Friday, December 29, 2006

Resistance is Futile

If you are a fan of Star Trek TNG, you'll recognize the title phrase as a Borg saying. It is also the name of a Jay Sankey packet card/mental effect. I've just acquired all of the necessary items to assemble the effect and am looking forward to using it. I've been reading Sankey's book Beyond Secrets, and am finding the guy a little less weird than I used to find him. Resistance is Futile is an effect off of the DVD 22 Blows to the Head. Personally, I think it was well worth the $20 bucks I spent on it. (not to mention way more valuable the $100 Max Maven Nothing DVD.)

Anyways, the thing with the effect is to try to resist me--and of course you can't. The Bible tells us that the day is coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. It is a cool thing that He allows us to choose to follow Him or choose to forsake Him. Unlike the Borg, He doesn't assimilate us against our will. That doesn't change who He is or what He is.

I was reading a past post about Christianity being who we are and not who (or what) we say we are. It got me thinking that in six months of blogging, I've never really written about how you can trust Jesus with your eternal soul. I have written of magic and using magic to spread His message, made some personal observations, told of ways to live like Him, even encouraged you to follow Him--but I've never answered the question of, "How do I become a Christian? How can I be a follower of Jesus?"

The Bible really makes it simple. The Bible says that if you will confess with you mouth (say out loud) that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It is with the heart that we believe and are made righteous (justified by God) and with the mouth that we proclaim our salvation. I know that that is way more simple than what we tend to make it, but it is the way that God has made it. I also know that a blog is no place for a theological debate on whether or not we need a Savior or if there is a God, a heaven, a hell or life after death. For me, the Hope of Eternal Life is the only thing that gives life purpose, real meaning. If not for that Hope, then what is the point? Leave the world a better place--big deal. If you're dead, who is going to care?

If you are searching for a greater meaning to life, please feel free to click on comment below and sent your questions or comments to me. Each comment is moderated by me and will not be posted if you want to ask or discuss your question privately or personally.

God loves you (but I'm His favorite!)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Jesus of Nazareth

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Look Back

I guess at some point we all have to look back in order to see if we've made any progress or if we're still at pretty much the same place. Birthdays tell us that we are definitely getting older and the changing seasons also mark the passing of time, but how do we tell if we've really grown or changed? (and does it really matter?) I remember the giraffe growth chart that we used to measure the kids against to show their height. That was a very visible way to see growth. If only it was that easy today.

2006 is almost in the history books and I am wondering about how I spent the time. In the end, I can't really say if I've done anything that would be noteworthy. While I have shared my heart, thoughts and perspectives with others, it is doubtful that anything that I've said or done has had a major impact on their lives. I hope that I have given some a reason to smile, laugh or forget their troubles for brief moments throughout the year. Maybe a kind word or deed has helped to give hope in the midst of a trial.

I have really enjoyed blogging this year and hope to continue. I haven't done much in the way of working on the book, but would like to devote some time to that this year. I done a few new things in ministry this past year and would like to continue to grow in that area. (I guess # of bookings is a measuring stick for growth.) I would also like to expand my work in magic to doing more events outside of churches and church events. I'm eligible to retire in 5 years, 1 week and 4 days (but who's counting?). I would like to go the day I'm eligible and have a good Mininstry/Magic business established.

I am looking forward to 2007. I hope that it will hold new experiences as well as allowing me to repeat some of the fun things of the past. In ministry, the year begins with 2 evangelism conferences in January and one in February. I am really looking forward to seeing old friends and making some new friends and contacts at these events. Aaron,(my son) will graduate from high school this year and begin college at the end of summer. Hannah (daughter) will get her driver's license in the fall. They are both good kids and I am extremely proud of them. Chris (my wife) keeps thing together for the rest of us. She's the one that keeps us as a family, reminding me when I'm spending too much time elsewhere, making time for the kids, reminding us of the importance of "family time."

I guess I'll have to make the resolution to be a better steward of my time. I know that the 24 hour thing is the same for all of us. I'll have to find a way to live each day well; to glorify God, to share His love and to grow.

May 2008 find us better, richer, and more like Jesus than we are today.


I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Jesus of Nazareth, John 10:10

Sunday, December 24, 2006


It seems that over the past few weeks I've encountered a number of people that enjoy math or mathematical puzzles. I have always found math to be extremely interesting. Mathematics gives order to our world. Mathematics and/or science play a big part in many magic effects. Math also has some interesting oddities. Here's one of my favorites: We all know that 1 x 1=1. Most know that 11 x 11=121. Did you know that 111 x 111=12321, and that with four ones, 1111 x 1111=1234321? You've probably guessed that 11111 x 11111=123454321. It works all the way up to 111,111,111 x 111,111,111=12,345,678,987,654,321.

Here's a link to a neat math trick. Try it a few times and you'll figure it out. I've used it as an over the phone kind of mentalism effect and even done it for a small group. I can even see having a spectator end by choosing their circled number from a deck of cards or some other favorite method. Another way to demonstrate the magic of math.

Oh, and a here's favorite T-shirt saying, "There are only 10 kinds of people in the world; those that understand binary, and those that don't."


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Two Faced?

If you've visited A Waste of Good Cyberspace from the blogs I frequent, then you'll recognize the following quote from a recent post:

"John is a Christian and a magician (I thinks it's fairly safe to put them in that order...)"

Putting them in that order certainly meets with the desire of my heart, but it's started me thinking about how much I really need to work on both being a Christian and being a magician. It's odd that some of the characteristics are exactly opposites.

As a magician, for example, I practice the art of deceit. Actually, the art is magic. Deceit, however is often a big part of the method. In order for me to be successful, I need to be able to understand how you will think, how you will react and take advantage of basic human behaviors. Deceit comes in the form of sleight of hand, sleight of mind and sleight of mouth (outright telling lies.) That may seem a little bit strong, but that's what you would expect from a magician. It's all a part of the package; a part of the act. I know that I've taken things to a very base level. Magic is truly much more than that. As an artist, the magician takes his audience from where they are to a new place. The real magic is in the journey and often the destination is a surprise for everyone. It's as if we're in another world where our laws of nature and our laws of truth don't apply. We don't mind the deception. In fact, we look forward to it. It gives us a moment of escape; a moment of wonder; a moment of joy.

But in being a Christian, aren't we to be transparent? Genuine? Without guile? (That's a weird word—guile.) Maybe the real problem comes when we get those roles confused—when we, as Christians, begin to practice deception, pretending to be something that we are not. It’s been said that a person isn’t really a magician; he’s an actor playing the part of a magician. I don’t know if you agree with that or not, but I do know that it doesn’t work for a Christian. If you are a Christian, you ought to behave as a Christian. (I purposely didn’t use “act like a Christian.”) Being a Christian is not an act. It has to be who you are—not who you say you are. It is important for us to remember that Christianity isn’t a cloak of goodness. We will fail from time to time as we live out the life of a follower of Jesus. We have to recognize that we will be criticized by believers and unbelievers alike when we fail. Keep going. Don’t give up. Practice living like Jesus. Practice thinking like Jesus.

Maybe that’s the secret. Study and practice seems to work well for the magician part of me. Something tells me that it would work for the Christian part as well.

We call ourselves Christians as a way of identifying ourselves with Jesus, the Christ. When we are called “Christian” by somebody else, it is both an honor and yet somehow humbling at the same time.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Still Growing and Learning

I've made a few more changes to the right side of the page. I separated the links for websites and blogs that I like to read. I added a couple of links to each of them.

