard that God is love. They usually have a misperception of God being a cruel slave driver just commanding people to do impossible things and then judging them for failing. Since God is love, all the commandments he does give his people and all of the judgments he does pronounce flow from love.

The chief manifestation of God’s love to mankind is Jesus Christ dying on the cross and rising from the dead for the sake of his friends and even his enemies. Love is sacrifice. God’s purpose in creation and in his plan for humankind is to express his own nature and glory. Since God is love, and love is sacrifice, then Jesus hanging on the cross fulfills the very expression of the glory of God. Since we are called to share in this divine exchange of love, this means we too are called to deny ourselves and carry our crosses daily.

May this revelation of God being love consume your mind, heart, and soul, and motivate you to live a life reflecting such glorious love.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 6: Live under His Smile

My Son,

 

Live each day under the shining light of your heavenly Father’s adoring smile! God likes you and wants you to know how much he cares for you. He is the Father of Lights and there is absolutely no darkness in him. He is love himself and he is your true Father. I myself am full of love for you, my child, and I am an imperfect man. How much more does your heavenly Father love you? you were created out of love and for love.

I’ve come across many people in life who think that God hates them or is vehemently angry with them. Those people rarely refer to God as their Father and they certainly don’t remember that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, suffered and died that he might bring them into the sheepfold of the Father. Others are so plagued by their own inadequacies, compounded by a low self-esteem that they can’t imagine anyone loving them, let alone a perfect God. I, too, am tempted to think this way and get really down on myself when I sin or make a mistake. Whenever these thoughts appear, I close my eyes and imagine the Father opening his arms to welcome me, his prodigal son, back into his warm embrace. I picture God hugging me, smiling at me, and whispering, “I love you, buddy.” This has greatly aided my relationship with God. Every day, I want you to picture the Father smiling at you and whispering words of love into your ear.

Don’t get me wrong, God does hate sin, and hates it when you sin. Sin corrupts you and causes a “distance” to form in your relationship with him. I say “distance” because it’s not as though God leaves your side, but rather that sin causes you to look inward at your own shame. Instead of condemning yourself and becoming self-absorbed (which only compounds sin and guilt), repent and ask God to forgive you. To repent is to turn in heart and action back to God. Turn away from yourself and look into his beautiful eyes of love. Let his grace wash over you. In this way, you will start anew in your path toward holiness.

God likes you, is proud of you, and smiles upon you. You are a cherished one of God. Do you sense that? Do you feel that love? Are you experiencing his tender care for you? Remind yourself daily of his smile, and you will become so lost in his love that the world and all its corruption will fade away. You are so beloved, my child.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 5: The Secret Place

 

My Son,

 

Give, pray, fast, and perform all sorts of righteous deeds in secret “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). Jesus’s teaching on “the secret place” in his Sermon on the Mount is a source of great joy and conviction for me. Joy wells within my soul when I find myself alone and know that the heavenly Father sees me when no one else can. One of the first revelations of God in the Bible comes to Hagar when she declares that God is a God who sees (Genesis 16:13). When you are in the secret place you are with the God who sees. What an opportunity we have to walk with the Lord in the integrity of our hearts!

What we do in the secret place is the true test of a man. Do you walk with integrity? Do you do the right things when nobody is watching? Do you only do “righteous deeds” before others in order to be seen by them? If so, then you will have no reward from your true Father in heaven. In the secret place, do you perform acts of wickedness or righteousness? Do you give in to the lusts of the flesh or the life of the Spirit? What kind of man are you? Are you the same person before others as you are by yourself? Are you aware that your Father always sees you? These questions have caused conviction to stir within my heart alongside the joy of knowing God is with me. It is in the secret place, that a man rises or falls, wins or loses the battle for his soul.

The secret place is portable. It is not just the place where no one is physically around you, but it is also in your heart. When Jesus tells people to fast “in secret”, he doesn’t tell us to seclude ourselves away from people. Rather, he says to “anoint your head and wash your face” (Matthew 6:17), so that as you are interacting with people they won’t even know you are fasting. The key is your heart. Are you wanting to fast, pray, give, or do anything “good” in order for you to receive the glory and recognition from others, or are you doing these things for the sake of intimacy with your heavenly Father? Whether you are physically alone or not, you can live in the secret place before the Lord. What a beautiful reality!

