June 10 2016

The Man in the Moon – a poem

man in the moon

 

The Man in the Moon

a poem by Simon Camilleri

 

Let us pause and consider the Man in the Moon,

For he glows with a light that isn’t his own.

Created to shine in the darkness of night

By reflecting the glory of another’s light.

 

For it’s by the sun’s light that the moon can be known

And it’s by the sun’s light that its beauty is shown.

It’s the sun that now holds all the orbits in place.

If the sun let it go it would be lost in space.

 

Yet the man in the moon wishes he could break free.

He thinks of his orbit as like slavery.

Every lunar eclipse, to the earth’s furthest side,

The moon tries to escape, and like Adam he hides

 

In the shadow of earth where he thinks none can see,

And there in the dark, he declares “Now, I’m free!”

“Now it’s my time to shine. My own light fill the skies!”

So he tries to shine light. Yes he tries and he tries…

 

But he can’t. He’s a moon. Not a sun. Not a star.

And you can’t be enlightened lest you know what you are.

Still as the moon’s orbit from the earth’s shadow slips,

The moon vows to try harder, the next lunar eclipse .

 

The moon is a fool. Just like you. Just like me.

There’s a reason why madness is called “lunacy”.

The moon thinks he’s so big and the sun looks so small.

If he only could see the sun’s not small at all.

 

Even to us on the earth, they both look the same size.

But it’s due to perspective, it’s a trick of the eyes.

You could fit 64 million moons in one sun!

Yet the man in the moon thinks that he’s “Number One”.

 

So later tonight in the moon’s bright reflection,

Do your own reflective introspection.

See the man in the moon. Cos if you can,

You’ll see that the moon is there in the man.

 


 

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:

not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

– C.S. Lewis

 

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May 24 2016

The Political Party I’d Like To Vote For…

vote

 

I want a political party that:

– gives generously to our needy neighbours,
– cares for the poor in our own country,
– is welcoming to those fleeing oppressive regimes,
– works towards tolerance and social harmony in our communities,
– resources and equips education, health, science and the arts,
– stewards the environment well and tackle pollution,
– protects the innocent and the vulnerable from violence,
– cares for the unborn as well as mothers in crisis,
– values every life no matter whether it is old or young,
– encourages economic stability and jobs growth,
– makes it more possible for people to buy a house,
– inspires and facilitates entrepreneurship,
– helps the unemployed,
– helps those trying to start a business,
– helps big businesses create more jobs,
– makes sure the wealthy are paying their taxes,
– prevents and punishes crime,
– re-educates criminals where possible,
– makes sure our laws are fair and reasonable,
– protects our country from the threats of terrorism and attack,
– gives individuals the freedom to think, live, love and express themselves,
– fosters a society that allows people to disagree on important issues,
– values religion as a social and individual good,
– is open and honest about its use of money,
– manages money well and reduces debt,
– guards itself from giving itself more power than it should,
– does not think its role is to control every aspect of life,
– inspires its citizens to take responsibility for their own contribution,
– is humble before the God that will judge all those in a position of power and influence,
– is not a fantasy.

 

 

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May 16 2016

Captain America and the Size of Government

captain america

 

I saw “Captain America: Civil War” last night and there’s lots of things I could say about the movie. I loved the action, the performances, the dialogue and especially the new characters that are now in the Marvel Universe. I highly recommend seeing the film as one of the most fun and interesting Marvel films to date. But apart from all that, Civil War has got me thinking lots about one of the big issues central to the film – the pros and cons of big and small government.

Now, I don’t think this is a spoiler as it is revealed in the trailers and all the advertising, but the tension in the film centres on legislation that is proposed to regulate superheroes and their powers. It is called “The Sokovia Accords” with the subtitle of it being a “Framework for the registration and deployment of enhanced individuals”. Basically, the idea is that superheroes are expected to either retire or sign the document and if they sign then they can’t do any superhero work without the permission of an international panel that will monitor them, regulate them, send them out when required and prevent them from going out when deemed necessary.