I added my church to the website list. I'm not sure which of the computer geeks serves as web-master or keeps things updated, but check us out on the website or in person. If you're planning a visit, drop me an e-note and I'll be sure to meet you.

I also added Wess Adam's site. Wess is a music evangelist that visited us at Hopedale a little while back. Check his schedule to see if he'll be in your area or have your church inquire about having Wess come to your place. I'm certain that you'll be blessed.

I've posted links to two new blogs. The first, By Default, is by Dale Campbell. Dale is a young minister serving God down under. I'm excited for him and his bride and looking forward to reading more of his posts. The second, A Waste of Good Cyberspace, is by a fellow mage. I can't tell you a lot about him other than I think that we would get along well. We seem to have similar philosophies on magic and are probably about the same age. We have our differences, to be sure, but I doubt that we would let them keep us from being friends. Perhaps someday we'll meet at a magic convention. Until then, a cyber friendship will have to do. If you are a magician, check out his blog. You'll also enjoy Magic Utopia. They are both good reads with some good links.

Soon you'll be able to subscribe to an e-mail link an receive posts via e-mail as I post them. I just have to figure out how to make it all happen. Too bad that I'm such techno-moron. I'll have to enlist my teenage son to help me out. All that is for another day.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Three Magi

Thursday evening with our senior adults was a wonderful evening. I enjoy performing for them so much. One of the difficult things about performing at my home church is the need to always be presenting new material. On the other hand, they are often a test audience to help with audience reaction, timing, and other aspects of fine tuning new effects.

Earl Thomas started off our performance time with a new effect of his own. Earl began with a couple of simple rubber band effects and then moved on to his newest project. He used a Mark Wilson variation of "Bill to Impossible Location" by having half of a spectator's (Pastor Terry) bill reappear inside of his makeshift magic wand (Chap-stick tube). Earl is one of our senior adults that has just recently begun to indulge in the craft of magic. Great job, Earl.

Gary Williams, the senior adult Sunday School teacher, was next up with some of his rope magic and then his own "Torn and Restored Card" with the restored card in an orange of the spectator's choosing. I know that they both did a great job because I had people asking me about how they did that.

For my part, I started out with an Aldo Columbini effect, "Pick Me." I love this card effect because it is so adaptable to different situations. At his lecture, Aldo simply used "Pick me" and "Do not pick me" on the backs of the cards. I have used crosses and devils and taught that ours is not a random chance between heaven and hell, but a choice that we get to make. I have used "Trick" or "Treat" at Halloween and "Bah humbug" and "Merry Christmas" for this season. I have also used this effect to choose a company logo vs. a competitor's at a trade show.

Next I talked briefly about my studies into human behavior and how I might try to determine a person's actions by their personalities or by their circumstances. I began with a simple eight card brainwave. Next, I went with one of my new effects, "Graffiti" from Jay Sankey's 22 Blows to the Head DVD.
I wanted to use the staff member that oversees the senior adults. Rich Langston happens to be our youngest staff member and is really alot of fun. I talked about some of the changes that we experience as we grow older, physical and mental. One of the most frustrating is memory loss--something that young Rich has had little experience with. To give him a taste of what it feels like, I used him for "Memory Lapse," another effect from the Sankey DVD.

A couple of other simple effects then I closed with a "Silk frame and Cabby" effect and a story of the Three Magi and the gifts they gave; gold for a king, frankensence for a priest, and myrrh, a burial spice. These must have seemed to be strange gifts that Mary and Joseph received for their Son. I wonder what they did with them. The bible doesn't make any other mention of them. Maybe Joseph used the gold for their journey to Egypt. Maybe the sold the other gifts to live off of for a while. Perhaps it's just not that important how they used the gifts. Maybe the thing that is important is that we have a gift to bring to Jesus--not the Baby, the Savior Jesus. How He chooses to use our gift isn't what's important. What's important is that we give it freely and trust Him to use it to bring Glory to the Father.

Again, Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Happy Birthday

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two weeks since my last post. I’ll begin this post by wishing a Happy Birthday to my Mom. Any of you that know her, be sure to wish her a great day!

Today is also a big day for one of my readers that is closing on a new home. Congrats to Vanishing blog and best wishes in your new home.

As for me, an evening with our senior adults at church is on the schedule. I will be accompanied by a couple of other gents from church that enjoy the art of magic. We will entertain them for their Christmas get together. They are calling it “A Visit from the Three Magi.” I look forward to trying out a couple of new effects as well as sharing a few of my favorites. By the way, stop by tonight or tomorrow night to see the Live Nativity at Hopedale Baptist Church.

Last week I was at Ozark Riverview Manor for their employee Christmas party. It appeared that everyone had a good time. I enjoyed meeting the owners and staff and liked the overall atmosphere of the place. If you’re in Southwest Missouri and in need of a residential care facility or a nursing home, check them out. They have an excellent record and a desire to honor God by the way they care for those in their facility. Kudos to Daniel Serven and the entire staff!

This past weekend was the Hopedale Christmas Musical. The choir did an awesome job! Rich and Dr. Joseph did a great job with the writing, the choir did their always exceptional singing and both nights were times of geat celebration of the Christmas Story and the birth of our Savior.

The kids are in count down mode as the end of the semester draws near and Christmas Day quickly approaches. I want to encourage you to do something for somebody that finds themselves in a difficult place at this time. Adopt a family, buy gifts for Toys for Tots, invite someone for Christmas dinner or go help serve at a shelter. People in difficult times need to know that God loves them. We get to be the messengers of that love. Two thousand years ago, God picked lowly shepherds to deliver His message that the Messiah had come. Today, He chooses you and me. Spread the news!


Friday, December 01, 2006

Merry Xmas

I know what you're thinking. How could John use Xmas instead of Christmas? He should be one of the ones crying foul at the thought of taking Christ out of Christmas. Well before you begin to mentally stone me for this holiday sacrilege, drop those rocks and listen to my story.

I'm not sure where the story got started that Xmas was taking Christ out of Christmas in an effort to make the holiday acceptable to non-believers or to cater to a more secular society, but that is not the case. It may have been a simple case of a child asking a parent, "Daddy, what's Xmas? Are they taking Christ out of Christmas?" An unknowing parent might respond, "Yes, it appears that they have taken Christ out of Christmas." In any case, the popular misconception of the "X" being a deletion of Christ is false. The "X" is a representation of Christ. It is not the letter ex (X) from the Roman alphabet. It is the letter chi (X) from the Greek alphabet and has often been used to represent Christ (Χριστός-Christos).

Remember the ichthus, the fish symbol for Chritianity? IXOYE Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, Sigma. The acronym Iesous Christos, Theo Uios, Soter--Jesus Christ, God, Son, Savior. Here, too, the "X" is for Christ.

The chi rho is a symbol using the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, chi (X) and rho (P), and is recognized as a Christian symbol representing Christ.

As an abreviation, Xmas should be spoken as Christmas, not ex-mas. If you read Mr. Wilson, you would not say em ar Wilson. You would say mister Wilson. Perhaps it is time for us to embrace and explain the true meaning of Xmas.

