Ridge Burns's blog

The Desert

I was recently at a conference where it was said, “Every great thing God does comes out of the desert.” I began to think about how true that is. There are times of loneliness and dryness, but everything that God does seems to rise out of that kind of environment. In the desert you’re always seeking, you’re always looking for water, you’re looking for newness. When we’re in the desert we’re very open to what God has for us. Not only that, but it makes us desperate. The desert is a harsh environment. It makes us desperate for Him and desperate to call on Him. The desert gives you a different perspective. A perspective not of abundance and beauty and greenery and growth, but of harshness that drives us to the cross of Christ. The desert forces us to cry for help. There’s nobody to help. We’re alone. It’s desolate and dry and isolated from society. When you wander in the desert God brings you to that wonderful prayer where you just say, “Help. There’s nothing I can do. There’s no way I can solve this problem. I’m desperate for you, Lord Jesus!”

A Word About Peace

I found this great verse about peace in Isaiah 26:12-13 this morning as I was reading. It says, “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor.” I love the word peace. I love what it speaks to my soul. It reminds me of an island of rest and wholeness. It’s an island of God’s presence in the middle of your chaotic life that you can go to and find peace. It’s—as the Hebrews call it— “shalom”; that congruence of who we are inside and who we are outside coming together to give us peace. I love that this verse says that “all that we have accomplished, you did.” Peace comes when we don’t take ownership over things that we have no right to. The writer of Isaiah clearly says, “It’s because of you that we have peace.” I look at my friends who don’t know Jesus, who try so hard to get peace through vacations, time off, or meditation, but it’s offered to us Christians as a free gift. “Peace I give to you.” Peace can only happen if we worship God alone, when there are no other gods in our lives. Peace happens when there’s only a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When we’re in that pure, clean relationship and we’re in His presence we find peace.

Make Room for the Holy Spirit

Recently I was in church and the pastor was talking about revival. He was talking about how people like Charles Finney had an incredible private experience that became public. It changed him and made him different. The pastor made a passing comment that I thought was interesting. He said, “Most churches don’t make room or space for the Holy Spirit.” That’s how I grew up: in a church that had very strong feelings about the Holy Spirit needing to be controlled. We couldn’t really have any exposure to the Holy Spirit, because it was “charismatic” and you’d be in trouble. But how do we make room for the Spirit? How do we make room for the Spirit to move? No matter what your view of the Holy Spirit is, the answer is that we need time. It’s easy for us to say we need time with God’s Word. We need time praying and allowing Jesus to redeem us with His Blood. But, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we also need to make time. We need to sit quietly and say, “Come Holy Spirit. Manifest yourself to me. I want to know You.” The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. What an interesting concept. I sit in church and we sing songs and there’s a sense of the Spirit being there and we hear a good sermon, but then we just leave. There’s no time to sit and soak in the Holy Spirit. I think it’s a really good question: Where do you make room for the Holy Spirit?

Cut Myself Shaving

A couple days ago I really hacked my face shaving. While shaving my phone went off so I reached for the phone to see who it was and in the process the razor went vertical and became a scalpel. I mean we’re talking a three-quarters of an inch cut right on my chin, right where everybody can see it. I went to church on Sunday and it was very interesting to see how people responded. You could obviously tell they were looking at my face thinking, “Why is that cut there?” They would stare at it for a while and you could just see the wheels turning trying to figure it out, but they would never ask me. Only one person asked me what I did. I don’t see the cut so I forget about it. But, everyone I run into sees that cut and tries to figure it out. You know what it did? It made me uncomfortable all morning. It made me feel like people weren’t being authentic. Why wouldn’t they just ask me? I wasn’t embarrassed about it. It was as if they were thinking, “I really don’t want to embarrass you; I don’t want to ask you.” I was thinking how important it is just to lay things on the table. Having a cut on your chin is fairly easy since it’s going to go away in a couple of days. Having this cut made me more sensitive to people who have visible, physical deformities or behaviors. You don’t know what to say, so you say nothing and in the course of saying nothing it becomes really awkward for both of you. I recognize there are some times where it isn’t appropriate to ask “Why?” but I think it’s important to acknowledge the reality. “Ridge, you...

Victory Changes Everything

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I was born and raised in that great city which has now fallen on hardship. There are a lot of things I love about Detroit and my childhood. But, in 1967 there was a great riot in the city. I remember seeing army tanks going up and down the street. The sky was orange as fires burned. Many parts of the city were destroyed by this riot. It was a riot of hatred, mostly surrounding racial issues. That was in 1967. In 1968 the Detroit Tigers won the World Series for the first time in a long time. The night that they won the World Series, the city celebrated together. Those who were fire-bombing stores a year earlier were now arm-in-arm; people of every race celebrating the victory of the Tigers. Victory changed everything. It changed hate into dancing and anger into laughter. Let me just say that the Christian life is victorious. It changes everything. When we exchange our old life—which is captive by the old nature of sinful man—with the new life in Christ, incredible things happen. We experience victory. Victory over habits, victory over sin, victory over attitudes. Victory over things never thought we’d be free from becomes part of our lives, because Christ is victorious. It clearly says in Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We’re not only taking land, we are more than conquerors, so we live in victory. Even though a sports team changed the attitude and atmosphere of Detroit in the Sixties, it soon went back to the hatred and racism that preceded the victory. But when you turn your life over to Christ, you don’t lose that. You live and walk in the victory.

