A comforting sign

It is Easter Sunday morning and I have been awake since 4:30. I sip on my coffee in the silence with this Mac on my lap as I listen to a robin sing outside my window. I ponder what life would be like if the birds hushed their singing. What a wonderful grace this is from God that the silence was broken by the melody and harmony of his creation. The wind, the waves, the songbirds and the sound of rain on my roof all speak of the gracious Creator who reveals himself even in the sounds which we often ignore.

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I am not a sign seeker. God is everywhere and I don’t need something miraculous to affirm that he is, I need only to look and listen to my surroundings to be assured of his presence. Yet, some weeks back, just before the three-year anniversary date of the death of my son I whispered a prayer to God. I asked him to give me peace again and assurance that Jacob with him in his presence. I asked for a comfort and to do something to give me peace.

I kind of had forgotten the prayer until some other things happened. I wouldn’t call it a sign, it was just an answered prayer from God to comfort my sometimes troubled heart.

I need to fill you in on some background before I tell you what happened.

Let not your heart be troubled

The words of Jesus in John 14:1-3 were written on the heart of my son and Jacob could quote them when he was a young boy.  They read as follows, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

On the headstone where Jacob rests are engraved the first six words of these verses. These words that came from Jesus and were etched in the heart of my son. We had them engraved in marble that we might never forget the promise of heaven and a family reunion.

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My wife Stacey found these words so comforting that she had them put on her arm. In memory of the promise of Jesus and in memory of our beloved son she had this tattoo done shortly after his death.

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So, March 26th came and it happened to be on a Sunday this year. We went to Eden Bible Church and sat in the seats we have been sitting in for years. The service began and I got a light elbow to the ribs as Stacey leaned over and whispered, “Did you notice this?” She handed me the church bulletin and you guessed it, our verses were right there on the front for us to take comfort in. Three years to the day of Jacob’s passing this was the bulletin we were handed.

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I had kind of forgotten the prayer I made to God. Sunday passed and my dad and I were having breakfast at Ursa Major on Thursday morning and our conversation triggered my memory of the prayer I had made. I told him about the prayer and the church bulletin and asked, “Do you think God used this to answer my prayer for comfort?” My dad believed he did and I do as well. Irony? I dont think so. A sign? Perhaps.

Here’s your sign

Today is Easter. This is the best day of all Christian celebrations because it is this resurrection day that stills my heart and says, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

I don’t need nor do I seek a signs from my son. But God in his grace to me has assured my heart once again by answering a prayer in a most ordinary but immensely comforting way and for that I thank him. It was like he was saying to me, “Here’s what you prayed for, let not your heart be troubled.”

Today I celebrate the greatest day in human history. Jesus promised to give the world a sign that he is God by walking out of his grave after three days. He conquered death and by faith in him I have been given life and my heart is not troubled. He has prepared a place for Jacob and he is preparing a place for me, he has promised to come for me so that where he is I will someday be also.

There is only one sign and only one faith that points to heaven and that sign is the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Good Friday has passed Jesus is alive; There’s your sign!

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:38-40)

Happy Easter my friends!

 

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Best wishes

Our beloved Jacob Michael Fekete would be 25 today.

In my minds eye I see 25 imaginary candles on a make believe cake that will never be baked. 25 imaginary flickering flames to blow upon, to extinguish and to wish on better things. I remember your hopes, I remember your dreams son. I remember with a heavy heart and wish that those hopes and dreams for you had come true.

I wish to wish, if I could wish, if it were possible, if reality were not so real and birthday wishes really did come true. I would wish to blow out those 25 candles and these 25 things are the wishes I’d wish for you.

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I wish you could see your sister. I wish you could see her smiling face at her wedding to one of your most loved friends. I wish you could see their love and I wish you could meet Oakley their one year old puppy. I wish that you could visit with your Bo and again share joy and laughter with your siblings.

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I wish I could hand you tickets to the NCAA wrestling finals your brother will compete in next weekend. I wish you could cheer for him- you were always his biggest fan. I wish you two could sit and catch up and I wish you could see what an incredible man he has become. I wish you could stand as his best man this June and I wish you could see his bride and the beautiful person she is. I wish you could meet their enormous puppy named Pine.

