Ridge Burns's blog

Having a Full Understanding

This morning I was reading the book of Philemon. In verse six it says; “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you’ll have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Wouldn’t it be amazing if we really had a full understanding of God’s justice and providence? What if we had a full understanding of God’s goodness and love or of how big God really is and how immutable He is? He cannot change! Think about what it would mean if we fully understood all of that. I think it would change how we view our own lives. We tend to take partial understandings of God’s Word, partial revelations from God, and apply it as if it’s the whole story. Let’s just take God’s goodness as an example. God cannot be bad. He can only be good, because He is all that goodness is. There is nothing that could be defined as goodness that cannot be encapsulated or integrated into our concept of who God is. The problem is that we have a limited understanding of God’s goodness. So when we suffer or have struggles or financial issues or relational issues, we believe that God—for some unknown reason—has rejected us with His goodness. But there is a component in His goodness that allows us to see life’s struggles in ways that make a difference. God is good. That’s an amazing statement. Then you add: God is just. God’s will is providential in our lives. God is love. God gives us hope. I pray that we will achieve what Paul wrote to his friend Philemon while in prison: “I want you to know that when you share your faith with the saints and with non-believers, you will be revealing all the good...

Hardship

You’re not going to like what I’m going to say, but being a Christian sometimes involves enduring hardships. 2 Timothy 2:3 says, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” It’s not easy being a soldier. You’re at risk. You’re being shot at. You’re aggressive. You’re trying to take land. It’s difficult. You’re out in the field and the natural elements make it even harder, and yet Paul says to Timothy “endure hardship as a good soldier.” People have all kinds of hardships that they need to endure. You may carry heavy burdens of marriages that are failing or wayward kids or pain from the past. You may need healing as you struggle with illness. When you carry these issues, it’s hard to hold onto your faith. Maybe you feel alone and isolated. God says, “Endure. Endure those hardships because when you do, you will find Me. I will not leave you. I will not let you go. I will hound you and pursue you. I will reach down and grab you and take you into My arms so that you know the hardship is worth it. Don’t give up!” My blog today is for those who are struggling. Don’t give up! Endure hardship like a good soldier and you’ll be surprised at the intimate relationship you’ll develop with Christ through hardship. Now hear me carefully: I don’t like hardship. I don’t like things that are difficult or things that hold us back. But if they accomplish the good and perfect will of God and bring me more of an understanding of who Jesus is, I will endure hardship like a good soldier.

Architecture and Worship

One of the things that I appreciate is when buildings—both beautiful or scarred—are redeemed for worship spaces, or as some people call it “sacred spaces.” You know a Catholic person would call a building sacred, while probably a Baptist would not. But the reality is that God inhabits the hearts of His people in corporate worship and normally that worship is encased in a building or structure. This Sunday I went to Christ Community Church of Philadelphia. It meets in an old church building whose membership had dwindled to just a handful. A vibrant African-American church with a fantastic lead pastor bought the building and has redeemed it. They’ve restored it. The organ pipes are beautiful, the colors that they picked are amazing, and the contemporary music in this old setting brought life to my soul. There’s a church in Wheaton, Illinois called Church of the Resurrection, which is housed in an old factory. But it’s beautiful. They’ve redeemed that building for a sacred space of worship. It’s amazing how architecture affects your ability to step into the presence of God. Could it be that we have lost art and craftsmanship and replaced it with technology? Could it be that we have forgotten that each day in nature is a new creation, designed by God to show His creativity and cause us to worship Him as creator? Could we return to what David says in Psalm 50:2, “perfect in beauty, God shines forth,” and acknowledge that God uses our eyes to help us enter into a place of meeting with Him? Architecture and worship hold hands and can allow you to experience beauty and the purity of God’s presence as His Word is being preached and the instruments lift our souls with song. I recognize that it takes resources to...

An Awkward Question

RobAnne and I stayed at a bed and breakfast the other day and had a pretty interesting conversation with the owners while we were there. They had all the typical questions you get at a bed and breakfast. They wanted to know about who we were, where we’d been, where we lived and worked, and how long we’d been married. About ten or fifteen minutes into our conversation, the man stopped, got an inquisitive look on his face, and said, “Can I ask you a personal question?” Because I had just explained to him that we were Christians and we work in a mission that is all about reaching America, you could tell he was wording his question very carefully. He finally asked, “How do you, as an evangelical, support the lifestyle of some of the leaders in our country?” Then he added, “It seems that it’s a contradiction and an inconsistency for people like you.” I want to be very careful. I don’t want to get political, and I’m not trying to be condemning. It was just really awkward and I babbled something about how we “show respect to the office and it’s important that we do that”, but it was an inadequate answer. The question is simply this, “How do we support a person or a group of leaders who are not ethically, morally, or even remotely connected to our theology or our lifestyle?” It’s a hard one. So instead of trying to answer that question, I just want to make it very personal. 1 Thessalonians 4:12 says, “so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” In other words, the outsiders are watching us. They’re trying to figure out what we believe. They’re trying to figure out how Christianity works in a very complex society...

