Ridge Burns's blog

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...

The Treadmill of Daily Christian Work

In her book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life , Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) quotes a friend who says this about the daily work of a Christian, “When I was first converted, I was so full of joy and love that I was only too glad and thankful to do anything for my Lord, and I eagerly entered every open door. But after a while, as my early joy faded away, and my love burned less fervently, I began to wish I had not been quite so eager, for I found myself involved in lines of service that were gradually becoming very distasteful and burdensome to me.” She goes on to say this: “I would have infinitely preferred scrubbing all day on my hands and knees to being compelled to go through the treadmill of my daily Christian work. I envied the servants in the kitchen and the women at the washtubs.” Does that resonate? Do you ever get tired of ministry? Do you ever get tired of just pushing out more and more of God’s love in your own strength? 
 Recently, my wife and I went away. We went to a conference where we were just participants; we didn’t speak and didn’t have authority. We just had to wait in line for a seat, because we wanted to be filled. And the treadmill of the daily work, the joy that was robbed, returned to us because we spent some time alone with our Lord and Savior. It reminds me of what Paul says in Galatians 3:3, “Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?” (NET). God calls us to Himself, not to our work. God calls us to His blessed peace, not to our striving. He does not value what...

Culture

Culture’s a funny thing. You don’t really know it and can’t put language to it until you bump into it. For example: If you entered a room and did not know beforehand that everyone in that room was a Philadelphia Eagles fan and they’ve had the greatest year of football in their lives by winning the Super Bowl, even if they were talking about other things, you would still feel this commonality – something in this group that caused it to form and stay together. Culture is collective. Each individual in the group contributes to this commonality, which is culture. Whether it’s allegiance to a football team or the way we talk to each other or how much experience we have, culture is collective. Culture’s also subtle. It’s not easily definable. You have to feel it. You can’t be told what the culture is. You have to understand it through experience. Culture really is the essence of all the people in the room. Each one of us comes to a place where we bring certain characteristics and experiences and attitudes to the group. Whatever is the collective, common belief is what culture will be. Culture is always based on beliefs. Let me put it in spiritual terms: Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). Interesting, you will know they are His disciples by their love – not by their titles, not by their positions, not by who they are, but by what they do in terms of culture, which is the culture of love. We’re called to live in a culture of love – to embrace each other, to encourage each other, to speak truth to each other, and to build into each life together...

Energy

Colossians 1:28-29 are unusual verses, they say, “We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy which so powerfully works in me.” That’s an interesting perspective. What is the energy that Paul is talking about? Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it just working hard? Is it just going after the things of Christ and presenting the gospel in an evangelistic way and he physically gets tired? I think there’s something deeper here. I think there’s something we miss in the Church, particularly in North America. We read about when the hem of Jesus’ garment was touched by the women with issue of blood. He said “something has gone out from me.” Ministry takes energy, ministry takes a toll on people. You can’t just keep ministering over and over again without taking time to take care of yourself, without taking time to be replenished. Recently the Lord has been talking to me about overflow. That I need to fill myself. I need to fill my spirit. I need to fill my countenance with, as Paul says, the energy of God so that what I minister out of is the overflow. So that I minister out of being totally filled with the Spirit of God, with the Power of God, and that I dig deep into that well, dig deep into that storehouse of energy that God has given to us. Let me be clear. I think most Christians are hung up with striving to be like Christ. We work hard, we read our Bibles, we go to church, we volunteer, we give our money, we spend our time as much as we can to be what Christ wants us to...

Perspective

I have satellite radio in my car and I sometimes listen to three major news channels to hear their different perspectives. It amazes me that they can look at the very same event and all three have different causes, responses, and even outcomes—because their perspective is coloring what they see. It makes me wonder what is coloring what I see. What is coloring my view of Scripture and of who God is? There are many things in my life: the church I grew up in, the seminary I went to, and the work that I’ve engaged myself in. Which drives me to this question: what are the core things that cannot change no matter what perspective you have? What is core for me and will not change—no matter what glasses of perspective I put on—is that there is a redemptive work of Jesus Christ that reaches deep into my life and cleanses me from all sin. The second core thing is that I have an obligation to reject the old man and accept the new man and receive the good work of Jesus in my life; I must make a decision. Third, there is a Holy Spirit who will lead me into all truth, who will guide me, and will cause me to have the perspective of what God wants for me. It’s just fascinating. Sometimes our perspective needs to be challenged. Sometimes our perspective needs to be reordered to the simple work of Christ.

