Lessons in Pain Relief

One of my biggest struggles as a dad is when my daughter is hurt by someone and I want to solve the problem instead of offering advice and allowing her to work through the issue herself. I’d much rather lash out or crack some skulls or otherwise knock some sense into whomever caused her pain. But, fortunately, I’ve come to understand that my initial, natural reaction does not typically lead to the best solution.
 
This balance of trying to help and protect my daughter, while also striving to train her in solving problems and dealing with people on her own reminds me of a book my friend Ann-Luise gave me years ago, when I was in the trenches of youth ministry. I continue to find refreshment and inspiration in this collection of devotionals from the heart of a fellow youth worker. The book, written by Glenn Procopio, is entitled So That’s Why I Keep Doing This.
 
In one of the devotionals, Glenn describes a situation where his son was harassed at school by a group of older thug-jocks who were cruel and abusive. After Glenn guided his son through some options and strategies, the young man confronted the group of boys and made them realize they weren’t going to get the best of him, while remaining calm, cool, and Christlike in his words and demeanor. Through a trial in his son’s life, God reminded Glenn that He is faithful; here are a few words that Glenn wrote to sum this up:
 
Faith in Christ becomes more real when shared. The enemy is tinier than he appears. God is infinitely larger than He seems. Victory comes to those who dare to trust God’s ways. God comes to those who dare to trust Him. Standing alone is never easy. Standing alone is always worth it. Your Father will always be there for you. In times of hurt, someone else hurts with you. There’s no feeling like being loved.
 
What this teenage boy showed his father, and what my daughter shows me when she’s brave and learns to fight her own battles, is that faith and life in Christ works, not just in church but every day. Having said that, though, I would still advise you not to hurt my little girl. After all, she is my heart walking around outside my body and I will do whatever I can to protect her. 😊
 
Troy Burns


Serving the Second Most Selfish Person in the World

We sometimes joke around in the office, saying that “ministry would be great if all these people weren’t around!” We laugh because people (including me, unfortunately) are difficult, but also due to the ironic fact that people are the most important reason we serve in ministry.
 
It’s notoriously challenging to deal with people in general, let alone difficult individuals. After all, when I serve another person, I’m trying to help the second most selfish person in the world. Guess who’s the most selfish? When John D. Rockefeller was asked which character quality he was willing to pay for the most when hiring employees, he responded without hesitation, “The ability to get along with people.”
 
Loving and serving people can be extremely difficult, but it’s always worth it. After our love for God, nothing is more important than our love for other people. When Jesus was asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” he replied “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39).
 
Our love for others is even so critical and foundational that the Bible tells us we can’t love God if we don’t love people. Notice what we read in 1 John 4:20-21: 20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
 
Would ministry be great if all these people weren’t around? Well… Not really. It might feel that way at times, but during those moments, I’m just confirming that I’m the most selfish person in the world.
 
Troy Burns


It’s Not About Me?

To quote William Temple, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” Hmm, I’m not so sure about this. I like church the way I like it. I want to see my Christian friends, and sit with my family in the same pew every week, and sing the songs I want to sing, and hear sermons that are interesting and meaningful to me, and on and on it goes.
 
But, deep down I know that church is not about me and that Mr. Temple is right. After all, didn’t Jesus say He “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10)? If I’m part of His church, His body, then I’m also here to seek and save the lost. (Well, technically, I’m here to seek the lost and point them to the One who can save them.) When the original followers of Jesus (the disciples) were asked by the religious leaders of their day, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:30-32). If I’m part of Christ’s body, then I need to eat with the tax collectors and sinners of my world.
 
Furthermore, the last recorded words of Jesus to His disciples are these: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). Once again, Jesus says my most important job is to seek the lost and point them to the One who can save them. This is ultimately and primarily why the church exists. It’s not about me.
 
Troy Burns


Tough Times Are Good Times?

A.W. Tozer wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” You may not like reading that (I don’t), but I’m realizing more and more that God works this way, and even though I don’t enjoy it, it’s for my good.
 
A little over a week ago, we started a new Sunday morning message series entitled, Finding Favor, with some basis in the book of that name by preacher and author Brian Jones. This past Sunday, Dean shared with us about God’s favor, and the fact that He intervenes supernaturally to bring blessings into our lives. This means, specifically, that God’s favor will help us become everything He created us to be in every area of our lives. As wonderful as this is, however, God’s favor will not keep us from experiencing personal hardship.
 