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I wish you could speak to your mother’s heart and I wish you could still her soul. I wish you could see her strength, her faith and her perseverance. I wish you could write an assuring love note and tuck it under her pillow like you used to do. I wish you could could walk through the doors of our new home in Beulah and lay a big Jacob hug on her. I wish you could walk with her down Center street to the beach and to the shoppes downtown.

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I wish we could all sit as a family once again. I wish I could hear your voice, your gargled laughter and I wish I could see that thin crooked smile again. I wish you had found that simple girl you wanted to marry in a pretty yellow sundress. I wish you had found love.

I’d wish for your peace. I’d wish for your joy. I’d wish for your contentment.

I want you back but I would never wish you back Jacob. 25 candles and 25 birthday wishes for you but of those wishes only three have come true. You are at peace, you have pure joy and you are completely content. Best wishes and happy birthday in heaven son.

We love you.

 

 

 

 

Every rose has its thorn

Grief still lingers.

I suppose that many around me that know the story of the loss of our son, and 3 other loved ones are happy for us when good and positive blessings happen in our lives.

We get all the smiles, congratulations and pats on the back and all the while grief still lingers like a nagging tooth ache. We smile through our pain and are conflicted in our emotions. Happy occasions become occasions for pain and grief is always under the surface of our smiles. Most people don’t see it or get it but some understand it because they have also been there and done that.

We smile, not necessarily because we are happy but because sometimes the smiles are all we have to disguise our pain. Many times we want to bolt and fly like a bird to our mountain. I recall multiple times when we have bolted. Times when my wife and I go to remote places to hear the waves, escape people and find solace. These are well meaning people who are truly happy for the blessings that are coming our way, but naive as to the pain that is present in life’s blessings for those who grieve.

We sit in our beach chairs and remind ourselves that it’s not their fault, they just don’t know, they have not walked this path or worn these shoes. Oh how often I have wanted to be in a state of ignorance again and to not know what I know all to well today.

Every rose has its thorn in grief. We see its beauty and smell its fragrance but for those who grieve we handle the flower by its stem and it pricks us. The pokes are painful and bring both tears of joy and sorrow in times of blessing.

In the days since the deaths there have been engagements and weddings.There are college graduations coming next May and in June our youngest son Jared will marry his high school sweetheart. We are happy but there is always a thorn that will poke our souls. We guard ourselves from the pain, the dull ache occasionally becomes very sharp and departs somewhat slower than when it arrived.

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The moment

This is how we roll in grief for now. I hope that someday I can see the rose and smell its sweet aroma and not be poked by a thorn. But, for now, every rose has its thorn. When I feel the pain I am reminded of the one who understands my grief and was himself pierced and felt the sting of death for me. Jesus is the beautiful fragrant rose, he is the Lilly in the valley. My hand feels the thorn but his hands took the nails and he understands my grief. He takes my hand in his and comforts my soul.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Jesus took the thorn and I am healed. Someday I will enter his garden of roses that is free of every thorn. Until then, I suppose, every rose will have its thorn.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

Xanax altenative: my prescription for grief

In our journey with grief my wife and I have not used medications as a means of coping with the pain. It wasn’t long after Jacob’s death that I went for my annual physical and I told my doctor that I just preferred to deal with everything head on without drugs.

Grief is warfare and I battle its symptoms daily. I fight against sadness and loneliness for my son. I get anxious and I fall into depression. I get irritable, frustrated and angry at times. Grief is still a daily battle, I expect it to change but I would be a fool to believe that I will ever be free of it. I can’t suppress it, or ignore it, or expect it to just go away. I don’t believe I can medicate or drink it away either. I can fill my life with busyness, entertainment, work, vacations and run from grief but though I may run I am unable to hide.

So how do I cope? Some may think that I run to religion to medicate. After all Mike is a man of faith and for him religion is his crutch to hold him up. It may surprise you to know that I reject religion, it is a blight on the earth because religion is built on lies and I prefer truth. I believe in unchangeable absolutes and I apply the healing balm of truth to the pain of life to comfort my troubled heart. Truth is medicine for the soul and Jesus the lover of my soul is truth. He alone can mend my broken heart.

I often walk with sadness in my heart. When the heaviness for my son weighs on me I often pray the simple prayer of, “God, help me.” In those times Jesus the Good Shepherd comes near so that I never lack any good thing. He brings me to the still waters, he causes me to rest in green meadows. He restores my soul.

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When confused and without wisdom on how to navigate the pain he leads in in the right path and I follow him for the sake of his name.

