Ridge Burns's blog

We Are What You Are

Recently I was on a United Airlines flight and I needed to use the restroom, so I was standing in the galley of the plane waiting for the restroom to open up. While waiting, I noticed a sign on one of the catering doors. We all know that United Airlines’ motto is “Come fly the friendly skies”. The sign I saw said, “You are the friendly skies.” That is really true: United Airlines is only as good as the people who run the airline and work at the airline. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus looks all the people in the eye—looks you and I in the eye—and says, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” You want to say, “No, that's your job, Jesus, you are the light of the world. We are followers of the light.” But God says, “No, you become like me. You become what is necessary for me to be dressed up in skin like you.” We become the very presence of God by our actions, our hearts, our minds, and our values. I love that: “You are the friendly skies.” Let me just say this again, “You are the salt of the earth.” And it’s Christ in you that gives you the ability to be that.

Psalm 62:11-12

"One thing the Lord has spoken, two things I have heard: That you, oh God, are strong and that you, oh Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward every person according to what they have done.” We declare that, “surely, God, you are strong.” There is no obstacle, there is no mountain, no barrier, no fence, no moat, no problem that God is not strong enough to wipe off the face of the earth. He is strong and mighty. We can hide behind His strength and hide behind His ability to out-wrestle anything. God is not only strong physically, He’s also strong spiritually, and is a strong safety for us, His people. There is a wall around us, protecting us. The psalmist then says, “and you, oh Lord, you are loving.” Just for a minute, close your eyes and think about the love of God. Think about how He not only died for you to give you forgiveness and freedom from your own sin, but He chooses you to give you gifts. He walks with you. He’s there and wants to dialogue with you during the day. He's not aloof or far off or silent. He is a God that moves and speaks. Love conquers all. The love of God is what we experience and feel and then he rewards people for what they have done. Let’s live in His strength and dispense His love in powerful ways.

Refresh Conference

Our national conference is called Refresh. We’ve done it every year and it's a time for our missionaries to just get together and find themselves being renewed. There’s not a lot of programming or seminars, there’s just a lot of time to be renewed and refreshed and rested. There are a number of areas in which we need to be refreshed. We need a fresh conversation with God, free of the baggage that we carry many times into our prayer life and worship. We need a fresh encounter with God—not just to hear about Him, or read about Him, or sing about Him—but have Him encounter us. We need a fresh lens to look at the world through the eyes of Christ. We need to look at our lives, our children, our love, and our commitments with a different lens, one that has compassion and love and the power of the Holy Spirit in it. We need a fresh fragrance. We need to literally experience the fragrance of the presence of God. There’s a certain fragrance around the people of God that comes from God. Finally, we need a fresh communion. Not just the communion that we take through the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but a communion where you and God become one. Where you speak with one voice and commune with each other, enjoy each other, and experience each other.

A Wedding

I recently performed a wedding ceremony for some really close family friends in Phoenix, Arizona. I love weddings. I stood in front of this young couple—they were 22 years old—so young, with lots of hopes and dreams. They were obviously in love with each other. Both families were great families and I asked if the parents on both sides of the wedding would come and give a parental blessing. As the moms prayed over their daughter and son and the dads gave words of blessing to the couple, it was so moving and wonderful. But my favorite part about doing a wedding is the vows. I’ll only do a wedding if traditional vows are used because RobAnne and I used traditional vows and when you hear them again, it’s as if you renew them in your spirit. “Yeah, my wife and I said that to each other 45 years ago.” It's the same words, same vows, so it causes us to renew them in our minds. The wedding was beautiful. The reception was fun. But to hear this young couple say the same words that my wife and I said so many years ago, was the best part of the day.

Asking God Questions

I have a friend who, when he talks about discipleship and really walking with Jesus, says, “We need to be constantly asking God questions.” He’s not necessarily talking about the big questions like “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” (which we totally need to be asking God as well). But he’s referring to asking God things like, “What do you want me to do right now? Is this something that I should be involved in?” in order to help us come to a decision about what how we should allocate our time. My friend says that God has an opinion on where you shop, what you do, who you hang with, how you organize your office, etc. He has an opinion and we need to ask Him His opinion. There are two filters that I put on these questions. I want to ask God, “Is this my assignment? Is this what you want me to do?” I have a lot of good things that I could be doing, but I want to know specifically if this is my assignment. For example, if somebody asks me to speak or to be involved in their ministry or in some sort of activity, I ask the Lord, “Is this my assignment?” I'm amazed at how many times He says, “No.” And that allows me to have margins in my life and not to be over-committed. The second thing I want to ask is, “Is this right? Is there hidden wrongness in what I’m being asked to do? Am I doing it for my own good or for the good of the Kingdom? Am I accepting this assignment because of pride or a perception of power?” So, I ask God, “Is this my assignment? And is it right?” When you bring...

