Living Through the San Diego Wildfires
- 2007 28 Nov
Many of us have been in situations where we have claimed to have had a spiritual intuition of an event, as if “someone greater than ourselves” was trying to tell us or warn us of something. We tend to understand what God was saying after the fact instead of before. We also know that hindsight has 20/20 vision. Why do we struggle to put all the pieces together before the events happen? Personally, I can quickly discern that God is speaking to me from the heavens but I am not as readily able to predict how that message will play out on earth. The San Diego fires were no different. God knew what was coming and He desired to speak to His people about them. Sadly, we learn to listen to others more than we listen to the Lord. We learn to appreciate those verses and promises we can claim for ourselves with little insight as to how God intends to accomplish His will. Let me explain:
Bobbye Brooks (my ministry partner), myself and the Daily Disciples Ministries team were invited to a church retreat on Palomar Mountain in San Diego County the weekend of October 20, 2007. Our hearts are to minister to women of all backgrounds so we appreciate the uniqueness of the churches that have asked us to come. It is amazing that although some of the churches bear the same names, they have completely different callings and comfort zones. At this church retreat, the worship leader felt free to ask the audience if anyone had a word of knowledge from the Lord. We were surprised that she opened up the room to allow the Lord to speak personally to the group through the women sitting there. I am very comfortable with the Lord leading me like this so I was not surprised when a passage of Scripture came to mind. I turned to Isaiah 43:1-3:
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
The room remained quiet as I showed Bobbye these verses. No one else had anything to share which made my heart pound harder, faster and louder to read these verses. I knew that the Lord wanted these verses alone to be shared. Just as I was about to read them aloud, the worship leader began playing the next song. To Bobbye’s and my amazement, the song that the worship leader played quoted the very same passage of Scripture in Isaiah. We knew that the Lord was getting our attention. God was speaking to us through the Scriptures. After the worship was over, Bobbye and I were next on the schedule to speak. Of course, we shared with the ladies the passage in Isaiah 43, knowing that 2 Corinthians13:1 says that “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” Isaiah 43:1-3 was confirmed by two witnesses that God was speaking to us as a group. We did not realize the significance these verses would soon have. This was one of those times that we had ears to hear but it was difficult to discern if the message was literal or figurative. We all seemed to be content with believing that there are no coincidences with God and He uses people to speak and confirm His Words to others, through others. No one that I knew of, including myself, asked the Lord to clarify this message any further. In hindsight, we should have been asking, seeking and knocking to not only know His Word but to also know His Will. Why was He was giving these verses to us? Are the verses for our spiritual well being or are these verses God’s Will to be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven…today? The reason for the verses became perfectly clear as we headed down the mountain.
On Sunday morning, the Santa Ana winds were so strong we had difficulty packing up the car. Little did we know that Isaiah 43:2 was not only a promise but a prophecy that was about to be fulfilled that day in all of our lives including the Palomar Retreat Center. Heading down the mountain, we heard that the fires had begun. We were about to be evacuated from our homes because of the fires and some of us would literally be “walk[ing] through the fire” as Isaiah 43:2 clearly states. At one given time, there were eight fires destroying the County of San Diego. Because fire is no respecter of persons, no one knew whose house would be next and no one could predict the path the fires would take. But we did know that God cared and that God had warned us up on the mountain. His desire was for us to know that God was with us, that these fires did not surprise Him, and He did not want us to fear. God speaks to us to comfort us and to bring peace regardless of the circumstance.
When I got home on Sunday afternoon, the newscasters were already talking about evacuations. I asked the Lord if we would have to evacuate also. The impression that I got was to not unpack my retreat suitcase because I was going to need it. So, when my daughter told me at 10 pm that her school was cancelled the next day, I was not surprised. We also got the “Reverse 911” call Monday afternoon. I packed everything from photo albums of the kids (for my heart) to photos of the house (for the insurance company) just in case. When receiving promises from the Lord, I have learned the hard way not to jump to conclusions. God can put His Words in our mouths but we have no right to put our words in His. When we do, we get stumbled because we assume something that God did not say. Just because God gave us comfort with the Isaiah 43 passage did not mean that we did not have to evacuate and the verses did not mean that our homes would be spared. I just knew that the Lord did not want me to fear and that He would be with me because I am His. By the end of the fires, close to 2000 homes were consumed in a very short period of time.