To all of my readers, Xians and non-Xians alike, I truly wish you and yours a Merry Xmas season.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Winter is making it's grand entrance to the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri (and throughout most of the Midwest) tonight. It is actually early A. M. and it is raining with the temperature at a mere 33 degrees. Ice is supposed to follow and then the snow--1-3",5-10" or 15" depending on who you're listening to. The kids are hopeful for a day off from school and will be disappointed if it doesn't get cold enough to freeze and make a complete mess of roads and everything else. I've a few projects that need to be completed before winter sets in for good. Luckily, winters are pretty mild here.

Christmas is quickly approaching and so I know that we'll be hearing more about the Holiday vs. Christmas battle that we hear every year. Personally, I suggest that you call it what you wish, allow others to do the same and show the love of God in all you do. I'll make a future post about some of our favorite Christmas traditions and their origins. It may surprise you that many of them have pagan roots and so are rightly called holiday traditions instead of Christmas traditions. For example--evergreen boughs, wreaths and trees have been used to celebrate life in the dead of winter during the solstice celebrations that predate Christmas. So maybe it really is a "holiday tree." However you choose to celebrate this time of year, I choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus, my Savior. And I choose to believe the proclamation of angels of Peace on Earth to men of goodwill.

Whatever your tradition, however you celebrate the season; celebrate well and know that inspite of all our failings, God chooses to love us and celebrate life with us!


For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Under Reconstruction

I'm sure that many of you have already noticed that there is nothing fancy about this site. You may have correctly guessed that I don't know much about computers or how to design a really cool page. In spite of that, I'm making some changes to Out of My Hat.

I've changed my profile to better describe the direction that I would like to see magic take me. I'll add a block with personal information soon. I've already added Booking Information and a footer at the bottom of the page. (where else would you put a footer?) I've also limited the number of posts that will be displayed to the last six. You can access the others through the archives.

I'm sure that there will be other changes in the near future. Please feel free to comment at any time.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fellowship of Christian Magicians--FCM

Last night we had our monthly(?) meeting of the FCM. We had a good turn out and were able to take care of some business as well as having fun with magic. Our local officers will stay the same for next year; John as Pres, Joe as VP, Gary W. as Treas. Since we rarely actually meet monthly due to numerous conflicts, we voted to meet on the third Sunday of odd numbered months at 2pm at Hopedale Baptist Church. If you are a magician/clown/vent feel free to join us. If you would like more information, click comment below and make your request.

Updates on some of our members:

Dwayne and Janice are temporarily home from Haiti. Keep their new grandson (Paul Timothy) in your prayers. Just days old now, Paul Timothy will be undergoing heart surgery. Because of the unexpected trip home, our local has voted to donate $150 to the Bakers to help with the cost of the trip. If you would like to contribute, comment below and I will get the info to you on where to send your contribution. Dwayne and Janice are Bible Baptist Missionaries in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

Walt has resigned from his current church and is seeking God's direction for what is next. I know that God will continue to use him in some area of ministry. I imagine that he'll be at the FCM Convention next summer.

After catching up with each other, we got down to the business of having fun. Joe brought his non-magician friend Cecil and so Cecil became the volunteer for any effect that we did. Cecil is the kind of audience that every magician loves to have. I'm not sure who is having more fun--Cecil or the performer. "Do it again," became a phrase that we heard over and over again. It was great to have somebody there to reminds us of how much fun we get to have when we play at our hobby/ministry/craft.

All in all, I had a great time. I am looking forward to our first meeting of 2007. To Gary and Mary, Walt and Vivian, Rebecca and little Benjamin, Joe, Gary, Cecil and those that couldn't make it--Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may God bless and prosper you all in the coming year. I hope that more of you take the opportunity to join us in '07.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Everything in Moderation

It is not my intent for this blog to become a forum for debate over my posts or beliefs and so I have chosen to moderate the comments to my posts. Having said that, neither am I opposed to defending my beliefs/posts or sharing some opposing views.

To the anonymous comment to Politics, Purpose and Passion: "We" refers to those of us that believe in God and believe that He hears our prayers. You can relax, I wasn't talking to you in that instance. As for the question part of your comment--the answer is yes...and no. Yes I do believe that the only moral authority comes from the Bible. However, I also believe that the truths of the Bible can be found in many of the teachings of man. Finding a starting point for discussion would certainly prove to be quite the challenge as our beliefs--I don't believe in a god/I want to live my life for God--are infinitely distanced from each other. I know that you would not change my beliefs and you probably feel the same about your beliefs. If we were to attempt a relationship of any kind, it would have to have common ground outside of spiritual matters. Once a mutual respect for one another is developed, then perhaps it would be safe to venture into areas of known difference. To begin at a point of conflict appears to be a waste of time for both of us.

If you are a blogger, send me your site address. It may be the common ground that I referred to.


Thoughts on Magic

I wanted to back up a little bit and respond to a comment/question about the effect that I used during our revival. It came from a fellow blogger and if you are reading as a magician, I would encourage you to check out Magic Utopia.

The idea for the effect came from Jay Sankey's book, Beyond Secrets. I think that Jay Sankey is a little weird, but he is a very creative magician and he definitely has fun at his craft. At the Midwest Magic Jubilee in St. Louis, he encouraged us to quit thinking like magicians and to start thinking like spectators. His book talks about the key visual points of an effect, the things that the spectator sees and remembers. These might be the things they use when describing the effect to somebody else: This magician took out a one dollar bill. He showed it to me on both sides. Then he folded it in half and passed his hand in front of the bill and it changed into a twenty! He showed me the twenty and then waved it right in front of my face and it changed back into a one dollar bill.

I used the HypnoBill Change from Williams Magic for the effect. I actually performed it twice. The first time was just the performance and the second talked about the key visual points above with the corresponding actions at each point. The point that I wanted to make in the message was that others watch us for the key visual elements of our lives. When we say that we are Christians but that isn't what others see in our actions, we damage the credibility of our testimony. In the same way, we are to test the credibility of others. Jesus taught us to "check the fruit." He said that a good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree will produce bad fruit. What do people see when they are checking your fruit? Is it something that demonstrates or damages your verbal testimony?

I also used Whit Haydn's Fast and Loose routine to talk to the youth group about making good choices. Fast and Loose is a con game similar in nature to the shell game or three card monte. The mark always appears to have a free choice and a fair chance but never wins. Sometimes a bad decision (like getting in the game) always leads to bad consequences (like losing your money!). At some point, one must arrive at the decision that the only good choice is to get out of the game. It may be about the friends that you've chosen, a place that you went to, or an action that you've taken. The only fix may be to undo the original bad choice by getting out of the game. As much as we would like to think that we can change the bad behavior of our friends, the Bible teaches differently. The Bible tells us that bad company corrupts good character. That means stay away from bad company. Make good choices about the friends you keep and the influences that you allow to be close to you. Bad company corrupts good character.

I really do enjoy using a simple effect to teach a lesson of truth.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Politics, Purpose and Passion

Well it has certainly been a week of great change in the political arena. Or has it? Maybe it has only been a change of faces but the games will be the same. Agendas, goals and budgets may change a little but methods, madness and money are always a constant in the hallowed halls of Congress.

Those of you that know me know that I enjoy word history and origins. A couple that I like to have fun with: Politics; from poly—meaning many, and tics—being little blood suckers. And another: If pro is the opposite if con, what is the opposite of progress? Is it Congress?

