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“Life is short”. We’ve heard it said. Perhaps we’ve said it ourselves. There is a lot of truth to the statement. The Psalmist even verifies it…somewhat. We never really know when this earthly adventure will end. Some live over a century; some a few years; some for minutes. Life is short isn’t a mandate to party or fill your life with every creature comfort you can, it’s a mandate to live wisely.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs‬ ‭9:10‬

Wisdom begins and ends with our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The wise man builds his house on the firm foundation of personal faith in Jesus Christ.


20 years ago I officiated at one of the most difficult funerals I’ve ever had to do. I was pastor of a small church in a small town in NW Wisconsin. We were a close knit church family and I was more of a friend than a pastor to most. That’s one reason this funeral was hard. It was hard enough to mourn the loss of a five year old boy, but when that boy was the son of a close friend, it was almost unbearable.

How do you answer the ‘why’ question? How do you answer the ‘Where was God’ question? It’s often said, especially when a young person dies, that ‘they died too soon’ but in reality, God has every day of our lives planned There are no early deaths, no surprises in heaven.

Life is short. Live it with excellence. Never forget the lessons learned from your past, but let Jesus remove the guilt and shame. Whatever your past, it should be a stepping stone to the future, not an anchor holding you back.

Don’t wish for tomorrow because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Rather, trust your Father to bring the things of tomorrow to you in due time. The wisdom God gave you from yesterday’s lessons empowers you to face the challenges of tomorrow.


Death had wrapped its ropes around me, and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters. Psalm 18:4 (CEV)

Recently we went to a local museum to see a display on the ‘Real Pirates of the Caribbean’. It was an interesting display of artifacts from history and from the bottom of the sea.

There was one display that caught my mind and Psalm 18:4 reminds me of it. Hanging in one display was a metal cage approximately 8 feet long and in the shape of a human body. The corresponding sign told that this cage was used to execute pirates.

The man (or woman) was placed in the cage and the cage was subsequently staked in the sandy beach. As the tide came in, the cage would remain in place, the water would inch up the bodies of the victim and eventually submerge them. Death by drowning.

Imagine being in that cage as a pirate. You knew how unforgiving the sea was. You knew the tide and how it worked. You stood there in your cage and watched the tide grow closer. You felt the cold water inch up your body. You knew death was imminent and that there was nothing you could do about it. The cold ocean water reached your knees, your waist, your neck and finally, painfully you breathe your last.

History tells us that those living close to the shore would often hear the screams of the condemned begging for help, begging for someone to rescue them. Of course, even if some compassionate soul would try to rescue them, there was no hope, no way to stop the tide; no way to unlock the cage; no hope to bring them safely ashore. The very thing that brought them riches (the sea) was their ultimate demise.

Horrific as that scenario may be, we are surrounded by people who, like the executed pirates, are living in cages of their own. Some are cages they have built themselves on lie, on rebellious choice, one broken promise at a time. Others are victims of the brutality imposed on them. The reason for their cage is unimportant. The result is what is important.

For the pirate, there was no hope; no one with a key to open the cage and offer them freedom. For us we have someone who not only has a key to unlock the door, but will bring us safely ashore.

If you feel like the pirate; if you feel the cold waters of the ocean rising up your body; if you feel your own destruction is at hand and there is no hope, know that Jesus Christ offers you the escape you need to break free of your prison. His forgiveness is all you need to find new life.

The key to unlocking the door is simply asking him to forgive you of your sin and to empower you to live a life free of the despair and pain of your past.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for rescuing me from the destruction and despair of my past. Forgive me of the sins of my past. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to live life in the freedom only you can offer. Amen.


But we are citizens of heaven and are eagerly waiting for our Savior to come from there. Our Lord Jesus Christ has power over everything, and he will make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21(CEV)

The last time I saw Gus (not his real name) he was 104 years old. An old Norwegian Presbyterian he grew up farming in the fertile fields of Northern Iowa. He’d done well for himself and his sons had built on his legacy with sound farming and reliance on their faith. Gus was as generous with the money the ‘Good Lord’ had given him as he was his big smile and firm handshake.

I visited Gus that last time since I was back in town for the funeral of a mutual friend. She’d spent her last years in a room just down the hall from Gus and his wife in the local rest home. Gus shared his room with his wife of 75 years who, due to Alzheimer’s disease, rarely acknowledged his existence.

