Penn Jillette is one half of the famous comedy-magician team, Penn and Teller. He was originally a juggler who made juggling look like a magic trick. But as I’ve heard him say many times, his juggling wasn’t magic — it was just a lot of hard-work and practice! Penn and Teller host a weekly TV show where they invite the best magicians in the world to come on and try to fool them with their magic. This rarely happens though, as Teller literally seems to know every trick in the book. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, is the result of my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. It might surprise you to know that there are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers which is another source of learning for me). From magicians, I endeavour to learn how to: keep an audience’s attention; how to tell a story; and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to be authentic. A magician will lie, distract, and trick his audience. A preacher will speak the truth, seek people’s full attention, and be utterly transparent. Nevertheless, I have great respect for the craftsmanship and work ethic of magicians like Penn Jillette. He is literally not a man easily fooled. But provokes me as a pastor. He is a self-confessed hardened atheist who boldly claims “I know there is no God!” He has even written a book to support his claim. Consequently, I’ve been praying for Penn for some time now. I began when I first heard him publicly ridicule the Bible and Christianity. I have great confidence that God will eventually do something in Penn. My confidence is bolstered by a video he uploaded to Youtube expressing his respect for Christians who truly believe Bible.

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Matthew 5:30

The late Christopher Hitchens, a New York Times best-selling author, was another embolden atheist who also wrote a book promoting his reasons for atheism, GOD Is NOT GOODHow Religion Poisons Everything. To promote his book he would publicly debate Christians about whether there was any proof for the existence of God. Hitchens would mock the miracles of the Bible, malign the morality of the Bible (especially its sexual prohibitions against sex outside of marriage exclusively between a man and woman), and berate the Bible itself as merely the fanciful literature of men. These debates which were held around the USA fizzled as Hitchens’ debate opponents were increasingly ‘liberal’ Christians who also denied the miracles of the Bible and rejected the sexual ethics of the Bible and also rejected the Bible claiming that it was not divinely inspired. These liberal Christians frustrated Hitchens. He knew they did not represent classic Christianity and so he stopped debating them.

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation,
ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality
and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude 4

Then Christopher Hitchens encountered two very genuine Christians with whom he was prepared to debate: Larry Taunton and Pastor Doug Wilson. Hitchens was a very well read man, but he more than met his match in Doug Wilson who majored in, and taught, classic English literature before becoming a pastor. He intellectually challenged Hitchens’ atheism resulting in both men co-writing a book together on their series of exchanges. In the documentary, Collision, the bond of fellowship that grew between the two men was obvious. And then his exchanges and debates with Larry Taunton also led to a deep friendship especially through the period where Hitchens was battling terminal cancer. Before Christopher died he wrote about his changing views on atheism as a result of his friendship with Wilson and Taunton – and then Larry Taunton wrote a very revealing account about his friendship with Hitchens as they spent hours together studying the Bible in Hitchens final weeks before he died. The publisher’s blurb about Taunton’s book describes how Hitchens maintained his public persona as an atheist, but in private, as Taunton reveals, he was slowly turning to Christ- 

“At the time of his death, Christopher Hitchens was the most notorious atheist in the world. And yet, all was not as it seemed. “Nobody is not a divided self, of course,” he once told an interviewer, “but I think it’s rather strong in my case.” Hitchens was a man of many contradictions: a Marxist in youth who longed for acceptance among the social elites; a peacenik who revered the military; a champion of the Left who was nonetheless pro-life, pro-war-on-terror, and after 9/11 something of a neocon; and while he railed against God on stage, he maintained meaningful—though largely hidden from public view—friendships with evangelical Christians like Francis Collins, Douglas Wilson, and the author Larry Alex Taunton.”

This little known account of how Christopher Hitchens’ life ended adds to my encouragement that one day my prayers, for Penn Jillette to come to know Christ, will be answered. But perhaps my greatest encouragement to hope that Penn will one day open his heart to Christ comes from his 2010 video where he expressed his deep respect for Christians who are genuine and evangelistic (which he calls proselytising). 