A Surprising Verse

I’ve been reading through 1 John and meditating on the Father’s love and how important it is for us to stay in unity with His love. But the last verse of the book (1 John 5:21) is surprising. He ends this great epistle about the character of God and who we are in Him and all the love of the Father with the line, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I never saw that coming. I never thought that would be the way John would end his epistle. It seems so out of place. But in some ways, it’s our key to knowing who God is. It’s the key to really understanding the incredible resource we have in Christ. You see, an idol is that which makes God look like something He’s not. Suppose you create a statue that’s supposed to encompass God’s love. What statue could you create that’s big enough, strong enough, wild enough, powerful enough to even be close to representing what God’s love is like? Idols are not only metal; made with our hands, but also mental. Our constructs of God can be an idol. For example; we so value God as the giver of life that we forget He’s also the forgiver of sins. The idol makes Him into something He’s not. We all have this desire to make God into something that is containable, that is small enough and in our own image so that we can understand Him. But God is not understandable. So John clearly says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” Because the idols are what destroys the power of God in your life.

Methods

If you read my previous blog, you’ll know I was a small group leader for Vacation Bible School and it was a much different experience than I thought. There was general chaos in the room. There was heavy stimulation. The music team was half music team, half dance team. We learned all the motions to all the songs and it was just really fun. It was very oriented toward fun and craziness and acceptance, where kids could simply be kids. It was awesome. But, I noticed some things about these kids during this week. First, they all liked to talk about themselves. Second, they all wanted to be noticed and valued. Third, they responded to rewards. When I think about them wanting to talk about themselves, almost all their stories involved positive words that were given to them. A coach that said “good job,” a teacher that affirmed them, a dad who loved them, a mom who cared for them. Words were huge to them and they remembered those words. It’s almost like they were stuck on them. Some of those words were negative. You could feel it. Some of the kids were held back by negative words and others were inspired by the words spoken over them. When they talked about themselves they talked about words. They wanted to be noticed and valued. They wanted to tell their story. They wanted me to understand who they are and what they like and what they do. They told their stories in funny ways and they told them in ways that were sometimes difficult to understand, because they were full of unrelated facts. But each story was individual. Their story was all about them and their family and their environment. And it made me want to write a different story for...

Signs

Recently I volunteered to be a small group leader for second-graders at a Vacation Bible School. These six young people were all seven years old and I learned so much from them over the course of the week. What was really interesting to me was when you look at the kids and meet with them on a regular basis you begin to pick up clues. You begin to see things parents can’t see. I thought about how RobAnne and I raised our children. When the kids are in a group setting, you experience them in a different way. When you’re in a chaotic, heavy-stimulation setting it’s just so different. You can see the kids so much clearer. I saw one child who was very angry, with a lack of self-confidence. He’d probably been hurt a little bit, and was maybe not the best athlete, but a good kid; smart, but angry. Almost defiantly angry. There was another child I worked with that was obviously broken; bad social skills, a tough time relating to other kids his age, and difficulty doing the crafts. He’d been hearing words all his life that he’s not good enough, smart enough, that there’s something wrong with him. He was broken. Then, there were other kids who had vision. They knew exactly where they wanted to go and they were clear about it. There were others who had a softness about them. You could tell they’d been nurtured and grown up in an environment of love and care and acceptance. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure this out—you can see it and feel it. What’s hard for a small group leader is that each one of those students need a different approach to the same lesson. I gained a real appreciation for teachers...

What Do We Worship?

Bill Johnson, the lead pastor at Bethel Church in California, said, “For ages the Church has gathered and worshiped around a sermon, Israel gathered and worshiped around the Presence.” Now hear me carefully; this is a pastor talking, he loves to give sermons and I in no way want to discredit the value of good Bible teaching or the value of a good sermon. In fact, Graham Cooke once said, “It should take two to three weeks to get over a good sermon.” But, sometimes we get too used to hearing the Word of God, instead of experiencing who God is. Sometimes we get so used to the pattern and the substance of most of our church services and the importance we put on good Bible teaching, that we actually lose the presence of God. I have done that. I have enjoyed a great sermon, but don’t know if I experienced who God really is through it. I heard His Word, I understood His Word, I enjoyed His Word, but I think God wants us to experience His presence. We substitute His presence with great worship, sometimes it seems to be Spirit-led and leads us to the glory of God but other times it seems to be a performance. We get blocked by our environment: lights and sound and activity and stimulus all directed to getting us engaged. Could it be that sometimes God just wants us to worship around who He is without any of that? With the quietness? I love music and worship. I love the songs and I love the way we’re able to enter into His presence with worship and with the Word, but I’m talking about something deeper. It’s individual. It’s not corporate. It’s you and God by yourself, alone, and His presence shows up...

2 Things We Need to Do in Prayer

Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Paul directly asks us to do these two things in prayer. The first thing is to be watchful. Interesting how he phrases that in present progressive tense which means “being watchful” not just once—all the time—being watchful for what God wants to do. So, what are we watching for? Well I think there are three things the Lord has impressed on me that I need to be watchful for. First of all, His assignments for me. What is it that He’s specifically asking me to do? And when He asks me to do it, am I going to be obedient? Sometimes those assignments are very easy. They’re in job descriptions or in directives from my board of trustees. Often God uses my wife to give me assignments. But other times it’s simply through the still voice of the Holy Spirit, the small voice that whispers, “Pray for that person. Talk to that person. Go this way to work instead of the other way.” Second: we’re to be watchful that the Evil One hasn’t corrupted our thinking about God, or planted things that will be destructive to the purity of who God is. Therefore, we are to be watchful in prayer in order to banish sin and the Evil One from our lives. The third thing I think we need to be watchful for is places where God has called us to advance the Kingdom. It may be by going to a special rally, or a special church service, or maybe God has called you to pray and to fast, or to pray over a building or a city or a geographic location. God calls us to be watchful for what He’s doing and to watch for where He might...

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