Jacob’s hope, a tree of life

A fear of forgetting

I was afraid that I would forget my son. I was afraid that I would not remember the sound of his voice, the smell of his clothes and gait of his steps. A strange and unfamiliar fear overtook me in the first hours, days and weeks after his death. I have heard others speak of this same kind of fear, I feared that my memory of Jake would be lost. Love reacts to this fear of forgetting by doing many wonderful things to remember the one we love. We want to remember the dead, we want to memorialize a life and to never forget. So we have a memorial stone made, a memorial tattoo inked, a memorial scholarship established, a memorial benefit hosted or a memorial fund started in the name of the deceased. My wife and I memorialized our 4 loved ones on one day by planting 4 trees in their memory.

Jacob's tree

Jacob’s tree

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GLMA cadet

What I want to forget

The fear of forgetting was graciously replaced with daily memories of his life. The fear of forgetting faded, yet there are many things that I have purposefully tried to forget. I want to forget the phone call, the sound of my wife’s sobbing voice, the ride home in unbelief and the sight of my dead son on the basement floor. I want to forget calling his brother and sister, choosing his casket and the moment I first seen him in it. I want to forget the funeral and the burial of 3 loved ones six weeks later on May 15th 2014. I would like to forget it all, yet it is all there in my memory. I don’t go there often, it is terrible place and very difficult to ponder and to write about. I refuse to live in those moments in time but I wander there from time to time in my mind, reliving the terrible aguish all over again. I want to forget but it is always there, forever burned into the memory of my life and all the things that surrounded his death.

Ways to remember

I have watched grievers very closely since since all this grief poured into my life. I have noticed many great and wonderful things being done on behalf of somebody who has died. Generally the cause is closely related to how the loved one died. Some join the fight against cancer, or get involved in suicide prevention. Some take up arms and join the fight against drugs or drunk driving with the hope that one life might be spared because of their effort. We honor the memory of a loved one by crusading with purpose. We hope to help someone else with the very thing that took the precious life that we lost and remember every day. These are all commendable causes but are not the things I have chosen to remember my son by.

What I cannot change

Jacob had anxiety, depression, panic attacks and self medicated with prescription opiates. There are many avenues I could have gone when he died. He was near graduation from the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, I could have establish a memorial scholarship fund for him there. I could go the route of drug awareness, education and enforcement to remember his life and perhaps prevent another person from overdosing. I could bring attention to depression and anxiety dissorders in our youth and crusade about that. All these things people are already doing and they are commendable causes pursued by hurting people. But I have never personally felt compelled to honor my son’s life in any of these areas. I certainly want to honor him and remember him for the greater good of somebody else but not in any of those ways. Why not you may ask? I see them all as being helpful, valuable, necessary and good but I find them to be temporal and not eternal. I am for education about drugs, depression and support greater law enforcement on narcotics, especially the drug dealers that have the MD embroidered after their name. But realistically I feel there there will never be enough education, cops or laws to slow this enormous problem down. Especially in a culture that seeks to numb every ache and pain imaginable by the ready pen of their family physician. I want to have an impact, I want to invest in something that has eternal reward and not just temporal value in this short fleeting vapor we call life.

What I can do

Most people involved in these honorable causes will tell you that if one person can be helped then it would be worth all the effort. I believe that, I hope for that, I want that just like everybody else. I have come to realize that I will likely never help the masses with my message, but perhaps I can help one person at a time.

What am I doing to honor the life of my son? I offer hope, this is the greatest good that I can do for individuals. I offer hope to every man ever born who find themselves helpless and hopeless to overcome their greatest fear. Death! That unspeakable, feared and dreaded word that comes to our minds and causes us to shutter when we realize that our chances of dying in our lifetime is 100%.

