Ridge Burns's blog

Amazing Verses in the Bible, Part 2

Imagine yourself in Moses’ shoes: you’ve got 1.3 million Israelites yelling at you because you're stuck between Pharaoh's army, who's at your rear, and the Red Sea blocking you in the other direction. You're trapped. Everywhere you look, there's obstacles. There's no way out. In the midst of this, Exodus 14:14 is an amazing verse. Moses has been having a dialogue with God and with the people of Israel. The people of Israel are not happy. They accuse Moses of bringing them out to the desert to die. The Lord is dialoguing with them because Moses has said, “I'm stuck. I don't know what to do. I need an action plan.” “I do not know what to do”—like many of us with this virus. After a dialogue with God, Moses says this to the people, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Stillness is a huge component of finding the way when you're stuck. Being still—sitting down in your favorite chair with your Bible with no extraneous things happening—just you and Jesus, you and the Holy Spirit. When you’re still, God speaks to you. I can't even imagine what the Israelites thought when Moses told them that. “You only need to be still.” God speaks to Moses again and says, “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” Stillness is a component of our faith. As Americans, particularly as evangelical churchgoers, we love activity. We love sermons and seminars, worship services and small groups—all that stuff, which is wonderful. Except sometimes God says, “Just be still.”

Amazing Verses in the Bible, Part 1

If you are a student of God's word, you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount and the words really jump off the page. Jesus is standing in front of all kinds of people: they had various levels of understanding about their faith; some of them were critical; some of them were family; some were disciples; some were questioning and curious. And in front of that great variety of people, Jesus stands up and says these words found in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth.” And in verse 14, “You are the light of the world.” I think most of us know that salt was an important preservative during that time. You packed things in salt as a way to save them before refrigeration existed. There was a sense that salt was required to keep things ready to be used. Jesus looks at us and says, “That’s what you are. You are there to preserve what I've done, to share the cross, and to share the gospel.” And then Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” And he talks about a city being set on a hill that cannot be hidden. I've been thinking about that during these times of crisis when we’re asking, “Do we open church? Or close church? Do we wear a mask or not wear a mask?” Where is the light? Where is the light of the world? Where is it that people look at us and say, “Wow, there's a beacon. There's a lighthouse. There is a way because those people love Jesus.” I'm really amazed that Jesus would look at us and say, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” You almost want to say, “Isn't that your job, Jesus? Isn’t that why...

The Amazing Story of Coventry Cathedral

In the winter of 1940, the city of Coventry in the United Kingdom was under a blitzkrieg. While it was under attack from the air, the magnificent cathedral in Coventry was destroyed. If you go there today, it’s a very moving site. The old footprint of the building and some of the original walls are still there. You can see some of the burns where the old cathedral was destroyed. But now there is a new cathedral in its place—risen from the ashes. It’s an incredible work that takes into consideration old and new. The thing that’s most amazing is how the new cathedral happened. There's a book called Fire in Coventry that talks about the priests and the lay people getting together in small groups after the cathedral was destroyed. The Spirit came on them and out of that experience they said, “We need to show that out of the ashes of our lives, out of the pain and stress of our lives, rises a brand-new work of Christ, which is a work of the Holy Spirit.” And so, the “fire of Coventry” actually came out of the ashes of the old cathedral. What a story! What an amazing experience to go to Coventry and to see this marvelous work of art—the new Coventry cathedral. It is one of those places where heaven and earth is separated by a very thin space.

Solitude

Lately I've been spending some time alone where I purposely shut out everything—turn off my phone, don't look at email, no social media—just me and God, nobody else. It's a quiet place where God speaks to me. In some ways it’s a re-centering place where I'm able to process where I'm at and what I'm doing in deeper, longer ways. Henri Nouwen put it this way, “A spiritual discipline, therefore, is a concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives where obedience can be practiced. Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there's no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray, or to say it better, it allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.” It's amazing that the Spirit of God is freed up to pray in us. We discipline ourselves to block out everything else so that the Spirit of God who lives inside us and grows us spiritually is now able to take the hardest part of our hearts—our pain, sorrow, grief, and despair—and pray within us to the Father and to the Son. So that as we get quiet, we are communicating with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. As we are able to really center in, the Spirit becomes the agenda of our prayers—no prayer lists, no going around sharing prayer requests—the Spirit of God Himself prays within us. I want to be there. That's what I want to learn to do. It's hard. It's difficult. It's hard work to shut the world off to that level, but we must get there if we’re going to grow.

