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


Hearing the Creation Speak

Isaac Newton declared, “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.” He also shared, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” One of the most influential scientists of all time, who developed the principles of modern physics and is most famous for his law of gravitation, understood what many of us have tried to deny: a created universe demands the existence of a Creator.

 

Isn’t this what the Bible has told us all along? Psalm 19:1-4a says:

 

The heavens declare the glory of God;
            the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
            night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
              no sound is heard from them.
4a Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
            their words to the ends of the world.

 

As we wrap up summer, a season when many of us spend a good deal of time outside, enjoying the created world in which we live, let us remember that the beauty of nature comes from the Beautiful One who designed it for us to enjoy. Let us thank God for the peaceful experience of walking through the woods, the simple joy of swimming in the lake, and the relaxation of walking on the beach. And let our amazement at the creation point us to the One who created it.
 
Troy Burns


Leaving Town to Find Home

A few days ago, I returned home from an amazing trip to my favorite place in the world – the Oregon coast. Why does that area hold such a special place in my heart? Is it the beauty and vastness of the ocean? Maybe, at least in part. Is it the peace and relaxation that comes with staring into the waters and hearing the waves crash onto the shore? Perhaps. But really, what makes the coast so special is the people who travel there to enjoy it with me – my wife and three children. These are the things dreams are made of for this husband and father: our kids’ excitement for the upcoming trip, the quality time we spend together (that seems so hard to do in “real life”), and the lasting memories we make just by hanging out and walking on the beach. I’m so thankful to the Sunrise elders for allowing us to get away and for their understanding of the high priority we should all place on our families.

 

God’s Word requires leaders to demonstrate faithfulness at home before they can be considered eligible for church leadership (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). As leaders, we are called to serve Christ’s church with all of our might, but we will also give an account on the last day of how we led our families: how we loved and taught and spent time with and sacrificed for our spouses and children. I truly appreciate the opportunity I have to spend all of my “vocational” time in ministry while working alongside a group of leaders who want me not only to serve the church with a passion, but also to do the same for my family.
 
-Troy Burns


It’s Worth It

As I read Ecclesiastes chapter 7 this morning, verses 13 through 15 leaped off the page:

Look at what God has done:

No one can straighten what he has bent.

When life is good, enjoy it.

But when life is hard, remember:

God gives good times and hard times,

and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

In my useless life I have seen both of these:

I have seen good people die in spite of their goodness

and evil people live a long time in spite of their evil.

Just over a week ago, a great man of God died in spite of his goodness. I won’t pretend to understand why he spent only 57 years on this earth. I can’t comprehend the fact that he left behind a loving family and church that he also loved and served with a genuine passion. However, I do find immense joy in knowing that Dave Adams has entered into glory and heard the words all Christ-followers long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “For the joy set before him he [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” No matter how difficult life can be, no matter how much we grieve, Jesus showed us that it’s worth it. In fact, it’s so worth it that He willingly endured infinite pain and suffering on our behalf, just so we could spend eternity with Him. Christ paid the price for an unimaginable “forever” that our friend and brother Dave has begun to realize more fully than those of us left behind. Well done, Dave, well done.
 
-Troy Burns