Who has defeated our hated enemy Death? And if someone has overcome death, did he make a way for me to overcome it too? In the history of mankind only one man, the God man Jesus Christ of Nazareth had power over death. Follow his life and you will find him raising the dead on many occasions. The record of it was foretold and is undeniable. The prophets prophesied of it and the New Testament writers were eyewitnesses to it. Even his most hated enemies could not deny his power over it. When he died, they mocked him by saying, “He saved others but himself he cannot save.” Jesus was no victim, he was fully in control of all the events leading up to his death and trough his resurrection from the dead. He alone claimed something that only God could say or do. “For this reason my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18 ESV) 

The tree of life and hope

Eyewitnesses saw Jesus stop a funeral procession in the village of Nain and raised a widows young son out of his coffin. (Luke 7:11-17) The enemies of Jesus heard him say, “Lazarus come forth” and saw him walk out of his grave fully alive after being dead for 4 days. (John 11) Jesus walked out of his own tomb after three days by his own power. (Luke 24:6) He showed himself alive for 40 days (Acts 1:3) to his disciples and about 500 believers saw him after his death burial and resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15:6) then he ascended to the right hand of God. (Acts 1:6-11) The great hope of the Christian faith is that death has been defeated by the Son of God. The soul that sins will die, (Ezekiel 18:20) and “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV) God placed the punishment for our sin on him so that we may live in a wonderful hope. (2 Corinthians 5:21) By his stripes we are healed! (Isaiah 53)This is my hope filled message, this is what matters most to me because it has eternal, not temporal, implications.

Who would die for a lie? 11 of the 12 apostles died proclaiming that Jesus was alive and repeated his words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) The life of the apostle Paul was a life of constant persecution and suffering for this message of faith and hope in Jesus. Why would any man endure what he endured for a lie? He said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…What do I gain if I fought with beasts in Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, Let us eat drink fro tomorrow we die.”(1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 32 ESV) 

The bible begins and ends in a garden and in the each garden there is the tree of life. Mankind was expelled from the garden and was graciously forbidden to eat from it. Every man will taste of death, but Christ tasted death for every man that we might we might gain entrance into the paradise of God and eat of the tree of life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life! He is our only hope, he is the good news to all mankind, he killed death for all who believe. He gives us great hope and precious promises, He says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) O taste and see that the Lord is good.

The trees we planted last summer serve as a memorial to the ones we have loved and lost. But each spring they push out new buds and flowers fill their branches. They serve as a reminder to me of the new life I have in Christ because of his resurrection from the dead. They are with the living one, the eternal one, the very God who became man so that we might have life through his name. Peter summed it up after he seen him alive from the dead. He said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV)

Grandmas tree

Grandma’s tree

Justins tree

Justin’s tree

If Jesus is in the the tomb, the words I type for you are a lie and a great self deception. But he is alive and this is the great eternal hope that I will present to everyone who is living a life of meaninglessness and hopelessness.

To you who believe I leave you with these words. “Now may the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17 ESV)

Granny's tree

Granny’s tree

For you who do not believe I ask you a few questions. If you cannot beat death why do you reject Jesus the only one who did? What or who is your hope hope in without him? The bible says that you are in a desperate place, “Having no hope and without God in the world.” It doesn’t have to be because, “Now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:12-14a ESV) He offers you a real hope, and a peace that passes all human comprehension if you will only trust him. Trust him today, for he is trustworthy!

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Jacob Michael Fekete

Burn victims, maimed accident victims and people with severe birth defects or obvious physical abnormality cause me to behave oddly. I am compelled to look and yet when confronted by a returned glance I quickly turn away. I have pity for them but it is easier to turn my head and my feet in the opposite direction than to face what makes me uncomfortable and feeling a little awkward. Beneath the physical scars and handicaps of these individuals are all the unseen emotional wounds and scars that their lot in life has produced. Their physical scars and suffering run deep to the bone, to the very heart and soul of the individual. Like a leper who is banished to his leper colony he suffers alone most of the time. Only his leper friends truly know the depth of the lepers pain. Grief is much the same way.