Now, I was very impressed with how the movie presents the argument that this is a good and necessary thing, showing the destruction and death that many of their past actions have caused. Sure they were trying to save the world, but they ignore laws, international borders and in the end innocent people died due to their actions, and sometimes (like in the case of Ultron) they were saving the world from a threat that they themselves created.

Captain America has some concerns though. He is worried about the restriction of their personal freedom to not only fight evil, but also to make choices for themselves about how to regulate their power. He is also skeptical that a government panel would always make the best choice in how to use and regulate superheroes. As he says, it runs by people with agendas and agendas change… If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”

Now, for a series of movies that are often simply a bit of popcorn entertainment, it was interesting to see one that tackled a debate about political philosophy that is very relevant for our world today. The debate is about the idea of small vs big government.

SMALL vs BIG GOVERNMENT

If you’ve never heard of this debate before, it’s basically asking how much control, influence, involvement or power should be given to the government and how much should be given to individual citizens or private organisations (like businesses, churches, families, private schools etc.).

A small government approach is one where the government has as little involvement as possible in the affairs of its citizens. Small governments may still provide basic, necessary services (military defense, police, fire, water, electricity, sewerage etc.) and they may also provide services like welfare for those that cannot obtain work or health services, but the weight of the power and responsibility rests on individual citizens and organisations.

Big government, as you can probably guess, is the opposite approach. The government has a substantial level of involvement and regulation, and the weight of power and responsibility does not rest on the citizens but the government that presides over them.

Now, each of these approaches or politics philosophies have their pros and cons. Small government focuses on people’s individual libertarian rights to live their own life, raise their own kids and express their own values. Generally, most individual people want small government because they don’t want to be told what to do, especially by a government that may not share your values. Generally, small governments create more prosperous countries as they aim to encourage and empower enterprise and individual creativity. The problem with small government is that people’s individual values can be pretty selfish. Small government allows for the rich to get richer with no concern for the poor if they don’t want to have any. Also, small government creates a society of mixed values and behaviours, which means that tolerance is very important and social harmony can be challenging.

Big government has its own set of challenges. On a positive note, big governments aim to prevent the poor from getting poorer and the rich from getting richer, and through government regulation and oversight aim to create a more equitable society that is free from the individual abuses that small government can bring about. The problem with big government is that it can be just as abusive as individuals. The big government approach assumes responsibilities that, under a smaller government, are distributed to individual citizens. This often involves raising taxes and taking power and freedom away from its citizens, which can kill enterprise and may encourage bigger businesses to take their industries off shore where they can prosper in a country with less restrictions. Also, in an attempt to create social harmony and restrict the values of individuals and businesses that it deems bad for society, a big government will inevitably seek to enforce its own set of values on society and it will have the power to do so. This may be ok if its values are good, but who doesn’t believe that their values are good? As Captain America says in the movie: “it runs by people with agendas and agendas change”.

Basically, both big and small government philosophies are wanting the same goal – they aim to help create a prosperous society where all citizens can flourish and where evil is restricted. They simply represent two opposite ends of the spectrum of how to achieve that goal. Small government primarily gives that responsibility to individuals and free enterprise and aims to make the government have as little power as possible, and big government gives the government the primary responsibility and consequently much more power and influence to achieve that goal.

BIG & SMALL GOVERNMENT IN MY EXPERIENCE

Personally, I believe, as most do, that a balance between the two is necessary. In regard to gun control for example, I am glad that I live in Australia which has taken a big government approach to the issue. Guns are extremely restricted and the only guns I know of anyone owning, are rifles used for shooting pests (like rabbits and roos) out in the country. This means that I also don’t personally know of anyone who has been shot, either deliberately or accidentally, and Australia – with a population of over 23 million – in 2014 experienced only 230 gun-related deaths. The US in contrast, has a population of 316.5 million, which is 14 times the population of Australia, but in 2014, the US had 146 times the amount of gun-related deaths (33,599 deaths).

So when it comes to guns, I am happy that the government restricts my and others personal freedom to own, carry and use guns. The big government approach in this situation has literally helped lives to flourish and has created a better society for all citizens (except arguably for those who wish to own guns of course).

