Baptism


This week our church is having our first ever Baptism Sunday. That's not to say we don't baptize people often, just that we haven't dedicated a specific day for the purposes of Baptism before this in our church's history--and for good reason. The church I'm apart of doesn't believe you wait until a specific day to get baptized because that means you'd be following some religious tradition rather than choosing to make a commitment to follow Jesus whenever He calls you. The church I'm a part of says "there is no creed but Jesus." We're not trying to get you to follow a list of rules. We're not trying to clean you up and get you more religious. We're definitely not trying to get you to practice empty rituals and long-winded liturgies. We're just trying to point you to Jesus.
It's simple. Jesus died for all of us, for the forgiveness of our sins.

We don't need to look very hard to discover we're covered in mud. If we can't see it on ourselves, we can turn on the tv or consider a broken friendship or relationship we're still wrestling with. Someone's sin is at the heart of every argument, wound, broken relationship, politic, newsreel, and heartbreak. And though we'd like to believe we're not that bad... the standard we hold others too is hypocritical because we can't even keep ourselves from messing up. None of us is perfect.

But there was One who lived a sinless life. We still hear about Him as a good man. His words are never very far from the highest example of integrity and wisdom... "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The golden rule is the standard of perfection because it embodies the life of Jesus. "Christian" used to mean a person who modeled their life after Jesus--a "little Jesus". But let's face it, people don't think very highly of Christians anymore. We've all seen too many "Christians" contradict Jesus... we're seeing it all over the place right now in the Presidential campaigns, right?

So at our church, we don't hold people to an impossible standard, we invite them to a Perfect person--Jesus who is fully man, and fully God. How do we know? Because Jesus didn't just live a sinless life and forgive our sins by His death and burial... He rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. Hundreds saw His scarred hands and feet, and told the world--even when they were murdered because they would not deny what they had seen. And now everyday people tell how Jesus encounters them, through the conviction of our sins, the mystery of the Jesus's living Spirit, and the Scriptures that come alive in us as we walk in His Spirit.

Baptism is a picture of this spiritual life. Jesus believers are baptized for "the repentance of our sins". Our submersion is a symbol of our death to sin. We are no longer slaves to our whims, our angers, our temptations, our selfishness--our sin. Our emergence from the water is a portrait of rising from this death... our new life has begun. We're choosing to follow Jesus now, allowing Him to teach us what it means to live gracefully, love fully, forgive intentionally and ask for forgiveness constantly. We will never be God, but He promises to live in us so that the world can see the difference He makes in us. Rather than saying "{your name here] is so perfect!" people will say "{your name here] is so different!" And the difference is the invisible feeling we have around this person... they're more loving, joyful, patient, peaceful, kind, faithful, self-controlled, gentle and good.

This doesn't happen because there is anything special about the water. It's just faucet water, and it won't change anything about us. It's meeting God that has changed us, seeing that He has pursued us by sending His Son Jesus to show us what love looks like.

I remember my baptism at 21. Though I'd been baptized as a kid, I knew it hadn't been my decision, and my early adult years had been filled with hypocrisy. I was that "Christian" who looked nothing like Jesus. I had some religious ideas, some bible talk and some family tradition... but I hadn't met Jesus myself. And then, while at college partying myself into trouble He broke through my fog. My conscience was quickened, my heart was stirred and my sixth sense was aware there was a lot more going on around me than I could see with just my eyes. There were times I should have died, but somehow I was rescued inconceivably. There were coincidences I couldn't write-off, and miracles that filled my mind with wonder. And one day it was all too much and tears streamed down my cheeks because I felt there was a God and whoever He was, He seemed to be trying to get my attention. So I set out to learn who He was, reading the Bible and the Hebrew Scriptures from cover-to-cover, reading all the books that challenged His existence, and asking questions of anyone who claimed to have met Him. From 18 to 21 I uncovered every rock, and finally concluded there was more to this life than me. All the religions I studied were too... religious. But, when I read about Jesus, He was different. He wasn't trying to establish a cult. He wasn't out to grow a following. He said He knew the truth about the way the world was put together... that He had been there with God when it was created. The Hebrews scriptures taught me that God knew the number of hairs on my head, and loved me so much He would send a Messiah to save me... to save everyone. And only Jesus proved that He was the One. He was the only one to return hatred with kindness, to trade His life for mine, and to overcome death with His resurrection. I knew Jesus was unlike any other god. And when I sensed Him confirming my search... I asked, "what do you want me to do now?" And His answer was simple.