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Stacey’s memorial tattoo with Jacob’s signature

The death of my son Jacob has scarred me for life. I and am a member of an elite club of a few people who paid the highest price to become a member. We are our own people who speak our own language which outsiders can never interpret or understand. We are every parents worst fear, they don’t want to become us and we don’t want them to know what we know. They possess compassion and pity, but lack empathy because only experience can truly bring empathy and understanding. People say, “I can’t even imagine how you feel.” and they are right. I never understood this unique kind of loneliness and pain with the deaths of other close loved ones. Losing a child puts us on an island with few citizens, but in the loneliness there are a few visitors who see past the pain, the scars the emotions and their own fears and minister to us in a special way.

Part of me died in the death of my son. I am different and I never expect to be the person I used to be. This is the new normal, and continuing grief is still shaping what this new normal looks like. I wrote all you have just read about 4 months ago and would like to add to it now. I am different but I have had friends recently say they have have seen glimpses of the old Mike from time to time. I am somewhat glad to to hear people say that but in all honesty I wouldn’t want to be the old Mike ever again.

Grief is chisel in the hand of God. He hammers on us to create whatever masterpiece the Lord has in mind. I am his workmanship. He is the potter and I am the clay. What God is creating is better than what I was before and his sculpting project isn’t complete yet.

It has been my experience  over the last year that I feel most comforted by people who make me feel normal in my new normal. They see my scars and my malady yet they don’t walk away. When they are with me I am comfortable to laugh again, and to cry at the drop of a hat. These dear people take our hand and walk us back on to the path of living. Simple things they do with us are restoring the path of life for us. They walk with us on our lonely island and we show them around; they are silent while we speak. They are not wordy people and yet they always have a few encouraging quips that help us to keep moving onward and upward.

Tonight as I opened this draft and read the 400 or so words that I managed to type out some months back. I started writing this just after the one year anniversary, I  had forgotten that I even started it but realized something great as I sat here. Four months later the wounds have healed a little more and the scars are taking more of their permanent shape. God has chipped away at the sharp edges in my life with his hammer and chisel. He sees clearly what I can only see in the dimness of the light. He’s still working on me

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

Tomorrow’s lie

Life is short. We know it all too well, it passes us by as quickly as the morning fog lifts off our favorite lake. Life is certainly just a vapor, it comes then it goes as fast as it arrived. I am in mid life, I turned 47 last week but am I really in mid life? Maybe mid life was 24 for me and I am finishing out my final days right now. We all know how fragile life is, we all know that we are not promised tomorrow yet we routinely live as though tomorrow is as certain as the rising sun. I truly believe that our son Jake was just as shocked as we all were when he died, he was only 22, making his midlife age a mere 11 years old. He had no clue, neither did we and neither did you.

I mowed at the school a little over two weeks ago. While I was mowing again yesterday I noticed all the dead clippings from the last cut as I mowed the living grass and many yellow flowers adding to the mulch. My mind then drifted to what Isaiah said, “A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is as grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord breathes on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8 ESV) I probably added millions of blades of grass and flowers to the already dead blades and flowers from 2 weeks ago. As quickly as they grow they disappear, die and are forgotten.

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In the weeks preceding Jacob’s death he spoke much about his hopes of the future. In fact the very night he died he shared with is grandpa and grandma about these things. Little did Jake know that in a few short hours he would enter his eternal home, his life, like the mown flower would fade and be cut off from the land of the living. He was added to the millions, yes even trillions that have went on before him. I took no thought to say goodbye when we last spoke, nether did he for how could either of us know that God would require his soul that very night?

Much good for the kingdom of God is wasted in the ignorance and foolishness of youth. I too was young, ignorant and a fool thinking that life will always go along as it has, forgetting God and living as though there was no God to give an account of my life to. While my kids were in their teens I wrote this verse out and put it on our refrigerator door, O how I hope Jacob took it to heart. “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) The joy of youth always turns to the difficulties of getting old. Wise king Solomon calls the youth to remember their Creator God while life is early, when you are strong and you can enjoy him fully and serve him joyfully before the difficult days come your way. Where are the wise parents who are calling the youth to serve God and not their own pleasures?

