Ridge Burns's blog

Division

For the last eighteen years I've been lecturing on the Ten Commandments at various schools. I usually start out the week of teaching with an agree/disagree exercise. I introduce an idea such as, “All murder is wrong.” And then if the students agree, they go to one side of the room. If they disagree, they go to a different side of the room. It's always been a great discussion starter. It gets the students thinking about the Ten Commandments and how they’re not quite as simple as a casual reading of them might lead you to believe. There are deeper issues when it comes to modern science that can make it difficult to see how the Ten Commandments apply to our culture. I was surprised during a recent teaching session that there were several in the group who were deeply offended that I would present something that divided them to the students. Having that interaction of some of the students agreeing and some disagreeing really bothered them. It bothered them because they feel like we ought to work not to display our differences, but to display how we agree. As I got together with some of the students, I began to understand why they were upset by this. We live in a very divided world, particularly in the United States. With the current elections, our country feels so divided and polarized. These students are rebelling against this polarized culture that they're living in. They don't want that in the church, or in their class and school. Instead, they want to see the places that they can agree and move forward. I think as older adults we need to realize what's going on in our culture. What we think is dialogue or a normal interchange of ideas, this group found divisive...

The Secret Place

I have been practicing going to a place that is quiet with no distractions. I don’t take my phone. I take my soul, my body, and my Bible. And I listen to God. He speaks to me in special ways because taking this time breaks down my natural pride in myself and my lack of humility so I can hear the voice of God. Thomas à Kempis in his book The Imitation of Christ, said this: You will find in your “closet of prayer” what you frequently lose when you are out in the world. The more you visit it, the more you will want to return. But the longer you avoid it, the harder it will be to come back. If you are faithful to your secret place, it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness, a devout person grows spiritually and learns the hidden things of the Bible. The tears shed there bring cleansing. God will draw near the person who withdraws for a while. I believe we all need this closeted prayer. And I love when à Kempis says, “the longer we stay away from it, the harder it is to come back.” And it's in those very places that we need God. It's in that intersection between heaven and earth. Let's enjoy being alone in our secret place.

The Ten Commandments

In a couple weeks, I will be going to a Bible school in Germany to teach on the ten commandments for a week. Oftentimes we think of the ten commandments as hard, punitive, tough, difficult, and in some cases, even unfair. It’s a standard that no one can live up to, that no one can perfectly follow except for Jesus himself. And there's a reason for that: Romans 7:12 says that the law is “holy, righteous, and good.” It's holy because it's the perfect expression of God's will. It's the perfect expression of what it means to be a follower of Christ. In the book of Numbers, God says, “You are holy because I am holy.” If you can perfectly, without failing, live up to the ten commandments, you will live out the character of God. But it's impossible. The law is also righteous: it treats everyone the same—whether you're rich or poor; whether you’re well or sick; no matter what country you’re from— we all fall under the law. The law is also good. Galatians 3:24 says, “the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ.” The law is a righteous, holy, good mirror that we hold up against their lives and realize we're in desperate need of a savior. Without a savior, the law will condemn us. But with a savior, the law is broken. Not broken by my goodness but broken by the grace that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. I look forward to teaching the ten commandments. They all remind me of how desperately we need Jesus and how amazing it is that he provided the sacrifice for us. We don’t have to live under the law. We are free.

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.

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