One of my problems (and perhaps one of yours as well) is that God’s blessing is often not what I want or even what I think I need. Favor rarely gives us what we want, but always gives us exactly what we need. If you’re like me, you pray for God to fix your problems instantaneously, but what usually happens is that God gives us a limp, as He did to Jacob when he wrestled all night with an angel, stating, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
 
As we go through our Finding Favor series this fall, we will examine unexpected ways that God blesses people with His favor. We will discover that God, in his favor, wants to do something in every area of our lives. Not good things, or even great things, but insanely great things, not just in one area, but in every facet of our lives. And God’s favor is rarely understandable or predictable. But it is always exactly what we need.
 
Troy Burns


A Great God for a Terrible World

One of my daughter’s teachers had a grandchild named Micah enter the world last week, only to pass away one day later. His mother wrote the following: “Born August 29th, went to be in the arms of our Creator August 30th. He is deeply loved by Tyler and I and our families. Our sweet little boy has and will continue to make an impact on many people’s lives. After Micah passed, he was able to further the lives of two other infants. He will always be in our hearts, be loved, and be our first most precious child.”
 
Back in early July, Micah’s mom shared these words: “Our precious little boy Micah is due in September. He is growing and his heart is beating strong, and we are excited to meet him. However, God has bigger plans for our little boy. During an ultrasound, the doctors. have seen some severe complications and believe our little boy’s chance of survival is low. We are immensely saddened by this news, but we know that our God does miracles and this is part of His amazing plan. We continue to pray for our son, and to pray for a miracle. We ask that you continue to pray for him and us as well.”
 
These parents have suffered one of the greatest tragedies that moms and dads can face in this world. And yet, they have the faith and trust and perspective to understand that God worked through these circumstances and even provided blessings in the face of unbelievably dark times. How can we follow the example of this family?
 
This Sunday, we will launch a new sermon series called, Finding Favor, based on the book of that name by Brian Jones. If you look in the Bible’s concordance, you might be surprised to realize that the word favor is all over the Bible. Even if you’ve been a Christian and have been involved in church for a long time, the idea of God’s favor might be completely new to you.
 
What this family experienced in losing their baby boy, and what you may have faced in situations in your own life, can be understood as God’s favor. God, in His favor, wants to do something in every area of our lives, even the tragic and terrible circumstances that befall us. This doesn’t mean good things or even great things, but insanely great things, not just in one area, but in every facet of our lives. The question for us is: Do we believe this?
 
Troy Burns


Responding Right to Wrong

I saw this Facebook blog where a woman was in the drive-thru lane of a restaurant and did not pull forward at the right time, because she was leaning over and trying to help her daughter find something that she dropped. Her lack of pulling forward promptly caused the person behind her to yell and honk her horn and raise her hands and otherwise have a complete meltdown.
 
The woman in the front car wanted to get out and karate chop the woman behind her in the throat, but she decided on a different course of action. She proceeded to pull forward and pay the bill for the woman behind her.
 
Explaining her actions and the undeserved kindness that she showed, this woman said that life is short and you just never know what other people are going through. I don’t know if this woman is a Christian, but her experience certainly illustrates an important truth from the Bible. Here’s what the apostle Paul writes in the twelfth chapter of Romans, verses 17-21:
 
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 
In this passage, Paul addresses the proper response of a Christian who is treated wrongly. The natural (even understandable) response of the woman above would be to return evil for evil (read, karate chop to the throat), but anyone could do that. If we who are Christians retaliate, the watching world sees nothing different about our lives. It’s not even clear who’s right and who’s wrong when we respond in kind to the ones who wrong us. But, when we love our enemies and return good for evil, the contrast is stark.
 
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to seek an opportunity to respond the way this woman did. Not because I want to or because it feels good, but in order to tell the right story about my Savior, who did not respond in kind to my wrongs.
 
Troy Burns


They Like Him Better Than Me, and That’s Okay

Last week, I had the privilege of traveling with our Youth Minister (“The Chad”) and our students to the New Life Northwest camp in Washougal, WA. We had a wonderful week of renewing and recharging and just spending time with one another. It did this former youth leader’s heart good to hang out with young people, share deep conversations, and just have some plain old-fashioned fun.
 
My experience reminded me of how much I love young people and why my memories of youth ministry are some of the fondest ones I have. Perhaps I should have been offended that the students were disappointed to discover that I would be driving the church van back to Spokane so that Chad could drive the truck and trailer. But I wasn’t. I was actually quite pleased that they so prefer him to me. He’s their leader, he loves them, and they know it. (I really love them, too, but I’m just not Chad, and that’s okay.)
 
