Insights through Illusion for Daily Living

Archive for June, 2012

Why I do What I do

How it Started

I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be a Christian Illusionist. At fifteen years old, my life changed from the inside out.  I chose to follow Jesus Christ.  Shortly after that I felt called into ministry.  That was where things got hard.  I didn’t know what direction God was leading me into. I took a position at my home church as Jr. High minister.  I learned quite a lot about ministry through this and decided I wanted to get my degree in Christian Studies.  I went to University of Mobile and fell in love with the study of Apologetics.  There were several opportunities and doors that were presented to me. The problem was, none of them seemed right.

At the same time, I was following an interest and hobby of mine. Magic, illusions, or whatever people preferred to call it.  The thing was that as an illusionist I knew that it was all a trick. That everything had a method behind how a trick was done. Some people get hung up on this notion and immediately put up blinders to what we do.  This is something that I am quick to put to bed because my goal is not to be a stumbling block.  I am a Christian Illusionist, but my goal is to share the Gospel first and foremost.  There will always be friction when following Christ.

Use me

I realized that God could use this interest and hobby to break down walls in people’s lives. God was asking me to follow Him.  When I wasn’t sure where He was leading me, He basically said, “Trust me.”

I discovered that there were people out there who would never darken the door of a church, but would come see an illusionist.  After gaining their trust by performing a fun and entertaining show, they were willing to listen to the message of Christ. This opened my eyes to the fact that God could use this crazy hobby that I had to reach people with the greatest truth and news known to mankind.

One of my favorite verses became,

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Christ in Me

If we are willing to let Christ live through us, He will lead us into opportunities to share His name.  Not everyone is called into full time ministry.  Not everyone is called into bi-vocational ministry.  However every single person who follows Jesus Christ IS called to share His name with everyone we come in contact with.

Whatever gift or ability you have use it for the glory of God.  Some of the things I’ve seen God do has been amazing.  I’ve seen people come to know Christ who have told me that they have never prayed before.  Things that we take for granted. That they would not have come to hear an ordinary speaker, but because I was an illusionist they came.

Whatever talents or gifts that you have, if you are willing to give them over to be used by God, He can do some awesome things through us.

The question now is why do you do what you do?

Do you glorify God through your gifts and abilities?

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How to Deal with the “Heckler” Part 4

How to Pick

If you have been following my heckler series, then you should pretty much be up to speed. For those of you who have not, then check out the rest of the series here

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The number one tip thus far is for you to stay in control of your stage.  Whether you are an illusionist or a student minister, or anyone who has to get up in front of a tough crowd, you have to remember that when you are on stage it’s your stage.  You own it.  Because if you don’t own it, you will get walked all over.  It’s a confidence issue that has to be overcome.  I’m not saying that you have to be the most outgoing person offstage, but when you are onstage, you should be at home.

The Approach.

One of the things I learned through trial and error a long time ago, is that when you ask someone to help you onstage, the first thing that runs through their mind is, “they are going to embarrass me.” Naturally no one likes to be embarrassed, to we have to put that fear to rest before it raises its ugly little head.

The best way to do that is to assure the audience you are not going to embarrass them.  How do you do that?  The best way to pick someone out of a crowd is not by standing onstage and pointing at someone.  It’s the easiest, but the least effective.  Get down to where they are, but continue to own the room. Walk into the crowd and evaluate using the steps from Part 3.  Once you have made your selection, walk over to the person and ask them to help you out onstage.

It sounds over simplistic, but it’s not. Your approach has everything to do with them following your instructions onstage.

The Ask.

What happens is that you ask them to help you out, in a way that is not a question but more of a command.  That sounds crazy, and on paper it will be hard to explain, but it is without a doubt the best approach period.

This is what I say.  There is an effect where I need to have a spectator write something down. I approach them, lock eyes with them and say, “Do you have pretty good handwriting?” They answer and it doesn’t matter what they say at this point because you are mainly illustrating your control of the situation.

This is the secret right here. I then say, “Great, can you help me out onstage with something?” I don’t wait a beat for an answer, but instead address the audience and say, “Give her a big hand as she makes her way on stage!”

If I were to merely ask if she wanted to help out, and wait for her response, she could flatly turn me down. Now though but not giving her an option she is the center of the rooms attention and she can’t let them down by sitting there.  She knows she is now expected to get onstage, and she will.  100% of the time.  I have never had this fail, ever.

The social ramifications of them staying in their seat while I turn my back and make my way to the stage are too much for them to stay seated.  She comes on stage, and is now primed and prepared to follow my instructions to the “T.” They literally have no choice but to help you out and follow instructions at this point.