Just as a parent may take away a toy or privilege from a child that has been irresponsible, so the voters have taken away control from one party and handed it to another. What remains to be seen is if either party was paying attention and did anyone learn anything? Whatever your political affiliation may be, we must remember to pray for those that set policy and practice for our country. The Bible tells us that all authority on Earth is given by heaven.

Enough on politics. Let’s move on to purpose and passion.

I spent a few moments today with a couple of people that enjoy music with a passion. Understand that I mean that music is much more to them than it ever could be to me. I enjoy music. I like listening to music, I even like singing. But it doesn’t drive me. For me, a day without out music is like…well it’s like a day without music—no big deal. For either of them, well they couldn’t even imagine a day without music. And it’s not just listening to music—it’s experiencing music, rehearsing music, performing music, worshipping through music and ministering through music. Music moves them. It can sooth them, comfort them or really pump them up. And they want to use music to evoke those same emotions and feelings in others. Music has a healing quality. In the hands of a passionate person, it can change an attitude, change a heart, change a life.

Let me introduce you to my friends. The first is our Minister of Music at Hopedale Baptist Church, Rich Langston. He is an exciting young man that we have quickly fallen in love with. He has fun worshipping our Lord and Savior—and it shows. Coming to church on Sunday morning is what it should be—an event. Whether it’s the Praise Team or the choir, you know that something special is about to happen. You know that Someone special is about to arrive. Through praise and worship, we invite the Living God into our presence and He always accepts our invitation. If you’ve never had an encounter with the Most High God, come join us on Sunday morning. It would be our pleasure to introduce Him to you.

The second friend that I want to introduce is a woman that I met at an evangelism conference earlier this year. Kristy Green was singing in a quartet and you could tell that she is one of those people that has that passion. It isn’t about the performance for them. It isn’t about the quartet. It isn’t even about the music. Somehow it seems to be a package sort of deal; music, emotion, performance. But it’s not just any performance. It’s a performance for the King. It has to be your best and you can’t fake it for the King. It is your offering to Him. Kristy also sings in a trio and I wanted to introduce these two music freaks to each other. (I mean that in the nicest way, guys) I hope to hear Kristy and her trio or quartet at Hopedale sometime soon. I’ll keep you posted.

If you have a passion, something that drives you, consider offering it to God. It may be that He has given you your passion to bring glory to His name. It’s no coincidence that our passion and His purpose often meet. It is a wonderful surprise when we find that we can continue doing the thing that we love and use it for His purpose, His glory.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Catching Up

I hope that this post finds you all doing well. It has been a wonderful couple of weeks with little to tackle in the way of pressing matters. A nice break from the past few months. Today ends the tirade of political commercials and recorded phone messages. I hope that you all took the time to vote today.

I want to take a moment to introduce you to a fellow evangelist, Wess Adams. Wess and his wife were at our church on Sunday evening and if you're looking for a music evangelist to come to your church, you'll want to click the link above and check him out. Also, if your looking for a killer sound system, check out his site for his Bose system. I have a feeling that one of those babies may be in my future!

I'm excited about the coming winter months. It's not that I like winter, it's that things tend to slow down a bit and I'm hoping to be able to work on some new magic effects in the coming months. I've already got a few ideas on how to use some for ministry and as always, some are just for fun. For my magic friends that are reading, I may ask for your ideas on a couple of things as I get to working on them. It's fun to make changes in my show. I really like some of the effects that I use and they are effective in telling a story or teaching a lesson. On the other hand, I want to have something new for those churches that have seen me before. There has to be some balance and method in deciding what to keep and what to change. Also, one would hope that I make some progress as a magician by using different and challenging effects and props.

That kind of gets me thinking along the lines of "What are you planning on for next year?" It may be a little early for New Year's resolutions, but it's not too early to begin to make some personal assessments of where you've come from, where you are, and where you are going. Once we've figured some of that out, we need to have a plan to get where we are going. Do you have some things that you are needing to re-tool for the coming year. As life changes around us, often our perspectives often change about people, ideals, values, etc. You may even begin to see God in a different light. I hope that you begin to see Him in a John the Baptist sort of way--you know, He must increase and I must decrease.

We grow (progress) as Christians, too. Paul talks to us about renewing our mind. That is not the same as changing our mind, but rather the natural growth that comes from a dynamic relationship with God through Jesus. I think that God would like to see us as we challenge ourselves to grow in ministry and service. I think that our friends, neighbors, co-workers would like to see a new "show" as well. We all rejoice when we see one of our brothers/sisters in Jesus growing.

How about it? Why don't you begin to plan a growing you for next year? Don't wait for New Year's Day. Begin now and you can be that new person when January rolls around.

'Til next time,

Friday, October 27, 2006

Identified with Jesus

I think that maybe the second night of revival was my favorite. It was kid’s night and we had a bunch of them. I’m not sure what the total was, but kudos to Mike, Denise and all of their workers. The kids had hotdogs, chicken nuggets and mac & cheese for dinner, a few simple magic tricks and then the children’s choirs did a grand job in the worship service.

I began the evening message by showing pictures of some of our favorite teams helmets: Nixa Eagles, Ozark Tigers, Kansas City Chiefs, St Louis Rams, a cheese head, and of course a batting helmet from the St Louis Cardinals. Each helmet carried the identification of the team that it represented.

I then showed some pictures of some other helmets: an Egyptian warrior’s helmet from around 900 BC, a Greek helmet from 800 BC, and Assyrian and Persian helmets. Each was distinctly different from the other. I also had pictures of the familiar helmets of the Roman army. The helmets always identified the army.

When Paul wrote that we are to take the helmet of salvation, he was telling us that we are to be identified with Jesus. In the same way that one could identify what side a soldier was on, one ought to be able to tell that we are with Jesus just by looking at us. Jesus told us that they would know us as His disciples by the way we love one another. The challenge for us is to live in such a way that people know that we are followers of Jesus. It isn’t enough that we say that we are His followers. We must show that we are His followers.

Did you take your helmet with you today? We must purposefully dress with our helmet each and every day. It does so much more that protect our thoughts and attitudes (you know, the stuff in your head), it identifies us as belonging to Jesus. Tonight, before you go to bed, check out your helmet. If it’s been awhile, scrape off the rust and put a bit of a shine on it. Tomorrow morning decide that for tomorrow, you’re going to be identified as belonging to Jesus and put it on. If you don’t have your helmet, then hit the comment button and ask how you can get one. I’d be happy to tell you all about it.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Brought back to life

It's late on Monday, October 23rd, as I begin to write this post. I imagine that it will be a couple of days before it actually gets posted. Beginning on Thursday we had our fall Revival at Hopedale Baptist Church in Ozark, MO. It was a great honor and privilege to be asked to preach at my home church. My church family is simply the best. As much as I enjoy going to other churches to preach or participate in an outreach activity, I always miss being at Hopedale.

At first glance, one might not think that Hopedale is the kind of church that is in need of "revival." We are seeing people trust in Jesus as Savior. We are having people join the church. We have teams of members that visit our guests. Our Sunday School is rapidly outgrowing the available space. Sunday morning worship services are growing and people are genuinely maturing in their faith. So one may ask--Why revival? Isn't revival for churches that are dead and need to be brought back to life?

Revival isn't for churches. Revival is for individuals. And it isn't the spiritually dead that are in need of revival. The spiritually dead need to be given eternal life through faith in Jesus. It is the spiritually dormant, the spiritually sleeping that need to be "revived." I guess you could say that it's a kind of "wake-up" call.

