As I listened to the words again I thought about our easily forgotten destiny.
We all know that everybody has an expiration date. It’s not a thought we rest on too long. It’s uncomfortable. But if we did it just might change us for the good.
If you knew you or a loved one had a week to live what would you do? What would be on your bucket list?
Not to be too dark but we all are on a death march. We aren’t promised tomorrow and if we knew that tomorrow would never come for us what would that change today?
Two condemned criminals on crosses next to Jesus were in that very spot. Hear the words of a man who began to live like he was dying and the gracious response to him by our Lord.
 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:41-43
Listen to the thief’s confessions about himself and his new faith in Jesus at deaths door. This is truly the beginning of living like he was dying and he received eternal life.
Today is the day of salvation. It’s the only day we presently have.
If we lived today, and every day, as our last day the world would be a much better place. Live like it is because it just might be. We aren’t promised tomorrow.
Sitting on a hung jury once I was asked to examine the evidence and come to a verdict. The defendant was acquitted because of reasonable doubt.
For some the jury is still out on Jesus. Some are indifferent. Some are hostile. Some doubt. Some call it a myth. And some have not looked closely at the evidence to make a verdict.
There is no reasonable doubt in the case for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only unreasonable and willful rejection of insurmountable evidence.
Jesus is not on trial. He is the judge and we are not the jury but the defendant, our enemy is the prosecutor and we stand guilty before the court.
We all are guilty and we all need a pardon to escape the sentence.
On Good Friday Jesus took our death sentence upon himself.
 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.- 2 Corinthians 5:21
Today we celebrate the the risen King and the gospel truth.
 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
Prewritten, historical, actual and factual evidence demands a verdict. Jesus isn’t on trial- we are. What is your plea before the judge?
 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24
The insurmountable evidence has concluded that Jesus is the risen Son of God. How we respond to the evidence has eternal consequences.
Jesus is Lord! Yes he is Lord over all- even his enemies.
Seven years have come and gone since our Jake passed in March of 2014.
Grief has been a teacher to Stacey and I (others also) through this difficult season of life.
I think the greatest lesson I have learned since that awful day is that the grace of God is without end. It is deeper than I ever imagined.
At my salvation I experienced Gods grace through faith. As I began to walk by faith his grace continued to be revealed to me. This is a wonderful experience.
At Jacobs death and the years that have followed I have learned more of Gods grace in the pain than in the days of pleasure. This is a wonderful experience as well.
Grief is a tool God used to teach of his boundless grace and strength. I didn’t enjoy the class but pain has taught us things about God that aren’t known apart from discomfort.
Seven years ago I was at my lowest and weakest point in life. It seemed unbearable but Jesus carried the burden with us the whole way, till this day.
Jesus taught us things about his grace that we never could have understood apart from losing our son.
There is grace in pain. A depth of grace that is discovered only in our weakest points in life.
God didn’t remove our pain. Jacob is gone and that is a continual ache in our hearts.
I hated the hurt and wanted it gone. But now I wouldn’t trade the pain for what I have gained and learned through it.
The apostle Paul experienced tremendous pain and Jesus refused to remove it. Paul also was instructed by a teacher named Grace.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Wonderful things are learned in Gods classroom of pain. What have I learned most? Gods teacher is named Grace and she is more wonderful than I ever imagined or thought possible.
I long to see my son and loved ones face to face in heaven. The great hope of the Christian faith is the resurrection made possible by the life, death resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
He is firstfruits of that harvest. Whom I will give thanks to, in person, in a new body, forever.
I will be buried next to my son someday. I want to be laid there so that when the voice of God calls us out of the ground Jacob will be one of the first faces I see.
This is my guaranteed hope.
“You only live once.”
We all likely have coined that phrase in our lifetime at some point.
We have said it but have we ever thought on it? Is it true? Have we truly lived at all?
The world clings to this life because this is all they get. If that were true I would join in the party. Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
But Jesus is alive and that changes everything for everybody, and I literally mean every body.
A box or an urn is not going to be anybody’s final resting place. We will all meet Jesus face to face. With a real face, with a real body resurrected for a real and eternal existence.
Yes, you will be resurrected. What does that look like?
Listen to the words of Jesus.
28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. – John 5:28-29
Jesus is Lord. Yes, he is our King even if you haven’t bowed your knee to him in this life.