A number of years back, I was the leader and Chad was one of my students. It’s indescribably cool to see him now in the role that I once held. His parents deserve all of the credit for raising him right, but I’m honored to call him a “son in the faith.” And partnering with a great friend in ministry is just about as good as it gets. That’s why it doesn’t bother me that the kids like him so much better than me. They should. He’s their guy. The baton has been passed and as much as I loved youth ministry, and hard as I worked to reach our young people, I believe Chad will do a better job than I did. Reminiscent of Esther 4:14, he has come to this place for such a time as this, and some young people will be thanking him for eternity.
 
Troy Burns


Sit Down, Please!

In his book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard writes, “We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
 
As I write this blog, I’m sitting in my desk chair. The main reason I’m sitting here is that I believe the chair will hold me up. I’m not just saying I believe it; I’m not just believing I believe it; rather, I’m acting as if the chair will hold me up. If I believed the chair would crash down to the ground the moment I sat in it, I would not be sitting here and I would be looking for a new chair.
 
Jesus gave some instructions and commandments that are difficult for me to follow. For example:
 
  • I know how horrific murder is, but Jesus says if I hate someone, I fall under the same judgment – Matt. 5:21-22.
  • I know how damaging adultery is, but Jesus says if I look at a woman lustfully, I’ve committed the same sin in my heart – Matt. 5:27-28.
  • I’m great with loving my neighbors and hating my enemies, but Jesus says to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me – Matt. 5:43-44.
  • I’m good with forgiving someone who’s hurt me up to seven times, but Jesus says not to forgive seven times, but 77 times (a symbolic number meaning that forgiveness should be unlimited) – Matt. 18:21-22.
 
Here’s what it boils down to: will I sit in the “chair of faith” as readily as I’ll sit in my desk chair? Do I really believe that Jesus loves me and wants only what’s best for me? Am I just saying I believe, or believing I believe, or am I acting as if Jesus truly wants what’s best for me and teaches me accordingly?
 
Will I live my life, day by day and moment by moment, with the understanding that “faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse” (Philip Yancey)? Will you live that way? Sit down, please!
 
Troy Burns


Coming Home and Staying Away

My family is back from a wonderful, refreshing week of vacation, highlighted by several days at the beach on the Oregon coast. For a short time, we lived in my “happy place,” at my favorite place in the world, with my favorite people in the world.
 
Trips like this provide a gift that keeps on giving. Not only will my memories last a lifetime, my phone is full of pictures that show me, whenever I want, the ocean and the beach and the sunsets, not to mention glimpses of my family enjoying this handiwork of God. My phone even holds a couple of short videos of the waves crashing in, so the ocean can be seen and heard anytime, anyplace.
 
Someone has said that God gave us the gift of memory so we can have roses in December and snow in July. I think He gave me this gift so I can take a trip to the beach whenever I need one. And I do need these trips, not only because they take me back in my mind to a very special time with my family, but also because they scream out to me that God made this world, and He’s still in charge. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
 
In addition, the ocean, as an immense part of the created world in which we live, helps me understand the unspoken, unheard words of the Creator:
 
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.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world (Psalm 19:1-4)
 
Thank you, Lord, for who You are, for creating a world of unfathomable beauty, for giving me an incredible time of rest with my family, and for granting me the gift of memory so I can enjoy these things every day for as long as I live.
 
Troy Burns


I Want Out!

One of my favorite authors (who also happens to be a preacher, best job in the world!) wrote the following question, seemingly just for me: “Have you ever tried getting out of something but couldn’t, then later realized that maybe God was keeping you in that situation for your benefit?” I’m totally on-board with the first part of his statement. I want out! But I dislike the second part, because I’ve not yet discovered God’s hand in this situation. Why would He keep me here? How in the world could this ever benefit me?
 
I should mention that my desire to escape has nothing to do with my marriage or my family or my job and all of the people I love at Sunrise. When I say, “I want out!” I also know that I’m in that wonderful, scary, lonely, awe-inducing state of waiting on God and trusting that He will work “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). After all, that’s what God does; He’s shown me many times before:
  • When my wife suffered a miscarriage that ended her first pregnancy, God drew us closer to Him and to each other, giving us a sense of almost going to war together and knowing that we could survive anything.
  • When my son became severely ill, God reminded me that I dedicated my boy back to Him, and that my son was really God’s child.
  • When my beautiful bride learned she had a brain aneurysm requiring surgery, God reaffirmed my commitment to her, in sickness and in health, and He showed me how precious each moment of life with her is.
  • When my daughter cried the saddest tears I’ve ever seen in this life, God gave me an extra measure of love and compassion for her as amazing as it was painful.
God allows us to remain in situations we want out of, but He does so with a purpose in mind. He’s proven Himself to work for the good of those who love Him. He takes what seems to be a curse and turns it into a blessing. For this reason, no matter how hard things get, I will persevere and trust in Him, even though I want out!
 
Troy Burns