Ridge Burns's blog

What is Goodness?

The Bible says in Romans 15:14 that we are to be “full of goodness.” One of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians is goodness. But what does it really mean to be good? What quality or behaviors is God trying to reveal to us through this word “goodness”? Certainly, we can say that goodness means you have right behavior—that you do good things. You help people. Your behavior speaks of goodness, grace, mercy, and kindness. When people look at you, they would say you're “good.” If there's a continuum of good and bad people, you're on the good side because the qualities you possess and the behaviors that you exhibit are summed up in the word “good.” But what the Bible also means by “goodness” is avoiding things that are bad, such as wrong behaviors. Goodness is not only a choice to do what is good—what is right, wholesome, and powerful—but it's also a desire in you to not do certain things in order to protect your goodness. And so Paul writes, “I'm convinced, my brothers, that you are full of goodness”—that when people put a label on you, “good” is one of those words.

What We Are Doing Is Not Right

There's a great little story in 2 Kings 7 about four men with leprosy who were banished from the city and were sitting by the wall of the city. They said to each other, “If we stay here, we're going to die of starvation. If we go to the enemy camp, they may have pity on us and let us stay.” To their surprise, when they went to the place where the army was camped, it was deserted and all of the gold, food, and livestock were left. The enemy army had deserted it all because the Lord had created the sound of chariots in the middle of night and they fled in fear. So these four men who had been banished from the city, were now eating food and had everything they could want that was left by the army. But in 2 Kings 7:9 they said something interesting. “Finally, they said to one another, ‘What we are doing is not right. Today is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, our sin will overtake us. Now let us go tell the King's household.’” I think there's a lot we can learn from this story. First of all, I think we need to realize how good God is and how He has allowed us to eat good food and be people of spiritual privilege. We have to do a self-assessment. That's what those four guys did, they looked at themselves and said, “This isn’t right. We need to share the good news. We need to do what is right.” The same thing applies to us today: we need to share the good news. What we're doing—hoarding Christianity by staying in our little small groups and not letting anybody else in—is not...

Prayer Assignments

Recently I've been interacting with some people who have very specific prayer assignments that don't involve a sick person, a relative, or anything like that. They are issues that these people feel that they have been asked by the Lord to talk to Him about. Let me explain: I was with a woman recently who has prayed and prayer walked a mobile home park in her area for years. She asks the Lord to specifically guide her to certain people as she walks and prays. A second person I know has been called to a piece of land that is not developed. They feel like the Lord has anointed them to pray over that particular piece of land. The most surprising one recently was a woman who told me that she really feels like God has called her to pray for serial killers—that the Lord would give them a sense of His presence, His forgiveness, and His justice. Her prayer assignment is serial killers. That's crazy! No one does that. But then I began to think, “What is my prayer assignment? What am I called to pray?” I know I pray for my family, the mission, our church. But what specifically am I called to pray for? So, I am seeking the Lord on that. And I hope that someday when I’m asked what I pray for, I’ll have some very special, focused prayer target in mind. What is your prayer assignment?


The Bible clearly states in the book of James, “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” “Widow” is very tough title. It conjures up words like alone, withdrawn, sad, and lonely. That’s why we take care of them. In Biblical days, widows were abandoned by their families. They had lost their usefulness, so many of them had to go to the streets. They had difficulties getting food, let alone finding a place to sleep. Thus, the Bible says those are the very people we are to pursue. Today being a widow is different. Recently, I was with a woman whose husband died about a year ago and she was telling me how difficult it was for her to go to church. She had always been the pastor’s wife and had a spot, but now she’s just alone in a huge church. She was telling me how certain moments at church trigger things and how loneliness makes her want to withdraw. So, she forces herself to go to the women’s Bible study and forces herself to go to church so she has a place to belong. Our job here at InFaith and for the church in general is to take care of the widows and the orphans, to give them a place of belonging, to crown them with dignity and grace. When I watched tears roll down this woman’s face—who is a vibrant, amazing prayer warrior and woman of God—I recognized that there’s something we need to take seriously and that is our mandate to take care of the widows and the orphans.


I had the most amazing experience with a young woman named Katie who is a hospice chaplain. She is a young mom and God has given her the gift of compassion in ways I’ve never seen or experienced before. She’s an amazing child of God who goes into the darkest times of people’s lives and brings light and joy. Let me illustrate. I asked her, “What is the hardest part about your job?” She said, “It’s when people are all alone. They don’t have family, or any visitors, and they’re not part of a faith community. They’re dying and they’re scared, and no one cares. As much as we—as hospital facilities and convalescence homes—try to be warm and inviting, it’s cold and sterile.” She told the story about one of her patients, a woman who was all alone and was going to die in the next few hours. Katie prayed with her, sang with her, and read scripture to her. The woman’s response was, “Will you just lay next to me?” So, Katie got up out of her chair and laid next to this woman as she died. When she was telling this story, I could not help but be amazed by Katie’s heart—which is so selfless that it wants to give to others. Katie is an amazing young woman. And she’s even more amazing because she’s in a predominantly male occupation—an occupation where young moms with eleven-month-olds do not fit the culture. But Katie does it because God has anointed her with compassion.


