Friends, I’m so emotional as I type this today. Anyone else having all the feels right now? We’ve just watched Hurricane Harvey tear through Texas, and now Hurricane Irma has wreaked her destruction in the Carribean and is already affecting Florida as we speak…. and these are just two of the natural disasters effecting Earth right now!
I do not live where hurricanes pose a threat, but living on the tenth largest river in the nation, not far downstream from where reservoir—which collects the winter runoff from the Montana Rockies—meets river has posed its own natural threats to our own region. Not only is this near where we live, but we live in the North, where the frozen ground and unpredictable spring weather makes or breaks it for us come spring thaw.
In fact, just a few years ago, our area experienced historic level flooding itself. I’ll never forget the image of a large two-story house being lifted right off its foundation and floating and spinning 360 degrees down the river at the height of the flooding. We didn’t live in a flood plain area, so my husband and I were among many others who scampered to help build sand-bag dikes around homes as the predictions of meteorologists and the Corps of Engineers became frighteningly true, and water levels rose and rose before our eyes. I remember the feeling that there was no end in sight to the work. I remember working day after day to aid in the effort, growing weary as the work just went on and on. I remember the looks of sheer fear in eyes as homeowners faced losing everything. I remember the tears streaming down cheeks as we’d pause work to pray with the homeowners. Natural disaster is catastrophically devastating.
And what we’ve experienced seems so minor, so small compared to what’s going on in the world right now.
SIGNS IN THE SKY AND SEAS
All this has been not only emotional, turning me to prayer often throughout my days, but I also have been thinking of the following verses from Luke 21:
There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Not only are we witnessing catastrophic hurricanes and flooding and wild fires and now earth quakes in just the past few weeks, we have also just recently seen an amazing solar eclipse. Signs in sun and moon… And I know this isn’t all. But friends listen, this means it is time to “straighten up” and “life up our heads” just as Jesus said. Jesus, in these verses, is calling all people everywhere to recognize the signs of the times and respond by being persuaded of the truth of Jesus and receiving it daily within ourselves. Why? Because our redemption draws near! Yes there is so much devastation in so many places world wide! But, might I dare say, there is hope. Great hope.
But what does all this mean? How do we “straighten up”? How do we “lift our heads”? What “redemption” is drawing near?
The sense the Greek word has behind our English “straighten up” is unbend, stand upright. In fact, the same word is used earlier in the same book for a woman who was bent in half for 18 years due to sickness, and could not “straighten up at all” (Luke 13:11). I remember being in the heart of San Fransisco a few years ago, driving through an intersection, and noticing an old woman bent with back completely parallel to the street, struggling to simply cross the street. In that moment, I remember very consciously thinking, She’s all of us.
And indeed she is. As humanity, which is descended bodily from Adam—sold into slavery to the devil, sold under the authority of sin (Rom. 7:14)—we are stooped, in a way not intended for us to live, nor necessary for us to continue to live this side of the historical cross of Christ. In fact, the Bible tells us that in this state inherited from Adam, we’re actually dead. We’re the living dead (Luke 15:24, Rom. 5:12-21, Eph. 2:1, Col. 2:13). But apart from being re-born from above and consciously abiding above, we can live no other way (John 3:1-8; 15:1-8).
My prayer is for a mass opening of eyes—both in the Church and out—to the oppression, violence, fear, and evil assaulting us in our flesh (the things which make us “dead”) day in and day out. Whether hurricanes, floods, fires, earth quakes threaten or not. The great con of the evil one is to make his effect in us seem small, inconsequential, harmless, and even good, while he goes on hurting us, trapping us, oppressing us, ruining us, killing us. I pray we—all of us—begin to get even the slightest notion of what life could be apart from this enemy of humanity (we can get a taste of it in the New Testament, and sometimes in Christians living it around us). Because if we do—and believe the idea is true and possible for us too—we’ll find the devil’s work against us as staggeringly horrid as it really is. And we’ll naturally start to chase after the cure, and fight with all our hearts, from the source of the cure (1 Tim. 6:12), against his constant assault. Oh that we’d see if we haven’t, and dig deeper if we have!
This is what Luke meant when he wrote “straighten up”. We have a need to more intimately understand what happened both in Eden and what happened at the cross. What happened at the cross was a lot more than being given a golden ticket into Heaven. In fact it wasn’t about going to Heaven so much as being born from Heaven. It wasn’t about a place as much as a Life—eternal life—given in the inner man. The man who was once dead. This one can receive Life!