We all will bow with a real knee and we will all confess with a real tongue whether it is now or later is up to us. I choose now.
He died and was raised so we could live. He is worthy.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11
You only live once? Maybe you never lived at all.
What form will you take, and where will you and your eternal resurrected body be?
The great hope of the Christian is this, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”- 1 Corinthians 15:52
Serious matters that demand serious consideration. Choose wisely and live my friends.
The pain of losing a child is excruciating. Physically it is exhausting. Emotionally it drains you. Depression will overcome you at times. There were times when I didn’t care if life went on yet I was never suicidal.
Five and a half years have passed. Time has left an awful scar to a terrible wound. Time has been a teacher of things I knew nothing about however. Time and grief have educated me about God, faith and myself. The morning fog does not dissipate immediately, neither does the fog of grief but as it lifts the light of the sun makes your surroundings clearer. I see life and death differently. I see myself and God more clearly.
I read the social media memes of grieving parents. Many of these memes express a broken heart desperate for hope and comfort. I get that, I want that for myself as well yet in some of them I have found their words to be hollow and unhelpful. I have desired truth on my journey with grief and have found no relief in a well worded lie.
Truth has brought to me real comfort and real hope. The world scoffs at truth saying, “What is truth?” The Christian replies, “Jesus is the truth and his word is truth.” There is a comforting anchor of hope in the actual, historical, prophetical and archeological facts of the scriptures. I find no hope or comfort in mystical notions, speculations and unverifiable philosophies concerning life after death. I want and need the truth.
Truth answers the tough questions. Truth is, God answers to nobody and not all the answers made available to us. But God has made know to us his love, his grace, his mercy and in this I find immeasurable comfort and hope.
If this life is all there is and death is the end of all things then I would choose to become a hedonist. Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. If death is not swallowed up by life then I am greatly decieved and my faith is pointless. I am a fool left comfortless and hopeless if the sting of death is the end of all things.
But I am no fool and I take great comfort in the hope given to me by God in the scriptures.
The only comforting hope for me is based on actual, predicted, historical and verified events concerning Jesus. Apart from this my son is only a memory to me and we shall never embrace again. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything- it is everything- he is everything! And in this I rejoice with hope and joy inexpressible.
Cling the gospel my friends. It is our one hope and comfort in the dark days of our lives.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Till we meet Jesus and greet our loved ones again.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”
We reminisced of our younger days with some dear friends the other day. She was 19 and I was 20, we got married and started a family just a few short months later. It was the fall of 1988. I was a boy, a selfish young man who knew nothing of life, of being a decent husband or good father. I was clueless to the needs of my new wife and God knows I didn’t have a way with kids. How I ended up being the loved janitor of an elementary school is beyond my understanding.
I wasn’t the ideal father when my kids were young. If you looked closely at my life you might think that I loved whitetail deer and salmon more that my own offspring. I was a self-absorbed functioning provider and my wife was a sportsmans widow. I missed out on a heck of a lot of things that I now would love to have back.
20 year anniversary in 2008
Speaking about, and later thinking on my life sobered me as I pondered it on a south Florida highway late Sunday afternoon. I opened a conversation with Stacey and said to her that I doubt I would have liked the young Mike Fekete if I had met myself today. She responded with some comforting words and reminded me that we can’t live life consumed with regret. We can only change today and hope to be better tomorrow.
We drove a little farther and I broke the silence again. I said, “Life sure would have been a whole lot different for us if God had not intervened with me.” Stacey agreed.
Late December 1995 I was told by Stacey that if it weren’t for the kids and Christmas that she would send me packing. This was not an idle threat, I knew she meant what she said. Stacey never minces words and these words cut through my thick skull. God used her words to reflect on my life deeply and to consider Jesus once again whom I had closed out of my life. The weight of my sin and the heavy accountability I had before God for my wife and kids was crushing me in early 1996. I knew I was going to have to answer to him someday. Soon the dam would break and I would find the peace I needed.
We attended church one Sunday morning and the following scripture cut my soul like a hot knife through butter. The preacher read the words of Jesus in Matthew. “On that day many will say to me Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
I thought, if Jesus said this to the religious, what would he say to me who was irreligious? I knew the answer to that question and it caused me to turn to God for grace and mercy.