You can still lose it from here, but that is where staying in control really comes into play.

Next week we will talk about what happens when they are on stage.

How do you approach students to help you on stage?

Is this effective?

What can you do differently?

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Did Jesus Merely Pass out on the Cross? Part 1

Escape from DeathCriss Angel Building Implosion

Imagine someone being locked away and left for dead.  Only to see that same person alive and well 3 days later.  You know that you saw this person die, yet here he is again.  How do you react to this?  What explanation can there be? Famous Illusionist Criss Angel locked himself in an imploding building a few years back.  It looked as if he was just going to make it out until, something happened and he apparently was crushed inside the building.  A few dramatic seconds later he shows up on the screen unscathed and unharmed.  No one doubted that this was going to be the result of the famous illusionists stunt, but he still managed to shock some.

Smoke and Mirrors

The difference is, we watch Criss go into the building knowing that he will come out in the same state, alive. However we know all along that it’s an illusion. However when Jesus disciples watched His brutal beating and crucifixion, many of them lost hope in their Messiah. That is until they had an encounter with the risen Jesus that changed their lives forever. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, seems to think something else happened.  Something that takes much more faith to believe.

However skeptics claim that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead after all.  In fact they try to come up with any “natural” explanation possible for Jesus rising from the dead.  They claim that people can’t “naturally” rise from the dead, therefore Jesus could not rise from the dead.  The problem with that line of thinking is that we are not claiming Jesus “naturally” rose from the dead, but supernaturally.  That God reached down into creation and raised Jesus from the dead.  Silencing the critics of Jesus for all time that He was anything but what He claimed to be. God incarnate.

As we’ve seen HERE and HERE even the most skeptical and liberal New Testament scholars (including Gerd Ludemann and John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar) agree on certain facts.  Mainly here we have and will continue to deal with the first agreed on problem of the empty tomb.

Swoon Theory

The next theory we are going to debunk is called the Swoon Theory.

Basically the gist of the theory is that Jesus didn’t actually die, but fainted on the cross, and was placed in the tomb.  Somehow because of the climate and type of tomb He was in, His healing was much faster than normal.  He escaped from the tomb, and healed up until He made His reappearance to the 12 and His followers….

On paper as a naturalist, that’s just about the best you can do.  The problem is the theory is so full of holes that it seems Frank Turek couldn’t be more right in that it takes much more faith to be an atheist.

Tomorrow we are going to look into the crucifixion process and the moments leading up to the death of Jesus through the lens of history.  We are going to examine what would normally happen to anyone being crucified, and apply the same to Jesus.  We will see how plausible it is that Jesus merely passed out or how preposterous the claim really is.

Do you think it’s even remotely possible that Jesus merely passed out?

Have you ever heard anyone try to say this?

Have you ever heard anyone try to quote The Da Vinci Code as fact?

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How to Deal with the “Heckler” Part 3 Who to Pick

Good Intentions….

Before I was an illusionist, my first foray into ministry was being a Jr. Youth Minister at my home church. I had this great

illustration that I wanted to show (at least I thought it was great). Basically I would turn out the lights and have a student stand with his arms outstretched like a crucifix. I then took a flashlight and shown it on him. I then lowered the flashlight which caused the shadow of the crucifix to rise. I then raised the flashlight, and the opposite occurred. The idea was to exalt Christ you humble yourself, and vica versa.

I was really stoked about this illustration and about how easy it was for the students to grasp. The problem was that the student I picked to help me out, absolutely didn’t care about what I was trying to do.

The whole thing was ruined. I learned a lot that night about picking students to be involved on stage (as well as how middle schoolers still shrieked when you turn the lights out….but that’s another blog)

As an illusionist, I mentioned how easily it is for an effect to be ruined by someone on stage who has their own agenda. Check out last weeks Heckler entry here

The person on stage with me didn’t care about the effect I was doing, or what the end was that I was trying to achieve. All they cared about was that limelight for just a minute. This is an annoying thing, but it is a problem that can be worked through and avoided for the most part.

Who are you looking for?

One of the very first things I do in my show is to set up a prediction that occurs much later. The message portion of my show is built around this prediction being right, so it’s crucial that there are no mistakes or purposeful sabotage. When I go into the audience I ask a simple question, “Who’s good with numbers?” Some hands will shoot up immediately because they didn’t listen to the question, others because they are dying to be in front of everyone. The number one tip here is that I never pick someone with their hand raised. Ever. Is everyone who is raising their hands a heckler waiting to wreck the night? No, but it’s better to hedge your bets and avoid over eager people.

