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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.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 (NLT)

When was the last time you were so afraid that your stomach felt like a huge knot? You woke up in the middle of the night full of concern for your kids, your finances or the doctor’s report? How long has the pain from the divorce haunted you? While the physical bruises may have healed, how is the pain from the hidden emotional bruises affecting your life, your relationships with others, or your view of God? When are you going to be able to let go of the anger and bitterness, to finally forgive and move on?

On this journey called life we spend so much time trying to survive. For some, getting up every morning is a painful chore in and of itself. Physical pain is often far easier to take than the emotional pain we bear. Still we get up and move on. We fear death, but wonder how long we can endure life.

The good news is that someday, all this pain will be gone. One day, we’ll get up in the morning without a single thing to worry about! The things that anger us? Gone. The things that worry us? Eliminated! The bruises (seen and unseen). Forgotten forever! The pain of being cheated on, abandoned or abused? Replaced with comfort, joy and peace.

When we think of death there are so many unanswered questions. But rather than dwelling on what we don’t know, think for a moment about what we do know. Someday, when we cross that river from life as we know it here to eternity with Jesus every tear will be wiped away. Death will lose its grip on us. Sorrow and pain will be no more. We won’t know hate, only love. We’ll not harbor worries, only relief. We won’t contend with sickness or hunger, our every need will be met.

When we see Jesus all the pain and agony we experience here on earth will be eliminated. Paul says our current sufferings are nothing compared to the joy we will experience in the presence of our Lord Jesus.

The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us. Romans 8:18 (NCV)

Was Paul treating your pain lightly? Was he unaware of the struggles and worry we all go through? Certainly not! Elsewhere he alludes to the fact that every day of his life was spent in fear of beatings or execution. But Paul also knew that no matter how big your pain now, once we reach glory our pain here on earth will seem miniscule.

Oh happy, happy day. That day when I leave this earthly shell to join my Lord Jesus. Am I suicidal? Most certainly not. With Jesus at my side I shall live life to the fullest and enjoy the many blessings I have here. But I will not fear death! Although I will go through pain here on earth as a result of my own choices or the abuse of others, I will keep my eyes on that day when all my pain will be no more!

PRAYER: Lord God. In the midst of my worries and fears; while I fight physical and emotional pain here on earth; when I’m scared of what I see in our economic and political environment, I praise you for the hope I have to join you one day in Heaven. Even though my pain is great here, I know my joy will be so much greater when I see you face to face and you wipe away the last tear I’ll ever shed! Alleluia. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Acts 16:25 (NLT)

There are several places in the gospels where Jesus says to those he was with “Why were you afraid?” If we step back from the situation we can understand why he was asking the question. What’s a little breeze on a wave-infested lake to the one who created both of them? But looking at it again, the disciples were, after all, completely human and their finite minds couldn’t see beyond the darkness (both literally and figuratively).

Fear can raise its head in a variety of places and for a variety of reasons. We fear for our safety as storms approach because we are uncertain of the outcome. We fear the consequences of choices we make. We fear the phone call from the doctor with the test results. We fear the divorce because even in a bad marriage the thought of being alone isn’t pleasant.

While we don’t ever really need to be afraid when God is with us, a certain amount of fear isn’t a bad thing. Especially if that fear motivates us to action. For example, do you think Moses was really as calm as Charlton Heston portrayed him as he saw the Egyptian army bearing down with nothing but theRed Seaat his back? Was David’s adrenalin flow at zero as he let go of the stone will getting a birds eye view of the point of Goliath’s spear? Or when he sat in the cave and suddenly realized Saul was blocking his escape?

What about the small group who were praying for Peter as he sat waiting execution? Sure, he was sleeping soundly, but what about the group pouring their hearts out to God? James had already been killed. The Jews were spewing threats on a daily basis. Now Peter was in prison and just hours from execution…if he hadn’t already been killed.

Fear can make us angry. Fear can put a desire in our hearts for revenge. Fear can make us want to give up completely and sink into a hole of depression or aggression.

Fear can also be a very good thing in our lives. Fear is healthy when it moves us towards God and causes us to realize that the obstacle(s) in our lives can’t be conquered without him.  The things that make us afraid don’t faze God in the least. He knew they were coming and he not only knows the outcome, he controls the outcome.

What are you afraid of today? Natural disaster? Financial ruin? Health issues? The fear of being alone? The fear of failure? Your Heavenly Father understands your fear. He may choose to have you endure the worst. He may choose to deliver you miraculously from the jaws of disaster. He will ALWAYS be there to see you through what lay ahead. He loves you and will never, ever leave you alone to walk the treacherous path before you. Trust him in the fearful times. Allow the things that you fear to become stepping stones to intense faith and courage.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you for the promise in scripture that as a Christ-follower I can call you daddy because, “Daddy, right now I’m scared”. I realize the things that I’m scared of may be of my own doing. I praise you for the fact that regardless of the reason for the obstacles I’m facing you will walk by my side. Help me feel your presence as I press on to victory over my fear. In Jesus name, Amen.

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