Ridge Burns's blog

How Quickly We Desert Our Faith

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.” Galatians 1:6-7 I was thinking today about how quickly we move away from the truth. We don’t have the appropriate filters—the appropriate grids—to send things through. So without even knowing it, we will take on a false gospel. We begin to take on a gospel made with human hands, not with the Spirit of God. Let me suggest four very simple things that you can do to keep yourself from deserting your faith. First, develop a hunger for the Word of God. The Lord has been really speaking to me recently about not getting into His word and how that grieves Him. It’s easy to let worship music or a sermon be what you feed on, but God wants us to feed on His Word and that will keep us from deserting the gospel of Christ. Second, anything that does not point to Christ—any doctrine, any spiritual truth that at it’s core does not point to the work and the person of Jesus Christ—needs to be re-examined. Third, ask this question: Is this of God? Is this of the Holy Spirit or is this from a different spirit? If you develop the discipline of asking those questions when you’re presented with different theological views or different spiritual experiences, it automatically drives you to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to what you hear through the Word of God. Fourth, develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit that involves dialogue and questions—and look for answers. Look for places where God will speak to you about what is true. If you do that—if...

A Philadelphia Phillies Ball Game

I don’t go to many baseball games but last Friday night I didn’t have a lot to do and I wanted someplace to enjoy a beautiful summer evening in Philadelphia, so I went down to Citizens Bank Park to go to a ballgame. The Phillies were playing the Cubs. There were as many Cubs fans as Phillies fans because the Phillies are the worst team in baseball right now. As a result, buying a ticket was not only easy but I could get a great seat—four rows behind the dugout. If you think about the odds of catching a ball—if you only go to one or two ballgames a year for thirty years of your life and there are an average of 25,000 to 30,000 people in the stands—the chances of catching a ball are really slim. I have never caught one. But I thought to myself, “This is a seat where a foul ball could come and I could possibly break my lifetime streak of not catching balls.” Well, wouldn’t you know it: in the second inning a foul ball came. Everybody reached high to grab the ball and I decided to go low. The ball fell right in my hand! I looked up and in the row in front of me were a dad and his daughter—both with their gloves on to catch a ball. They looked at that ball and without even thinking, I put the ball in the little girl’s mitt. Everyone applauded. You know what my internal response was? “Why did I just give her the ball? I want the ball!” It felt like I’ve been waiting so long to catch a ball that I should take it and put it on a shelf and look at it. But the little girl was so happy...

Individuals

I was thinking the other day about how unique each person is. Everyone has their own gifts, skills, likes, or dislikes. The things that they tend to enjoy and get fulfillment from are all so different. Even the way that we set up our lives—the cars we drive, the clothes we choose—all make us uniquely individual. As I was thinking about that, I was reminded of Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’” and I began to think about how God’s uniqueness is infinite. He is infinitely different. Every aspect of Him is unique and special and formed for a specific reason. So when He creates an individual out of His own creativity, each one of us has our own unique stamp, our own unique footprint that only we can have. What’s interesting about this is that we spend most of our life trying to be the same: we take on the values of our culture, and the values of our family. We take on the ambience and the shape of those who are significant around us. God wants us to be individuals and to embrace the individuality of those around us. Our goal isn’t to franchise ourselves or franchise our church. The goal is to allow God to breathe creativity and life into that which He has made in His likeness, in His image. And His image is infinitely creative.

The Powerless

As elders of our church in Southern California, we are going through a Bible study call Rooted . One of the lessons is on serving, in particular serving the poor. It talks about how we need to address the root cause of people who feel exploited, powerless, and small. It spoke of Isaiah 1:17 which says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” I’ve often thought that that is what I want to do—I want to spend my life helping those who can’t help themselves. But I had an interesting experience this week. I was able to help someone with some money because they were in a tight spot. Instead of feeling good about it, I felt like I was exploiting my feeling of being powerful. I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes in the act of helping somebody it can become about making yourself look good, and feeling proud that you have the resources to help. Which then means that everyone else is small and powerless. I didn’t like that feeling. Most of us who live in the first world live in a powerful situation. My daughter, who is studying justice ministries in seminary, and I were talking about the phrase, “Give someone a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach someone to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We agreed that really is not the whole story. The person who is powerful in that particular scenario is the owner of the pond—they are the ones who control who can fish and who can’t. So we need to be careful as Christians that we’re not feeding our own need to feel significant. We need to be sure that we’re...

God's Goodness

One of the great children’s songs that I grew up singing was the song about Zacchaeus and how he was a “wee little man” and he climbed up in a sycamore tree “for the Lord he wanted to see.” Then we’d all say, “Zacchaeus, you come down!” It was a fun song and I remember with great joy singing it as a child. The story of Zacchaeus is powerful. It’s powerful because it changes our view of God’s goodness. Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector. He was a crook and cheated people out of their money, so people didn’t like him. He was a “sinner.” As Jesus was walking along, he saw Zacchaeus and said to him, “Come down immediately. I’m going to have lunch at your house.” So Zacchaeus came down at once and Jesus welcomed him gladly. The people around them were horrified and began to mutter, “Why is he being so kind to this sinner?” Jesus was being kind to the sinner because God is good and gracious. God does not look at other people in the same way we do. He has no bias. He has no preconceived ideas. He only sees people as His creation and desires to have them come to Himself. He bestows goodness on people who shouldn’t have goodness, according to us. He gives goodness to a tax collector. He gives goodness to a woman who’s been bleeding for seven years. He gives goodness to people who can’t catch fish—all because He is good and He gives goodness to people whom He desires. He desires all of us—that none of us should perish. It’s so interesting what happened next: Zacchaeus immediately came down out of the tree and said, “Lord, I will now give half of my possessions to the poor. And...

