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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN



Walter Isaacson wrote, "By early 1778, Voltaire was 84 years old and ailing, and there had even been stories he had died. His retort, even better than Mark Twain's similar one, was that the reports of his death were true, only premature" (Benjamin Franklin: an American Life, p 354). Recent reports of the death of the popular "Crocodile Hunter" send a sober reminder that not only are reports of some people's deaths premature, sometimes death itself comes prematurely, at least from our earthly perspective. The effervescent 44-year-old Australian Steve Irwin was seemingly invincible. An AP article noted, "He stalked lions. He faced off with poisonous snakes. He wrestled with crocodiles. When the end came for television's beloved `Crocodile Hunter,' it was an encounter with a stingray and its venomous tail barb"(The Tennessean, Tuesday 9/5/06, p 1A). Death seemed far away from the man who welcomed close-up encounters with timber rattlers, copperheads, spitting cobras and who routinely wrestled with killer crocodiles. But, premature or not, death came on Monday, September 4, 2006 as Irwin filmed a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's coast. Irwin died when his heart was pierced by the serrated, poisonous spine of a stingray as he swam near the creature. Marine experts called his death a freak accident, noting that to be killed by a stingray is very rare. Irwin will be sorely missed in the world of animal conservation and wildlife preservation as well as by a global TV audience that reportedly exceeded 200 million people.

Most of us have never wrestled with a mouse, let alone a 6' foot rattlesnake or 12' King Cobra or a 15' killer crocodile. But we must all wrestle with death. We must wrestle with its reality and we must wrestle with the profound question of what happens to us beyond this life. The untimely death of the Crocodile Hunter reminds us death can come calling at unexpected times and in unexpected ways to the most unexpected people. A doctor told his patient, "I have some good news and some bad news for you." The patient asked, "What's the good news?" Said the doc, "You have twenty-four hours left to live." The patient wondered out loud, "What's the bad news?" The doctor replied, "I forgot to tell you yesterday." With Isaac, most of us have to say, "I know not the day of my death" (Genesis 27:2). What we do know is that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). The question is not will we die. The question is where will we die. We can die in sin and be forever banned from the Lord (John 8:21, 24); or we can die in the Lord and be forever blessed (Revelation 14:13). The Crocodile Hunter's death reminds we all have to die. The good news is Christians die in the Lord!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