Ridge Burns's blog

Opposing God

There’s a great section of scripture in Acts 11 where Peter is explaining his actions and why he believes the Gentiles are equal heirs in Christ with the Jews. The background to that is Acts 10 when Peter is in a trance or a vision and he sees a sheet come down with all the things which were prohibited for him to eat. And God said to him, “Peter, eat these things.” Peter responded, “I’ve never done that, Lord, and I won’t start.” The Lord told him again that what He has made pure, Peter should not rebel against. In Acts 11 when Peter is explaining this, there is a sentence that jumped out at me: “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17 That is a great sentence for us all because God wants to do a new work. He wants to teach us more about Him and more about the mystery of God—more about how He has redeemed us through His sacrifice and what that actually means in our everyday life. It’s new. It’s different. It’s fresh. It’s blossoming. It’s of the Spirit. And yet, we want sameness: we love routine and what’s safe. We love that which we can control. Let me suggest the following: Who am I to think that I can stand in God’s way? The last part of that verse seems to indicate that we need to quit getting in God’s way because God wants to do a fresh work in us. So I pray that our mission would never say or never have to say, “Who am I to oppose what God wants to do?” Instead I pray that...

Recovery From Failure

I am writing this in seat 1E on a short flight from Ontario, California to San Francisco. I’m looking out the window and I see Edwards Air Force Base where experimental planes are tested. It’s in the desert and they have a huge dry lake bed that oftentimes is used for long landings. I remember the day when RobAnne and I and our son RW went to Edwards Air Force Base to see the shuttle land. What made this landing particularly important was that it was the first shuttle landing after the Challenger disaster that killed seven of our astronauts. So there was huge risk and a sense of anticipation in the gathering of thousands of people to see the shuttle land that day. There was a sense of anticipation, not because of the shuttle, but because we were overcoming failure. What was taken away from us—the success of our space program—was now being restored with one huge sonic boom and the safe landing of the Discovery . So there we stood. We heard the huge thunder of the shuttle breaking the sound barrier and people applauded. We could barely see the shuttle—we were so far away—but there was a sense of victory. There was a sense that we had defeated failure. Now I’m not trying to make a spiritual lesson out of everything that happens in my life, but I couldn’t help but think that’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross! He took our failures, he took the things that bind us up, that cause us to have fear, and He put them on the cross and he defeated them. And the whole world shook because the kingdom of God was victorious. I enjoy the memory of that shuttle-landing victory over failure and I want to enjoy...

Who Do You Worship With?

I went to a midweek service at a church in Los Angeles recently. It was amazing! It was made up of all kinds of different people, from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and denominations. It was a very interesting service. Because there was such a diversity of people worshiping, the styles of worship were different. There were people who were kneeling, people who had their hands raised, people who were contemplative in their worship, and others who were almost in their own world—just quiet and soaking in the presence of the glory of God. I think it’s important to look at who we worship with. If we worship with the same people who think like us, act like us, and are similar to us, we begin to lose the diversity and the incredible uniqueness of the people of God as they come together—each with their own flavor and conversion story. At this church before each offering they have a testimony. The testimony the night I was there was a mom who had been living on the street who found Jesus and found hope, security, and forgiveness. She found a place to belong. In fact, the theme of the church is “Welcome home. You belong here.” I just loved the diversity of people I worshiped with that night. Proverbs 10:22 (NLT) says, “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” I saw some people who had nothing—so little money, so few possessions—but they were rich because the blessing of the Lord was upon them. I challenge you to think about who you worship with. I love community; I love the church I go to, Sanctuary Church in California. I love the community that’s formed and the relationships I have there. But every once in...

Clothed in His Presence

A few years ago the theme of our InFaith national conference was “Clothed in His Presence.” We made a banner with those words on it, which we hung over the entrance to the meeting room. Recently our kids moved out and we have rearranged what were their rooms into an office, a guestroom, and a craft room—as most empty nesters will eventually do. I got to decorate my office. I love the colors! I have this really great yellow chair that I get to read and pray in. And the “Clothed in His Presence” banner hangs right in front of my desk. I’m looking at it even as I write this. I love that idea: that God wants to clothe us in His presence—like he did for Gideon. I love the notion that He dresses himself as us and allows us to have the same power and authority that He has. When you’re clothed in His presence you get a new direction; what was dark and uncharted becomes clear because you’re in His presence. There’s conviction of sin in His presence: what was normal, unchecked natural behavior, suddenly becomes sin. You experience God in His presence—not just talking about God and thinking about God—you actually experience the love of God, the faith that He gives you. The presence of God allows us to experience His richness and His glory. In His presence you begin to see needs—people who need Him, people who are poor and need help. The needs of His creation become resident in our minds as we are clothed in His presence. So I invite you to ask God to fill you, to allow you to understand what His presence is all about. Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV) says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,...

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...

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