I'm sure that we could all use a wake up call from time to time. The thoughts that I shared with my Hopedale family began at--well began at the beginning. I wanted to remind ourselves of the One in whom we have placed our faith, Jesus. I wanted to go to the gospels and look at the things that He taught us. There are so many things that Jesus taught us about how to live so I think it's best to start with these two: Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." He also told us that we are to "make disciples of all nations, teaching them what I have commanded..."

At the end of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that whoever does these things and teaches them to others will be great in the kingdom. He'll be like the wise man that built is house on the rock. I guess that means that we need to know His commands, live His commands, and teach His commands. For most of us that means it's time to hit the books--or in this case, The Book. Time to take a refresher course on the things that Jesus taught. I would encourage each of you to spend some time reading (or re-reading) through the gospels this week. It is good for us to remind ourselves often of the teachings of Jesus.

Well, it is now early morning on the 24th and I've just finished reading this post. I'm going to let you have a chance to read it now. My hope is that when you've finished it, you'll go get your Bible and read through the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5,6 and 7.

Live well,

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Family Matters

I had a wonderful weekend! I hope that you did, too.

I was in Indianapolis at Castleton Christian Church on Saturday night for a Pastor's Appreciation Dinner. Sunday morning I got to share with the kids for a few moments and then with the adults. Castleton Christian Church has a great fellowship. If you're on the northeast side of Indy, give them a visit.

The real blessing of the weekend was that Castleton is my sister's church. My brother from Maryland made the trip and my brother from Chicago came with his family. It was a mini family reunion and we had fun visiting and watching the kids--6,5,4,2,2,2,1 1/2. Hannah, my soon to be 15 came along and had a blast with the kids and kept me company on the 16+ hours on the road.

It makes me sad to hear so many stories of siblings that don't get along with each other or parents and grown kids that are at odds. I am so blessed to have a family that has managed to stay close in spite of the many miles that separate us. Mom, Dad, six siblings, five spouses, and 17 grandkids. We don't get together very often, but it is always a great time when we do.

I want to encourage you to reconcile any differences you may have with your family members. There are too many missed blessings because of pride, unforgiveness and misunderstanding. To you, my family, I love you all. You are the best. I hope that you can all make it this summer to the get together.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Are we too legalistic?

One of the great benefits of working with other believers from various backgrounds and denominations, are the discussions that we have concerning the Word and the traditions of man. So often I wonder if conservative believers make Christianity so unattractive that nobody would want to be a part of it. While we as individuals must make decisions about our actions and how they affect our relationship with God, we really have no right to judge others for their actions. It is important that we realize that what we do may have an impact on others and we will be held accountable for that when we meet the One that has the right to Judge us. But we ourselves are not the righteous judges that we often set ourselves up as.

I often relate to people a story that fellow evangelist, Ron Mills has shared. A young man that had just become a believer asked him if this meant that he was going to have to give up drinking. Ron's response--It does now. The point is that if drinking is something that was going to be more important than his relationship with Jesus, he would have to give it up. I'm sure that there would eventually come a time when he would have decided that drinking may not be the example that he would want to set for others. Pastor Terry often says that the more responsiblity that you have in church, the more leadership that is given to you, the fewer choices you have. Often the decisions we make about our behavior has less to do with what we think may be right or wrong and more to do with how others will perceive our actions. We have a responsibilty to new believers and unbelievers to set an example of good living without being judgemental.

As a gospelmagician, I have encountered churches that have asked that I not use playing cards in my show. While I don't have any problem using cards as props, I understand that some people feel that the cards themselves hold an evil that can cause people to sin. I used to think that it was silly and shouldn't matter. Now I feel that the pastor is probably already out on a limb by having a "magician" in church and do my best to honor him and God as I present the Word.

I didn't grow up in a Southern Baptist home and don't have a problem with cards (we played card games almost every night), dancing, social drinking or in the privacy of your home, bingo, raffles and other things that raise the eyebrows of so many of my brothers. I do think that any of these can cause a problem and be sinful as we fail to keep them in moderation. I don't want you to get the idea that I'm being wishy-washy where sin is concerned--I'm not. But it is also important to me that you know that I am not your judge. Neither are you your judge, so don't base your behavior on what you think or feel is right. Look to the Bible to guide you. God once spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said, "You honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me. Your worship is in vain and you teach the traditions of men."

Let us not hold others back by being so legalistic that honoring God appears to be hard. I want others to believe that honoring God is well worth doing whatever it takes to live for Him. No, it is not always easy. Yes, sometimes it is hard. But it is never dull or boring and the rewards along the way are the greatest treasures that life has to offer.


"How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye." Jesus, Sermon on the Mount

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Coming Events

Well it has been a busy couple of weeks since my last post. Most of it has just been with things around the house. October is shaping up to be another busy month. I haven't done much writing because of preparing for our fall revival at Hopedale Baptist Church. I also had a Sunday morning sermon for the last Sunday in September.

For those of you that are in the area, I wanted to give you a preview of what you can expect to hear at the revival. It is my hope and prayer that you will want to come and perhaps bring a friend. On Thurday evening, we will be looking at getting back to the basics of Christianity. I want us to remember that Jesus is the author of our faith and we need to study what He taught us in the gospels.

Friday night we'll look at how we identify ourselves with Jesus; how others identify us; and how Jesus identifies with us. I'm really looking forward to this message and have done a little extra research for the power point presentation to go with it. It will be a message that will challenge you in your daily life. I'm also looking forward to closing with an excerpt from Dr. Joseph Ransom's new book; The Healing City: a Cowboy Christmas Story.

I'm still working on Saturday evening's message. I've talked to our A-V man, Dan Kennedy about using the big screens to show a quick magic effect to illustate a point. It's more of a close up effect and would need to use the added visual to make it effective in the sanctuary.

In addition to the regular meeting times (7pm nightly) I'll be meeting with the senior adults Thurday evening, the children on Friday evening, and the youth on Saturday evening. Right now I'm considering publishing the message texts after the revival is over. I haven't decided about that just yet. If you have a thought on whether or not I should publish the texts, feel free to comment.

All in all, I'd have to say that I am looking forward to this revival more than any other that I've been asked to preach. I know that Pastor Terry carefully guards his pulpit (as he should) and it is a great honor to be able to speak at my own church. If you are reading as a member of Hopedale, pray for our church that this will be a life changing experience for us. There is so much work to be done and I know that it is God's desire that we be a part of it in a great way. If you are reading as a friend, coworker, or just stopped by while browsing blogs, I want to invite you to join us Oct. 19-22 at Hopedale Baptist Church in Ozark, MO. I have it on good authority that the Spirit of the Living God will be present. Don't miss it!


"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Jesus of Nazareth

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Is Anybody Out There?

After a conversation with a friend recently, I started wondering about God. Not that I'm questioning the existence of God, rather wondering how to answer others that may wonder about the existence of God. And if there is a God, does He hear our prayers and really care about us or are we as insignificant to Him as an ant hill built in a crack in the sidewalk?

I'm not going to get into a deep theological debate on the existence of God, but it is incredibly interesting that virtually all civilizations have looked to a greater being to worship and to credit for both fortune and misfortune. If it seems to be bred into man to look for a God, who put that common thought/desire into our make up?