Changing Locals

I have a little place in Pennsylvania when I'm at the Home Office that I've rented for four and a half years. I recently decided to scale back a little bit and move to a different place a few blocks away. I'm changing locals. And I realize as I’m beginning to think about leaving, how little of an influence I've made on my local in the space that I currently occupy. I want to be different in my new local. I think it's good for us to consider the place where God has allowed us to reside—to live, to work, and to play—as our local. We should consider what we are doing to advance the Kingdom in that local. No one really cares if I'm leaving that particular local. No one’s throwing a party. No one's coming over with meals. It’s more like, “Oh yeah. Nice to have seen you for the last four and a half years.” Shake their hands and say goodbye. There’s got to be more. There’s got to be more that we as Christians—that I, Ridge—should be doing to reach into my local: to know my neighbors, to experience their pain and their hurts, to celebrate their joys with them. We should be active in the formation of a community. My local is changing and I hope my attitude is as well.

Communion in the Present Tense

I had an interesting experience this Sunday while taking communion. (I know that how we administer communion has become one of those issues that Christians have a hard time agreeing on.) But for me what happened Sunday was unique. I always have approached the communion table in the past tense: thank you for redeeming me, for saving me, for forgiving my sins, for paying the price. I usually interpret Jesus’ admonition to “remember me” as “remember what I've done for you.” And I think there’s a lot of power in that. But this Sunday morning I decided to approach the table in the present tense: that Jesus was there. And the things that were broken on the cross were broken in me at that moment. I approached the table by saying, “Lord as I walk and I take these elements, as I take these symbols of what you’ve done, I actively now ask you to wash me with righteousness. I actively am approaching you to exchange my old man for a brand-new man.” Communion is another place where my old man dies and the new creation that God has for me is alive and well because communion is present tense. It’s not only “Remember Me in what I've done” but “Remember Me in what I'm doing right now.” I lost it in church as I allowed the Spirit of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to wash over me. Communion in the present tense. I recognize that it can be a theological minefield, but for me it was a very simple act of experiencing the cross by myself.

A New Year

I loved the first day of school when I was young because all of my school supplies were perfect: I had a new ruler, and pencils and pens, and pads of paper, and a new binder. It just felt like it was a fresh start. New Year’s Day is that for many people. We talk about making resolutions. For me New Year’s Day seems like a clean page on which I'm able to write a different story. But I want to speak to those who carry hurts into the new year: pain, disappointment, inadequacy, memories of years gone by that just haunt you. I have a verse for you from Isaiah 43:16-19: This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Let me just say to you, I believe that God is doing a new thing at InFaith in 2020. I think He's doing a new thing in the Burns family. And I would encourage you: let's forget past things. Let's start fresh. Let’s open our eyes to see that the Lord is doing a new thing. That's my prayer for you in 2020.

A Christmas Greeting

Now that our kids are older, our Christmas Eve and Christmas traditions have changed. Our kids are no longer in the house and so oftentimes we go to them, instead of them coming to us. Our favorite night of the year was Christmas Eve with our children. We’d all gather together and have a birthday party for Jesus—including a cake—and we would sing “Happy Birthday” and just enjoy each other. When I was growing up, Christmas Eve had such warm memories. We always had clam chowder and bagels for dinner. My mom and dad would make the clam chowder and we had a certain set of silverware that we would use every year. One of the things I asked for when my parents died was to have one of those soup spoons. Even now when I use it the spoon reminds me of the warmth of family and the warmth of those evenings, celebrating Jesus, and enjoying each other as a family. I also recognize that Christmas is a time when there's a lot of hurt that can bubble up to the surface: fathers that weren’t fathers, mothers that were angry, kids that were prodigals. My prayer for this Christmas for those who read this blog is that the spirit of Christ would fall on your home and on your family, and there would be a sense of peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

An Unusual Event

I listen to a podcast that one of my pastors puts out every week and I was surprised by what he shared recently. He began his podcast by saying, “I need to correct some things in my sermon. I need to tell you that there are some things that I said that I would like to recalibrate. They weren't necessarily wrong, but they weren't necessarily right. And they certainly weren't what I meant.” What he had said wasn't amoral or anti-scriptural—he just got carried away. He then spent 20 minutes explaining what he had said, why he said it, and recalibrating and correcting the things that he had said. I loved this podcast. It was one of the best sermons I’ve heard because most of us would never admit—particularly in a public setting like this—that what we did wasn’t quite right. What surprised me the most was when I got to the end of the podcast and he said, “Now I know some of you are thinking I'm doing this because everybody talked to me about my sermon. And I felt embarrassed and didn't have a good answer, so I promised that I would undo what I did.” But that wasn’t the case. What he said happened was, “The Spirit of the Lord has called me to tell you this. I don't want to lead you astray.” That, my friends, is a good pastor.

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