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 4: Abiding in Christ

My Son,

 

Abiding, remaining, communing in Christ; this is the pinnacle of Christian living. It signifies a 24/7 relational connection to Jesus. It is walking with God in the cool of the day. When you rise from sleep you are with him and he is with you. When you eat you are eating to the glory of God and dining at the table of the Bridegroom. When you put your head to rest you are resting in the palm of God’s mighty hand. All thoughts, feelings, actions flowing from and toward God; this is what it means to abide.

You may ask, “How can this be? How can I get to this point of constantly communing with God?” There are several secrets I’ve learned to help me to abide in Christ. In 1 John 4, we see two key points about abiding: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God… God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:15-16). When you confess that Jesus is the Son of God, you know for a fact that God is abiding in you and you in him.

This may seem silly, but sometimes when I’m by myself I whisper this prayer, “Jesus, you are the Son of God, and I love you.” Then I get chills because I know that in this most sacred moment God is with me. If you are struggling to feel God’s presence, and if you have doubts about whether or not you are abiding in him, then simply confess Jesus to be the Son of God and let yourself be overcome with the reality that God is abiding in you. The other secret, which is no secret at all, is love. Love is sacrificing yourself for the good of another. Giving yourself fully to God and serving your neighbor are interconnected pieces to the love equation. When you love the people you encounter, you can know with certainty that you are abiding in God and God is abiding in you.

To adequately love others, you first must know how much God loves you. Imagine God smiling down on you and giving you great big hugs throughout the day. This is something pure and lovely to think about. He loves you and desires to make that known to you. Let your mind be filled with images of God being a Father to you. Let him pat you on the back and speak words of comfort to you.

Infuse yourself with the things of God and you will greatly enhance your ability to abide in Christ. Reading, memorizing, and meditating on the Scriptures every day puts the Word of God in your mind. Singing and making melody to the Lord through worship songs will move your heart to be united with his. Being constant in prayer keeps the lines of communication open. Partaking in the Eucharist literally infuses your whole being with Jesus’s Body and Blood. It doesn’t get much more intimate than that!

Let these truths wash over you! God in you and you in God; this is life and life to the full!

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 3: Finiteness

My Son,

 

There are many things in life that are finite, and I’ve only begun to think of such things. In every movie there are a finite number of words spoken, a finite number of scenes, a finite amount of background music, and a finite amount of time to the movie. With all these finite elements combined, what truly separates one movie from another in its greatness? Would changing one sentence there and another word here make the movie greater than it was before?

A book is composed of a finite number of words and sentences. What separates the good books from the great books? Which words and sentences truly direct the story to its meaningful conclusion? It is the fact that each story has an end that makes every word matter. Every chapter, every sentence, every word is significant to make the story great. Two distinct books can have the exact same number of pages, but the words can be composed in such a way that one is a science fiction book and the other is an historical biography. One could be trash and the other could be a bestseller.

I apologize for rambling, my son. Perhaps you can develop these thoughts further. Perhaps you could use the right amount of words arranged in the exact order that would make your thoughts on the topic of “finiteness” much greater than my own. Perhaps your synthesis could be legendary.

There isn’t much separating you from being a legend, my son. After all, both you and the great saints of old have something in common: a finite number of breaths, words, and actions. When you meditate on this finite reality two things will happen: every moment will become precious to you, and the playing field of life will feel more level. Every breath you take matters, so don’t waste them. Every word you speak has the potential to change the world, so do not partake in foolish blabbering. Every action you do can manifest your love for God and neighbor, so act wisely.

The playing field of life is level. We all have a finiteness to our lives. Some will ignore this fact and go on living carelessly. You, my child, must embrace this fact. Because of this reality, God’s judgment of your life will be measurable, specific, and just. There are only a handful of words you will have said and actions you will have done before you stand before him on Judgment Day. Make them count! Let your finite life be enveloped in the arms of our infinite God and your story will radiate the eternal.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 2: The Brevity of Life

My Son,

Time is a funny thing, you know. As you get older, the years will go by faster. It’s a mathematical fact. When you went from age 1 to 2, that year would have seemed like double your lifespan, because it literally was double. But when you go from age 63 to 64, then that is only an increase in life of 1/64th. The older you get, the smaller the fraction of your passing years will be. Therefore, time will seem to speed up and not slow down. In this way, time is a strange phenomenon that only serves to magnify the fleeting nature of our lives.

