Death By Cactus       


 There used to be a show on TV that aired from 2008 to 2012 called “1000 Ways to Die.” I watched it a few times and was intrigued as unusual deaths were recreated each week. This TV preview for the show sums it up all to well – WARNING: The deaths portrayed in this show are based on real events; names have been changed to protect the identities of the deceased. Some of the dead were unlucky; many were bored; most were incredibly stupid. Do not attempt to try ANY of the actions depicted…YOU WILL DIE!

   This reminds me of a conversation I recently had with Cameron, a member of our congregation who used to serve in San Bernardino County as a deputy. With an area of 20,105 square miles, San Bernardino County is one of the largest in the U.S., covering many of our desert communities.

   One miserably cold morning in Joshua Tree, Cameron spotted a suspect at 3 am – a time when most people aren’t roaming about. Cameron and his partner got out of their parol car to question this man when he suddenly took off running into the dark night and straight into a field of cholia cactus.

   In case you’ve never heard of cholia cactus – also called jumping cactus – it’s one of the most dangerous plants in the desert. This particular cactus has spines that are covered with fish-hook-like needles which can cause serious harm. The thorns have dangerous spikes on the top which easily detach and remain embedded in a persons skin. They’re extremely painful to remove.

   As the Joshua Tree suspect ran through the cholia field, Cameron and his partner left the area and continued with night rounds. Only a crazy officer would have pursued through the wicked cholia. 

   Several hours later they received a call from the hospital. They had admitted a patient who was being combative to the point where police were needed. And – you guessed it – the officers finally found their suspect, now covered with thousands of cholia stickers. The painful needles were all over his face, in his eyes & ears, they covered his arms & legs, and had even pierced through his clothing. He could barely walk and couldn’t sit down.

   You gotta feel for the poor guy at this point, but – believe it or not – he refused to allow doctors to remove the stickers. Without treatment, the hospital refused to give him the morphine he wanted, so he was discharged. Two weeks later Cameron was notified that the suspect had checked himself back into the hospital but it was too late. He died from all the infection caused by the cholia cactus left in his body.

   One day each of us will face certain death and where we eventually end up is our decision! There’s a curious saying that perfectly describes our options: “Born once – die twice. Born twice – die once.” By “born once” I mean the physical birth. By “born twice” is the physical birth plus a spiritual birth by which we’re born-again by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. Thus – born twice!

   Just as there are two births, there are two deaths – one is physical and the other is spiritual. Jesus constantly warned that we’re to fear the second death (Hell) more than the first. But that second death is only experienced by those who don’t put their faith in Jesus and thus will experience eternal separation from their Creator. We’re reminded in Ephesians 2 that “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Dead! That’s why we need to be born again! Jesus Himself reminded us that “Unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.” You must be born again!!

   God only knows where our cholia cactus man ended up. Hopefully, he was born twice, but whatever his lot, his fate is sealed for eternity. It’s something every human should give pause to. 

   The noted C.S. Lewis – Christian scholar and author – penned the following: “Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live forever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which wouldn’t be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live forever!” Selah!

Bob and Susan Becket pastor The Dwelling Place City Church at 27100 Girard Street in Hemet, CA.  For more information, you may contact them at


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