I know that there are many out there that claim to be "atheist"--believing that no God exists. I usually just say that it's okay--God doesn't believe in atheists either! At best, many would consider the evidence of a God, a Supreme Being, a Creator, to be circumstantial. Of course, conclusive evidence would require no faith. And faith is a major element of any of the beliefs in a God.

I refuse to believe that this existence is just an exercise in futility. That at its end, we just die and it's all over. What a waste. I think that the desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves is placed in us by the God that created us. The the testimony of the Earth and everything in it points us to a Designer, a Creator, a God.
It is my hope and prayer that you will find the need to discover God and all that He has to offer. His desire is for you to know Him as He knows you.


"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him?"
A Psalm of David

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Grand and Glorious Day

Wow! What an amazing day! I have to tell you that I really enjoy my home church of Hopedale Baptist Church in Ozark, MO. I can't think of a place that I'd rather be on any given Sunday. I love just seeing the people that come on a regular basis, meeting the newcomers, and wondering what great blessing God has in store for us. We have been having baptisms pretty regularly as of late and had a man accept Jesus as his Savior today. Our Sunday school attendance has grown from around 200 at the beginning of the year to 283 this morning.
We are seeing new faces every week and having opportunities to minister to needs.

I believe that the greatest asset that we have as a church is an incredible belief in the power of prayer. Part of me wants to say that our greatest asset is our Pastor, but even he would admit that he wouldn't be the pastor/preacher that he is without the unceasing prayers of our family of believers.

This Sunday evening we had an additional blessing of the gospel group Poet Voices leading in worship. Greg Crowe has been here on several occasions and is always a welcome guest. The group also includes Phil Cross and Mark Lanier, both excellent singer/songwriters. Also a guest at church tonight was award winning songwriter, Gary Paxton and his wife Vicky. When you add in our own Mabe family (Branson's Baldknobbers) and their guests, we were full up with musical talent. It really was a great night of praise and worship.

If you get a chance go to to check them out and do google search on Gary Paxton. If you get a chance to hear them, don't pass it up.

I hope that your day was as grand as mine.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Growing Up

Is it just my imagination, or are kids growing up faster today? It seems to me that they are faced with and exposed to so many more of life's challenges at much younger ages.
Yesterday I went to a small church's back-to-school event held at the public park. While they (Solid Rock Church) provided games, food, drinks, and back to school stuff, I got to put on a magic show and tell the neighborhood about Jesus. The town has a number of adult bookstores and a casino and is economically depressed. You wouldn't exactly call this fertile soil when it comes to planting seeds--more like throwing seeds on the rocky pathway. But the church is preparing the soil and planting where they can.

The thing I notice most about these kinds of audiences is that many of the kids have lost their sense of wonder. They are already skeptical about life in general. They are the ones that "know how you did that" and miss out on the fun of the show. For most adults, we are willing to set aside reality for the time being and enjoy the moment, the magic. I think a part of us yearns for the days when the world was a wonder. It is my hope and prayer that these youngsters will have a time in their lives when they can enjoy the wonder of childhood, the wonder of life.

Thanks to Rachel Wild for sending this poem that expresses those thoughts. Rachel is a wonderful magician/lecturer/vendor from England and I have seen her on numerous occasions at the Midwest Magic Jubilee.



Magic and mystery
Music and mirth
Wizards and witches
Heaven and earth

Fairy tales and folklore
Wishes and dreams
Each day an adventure
Or so childhood seems

Then one day we grow up
The magic starts to fade
No time for story telling
Sunshine turns to shade

Hold tight to the magic
Take it with you every day
Then you’ll never lose that feeling
That your childhood’s here to stay.

Rachel Wild

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Time for some magic!

Well I just got back from the 50th Anniversary Midwest Magic Jubilee in St. Louis. It was a fantastic event filled with great lectures, great performers, great vendors and great times.

I started the weekend by taking in the Thursday afternoon Cardinal game(they won!)and then headed to the Airport Hilton for the weekend. I saw some old friends and met some new ones. I even managed a little time away from the convention to have dinner with some friends in the area and also managed a daily drive to Ted Drewe's.

I have to say that my favorite part of the weekend is the close-up show that is put on by the professionals. These guys are the best. Whit Haydn and Jay Sankey were great, both in their lectures and their performances. And if you are a card handler, you have just got to take the Jimmy "Cards" Molinari advanced workshop. I went to it last year and you just can't believe your eyes. I wish I lived closer to St. Louis so that I could hang out with Mr. Molinari and pick up some of those moves!

The contests were fun to watch and all of the participants should be congratulated for their work. For those that might be wondering, I've toyed with the idea of entering one of the contests but don't really fit well into either of the catagories. The "Stand-up" or "Parlor" style doesn't really belong with the stage magic and definitely isn't close-up. Of the two, it would fit best with the stage magic but without any of what we (magicians) would consider to be stage illusions.

In the end, I was challenged to think like a spectator instead of a magician (Jay Sankey) and picked up a few new ideas that I'm sure will help my show.

Props to Terry Richison, Steve Zuehlke and all the staff.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cowboy Up

I just finished reading a new book by Dr. Joseph Ransom. The Healing City: A Cowboy Christmas Story is set in the town of Ronan, Montana, where Dr. Joseph was born.

In his book, Dr. Joseph reminds us that the cowboy spirit is alive and well. It is what is right in America. The characteristics of honesty, integrity and hard work are more than principles from the West--they are principles from the Word.

If Jesus had been born in a barn in Montana, His stories may have been of the Good Cowboy instead of the Good Shepherd. It's an interesting thought with similarities and great differences, as well: The Good Shepherd is entirely responsible for the flock. He is responsible for their care, their protection, their food and drink. In spite of His great responsibility, it is considered to be the lowliest of jobs.
The Good Cowboy, likewise, is responsible for the herd. He works hard at what ever needs to be done. While he may prefer to do his work from the saddle, he knows that much of the work must be done with his boots firmly on the ground; mending fences, cutting bulls, nursing calves, and putting up hay for the long winters. While the work is hard physical labor, the job--the profession of Cowboy, is the ultimate of all jobs. It embodies all of the characteristics of A Good Man. A Cowboy is honest, courageous, loyal and hardworking. He is a man's man. He is chivalrous--always the gentleman, kind to children and defender of those in need.

I don't for a moment believe that Jesus thought that the job of shepherd was a lowly job. It may have been a servant's job or the job given to the youngest in the family, but Jesus was kind of big on that whole thing of elevating the humble, the least being the greatest, the last being the first. Jesus may have had more success at getting us off of our pews and into the pastures if He could have used the Good Cowboy theme. Think of it--a horse in every stable and beans in every pot! Rounding up mavericks to increase the herd!

When it comes right down to it, it probably doesn't matter if we're a shepherd or a cowboy. It was never about us. It was always about them--the lost, the ones that need to know Jesus. We either have a servant’s heart or we don't. We're either going to work for the Kingdom or we're not. Whatever He's called you to do--it's time to Cowboy up!

“What is important to remember is this: one Christmas long ago a stranger arrived in Ronan, Montana. His love touched everyone he knew. No, he didn’t change the world. But he changed his world. He changed Ronan and he changed me.”
From the Epilogue of The Healing City.


