Insights through Illusion for Daily Living

Posts tagged “Real

Did Jesus Merely Pass out on the Cross Part 2

Swoon? Really?

A few weeks ago, I posted HERE about the “theories” about the empty tomb of Jesus.  Skeptics will go to great lengths to deny the resurrection of Jesus and fill His empty tomb with a more “naturalistic” explanation.

They mock the word “faith” but it takes more faith to believe some of these theories than it does to believe the truth.  This idea is reflected in our culture.  We cash in on what we know to be true for something we know to be a lie.

The following is an excerpt from “A Study on the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”, an article from The JAMA by William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI

“With arms outstretched but not taut, the wrists were nailed to the patibulum.5, 6…Accordingly, the iron spikes probably were driven between the radius and the carpals or between the two rows of carpal bones, 3, 6, 10, 11 either proximal to or through the strong band like flexor retinaeulum and the various interearpal ligaments. Although a nail in either location in the wrist might pass between the bony elements and thereby produce no fractures, the likelihood of painful periosteal injury would seem great. Furthermore, the driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve.3, 5, 6 The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms.5, 12 Although the severed median nerve would result in paralysis of a portion of the hand, isehemie eontraetures and impalement of various ligaments by the iron spike might produce a claw like grasp.
Most commonly, the feet were fixed to the front of the stipes by means of an iron spike driven through the first or second inter metatarsal space, just distal to the tarsometatarsal joint.1, 3, 6, 11, 13 It is likely that the deep peroneal nerve and branches of the medial and lateral plantar nerves would have been injured by the nails…


I wanted to start this installment with the painful picture of what the nails driven into Jesus’ wrists and feet would have caused Him.
One of the theories about Jesus’ empty tomb (other than that He actually rose from the dead) is what’s called the “Swoon Theory.”  This is basically the idea that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, but merely passed out. Theorists go on to  say that He would have survived the burial and escaped.  Besides the incredible amount of faith in skepticism it takes to even entertain such a theory, this is more than grasping at straws.
The idea that Jesus was able to move at all much less walk in the tomb and push a stone that the Gospel’s record to be heavier than 14 men’s strength. Jesus would have to make use of useless hands and feet to escape and appear to His disciples.

Real Encounter

People don’t encounter the risen savior and walk away unchanged.  When you encounter Jesus Christ, the change is something so intense, that it causes even the most hardened of people to change direction 180 degrees. Look at Paul.  He went from killing and persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist and missionary of all time.  The risen savior changes lives for the simple fact that He is risen, not faked.  He is alive, not dead.  He didn’t pass out, but rose.
The early church’s spreading can only be attributed to an actual bodily resurrection.  Had Jesus still been in the grave it could never have spread to where it is now.  Had Jesus merely passed out and stumbled His way into Jerusalem, there is no way that we would view Him in the way that we do.  Jesus rose from the dead, and is alive today.

How has Jesus changed your life?

In what ways can you communicate His resurrection?

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?

Be Deliberate and be Effective by Trimming the Fat


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?

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”… 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?

Don’t get Distracted


Sidetrack….There is a fly buzzing in my ear as I’m trying to write. It seems as if every time a thought enters my head the fly decides it needs to move. It’s almost as if it’s purposely stopping me from writing. It’s loud and obnoxious. To be almost that unnoticeable by anyone else, I can hear it. Buzzzzz…………buzzzzzzz…….

What’s the deal, and why would I stop writing what I was writing to write this? It occurs to me that we all have this problem when it comes to being productive for the kingdom.

Sin is ever present in our lives. If you are a follower of Christ, then your sins are forgiven, but everyday is a constant battle between our flesh and our spirit. Truthfully it’s easy to do what I have just done with this fly, and stop everything I’m doing to focus on this fly, this sin. I am aware that sin is something that many people may never even notice, but in my personal life I know it’s there. I may be able to hide it from others, but it doesn’t take away the simple fact that the struggle exists.

I know personally in my life there have been times when I’m am trying to serve God, but what happens instead, I get distracted and embrace chasing something that ignores God’s purpose. If we want to make an impact for Christ then we have to stop focusing on these distractions.  If you want to reach your friends with the Gospel, then we have to make sure that our lives are pure.

It’s too easy to continue pouring energy and time into chasing this fly.  Eventually  I will look up and wonder where the time has gone, and how I have done nothing positive for quite a while.  It’s too easy to do this in our lives.  If we lower our guard and allow these distractions into our lives.  We finally snap and realize, “what am I doing here, doing this?”

Back to Daniel

Again this goes back to Daniel.  He chose to make himself pure, and chose to remove anything impure from his life.  This is the best strategy for us.  To remove the things that cause us to sin. If we leave stuff lying around our life that attracts flies, then guess what’s going to happen?

The best policy is to keep yourself pure, and to keep yourself clean, and keep your life clean.

Don’t get distracted…..keep yourself pure.

Don’t chase flies.


What flies do you have in your life?

How can you avoid these flies?

How can you help others with their flies?

Being Real=Being Unforgettable

The Last Great Magician

One of my favorite things to study is the history of stage illusions. The golden age was from roughly the 1870s until TV was invented. The most famous illusionist of the time is virtually unknown today, not Houdini, but Howard Thurston.

His masterpiece was the levitation of a woman right in the middle of the stage. We are talking 1920s to 1930s. The amount of trouble he had to go to to produce this effect would stop anyone from performing it this way today. Because of the lighting of the Vaudeville theaters (or lack of) and the general distance from the audience to the stage, Thurston rigged hundreds of wires both above and below the woman to hold her in place.

They were invisible to the audience, but his convincer was bringing a random child from the audience (not a stooge, or confederate) on to the stage. Thurston picked the boy up, and pointed at the woman and whispered with a smile something only the child could hear. The child’s eyes went wide and his mouth gaped. Truly a miracle had taken place……well obviously not.

In the 1980s all grown up, a boy lucky enough to see Thurston’s show and be brought on stage said what actually happened was that when Thurston whispered in his ear he said, “if you touch one of those ****** wires….” and then threatened him. The boy having never heard someone talk like that naturally looked amazed. The audience applauded and everyone loved it.

What does this have to do with anything? Am I advocating that we start living obscenely to make our point? Student ministers, should we be shock-jocks? No, not at all, but the idea is that instead of telling the child that it was all an illusion, Thurston was real with the child (albeit a bit too real), but the child never forgot for the rest of his life what Thurston said to him.

When we treat the world with a facade, or student ministers when we sugar coat the Gospel, it becomes forgettable, it becomes weak. The cultural meme is to not offend anyone. This causes a blind eye to everything that we should stand against. It’s precisely this reason that students who have been taught meat of scripture and real lessons instead of fluff, remember and retain, and can use what they have been taught.

What ways are we real with the people we come in contact with? We have the greatest truth known to mankind that God, the creator of the universe, loves us personally so much, that He gave us a second chance. He sent Jesus to die in our place for what we owe, and rise again. He did this for one single reason, and that is because He loves us. Period. There can be no greater news, and yet we keep this to ourselves and try to make everyone smile.

The Gospel might shock people. The Gospel might offend people, but guess what that’s what it takes reach people. To be real. We can give the world what it wants, and not give them Jesus. That is the greatest crime we can commit as believers.

How can you be real today?

What are some ways that we are fake?

How do we eliminate that?

For more info on Howard Thurston, or any stage illusion history, check out:

Hiding The Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear

by Jim Steinmeyer