There are times I have felt as though I was dying inside, robbed of my joy and utterly destroyed. But the Good Shepherd says to me, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) The times I walk through the valley of the shadow of death he has calmed my anxiety and quelled my fears. For he is present with me, with his rod Jesus corrects me, and with his staff he gently guides my steps.

Though the enemy of my soul desires to destroy me I am richly blessed by the Good Shepherd. I look around, I see his grace, my cup overflows with his blessings. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

When hope sees dim and the dark days casts doubt over my faith I remember the truth, I remember his way and I recall his life. The Good Shepherd speaks and I hear his tender voice, he calls me by name and I follow him. He whispers to me, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)

So with confidence and great hope in the truthful voice of the Lord my shepherd I have hope and eternal life. I can conclude my life as David the sweet psalmist did and joyfully proclaim, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23) This is my hope, this is my future, this is the truth and it is good medicine for my soul.

Jesus gives me what no medication can ever provide. He gives me faith, hope and love. He provides me comfort, peace and assurance of the future. He makes me strong when I am weak, we makes me wise though I am a fool. He is mercy, he is grace, he is all I need. I don’t need Xanax and I certainly don’t need religion all I need is the truth. Jesus is truth. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Medication left in a bottle will never help anybody get well and the same is true with the Christian faith. Dosage directions on the label are to be followed precisely for the good of the patient, this is true of the Christian faith as well. The symptoms of grief are many, they attack my soul continually. When I am anxious, when I lose my peace, when I hurt I look to my Good Shepherd and he offers me his cure. I follow his prescription instructions and do as directed by the great physician my soul. It reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philipians 4:6-7)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”- Jesus

Death benefits: part 1

A musing

We received “death benefits” from 2 small insurance policies after my son Jacob died. The money was something we were really uncomfortable keeping around for too long. So we used it quickly by paying for a funeral, a wedding, a vacation and a few other miscellaneous things.

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little brother at big sisters wedding

 

To be honest, we were glad when the money was gone. It felt as though the life of our son had a dollar value and we were benefiting from his death. The remembrance of this has captured my thinking lately. Doesn’t the very term death beneficiary sound absurd and cold I wondered. As I contemplated more deeply I came to the conclusion that it can be understood as cold and absurd, but for me, in many ways, it is warm and wonderful.

The absurd

How does death benefit anybody in this life? When I considered this I contrasted the benefits I received from Jacob when he was living to the benefits I receive now that he is gone. There is a reason we call funerals a celebration of life; from his birth till his death he filled our days will with things that brought us happiness, joy and life. The day he died was the day that the benefits of life ended and the death benefits began. I am not talking about the death benefits I received from the settlements for that would be cold and absurd. So what are the death benefits I am currently receiving? Please consider the following before I reveal what they are.

A consideration

The following statement goes against our normal way of thinking. Keep in mind that it was penned by the hand of man but inspired by the Spirit of God. Solomon said, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth; better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 NKJV)

This is quite a contrast to consider. I remember well both of these days in Jacob’s life, his birthday and the day he died. I remember our joy as parents, I remember the joy of grandparents and his 2 year old sister when he was born. Also burned in my memory is the day that he died. I remember our sorrow, the grief of grandparents and the tears of his little brother and big sister.

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Big sister and Jacob

Which day do I prefer most? Well, that goes without saying. But what exactly is Solomon saying? He is saying that the day my friends and family came to my home to mourn with us is better than the day of Jacobs birth. Why? Because nobody considers eternal matters at the birth of a baby but we certainly do when a 22 year old college student dies of an overdose This means that death has benefits, yes, even better benefits than the days we rejoice in.

Death  and sorrow hushes our laughter and joy, we become sober minded and serious. When the death angel arrives and takes a life, those who remain are left behind to consider. Consider what? We are pressed to consider life and death itself. We wonder why life is filled with fleeting joy, mixed with much pain that ends in death. We are left considering and questioning, “What is the meaning of life?” and asking, “Is this all there is?” These are questions we might ask at any point in life, not just at a time of death. I think there are other questions that come out that I myself asked. Questions like, “Where were you God?” and “Why did you allow this God?” or “Do you not care God?”

