on Spore and the gospel

The sadly underwhelming Spore was a 2008 PC game that allowed the player to experience and guide life from the cellular level right up to interstellar civilisation. You’d start off controlling an amoeba-like creature, absorbing nutrients and running away from larger micro-organisms; then progress to controlling a creature as it hunts for food and dodges predators; then a tribe, then a nation as it warred with its rivals; and finally you’d be planning space missions as your planet-state collected precious cargo or exotic life forms from other star systems.

At every single level of play there was something to worry about. Neutralising a source of worry at one stage merely opened up a new horizon of worry: achieving a large enough size on the microbial levels merely meant you’d now have to worry about finding more food (and running from larger predators) to stay alive; achieving safety from predators in a tribe merely meant worrying about other tribes, then other cities, and finally other planets. Achieving what you wanted at each stage did nothing to take away the worry and the challenge.

That’s what (supposedly) made the game work, made it playable as a game. And rather depressingly this is the game we are in everyday. Continue reading “on Spore and the gospel”

on the Son of David

After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.

At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!

“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.

But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.

After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.

Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the LORD placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the LORD’s anointed one.’ Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.

“May the LORD judge between us. Perhaps the LORD will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!”

When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the LORD put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the LORD reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the LORD that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”

So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold. — 1 Sam 24:1-22

I really enjoyed hearing and reading this Bible story when I was a kid. There was the swashbuckling adventure, David and his mercenaries running around in the hills, chased by murderous King Saul; there was the high drama of David’s impassioned plea, and Saul’s tearful reply – it’s good fun. Though I have to say, I enjoyed it the most as a kid because the image of King Saul pooping in a cave was hilarious to six-year-old me. And you know, it must’ve been pretty intense, or maybe David just had crazy ninja skills, that he could creep up to Saul and cut off a piece of his robe unnoticed. Such is the mind of a six year-old boy. Maybe six year-old girls think like that too. Maybe you’re thinking like that now. I’m not judging. Continue reading “on the Son of David”

on craftsmanship

Too late in life I’ve discovered: I’m a craftsman.

By trade I’m a teacher, and though (on most days) I’d call myself a pretty good one, I’ve recently found that what makes me feel good is not teaching, but making things. Producing tangible things – my latest pet project is carving on rubber slabs with lino knives. I started small, but I am getting better at it everyday. I can see it. As I said, tangible. I also produce educational videos, digital art, which is… less… tangible.

This is what occupies my weekends these days. Only just a couple of months ago my weekends would be exclusively for recharging – my Monday to Friday would be so balls-to-the-wall that if I didn’t sleep all day Saturday and Sunday, I’d start feeling physically ill. Church became an exalted burden. Continue reading “on craftsmanship”

on waiting for the fifth day

As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.
The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. —
Matt 27:57-66

There’s a scene from the the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers: the heroes are trapped inside a castle, surrounded by the bad guys. The bad guys, called the Uruk Hai, are these big, monstrous warriors, there’s an army of them, and they’re all six feet tall. They bellow and roar like wild animals, oh and they eat people. The good guys are three heroes: a man, an elf, and a dwarf, and they’re trying to help a bunch of farmers defend their castle. You gotta feel sorry for the farmers too, because they’re clearly no match for their enemies, and we the audience have spent, oh I don’t know, the past 10 hours watching the Uruk Hai slaughter and butcher them like pigs. And you know, if the bad guys break into the castle, not only will the heroes die, all the farmers’ wives and kids will also die. Continue reading “on waiting for the fifth day”

on who is Jesus

‘Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.’ — Mark 6:45-52

This is one of those Bible passages that Christians don’t often bring up. I know I don’t. I’m not exactly sure why, but I guess because it’s just kind of weird. It features a guy walking on water and then stopping a storm. It kind of sound like a fairy tale. So some Christians (and also some well-meaning non-Christians) have tried to prove it scientifically, like maybe Jesus was walking on ice, not water, because of some natural phenomenon. And so a lot of other Christians try to bring up less strange stories. And non-Christians roll their eyes. Continue reading “on who is Jesus”

on an unsavoury truth

Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the LORD told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”
So there at Hebron, King David made a covenant before the LORD with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.
On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites. Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”
So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces and working inward. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.
Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. And David realized that the LORD had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. —2 Samuel 5:1-12

There’s a trend in Christianity today that likes to focus on one part of the Bible, and forget about the other bits. Christians sometimes justify this by saying, Well, it’s 2016, some things in the Bible aren’t relevant anymore, or We don’t want to say things that are complicated or frightening, because we don’t want to scare people away. So Christians often don’t talk about sin, or hell, or eternal punishment. The songs we sing in church increasingly follow what I call the Jesus-my-boyfriend pattern, which focuses on mushy feelings and spiritual experiences instead of solid truths from the Bible. Continue reading “on an unsavoury truth”

on Philippians, gold foil and grenades

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” — Phil 2:1-11

This passage is one of my favourite in the entire Bible. Back in London my sifus called it the Jesus Song, because it was originally probably a hymn, which would make it one of the oldest hymns we know, plus it’s pretty epic, pretty Jesus. Continue reading “on Philippians, gold foil and grenades”

on heroic idiocy

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Continue reading “on heroic idiocy”

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