Have a look at his video below, and I hope that it will encourage you to continue to pray for and share the gospel with loved ones, friends, family-members, work-colleagues, as it does for me. Penn is not easily fooled. The man he referred to in this video was a sincere, authentic, and genuine believer who demonstrated his faith in Christ and the words of Holy Scripture by sharing the gospel with Penn after one of his magic shows. I pray pastorally that we too will have the same boldness and confidence to do likewise.

Your Pastor,


Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.


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Domestic violence, sexual assault, date-rape, sexual trafficking of minors, marital infidelity, street-gang violence, illicit drug abuse, high rates of suicide, increased ‘deaths of despair’, homelessness, are all major problems in our culture right now. Governments regard these issues as matters of justice (punishing offenders) while agencies regard these issues as matters of social justice (helping victims). Both are valuable but neither are equipped or positioned unilaterally to solve the causes of these growing problems, and many in both of these sectors believe that it can mever be solved. But I believe they can be. And I need your help. To achieve this, I propose two outrageous, yea – ridiculous – strategies. They are outrageous because they are simple (although not easy); and, they are ridiculous because, to materialists, these are just fanciful, idealistic and supernatural nonsense. However, I have history on my side. It will involve men and women, young and old. But I particularly need all men to read what I am about to propose and for them to share this with other men and together with everyone else help me to bring about the biggest social and cultural revolution our country has ever seen.


Perhaps I was a little unfair to this gentleman though, because it is a well established fact that all men are born with selective hearing (as every wife can testify to) and perhaps this may sometimes spill over into incidents such as the one I just recounted(?). But I also suspect that some women have a similar deficiency.

A few years ago the kids and I were a little concerned about Kim’s hearing difficulties. As it turned out, one day outside a shopping centre that we had just arrived at, there was a government sponsored mobile hearing clinic. We urged the reluctant Kim to go in and have her hearing checked. Much to the utter shock of myself and our children the clinician told Kim that she had “perfect hearing”! This then proved that even women may be able to imitate the innate ability of a man to produce selective hearing 🙂 Therefore, there is a high likelihood that both men and women are equally subject to hearing difficulties.

The problem with any hearing difficulties is that it inevitably leads to the far more serious problem of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding is at the heart of nearly every relationship problem that anyone will ever face. Misunderstandings due to mis-hearing or mis-communication frequently leads to disputes that if not handled correctly, which it is mostly not, is likely to lead to relationship breakdowns. But there is a different – almost secretive – way to deal with misunderstandings. Let me explain by using several pictures that will make my point. 


Mark Lowry is normally comedic. But his now classic Christmas song is no joke! It presents baby Jesus as the eternal God the Son, the creator of heaven and earth, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of all humankind who turn to Him, the all-conquering Lamb of God, and the Great Judge of all people, the I AM. The event of His miraculous conception is known as the incarnation (God becoming human). But the incarnation was not Jesus the Christ’s first entrance into our world. In fact, it is as though He felt a divine right to enter our world any time He chose. These various appearances of Jesus prior to His incarnation are referred to as theophanies (appearances of God) or more particularly as Christophanies (appearances of God the Son). I want to highlight one of these in particular…


We have all seen parents abruptly terminate conversations with other adults to keep an eye on their children. Children can wander about easily. They could get involved in acts that are detrimental to themselves. Parental instincts, often reflected more in the mother, is one of those protective gifts that ensures children are kept safe.

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 6 – The deGorified Newborn The ReGlorified Lamb of God

One of my favourite stories of concealed identity hiding in plain sight is from Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables, where the escaped convict, Jean Valjean, is pursued for years by now retired Inspector Javert. As it turns out Jean Valjean, who had changed his name to M. Madeleine has now become a successful business man and the Mayor of Toulon. Javert arrives in Toulon and is immediately recognised by Valjean. But Javert does not recognise the now clean-shaven, genteel aristocratic Mayor of Toulon as his nemesis. But when he observes the compassion of M. Madeleine he recalls the time in prison when Jean Valjean had also displayed a similar extraordinary compassion for unfortunate fellow prisoners. The more he observed such acts of kindness and generosity from M. Madeleine the more Javert became convinced of the true identity of Madeleine. There is something about this idea of concealed identity that comes from the story of Christ. The prophet Isaiah foretold that when the Servant of the LORD would appear He would be largely unrecognised – there would be no form, no beauty, that we would desire Him (Isa. 53:2). But how on earth was this possible? How in God’s Name  could those who were created by Him in His image not recognise Him for who He was? The answer to this great puzzle lies in one word: the kenosis.


