Ridge Burns's blog

A Wedding

I recently performed a wedding ceremony for some really close family friends in Phoenix, Arizona. I love weddings. I stood in front of this young couple—they were 22 years old—so young, with lots of hopes and dreams. They were obviously in love with each other. Both families were great families and I asked if the parents on both sides of the wedding would come and give a parental blessing. As the moms prayed over their daughter and son and the dads gave words of blessing to the couple, it was so moving and wonderful. But my favorite part about doing a wedding is the vows. I’ll only do a wedding if traditional vows are used because RobAnne and I used traditional vows and when you hear them again, it’s as if you renew them in your spirit. “Yeah, my wife and I said that to each other 45 years ago.” It's the same words, same vows, so it causes us to renew them in our minds. The wedding was beautiful. The reception was fun. But to hear this young couple say the same words that my wife and I said so many years ago, was the best part of the day.

Asking God Questions

I have a friend who, when he talks about discipleship and really walking with Jesus, says, “We need to be constantly asking God questions.” He’s not necessarily talking about the big questions like “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” (which we totally need to be asking God as well). But he’s referring to asking God things like, “What do you want me to do right now? Is this something that I should be involved in?” in order to help us come to a decision about what how we should allocate our time. My friend says that God has an opinion on where you shop, what you do, who you hang with, how you organize your office, etc. He has an opinion and we need to ask Him His opinion. There are two filters that I put on these questions. I want to ask God, “Is this my assignment? Is this what you want me to do?” I have a lot of good things that I could be doing, but I want to know specifically if this is my assignment. For example, if somebody asks me to speak or to be involved in their ministry or in some sort of activity, I ask the Lord, “Is this my assignment?” I'm amazed at how many times He says, “No.” And that allows me to have margins in my life and not to be over-committed. The second thing I want to ask is, “Is this right? Is there hidden wrongness in what I’m being asked to do? Am I doing it for my own good or for the good of the Kingdom? Am I accepting this assignment because of pride or a perception of power?” So, I ask God, “Is this my assignment? And is it right?” When you bring...

Changing Locals

I have a little place in Pennsylvania when I'm at the Home Office that I've rented for four and a half years. I recently decided to scale back a little bit and move to a different place a few blocks away. I'm changing locals. And I realize as I’m beginning to think about leaving, how little of an influence I've made on my local in the space that I currently occupy. I want to be different in my new local. I think it's good for us to consider the place where God has allowed us to reside—to live, to work, and to play—as our local. We should consider what we are doing to advance the Kingdom in that local. No one really cares if I'm leaving that particular local. No one’s throwing a party. No one's coming over with meals. It’s more like, “Oh yeah. Nice to have seen you for the last four and a half years.” Shake their hands and say goodbye. There’s got to be more. There’s got to be more that we as Christians—that I, Ridge—should be doing to reach into my local: to know my neighbors, to experience their pain and their hurts, to celebrate their joys with them. We should be active in the formation of a community. My local is changing and I hope my attitude is as well.

Communion in the Present Tense

I had an interesting experience this Sunday while taking communion. (I know that how we administer communion has become one of those issues that Christians have a hard time agreeing on.) But for me what happened Sunday was unique. I always have approached the communion table in the past tense: thank you for redeeming me, for saving me, for forgiving my sins, for paying the price. I usually interpret Jesus’ admonition to “remember me” as “remember what I've done for you.” And I think there’s a lot of power in that. But this Sunday morning I decided to approach the table in the present tense: that Jesus was there. And the things that were broken on the cross were broken in me at that moment. I approached the table by saying, “Lord as I walk and I take these elements, as I take these symbols of what you’ve done, I actively now ask you to wash me with righteousness. I actively am approaching you to exchange my old man for a brand-new man.” Communion is another place where my old man dies and the new creation that God has for me is alive and well because communion is present tense. It’s not only “Remember Me in what I've done” but “Remember Me in what I'm doing right now.” I lost it in church as I allowed the Spirit of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to wash over me. Communion in the present tense. I recognize that it can be a theological minefield, but for me it was a very simple act of experiencing the cross by myself.

A New Year

I loved the first day of school when I was young because all of my school supplies were perfect: I had a new ruler, and pencils and pens, and pads of paper, and a new binder. It just felt like it was a fresh start. New Year’s Day is that for many people. We talk about making resolutions. For me New Year’s Day seems like a clean page on which I'm able to write a different story. But I want to speak to those who carry hurts into the new year: pain, disappointment, inadequacy, memories of years gone by that just haunt you. I have a verse for you from Isaiah 43:16-19: This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Let me just say to you, I believe that God is doing a new thing at InFaith in 2020. I think He's doing a new thing in the Burns family. And I would encourage you: let's forget past things. Let's start fresh. Let’s open our eyes to see that the Lord is doing a new thing. That's my prayer for you in 2020.