Another area of big government that I have benefited from is Australia’s healthcare system. Although I may not agree with everything my healthcare tax dollars are put towards (abortion for example) I think we have a great system that allows pretty much everyone to receive the care they need. Important medicines (like the diabetes medication I take daily) is majorly subsidized and I can see diabetes educators, nutritionists and other health specialists free of charge because of this soft form of universal healthcare that we have. It’s not without its problems, with the public system overrun and susceptible to overuse, but I am glad we have this semi-big government approach to this vital service.

So, I see the good of big government, but like Captain America, I also see its dangers. Captain America’s concern in the movie “Civil War” is primarily about how a government body may have a different set of values to an individual citizen (or superhero) and how their increased power and influence may be used to serve their own agenda rather than the citizens themselves. Captain America suggests that the big government approach is a form of “surrendering our right to choose” and proposed some theoretical examples where this might be a problem: “What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”

As a Christian, I am most concerned about the big government approach in its potential effect to and restriction of religious freedom. In a big government, if the government deems certain beliefs or values to stand in the way their particular view of what makes a “good” society, they may use their increased power and influence to restrict or even criminalize those beliefs. This may seem extreme, but it happens in many countries even today.

In 23 out of 49 Islamic countries, it is illegal to convert away from Islam and it is also illegal for non-Muslims to share their faith in such a way that they might encourage a Muslim to convert. In Malaysia, it is illegal to leave Islam in every state other than Negeri Sembilan. In this state you have to apply to the courts if you want to convert and the vast majority get denied. This is what it looks like when the big government approach takes over religious expression in a country.

This is not only a problem if a religious government gains control and establishes a big government. It is also an issue in socialist secular countries as well. In China for example, freedom of religion is majorly restricted to only five government-sanctioned religions. Of this five, there is only one protestant group allowed which the government has called the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement”. It’s teaching, appointment of leaders and ability to meet freely is tightly regulated and defined by the government. Naturally, they do this because, as every government does, they want their country to flourish and be prosperous for all its citizens, and they believe that complete freedom of religion would jeopardize that goal. Politicians of any country’s government may have this concern, but it is only those that have a big government approach, that are afforded the power to be able to enforce it.

Now you may still think that examples like Islamic countries and socialist China are extreme and bear no resemblance to democratic Western countries, but in the last decade the threat to religious freedom has been growing. Generally, Western countries have been influenced by Christianity, which at its heart teaches that faith in Christ is something that must come freely and can not be forced or enforced (although I acknowledge at times in history this has been foolishly attempted by some rulers). Countries influenced by Christianity have therefore encouraged a separation of Church and State and have enshrined a freedom of religious belief and expression into many of its laws.

THE BIG GOVERNMENT TREND IN THE WEST

What we are now seeing, as Western countries peel off the Christian veneer and as more secularist politicians gain power and influence, is that governments are finding their values and the values of many religious people are starting to become more and more in conflict.

In London earlier this month, some Orthodox Jewish schools were investigated by government education inspectors and have now been told by the courts that they must promote “fundamental British values”. Presiding judge Hugh Brayne said that the ruling was to ensure that students at the Jewish school would “be equipped to enter modern British society, which accepts as part of its diversity civil partnerships, gay marriage, families with same-sex parents and acceptance of transgender persons”.

In the States, just last Friday, in a classic big government approach, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a decree that told all public schools in the country that they had to provide access to toilet, locker room and shower facilities to students based on the gender they identify with rather than based on their actual sex. It wasn’t a law (as schools are under the legal jurisdiction of the state not the federal government) but they have said they would withhold federal funding for those schools that do not comply.

In Australia, these issues are also very relevant with a similar thing happening with the Victorian Labor government pushing its values about sexuality and gender by enforcing the controversial sexuality education program “Safe Schools” in all public schools, whether or not school staff, parents or even students wish to sign up to the program. Also, an article last week in The Daily Telegraph calling to remove the tax free status of churches unless they meet the criteria of a government review. “What is necessary now is for all religious organisations to submit annual financial reports and for the government and Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission to review their tax-exempt status.” Now, as much as I think it is valid to stamp out any abuses of the tax free status by religious organisations, it is concerning if financial incentives were ever used to influence churches to align with the values of the government.

