Ridge Burns's blog

Environments are Everything

I’ve just come back from spending a week speaking at Capernwray Hall in England for Torchbearers. I visited several churches as well as a retreat center while I was there. What I have come to conclude is that environment is everything. I find when I’m at home I am so distracted by all the little things—the things I need to do around the house, the things I need to think about at the office, or the decisions I need to make. The turbulence of normal life drowns out my ability to know who God is. But when I put myself in a manor house like the one in this photograph, surrounded by rolling hills covered in sheep and the yellow-blooming gorse, something about that location draws me to the Creator. Something about those surroundings, bring me to a place where I want to talk to God because of the environment. I’m reminded that I need to be intentional about the environments in which I place myself. Let’s face it, for most of our churches, environment isn’t that important. They are multipurpose buildings and we have chosen to use lights and videos and sound to create an environment. But it’s different when you’re in a God-created, God-breathed, natural, organic environment that just shouts that the Lord wants to speak to you. I would encourage you that sometimes we need to physically put ourselves in a place of receiving from God by carefully picking the type of environment in which we choose to talk to Him.

Imagination vs. Revelation

Recently at our InFaith annual staff Refresh Conference, Andrea Graver, our senior director of innovation, created environments where people could experience the work of God. Those environments can be everything from a sculpture of chairs to building a tree to sit under, but they come from revelation. Andrea goes to the Lord, seeks His face, and He gives her pictures. She then translates those pictures into reality. She takes what has been revealed to her about the character of God and puts it into creative expression, which allows us to experience things in new and different ways. There’s nothing magic about the physical space, but when the Spirit of God invades and occupies that space, there is a power and a grace that happens. The problem is that if we’re not careful, we can substitute imagination for revelation. We can begin to imagine what God would be like. Or imagine what God’s love is, what His peace, His joy, and His justice is all about. When we imagine it, we end up creating a God that’s in our own image. We create a construct of God that is limited to our finite thinking. The reality is that God cannot be revealed in total. He reveals parts of Himself bit by bit that speak to our souls. So there’s a dangerous walk between imagination and revelation. What makes the difference is when God reveals Himself to the artist, the creative person. And the creative, then, interprets what has already been revealed to create an environment for people to experience the same truth. The environments created for Refresh were different in that revelation informed imagination and creativity. We need to be careful of our imagination. We don’t believe that there’s additional Biblical revelation, but there is a revelatory action that God takes...

Today Is Our 200th Anniversary

Today is the 200th Anniversary of InFaith. It was 200 years ago on this day that our mission was incorporated—when God raised up a group of men and women who had a heart for the children of Philadelphia. From that simple, small vision a national organization was birthed called the American Sunday School Union. It quickly became not just an organization, but a movement of God. The American Sunday School Union started 35,000 churches and Sunday schools. This amazing movement of God has not stopped. We are now called InFaith and we faithfully serve our God by providing a covering for missionaries who serve in the United States. We have not forgotten our roots. We have not forgotten that we were raised up by God to reach this country—the United States of America—for Christ. We were raised up to be the hands and feet of God to reach people for the kingdom of our God. So, happy birthday, InFaith: 200 years of faithful service, 200 years of watching God provide in miraculous ways, 200 years of raising the great name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

United Airlines

If you’ve been watching the news in the last several weeks, you will have seen a horrifying video of a man being dragged off a United Airlines plane and getting hurt in the process. It has sparked a lot of anger against United Airlines. The problem is, it wasn’t really a United Airlines flight: it was a United Airlines Express flight, which is a subsidiary—an entirely different airline flying under the name of United. Not only was it not a United airplane, but the employees aren’t even employed by United. They’re employed by the subsidiary airline. But none of that actually matters: the name United was still tarnished by this awful incident. I fly a lot and that incident has been a topic of discussion among passengers sitting near me on my last few flights. United Airlines is being unfairly tarnished by the bad choices of this small airline that uses the name United. I was thinking about the Ten Commandments and the commandment that tells us, “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” What that really means is not necessarily confined to just swearing, it means ascribing to the name of God anything which is not becoming of Him. In other words, tarnishing His reputation—doing things that would cause others to question His authority and His beauty and mercy. It’s important as one of the Ten Commandments that we preserve and we do not take the name of the Lord in vain. In the same way that United was penalized unfairly, we can—because of our behaviors, attitudes, and sometimes even our speech—cast a bad shadow on the name of Christianity and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what he’s talking about when he says, “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” It’s ascribing to God...

Diverse

This week I got to pray for a group of very diverse people: there was a skater, a camp director, a pastor, people who do puppets, disciplers, and chaplains. What an interesting group to pray for! They came in one by one just so we could pray over them. The amazing thing was that there was a commonality: they all came hungry. They came wanting to know more about what God was saying to them. They also came with an openness and a posture to receive from the Spirit. The common thread in this group was that they were hungry: hungry to know God more, to experience Him more, to spend more time with Him. They were hungry to have us pray for them. They came desiring a deeper, stronger, bigger relationship. Stay hungry, my friends. And in that hunger, you will find God. In that hunger, you will find the sweet, still voice of the Holy Spirit. In that hunger, you will find passion and a fresh wind that will propel you to all that God wants you to be. Stay hungry.