The problem today is not that God is not speaking but that we are not listening. God wants us to know. He reveals His plans to His servants (Amos 3:7). That is the desire of His heart. The Lord does not want us to be caught off guard but aware and alert so He may continue to use us through those hard times. I would rather be warned first by the Lord than warned by the news. But, this means we need to be in a consistent relationship with Him. There are some questions we need to ask ourselves as the Bride of Christ:
1. How willing are we to enter into a real personal relationship with the Lord?
Communication is the key component of relationship. One person talks and other person listens. Then, the roles are reversed. As each person shares their words, they will determine the depth of the relationship. These rules also apply in having a relationship with God. You talk to the Lord (prayer) and the Lord talks to you (from His Word, the Bible). If you chose to communicate daily, your relationship with Him will be much closer than if you communicate once a week.
2. How willing are we to really listen to what God is saying to us in the passages we are reading for the day?
If you are like me, I tend to be better at telling God my own heart and my own desires than listening to His. When I am willing to hear God’s Will louder than desiring God to hear my will, then God speaks clearly. After I have completely exhausted myself with my prayer requests, I am ready to hear His answers. My ears have to become larger than my mouth so He can get His Word into my heart to change my mind. That takes time. Take the time to listen to the Lord through Scriptures and through the quietness of your own heart. He will comfort you in a restful place.
3. How willing are we to listen to how His Word applies today?
We need the persistence to ask, seek and knock until God reveals His specific message for the time. Then, ask God to confirm that message to you. When He confirms it to you, trust Him and do not doubt. God wants you to know His heart because He desires for you to live with His peace in your heart.
We were created to have a relationship with the Lord. Nothing is as peaceful and comforting as being with the Lord. There have been times when I have heard specifically the very heart of God in a situation and it completely changed me and the fruit of His Words became evident in my life circumstances. But to be perfectly honest, the persistence it took to seek His specific Will for me was exhausting to my flesh. Not many of us want to intercede to that extent. Not many of us have tight deep relationships because we are not willing to be that vulnerable, honest, giving, or willing to give the time to maintain the relationship. The same applies with the Lord. I know that I am the one who is missing out when I do not come to Him.
The San Diego fires have given us a clear heavenly vision of what we do not want to happen when we will stand before Him one day. We do not want to get into heaven as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15) because we were too fearful, lazy, selfish or busy on earth. Heaven and earth will pass away but His Word will not. We need to be more sensitive to hear His voice. We need to be more persistent to hear His Will. We need our hearts to change to represent His heart. We do not want to talk about God; we need to talk to Him, every day. Having a walking, talking relationship with the God of the universe is what each of us was created for. That is the greatest blessing and the most wonderful gift that anyone could hope to have. Coming closer to God means we receive more love, joy and peace. He was so kind to comfort us on the mountain so we would not be fearful in the plains or through the fires.
Pray with me: Oh come Lord Jesus, come quickly but until then, make me discerning to hear You, willing to speak about You and faithful to live with You and for You.
This article is used by permission of Daily Disciples
Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc., founded by Tonilee Adamson and Bobbye Brooks, embraces a vision to reach the world for Christ by teaching others how to be His daily disciples. Their mission is to evangelize the lost and to re-awaken the saved to live lives empowered by the Word of God and His Holy Spirit, and to teach and to train those who desire to grow, to serve and to have all that God has for them…encouraging everyone to be a daily disciple of Jesus Christ. From Bible studies to daily devotionals to daily radio programs to a comprehensive discipleship program, Bobbye & Tonilee have a passion to help others apply the Word of God to their lives every day.