I’ve been on the road for two weeks and one of the things that I’ve had the privilege of doing is praying with a lot of people. I spent three days with a group of staff people in another mission. Most of them were millennials and they’re on fire. They desperately want to do something significant and make their lives matter. They are risk-takers; people who are willing to move on a whim. The Lord called them and they’re ready. As I walked with them and spent time with them one-on-one, I uncovered something deeper. It was something that was not surprising but was almost universal: They struggled with their relationship with their father. There were rare exceptions; a couple of them had great fathers. But for the majority, the biggest issue facing them was how they can experience the love of the Father when the absence of a human father got in the way. Or how do they even frame the word “father” in a good way? It reminded me of how important it is for us as fathers to tell our kids we love them, and to show them the grace the Lord gives. It’s important to listen to them and have the ability to hear what they’re saying. Work can’t get in the way of our parenting; work should be part of our parenting. We need to help our kids understand that. We need to let them see the goodness of the Father, through the goodness of their human father. Some people will wash out, because they can’t get beyond the barrier of their own fathers. But for those who walk in the truth, and build and forgive and foster their relationship with their heavenly Father, the sky’s the limit for them. I can’t wait to see...


There’s an interesting section of scripture in 2 Timothy 4:14 which says, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” I recently heard a sermon on this passage and one of the points was that everyone has an Alexander. Everyone has someone who has hurt them, who has created a place in their hearts that is angry, vengeful, and wrong. When Paul writes to Timothy, he expresses his frustration with Alexander and Paul certainly doesn’t give him a glowing character reference. Yet, the response to that frustration is, “The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” It reminds me of when the scripture says, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” It’s not our job to pay people back. When people have hurt or harmed us, or have harmed our families or our ministries, it’s not our job to fix that. Our job could be to simply let the Lord repay them for what they’ve done. I’d like to add, there are some people with whom we are called to reconcile. We are called to go to talk to them and be with them. There are also some situations where we need to simply say, “You know what? I’m going to let the Lord take care of this.”

Life Celebration

My brother-in-law, Rick Knox, died about a month ago and I went to his Celebration of Life service in Chicago. It was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ve never seen a more impactful service. I was blown away by person after person sharing stories like this, “Rick met with me. I rejected church; I rejected Christ. I was angry and bitter, but he met with me for two years until I changed.” It was a celebration of Rick’s character, which was invaded by the presence of God. It was amazing—two straight hours of nothing but sharing how God used him. It was inspiring. As RobAnne and I drove away from that service I said, “I wonder what people will say at our services?” I don’t want them to say, “He was good man” or “He was a good person. He was funny, friendly, and he did some good things.” I want to be like Rick. People said over and over again, “Rick changed my life because of who he was, not what he did.”


We all know the verse Proverbs 29:18 that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Most of the time we think of vision as direction that comes from a leader. It comes from the top down. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about corporate vision, particularly in the context of InFaith. How is it that we should define ourselves? Which way is of God so that we can lean in that direction? Another translation reads like this, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint.” I think we need to recognize that vision defines us. It gives us parameters. When we are accomplishing a God-given vision, there’s something that happens deep inside of us that’s synergistic. There’s an amazing blending of reality with the supernatural. The second thing that vision does is limit us. The verse says, “people cast off restraint.” In other words, vision gives us a common path—with guard rails. Without vision we really are wandering. We don’t know where to go. We become “without restraint” and the ability to say “no” dissipates. By limiting us, vision ends up directing us. It gives us something to focus on for the future. It allows us to dream and begin to make choices that make that future a reality. Finally, and I think most importantly, vision becomes us. I’ve been watching the political scene these days as people think about running for president and their issues become who they are. It defines them. At InFaith vision to take back this nation for Christ and to create an atmosphere of ministry and wholesomeness is who we are. It’s our culture. It’s us. You can see that “the people perish because there is no vision” is true; because vision defines, directs, and finally becomes who we are.


By my very nature I’m a goal-oriented person. I love to set out to do something and accomplish that task through incremental goals. I found that especially true in education, when pursuing my doctorate. This week, my daughter Barrett, who has been walking the Pacific Crest Trail—a trail from Mexico to Canada—crossed over the border from California to Oregon. It was a big deal. Every hundred miles is a big deal when you walk that far. But, when you leave one state and enter into another, that’s a huge milestone. It was one of her goals. She had her eyes on the prize of getting across that border and this week she made it. Paul talks about goals in Philippians 3:13-14 when he says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I love that. You forget what lies behind. Barrett forgets walking through the heavy, burdensome snow in the Sierras, and the heat of the Mojave Desert. She’s forgotten all that. All she knows is that she’s crossed into Oregon and is pressing on toward Canada. I would encourage us to think and ask God what our goals should be? What are the things He calls us to do? We can then press in, single-focused on accomplishing that goal.


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