Reaching the Limit

Last week I had to travel from Southern California all the way across the country for a two-day meeting then back across the country to spend the rest of the week traveling 500 miles to visit missionaries. By the time I got through that week, I was spent. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t plan anything. It was hard to read—I was just done—I had reached the limit. I don’t like to be there. It’s an abuse to my body, my soul, and my spiritual well-being. God does not intend me to be that far gone in weariness and tiredness. I feel like the Lord was speaking to me about how wrong that is. The reason I got to that point was because I had to get things done because it’s my responsibility. But I have a bigger responsibility to my heart and my soul. When I was in grade school, I learned how to cross the street. You’re supposed to “stop, look, and listen.” Stop, look both ways, and listen to see if there’s anything coming. The same process applies to where I was last week. I needed to stop and take inventory: What is God saying? Why am I so tired? What do I need to do? Then I need to look—look to Him, look in Scripture, and to the powerful words of the Holy Spirit to give me direction. And finally, I need to listen—listen for His voice. In a quiet chair in the Sacramento airport, I was finally all by myself. In my tiredness and weariness, I could again hear the voice of the Spirit—chastising me for getting in this physical, spiritual, and emotional situation; but also whispering words of affection and love and encouragement so that I could be restored. I would encourage you all...

Stereotypes

Let me tell you about two students I met in Germany last week. One was this tall German guy with very modern looking brushed-steel glasses. He spoke with a medium German accent, was constantly asking questions and inquisitive about the issues that I was speaking on, very matter-of-fact, and analytical. One day he made an appointment with me and we went for a walk and sat by a beautiful stream. He began to tell me his story—about his family and how his parents are both very analytical, cognitive people. It was a good conversation. I asked him if he’d ever been in love and to my surprise, he said “yes.” I said, “Well, was that a feeling?” (Because earlier, I had accused him of having no feelings.) He replied that it was a feeling and he loved it, but when he applied his mind to the object of his love, he decided that he did not want to spend the rest of his life with her. But then he surprised me: he told me that he goes to a Pentecostal church. He loves to dance in worship and to wave flags, and he loves the emotion of the Spirit. I couldn’t stop laughing because it seemed so incongruous with how he presents himself and how he thinks about himself. When the Spirit comes on him, he is free! There was another girl who was very nice, she looked great, was easy to have a conversation with, and was from a town in California not very far from where I live. But when I had a one-on-one appointment with her, I realized that how she appears and who she is, are so different. There was so much hurt and pain and so many issues and barriers and chains around her. Her...

The Father's Heart

I have just returned home from a week of speaking at a Bible school in Germany called Bodenseehof. I spoke on the Ten Commandments, which cover every aspect of life—our worship, our parents, our integrity, and our ability to hold life sacred. It’s an amazing series and very fun to teach. The hardest commandment for many of the students is the one about honoring your father and mother. It amazes me how many fathers are absent, and how many are cold to their kids, particularly to their daughters. Recently, I was with a good friend who terms those with no relationship to their father as having an “orphan spirit.” When someone feels like they are rejected or the relationship between them and their father is severed or damaged, there is an orphan spirit that arises that needs to be prayed against. It was difficult to hear some of the students’ stories that they would share with me about their relationship with their dads. Some of them tried desperately to get love. Some of them were never told “I love you,” or never hugged by their fathers. So for those of you reading this, it is a call to the dads: Wake up, there is much work to be done! Your absenteeism, or your lack of priority for your kids, will cause them harm in the future. Your arms and your words are the antidote to inoculate them from this orphan spirit. It’s a call to the church to do more by building fathers and sons and fathers and daughters together. It’s a call to our mission, InFaith, that we need to take that commandment seriously and work hard to make sure that people honor their father and mother. It doesn’t say honor your good father and your good mother. It...

Fire

I got to spend the day with the Stromlunds in Arkansas. They are missionaries with InFaith who have been on the field for forty-nine years. They have spent their life, given their energy, and given their dreams to this field. When you are with Rodney Stromlund—on his turf, in his field—you experience the fire of God. This guy loves Jesus and wants this part of the world to acknowledge the lordship of Christ. His life has been threatened, he has driven hundreds of miles, he’s gotten stuck in snow, all for one purpose: to bring the fire of God to the people of Arkansas. It has required boldness and risk because this is a part of our country that has a lot of spiritual battles going on, the adversary has strongholds that are deep and mighty. You can feel that tension in the air as you walk through this area. But Rodney walks in boldness. And because of that boldness, the fire of God consumes the work of the adversary so that Rodney has freedom to share the gospel. He is a delight to be around. In many ways, he is an example of what it means to love God sacrificially for your whole life. Another thing that I like about Rodney is that he knows everybody. He’s friendly. He makes Christianity very attractive—you want to be like him. You want his peace. You want his rest. You want his ability to see clearly with wisdom. But the thing that most people see in Rodney is the very fire of God.

The Beauty of Sacrifice

I spent the last few days on the road with one of our field directors and visited some of our missionaries in the field. I’ve come away with a wonderful feeling of how amazing our people are. They work day by day in sacrificial ways to take the gospel to the unreached in America. I saw something unique this week that I want to tell you about. It really exemplifies the beauty of sacrifice. One of our missionary couples take in foster kids and have done it for quite a while. They’ve adopted one of their foster kids. They tried to adopt another foster child but it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and they had the pain of letting that little one go. Currently they have a baby — a little innocent, smiling baby—who was rescued from a terrible situation. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to tell you all the details, but this baby had been severely abused. I watched this couple embrace this baby. I watched their arms around this little infant, and their eyes meet with hers. I watched them gather this baby to themselves and saw healing take place. There was safety and a place of rest. The word that came to mind as I watched this mom with this baby was the word “hope.” Her hands spelled hope, her eyes spelled hope, her arms demonstrated this idea that there is hope for this infant who got a terrible start in life. I walked away feeling like I had just seen the beauty of sacrificial love, the beauty of taking on what somebody else rejected, and redeeming them to the kingdom. This child’s story, I’m sure, will be rough and hard with lots of scars and lots of baggage. But what will...

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