Our darkest days are better for us in this regard. They give us opportunity to consider or reconsider what we believe about life and death, God and eternity. Death turns our attention to these matters and forces us to consider sobering questions, sobering questions like these. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  – Jesus (Matthew 16:26 ESV)

The death benefits

Losing a son and 3 other close loved ones in a 12 month period has tested and exposed what I believe to be true about God. It has caused me to consider. It has deepened my understanding of him in ways that the best times in life could never teach me. What are the death benefits I am receiving? They are the same spiritual benefits that I enjoyed before Jacob died, only better. I have a deeper faith in Jesus, I have a deeper hope through his Spirit, and I have a deeper love for God the Father. IMG_1439

Lately my death benefits have been of great encouragement to me. Jesus is teaching me many thing about faith, hope and love in  John chapter 11. I cannot go into it at this time but watch for part 2 in the near future. Read what happened for yourself and you will find many of the death benefits woven into the story. You will discover that Jesus lets Lazarus die for the glory of God and the glory of the Son. You will learn that Jesus lets Lazarus die to increase the faith of the disciples. Jesus also lets Lazarus die to demonstrate his power over death thereby giving the disciples good hope and great consolation in the resurrection.But the greatest thing about the whole account is that Jesus loves his disciples and that Jesus loves me. This gives me hope, this gives me great encouragement to press on and to walk by faith.

Isn’t that what the world want’s more than anything? To love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, and to live in hope of a better future. Faith, hope and love. These are the death benefits of every Christian which Christ provided for us by his own death on the cross.

I am a death beneficiary! That may sound absurd to some but it is wonderful to me.

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Good grief

Although my son Jacob’s death certificate says that he died on the 26th I actually know that he died late evening on the 25th. Today is Good Friday. Two years ago today was the last day of life for my son. It has been a strange, mixed up and emotional day for me today. As a Christian I remember the death of the only Son of God and as a father I remember the death of my firstborn son. Today is a day that is good and today is also a day that I grieve. I feel a bit like Charlie Brown I suppose, I would say that today is filled with good grief.

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The great exchange

On the first Good Friday the disciples certainly were put to grief. The predetermined plan of God was set in motion and all that was written of the suffering of Messiah was about to come to pass. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:20) 

The crucifixion and death of Jesus bring weeping, lamenting and great sorrow for a short time. Sunday would arrive, the women would look into the tomb and the angels who were there would say, “He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come see where he lay.” (Matthew 28:6) Jesus appeared to them alive and joy was their response just as he said. They rejoice that Jesus was alive and the crucifixion suddenly has become their greatest joy.

Jesus put death to death. But what about us? Did he make a way for us to beat death also? He promised them, “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) How is this possible? It was made possible by his sacrifice and declared in his final words on the cross, “It is finished!” What is finished? “For our sake he made him to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus willingly took all my sin so that I could receive his perfect righteousness. This is the great exchange. The greatest grief became the greatest joy of the disciples and it is my greatest joy as well. I glory in the cross.

The great hope

Grief for a Christian is different than that of unbelievers. I have the great hope of seeing my son once again because Christ made it possible for me by dying, being buried and rising from the dead. Christ is coming again for his saints, this is the great Christian hope.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

I struggled for nearly a year with the terrible thought that my son was not in heaven. This is a terrible kind of hopeless grief to live in daily. I was not at rest, I was without peace and I think that this pain that I was enduring was actually harder on me than the actual death itself. I really got a sense of an unbelievers grief and their hopelessness in that time. Then one day, I sat at my desk at work and just wept over this and God did a work in my heart. I wrote this poem that morning, it is a a poem I believe God wrote on my heart.

Waiting for the rain

You our rosebud in a garden of thorns; you grew up in sunshine waiting for rain. Waiting for rain your bud would push out; blessings from heaven would surely bloom out.

Beauty in the blossom was our hope in the drought, waiting for rain it’s sure to come out. The thorns ever present and your bud bulging to bloom; waiting for rain it is sure to come soon.

The sun is now covered and the clouds have come in; waiting for the rain and for the blossom within. The rain came quickly; a storm in the night. It cut down our rose bud before the dawns light.

Cut down by the storm, there our bud lays; awaiting the rain has cut short his days. Our rosebud is broken; we placed him in a vase. Pricked by the thorn we lean on God’s grace.

Our bud has now blossomed though not like we planned; his bloom has now opened in a heavenly land. I know you have bloomed in a place that is bright; for you are with Jesus where never it’s night.

