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.