Ridge Burns's blog

Freshness

I’ve been thinking a lot about freshness lately. Psalm 103:1-4 says, Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. That sounds like it was written by somebody who knows Christ, is fresh in their relationship with God, and oozing with new growth. In contrast, when I think about my own life, sometimes most of it is stale. My playlist for my worship time becomes stale as I listen to the same songs over and over again. Prayer grows stale. Going to church can even grow stale. Do you go to church expecting new and fresh things to happen? Or do you go to church feeling like the same old thing is going to happen? And come away evaluating the sermon, and whether or not you like the worship. What I want you to know as you read this blog is that God wants us to have freshness with Him. He wants new growth and new things to happen – like a plant where a blossom suddenly appears. God allows us to really understand who He is. His mercies are new every morning! I have enjoyed seeking the Lord and praying for freshness – that my relationship with Him would be fresh. RobAnne and I have been married forty-two years. We’ll go on a trip, or go away for the weekend to provide freshness to our relationship, to get away from the routine, get away from the staleness, and to fall in love with each other again. It’s that kind of freshness that...

In the Night

I remember hearing a sermon series called “Things that happened in the Bible at night.” It was an amazing group of sermons that dealt with what God did with the children of Israel at night, what God did in the Sea of Galilee at night, and it looked at Nicodemus, who sought Jesus at night. It was really a unique way of looking at what God did. I’m amazed at how much God does in the cover of darkness. Sometimes I get awakened at night because I’m stressed about a decision I need to make, or I’m carrying a burden that is too heavy to bear, or I’m anxious. Sometimes I’ll go to bed thinking about all that I need to do, which makes me overwhelmed so I flop around in bed thinking, “Why am I awake? And why can’t I go to sleep?” But lately, something different has been happening – the Lord has been waking me up early in the morning and helping me think through verses of scripture and meditate on His word. I also review my day. It’s as if God is calling me to engage with Him more deeply and the only way that He can do it is before I start my day, so He wakes me up. At first is bothered me – I need rest, I need sleep. But as I began to pray and think about what it was that God was trying to tell me in the middle of the night, I’ve come to really value those times I want to be awakened. As He’s giving me dreams and thoughts about Him, I understand His greatness and His power and His might. I know that some of you who will read this blog will question: “Is that really God speaking...

Environment

About a year ago, InFaith moved their Home Office from a very ornate mansion on the Main Line just outside Philadelphia. It was 14,000 square feet, had lots of mahogany and expensive tile on the first floor. Everyone had their own office, there were doors, you identified yourself by what floor you worked on: first, second, or third floor. It was an interesting place to work – we officed in a house. Then we bought a 6,000 square foot, fairly new office condominium about twenty-three miles away. It used to be a marketing firm and so it was built for collaboration – it was built to have people talk with each other and work with each other and solve problems together. It has a café and a prayer room and it’s all on one floor – very connecting. We moved in about a year ago and do you know what happened? We achieved more unity – we laugh together, we can hear people enjoying each other during the workday. There are no more silos – no more identifying yourself by the floor – we are just InFaith Home Office staff. There’s something about environment that causes us to react in certain ways. This move illustrated that. When you place yourself in an environment that allows you to hear the voice of God – a quiet, pensive, reflective environment – God speaks to you. I think one of the great losses of the American church is the warehouse church – no windows, lots of stage lighting, lots of media. When you walk into those buildings you don’t whisper. But if you walk into a cathedral in England, you whisper because there’s something about the environment that drives you to the Savior. It could be a chair. It could be a walk...

The Presence of God

George Barna, the Christian researcher, recently did a survey of churchgoers and found that only 30% of people who regularly go to church would say they experience God at church. They hear about Him. They pray to Him. They sing about Him. But they don’t experience Him. The presence of God seems to be a key ingredient to what God wants to do with His people and to His kingdom. In Exodus 33:15 Moses says, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” There’s something powerful about the presence of God. There’s something that transforms us and lets us know Him even more. Moses would often be in the presence of God and would experience thunder and lightning – his face became aglow because he was in the presence of God. But for most of us its not thunder and lightning; it’s different… quieter. When you’re in the presence of God there’s safety because you feel His arms. There is security because you know He’ll never let you go. When you’re in the presence of God there is strength. Weak people who understand they are not God and need His strength are the ones who receive it. Worship leader and composer Marty Nystrom observed this, “I do a lot of traveling and witnessing on airplanes. And I’ve heard over and over again, ‘Well, I’ve been to church before and, yea, it was good, but it’s not really my thing.’ (They probably went to a dead church!) And I’ve hard people say, ‘Well, I’ve read the Bible, and it’s a good book, but I study the Koran, too, and there’s some wisdom there…’ But, I’ve never had anybody look me in the eye and say, ‘You know, I’ve experienced the presence of God, and...

Fear

Fear is a funny thing. It paralyzes you. You can’t get it out of your mind. It morphs into different forms – just when you think you’ve got it under control, fear pops up in some other areas of your life. Or some smell or sight or sound causes you to rear up with fear. Fear paralyzes your ability to really be objective. Fear paralyzes and whitewashes any hope that you have. It takes away hope and replaces it with questions. It takes away confidence and replaces it with nervousness. Fear takes away focus and makes it cloudy. And then I read in scripture, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). And I understand that when I experience the love of God, when I experience His grace, when I experience who He is, I don’t have fear. I’m in His arms. I’m in His care. I’m in His ability to make all things right. Fear is ugly and it has captured the world. When you read the newspaper and look at the news, fear is a paralyzing force. I thank God that we who know Jesus as Savior and understand that we are in His care, understand His love because love casts out all fear.