The Value of a Goal

Last Sunday our daughter completed the Colorado Trail, which is about 500 miles from Denver, Colorado to Durango, Colorado. She did it in thirty-four days—hiking all by herself—and learned a lot. One of the things that she learned is that she is goal-oriented. She desires to set a standard or an activity in front of her and then work toward that goal. This concept is not foreign to how God expects us to work. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” There is a goal, a place where God wants us to be, and we focus our attention on that. Colossians 2:2 says, “ My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” The idea is that God puts certain assignments in front of us that are uniquely designed for us. We then press on and we move toward that goal. I had my knees replaced a few years ago and the surgeon told me that the people who do well with knee replacements are the ones who have a goal. There is something they can’t do until they get their knees replaced, and then they can do it again. For me, it was walking eighteen holes on any golf course in the world, carrying my clubs. I could not do that before my surgery, but I can do it now. It was a goal. All my physical therapy, all the pain that I had to go through to get rehabilitated, were all about one thing— the goal of being able to walk. But in a...

Barrett

Barrett is our twenty-six-year-old daughter who is on a little more than a five-week hiking trip on the Colorado Trail all by herself. She’s not traveling with anybody else, she’s not responsible for anyone else, she is simply walking these 500 miles by herself. She has a tracking device on her and every night she sends us a text that simply says, “All is well.” Those three words for the more than forty days she’ll spend on the trail are wonderful words. My wife, RobAnne, and I love when we get to read them every night. We know that she’s made camp and settled into her tent—all is well! There’s a real sense that every day God sends us a text in His own language, in His own words, in His own way, that says, “Ridge, it is all well. Everything is good. You are part of my creation. You are part of how I made the world. You are a part of my kingdom who wants to advance my principles and my redemptive and resurrection power in people. I am the God of redemption.” Those kinds of encouraging reminders are one way that God says, “all is well” to us. But I am a worrier. Sometimes Barrett’s words aren’t enough. I still worry: “Well, what if something happens after she sends the text?” I go into a tailspin doing all different kinds of mental gymnastics—none of which are positive, none of which are good. Then the Lord speaks to me again and says, “Ridge, all is well. Barrett is in my hands. I will take care of Barrett. I will watch over her.” I love that. Between Barrett’s three texted words and the hand of God—all is well.

Listening and Being Obedient

One of the things that amazes me about some Christians is that they seem to have an ongoing dialogue with the Lord all day. They have this conversation constantly going on that allows them to see and do things for the Lord that most people would never think of. I’ve always wanted to do that—to have a conversation with the Lord for an extended period of time over a couple of days. Earlier this morning, I sensed that the Lord really wanted me to talk to one of the pastors of our church to encourage him and talk to him about his anointing and what God is doing in his life. So, somewhat sheepishly, I went over to where our staff meets and asked to speak to this one pastor. It was so amazing! It was the right word at the right time to the right person given in the right way. There was a miraculous movement of God that allowed my pastor to see that God was really caring for him. I hear stories like this and I talk to other people who have these kinds of experiences, so it was wonderful today to have that experience as my own—not manufactured, just God working through His people. I pray that the Lord would allow us as a mission and those who read this blog to walk in conversation with God. This shouldn’t be a monologue, but a dialogue with the Lord all day—that will cause you to do things that are purely directed by the Holy Spirit.

Authority

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what authority we have as Christians—authority God has given us as his children. In Mark it talks about the fact that we have authority to trample on snakes and all kinds of things. But what about our words? What about our wisdom, our thoughts, and our attitudes? What authority do we take in those realms of our life? In Luke 10 there’s an interesting story about Jesus sending out people to go before him to some towns he was headed to later. It was the first time the Lord had really sent out His disciples. They came back and were so excited because they had seen demons and all kinds of things leave people because of the powerful name of Jesus. I love what it says in Luke 10:21, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father.’” He was so excited to see His disciples take the authority that they had to do the good work. Later on, in Luke 10:23 it says, “Then he (Jesus) turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’” The authority that we take when we go and share the gospel—when we live our lives in front of people—is a different authority because we have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us. This authority doesn’t come through earthly wisdom or education—kings and prophets want to hear the word of God and the wisdom of God—but they don’t hear it because they’re not humble like the disciples. In this...

Mobility

Recently I was traveling all day and had an interesting experience in the San Francisco airport. I was trying to get some food and there was a man in his early thirties in a wheelchair in front of me in line, so I decided to engage him in conversation. It turned out that he was a veteran and had lost mobility in his legs due to an accident during a training exercise while he was in the Armed Forces. He began to talk about the difference between being mobile under your own power, and having mobility through a wheelchair. It was interesting to hear about some of the obstacles and barriers that face someone who is confined to a wheelchair. It gave me a new understanding for people who do not have the ability to walk with their own legs but can still get around. As we talked more, he began to talk about all the opportunities he’s had because of his wheelchair, and how his wheelchair has become part of his life and part of who he is. So instead of hating the wheelchair, he embraces it as a way for him to experience things he could not experience without it. He had a thankful spirit—a spirit that said, “I am not going to let this wheelchair impede what I want to do with my life.” So he’s one of those people who climbs mountains, goes swimming, and participates in races. My conversation with him reminded me of one of the altar calls that I gave when I was the director of Forest Home Christian Conference Center. It was an alter call to come forward. I remember there was a man in a wheelchair who couldn’t get on the platform. There was a cross up there, and people were...

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