I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal. 2:20)
Jesus’s exhortation to straighten up is a call to believe that the work of Christ on the cross freed humanity from slavery and ruin and made her a new creature, a new people, a new nation: the kingdom of God. It’s a loving call for us all to turn from being “not a people” (1 Peter 2:10) decreed by the enemy for destruction, and receive the new pedigree of Christ Jesus by faith, becoming a child, an heir of God. This was done for you on the cross of Jesus. There you and I were freed from death (that is, the slavery/oppression of the enemy)! See it, be persuaded of this good news, and receive it as truth into your heart by faith!
This is the first step toward being ready for Jesus when He comes to gather us and join us to himself! Oh what a day that will be! I praise God with you if you have just now believed in Jesus as your Savior—your soul-abolitionist from the tyranny of the evil one—receiving His life and freedom into your very self!
LIFTING YOUR HEAD
Second, lift your head. Psalm 24 beautifully portrays the meaning of this saying:
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
We were recreated—re-born—to carry God within us. Through the flesh (our bodies), we’re slaves of another that forced his place within us. But through the Spirit of God (whom we receive when we first believe Jesus is who He says He is; Eph. 1:13), we become willing beloved subjects and carriers of the glory of God in Christ Jesus instead. When we walk by faith in Who we’re now in, Jesus in us reigns in love and true Life over slavery, oppression, and death. The enemy loses His power over us. So lift your head, that the King of glory may come in! Be filled with the glory of God that fills Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6, Col. 2:9-10). Walk by faith that you’re in Him and He’s in you (John 15:4-5). Submit to His wonderful glory and love within you via the Spirit of God, and fulfill the call of God for all still walking planet earth: to rule, by the glory of God, over the darkness in the glory and high LOVE of God (Gen. 1:28, Rom. 5:17, Eph. 1:15-23)!
WHAT IS THE GOAL? WHY DO WE DO THIS?
Friends, let me say what I’ve said before: we don’t receive Life from Christ with the goal of going to Heaven and escaping Hell (or even Earth) when we die. No, the goal is even bigger than this. The goal of the cross is salvation (rescue) from the annihilation of our species (humanity) that the devil has set himself to accomplish. Salvation from the old man/creature means becoming members of the royal family and pedigree of God Himself. (Take a moment to really think on that last sentence!) This is AMAZING NEWS!! He has promised to not only preserve and defend us, but to identify us with Himself, taking us into HIs literal family (Rom. 8:15), making us His literal heirs of His own glory! And when the final war is won, God will come to dwell with His victorious-in-the-blood-of-Christ people dwelling on a victorious, won, freed, glorious EARTH (Rev. 21-22)!!
So now is the time to straighten up (receive the fact that you’ve been bought out of slavery and freed to be the people of God because of the cross) and lift up your head (abide in Christ your life) because He’s coming for us, to protect, preserve, and powerfully defend us. To take back the Earth and our physical bodies (where death and the devil currently reign) for HImself! This is the “redemption” which draws near, which Jesus told us these signs in the skies and waters would signal to us is coming (Rom. 8:18-25)!! His victory will be instant and cosmically divine, His foe and ours dethroned and destroyed forever. It will be marvelous indeed!
FRIENDS, HAVE FAITH!
If we knew what was after us to destroy us, and what (Who) could be our rescue, we wouldn’t think twice about believing in Christ Jesus as our rescuer from the family line of fallen-Adam. It’s just that wonderful! We’d receive it with joy, relief, faith, and celebration, realizing the EXTRAVAGANT, world-altering, infinitely supreme and huge LOVE of God for us, His people. And then, once fully and finally His, we’d seek to live with “head lifted up”, abiding in Him, submitting to Him, and receiving the victory and glory that’s ours in Christ—day in and day out. In this way we’ll be prepared for THAT DAY, when we’ll see the Son of Man walking in clouds, signaling our redemption has arrived!
Jesus told us, when you see these things taking place, get ready (receive/become my kingdom and live from my kingdom), I’m soon coming for you! Friends, if you’re weary, fearful, emotional, grieved, tired, stressed, lonely, oppressed… turn to Jesus. Make Him yours and yourself His, by faith (John 3:16-17). Then trust Him to live and work in and through you like He alone can. Take His beautiful exhortation to “be ready” to heart! You can believe Him! There’s nothing and no one more trustworthy! And dare to take His words joyfully! Because they are that—words of high, grand, joyous celebration!
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing… Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:2-4, 12)
All my love to you!