The End is Just the Beginning

I thought I should write something about “Senior Night.” Here’s the deal: my son is a senior and tonight, for the last time, he will play a home basketball game at his school. As I was thinking through this, my good friend texted me out of the blue and said, “Praying for you on Senior Night.” Coincidence? I think not.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, this school year has been, and will continue to be, a year of “lasts,” of those final traditions and celebrations my son will share with us before moving out and going on to college. As I also shared, this business of letting go is not for the faint of heart. And yet that’s my job as a dad: raising a responsible young adult who has made his faith his own and who will carry the torch of Christianity to the next generation. I’m just not ready for this momentous change that’s about to happen; however, I take solace in knowing how excited he is (he’s ready to leave in all of the ways that really matter). He is my son, my brother, and my friend. He’s an adult. I’ve done my job, I only wish it took much longer to do it.
Troy Burns

A Dad Learning from His Father

I’m a dad. It’s who I am. It’s easily the best job I’ve ever had, but also the hardest. I get to play and have fun with my kids and see their great joys and successes; I also get to watch them endure pain and sadness and suffering. But I don’t watch for long. If my children cry for help, I run to them and do whatever I possibly can to ease their pain. I want to rescue them; I long to make their suffering go away.

God’s a Dad. It’s who He is. When the Israelites had lived as slaves in Egypt for over 400 years and were crying out for help, God heard them, He saw their suffering, and He wanted to rescue them. In fact, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and commanded him to go rescue His children from slavery.

You may not think of yourself as a slave, but maybe times are extra tough right now. Maybe parenting is getting the best of you, or a close relationship is strained, or you’re dealing with great loss, or there’s too much month at the end of the money. Know this: God sees your suffering; He hears your cries for help; He wants to rescue you. As we read in Psalm 91:14-16, “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Troy Burns

Snow Without Ceasing

Our wonderful Office Manager, Nita, turned her daily desktop calendar to January 9 (today), and saw this verse from the King James Version: “Pray without ceasing.” She thinks it really meant, “Snow without ceasing” as we looked out the window to see even more large flakes coming down. The snow has become somewhat annoying, and yet still so beautiful. In context, the “Pray without ceasing” verse is joined with a couple of other verses that say, in the NIV version,

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

To paraphrase and summarize the thoughts of John Piper, “praying continually” means at least three things: maintaining a spirit of dependence that permeates all we do; praying repeatedly and often; and not giving up on prayer.

 I’m looking at the irritating, yet beautiful snow falling as I write this; I picture each flake as a prayer, only each one rises up to God. I ask myself, “Do I pray always, the way the snow falls, seemingly without ceasing?” “Do I pray to show my dependence on God, or just ask Him for the things I want?” “Do I ever give up when I feel like God is absent or says, ‘No,’ or asks me to wait on His timing?” I have a long way to go in my prayer life, but I’m thankful for the falling snow and its reminder to me of what God wants my communication with Him to be: ongoing, never-ending, and beautiful.
Troy Burns

His Speech that Takes my Breath Away

Has your breath ever, quite literally, been taken away by the created world in which we live? Have you ever gasped in amazement at the majesty of what surrounds us every day? Once, while sitting on an airplane, high above the clouds, I looked out the window and actually had to catch my breath because of what I saw. The indescribable beauty stunned me. And it happened simply because God spoke. The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:1-2, that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” From the verses that follow, we know that God spoke and this world came to be.

If you’re anything like me, you’re continually astounded by the creation and the conditions that make our earth just right for us to live here: we are neither too close nor too far away from the sun; we have plenty of liquid water to drink; the sun is just the perfect size to provide energy without destroying life; the moon is just the right size to control the tides; and our atmosphere is breathable, with just the right amount of oxygen. Also, if you’re anything like me, you can’t fathom how these conditions just happened to exist and make life possible. God said it; I can see it; I stand amazed.
Troy Burns

A Life Changed by Love

When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, he was personally unknown to the churches of Judea, yet they heard the following report about him:

“’The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1:23-24). The power of a changed life is the greatest testimony one can have as a Christian. And what more radical life change could one undergo than the persecutor becoming the persecuted?