In regard to the push for reform of the legal definition of marriage in Australia, questions about big vs small government are integral to the debate. On one hand, a small government approach would suggest that individual citizens should have the freedom to marry however and whoever they choose, or to define marriage however they want. Unfortunately, the parties that openly support the change, such as Labor and the Greens, are generally also supportive of the big government approach. This makes many Christians very concerned that once the change becomes enshrined in law, they will not have the freedom of religion to teach what the bible says about marriage, sexuality and gender in Christian schools, Universities, public forums or possibly even churches. Such teaching will be deemed “hate speech” and “offensive” and a big government approach will see it potentially being legislated against in order to enforce conformity to the government’s values.

A similar concern is felt for Christians involved in businesses that provide services for weddings, such as bakers, wedding planners and photographers. In a small government approach, these Christians would have the freedom to conscientiously object to supporting an event that they believed was morally objectionable based on their religious convictions. I’m still thinking through my position on this, but it is clear that under a big government approach, there will be no debate – they will have to conform to the government’s new definition of marriage or they will be fined for discrimination. We have already seen this happening in some Western countries. Possibly the most well known was a little bakery in Oregon run by a Christian couple who informed a lesbian couple that they couldn’t in good conscience make a cake for their wedding, and a court ordered they pay $135,000 to the couple for the emotional damage caused.

LIKE A TREE BESIDE THE RIVER OF TRUTH

If Western countries don’t want to end up like the oppressive governments mentioned earlier, then they need to be wary of the way the big government approach is being used and accepted more and more. As I explained earlier, the big government approach can be at times helpful. It is definitely a powerful strategy which can use its influence for great good, but at the same time it can be used for evil and oppression as well.

That is why I think the movie, Captain America: Civil War is so interesting in today’s climate. It raises a debate that some people don’t realize needs to be debated. It points out the danger of giving the power over many into the hands of a few. It has made me think through where I stand – be it Team Cap or Team Iron Man. It’s actually a hard choice at the start as both sides make their case quite well, but in the end, Captain America’s concerns are shown to be valid.

Now, I may think through these issues and come to my own conclusion, but in the end, I see my own country slowly sliding towards a bigger and bigger government. With a federal election only a couple of months away, this debate could not be more relevant. I only have one vote though, and so my calling is to simply what I think is right. As the government gets bigger and uses its increased power to try to restrict views that it disagrees with, I will try to remember the words in the movie that inspire Captain America as he sat in that solemn church – words that, in the original comic, Captain America spoke himself:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, YOU move.’”

I don’t know what saying “No, YOU move” might look like in my own circumstances, but I guess over time, I’ll find out.  I also don’t know exactly when a big government approach is better than a small government approach, and visa versa. It’s very complex and I hope I haven’t presented the issues in an unfairly simplistic way. I guess, the more I think about it, the more I feel I side with Team Cap and a small government philosophy. At least in a general sense. Small governments can seem cold and harsh to the poor and the weak, but at least they don’t restrict individual citizens and charitable organisations from caring for those in need. It seems to me that a big government that is corrupt can do much more harm than a small government that is cold. But hey, what do I know? I’m no political analyst. I’m just a guy who saw a cool superhero movie. I’m just someone who is thinking through his position on all these issues. I’m just a Christian. I’m just an individual citizen.

you move

 

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February 28 2016

Trump does not get the Gospel

trump get gospel

Recently the Pope made a statement that implied that Donald Trump was not a Christian. He pointed to Trump’s plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico and said “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”

Trump responded with this statement: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian… No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”

Firstly, I want to say that Trump is completely wrong in regard to the right of a religious leader to question another man’s religion. In fact, the apostle Paul would say that that is one of the responsibilities of a religious leader. Consider Paul’s instruction to his trainee-minister, Titus: “[An elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:9-11) Paul even models this in his public rebuke of Peter which he mentions in Galatians 2:11-14, when Peter was clearly “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel”.