I generally look for someone who looks slightly nervous (not in a “I’m going to pass out if he picks me” way, but a “he’s awfully close to my row” type of nervous). I look for people who generally have a focused look on their face, and at this point I 95% of the time will pick a girl. Why? Because in the past Since this is early in the show, I’ve found that guys want to show off for their buddies, where as girls want to get off of the stage. I haven’t 100% gained their trust yet, but it comes through this.

For student ministry it’s a very similar issue. You may have some of your go to students who you can count on always showing up, but even they fall prey to the “I gotta make everyone laugh” bug. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I still talk to my youth pastors about how they could probably have strangled me sometimes. Your go to guy or girl, may not be the best choice for a serious illustration. You have to gain their trust. You have to let them know that you are not going to embarrass (unless you are….different blog) or make them uncomfortable, but that you need their help.

Next week in Part 4 I am going to be talking a little bit more about who to pick, but I will be moving on to the next step of, “How to Approach”

Hope you enjoy and use these Heckler blogs to strengthen your ministry. Also if you missed last Thursday’s Trimming the fat blog, check it out here. It’s a guide to effectively manage your time during a service, and remain in control.

When have you had a bad experience with an illustration?

What caused it?

How could it be avoided?

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Is the Resurrection a Delusion Part 2

If missed yesterday’s post about the Resurrection, then check it out here Is the Resurrection a Delusion Part 1

Feeling Delusional yet?

I didn’t think so

Jesus was not an escape artist as some would have us believe.  He didn’t create a clever Houdiniesque method of fooling everyone into believing a very long con.  Jesus had an authority that He validated in the resurrection.  Skeptics have tried to shoot holes through that for ages. We are going to weigh the evidence and let truth shine on its own.

I want to start with the resurrection and empty tomb because even the most skeptical biblical scholars agree on very specific things.  These facts give us some foundation of common ground with the skeptic.  The facts agreed on by most scholars are that Jesus…

  • Lived
  • Had followers
  • Was a miracle worker
  • Was Crucified under Pilate
  • Left an Empty Tomb
  • And that His disciples believed Him to be risen from the dead.  Even to there own deaths.

Hoax Hallucination or History?

There are several theories out there that claim to answer the question of what happened after Jesus was crucified.  All of these theories boil down around one simple fact.  The body of Jesus is not in the tomb.

Think about that for a minute. The ramifications of that are pretty huge.  Jesus claimed He would rise from the dead, and His tomb is now empty.  There is a vacuum that needs to be filled, but too many times people have ruled out the supernatural and created outlandish ideas to explain away the empty tomb of Jesus.

Empty Tomb

The glaring thing though that many people just pass over is that even the most skeptical believe that the tomb of Jesus is empty.

Where does that leave us to start from?

Here is why it’s so ridiculously important that the tomb is empty.  The rise of Christianity is unexplainable any other way.  Here is what I mean by that. If on the day of Pentecost Peter had gotten up to start preaching, and Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, then Christianity could have been shut down in 15 minutes.  From the place Peter was preaching to the burial site of Jesus was a 15 minute walk.  Out of all of the people standing there, notice that none of them said, “Come on let’s take a walk and shut him up.”  They couldn’t.

The same thing for the Sanhedrin.  They could have easily produced the body of Jesus to shut down these Christians on the spot, but they couldn’t.  This leaves us with the fact that Jesus’ tomb is empty.  The next question, and albeit a much bigger one is…

What did Happen?

Over the next few blogs, I’m going to rule out some of these theories, from the crazy to the almost plausible ones.

Starting with the…

The Wrong Tomb.

Some say that while stricken with grief, the women who discovered Jesus’ tomb to be empty, merely went to the wrong tomb.

On the surface you could say…that’s plausible, but let’s dig for a minute.

Just a few days earlier, these same women had helped embalm the body of Jesus.  They knew where His tomb was.  Even if they didn’t, and were somehow mistaken, the tomb’s owner, Joseph of Arimathea, would have known his own tomb.

Let’s just say that even he might have gotten confused….(really grasping now) This was his own private tomb that was brand new, not just a massive grave area of hundreds of tombs.

Joseph himself lends credibility to this story as being historical anyway.  If the 1st century Jews who wrote the New Testament, were going to make up a legend about Jesus, they would never have included a member of the same council that crucified Jesus as a good guy.

All of these objections fail to have the power to explain how the women could have gone to the wrong tomb.

What did happen to Jesus body?

He rose from the dead.

He is alive.

What theories have you heard about the resurrection?

How did you respond to these?

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Is the Resurrection a Delusion?

