Fire is tormenting northern California right now. The fire season can’t end soon enough for weary state firefighting crews. The lengthy drought that has been afflicting the state has left forests and ground growth tinder-dry. Steady “people encroachment” in forested areas has put a lot of homes and businesses in harm’s way of these annual fires.

The fires just pop up all over the place. Some are human originated, through carelessness or arson. Some occur via lightning strikes. There have been a dozen already just this month, some still sizzling, large enough to be named. The state has seen more than a million acres burnt over so far this year. This month’s conflagrations have claimed 41 lives, and dozens of people are missing among the tens of thousands who have been emergency evacuated. By some estimates, 5,700 buildings have been destroyed already. Santa Rosa has been particularly hard-hit.

Can you imagine what it must be like to get an evacuation order? If you had a half hour to get out of your house, what would you try to take with you? People first, of course. Then what? Financial records? Cash? Irreplaceable family pictures? Your computers? Your pets? Your best jewelry? Hurry! Time to go! Now!

Imagine what life is like for the people in Napa and Sonoma Valleys whose homes were destroyed. What a sickening feeling to know that things you’ve collected for a lifetime are now flyaway dust and ash: family heirlooms, antiques, artwork, books, your children’s “keep-it” boxes, wall pictures with special meaning, electronics, appliances, clothes, your best dishes and silver—gone!

But it’s not all gone. If you managed to escape with your life, you still have these things:

  • The people who matter most to you;
  • The car you escaped in;
  • Your friend network;
  • Your job and coworkers;
  • Your knowledge and skills;
  • Your citizenship;
  • Your contracts with insurance companies (you had home and homeowner’s insurance, right? Updated recently enough to cover all major items?);
  • Your relationship with God.

You can rebuild a pretty decent life by leveraging all these assets.

That mental exercise, though sad and sobering, is a good warm-up for thinking about the day of your own death or about judgment day, whichever comes first. There will come a time when you have to let go of everything tangible. What can you take with you into eternity? Only two things:

  1. Your relationship with Jesus Christ;
  2. People in your life who have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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