We do not know when the silver cord that holds our life on this earth will be broken. A dear lady that I know died recently at 102, my cousins boy only lived 100 days- each of those two lives lived out the days that their Creator appoint for them. Like the grass, like the flowers, they die and fade away causing us to ask, “What lasts forever?” Isaiah said it, “The word of our God will stand forever.” The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) Who is the Word, who was with God at creation, who made all things? Jesus- “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:13) All things visible have an expiration date, we do and the planet does also. Everything but the eternal words from our God will be burned up in the end. (2 Peter 3:10-11)

How does a fool live? He says to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat drink and be merry. But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul will be required of you, and the things you prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.” I may never draw a dime from an IRA, or social security or my promised state retirement; this leaves me with the question what is truly wise investing and will I be wise or a fool? My life and your life have expiration dates and we do not know the day or the hour that has been written down for us. When we wither as the grass and fade as the flower let us be ready to meet our God. Be ready! He is coming at a time we least expect him.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away- Jesus
The things that we see are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal- Paul

Does God really care about our grief?

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
I consider tears as the bleeding of the soul. Just as when we are hurt physically we bleed, so too when we experience trauma of the soul the result will be tears. Some bleeding is internal and the tears cannot be seen or easily wiped away. Much of life is about pain control and finding ways to slow the bleeding and ease the discomforts we are in whether external or internal. There are prescriptions to dull our pain and tissues for the tears on our cheeks but is there any cure to take away all this sorrow and grief in life? No, sorrow and grief are here to stay for a while, but thankfully there is a cure that is provided for us by grace through faith.
Many times we ask ourselves the question, “Does God see or feel our pain?” When God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ he was born with eyes, but his eyes seen much differently than any other man ever born. The bible tells us that the eyes of Jesus were full of compassion; feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, preaching the truth and raising the dead are all evidences that he sees the pain of mankind. Jesus is not only the God who sees, but he is the God who has power to do something about the sorrows of life. Jesus was able to wipe away the tears of the bereaved in his day, but what about us? Can he do it for you and me?
God promised a cure for the grief of mankind (Genesis 3:15) through the seed of a woman. God again promised through the prophet Isaiah about a coming Messiah 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel” ( Isaiah 7:14 meaning God with us) The Lord became a man, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 ESV) God does care about our troubles, he does care about our grief and has went to the greatest lengths to demonstrate it and also to eliminate it.
Jesus our compassionate God came to wipe all tears away, but first he had to experience the tears that we shed. He grieved and sobbed with his friends and his enemies over the death of his beloved friend Lazarus. He knew that in just a few moments he would wipe their tears away by calling his friend out of the tomb yet he still sorrowed and grieved with them. (John 11) On the surface this seems odd but the understanding of his tears is revealed to us in the prophecy of Isaiah 53. Jesus saw their grief and his compassion for them drove his thinking to how he would take all of our sorrows away forever. It would come at the highest price and it could only be accomplished through his own death.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3) The world hates Jesus without reason yet despite this, “Surely he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows.” (53:4) What creates the grief and sorrow that Jesus is determined to die for? It is the power of sin, Isaiah continues, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought our peace, and by his stripes we are healed.” (53:5) A perfect sacrifice is the only thing that could satisfy a perfectly holy God. Jesus did just that and by his grace we can receive forgiveness of sins through his blood which brings to us peace with God.
 Lazarus died because he was a sinner, the grief and pain of all who were there that day was a result of sin, because the payment for sin is always death. We are powerless to do anything about sin and death but thankfully God is not. He killed death by death and gives us hope through his resurrection from the dead. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, he walked out of his own tomb because death could not hold him. It was foretold, it came to pass and by faith in his name we can have the same thing. God does care!
Death is no victor, death has lost its sting because Jesus’ beat death at its own game. He was sinless and could not die because sin had no power over him like it does over us. Yet his love for us compelled him to give his life a ransom for many, taking our sins and nailing them to his cross thereby paying the debt we owe to God. Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might be made the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV) This is the great exchange of our sins for his righteousness to satisfy the justice of a loving God. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Since therefore we have been justified by his blood, much more we shall be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:8-9 ESV)
God cares and God sees all the external and internal tears of our lives. His care is evident in the extremes he endured to take away our pain on his cross. He suffered and has borne our sorrows and grief’s. Should we expect as sinners to not suffer if the sinless Son of God suffered willingly on our behalf? Jesus understands, sees, and cares for us because he became one of us, so that he might become a merciful High Priest for us. He is the only priest we need, “Because he continues forever, he has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25) Your pain and your tears are only for a night, but joy comes in the morning friend. Remember that he has carried your sorrow and grief for you. Now as you wait for him, cast your cares on him, for he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Trust him, he really loves us and has went to the greatest lengths to empty our tissue box. For  a short time we will need tissues in this life, but someday the box will empty and there will be no more mourning, crying or pain but joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Are you a man or a mouse? Squeak up!