Cheating Death

Although he was a man that cheated death nearly every day, Harry Houdini was afraid of it.  He was afraid in particular of one illusion.  Burying himself alive. At the time, this would have been the penultimate escape.  He would place himself into a casket into the ground, only to escape before suffocating.  He billed this as his next great escape, even so far as commissioning a poster of his illusion, which is still seen in pop culture today.

Looking at the poster though, you’d never know that Houdini, didn’t performed the escape.  A dear friend and famous performer, Harry Kellar, told Houdini that it was too dangerous and he should not attempt it.  Houdini listened to the wise council of Kellar, but the image still remains.  The image is a reminder to those that know the story, that even Houdini couldn’t escape the grave, but most people don’t know the story.  To the average lay person, if they saw the poster they would naturally assume that Houdini performed the illusion, without digging further.

The Real Escape from the Grave

Why start at the Resurrection?

Here’s the parallel.  As Christians, we are followers of Jesus.  Everything that is central to our faith in Jesus, hinges on His death and resurrection.  Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 15 about how if there is no resurrection of the dead, then we are merely wasting our time.  If His body is in the grave, then everything is a sham about Him, we have no hope.

But His body isn’t in the grave

Jesus’ resurrection is a game changer.  We don’t believe the story to be an escape or illusion like something Houdini would do, but Jesus death and resurrection was His proof to everyone that He was God. However there are many claims about Jesus resurrection that try to explain away the supernatural.  Under close inspection though, these claims don’t hold water.

The Game Changer

Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented authority.  He claimed that He was God, and that His proof would be the resurrection from the dead.  Naturally this is a pretty big claim, but it’s something so significant that if true, changes everything.

If Jesus really rose from the dead, then He is alive today, and offers eternal life.  If not, then Christians are misguided and foolish.  To the world we are foolish for following Jesus, but they need to hear His message, His truth.  We have to be able to answer people when they ask they tough questions about Jesus.  The first main question is, “what happened to the body of Jesus?”

Body of Evidence

If Jesus’ body is still in the grave, then you and I are wasting our time and should just move on.

I don’t believe His body is still in the grave.  I believe that He is alive, but that is based more on digging and looking at history and evidence than what the world deems as “blind faith.”  Faith is not blind.  Jesus doesn’t call us to have blind faith.  Blind faith doesn’t convince people to change.

There are a lot of claims that people have made about the resurrection and about “what really happened.”  Over the next few days we will look at some of these claims and deconstruct them piece by piece until you are left with the building blocks of each theory, and can decide for yourself who is really delusional.

Tomorrow we will look at the question about His body, and why it’s the biggest hurdle for skeptics to clear, and why they haven’t been able to clear it yet.

Have you ever heard any claims about Jesus death?

What do your non-believing friends say about Jesus?

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Be Deliberate and be Effective by Trimming the Fat

Effective

Let’s face it we have all experienced this whether it’s performing or speaking in front of students.  You have something important to say, but you look at your time that you have left and see….you have two minutes left.  It’s a feeling that is highly irritating.  The thing is though the person we can generally point the finger at is ourselves.

Time is Everything

If someone is bringing me in (or anyone for that matter) they have a time set for the show/event. If I were to go off on a tangent and cram a 45 minute show into an hour and a half on a Wednesday night….the hosts would not be happy. Often, events are scheduled down to the minute, because students have other family members waiting on them, younger siblings and/or parents (their transportation.) The event host would be unhappy if I held their service over, because they are on a schedule.

Often, the same can be said for youth ministry. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that Wednesday night time slot is long enough to get in everything you need to say. As much as you would love to keep going sometimes, invariably a parent is going to get their student out to leave which causes a distraction.  The best way to combat this, is to stay on schedule by trimming everything unnecessary out of the night.

Be Deliberate

In my show, everything I do is deliberate. Every action on stage has an equal and opposite reaction. Whatever I say or do on stage will directly affect the audience crowd. Every action or word should bring about one of 3 reactions in illusion.

  1. Laughter
  2. Awe/Amazement
  3. Rapt Attention

I would say this list is similar to that of a student minister’s job. For Student Ministers, you could sub out #2 for Interest/furthering of knowledge. If you are doing or saying anything that doesn’t cause one of these things then it is deemed “fat” and should be trimmed from your service.  If you have to trim your “news and updates” section down, then so be it. We don’t want to get lost in the “fat.” God has given you a message, and you have to make sure that message is the focus of your youth service. I have never heard anyone say that their life was changed from the “News” section.  It’s important and has merit, but it also has a time frame.

There may be the occasional time when you are being introduced as a guest speaker, and you are waiting to go on.  The emcee spends way too much time on their game or video or announcements.  If you follow the above steps, you should still be in the clear.