Chosen

I was asked an interesting question this week while I was in England. Someone asked me what one of the “hinge points” in my life was—a time when I look back and say, “If that wouldn’t have happened, then I would be different and my path in life would be altered and changed.” I was surprised what came to my mind. It was when I was chosen to be the leader of a large ministry in southern California called Forest Home. It’s a huge camp and conference center that required a lot of skill to run, as it’s fairly complex and has a lot of moving parts. And the search committee chose me. I remember driving away from the pivotal meeting where it was decided that we would lead this ministry, thinking “I was chosen.” It was a tremendous affirmation for me. Not because of the size of the ministry or because of the places I’d have influence. It was simply because they chose me. I was also thinking about how amazing it is that RobAnne could have picked any guy in the world to marry if she wanted, but she chose me. She chose to give me her life and place her security and her ability to feel accepted with me. She chose me. Then I began to think about 1 Peter 2:9 that says, “You are a chosen people.” He’s talking to Christians. He’s talking to people who love the Lord, and how unbelievable it is that God chose us. He allowed us to participate in and to be the carriers of His kingdom. We’re chosen. I think we need to rest in that and think about that. We need to allow the fact that we are chosen to wash over us. It’s amazing that God chose us...

Self-Confidence

I was answering questions from the students at Capernwray Hall in England when I was there teaching last week. The students submit questions to the two lecturers during the week and then on Friday morning we answer the questions. And one of the questions dealt with self-confidence; “Does lack of self-confidence come from the devil?” Interesting thinking went into my answer to that question. John 8:44 does tell us that the devil is the father of lies. He whispers to us and tells us we’re not good enough, we’ll always be broken, we don’t have the abilities to do what God has called us to do. We are shamed by the evil one, he lies to us over and over again and that erodes our self-confidence. He puts other people in our path that cause us to compare ourselves: “I’m not as good as that person. I’m not as smart as that person. I’m not as good looking or as popular or as accepted as that person.” All of those come from the heart of the evil one in order to destroy our self-confidence. What do we do to combat that battle with the evil one? We need to change how we view ourselves. Philippians 4:13 says we “can do all things through Him who gives us strength.” Hebrews 13:6 talks about how we can say with confidence that no man can do anything against us. We need to look at ourselves the way God sees us. He does not see us as broken. He sees us as His children, and as those for whom His redemptive work creates healing and creates an acceptance of who we are to Him. Let me put it a different way. Ephesians 4 talks about how we need to put off the old man...

Making Christian Community Normal

The first century church devoted themselves to four things, according to Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” We’ve come a long way from the simple four-fold way to have church to what we do today. I enjoy church. I enjoy worship. I enjoy sermons. I enjoy welcoming, friendly churches, but sometimes I think we make it just a little too complicated. Good teaching, relationships that achieve fellowship, the breaking of bread—eating together, and praying together. Last night I was invited to a meeting, which was the last meeting of a membership class for a church. It was the end of a three- or four-week gathering for people who were interested in being more involved in the church. There was really good teaching over the weeks and some great meals together and lots of fellowship. But this particular meeting ended with a prayer team coming in and praying over each one of the new people at the church. I was asked to be one of those praying. And while we were praying it suddenly dawned on me; this is Acts 2:42. Picture this—we were in this really nice house and there were people telling stories and eating dessert and having fun and laughing and telling jokes and at the same time there was a group in one area of the house that was in serious prayer over a person. The group I was praying with all felt the Lord asking us to stand and raise our hands. It was all so normal. I mean all of this noise, all of this food, and people talking, and people praying, and people saying strong things to each other from God’s Word all wrapped up in one living room. I...

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...

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