Andrew, on occasions, used to wistfully say, “You know, all I really want is…” then he would say some ephemeral pleasure, like ‘a drink of coke’, or ‘quiet’, or ‘to get something finished’. So, one day I decided to ensure that his greatest desire (‘all I really want’) was met. This time all he ever wanted was a coffee, so I bounced up and brought him the best cup of coffee I could make and added a little yummy treat to compliment it. A few days later he once again said, “All I really want…” and I interrupted to finish his sentence for him … “was the cup of coffee that I was able to make for you the other day. I bet it was the best ever. I’m so glad I could meet that greatest desire you have.” He never said, ‘All I really want’ again!


THE LORDSHIP of JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 5 – He is the Creator of Heaven & Earth and all things Visible and Invisible
While the pagan religions in the days of the patriarchs, judges, and kings of Israel, all conceived of their gods as territorial, the God of Israel, Yeshua, declared that He was the Creator of all things and that He was Lord of Heaven and Earth. And He still is.

Freedom in Christ encompasses Freedom FROM and Freedom FOR

God offers freedom to those who turn to Him in faith, and this, as Pastor Andrew says, deserves a Toyota jump. It is worth celebrating. The freedom the New Testament speaks of is not just any old freedom. In Romans 8:21 Paul speaks of ‘the glorious freedom of God’s children’ (NET). In the same way you might savour a piece of chocolate as it slowly melts in your mouth, allow your spirit to savour the meaning of the freedom that is yours in Christ in all its richness. This single word freedom is densely packed with meaning, and we benefit from taking time to unpack just a little of what it means for believers.


Throughout the Old Testament, God made certain promises to the patriarchs (Abraham, Issac, and Jacob/Israel) that their descendants, the nation of Israel, longed to see fulfilled. These promises centred on having a holy Homeland and a Messiah. Over the centuries that followed their expulsion from their Land which sent them into exile into Babylon initially and then into Persia, the Israelites became known as Jews. Their expectations of how these divine promises would be fulfilled became greatly embellished with powerful military overtones.

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 3 – Before He was Incarnate, He was the Eternal LBefore He was Incarnate, He was the Eternal Lordord

For those unfamiliar with the story of the Bible who may be seeking to remedy that unfamiliarity, I would recommend that they start reading in the New Testament. It is there that they will be introduced immediately to Jesus who is the central character of the whole Bible. For many novice readers of the Bible who then attempt to read the Old Testament of the Bible (its first 39 books), it initially seems like they are reading a completely unrelated story which seems to describe a completely different God. But with a little patience and persistence the reader will begin to suspect that this is not a different story but is in fact the prequel to the New Testament. Then a strange supernatural thing happens as they continue to become acquainted with the lives of the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, as these characters interact with enemies, giants, angels, strange heavenly beings, and GOD Himself. The reader begins to see in a similar way to what a photographer could not previously see clearly until his camera’s focus was adjusted to make the picture clear — the GOD who created, acted, spoke and judged, frequently referred to Himself as ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’, and at times seemed to have conversations with divine characters identified as ‘the LORD’ and ‘Me’ and ‘His Spirit’ (Isa. 48:16). And this all begins to sound very reminiscent of the GOD described in the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With a growing knowledge of the Bible and hunger to understand it, the follower of Christ discovers that literally for thousands of years prior to this day there have been many many others who have also walked the journey of discovery through the mysterious pages of the Bible and have each made a startling discovery about the human Jesus’ pre-existence throughout the pages of the Old Testament.