Plan ahead.

Trim the fat.

Think about that in your regular schedule. 

Are there things that you do or say that might cause distractions?  It may be unintentional. In fact, you may have great intentions for something, but is it something that can be trimmed to make your night leaner and more effective?

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How to Deal with the “Heckler” Part 2

The Heckler Part 2

Stealing Thunder

Let’s face it, the only kind of person that thrives on a heckling audience is a professional wrestling villain. If you missed last Wednesday’s blog on the introduction to the Heckler series, then check it out here. https://thebryandrakeshow.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/how-to-deal-with-the-heckler-part-1/

 

Stealing Thunder

The heckler in question today is the Thunder Stealer. As a minister, it is of utmost importance to keep your “thunder,” which keeps your command of the room.

My show is very deliberate. Everything I do is planned. Tomorrow, I will show you how you can be deliberate in everything you do.

Sometimes though, even the most deliberate movement can be challenged. Recently I did a show in which the audience member helping me on stage would verbally chime in and make comments or jokes right before I would make them myself. This was a 500+ person show, so this could have been an embarrassment for me. This person would interrupt my patter, just to make a comment about what I was wearing, something about the lights, anything she could think of. She had never seen my show, but she had the type of personality, where she wanted the attention on herself.  The only saving grace in the situation was that she didn’t have a mic so a lot of people didn’t hear her.

The jokes and points I have scripted have been worked out over the last few years in this one routine to cause a certain reaction from my audience.  I like this routine. It’s my favorite to perform because of the way it leads the audience down the garden path, only to pull the rug out from under them.  The problem is, when punchlines or even reveals are made prematurely by the person on stage, the effect loses the amazement factor. I had to work very hard during this instance to control my stage. Thankfully, audience members only get a mic in my show when I want them to say something. There are times in youth ministry where this type of heckler can be detrimental to your service.

The Danger

Think about your ministry. Let’s say you have an illustration  you want to use.  You are super-pumped about it, and you know it will kill.  Then, you unknowingly pick the “Thunder Stealer” Heckler. You bring the Thunder Stealer on stage (whom you totally think you can trust) who completely derails you by directing the audience focus to his/herself.  It’s annoying.  It can throw you off, but worst of all…

It can distract someone who needs to hear the Gospel.  Let’s face it, the reason I do what I do, and the reason you do what you do is so that people will hear the Gospel.  Last week I talked about owning the stage to cut down on distractions from those in the crowd, but to have someone on stage with you who seems trustworthy that wrecks what your trying to accomplish, can have drastic results.

Situations like this are invariably going to happen (rarely). However, you are not going to let your thunder be stolen. It would be easy to get distracted by the Thunder Stealer’s comments, but remember, you are in your charge. This is your house, your stage, your message that God wants you to share. You don’t laugh at the Thunder Stealer. Instead, you draw the focus back to you.

Tomorrow, I’m going to go through how to pick people you can trust from any audience, whether it’s your own student group/audience, or whether you are a complete stranger.  These techniques are invaluable and will serve you very well in accomplishing the goal of coherently sharing the Gospel with minimal distractions.

How do you deal with the Thunder Stealer?

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Is Truth a Delusion?

Are you Delusional?

  • There is no truth?
  • That may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me.

Ever heard anyone say these things?

What is truth?  Those were the words uttered to Pilate to Jesus.  Jesus who said He was the Truth.

Webster’s defines truth as

“The property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality.”

Fact or reality.  In illusions I deal with blurring reality.  I deal with the idea that deception of your senses can be used to bring about a moment of excitement or wonder.  The thing is, if the truth of an illusion was known, as in the method, it would no longer serve its purpose.  The one thing that is concrete however is that there is only one method being used.  One solid concrete method that is not relative. Truth.

Self Defeating

For someone to say the words, “There is no absolute truth”  Is a self defeating statement.  All you have to do when someone asks you that question is apply it to its own claim.  If there is no absolute truth and you are making an absolute statement, therefore the stat

ement “there is no absolute truth”…..is not true. Meaning absolute truth does exist.

So to respond to a skeptic or a relativist who takes this viewpoint you simply apply the claim to itself.

  • Them “There is no absolute truth”
  • You “Is that true?”
    • Them “Yes” Then absolute truths exist self defeating the question.
    • Them “No” Then what’s the point in saying it?

This is easiest illustrated in illusions.  For instance if there were no absolute truth, then my job would be a lot easier. Many of my routines on stage are based around a central truth.  Either a prediction that is on stage the whole time, revealing a thought of name, or number, the idea is that there is only one answer not many. There can’t be multiple right answers to an illusion.  If I ask someone to think of a name and I reveal the wrong name…….you can imagine.