http://churchformen.com/men-and-church/where-are-the-men/

Why are Christian churches full of women and lacking men? Widows, single moms, married but without their husbands next to them in the pew defines the largest percentage of church attendees. Why is this so? I think the reasons for it are broad and I don’t have enough time to write on it all, so I will only hit on the issue that I believe stands out most.

I want to say first that there are allot of good men who are without faith that do the same things Christian men do. There is a defining difference between us however but first, I ask, what do we have in common with them? Morality, ethics, providers, good fathering, good husbands, family man, community minded, service oriented, leaders in business, education among a few things. You don’t beat your wife good for you! You go to all your kids events, good for you! You hold a job and pay your mortgage, good for you! These are the things all men should be doing; what separates the man of faith from the man of the world? The man of faith leads his family into the realm of faith, he is not in the shadows or AWOL in this matter. So why are men AWOL and living in the shadow lands, shirking their God given responsibility to lead their homes to God? I believe we lack examples and quite frankly I think that many Christian men are cowards and need to be encouraged to be bold and step out in faith to lead.

How many men will come to a church golf outing? How about a hunters dinner? What about a camping weekend for fathers and sons? You can fill a church gym if you have a raffle for guns but nobody shows when it comes to men being men in spiritual matters. Offer a men’s group for prayer and bible study and you will hear every excuse in the book, but there are no excuses to attend a men’s Super Bowl gathering. This is an age old problem, its connected to a curse and must be overcome with courage and examples of bold leadership.

Adam failed to lead and followed his wife into willful sin. God pronounced curses on them which included great pain in childbearing and that, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) God places an authority and submission context to marriage, the man is to lead his wife. The man is to lead his wife to God, his family to God, his church to God, as well as his community, and his world to the very feet of Jesus.

Why are churches full of women and a few weak kneed men hanging around in their shadows? First, I believe there are few men boldly leading other men into their God given role and duty. I also find very few men interested in following a strong leader into this responsibility. Thankfully we have an example of a strong leader and a fearful mentee to observe in the scriptures. Paul and Timothy help me see the issue more clearly. Timothy was a young, timid and fearful pastor but Paul chose him and mentored him through all the fears that came their way.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother and grandmother. These women faithfully led Timothy to God, apparently his father was not involved in these matters. The apostle Paul shows up to his home town and hears of Timothy and that he is well spoken of in his community. Paul was on the move because of persecution and needs to leave town again but desires to take Timothy with him and train him for ministry like a son. What they encounter first must have scared the pants of Timothy when he saw Paul beaten and thrown in jail right from the start.

The Spirit leads them into Macedonia and the city of Philippi where they go to the river on the Sabbath day to find a group of women in a prayer meeting. There were no men, Paul arrives and preaches Jesus to these God fearing women and one name Lydia is saved.. Luke says, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things of Paul” From there a demon possessed girl is delivered which results in Paul and Silas being thrown in jail. The jailer is saved and the church of Philippi is born, but not without the pain of persecution. (Acts 16) The persecution gets worse as Paul preaches while Timothy looks at the cost of being a disciple of Jesus and a mentee of Paul. Paul was there to encourage him to press on in the good fight of faith despite the difficulty.

