“Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).”
The Great Erik Weisz (Harry Houdini)
I saw a show at the Wharton Center at Michigan State on Saturday, “The Illusionists.” These five Broadway magicians were absolutely incredible! They took numerous impossible scenarios and magically flipped them into stunning miracles. With absolute precision, they flipped it. And even in the third row I could not tell how.
On the night of October 29th, 1978, my brother Jack got into his white Ford station wagon, dosed himself with a gallon of gasoline, and lit a match. He was 28. On the night that he blew himself up in his car with gasoline, in the parking lot of the Irish Castle Bar in Los Angeles, I was 2,265 miles away in Livonia, Michigan asleep.
Jack in L.A. poolside 1976
That night changed lives in my family. Eternity changed too. At just 17 years old, it was the worst experience of my life. Where do you go after something like that? Who do you talk to for solace and some perspective? I went nowhere for about two years.
On the day of April 3rd, 33, God in the flesh was murdered in Jerusalem, probably naked, definitely whipped, beaten, and bloody, in a public execution on a cross. Two thieves died with Him. As you can imagine, like Jack’s death, it was nasty.
The magic of film, Jim and Mel on the set of his epic
That night changed lives in Israel. For those who knew Jesus, as the promised Old Testament Messiah, it was the absolute worst day of all time, ever. And yet God took the very worst, and flipped it to be the very best, ever…because He didn’t stay dead. He walked out of His own grave. God took the worst and made it the best. That’s no illusion. It’s real magic. His is the only empty grave on Earth. Death died.
Jack always called me by a nickname. As a baby I wouldn’t lie still. Always squirming. That name was Flipper, which he shortened to Flip. That moniker would be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts because Jesus flipped me. Two years after Jack entered eternity, I heard the gospel. Spiritually, I was asleep, until then.
More Hollywood magic with Flipper the TV show I grew up with
“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation––having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).”
God flipped my despair and made it a stunning miracle. I heard, believed, and the Holy Spirit entered my body. His seal is a down payment, a legal pledge that guarantees God will complete the “purchase” when I die. Like the thief, when Jesus took his worst day and made it his best, He flipped Flip.
Here’s an excellent overview of Paul’s letter to Rome:
Are you despairing? Paul wrote Romans, the sixth book in the New Testament, to explain the gospel. Give it a read, ask Him to wake you up to understand it, and He’ll flip your life too. It’s no illusion.
Jesus of Nazareth, my favorite movie magic version of Jesus