Monday, August 14, 2006

All is well

Well the 2nd week of August ends well and a new week begins. Church this morning was awesome! Four people were baptized. This afternoon was our church picnic and a great time to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world. This week I'll be at the Midwest Magic Jubilee in St. Louis and sampling some of Ted Drewe's finest!

I've been thinking a bit about the last post--Just Kidding Around, and wondering why we get "called" into certain areas of ministry. Pastor Terry's Wednesday night bible study was on Gideon. Now there was an unlikely deliverer for Israel. Least in a family of the lowest clan in the smallest tribe of Israel. Mighty Warrior, indeed! But those are the kinds of choices God made throughout the bible. Jacob was a deceiver and God chose to call him as the Father of the Chosen Race. Moses was slow of speech and God chose him to be His spokesperson before Pharoah. Ehud, the lefthanded deliverer, is one of my favorite stories. There's the mighty King David that fell to man's lust and tried to cover it up with murder. There's the unwilling messenger, Jonah and many other unlikely choices.

Even the twelve of Jesus were nothing special. Peter and John, the cream of the crop, stood before the Council in Acts 4 and were perceived as ordinary, uneducated men. So what is God up to with making such poor choices. He obviously uses something other than pedigree, ability or a fancy resume to qualify us as candidates for jobs in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The bible tells us that He chooses the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise; the weak things to put to shame the mighty; the lowly things, things that are despised by the world, He chooses--so that no flesh should glory in His presence. Maybe it's not about choosing somebody that can do the job as much as it is about choosing somebody that can only get the job done with His help.

If you think that God is calling you to a ministry that you know that you can't do, you may be right. He may be calling you to a ministry that you can only do through Him. He gets the glory, all of the glory. We are just willing servants. Servants don't get glorified, their Master gets praised for work of His servants.

Live well, serve God.

"Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me...the passages which trouble me most are those that I do understand."--Mark Twain

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Just Kidding Around

We all have our pet peeves. You know, those things that irritate us more than anything else. They may or may not be rational. Usually they are small, insignificant things to most other people and yet they really get on our nerves. Take for instance; express check-out lanes. If you're going to go through the trouble of having a sign made that says, "20 items or less," and you're going to make it so that people with just a few items don't have to check-out with the people that have a cart load of stuff, why doesn't anyone enforce the "20 items or less" rule? I think that at 20 items, the register should just shut off. "Sorry, sir, you'll have to go to the end of the line if you want these other four items."

I really don't have many of these "pet peeves" but I do have a couple of them. Kids are another one--not my kids, other people's kids. I hate being around kids. I don't have the patience for it. They talk too much, too loud, too often. Most of them have poor manners and even if that's not their fault, I still don't want to deal with it--or them! Most of those moments in life that I'm really not proud of, are dealing with children or childish adults.

Those of you that know me are probably scratching your heads and thinking, "Wait a minute, don't you work with kids? Most of your ministry is to kids, isn't it?"

Well that's just a part of God's warped (pardon the irreverence) sense of humor. It was a cosmic conversation that went something like this:

In a moment of spiritual humility and servitude;

John: God, I'm ready for a personal area of ministry.
God: Great, John. What are you willing to do for me?
John: What ever you would have me do, God.
God: Really?
John: Really.
God: I'd like for you to work with kids. I think that they'd really like that
magic stuff you do.
John: Kids?
God: Sure, why not? You like telling stories, they like hearing stories.
John: But, God...
God: Yes, John.
John: I don't even like kids.
God: I like kids. I'm crazy about them. Don't you remember that stuff I put
in the bible about them. Jesus wanted them to come to Him, remember?
John: I remember. "...unless you come as a child, you shall not enter into the kingdom"
God: How about this one; "Whoever receives a child in my name, receives me."
John: Did I mention that I don't really like kids?
God: I love them, John. And I'm asking you to love them, too.
John: Isn't there anything else?
God: Be faithful in the "little" things first, John. There will be more later.
John: Was that a pun, God?
God: Yes.
John: Funny.

Anyways, here I am in children's ministry--and having a pretty good time at it. As much as hate to admit it, there have been some incredible blessings. Maybe you're having a similar struggle with God. Maybe He's asking you to serve in an area that is well outside of your comfort zone. Trust me, I know where you're coming from. Just don't let it get to the point that some of God's servants did. Remember Moses? "... and the anger of God was kindled against Moses" Or how about Jonah?

And He's right. More things--bigger things, have come my way. At some point I guess we just have to trust Him.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Condemned by theThe Law

It’s hard to believe that more than a week has passed since my last post. It’s been a busy few days with “shows” (actually, I prefer ministry events) at a children’s camp and three VBS Family Nights. There were several life changing decisions made. Praise to God for His great love.

Foremost on my heart in recent days has been an encounter with the mother of a girl struggling with how unworthy we are of His love. I believe that this story of spiritual battle begins in the physical world of young girls turning into young women and young boys to young men—an age when they no longer want to be thought of as kids and haven’t quite made to the world of grown-ups. An age when our bodies are changing and our minds are desperately trying to keep up. An age when we struggle to break free from the cocoon of our childhood and yet childhood itself clings onto us. An age when you no longer want to be a “girl or boy” and you’re not yet a woman or man. An age when we’re trying to find out who we really are. Adolescence has to be the worst age for everybody.

To this young lady’s (that’s perhaps the best way to describe her) credit, her struggle shows that her spiritual maturity is far beyond that of most of us “older” believers. Many of us never get to the point of self examination (criticism) when it comes to how we live against the standard of the Law. Too often our comparison is how we live compared to everyone else. Unfortunately, neither of these is a good standard by which to judge ourselves. The latter allows us to compare ourselves to a standard that offers no hope and is of no eternal value. The former (the Law) is too critical and only serves to condemn us and make us feel guilty and unworthy. So where can we turn if one standard is too low and the other too high?

Perhaps the best place to begin is to use the same standard that we will be judged by when we are judged by God—and even then, we have a choice. We can choose to be judged by the Law, or we can choose to be judged through the Blood of Jesus. As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans (chapter 7) the Law condemns. Even the great evangelist, Paul, struggled with sin. He said that he doesn’t do the things that he knows he should do and does the things that he knows he shouldn’t do. If Paul falls short of the Law and the penalty is death, then can there be hope for us?

The answer, of course, is Yes. There is hope. Paul begins chapter 8 by telling us that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk according to the Spirit. He says that the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.

So…does that mean that we are free to do as we please? To live as if there is no law? Of course not. We are being made holy by the Spirit. We are to strive to be more like Jesus. Will we fail? We will have failures, but as we continue to grow, the failures will become fewer. Will we ever be perfect? Probably not in this life. Paul teaches that the Law serves to remind us of our need for a Savior—someone to deliver us from the Law. Jesus.

It will be exciting to watch this young lady grow up. I can’t help but wonder what God has planned for her that He would choose to teach her this lesson at such a young age. We can’t do this alone. We have to rely on Him. When we are weak, He is strong.

James writes that we should find joy in the struggle, for it is in the struggle that we are being made perfect (holy, like Jesus).

“…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jesus of Nazareth.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Art of Deceit

If there is one thing that I've learned from performing magic, it's that we are very easily deceived. I think that maybe it's because we really want to believe in magic. One of my favorite types of magic is mentalism. Unfortunately, mentalism kind of creeps out the more fundamental churches. It's as if somehow this branch of deceit makes them think that the performer must be tapping into some occultic powers to read minds. In reality, it's no different than anything else I do. It only appears as if I'm forcing your choice or reading your mind.