Take Back the Land

Two weeks ago we had our annual Refresh Conference for our missionaries. During the last night we had five sheaves in the room that were formed with walking sticks. At the end of the meeting we talked about taking back the land from Satan. Our geographic ministry has at its core almost a militaristic mandate to take back the land. It seems to me that Satan has crept in and taken our country, our cities, our rural areas, and even our leadership in bad directions. It’s time that we, as leaders and kingdom builders, take back the land. We stood in a circle with our missionaries holding these sticks as each person declared that we are going to take back the land. They named their geography: Bancroft, Michigan; La Mirada, California; Mason City, Nebraska; Beaumont, California; Exton, Pennsylvania. We cried out with our voices—holding our sticks high—that we will take back that land! I think it’s time we start thinking about our Jerichos—those places that look like huge walled cities where God says, “Just march around. Blow the horn. And the walls will come down.” I believe there is a day when the walls of secularism, consumerism, and materialism will come down by the work of the people of the kingdom of God who will declare victory over specific geographic parts of our country. It’s quite the picture isn’t it?

Assignment vs Chance

I was having a meal with someone recently who had an experience where God arranged things in their life in some creative and amazing ways. We started talking about whether it was an assignment from God or just a chance encounter. Let me explain what I mean. Oftentimes people will look at these encounters that God gives us as simply chance or circumstance. But the reality is that they are assignments from God. God puts specific people in specific places for us to minister to them in a specific way. I used to take people for granted who sat next to me on airplanes. But every once in a while, I’ll be in the right place at the right time on the right plane in the right seat and it’s amazing what happens. The conversations become deep and powerful. Our conversation can open arteries that had been closed in the person’s life. That’s the difference between just a chance meeting and an assignment. We, as Christ followers, need to look for those assignments that God gives us. They are real, they’re specific, and they are directed toward us to help us do the very will of God.

Breakout

Monotony is a killer. It seems to rob us of freshness, creativity, and sometimes even strength. Recently I ran across a great quote by G.K. Chesterton: “Grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. The repetition in nature may not be a mere reoccurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.” I love that! We can take for granted the sunrise, the sunset, and the beauty of mountains, oceans, and rolling hills. We take them for granted and therefore they become dull and meaningless to us. But God says, “Breakout! Breakout of the monotony. Know that my mercies are new every morning and I do a new work in people’s lives everyday.” Breakout of the monotony; understand that nature is here to declare the wonders of God.

Blessings

The Lord has been speaking to me recently about saying thank you to some key people in my past who were huge building blocks for me. In other words, without them I would not be who I am today. God used them to form me and to help me understand how to be a leader, a Christian man, and a father. Some of these people were my family—like my own dad. And there are a couple who are in heaven now. But God spoke to me and asked me to drive to Las Vegas one day to say thank you to one of the pastors who discipled me when I was a youth pastor at his church. We got together for lunch and I said, “I’m here because I want to thank you. I want to bless you with the history of what you’ve done for me. I’ve turned out the way I have because of you. I want to tell you some of the things that I’ve learned from you. I want to share stories of my life, which are directly related to you.” We spent a couple of hours at lunch. It was amazing. He felt so honored. And when I got in my car, I just felt incredibly grateful to God to be able to bless my friend in this way. It’s a good lesson to learn. I think God is calling us as Christ-followers to bless each other, to thank each other, and to remember those who have worked hard to disciple us into who we are today.

Equal Share

I was in a group that was studying the book of Ephesians. We were discussing Ephesians 1:5 where it says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.” We began to talk about what it means to be adopted—with all the rights and privileges that are given to a person who is accepted into another person’s family. There’s a middle-aged man in this group who was adopted himself. He is very generous and tender toward orphans since he understands what it’s like. In fact, he and his wife adopted a child into their own family. They were at their lawyer’s office recently drawing up legal documents for wills and trusts. He said, “When we made up those documents, we gave an equal share to all of our children—including our adopted one.” When you’re adopted, you get an equal share. That really struck me. It struck me that there is no difference in God’s family. It doesn’t matter how you were raised, or the kind of religious training you received, or what spiritual gifts you have. It all boils down to the fact that God says, “I am going to give you an equal share to my love, my mercy, and my grace.” There is an equal share! When this man’s story about his natural family was shared in our group, you could tell there was some hesitancy with people, wondering if we really are worth an equal share. But because we are adopted by God—because there is no doubt about whose family we belong to—we get an equal share of God’s grace, power, and love. And we have an equal share in His kingdom as well.

Surprised by God

I was meeting with a group of pastors recently and one of the pastors told this story. He was at a conference by himself and was looking for a place to sit down in a large auditorium. He found a place and it filled up next to him with another group of people. He turned to the person who sat down next to him and said, “What do you do?” This person explained that he was a pastor of a church and had some influence in a group of churches. And then he said, “I prayed that the Lord would put me next to somebody who could help me understand my church better. Do you have a way that you can help me understand? I’m a lay pastor and I do not know what I’m doing.” It just so happens that the person telling the story was a trainer for church planting and peacemaking in churches! He was surprised and thought it was really weird—like a coincidence—that he would sit next to a person who needed his expertise. A coincidence? Really? I can’t believe that a person of faith would not see that that was a divine appointment orchestrated by God. God put that person in his path so that He could work not only in the giver, but also in the receiver. I think God puts people in our way all the time. I think God has assignments for us that are specific. Like finding the colt that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Or like Peter’s dream about the new way that God was going to work with Gentiles and Jews and how he was then able to report that to others, particularly to Paul. It’s pretty amazing that God wants to do a work in our...

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