February 5th, 1996 I was working nights as a janitor at the local high school. The preachers words burned in my heart and I broke down before God in a classroom and called my dad for advice. I told him my heart and all he said was, “Mike, you know what to do.” He was right and I hung up the phone. I called out to my heavenly Father, believed on his Son and he rescued me. I was saved and peace entered my soul for the first time.That day was the great turning point in my life.
This was not a decision to be morally better but a great awakening and spiritual rebirth. What Jesus said to religious Nicodemus he was saying to me, “You must be born again” to enter into the kingdom of God. I was 28 years old and I heard the voice of God calling into my soul and I responded in faith.
I’m not sure where I would be today if God had not reached down that cold February night. I told Stacey what happened in the classroom and she responded by saying, “We will see.” She had every right to be skeptical. I had much to prove and restore.
God saved me, God saved my marriage and my family. I am not perfect, we are not perfect but the God who is still working in us certainly is. 22 years later God and time has changed so much for our good and his glory. We will celebrate 30 years of marriage this September and God willing I hope he grants us 30 more.
As I think of my old life I have many regrets but I have never regretted turning to Jesus. He changed everything in my life and by faith I am still being changed for the better day by day.
I am on the potter’s wheel and he continues to shape me into the image of his Son. Some of the molding has been very painful especially when we lost our Jacob. But I have found that in the worst of times that his grace has been sufficient. God has used even this to reveal himself to me and to shape me into the man I have become. There is still much more work for him to do. God never abandons any work be begins. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
To God be the glory, great things he has done!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; and behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ has reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
Life is difficult. Doing life while grieving is extremely difficult. There are coping mechanisms that I have used consciously and unconsciously to deflect and protect myself from unwanted pain. Since our son Jacob died many times it has felt as though we have been at our emotional limits. There is a coping mechanism, a shield, or a force field per-se that guards us from feeling the pain of others. We see, we hear, and we know the sorrows of people but we often withdraw and put up our guard to avoid entering into their pain. We reside in a grief bubble with a thick wall. We can see out but nobody is allowed in. Sometimes we do this deliberately and other times it is a gross oversight.
I unconsciously did this recently to some people I love very much. I should have known better but I neglected being there physically and emotionally for some dear friends who are going through some deep waters and grief. They were always there for me but I failed to be there for them. I was lovingly called out on my absenteeism and shown the ugly other side of the bubble I have placed around myself.
There is a point in time, I believe, that the shield must come down and the bubble must burst. I believe this because I am a Christian and Jesus himself reached out to others in his deepest pain and grief on the cross. He never withdrew from the needs of people even in his darkest hour. He had no bubble. He willingly ministered and offered grace to a criminal on the cross beside him. He provides comfort to his mother and John who wept below him at his pierced feet. He asked God to forgive his executioners while he himself suffered for their sin. He humbly ministered to the needs of those around the cross.
Seven hundred years before Calvary Isaiah wrote of what would take place on the cross. He said of him, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:3-4. Jesus entered into our pain, our grief and our sorrow so that someday all tears might be wiped away.
In an infinitely lesser degree my suffering in this life is not pointless as a Christian, on the contrary it is quite purposeful. All comfort comes from God and the primary tool he uses to provide comfort to people is people. I hope I burst your bubble on that one because it’s true. The apostle Paul speaks to this issue to the Christians in Corinth.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Believers can never say that they can’t endure any more pain. That is just not true because God is the God of ALL grace and ALL comfort. His grace is sufficient for our every weakness and his comfort is boundless to heal the broken-hearted. Therefore, when we enter into the sufferings of others there is plenty of grace and comfort for all involved.
We will never be crushed if only we come to Jesus. He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I have found that it is easy to rejoice with those who rejoice. What isn’t so easy is to weep with those who weep, but as a believer I am called to both. This week I was reminded that the comfort I received from God through my friends should have been returned to them, but it wasn’t, and for that I am ashamed. I asked for forgiveness and they graciously obliged and I learned a valuable lesson about grief once again. Comfort is not only to be received graciously but to be graciously dispensed.
In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19
This Christmas is our fourth holiday season without our beloved Jacob. Much has changed in our lives since his departure. Much is an understatement of the truth I suppose. Truth is, everything has changed and nothing is the same for us in life which especially includes our holiday observances.