Jesus himself also warns us to watch out both for false believers and for the fact that we might be a false believer ourselves. In Matthew 7:13-23 Jesus says:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Now, we have to be careful not be too quick to judge someone as a false believer. Jesus even warns his followers to have this caution in Mark 9:38-41. But in order for us to clearly proclaim and protect the gospel message, we need to be able to call a spade a spade. When someone has no understanding of the Christian gospel or shows no fruit that should accompany someone who claims to be a Christian (see Galatians 5:16-23), then we should feel free to suggest that that person is not a Christian.

Now, there may be many, many reasons for someone to consider that Donald Trump is not a genuine Christian. You could point to his unrepentant boasting about his various extramarital affairs, or his sexistracist and ableist comments, or his foul language, or his commitment to bring back the practise of water-boarding and worse, or his threats of violence against those that oppose him, or his general arrogance and ego. These examples show that the fruit of a life shaped by the Spirit of God – namely love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – are severely lacking in Trump, and might be considered enough to conclude that he wasn’t actually a Christ-follower. As Jesus said, By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20).

Now, you have to be careful judging the reality of someone’s conversion based on the fruit you see. We are all flawed works-in-progress. Someone may be a genuine follower of Christ and still have a lot of bad fruit that God is working on over time. The example I mentioned before where Paul publicly rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) was an example of one Christian rebuking another Christian. Paul accused Peter of “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel”. The problem with Trump though is not that he isn’t acting in line with the gospel, it’s that he doesn’t even know the gospel in the first place.

TWO CRITERIA TO BE A CHRISTIAN 

When Jesus called people to follow him right at the beginning of his ministry he said, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the gospel!” In order to be a Christian (a Christ-person) Jesus commands two things: “Repent” and “believe the gospel”. This message is echoed later in Jesus ministry when he explains what the heart of his message is: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) and after Jesus was resurrected this call to “repent and believe” was carried on by his followers, as can be seen in Acts 20:21, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

Turning to God in repentance for our sin and believing in the good news about Jesus for our forgiveness is the simple requirement for the salvation that God offers. If you have not done this, then you are not a Christian and you can not claim that name. If you do not show evidence of having done this, then other people are right to (as Trump puts it) question your faith and religion.

The gospel message is the thing God uses to bring people into his kingdom. As Paul writes in Romans 1:16, “the gospel…is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”. Because of this, it is important that we are clear about the gospel, it is important that we defend the gospel and it is important that we protect the gospel from being corrupted over time. One of the ways to do this is to not be afraid to call someone out for not having the right to call themselves a Christian – either due to their lack of “repenting and believing” or due to their lack of the fruit that should accompany it.

As I mentioned about, it is easy to see that Trump is lacking in the fruit, but I think the thing that makes it even clearer that he is not a Christian, is the fact that he has not “repented and believed”. This video clip makes that abundantly clear.

Trump is asked the most basic of questions that a Christian should be able to answer without hesitation: “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?”

Trump first tries to avoid the question, talking non-stop for a full minute trying to win the crowd by name-dropping his minister. When he is forced to confront the question he stumbles over his answer saying: “I’m not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t… I don’t think in terms of that. I think in terms of let’s go on and let’s make it right.”

Not long after this interview, Trump was questioned about his answer and his understanding of Christianity on CNN.

Interviewer Anderson Cooper asked Trump: “The idea of repentance. Is that something that’s important to you?”

Trump answered: “I think repenting is terrific.”

Cooper: “But do you feel a need to? As part of forgiveness.”

Trump: “If I make a mistake then yeah, then I think it’s great, but I try not to make mistakes. I mean, why do I have to, you know, repent? Why do I have to ask for forgiveness if you’re not making mistakes? I work hard. I’m an honorable person. I have thousands of people who work for me. I’ve employed tens of thousands of people over the years.”

Cooper: “You give millions to charity.”

Trump: “I give millions. I built the Vietnam Memorial in Lower Manhattan, with a small group of people!”


JESUS CAME FOR THE SICK

As has been often pointed out by Christian commentators, if you do not see the bad news of our sin and need for forgiveness, then you will never see the good news of Jesus’ offer to die for your sin and provide you that forgiveness. It’s like chemo. You’ll never go do it if you don’t realise you have cancer.

