What I Believe and Why

Rest assured…

If you are one of my amazing clients or soon-to-be clients rest assured my keynote is secular and corporate friendly. I am here to make you look good and to serve you and your attendees the best way possible; your trust means the world to me.

I believe in our freedom of choice. I love and honor everyone’s right to believe or not believe whatever we want, to worship our sense of God, or not, in the lawful way of our choice. For that reason alone, though there are many, I love the United States, our Constitution and our freedom of religion (not freedom from religion). If you’ve read this far I’m assuming you genuinely, open-mindedly want to know what I believe, so I’m going to share it.

If your organization is faith-based please talk with me about what that can mean for my keynote, and if it is not you have nothing about which to be concerned.

My Spiritual Story
Breaking up is hard to do…

I was raised Methodist and grew up believing in God in a very general sense. I prayed but I ultimately did not believe in specifics like Jesus or the bible.

Toward the end of college at James Madison University I had one of my only serious girlfriends and while trying to figure out our relationship future she went out with another guy. Ahh!!! It tore me up. Being an emotional wreck I could not sleep, yet I had an important guitar performance the next day.

God never seemed like a real, interactive resource to me but hey, I had nothing to lose, so I prayed, “God, hold this for me so I can sleep.” Six hours later I awakened, rested and able to pick up the pieces. The fact that I was in need, I prayed, and what seemed impossible happened kept haunting me… is there really something to this “God thing?”

Suic… I can barely type the word.

A few months later, about 1:30AM in the dead of winter, Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I was still working things out (or not) with this girlfriend. In one fell swoop everything from which I got any sense of identity or self-esteem was about to be knocked from underneath me. She told me she’d decided to totally date this guy (and was already). She told me the ski lodge where I performed regularly was not happy with me and ready to fire me (they didn’t, but I didn’t know). And my friends had been alienated from me because of this relationship.

I was broken. Instead of debating or arguing as I usually did, for the first time I said nothing. I nodded for a moment, said thank you and got out of her car. I drove my little truck the 25 minutes down a mountain road to my one-room apartment in Broadway, VA.

Now, I absolutely love life. I am positive, not given to depression or self-loathing at all. But her words cut me so far to the core that as I drove, I screamed, I cried, and then… I actually planned my suicide. Dad had given me a 12-gauge for Christmas and I was going to use it.

When I parked at my apartment, instead of going inside and doing something really bad, I was so distraught I just started running, down the road, up the next road to the top of a hill in the 2AM brittle cold.

There on the hill, broken, truly at my wit’s end, I prayed. I had nothing to lose. I said, “God or Jesus or whoever, if you’re real and ‘all this stuff’ (meaning Christianity and the bible) is real, that’s it… I’m here, come into my heart. I give up, I’m open to it. If you’re real, I invite you in. Show me and I will follow you 100%, I’m all in if you’ll show me.” I didn’t say, “If you show me I’ll go to church” or “I’ll read the bible,” I laid it all out, I’m 100% in with my life if you’ll show me.

It was such a real prayer, I meant it so sincerely that I actually wondered if I would hear thunder or a voice or if a bush would start burning. Silly, but I didn’t know.

Nothing happened. So I walked back to my apartment. Cold, emotionally numb and having dismissed the idea of suicide I just went inside. My girlfriend called briefly and later I found out that she was calling to make sure I hadn’t killed myself. She knew how bad I was. Sooner or later I fell asleep.

Unfathomable…

The next morning I got up, showered, got dressed, and began driving to school. I began replaying and considering all that had happened between this nearly ex-girlfriend and me. But something in me felt different. Though nothing had physically changed, something was emotionally different. All the problems were still there and painfully real, but they… I don’t know, they seemed not to matter as much or in the same way. They almost didn’t matter at all, which got me really wondering. Thinking more about it I realized, “Wow, I actually feel good… well, not exactly good, more like… peace!” That was it, I felt a strange and unfathomable sense of peace. A peace I had never known, inner peace, even in my storm of problems and pain. So I began testing it… I thought about all the things that ever bothered me, about dying, about anything bad; and while the problems were all still there, I still had this wonderful feeling of peace like it was all going to be fine. It was just wonderful and weird and extra-worldly. Not a giddy, passing feeling of release, something profound, but simple. It was like no matter what was wrong, in the long run it was alright, it was taken care of.