Follow Me.

So I did. And one of the first things He said to do in the Scriptures was to be baptized. It's a day I'll never forget, filled with tears and relief. The symbol still makes me smile now from ear to ear. Covered in His love, drenched in His forgiveness, and marked with His Spirit. I'm different now and everyday with Jesus is filled with incredible gratitude for what He has done and does miraculously through daily life.

Baptism didn't save me... Jesus did and does. Whatever He says to do, I'm in because I've watched His words bring other people so much joy, life and even salvation. I know one thing is true for all of us, Jesus's Spirit tugs at our hearts to know Him. That's one of the reasons I like sharing my story because maybe God can use it as His voice in your life today. If you hear Him today, don't be afraid... you're not crazy. God is real and He is very good, you just need to trust your sixth sense and do whatever He tells you. Who knows, maybe one day you'll follow Jesus into the water of Baptism too? One thing is for sure, God loves us dearly and He wants us to know Him definitively.

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3 Real Observations (about the race for the Presidency in 2016)


Love this video tutorial on how to spot a fake smile. It proves a simple theory of mine that all of us are FAR more intelligent than politicians, media and educational metrics like to believe. We are always searching for what's real because instinctively we know that real is important. fake often means a person is vulnerable, insecure, something isn't working, and no matter what they say we can't fully trust the words. Here are three observations about why REAL is important to us in this year's race for the Presidency in 2016.


1) Real... is winning

*I don't know about you, but I get totally turned off by any person who panders to me, telling me what they think I want to hear in order to win my allegiance. I never feel people like that have my best interest at heart... in fact, I sense an emptiness in the heart of those people--like they're trying to find their worth in my (or others) opinion of them. That kind of desperation for approval is a selfish trap that steals a person's soul, and I find myself feeling sorry for people like that (i.e. politicians).

*Trump & Sanders for all their many flaws are REAL. Real to me is defined as something we know about ourselves. We're rough around the edges, imperfect, flawed, not-much-to-look-at-in-the-morning, weathered by life's ups-and-downs, cautiously hopeful, quietly skeptical, and done with trusting people at their word but ready for action. Trump & Sanders appeal to us because they shoot from the hip with their words rather than a teleprompter telling them what they think we want to hear. Both have an attitude of "enough-already-with-political-correctness/gender & race-baiting/gotcha-questions/insulting-america(ns)/media-polling-and-data-dividing-the-people-of-our-country-into-categories. We get the feeling they'll DO what they SAY and as a result they're both winning (last night in New Hampshire and practically in Iowa as well--minus some funny-business with other "NOT real" political maneuvering).

*Media-types (CNN, FOX, CNBC, ABC, theBLAZE, CBS, FOX business) scratch their heads because they're oblivious that we know they're part of the problem. We know they only LOOK like they are different ideologically... but they have their own agenda to keep things in Washington business as usual. They still can't figure out why we (Americans) don't want to be told how to vote on our television news. No, we want to be given the facts/truth without a bias and make up our minds for ourselves. We still believe with Abraham Lincoln that a "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the Earth."

2) Real... is fun

*Why else are we watching political television again? Finally, there's non-scripted candidates who say what they mean and take unpopular stands and, instead of tuning out, the very people who it affects are excited because we recognize this one's not rigged! 24 million people watch debates on a Thursday night instead of sitcoms, CSI and "reality" television. The highest voter turnout EVER occurs in only the first two primary states, and all cable news-stations have their highest ratings EVER. Americans realize when we listen to Trump and Sanders, we're hearing something revolutionary--real people with real ideas. BTW, real ideas are a little bit crazy, and as Seal says, "we're never going to survive, unless we get a little crazy."