Let me explain what that looks like.

  1. You pick a card from the deck I hand you.
  2. You take the 3 of hearts.
  3. The card goes back in the middle of the deck.
  4. I shuffle the deck.
  5. I then with a bit of flourish and gusto produce a card in mid air only to turn it around and reveal that it is in fact…..the 9 of diamonds.
  6. You are not impressed.
  7. I try to explain to you that there are no absolutes, and you should be just as impressed.
  8. You are less impressed than before.

True for you?

On the surface this example sounds a little silly, but at its core is a root truth that is absolutely universal and life-changing.  The fact that in this universe, there are absolute truths, and we can know them.  The same thing applies to “True for you, but not for me.” Apply that to itself and say, “Is that true for everybody?”  If it is, then boom self-defeating.

This shows you a pretty clear example of the kind of opposition that you might face.  It’s not generally rooted in fact or logic, but rather emotion or feeling.  This can create another problem that I will deal with in a later blog, which is why we have to tread lightly and follow 1 Peter 3:15.  Gentleness, not one-upmanship.

One last thing…For right now if you do get stumped, it is more than okay to just say, “I don’t know right now, but I can find out for you.”  That’s it.  Don’t get discouraged, but be diligent in finding the answer and returning to them.

When is the last time you were stumped by a question about your faith?

How did you respond?

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How to answer the tough questions

Tough Questions

How many times have you been put on the spot by an unbelieving friend, family member, or coworker who has a question about the Bible?  How many times in those situations do you feel completely overwhelmed and not ready to have that conversation?  How many times have you felt clueless how to answer someone about your faith?

The above questions should strike a chord in all of us, unless you are “Super-Bible-Man” who has all of the answers given to you at salvation…..which doesn’t happen.  God doesn’t save us only to have us lazily stroll through the next years of our lives hoping that we don’t have to answer any questions.

Apologetics

Definition.

Reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.

This is a legal term.  In the time of Koine Greek (Language of the NT) the defense given in a court case would have been an Apologea which is where we get this word. Think of it as a court defense.  Logical, rational, and persuasive.

What it is.

1. It is logical

2. It is reasonable

3. It is something that makes sense on its own

4. It’s instructed in Scripture

What it is not

1. Easy

2. Driven by anger

3. Based solely on emotion

4. A reason to act superior or beat someone over the head.

Over the next few blogs (save for Wednesdays, that’s  Heckler days) I’m going to go through different facets of Apologetics, and how you can use it to reach people for Christ. In college one of my professors vehemently said that apologetics is not evangelism.  On the surface that statement could be taken as okay. The problem with this unhealthy delineation though is that it breeds a fear of using apologetics in evangelism. Fear of trying to convince someone of the truth.  It’s silly now because we do this in every other facet of conversation.  The spirit works through apologetics just as well as the “Romans Road.”

Sure if you have a self-righteous attitude that basically only cares about winning an argument, then no, apologetics is not evangelism.  Conversely though, if done in the right spirit with the right attitude, apologetics can be one of the best tools to reach the most skeptical of hearts.

Weak Answers.

Josh McDowell tells a story about a group of youth pastors talking to him after a conference.  One of their students runs up to the conversation and says, “You asked how we know the Bible is true?  It’s true because I believe it!”  Josh said the worst part wasn’t the answer, but the congratulatory comments of the youth pastors.

The Bible’s truth is not contingent on whether you believe it or not.  It’s these kind of answers that get us into trouble.  Basically you are validating truth based on what you arbitrarily believe. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s in us.  That answer needs to be something with substance.  The answer needs to be something that will make people think.  The answer needs to be reasonable and logical.

The question now is why do you believe what you believe?  Why do you have faith in Christ?  Here’s the rub any of the following answers can be applied to Islam, Hinduism, or even Atheism.  Here are some of the worst offenders.

> Because I believe it.

> Because that’s what my pastor says

> That’s how I was raised

>That’s what my parents believe

>That’s what Christians are supposed to believe

> It just feels right

You may look at this list and think you are way above any of these answers, (which is a fantastic thing by the way) but somewhere someone you know, maybe a student in your ministry has this line of thought.

The reason that I even bring this part up is that these same people are the ones who when they graduate from high school and sit in their first college class are bowled over by what the professor says.  They don’t know how to answer the tough questions, and sure enough will leave their faith behind because they didn’t have any substance.