 As Christians, our regenerated lives shine brightly in this dark world as evidence to the fact that Jesus is alive and He is changing the lives of those who follow Him. We testify by our words and actions, most significantly through the fruit that God produces in our lives, marked especially by our love for Him and 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. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-38). As I’ve heard it said better than I can say it: a Christian who wants to live his life as a testimony for Jesus will love God above all else and love others above himself.
Troy Burns

The Gift of Christmas

As I read the Bible this morning in a random fashion, I happened upon these words:

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too [Jesus] shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-15; 17)

 Maybe it’s not true that I “happened upon” those words; this is, after all, the time of year when we remember the birth of our Savior. As we prepare for Christmas, we begin to celebrate the fact that when Jesus was born, He shared in our humanity and was made like us, fully human in every way. And since He did this, He was able to become the offering that turned God’s wrath away from us and on to Himself. For many people, the true meaning of Christmas is an introspective, benevolent attitude that stands against the commercialization of the holiday. For most of us, Christmas means exchanging gifts, which brings great joy, but can also create that commercialization. One could say that Christmas is about exchanging gifts or, rather, receiving one gift: the ultimate gift of salvation, based on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, the most important event in history that was set into motion by the humble birth of our Savior on that silent, holy night more than 2,000 years ago.
Troy Burns

Memories of the Greatest Gifts

‘Twas the night before Monday, and all through our house, not a mantel was covered, not even… I can’t make it work after that. But as you might have guessed, last night was the night for our family: the time when the boxes of Christmas decorations make the short trek from our garage to the rooms inside our home. This task excites me and our children; it sounds like work to Mrs. Burns. But, alas, when the tree is up and the ornaments are hung and the cinnamon pinecones fill the air, my wife smiles and starts to enjoy the spirit of the season. The various inanimate objects we place around our house evoke actual emotions inside of me. I feel more like its Christmastime than I did just hours before our efforts began.
The best (and most bittersweet) feelings are generated by the ornaments we hang on our tree. “Baby’s First Christmas 1999” still hangs for our son who is now a rather tall 17-year-old, a life passage achieved in just the blink of an eye. “Middle Child” still hangs for our spunky, hilarious daughter who became a freshman in high school when I wasn’t looking. And then there’s our third child; hmm, do we have something for her? She always seems to be left out or forgotten. I’m only half-kidding; we have a few ornaments for her as well. My favorite is one with a photo of her beautiful little face with that smile that’s part joy, part mischief, and part something no one will ever understand. The memories of all those Christmases past, marked by emblems staring out from the tree each December day, focus my thoughts on one of my greatest blessings: the children God entrusted to me, who have changed my life (for the better) in ways I could never have imagined. They are the best gifts I could receive in this world because they are not just my kids, they are children of the Greatest Giver ever known.
Troy Burns

A Treasure That Can’t Be Stolen

A few weeks ago, my car was stolen from the church parking lot while I worked inside, oblivious to the happenings just outside. Thankfully my car was quickly abandoned on a nearby side street, so I got it back with only the hubcaps missing. As I write this blog, just a few minutes ago, our youth minister, Joe, saw a man attempting to break into my car again. Now, my car is not much to look at; it’s 24 years old (168 in dog years) with lots of miles on it and an accelerating noise that either awakens or frightens the neighbors. I guess it’s just an easy car to steal, so maybe the thieves are hoping to find something valuable inside. The worst part about these incidents is the negative impact they have on my 10-year-old daughter, who scares easily and doesn’t really understand the fallen nature of humanity, of just how lousy we people can be.
My car is certainly no treasure, but my concern for keeping it reminds me of the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew chapter 6: 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I’m not ready to leave this earth because I still have kids to raise and important work to do. But I do long for the day when the only things that truly last will endure for all eternity. My car won’t be in heaven and even if it is, it will never be stolen. My daughter’s fears will fade away, sin will disappear, and evil will be destroyed. These are the real treasures and God will allow us to enjoy them forever.
Troy Burns

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