*There's endless fun whenever real people make real mistakes. Anyone see Saturday's debates when the candidates couldn't hear the moderators before they came out? hahaha. They looked so silly waiting in the hallway together, not knowing when to come out to their podiums. That looked like something I'd probably do... and that's the point. We'd forgotten that politicians are supposed to be human FIRST and ALWAYS, above-all-other-traits because we're entrusting them to make decisions that will affect us... and we're human first and always.'

*The unexpected is so much fun. We live for surprises! Our lives are too often defined by rote repetition: get up, kids to school, go to work, eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed... and then do it all over again. When we're woken up from our "every-day-is-exactly-the-same" pattern by events that matter to us and involve us intimately... we're alive again. Oh, don't misunderstand me, we're not sure we always like the unexpected because we don't know how things will turn out and we're nervous and excited and angry and happy and... we realize that's what it means to be alive--to feel everything again, good and bad, and to hope that something bigger than us will work for our good.


3) Real... is Spiritual

*Americans may not be as religious as we once were... but we've chosen that attitude because we believe Religion is doing more harm than good. Doesn't matter which religion. History--past, present and future--is painstakingly repetitious... Religious wars aren't a thing of the past... they're happening again and we want it to stop.  

*Trump and Sanders are not particularly vocal about their spirituality. In fact, they're pretty honest about their roots and intermittent involvement with organized religion. But Americans aren't looking for religious answers to political problems anymore. We've lost our faith in religion, we won't put our faith in government, and whoever God is... we know who He is not. He is not religious (unless that religion is helping orphans and widows). He is not political (unless you mean His policy is to love people first). He is not us (unless you mean He understands us and wants to help us out of our brokenness). What we see for the first time in a long time, is a 2016 election process that matters because people matter. People are hurting, losing their healthcare, their full-time jobs, their money, their kids to drugs, their retirement, and their hope that the future will be brighter than their present. We don't want a Savior, but we do want common sense... people should be prioritized over religion/politics. The result of true spirituality is always a preeminent care for each individual life. Spirituality begins when we are real with each other.

Listen, there's something inside of us that resonates with anyone who tells the truth--even when it is unpopular. We know the importance of truth... it keeps us free. That's why this race for the Presidency in 2016 is so important because everyday many of us feel our freedom has been slipping away from us. Internet surveillance, political-correctness, religious fanaticism, economic insolvency, surreptitious government, and constitutional wavering are just a thimble full of the weirdness that has become our America. It's unreal and we want real. I am not suggesting that there are no other candidates for President that are real or that the two mentioned are incapable of misleading us. I am simply saying this: real is important because it points us towards freedom. Creativity, spirituality and fun depend on freedom--and that's why America is the greatest nation on earth--because we are free to be whomever we choose to be without the fear of aforementioned weirdness. And I am excited people are expressing their vote, their rights, their excitement, and their fears because it means --whatever the outcome--we are expressing our soul's desire for a real America.


The #1 Commercial from Superbowl 50


Yes, that's right. It's the Doritos Ultrasound commercial.

Unexpected and hysterical.


If you've ever read the book "Made to Stick" you'll notice that this commercial does everything right. In this book about making your message stick, the Heath brothers use an acronym of the word SUCCESS which is whether a message is "sticky" enough for an audience to remember forever. Obviously this Doritos commercial has a sticky message... eat Doritos, they're so good even a baby in Utero can't resist them.

Simple    -  people love Doritos

Unexpected - people In Utero love Doritos?!

Concrete - baby arches back in the womb and launches himself/herself into the world to retrieve mom's Doritos

Credible - superbowl primetime tv... makes us laugh... we want to buy Doritos too.

Emotional - we squirm from the unexpected events imagining mom and dad in shock

Stories - clueless dad eating Doritos at an Ultrasound illuminates husband/wife dynamics many can relate to.
=
Successful Message - Doritos are good. Buy them and eat them quickly.