The brevity of life has always become pronounced to me in an unlikely place: the world of sports. I have found it enjoyable to watch football from time to time, but I am by no means an avid sports fan. I have been around many an avid sports fan, however, and their emotions are greatly tied to the success or failure of “their” team’s winning or losing. Much effort is put into the preparation of these games for the fans. They will sometimes travel hours, endure terrible traffic, pay way too much for a hot dog, and use up a full day of their lives to watch a game. When a player does something wrong or when the referee makes a bad call, people will boo, cuss, and get red in the face with anger.

Yet, observe this fact, my son; that same fan who is pouring so much emotion and effort into this game will nearly forget all about it by the time the next season rolls around (perhaps even sooner) because his emotions will always be tied to the current game or season. During playoffs, the season will be forgotten and the fans will only care about how the team performs in the playoffs. If their team wins the Superbowl, they may be elated for a week or two, but when preseason starts back up, it will not matter who won last year’s game. Every year, I see thousands of people pouring so much effort into something so obviously fleeting. I do not say this to discourage you from enjoying sports, but to encourage you to use your time on this earth wisely. Wouldn’t you be better off focusing every ounce of energy on things eternal? With a kingdom perspective, going to a football game can turn from being a fleeting high to being an opportunity to see God move. So go to the game, but center your energy on the eternal and be Christ’s representative to all you encounter along the way.

Life is brief. It is like the flowers of the field; here today, gone tomorrow. Life is a flash, a whisper, a wisp of cloud. I want you to reflect upon how short your life is.

Without the hope of the resurrection and of life everlasting, this fact has caused many to get depressed and live in fear of their imminent death. For you, however, the brevity of life is a source of great joy. In reflecting on the shortness of your life, you are also embracing the most fantastic reality that you are about to meet Jesus face-to-face. Life on earth is passing away! The Day is right around the corner when you will no longer see God in a “mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12) but in person. You are on the verge of gazing into the glory of God and experiencing the fullness of joy in His Presence. Oh may the Lord grant you, my son, to envision this reality even now, and embrace the brevity of life with the utmost joy!

Your life, my son, is quite brief. Make yourself ready to be with the Lord. The Day is drawing nearer and nearer.

Love,
Dad

Letter 1: A Kingdom Perspective

My Son,

“From Him and to Him and through Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). To take this verse to heart is to embrace a “kingdom perspective” — a way of viewing the world that sees everything as sourced in God and ending in God. Everything that is good comes from your Heavenly Father. When you read a book, see a movie, listen to a song, learn a new concept, experience a new culture, and go about your day-to-day business, I beg you to see God in every bit of it. Always be attentive to what God may be saying or doing in your midst, for the great “midst” of our lives is where He manifests His kingdom. Ask your Heavenly Father, “Lord, what are you teaching me in this?” Ask Him to reveal Himself to you in all parts of the day. Be in constant communion and communication with your Heavenly Father. When you do this, your mind is naturally set in the supernatural realm of the heavens.

Jesus is clear, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33). The Apostle Paul is also clear, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 1:2). He also exhorts, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Seek, be transformed, and set your mind on the kingdom of heaven. This is your choice, my beloved son. These are actions you can choose to do.

From the mind flows the will and from the will flows your behavior. To “set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Everyone is after the same thing in life: life to the full, which we recognize as eternal life. Setting your mind on God is crucial to obtaining fullness in this life and the next. It is essential to experiencing a life of peace. When you get caught up in the rat race of this world, you will become stressed. You will deceive yourself into thinking that the menial tasks are the all-important “musts”, but in truth, they have the insipid nature of luring you away from the things that are actually important. It is difficult not to think about earthly things at times, so if you find yourself getting stressed, I want you to close your eyes and picture Jesus breathing His rest upon you. Take a deep breath, and let His peace wash over you. This can be an effective tool to reset your mind to then focus on Jesus and experience His most glorious peace.

Soak yourself in the Scriptures each day. Be mindful of what you put into your mind. If you listen to filth or watch filth, then you will inevitably fall into filth yourself. On the contrary, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

A kingdom perspective is focused on the King. So, lock your eyes on Jesus. In doing so, you are locking your whole self on the source of all purity and love. This way of thinking enriches every aspect of your life and will cause unspeakable joy to well up from within. These letters of mine express my own attempt at passing on this kingdom perspective to you.

May your every thought be to the praise of His glorious grace!

Love,
Dad