As a boy growing up in North San Diego County, nothing could strike fear in my soul more rapidly than hearing of a deadly Santa Ana Windstorm approaching.  When a high pressure system forms over the Pacific Northwest and low pressure occurs over Mexico the north-south pressure gradient causes strong winds to spill over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. From the mountains the air descends into the coastal valleys (my home), compresses, warms rapidly, and decreases in relative humidity. In other words, a fire looking for a place to start.

Nothing is more terrifying than being caught in a wooded area when a fire breaks out during a Santa Ana. The hot, dry, rapidly blowing air (sometimes upward of 100 MPH) can turn a small forest into a blast furnace in a matter of minutes. After one of these fires rips through an area it is possible to find ash skeletons of animals still locked in a running position.

One thing is for certain: you cannot outrun a Santa Ana fire. Fire officials used to teach us what to do if we were ever caught in a Santa Ana fire. They told us a lot of things to do, but one thing they told us to never do: never try to outrun one—that is an exercise in futility.

The worst place to be is in a densely wooded area. A good place to be is in an open field. The best place to be is in an area that has already burned. People have survived Santa Ana’s by running into an open field, setting it on fire, and then hunkering down in that portion of the field that has already burned.

Why does this work? It seems counter-intuitive. Like fighting fire with fire. But, it works. It works because fire cannot burn what has already been burned. It just can’t.

That brings me to us. Those of us who will one day witness the burning of God’s wrath on a creation turned away. Those of us who, by God’s Grace, will witness that event from the cool safety of the sidelines rather than from the hot intensity of Ground Zero. I tell my church on a regular basis, “When you encounter a passage discussing God’s wrath being poured out on humankind, DO NOT place yourself in that picture! Why? Because those human beings who are in Christ on that day will not experience the heat of it.”

Why are we absolutely safe from the wrath of God “in Christ?” Because God’s wrath has already burned there. When God’s wrathful judgment comes upon this evil age—and it will come—it will pass over all of us who are in Christ. Why? Because God’s wrath was fully expended as Jesus suffered and died.

I can’t fully explain why God’s wrath will pass over us in Christ; I just know that it will. He promised us that it will. Our challenge is not to question how or why but to trust, believe, obey—and to stay “in Christ.”

Are you in Christ? I feel a wind coming.

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