People need substance.  We can’t give fluff anymore.  We have to teach people how to answer the tough questions if we want them to grow and be effective.  We have to be able to answer the tough questions ourselves if we want to share the Gospel with others.  It’s not an excuse to stop evangelizing because you can’t answer the tough questions.  It’s time for us to stop shutting up, and to start putting up.

Next up, What is Truth?

What are some questions that you struggle with?

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Passion should motivate.

Passion Part 2

Could you imagine being told that if you continue to speak out for what you believe that you will be killed for it? That is something that we have questioned in small groups for as long as I have been in ministry. It usually goes something like, “If someone had a gun to your head and said they’d shoot if you believe in Jesus, what would you say?” We have all heard that question, but the thing is, have we given it more than fleeting “Wednesday night” talk?

The reason I ask this is because passion motivates us to push further, even if it costs us everything. Today across the world there are thousands of people whose lives are at stake on a daily basis, but you know what? They continue to spread the light of Jesus to everyone they meet. The threat of death doesn’t stop them. Sometimes, the only thing that does stop someone who is passionate, is death. That doesn’t stop their impact. Their legacy lives on.

The idea that people are killed on a daily basis really blows my mind. When I get out of the “movie-world” mind, and realize that there are people literally dying all across the world for the cause of Christ, it changes my way of thinking. It gives me a chill that I have it so easy.

Passion is scary.

Think about that for a minute. It’s very, very easy for us to just simply say, “Oh yeah, I’d take the bullet and say yes!” We then pat ourselves on the back for being “Super-Christian.” Here’s the thing…the gun isn’t in our face, and chances are it never will be. But what if it was?

We have a blessing of living in the USA because right now, we have the freedom to live for Jesus, and guess what? You will not be killed for it. You may make some waves, you make turn heads, but that’s what the Gospel does after all. The boat needs to be rocked after all.

We are free to be passionate.

Here’s the thing. The passion to share the greatest truth known to mankind, should be burning in us so strong, that we literally can’t keep it in.

In case you missed it, check out my last post on Passion here: http://wp.me/p2tcTO-1q

We have a freedom in America that we can share the Gospel without fear of death. Can you imagine the impact the apostles would have on our culture today if they didn’t have the constant fear of death? The funny thing about that is that they still made an impact even though they knew that it could and would cost them their lives. Living every day knowing it could be their last for sharing the Gospel, yet that motivated them even harder. Maybe that’s the issue maybe it’s that we have it too easy?

Passion turns heads.

The fact that our lives are not in danger, should motivate us even further. We have the cure to the dying world. We have the answer. It’s time for us to start living like we believe what scripture says. It’s time for us to start living like we believe that our loved ones need Jesus. This passion will be noticeable. People will speak out, people will be made uncomfortable. Again, the boat needs to be rocked.

The beautiful part is, that if we embrace this passion, and follow through, our lives can inspire others to be passionate for Jesus Christ too.

That’s what this world needs. This world needs people who are passionate about Jesus Christ. This world needs people who are not afraid of sharing the Gospel.

Be Passionate, and be heard.

Be inspiring.

Have you lost the passion to share the message of Jesus?

What is stopping you from being passionate?

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How to Deal with “The Heckler” Part 1

Losing Control

It’s something we’ve all faced. When I was in student ministry, it was the most annoying thing that could happen every Wednesday night. Now as an illusionist, it can be an even bigger problem. Let’s examine types of hecklers for me as an illusionist and for you as a student minister.

Hecklers.

In illusions-

–It’s the guy who yells out how he thinks a trick works, no matter how ridiculous he sounds. It’s the person who gets on stage and tries to hijack everything that’s going on just so he/she gets the attention.

In student ministry-

–It’s the attention seeker–the heckler–the kid who constantly yells out things to be distracting. It’s the person who during a game or illustration, completely derails your hard worked plans into a chance to make themselves a star.

The problem is, that in both of these situations, the general reaction of other audience members is split right down the middle. The rest of your audience can either laugh, joining them to the heckler, or in a better case, they can roll their eyes and ignore the said heckler. The downside of either reaction is that you have lost control. As a leader, speaker, and minister, you never want to lose control of your audience. What are some preemptive steps you can take to retain control?

Techniques

Over the next few days I’m going to break down a few techniques that you can implement to cut down on distractions. Let’s face it, when you are on stage, or in front of your students, you have something to say. You have put the time in planning, retooling, and working your message until you are happy with it. You have prayed over it, and have been obedient in letting it be God’s words, and not your own. The worst thing that can happen is that you lose control, and someone who needs to hear what you have to say gets distracted and misses God.

Take control from start to finish.