In Luke 5:30-32, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answers, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus describes himself as a doctor, and if you don’t know you’re sick, you won’t go to him. Jesus has come for sinners, not those who think they are “righteous”.

Trump falls into the exact same problem the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. When asked about whether he has asked God for forgiveness, Trump says “I don’t think so”. When asked about what he thinks about repentance, Trump says “Why do I have to repent?”. Trump does acknowledge that he may have made some mistakes, but that doesn’t drive him to his needs before God. In fact he says, “If I do something wrong I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.”

In his mind, Trump is his own saviour. And if asked about whether he feels a need to repent, he will point out all his good works – working hard, being honorable, employing people, giving to charity and building stuff. I don’t know about you, but that reminds me of a parable Jesus once told that seems quite appropriate. It’s found in Luke 18:9-14. Have a read and see who the Pharisee in the parable sounds like.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

WE ARE LIKE TRUMP

Now, this article may sound like I am just having fun dumping on Trump. That’s actually not my goal at all. In fact it would be hypocritical for me to quote the parable above and then just say, “God, I thank you that I am not like Donald Trump!” The fact is that although Trump needs forgiveness and needs to repent, we are no better than him. The point of the parable that Jesus told was that we should not base our understanding of our own goodness by comparing ourselves to others. We should be like the Tax Collector. The Tax Collector was actually a worse sinner than the Pharisee, but he did something that meant that he went home right with God – he acknowledged his sin and he asked for mercy. In Jesus’ words, he “humbled” himself before God. That is something we all need to do, and if you are standing next to Trump on the day of Judgment, you can’t point to him and say, “At least I was better than him.” No. We are like Trump. We all need forgiveness. We all need to repent. We all need Jesus. We are all in the same boat.

My aim in writing this article is not to get you to hate Trump. It’s not to get my American friends to not vote for him (though most of them are more anti-Trump than I am). My aim in writing this is twofold. Firstly, in order to defend the integrity of the true Christian gospel I feel it is important to say that Trump does not get it. It is important that I point to an example like Trump and say, despite the fact that he calls himself a Christian, he is not one. There is only one gospel. And as R.C. Sproul said at the Ligonier National Conference just yesterday, “Whatever else we do with the gospel, we must never, ever, ever mess with it.”

But secondly, we must make sure that we do not fall into the same trap. We must make sure that we understand the gospel clearly and that we have responded to it in the way that Jesus commands. Those that call themselves by the name “Christian” must be open to that sort of self-scrutiny and self-reflection. We can not presume that just because we call ourselves a “Christian” that we are one. And if someone questions our genuineness as a Christian, we need to not react like Trump did to the Pope. We need to give people the right to ask those questions and we need to ask those questions of ourselves. We need search our hearts and the Scripture to allow God to convict us and call us to repent and believe. We need to take Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 seriously:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Sadly, I believe there a millions of people who, like Trump, would tick the “Christian” box on the census form and yet do not know the gospel and have never responded to it. Millions of people who expect to meet God as a friend when they die, and yet will meet him as a stranger. It is a harrowing and sobering thought.

The best we can do is make sure that we know the gospel ourselves and make it known as best we can.

 

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February 20 2016

Sometimes God makes my life boring

boring

 

Last Thursday, on my way home from work, my car’s front right tire exploded while I was driving at 100km/h on the Western Ring Road Freeway.

What happened next was intense and traumatic and I’m lucky to be alive…

 


 

As you can imagine, without one of my front tires I could barely keep control of my car. I could hear the loud flap of the torn up rubber and the scrape of the metal rim as my little Mazda 2 veered violently to the right, almost going into the lane next to me. I was in the middle lane of the freeway and the traffic was very busy with lots of trucks and other commuters on every side.