Timothy is later given a church to oversee in Ephesus where the hostility towards Christianity is hot. As Paul is in prison he writes his final letter to his son in the faith reminding him of the godly heritage provided him by his mother and grandmother. Timothy was timid, fearful and weak but Paul was bold and courageous, he mentors him and encourages him to follow him as he follows Christ. Paul writes to the people of Corinth concerning pastor Tim, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ as I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17-18 NKJV)

Paul is in prison and will soon lose his head under the blade of Nero, he writes this last letter to his friend. Timothy was in danger of timidly drawing back into the shadows, but Paul, as he nears his beheading stirs up his friend by giving some final instructions. He says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) If men are afraid to lead spiritually we can be assured it doesn’t come from God, on the contrary we have everything we need for life and godliness. Paul says to hold fast the teachings, to be unashamed regardless of the opposition.

Paul continues, “And the things you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) What does a man of faith look like, are they on the golf course? In the woods or the lake? Are they on the job or watching the NFL network? Men of faith lead in the faith and they will suffer for it. The question I have for myself as a man and for other men is this; Am I a coward or am I willing to pay a high price to lead in spiritual matters?

Paul doesn’t sugarcoat the price we must pay, Jesus never did either. He says, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3) It’s warfare we need to free yourself from the world. We are like olympians who must be disciplined and devoted and committed to the the rules. The man of God must also be patient to the end like a farmer waiting for the harvest. Keeping his gaze on Jesus all the time as he leads in spiritual things. Men are to lead their wives as Christ leads his church. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

Consider Joshua who was a man among men but then Moses his mentor in the faith died. God comes to Joshua like Paul approached Timothy with an encouraging word to be courageous. He was a general of the armies of Israel yet God says 3 times to be courageous. God told him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV) Attention Christian men! Do you want God by your side wherever you go in life? Then be strong and unafraid; step out in faith into the battle and lead the way.

You first have to have faith to be a faithful man. If you have faith, are you leading the way for those around you. Will you man up and lead the ladies, and ladies will you allow them to lead in the way God called them to lead? Will both male and female accept the word of God to us that says the following. “Let the woman learn quietly, with all submissiveness. I do not permit women to teach or exercise authority over a man, she is to remain quiet.” Why Paul? “For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14) This is the word of God to us.

Men we are failing our families, stand up and lead them! Find a good godly mentor to learn from and then mentor others like God has called us to do. If there is any doubt as to what you are called to as a Christian man consider that Jesus called 12 disciples to lead the church all of which were men. Those men appointed men to lead in the spiritual matters of the church. All this begins in our own homes men, lead your wives boldly there. Take your family to church seek a mentor and mentor others. There are plenty of cowards in the world, may it never be said of Christian men. What are you, a man or a mouse? Squeak up!