I unknowingly arrived just in time for the afternoon hymn sing and sat in the back of the room to listen. Midway through the singing the leader turned to Gus and said “Gus, would you sing your favorite song for us?” He smiled and nodded. She began to play “He the Pearly Gates will Open.” 104 years hadn’t weakened the beautiful Norwegian brogue as he sang all four verses from memory and didn’t miss a word (I don’t think).

Afterwards, I went up to greet Gus. His smile told me he recognized me long before I got to his wheelchair. We sat together and shared a cup of strong coffee. We talked of old times. Gus always talked about old times, the time on the farm, the way life had changed. How some of his most lucrative deals had been done with nothing more than a handshake. That’s all that was needed in those days.

Then Gus began to weep as we talked of the passing of our friend. I asked if he was okay and after he gained his composure he said, “All my friends are gone. I just want to go home.” I knew right away that home wasn’t the few blocks to the comfortable bungalow he and his bride had retired to. Home was to see his Jesus. It was at that point that I realized that home is where your family is, home is where your loved ones are and you feel completely accepted. Home is where Jesus is.

Three years later I heard that the Pearly Gates had swung wide open for Gus. He was home at last. Each of us long to live to be old, but as we grow older our bodies fail, our mind doesn’t work the way we’d like, those we love go on before us. But on the other side, when we go through those gates to see Jesus we’ll be transformed, made new. The physical and emotional pain we are going through now is nothing compared to the glory we’ll share when we enter “The Pearly Gates.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. We continue to struggle with life on this side. Thank you for the hope we have of a better life after this. Empower me to live fully for you here in anxious anticipation for lies ahead. Amen.


Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Daniel 12:2 (NLT)

On a lonely hill just outside of town stand three crosses. As the sky grew dark a crowd gathered. Some gathered in disgust. The Roman form of execution was too painful, too degrading, to harsh.

Others gathered in mockery. They threw profanity at the trio. It was about time they got what they deserved. The world would be a better place if more criminals were treated this way. Great deterrent, that death penalty.

Some gathered in curiosity-A sort of Bible time gawkers. They had no opinion either way on crucifixion or the trio hanging naked as the darkness descended.

A few gathered in somber silence. Right or wrong, good or bad, these were their friends, their siblings, their children. The crowd gathered at the middle cross seemed somewhat larger, more emotional. In fact, it seems the form hanging in the middle was drawing most of the attention that day. Rumor has it that he was completely innocent of the trumped up charges the Jews leveled against him.

One of the trio began to mock this counterpart in the middle. Even in his dying moments he remained arrogant, loud and angry. Ignoring his own guilt he yelled obscenities at this stranger in the middle.

The other person hung silent for a moment. Watching. Listening. Replaying the episodes of his life that brought him to this point. Finally, he spoke. “Jesus, have mercy on me.” The figure in the middle raised his head and looked with compassion at him. Painstakingly he spoke, “Today you will be with me…” and grace was born.

How could a God of love allow Jesus, the man in the middle to die such a horrific death for crimes he didn’t commit? Rewind the story a few thousand years. A man and woman listen to the deceptive words of Satan. Their decision to disobey God destroyed the balance of divine nature as well as a relationship with the Creator God.

Hell was never created for men and women. Hell was never created for innocent children of abuse, catastrophe or illness. Hell was created as the home for Satan and all his demonic followers. But the sin of Adam and Eve made it impossible for mankind to enter heaven. A sacrifice had to be made and that sacrifice was made complete when Jesus died and rose again.

Our Heavenly Father has no choice when it comes to dealing with sin. He can’t, by his own nature overlook anything that isn’t perfect. God is fair and just. Grace is neither.

What can be fair about a prisoner going to heaven because his last words were begging forgiveness? What can be fair about someone struggling with addictions and constantly receiving forgiveness for the same sin, over and over again? Nothing. It’s not fair. But it wasn’t fair that Jesus died for me either. There was nothing I could do to deserve forgiveness, yet he forgave me anyway. That’s grace.

God would give everything he has to keep you from living eternity in the shame and disgrace of hell. In fact, he already did that day on the cross.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father I thank and praise you for the reminder that I am completely and freely forgiven of my sin because of Jesus. I deserve nothing that you’ve given me and yet you did it all so lovingly. Empower me to live for you and to show others the way to life in eternity with you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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