Uh oh…

Then… only THEN, did I remember the later part of that night… my drive, my nearly really bad decision, my run up the hill and… oh yeah, that prayer. And it hit me… I believe my first words as a Christ Follower were, “Oh crap, it worked!” (only I didn’t say “crap,” it was the other word).

I then remembered the last sermon I had heard Ed Rawls deliver where he talked about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus appeared many times to the disciples, to over 500 different believers, Jews and pagans alike and one thing he said to them over and over again was, “Peace be to you. Peace be to you.” Not peace on earth, but God’s peace. That was it! I knew without the shadow of a doubt that was exactly what I now had.

Nothing about this experience or the knowing, understanding and life-change that came with it is even remotely provable in a laboratory. It is certainly not “reasonable.” Nor should it be, as I understand now, because that would preclude one of the most powerful forces on this planet: Faith. It is something that was shown and proven to me, personally, in my heart. Like it or not it was irrefutable. Over time it has proven itself again and again in countless and different ways. It really is the experience of a rebirth – re-birth of the spirit.

Christ Follower…

So I am a Christ-Follower – which is a Christian without the baggage that the word “Christian” carries.

I have certainly had my challenges, my sin, my failings, but I am genuinely being changed, little by little, from the inside out, doing my best to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind,” as it says in Romans 12:2.

I believe…

So, I believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the Bible as the word of God, not because it makes sense to believe it – though I think it does – but because God reached through my pain into my heart and showed me; he redeemed me. He put a beautiful stranglehold on my heart that I cannot deny. Believe me, I am so tempted by and often guilty of so many different sins, most of which the world accepts as normal life practices, that if there were any way at all I could reason this away, if I could justify non-belief, or “a la carte” belief (meaning selective belief in just that which suits us), trust me, I would do it. I’m not that strong.

However I tell you with all my heart, I cannot, with any intellectual, spiritual, or personal honesty, deny it. God has made that perfectly clear to me. He is real.

I am saddened to watch most TV preachers butcher and alter the bible for their own pocketbooks, and some of them are certifiable heretics. I am saddened further to see these misguided, often evil people running around with “God Hates Fags” signs and the like. Nothing could be further from God’s heart. Those people are voicing their own bigotry and anger, certainly not God’s love. How many souls are they saving like that? And how many are they driving further away?

I’ll tell you this definitively: God loves and delights in you, me, every one of us without exception. That’s a fact. There’s nothing you’ve done, and nothing you can do to make God love you less, or more.
So friends, I’ve never shared any of that in public, but I am now. That is my conversion experience. It is all true.

Viva La Verve! (Means “Live the life”)

Home for my family and me is Las Vegas, NV. We moved here because I fulfilled a longtime dream by having my own show on the Strip. It was a wonderful and successful experience, but not something I wanted to continue. I love most exactly what I do now, delivering keynote presentations using guitar and comedy as my delivery and illustration of the message.

We stayed in Las Vegas because we ended up helping plant a church called “Verve: Church for People Who Don’t Like Church.” Our mission is to “Love God, Love People, and Turn The World Upside Down.” Our ministry is specifically to people who are WAY far from God, atheists, agnostics, the outcast, people in the sex industry, people who work the strip, people who would likely never set foot in a church with a steeple and pews and organs and robes. Nothing at all against those, our mission is just different.

Verve Church… http://www.vivalaverve.org

Verve” is a word that means passionate, enthusiastic life, which is what we get when we follow Jesus. We do things very differently. We open each service with a secular rock/pop song, usually something currently on the radio. We also do 2-3 minutes of comedy in every service. Our goal for the first few minutes is to uncross arms. People often come to Verve having had bad experiences with church but feeling like there might be something to God, they just don’t care for “the church.” We provide a safe, totally nonjudgmental environment for people to explore that.

My Roles…

I have a few roles at Verve. I am Creative Team Leader (we write all the comedy and design all the elements of the service other than the sermon/message). I deliver the sermon 3-4 times per year. I am “Mindset Champion” keeping everyone focused on our vision, mission and means of accomplishing it. I play lead electric guitar in our band when I’m in town. I teach my “Virtuoso” class – “Become A Life Virtuoso” in our “Verve University.” And I am a “Verve Group” (small group) leader.

If you have any questions about anything I have shared above please email me personally: mike@mikerayburn.com.

Thank you,
Rayburn