Throwing Off the Extra Weight

With apologies to the two or three people who read my blog (I’m not bitter), I will share, again, about one of my family members. What can I say? I’m a family guy and much of this thing called life happens alongside my wife and three kids. So, here goes: my oldest, my large-since-birth, 6’5”, 200 lb. basketball-playing son, has participated in workouts meant to improve his vertical leap and explosive power on the court. These efforts have proven themselves successful, as evidenced by the scratches and “road rash” halfway up his forearm, marks made by heavy contact with the rim standing 10 feet off the ground.
A key component of these workouts is the wearing of a weighted vest while running, jumping, and dunking the basketball. Toward the end of the workout, the vest is removed and my son runs and jumps with his new freedom from the extra weight he was carrying. Needless to say, he runs even faster and jumps even higher. This physical experience reminds me of the spiritual truth in Hebrews 12:1: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We humans believe we are free when we do whatever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sin traps us, enslaves us, and entangles us. Real freedom comes from a willing “slavery” to Jesus Christ and the knowledge of His grace and love for us. As Jesus said to His followers, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Throw off the extra weight of sin in your life; run faster; jump higher; and experience the genuine freedom of life with our Savior.
Troy Burns

Rescuing the Rescuers

One of my former youth group students is now the lead minister in a southern California church, has been married for several years, and is the dad of one daughter with a second girl set to arrive in March. Another of my former students serves as a deacon right here at Sunrise, leads our worship ministry, has been married for a number of years, and is the dad of a son and a daughter. Besides making me feel OLD, these young adults remind me of the importance of investing in our youths, because they are the ones receiving the torch we pass, the ones who will continue to reach this world and make disciples. I’m thrilled to say that these men are doing just that. Even as the torch is passed to them, they are beginning to hand it off to the next generation after them. While their race is not over, they are helping others to start down the path of Christian living and service to the King.


As I look back fondly on the years I spent with these former students and current leaders, I know I played only a small role in shaping their lives; however, it reminds me of the critical importance of training up those who follow us. Using the example of the Apostle Paul’s voyage to Rome, a journey that would end in shipwreck, a youth minister named Glenn Procopio writes, “Because we are faithfully sailing ships that will never return, the ones we touch today may be the ones pulling survivors from the sea tomorrow.” Let us see those around us who need Jesus, let us point them to the One who can rescue them, and let us teach them to find and help other survivors of the shipwrecks of life.
Troy Burns

Helping a Girl Become a Lady

The only good thing about our amazing elder and staff person, Bob, being out of town for the past couple of weeks was that he was unable to use his tickets to watch the “Lady Zags” game. You see, this worked out great for me because he was kind enough to give his tickets to me! I took my daughter, Addi, who was beyond excited to watch these women play the sport she is already growing to love at a young age. She dreams of one-day playing at a high level and was inspired by the performance of the Zags. Although I’m not excited for my kids to get older and eventually leave me, it’s fun to think about what they will become and what their lives will look like as adults.


On a related note, our awesome deacon and worship leader, Chad, also gave my daughter a special opportunity this past Sunday to sing on the praise team and help lead our congregation in worship. I’m truly thankful to men like Chad, Bob, and many others at Sunrise, who are not only generous and kind, but are dedicated to raising up the next generation of servant leaders in the church. I’m grateful for our people who take seriously the words of Ephesians 4:15 and support our young people, including my own children, as they “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Troy Burns

The First of Many Lasts

My wife has this fun tradition of taking a photo of our three children together, standing on our front porch, on the morning of the first day of each school year. A couple of months ago, she continued this tradition when it hit her (like a Mack truck) that our son was starting his “last” first day of school while living under our roof. In fact, this whole school year has been, and will continue to be, a year of these “lasts,” these final traditions and celebrations he will share with us before moving out and going on to college.


It’s a truly difficult, albeit rewarding part of parenting that I never considered when my children were younger. This business of letting go is not for the faint of heart. And yet that’s our most important job as parents: raising the next generation of responsible adults who have made their faith their own, who will in fact leave us (sad face), and who will carry the torch of Christianity to the next group of young people to follow them. I don’t want to let go of my children, but I do want them to be ready for that day when I must let them go. As we read in Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” And as my adult children navigate life and grow older and older, I hope to echo the words of 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Troy Burns

A Homecoming to Celebrate

Two of my children are high schoolers and therefore had the opportunity this past weekend to participate in the “Homecoming Dance.” For my son, it was his last; for my daughter, her first. They had an incredibly fun time with friends, getting a little crazy (in a good way) and just enjoying being young and in the company of likeminded souls. That’s how “Homecoming” should be: a time of “coming home” to a place of great joy, surrounded by others experiencing the same kind of celebration.