Friendship

RobAnne and I had a family emergency this weekend. RobAnne developed some pains in her chest and we had to go to the emergency room. They ran all kinds of tests and everything is good – but for about thirty hours, it was scary. Scary because we didn’t know what was going on. Scary because we had all kinds of questions. Scary because your mind goes to the worst-case scenario. There’s something very sobering about your wife lying in a hospital bed. But you know what happened? Our friends rallied around us. Some of our good friends came and spent a couple of hours just praying over us, and holding our hands, and talking to us – just being with us and passing the time. The pastor of the church here in Pennsylvania stopped by for a few minutes just to say, “I’m concerned.” We got text prayers and text messages and phone calls. It was amazing how many people just wanted to be friends to us. When I think about it, I feel so loved, so supported, so cared for, so not alone, so part of the community of the people of god, so part of the church. I’ve often said that church, to me, is the kind of relationships where people will gather around you when you’re sick or hurt. Through our experience this weekend, I would clearly declare that the people of God rallying around us at a time like this makes me love God even more. God expressed His love to us through friends – friends who pray, friends who are willing to go the second mile to make sure we are okay.

Blindness (part 2)

Further on in John chapter nine Jesus says the most amazing thing in verse thirty-nine. He says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see you will become blind.” Are you kidding? Somehow the upside-down kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ even affects our visual capacities. Let’s look at this for just a minute: those who can see will become blind. What causes blindness? I think religion causes blindness. When our relationship with Christ becomes simply an activity that we do, a list of rules that we follow, a set of social morays that we aspire to, then religion kills our ability to see the freshness of our Lord and Savior. I think the lack of hunger for God’s Word and lack of hunger for righteousness causes us to be blind. So we just read to read, we go to church to go to church, we pray just to pray – instead of praying because we are hungry for more of God or because we want to know Him or experience Him. It reminds me of Nicodemus who, it says in the book of Acts, snuck out at night. He was a Pharisee, a religious leader, but he wanted to know Christ, not just talk about Him. He broke from the ranks of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in order to sneak out at night to experience God. And he did experience God. It was to Nicodemus that Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It was to Nicodemus – the religious man who broke out of his religiosity, who broke out of his pattern of knowing...

Blindness (part 1)

In John chapter nine, the Pharisees did not like the answer the healed blind man gave them regarding how he was healed so they threw him out. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. John 9:35-38 This man was blind. He had heard about Jesus, he had heard of Jesus’ reputation, but he didn’t know Jesus. So he was blind to the fact that the very person he was talking to was the Messiah, the person who would redeem his soul to God. I think there are many things that cause us to be blind today. We are in environments where they talk about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but we’re blind to the real person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the issues that blinds us is performance – I do believe that we want to be relevant to our culture, we want people to be able to know God in a comfortable, nonthreatening setting – but have we gone too far? When we look at all of the effort that goes into making Sunday morning look so attractive – the lights, the cafes, the familiar style of worship – I just wonder if sometimes our performance, and not reliance on God, blinds people. I think expectations also blind people. We expect God to work in certain ways and certain formulas. We want God to be safe and comfortable and...

What has happened to power?

I was reading in Luke chapter 24 this morning. Jesus said the following to the disciples just before the Ascension, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:29). That’s amazing! Jesus says that one of the things we should have as Christians is power, that our lives should reflect the power of God. We need to have power in our churches, power in our life experience, power in our marriages, power with our children, power with our finances. And power doesn’t necessarily mean like a lightening bolt or a hard, boxing punch. Power means there’s this quiet stick-to-itiveness that says, “God is going to come through and we’re going to trust God for everything that we have. We’re going to trust God for all of our problems because He is powerful and He is clothing us with His power from on high.” When you walk in power instead of weakness, amazing things happen. Suddenly, impossible situations cease to exist because He is here in all His power. He has clothed us in His power – not a power from our education to our job status, but a power that comes from being clothed by Him who is on high. I feel that one of the tools that Satan has used to destroy the church and Christians is to whisper to us that God is not powerful, and to make a puny, small, powerless God that we create in our own image. And we call that “God” – when God is wild and powerful and mighty and calls people to incredible things. It is my desire to be clothed in that power from on high. And it is my prayer that...

Serving

Last Sunday I was asked to participate in a celebration for one of our Board members, Rich Cundall, who has been in ministry at the same church for thirty years. It was a great celebration and I was honored to bless Rich and to pray for him. He preached a great sermon on Acts 20:19 which says, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.” Rich spoke about how serving requires humility – we don’t bring attention to ourselves, we bring attention to the Lord. We don’t serve to build ourselves up, we don’t do it to earn our way to heaven or to be something special. We serve with humility because Jesus served with humility. The second thing mentioned is that service comes with tears. He began to recount the times that he cried with members of the congregation. In thinking about my own experience, some of the most phenomenal ways to serve were times when there was a tragedy or death or an unexpected illness and we cried together. There was a power that took place. Then it says in Acts 20 that Paul was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. Serving is a hassle. And sometimes it gets misunderstood. Sometimes you get accused of being self-serving. At other times, people even work against you when you serve because you’re representing the very kingdom of God. Those three things sum up what it means to serve. You serve with humility, with tears, and you keep on serving even though it’s a hassle. I work for an organization that has a lot of servants. They know how to serve humbly. They know how to have empathy and they know how to...

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