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The California Fires Are Purifying My Priorities

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The threat of disaster forces me to reckon with salvation—mine and others.

For a week now, I’ve been tracking live online maps of Northern California. The blue dot representing our house is in the “fire watch” zone. We are not in immediate danger but close enough to know many people who are—and close enough that I’ve been fielding messages all week: “I saw the fires on TV. Are you safe?”

A few weeks ago, I was starting a mental list of potential Christmas luxuries. Now I’m making a list of the most important “grab bag” necessities, which is exposing a much deeper set of priorities. If we had ten minutes to evacuate, the “essential” list is surprisingly short: our kids. The dog. The folder with our passports, birth certificates, and green cards. Our wallets. Phones and chargers. Maybe our wedding photos. But the rest is replaceable.

The looming threat of fire—or any other disaster—distills down our core values not just in practical ways but also in spiritual ways, too. As thousands face devastating displacement and loss, Jesus’ words to clothe, visit, care for, and feed others in need (Matt. 25:35–36) sound out a clarion call to action. My family and I are thinking deeply over how to donate and give well in this crisis.

But there are other words from Jesus that strike an even deeper chord as I hear story after story of devastation.

In Luke 13, Jesus was asked to comment on a local tragedy: Pilate had killed Galilean Jews and mixed their blood with sacrifices—a horrific, bloody offense. Jesus’ response was stunning. He told them not to draw any conclusions about whether the Galileans were worse sinners simply because they’d suffered. That tragedy and others like it weren’t indicative …

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Source: Christianity Today Magazine

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