A. This seems self explanatory, but it’s something that is sometimes sorely missed. The stage or the platform, or whatever you stand on when you are there in front of your students, is your house. This is not an ego thing, so don’t confuse what I’m saying, but this is about the students or audience view of you. If you command their respect, they will give it.

B. Like I said it’s your house, and they are guests in your house. If you bring someone up on stage with you, then you are the one in control, and you need to show that. The second you lose control, you will severely struggle the rest of the night to get it back.

C. If you ask a question, lay down parameters that you don’t want people shouting out answers. This seems so simple, but it’s something that we miss. When you lay a precedent out that it’s okay to just yell out in the middle of what you are doing, you set a bad precedent. Students will continue to walk all over the freedom that you have given them because they don’t realize that it’s not the time for it. You and I know it’s not the time for it, but remember what it’s like to be that student. You desperately want people to like you and laugh at your jokes. That becomes the priority. We have to curb this natural instinct in their heads by laying clear guidelines and expectations.

Trust is the glue on my stage

In my show, if I get someone on my stage, they don’t do anything without my instruction. Not because I’m some magnetic hypnotist, but because I set a very clear precedent in how I talk to them, from the moment I walk on stage, to the moment they walk on and off of my stage. The one single reason that this precedent works, is because they trust me. They know I won’t embarrass them. The key thing is trust, and the reason they give that trust so quickly, (literally within five minutes of me walking onstage, I have an audience member doing something that is vitally important for the rest of the show) is because I let them know consciously and subconsciously that it’s my stage. Then I trust them. They trust me.

Tomorrow we will move one step further in this. Use this tonight with your students and see if you notice a difference.

Do you ever lose control in your service?

What ways do you struggle for attention?

How can you fix those issues?

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What does it cost to be passionate?

Passionate…Passion….I’m passionate about…..They have a passion for……

Aside from love, the most overused and thrown around word today is passion.

People do in fact have passions. People are passionate about things. The problem is that we throw the word around so often that it’s watered down beyond making someone else care. I mean after all, what’s the point of being passionate about something if you intend to keep it to yourself. That seems slightly self-defeating.

Personally I have a passion for the art of illusion. I love the awe it inspires and the childlike wonder that passes over people’s faces when they see an illusion. They know deep down that it’s not real, but for that fleeting moment they suspend disbelief, and really, truly, enjoy the moment. That look sometimes crosses a spectator’s eye for only a split second, but it’s there. It’s what keeps me going. Creating a moment that people will never forget as long as they live, is why I became an illusionist.

Which is why I use illusions in my main passion, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Millions share this passion, but others see this as antiquated and useless.

Here’s the truth about this notion.

· The Gospel of Jesus is not a fairy tale

· The Gospel is not a legend

· The Gospel is historical

· The Gospel Changes Lives

· The world is dying

· The cure is the Gospel

· We have the cure

The problem with our culture and why there is so much opposition to the message of Jesus, is that we live like we don’t believe the points above. We are passionate about our church fellowships….our socials…..our renovations….all of which are great things, but we lack a passion for sharing.

We have given up on living out a lifestyle that speaks louder than our words.

Our words say.

· Jesus loves you

· I’m praying for you

· God bless you

· Call me if you need me

Our actions on the other hand disagree. Our actions tell people, “You need to clean up before I can share with you” or “He should just get a job instead of begging” or “What’s the point? They won’t listen to me if I tell them about Jesus.” We have lied to ourselves and told ourselves that these are acceptable thought processes for someone who has been given the Great Commission.

When you are passionate about something you take risks. You don’t mind going to the extremes to pursue your passion. You may get hurt along the way. You may be laughed at, but you know in your heart you are pursuing what you have to pursue. Passion is a driving force that can’t be stopped.

Now apply that to the Gospel. If we truly believe that Jesus can change people’s lives, would we not tell our friends about Him because we don’t want to insult them? Would we be afraid of being labeled? Would our main worry be that people are laughing at us, or that people are dying without Jesus?

When you are passionate you count the cost, but in the end your passion will always outweigh the consequences if you are truly passionate.

We live in a culture that desperately needs the truth of Jesus.

If we are not going to be passionate about His word and His love and His sacrifice, then who will? The truth is, you will get laughed at. You will get called names. You will upset people, but that is what the Gospel does. It shines light into the darkness and changes things. It shakes things up and makes them new.

If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. The Gospel makes us new. Makes the dead live. The world needs to hear this message. The world needs people who are passionate. The world needs you and me to be….

Passionate

What’s it cost to be passionate?

What’s too costly to loose to this passion?

What’s the main thing stopping you, and how can you eliminate that?

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