Whatever Happened to Meditation?

I am getting very tired of the world and false theologies polluting words that are important to spiritual growth. When I say the word “meditation,” some of you are going to think about eastern religion or yoga or some other form of inner self-examination that brings levels of peace that we work through. That's not what the Bible talks about. The Bible talks about us meditating on His Word day and night. We breathe it. We live it. We eat it. We experience it. We focus all of our attention—100% laser focused—on a section. Henri Nouwen writes this: “A word or sentence repeated frequently can help us concentrate, to move to the center and create inner stillness.” That's what we want! That's what the Bible calls “shalom”— inner stillness. There's a part of you that no one sees, but you know when you're worked up, or when you’re in conflict. You know when you're not right. And you know when you have inner stillness. That inner stillness is what we seek and that comes through meditation. In the Dare to Journey book by Henri Nouwen it talks about repeating the words “the Lord is my shepherd” over and over again. When you dig deep into those words, you begin to see a care and a protection from the Lord. You begin to see that we are part of His flock. Meditation and repeating those words and focusing on them with all of who you are suddenly becomes a lifeline between you and the Heavenly Father. Meditation is good. The Bible calls us to meditate. Don't let the world rob us of a spiritual discipline that's important.

Drive-In Church Pt. 2

For the foreseeable future our church will be a drive-in church. We come in our cars. We listen to a great sermon. We experience worship. But we are in our own little “sanctuaries”, our own little spaces that become where God speaks to us. In some ways it's absent from relationships. Yes, you can see people—you wave at them—but there's no long conversations. There's no opportunity to go to somebody's car and say, “Hey, can I pray with you? I'd like to take those scriptures and pour them over you.” We can't do that. We simply wave and smile. There is little or no ability to communicate on the level that's basic to us. This week I was asked to pray a blessing over our people at the end of the service. It’s a whole different experience when you're not in your car: you're in this field with around 70 cars all lined up. It’s totally silent because you can't hear the people sing. You can't hear the people pray. The sermon goes over a loudspeaker and you have to kind of strain a little bit to hear it. It lacks something. What it lacks is touch. Somehow part of our faith, part of our community, part of what we do at church, is we touch each other—physically, spiritually, emotionally, and prayerfully. We touch each other's hearts. I'm thankful for what we have. I’m thankful for the fact that we can get together and for all the incredible work that our church has done to make this experience as good as possible. In fact, there were a number of other pastors of larger churches that came to see how our church does drive-in church because they want to move that direction. But I cautioned them that the one thing that...

Breaking Through the Cloud

There seems to be a cloud over our country, and over the church, and over our people. A cloud of loneliness and disorganization. A cloud of insecurity and just not quite knowing how to plan or how to go about becoming normal. It's a cloud that permeates everything. I’ve been asking the Lord, “What is the antidote for this? How do you get to breakthrough that cloud?” I think there are three things that might be helpful to you. Number one: we need to take back the discipline of spiritual and Biblical meditation. The Bible is clear, “Meditate on my words day and night.” And yet that whole concept has been stolen by Eastern religions and mysticism and yoga and a variety of other things. God calls us to look at His Word, to meditate on it: think about it, pray about it, sing about it, read it out loud, read it silently, or read it slowly word by word. We need to meditate on God's Word and meditate on the person of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will reveal things to you that are powerful and mighty. That breaks through the cloud! Number two: speak up! I'm not talking about volume. I'm not talking about yelling. I'm talking about how your words should be directed up to the Lord—not out, not down—but up. You should be saying, “God, this is what I feel. This is what I need. This is what I'm about. Lord, I want to talk to you about your greatness, your power, and your strength. I want to talk to you about how mighty you are.” That breaks through the cloud. And number three: don't be afraid of honest communication with our God. He desires that. He welcomes that. You may be surprised at some of...