Stacey and I have often said to each other, “I can’t believe this is our life.” It’s as if we walked through the wardrobe into Narnia but the way back was lost to us. If I were given the script for our biography to read five years ago I would have placed it in the genre of fiction. I guess truth is truly stranger than fiction. Through it all I have found the words of king David to ring true and provide much comfort for my soul.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones;
I am thankful that God is near me, that he saves me, delivers me, guards me and protects me in all my troubles. This is especially true at this time of year when seasonal depression and waves of grief can overcome my heart so quickly.
I remember the terrible dread of those first couple holiday seasons. I also remember hearing from others who had lost children that the grief will change, it will get better but Christmas will never be the same. I have found this to be true.
The Christmas season is here again and advent is being observed by many Christians. We all get a little short-sighted at this time of year. The holiday buzz is everywhere and I can get distracted quickly with all the sights, sounds and smells of the season. I can also easily get swamped by grief and focus on the empty chairs in the family room. My eyes can lose their focus very fast. When hope is forgotten, comfort is forfeited and despair grips my heart when I lose sight of the reason for the season.
The coming of Emanuel was prophesied by Isaiah. The hope of nations was born in Bethlehem, placed in a manger and later nailed to a cross for the redemption of all who believe. He walked out of the grave, showed himself to many witnesses, ascended to the right hand of God and now Christians wait for the great second advent of the King.
God comforts the Christian. He dries the tears of his children with the tissue of hope. My hope is anchored in the reality that Jesus is coming again. As a believer in Christ I do not grieve as the world grieves because I have a living hope. I have God. This brings me great consolation.
All my sorrow will someday be turned into joy when I see Jesus face to face and he reunites me with my boy. All this is possible because the promised advent of Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus over 2000 years ago. The second advent is assured by Jesus himself and secured by his victory over sin and death through his resurrection from the dead.
2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3
The prophesied first advent is over and the promised second advent is soon to come. There is something far better waiting for those who love him and watch for his appearing. I encourage you to wait patiently in hopeful anticipation as you endure the many trials of this life. I leave you with theses comforting words of God penned through the apostle Paul.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
I met a man who is a member of “the club” on a Monday not long ago. His name is Leroy and his membership began the day before his son turned 21. Leroy’s son John was murdered in 1995. We shared our stories without shame of tears in an empty laundry room for about thirty minutes. There was an immediate bond between us, an understanding that only a father or mother in the club can know.
The lives of all parents that have lost children are segmented into life before and after death. And so our stories went in the conversation. I loaded the washer and listened to my new friend describe his pain, his anger, desperation and the hopelessness he wrestled with after his son died. He then shared how all that changed through his faith and love for God.
Our stories are very different but very similar at the same time. Like a two-track through a dark woods our paths run side by side headed in the same direction. We spoke of our paths of hope and how terrible pain pressed us both into a deeper faith in God. Of course, this isn’t always the case with bereaved people, it can go quite the opposite way in fact. I agreed and mentioned to him what the preacher said in his sermon the day before.
“Everyone will suffer in this life” the preacher said, “and how we respond to it will either makes us bitter or better.” He went on to say that the difference between the words better and bitter is simply the letter I in the middle. When suffering becomes I centered bitterness can overtake us.
Leroy described in detail his bitter anger and hopelessness in the early days of his grief. But all that changed for him in time. He went on and spoke of how God has used the death to shape him into someone much different and better than before. I can relate, and so can everybody else who loves God in the midst of suffering.
All things, good and bad, have a definite, useful, and good purpose in the life of a Christian. Who is a Christian? We are those who love God and love his Son Jesus Christ. The believer understands that suffering is used to shape us into something good. Someone better. Someone beautiful.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
All things really do happen for a reason but this promise is only for a believer. The good purpose of God is to use everything in shaping those who love him into looking like his Son. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
I suppose suffering can push those who hate God to confusion, despair and hopelessness. But for Leroy and I we spoke of our love for God and his love towards us. Without a doubt the murder of John and the overdose of Jacob were the most terrible events in our lives. Have those events made us bitter or better? We only spoke of the good intentions of a loving God in our shared stories. There are only happily ever afters for those who love God. God is making us better.
The purposeful good end of all things for those who love God is that he shapes us into the image of Jesus on his potter’s wheel. Someday the shaping will be complete and I will in my flesh behold the face of God.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2
What a beautiful and meaningful ending to our journeys with suffering and pain.