This Sunday, I experienced the encouragement of the Holy Spirit speaking into the present circumstances of my life. How did I recognize the voice of the Spirit? I don’t know, but here’s my story.

Most of you have heard about the major house fire last Wednesday at the rental home we own, the close escape of the tenants, and their loss of pets and possessions. By Saturday the shock had subsided and I felt the fuller weight of what had happened and what could have happened. Needless to say, I needed Sunday Sabbath and the opportunity to sit in worship without responsibilities.

Here are a few of the ways I felt the Lord’s encouragement:

1) In my morning devotions, I have been studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians, through the help of a commentary by Timothy Keller. That morning’s reading was about bearing the burdens of one another (Galatians 6), not remaining alone. Keller commented about the difference between simple responsibilities and major burdens. The two examples he used of simple responsiblities were “raising children” and “restoring a living place.”

I instantly realized two things. One, the house fire did feel like adding a second child or job, in terms of emotional preoccuption. But more importantly, I realized these are both simple responsibilites. Not easy, but certainly a straightforward mission. Love and nurture a child; plan and rebuild a home. The more complex, weightier burden in my life is my own sinful heart, my own selfish ways. My brokeness as a sinner in need of grace is a more dramatic burden than dealing with the aftermath of a house fire, because I don’t always understand my heart, my thoughts, my actions. Perspective, indeed.

2) The second encouragement came from the opening hymn at 8:30, “How Firm a Foundation.” The third verse reads, “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply. The flames shall not hurt you, I only design, your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.” Taking my cue from Jesus’ response in Luke 13:1-5, I don’t need to know WHY the fire occured in order to see it as an opportunity to repent, to be refined, to be reminded of what is most precious.

3) The final word from God I sensed on Sunday came in Pastor Troy’s guest sermon on “Conversations with my Father.” His story about wrecking his father’s car applied to the house fire: “Son, the car/house is just metal/wood and glass. It’s you that I care about.” I was reminded that I can take or leave the stuff of this life. What are most precious, what are enduring are my relationships with God and my loved ones.

How does God speak to us? Sometimes with the same words God speaks over and over again, year after year. But, sometimes in the circumstances of life, I actually have ears to hear. Amen.

Pastor Tom