On a side note, Naral found a way to politicize this commercial by lamenting this ad as a cover up--a secret attempt by Doritos to proselytize a pro-life message. If you want to read an amusing and enlightening response to the criticism from Naral, you can do that here. Pure laughter is healthy... we need more of it because it fills us with love. To those looking for every reason to be offended, please visit another blog. For everyone else, may your day be filled with laughter, love and yes... life.



The Reveal


Ever wish you could see the future?

It's an ability no one has (except maybe a prophet, and there seem to be very few--if any--these days).

Maybe the closest we get to being able to see the future is to watch or listen to an artist perform. Creators like Bob Dylan, Steven Spielberg, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk always seem to paint the future before it happens(ed). But these people aren't gods, or prophets, or prognosticators... they're finite, human, just artists.

This clip of a french artist on local television is from years ago. I find myself captivated by the unknown future of what he is creating. Right in front of my eyes, he paints a picture... but I cannot see what it will become. Finally, a face emerges... but there is no definition, no clarity, no color until...

The Reveal.

Suddenly the artist throws shimmering sparkles on the blurry background. And then I see what was in the artist's mind all along... and it's beautiful. Something godly happens when an artist meets a blank canvas, and radiant sparkles reveal the future. The reveal is breathtaking.

But what if the artist had never dusted the canvas with glimmering sprinkles? Without them we'd still only see a ghost on a black square waiting to be set free and that is less beautiful and more haunting.

I've always felt that the "sparkle" that reveals beauty in us is the mystery of God's Spirit. As you know from my blog, I carry the viewpoint that all of us are artists of one kind or another--whether it is the ability to show great patience with a screaming child or great excellence in our area of the workplace or great vision for the future we hope to create for our lives. All of us have the opportunity to make something beautiful everyday, but not all of us know that we can access a shimmer outside of ourselves which reveals our true inward beauty (and makes those watching say "wow"). Even more tragically, most of us feel (or have felt at some point) trapped in a holding pattern waiting for the future we hope will be beautiful but not being able to see/know that it will actually occur.

I'm not the best artist in the world. Actually, I can't draw at all--just stick figures and two-dimensional shapes. But I know when I set out to accomplish a vision, to see a beautiful future... I cannot go it alone. The Reveal I'm longing for in my life is dependent on an outward force, a mysterious selflessness, and a powerful sparkle that is available to me (and all of us) if only I will dream out loud. That's what I call prayer. When I say to God's Spirit, "I want my life to count for something beautiful, and I'm afraid it won't ever happen without Your help." And then, a conversation begins... a reveal before The Reveal, that leads me towards the future with hope. Hope reminds me that my dreams are living things--even if they've faded. But those dreams must be propelled from my mind onto the canvas of life, and pursued with intentional humility. As capable as I would like to believe I am, I am nothing without The Creator's influence upon me.


One Person's Trash...



...is another's treasure. There are some people who can see beauty in anything. I want to be one of those people, though I admit I struggle to remain grounded in such a mindset. Life is filled with trash. No doubt trash fills our landscape everyday through our constant consumption of stuff. But physical trash is the least of our problems. Worse, we are barraged by idea-trash and this is even more tragic because our imaginations are stolen. Through our televisions, through our smart devices, through our work place banter, through our own inward self-talk... we are surrounded by and filled with junk--and encouraged to keep throwing out more and more of it.

And then come along those rare dreamers... who see a work of art in all this trash. We call these dreamers "artists" because they remind us that our greatest purpose in life is to have our eyes opened--to see the art hidden in everything, even seeming disappointment.

I want to be like that... a dreamer who refuses to be discouraged by all the trash--an artist who creates beauty out of the rubble. I want to see what can be, even while I acknowledge soberly what is. I want to inspire others to recognize the work of art within us--even despite our failures. Because if we will see through the trash--literally--we will discover a person, people, and another's treasure.

Oh, and this is why I love the gospel... because the good news says we are treasured by God regardless of our trash. Those around us may define us by our worst, or we may even define ourselves by the trash we have consumed... but the gospel says Jesus is the Great Artist, the Rare Dreamer who sees through the junk heap to Another's treasure. Jesus tells us that if we will come to God the Father through God the Son, we will become like Jesus, sons and daughters of God--His treasures.   

Followers