Smiles and Masks

Most of us living through this pandemic have had to wear masks more than we ever have before in our lives. There are a couple of things about masks: number one, they’re uncomfortable; and two, you look funny with a mask on. But the biggest problem I’ve had is that when you're out and about, you can't smile at anybody. Your smile is covered up. It made me realize how much I communicate with a gentle smile. When somebody at the grocery store gets in your way, you smile at them almost to say, “It's okay, it’s not a big deal.” But with wearing a mask, we've lost our smiles. So now we need to look at people's eyes. Matthew 6:22 says, “The eyes are the lamp of the body.” Another translation says, “Your eyes are a window to the soul.” As you look in people's eyes, you begin to get a sense of who they are and what they're dealing with—if they’re struggling, or if they’re at peace. Your eyes are a window to the heart. It reminds me of the story in Mark of the paralytic being lowered down through the roof. It says, “Jesus knew in his spirit what they were saying in their hearts.” And I wonder how He knew in His spirit. I think it’s because He looked them in the eye. I was in a meeting recently with a person who I really respect and he wasn’t looking me in the eye. He was constantly looking at the ground or just around the room. I asked him why, and he had had a really troubling experience with something that I could deal with. I wasn’t part of it, but I could deal with it. We spent time praying together and his eyes changed. They...

Repentance

I want you to promise me that you will read this entire blog before you draw conclusions. Two Sundays ago, I went to a march in Philadelphia. It started at Eastern State Penitentiary, which is no longer a jail or a penitentiary, and ended at police headquarters. The reason I took part in the march was not really to say anything about the present-day situation, but about my childhood. Let me explain. I went to high school in Detroit in the years 1967-1969. If you know anything about the great city of Detroit, there were race riots in 1967. Then Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was a very turbulent, racially divided city with a lot of anger. This was right in the middle of the civil rights movement. I agreed with the movement. I wanted to participate. I wanted to walk down the street with others to say, “We are all equal. We are born equal. Every man is equal.” But you know what? I didn't do it. I worried about what my friends would think or what my parents would think, so I didn't walk. On this recent Sunday I sensed the Lord saying, “Ridge, you need to go on a walk of repentance because you're supposed to stand up for those who are abused. You’re supposed to stand up for those who do not have rights, even if you don't agree with all the things that are said.” So off I went down to Philadelphia and started to march with about 1,000 other people. I was glad that I had a mask on and sunglasses because I couldn’t stop crying. It was like each step was a step of repentance. Each step was a step of forgiveness for not doing what I knew was right in...

Purpose

Psalm 57:2 in the New Living Translation says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” Having a purpose is key. It’s so important. That purpose defines who we are. It also defines who we’re not. I don’t purpose to be a heart surgeon; I’d be a terrible one. So, for me to purpose to be a CEO eliminates certain occupations that I just wouldn’t fit into. When I look back at my life choices—moving back to California, where I went to seminary, where I went to college—all of those were choices that I made, but they also fulfilled God’s purpose in me. There's another form of this. There’s another kind of purpose that God is calling us to: each one of us has a specific part of this great mosaic that God is building through His Kingdom on this earth. We have a key piece in it. We may be a bit part player in a big movie, but we have a part! That bit part is our purpose. Whether the expression of our faith is in helping, or maybe it's in prophecy, or in teaching, or any of the gifts of the Spirit; the fruit of the Spirit precedes it. Out of the fruit of the Spirit comes the gifts of the Spirit that become the expression or the manifestation of God's Kingdom on earth. And you have one specific part. Now some people go wacko with this and say, “I’m never sure I'm in the right space and therefore I guess God hasn't really fulfilled his purpose in me.” The reality is you can only do what you know about. So, ask God specifically, “Is this my assignment? Am I called here? Is this what I'm supposed to do?”...

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