Waiting for rain, I see your sweet face, our boy, our son, our child in the vase. Here we sorrow awaiting the rain to cut us soon down and free us from pain.

We love you son, we’re doing OK; were waiting for rain to unite us some day. Someday we will bloom, be joyful, and say, “It’s good to see you, what a beautiful bouquet.”

Have a joyous Easter

Resting in peace and resting in grace

I began this blog at the encouragement of a good friend. I recently passed the one year mark of blogging my experience through the eyes of faith. It has been my desire to show how the bible, Jesus, and my experiences are working together for healing and the greater good in my life. I also desire that others have found hope and a measure of comfort in their sorrows. Not because of me, or my experience or even because of what I write but in the God who heals the brokenhearted.

“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 work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

I have not written, nor will not write just for the sake of writing. I feel it’s important to only write out of my experience and not to waste words on things that have not helped my faith. My hope is that my story of faith will encourage others in similar life experiences. I suppose writing ministers to me but I mostly hope that it will minister to someone else.

In this journey with grief I have tried to capture in words my experiences and feelings as they connect to Jesus and my faith in him. In the infancy of my grief experience it was all new and there was much to learn about therefore writing came easy. Again, I never want to write just to write so I have just learned to be patient and wait. In the waiting room I am living life and life brings me new experiences. I take those experiences and pour them through the filter of the bible and I come to understand the truth. My experience is not the truth, it is subjective and is not always trustworthy. Right now my life is quite uneventful, I am resting in peace and for that I am glad because December was rough.

Lately I feel like the ink well is drying up and have considered ending the blog. That is good in many ways because it tells me that I am healing and grief is not the dominate emotion and experience for me as it once was. However, reality tells me that grief will follow me all the days of my life. Therefore the blog will likely never end. I love my son, I think of him daily and I have accepted that grief is as permanant as a birth mark.

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I have an ugly life partner named grief and it’s certain that our romance will not be over until death do us part. She sleeps at the moment but I know that she still lives and will awaken my heart to the pain once again. I am thankful for the times she rests because in those times I also find rest from her nagging voice.

I have such a short memory. I struggled during the holidays and I feel I am doing OK at the moment and I forget that there is more to come. I  remind myself that March is coming and Jake’s birthday and a death day are on the horizon. I have a hunch that my sleeping companion will be awakened soon. I have a hunch that the inkwell will be refilled and the stylus will be taken in my hand to communicate the words buried within me. There will be new experiences, there is more for Jesus to teach me, the story has really just begun and future pages will reveal the wisdom I have gleaned from him.

Life is full of unrest, like a bird seeking her nest we flutter through life wanting to rest in peace. We lite here and we lite there but we never find peace, rest eludes us as we grow more and more weary of the flight. We need only to go home to the only sanctuary of true rest in this life. Jesus beacons us home to the safety and warmth found under his wings. We seek places that offer peace but discover they can never provide the rest we seek. Is it possible to rest in peace before we are laid to rest, if so, how is that possible?

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First we need to understand that there can never be peace without the presence of righteousness. They are two peas in the same pod. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

Second, we all fall way short of perfect righteousness so we can never find perfect peace within ourselves. Actually, peace is accomplished by a historical event “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of Christ in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:4-5) Jesus  takes our sin and punishment and we receive by grace his righteousness by faith in him. By faith in Jesus I received “A peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:17) when I believed in the righteousness of Jesus and chucked my own. “For he himself is our peace! (Ephesians 2:14)

Grace is a difficult pill to swallow for many people, but without grace we could never rest in peace. Jesus said that there is only one who is good, that is God. That excludes all of mankind from the equation, this is why we need mercy and grace. This is why Paul would begin his letters by saying, “Grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace always comes first and peace follows behind. Peace is a work of God accomplished through grace which is only received by faith.

Its offensive to most people to consider the fact that we are totally bad and no part good apart from the righteousness that God provides in his Son. Pride says I’m not so bad but God says your not good at all. But for those who humble themselves and trust in grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone peace is the result of his gift of righteousness. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy..” (Titus 3:4-5a)

I am resting in peace, I am resting in grace. I trust what he did that I could never do for myself and the result is rest for my weary soul. The Price of Peace offers grace, mercy and peace to you in the same way, receive it freely by faith. He says to you and I, “Come unto 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.”-Jesus

 

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Rest in peace son