As I was travelling at 100km/h I knew I had to slow down, but the car behind mustn’t have been paying attention, because as I steadily applied the break they kept zooming ahead and they knocked the back of me. It was a fairly violent nudge and it forced my car off to the right, where I scraped into the side of the van in the next lane. It all happened very fast after that.

freeway2The van veered off to try to avoid me and crashed into the short concrete wall separating the freeway, this cause a pile up of cars behind it as they all tried to screech to a holt. Meanwhile, the car behind me still hadn’t stopped and pushed my car into a spin. I was terrified and I can remember screaming and thinking that I was truly going to die and how horrible that would be. Several other cars then plowed into mine as I spun, pushing me further across the freeway and into the lane of an oncoming truck. The last thing I heard was the deafening hiss of the truck’s airbreaks as the driver desperately tried to avoid me.

Unfortunately, it was going too fast. The truck rammed into the nose of my small hatchback causing me to flip several times. My airbags went off and the the next few moments were a chaotic mess of broken glass and crunching metal and being tossed around like a rag doll, all the while knowing for sure that at the unjust age of 38, the great fearful blackness of death was about to swallow me at any second.

It is only by the grace of God’s miraculous hand that I escaped death and am hear to tell you the tale. My car was totaled, I have a few broken bones, but after a couple of nights in hospital it looks like I will pull through. I may not walk for a few months and they had to amputate my right arm, but this experience has left me more appreciative of life and more confident that God can see me through anything…

 


 

Now that would have been an exciting near-death experience story for me to be able to tell you, except for the fact that… none of that actually happened.

 

Well, the first sentence is true. My tire did explode while I was driving at 100km/h on the freeway last Thursday, but God had orchestrated things so it turned out a little differently.

 

Firstly, God ensured that when my tire blew, I was in the left most lane so it was fairly easy for me to quickly turn into the emergency lane and out of harms way. God also probably helped the car stabilize in that process as I didn’t find it too hard to control even though I was driving on the metal rim and travelling at a high speed. God made sure that there were no cars right behind me as well, so slowing down didn’t cause any problems.

After that, it was pretty boring really. I called Cat and she called her brother Phil, who’s handy with all things practical (unlike me, with my uncalloused graphic designer hands). God had made sure Phil was available and, in a longer term sense, had shaped Phil’s godly character into an “always willing to help when needed” sort of dude. Phil dropped whatever he was doing and found me on the freeway. He quickly replaced the tire with my spare, using his cool drill attachments to undo the nuts on the wheel, making me feel like I was in the company of a Formula 1 pit-crew.

After the tire was replaced, I jumped back in the car and guess what? The battery was flat! Crazy huh? We contemplated getting some roadside service, but it was going to cost us a bit so we thought we’d first try to give the car a push start to see it that could start the engine that way. By God’s kindness, it did, and both Phil & I were able to get to get on our way and attend the ministry meeting at our church that we had on that night. In about one hour exactly, I had gone from an exploding tire to on my merry way. I guess God wanted me at that meeting. Or maybe he wanted Cat there, as if I had really been in a major crash, I doubt she would have attended the meeting either.

When my tire exploded, I was naturally surprised and a little anxious as I got out of traffic, but I was never terrified like I described in my exciting made up story. I didn’t scream thinking that I was truly going to die and how horrible that would be. In fact, I am very much at peace about dying. To be honest, I look forward to the joy of seeing Christ face to face. Now, I don’t look forward to the actual process of dying and I’m sure if that horrible crash had actually happened I might have been screaming as I awaited the painful end. But I wouldn’t be thinking “that at the unjust age of 38, the great fearful blackness of death was about to swallow me at any second.” It wouldn’t be unjust for me to die at 38 or 68 or 18 or even 8 months (the age of my daughter). The bible says the God is the one who “gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). This life I live is a gift from God. I do not own it. I do not have rights over it. It is God’s and he will take it back when he pleases.

And when he does, even if I’m scared of the actual thing that will kill me – be it cancer, a heart attack or a freeway pile-up – I hope I can remember the apostle Paul’s wonderful words in Philippians 1:20-23…

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

In fact, in that moment, just after the exploding tire as I waited for Phil to arrive, I posted on Facebook a few photos of my tire along with this status update: “One of my tires exploded while driving on the freeway. Ah, to live is Christ…”

 

God protected me last Thursday. The fact that my actual story is not as dramatic and exciting as the one I made up is actually a miracle. My boring true story is a sign of God’s kindness and sovereignty and ability to control events like tires and freeway lanes and everything else.