A Christmas Greeting

Now that our kids are older, our Christmas Eve and Christmas traditions have changed. Our kids are no longer in the house and so oftentimes we go to them, instead of them coming to us. Our favorite night of the year was Christmas Eve with our children. We’d all gather together and have a birthday party for Jesus—including a cake—and we would sing “Happy Birthday” and just enjoy each other. When I was growing up, Christmas Eve had such warm memories. We always had clam chowder and bagels for dinner. My mom and dad would make the clam chowder and we had a certain set of silverware that we would use every year. One of the things I asked for when my parents died was to have one of those soup spoons. Even now when I use it the spoon reminds me of the warmth of family and the warmth of those evenings, celebrating Jesus, and enjoying each other as a family. I also recognize that Christmas is a time when there's a lot of hurt that can bubble up to the surface: fathers that weren’t fathers, mothers that were angry, kids that were prodigals. My prayer for this Christmas for those who read this blog is that the spirit of Christ would fall on your home and on your family, and there would be a sense of peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

An Unusual Event

I listen to a podcast that one of my pastors puts out every week and I was surprised by what he shared recently. He began his podcast by saying, “I need to correct some things in my sermon. I need to tell you that there are some things that I said that I would like to recalibrate. They weren't necessarily wrong, but they weren't necessarily right. And they certainly weren't what I meant.” What he had said wasn't amoral or anti-scriptural—he just got carried away. He then spent 20 minutes explaining what he had said, why he said it, and recalibrating and correcting the things that he had said. I loved this podcast. It was one of the best sermons I’ve heard because most of us would never admit—particularly in a public setting like this—that what we did wasn’t quite right. What surprised me the most was when I got to the end of the podcast and he said, “Now I know some of you are thinking I'm doing this because everybody talked to me about my sermon. And I felt embarrassed and didn't have a good answer, so I promised that I would undo what I did.” But that wasn’t the case. What he said happened was, “The Spirit of the Lord has called me to tell you this. I don't want to lead you astray.” That, my friends, is a good pastor.

Competent

Romans 15:14 says, “I am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” One of the goals that we have as Christians is that we have equal ability to influence each other through our teaching and through our lives—that we are competent. And how do we become competent? Is it because of our degrees? Or our position at church? We are competent because the Holy Spirit comes and leads us and guides us into all truth. In that leading, we know how to share. Many of us are bitten by the demon of inadequacy. We don't feel like we’re competent. We don't feel like we have the abilities to really make a difference in people's lives. But God says, “I make you competent.” That's what he said to Moses with all of his excuses about how he couldn’t lead the children of Israel. God said, “I will go with you. You can have my name. You can use my authority. I will make you competent.” I love that there's an equality to instruction in the body of Christ. It’s not just people with a lot of knowledge who are competent enough to get to speak into others’ lives. Each one of us has a piece to fill—a role to perform—that we are totally competent in. It's made for us. It's who we are in our souls. It's what we get up in the morning to do—that's our competency. God gives us a role and an assignment that’s perfect within our competencies, and in that we get to instruct each other.

Knowledge

I’m looking at Romans 15:14 again this week where it says, “I am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge…” What knowledge is he talking about? Is it facts? At InFaith we used to give a Bible content exam which was kind of like Bible trivia. It was important that you scored well on that because it showed that you had an understanding and a working knowledge of God's word, which is certainly one thing we must have. But does God really want us to focus only on facts? We know where the patriarchs are buried. We know the history of the New Testament and the context in which it was written. Those are important things, but I think what God really wants us to know is to know Him. He wants us to know the person of Jesus Christ. He wants us to know that person who is our Redeemer and our Savior. And in that, we have complete knowledge of our position and our authority in Christ Jesus. That’s the knowledge that God wants—it's not facts. It's important we know God's word. And important that we know how to describe God’s kingdom. But to be “complete in knowledge” is to know the riches we have in Christ Jesus.

What is Goodness?

The Bible says in Romans 15:14 that we are to be “full of goodness.” One of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians is goodness. But what does it really mean to be good? What quality or behaviors is God trying to reveal to us through this word “goodness”? Certainly, we can say that goodness means you have right behavior—that you do good things. You help people. Your behavior speaks of goodness, grace, mercy, and kindness. When people look at you, they would say you're “good.” If there's a continuum of good and bad people, you're on the good side because the qualities you possess and the behaviors that you exhibit are summed up in the word “good.” But what the Bible also means by “goodness” is avoiding things that are bad, such as wrong behaviors. Goodness is not only a choice to do what is good—what is right, wholesome, and powerful—but it's also a desire in you to not do certain things in order to protect your goodness. And so Paul writes, “I'm convinced, my brothers, that you are full of goodness”—that when people put a label on you, “good” is one of those words.

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