The lesson that one must believe is that we are easily deceived. Often times it's as simple as me telling you what I'm about to do; appearing to do exactly what I said I would do; and coming up with an entirely different result than what you were expecting. If you didn't know that I was talking about magic you might think that I had just been elected to public office.

The methods of deceit don't very greatly from one venue to the next--a little bit more sophisticated, but the same general idea. Gain their trust by being believable, then little by little lead them astray. If you stay with them, assure them that's it's okay, everyone is doing it, you could march them right to the very gates of Hell. My simple effects are nothing compared to the Father of Lies. We must be diligent to examine what we are being taught by men and told by politicians--or entertainers, against the Truth of the Word of God.

Left on our own, we are bound to be lead astray. Even the most skeptical can be "fooled". We have learned to take advantage of their skeptism.

Be strong and of good courage...


Friday, July 28, 2006

Fool me once...

We all heard it before, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Too many times as I've watched magicians, it seems that the object of the magician has been to "fool" the audience. From the saying above, it's safe to say that nobody likes to be fooled. What we like is to be entertained, to be amazed, even puzzled--but not fooled. It really doesn't matter if you are performing for one friend or for an audience of many, it's the wonder of magic that makes your effect--well, magical.

Notice that I said your effect, not your trick. I hate (strongly dislike) the word trick as it applies to magic. Even as a "gospel illusionist," many of my fellow colleagues refer to their effects as mere tricks. Maybe it's to keep others from thinking that we have some mystic powers or believing that the magic is real. The "magic" is entertaining. It's fun. That's all. It isn't demonic. It isn't forbidden. It's fun. And, if done well, it's effective.

When I was growing up, we listened to music. Today's kids, watch music. They get virtually all of their information through visual input. Internet, video games, DVD's, movies, streaming video links, music videos, you name it. They are the toughest audiences for a magician because they see everything. A magician has to get into their heads to make an effect seem magical. You can't do that with a mere trick. It takes work, much more than the physical manipulation. It takes some understanding of the human mind and study of how people react to given stimuli. "Magic" gets their attention. And it follows a pattern of logic that if you perform your magic well, you are a credible source of information. It may be flawed logic, but it's how people think. If you're lousy at your craft, why would people believe what you say about anything else? How many athletes, actors or celebrities spout their views on politics or the environment effectively because of their fame in an unrelated field? Corporate/tradeshow magicians understand that if they are going to be succussful at getting the corporate message across, they have to be great at the magic part. Why in the world would a gospelmagician feel any different? Our message is far more important that a company slogan.

When the magic is done well, the Message is more than life changing--it's Life, eternal life. When it's done poorly, we're saying, "Here's Jesus. Take Him or leave Him. It doesn't really matter to me."


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chance Encounter or Divine Appointment?

It was several months ago that I found myself seated on an airplane next to a young Marine that was making his way back to DC through Chicago. It was a regional jet and pretty full. This particular young man was separated from the rest of his party by several rows and ended up in the window seat next to me. At some point I noticed that he was reading a book about dating/relationships/marriage or something along those lines. It looked to me like it was put out by Zondervan Press.

We began a conversation that began with his relationship with his girlfriend and moved to his relationship with God. I was very much impressed by how he truly wanted to honor God in his relationship, his work and his life. Like many of us, Michael was still trying to figure out just where God was going use him and how God was going to use him. I enjoyed our short encounter, offer him some words of encouragement and prayed with him before we arrived in Chicago. We exchanged phone numbers, e-mail addresses and promised to pray for each other.

I think that we often have encounters with others and never get to know that we may have had some small impact on their lives. Maybe it's best that way. Maybe our encounters leave the other person less than they were before. Maybe we managed to suck a little joy, a little life out of them. (see previous post) Then again, maybe we need to hear about those encounters--to learn from them.

Today, several months after my initial encounter with Michael, I arrived home to a message on my answering machine. It was from Michael. He's going to be in the area and wants to get together if we can. I called him back right away. He told me of how God is speaking to him and through him. We talked of a group bible study that he's hooked up with, working with kids at church, and how he has written a few songs to worship God. He remembered many of the things that we talked about said that he was encouraged by our previous conversation. By the time I hung up from our conversation today, I was the one encouraged. I was so energized to hear of how this young man is so devoted to serving God. I was also a little pumped up that he wanted to get together and spend some time with a guy that's old enough to be his dad.

Joy Management. Michael's already got it figured out. I guess conversations with him will have to be a part of my book research. Michael, you made my day. Thanks.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Out of My Hat

Welcome to Out of My Hat. While I know that titles have no copyrights, it's only fair to mention that I've taken this title from my friend and fellow mage, David Garrard. It seems like an appropriate title for the ramblings of a magician (or illusionist if you're one of those that balks at the word magician).

I wanted a place to share a few ideas with my friends and others and even receive some feedback. Lately I've felt more like writing than in the past and figured this is as good a forum as any to record the ramblings of a preacher/magician/dad/etc. I'm sure that some sermon notes will find their way to this posting from time to time. I hope that you will find them to be thought provoking and inspiring. For any magicians/entertainers, I will also post occasional thoughts on audiences and audience behavior.

I've also decided to write a book. I know that it will take some time (which is hard to come by) and hope that the desire to see it through to completion doesn't wane as time passes. The following is an introduction/forward that I've written for it. As research and writing progresses, perhaps I'll share more excerpts from the book.




The idea for a book on Joy Management came to me after encountering a co-worker that was reading a book on anger management. I explained to him that I had my own system of anger management that I believe works quite well. Since I have no background in any type of behavior management, and since I do have the occasional “anger issues,” he was interested to know what my personally developed system of anger management was.

I told him that I believed that “anger management” isn’t a matter of not getting angry, rather it is being able to direct your anger towards someone that can’t hurt you. For example: Let’s say that you’ve just had an incredibly bad day at work. You can’t really direct your anger at your boss; he has the authority to fire you. You can’t really direct your anger at your spouse; she has the power to—well we all know what kind of power she has. So what do you do to release the anger that is building up within you?

All I can say at this point is that I would hate to be the young girl at the drive up window that just messed up my order! She’ll never know what hit her. I might seem a little unreasonable to her because she has no idea that the rage before her has nothing to do with getting Coke instead of Diet Coke and everything to do with the fact that I’m angry and frustrated and she can’t do anything to me. Do I really think that she’s an incompetent idiot? On any other day I would probably write it off as a simple mistake. Today, however, she will go home crying because a total stranger has been rude, angry and condescending to her and then to her boss over a simple mistake. No matter. She can’t do anything about it. Now I can go home feeling better about myself and tomorrow I can go back to my job having let go of the frustration of working around incompetent people and knowing that I have put one of ‘them’ in their place.

Anger management: directing your anger at someone that may or may not deserve it and that can’t do anything about it.

While this was said in fun and we had a good time coming up with new targets where we could release our anger, it got me thinking that this could be a method for Joy Management as well. Spreading joy to people that aren’t expecting it and that aren’t expected to do anything in return. Hey! That IS a good idea. Now I can use my powers for good instead of evil.

In the following pages, I wish to share some reasons why we should be compelled to share joy and some methods for letting others know of the Joy that is within you and teaching them that they can have that Joy in their own heart and soul.