When I consider the return of Jesus and the promise of Heaven, my thoughts lean toward this “Homecoming” concept. Coming home to our Savior, experiencing all that He has prepared for us, and worshiping (singing, even dancing?) forever in the company of likeminded souls. As the praise song puts it: “We will dance on the streets that are golden / The glorious bride and the great Son of Man / From every tongue and tribe and nation / Will join, in the song of the Lamb.” Come, Lord Jesus, so we can “come home.”
Troy Burns

Lessons on the Love of a Father

I have a teenage daughter. If you are, or have been, in this season of life, you need not read any more. You get it. You and I understand each other. We feel each other’s pain and yet we know the incredible joy as well. But hear this: I LOVE my 14-year-old princess more than I could begin to put into words. Her happiness takes me to the moon and her sadness crushes my soul in a way that causes physical pain. I love her when she thinks I’m being “so annoying!” I love her when my simple “hello” causes unbelievable irritation to her. I love her when she braids her sister’s hair. I love it when she goes on an errand with me just to take a car ride. I love her when she succeeds and when she fails. I love her when she wants to be with me and when she doesn’t. Nothing could make me love her more or less than I already do.


This love for my daughter reminds me of God’s love for us. He has used this special relationship to teach me valuable lessons in love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and joy by blessing me with a girl who has spent just 14 years on this planet. God loves me when I succeed and when I fail. He loves me when I spend time with Him and when I don’t. Nothing could make God love me more or less than He already does. God made us His children and as it says in Romans 8:15b, “the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” This dad has an even greater Dad!
Troy Burns

Never the Same-Old Ordinary

This morning, my heart craved the words of Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I continually see and hear and read so much that is negative; God’s Word reminds me of the better, much more positive things on which I should focus my mind.


Once such “excellent or praiseworthy” thought is the Spokane Youth Rally hosted by our youth ministry this past weekend. Many students and adults experienced the glory and presence of God as they sang in worship, engaged with messages from Derek Voorhees, and shared in small groups and spiritual conversations. A good number of us can resonate with the old Third Day song, “Show Me Your Glory,” which includes these lyrics: “I caught a glimpse of Your splendor / In the corner of my eye / The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen / And it was like a flash of lightning / Reflected off the sky / And I know I’ll never be the same.” It goes on to say, “When I climb down the mountain / And get back to my life / I won’t settle for ordinary things.”


My prayer and hope is that God changed all of us for the better this weekend and that as we climb down from this mountaintop experience, we will never be the same again. May we never settle for the ordinary things of life. May we seek after God and focus regularly on Him, the only One who is “true” and “pure” and “excellent” and “praiseworthy.  
Troy Burns

Rising Again (and Again)

Yesterday as we sang to our Savior, we lifted up these words to God: “By your Spirit I will rise / From the ashes of defeat / The resurrected King / Is resurrecting me.” What an amazing thought: the very power that raised Jesus from the grave enables us to walk in a new life, even as we hope for the future resurrection to live with our Savior forever.


We also talked yesterday about one of the greatest proofs for the truth of Christ and the reality of his resurrection: the changed lives of those who follow Christ. If you’re a Christian with the Holy Spirit of God living inside of you, what kind of radical changes have occurred in your life? Are you loving when once you hated others? Are you concerned for people when once you were selfish and self-serving? Are you truly joyful when once you were filled with sadness and despair? Are you considerate when once you were severe? Praise be to God for his power to change us in ways we could never accomplish on our own. The resurrected King is resurrecting me, over and over again!
Troy Burns

Is Grocery Shopping a Hot Date?

Kelly and I enjoyed an incredibly romantic, some would even say “hot” date yesterday. Our son was off playing basketball (where else would he be?), so after driving our middle child to the fair and sending our youngest daughter on a playdate with grandma, we took advantage of our precious time alone as a couple: we headed straight for Costco and Fred Meyer for some serious grocery shopping! Yes, for us, this is a “hot” date – we love each other’s company, we laugh and act silly, and we reminisce about our pre-kid years even though we absolutely adore our children and could never imagine life without them.


To paraphrase Song of Songs 4 and avoid quoting something too racy from the Bible, I give you these words that speak volumes about my special lady: “You have stolen my heart, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes.” Why she loves me so much I’ll never know. Here’s this wonderful person, my favorite human being in the world, who knows everything about me and still chooses to say “I do” each and every day. As believers in Jesus, we all want to become more Christ-like; in her love for me, Kelly reflects the image of our Savior. I can’t wait until our cupboards are bare and our refrigerator is empty again 🙂
Troy Burns

Singing to an Audience

Back in 2002, a band called “Big Daddy Weave” released a song entitled “Audience of One.” Here are some of the lyrics: “And I lift these songs / To You and You alone / As I sing to You / In my praises make Your home / I have one desire / To bring glory to Your name.”


If you’re like me, when I’m singing in a church service, it’s easy to think, “I love this song” or “she’s a great singer” or “that music makes me feel great!” But those are self-focused thoughts. I should leave a worship service asking myself not “What did I get out of it?” but rather “Was God pleased with what happened?” When I sing in worship to my Creator and Savior, my goal is to meet and please Him, not myself. I am not the audience, God is.
Troy Burns