Christian persecution; understanding hatred of God

Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘ Lord, Lord’, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? “And then I will declare to them,’I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
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On February 5th, 1996 this passage was cutting through my very soul. As an unbeliever I was pondering the Jesus described here and I was terrified of him. If the many religious people will be turned away from his presence what chance did I have as an indifferent church attendee? I did not want to meet Jesus in this way, I was afraid and rightfully so. For Jesus himself said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to kill both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) On that night, in a classroom, on my knees I pleaded with God for mercy and from that moment my life would never be the same. I met Jesus that winter evening and he warmed my cold heart with his grace, mercy and peace. I am no longer afraid to meet Jesus but I am one who eagerly waits for, and loves his appearing.
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In this passage I was one of “the many” people who was on the broad road that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13) They cry Lord, Lord in terror pointing to their own good deeds that they did in the name of Jesus, but to their great shock the Lord judges them, condemns them and sends them away. This is why I was afraid to meet the Jesus in this passage. I couldn’t even put myself into the class of religious people who were doing good things in his name. What chance would I have in his courtroom being an indifferent Jesus watcher in the back row of a church? Oh sure, Jesus had been sprinkled into my life for my entire life. I was a church attendee and participated in youth group activities. I was raised in a Christian home and had Christian education, Jesus was everywhere around me except for the most important place, he had no place in my heart. I had no understanding that my passive stance actually put me in the enemies of God camp even though I never felt I was hostile towards him. Jesus leaves no neutral ground for men to stand on, he said you are either for him or you are against him. (Colossians 1:21-22)
My problem was the same problem as these Jesus professors in line waiting to meet him. What is their problem? There was no intimate fellowship with Christ from the heart in their religious profession, they did not know him. They offered lip service and religious activity to Jesus but lacked a heart for him. Jesus who sees their heart observes only sin within it. Why? Because a confession that trusts in ones own polluted righteousness while rejecting the perfect righteousness of Christ always falls short of a faith that saves. (Romans 3:23) Without this faith that  God offers through his Son it is impossible to please him, regardless what we say or do in his name.
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Many church people like the Jews of old (and today) are seeking to establish their own righteousness by dead works that have no power to save or any redeeming value. They are very zealous for God while ignorant and stubborn at the same time. Paul says of his own people, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)  Paul was once ignorant (of God’s righteousness by faith) and zealous (for his own righteousness by works) but was confronted by Jesus (like me in the classroom). When he met Jesus he chucked all his religious credentials and considered it manure, exchanging it for the righteousness of Christ by faith. How come Paul? “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that is from God, through faith.” (Philippians. 3:8-10) We must all come the same way.
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The apostle was zealous for God but not according to knowledge, he was opposed to the gospel of grace and became the greatest persecutor of Christians. Paul was an enemy of the cross of Christ, he hated Christians, he could have been the leader of ISIS today. This is the same evil and deadly spirit that controls all those who speak the God and Jesus lingo but their heart is far from him. Isaiah spoke of this and Jesus affirmed it in Mark 7:6-7, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Religious actors have empty worship and a heart far from God, they supplant man’s teaching and religious traditions for the word of God. All the violence ever dispensed on Christianity has come from the hands of the religious who hate Jesus. I might add that all who are on a crusade to destroy other faiths in the name of Christianity are not Christians at all. True Christian’s follow Jesus the Good Shepherd into paths of righteous for the sake of his name.thorns
The persecution of Christian’s comes as no surprise to a Christian. Jesus said it would happen, “These things I have spoken to you, that you may not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues: yes the time will come that whoever kills you will think they offer God service.” And exactly why will they do these things? “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:3) The haters of God are on the rise, persecution is in the news more and more. Why? Jesus says again, “But all these things they will do for my name’s sake, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also.” (John 15:21-23) Persecution of Christians is an evidence of hatred for God and his only Son Jesus, all this is done in the name of God. They cannot kill the living Christ, so they kill those who follow him and know him showing themselves as sons of hell. (Philippians 1:28)
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Is an open confession of Jesus sufficient to give a person entrance into heaven? Is calling him Lord and reminding him of the works they had done in his name sufficient to him? No, they are not. Is an open confession of Jesus as Lord important? Absolutely! But the confession must come from a transformed heart, true salvation is two-sided. Paul affirms this, and it is simple to understand; it is the word of faith which we preach (the gospel), “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (side 1) and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead (side 2), you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Romans.10:9-10) 
These people described for us in Matthew 7 had an open confession but what did they lack? They lacked a heart that believed in the perfect atoning work of Christ and their need to trust in his righteousness alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. They despised his grace and established their own righteousness in which they could boast, but the boasting before men is only temporary for there will be no boasting of personal righteousness before Jesus. They will meet Jesus and sadly it will be the Jesus they never wanted to meet. I am so thankful to have met the Lord in that classroom so many years ago. For it was on that day that I first understood that, “When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared (Jesus), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:4-5) To God be the glory, great things he has done!
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When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who should be killed as they were was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11) How were they killed? They were beheaded for Christ. (Revelation 20:4) These are the martyrs at the end before Jesus returns to take back his earth; its going to get worse. Are you ready to meet him?