Now, I don’t believe in a prosperity gospel that thinks that God is only looking after me when good things happen (you can see my thoughts on God’s sovereignty in suffering here). I have had my share of pain and tragedy, and yet I can still say with confidence that God is kind and loving and in control. As the bible says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). All things means all things. God will look after those in Christ through all things like sickness, divorce, near-death experiences and even death itself.

I don’t expect God to provide me a life of comfort, free from pain or strife. In fact, I expect drama and tragedy and suffering. Though quite often (and probably a lot more than I know), for his own mysterious purposes, even when I might like to have an exciting story to tell… sometimes God makes my life boring.

 

(1359)

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February 2 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. on being 38 years old

MLK jr copy

Today I turn 38. I was stumbling around the internet, looking for things that famous people had achieved by the age 38, and found this great quote from Martin Luther King Jr. from his 1968 sermon entitled, “But if Not”. This year, I wonder how relevant these words will be for me. 

“And I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

 


Almost exactly 5 months after preaching these words, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed.

Today, as I celebrate my 38th birthday, may I be inspired by his resolve.

MLK Centre

(1935)

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January 19 2016

Mercy, baby rapists & the cross

WHAT IS MERCY

This is a public Facebook conversation I had recently with someone. I haven’t ever posted a conversation before, but the questions they asked me were so profound, genuine and clear, I was encouraged by the opportunity it gave me to try to explain the gospel. Even though the conversation was public, for the sake of privacy, I will simply put my Facebook friend’s comments in bold. No comments have been edited. Also, for context, this conversation starts in the middle of a bigger conversation about theology and the nature of God.

 

Mercy, baby rapists & the cross – a Facebook conversation

 

  • What is mercy?

 

  • Mercy is the withholding of judgement.
    Grace is related but different. Grace is the giving of an undeserved gift.
    So if a young criminal was told by a judge, “You are guilty, but I will not punish you.” that is mercy. But if he went on to say, “And I will personally pay for you to get an education.” That would be grace.

 

  • So, it’s very much connected to kindness in place of punishment?
    Why is judgement so important?

 

  • Judgement (and I’m obviously speaking from a biblical Christian perspective here) is so important because God is holy and good and as much as he is 100% committed to good he is 100% opposed to evil. Judgement is the expression of this holy commitment.
    Judgment is not opposed to kindness. In fact, it is unkind for God to be apathetic about evil.The Christian message is not that God ignores judgement for evil, but that he bears it and takes it on himself in our place. And so in the one act, the judgment of God and the mercy of God is displayed.

 

  • Isn’t all I am comprised of, including all potential, made by God?

 

  • Your entire body is made by God, but how you choose to use that body is your responsibility.

 

  • Can God prevent evil?

 

  • If God created us, then it stands to reason that his power is greater than us.
    Are you wondering, if God is good and he is able to prevent evil, why doesn’t he do it?

 

  • Yeah. Why let babies be raped, etc. Why invent evil?

 

  • Those are two different questions.
    God didn’t invent evil. We, as people in opposition to God’s command to love, invented ways (like rape) to defy God and live for ourselves.As for why doesn’t God prevent our evil – that is a great question and one that the biblical writers asked often: “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7)The answer the bible most often gives is that God is not ignorant of evil and there will be a Day of Judgement where all will be put right.The question is dangerous though. If we start asking why doesn’t God simply destroy all baby rapists, we may eventually have to ask why God doesn’t also destroy us for our evil acts?

 

  • Rather, I’m wondering why he allows it.

 

  • I have wondered that myself. And not in some philosophical thought-exercise way. I particularly grappled with it during my separation and divorce. I believe in a God that can do anything, which means he can cause or prevent anything he wills to. And yet horrible things happen.I think ultimately it is an unanswered question, though I do rest in a few truths that I am confident in:

    1. God sees all. No suffering or evil or good goes unnoticed.

    2. God is wiser than me. He knows all ends and what is the best way this world should be dealt with.3. God came to earth in Jesus, took on flesh and felt our experience of suffering. His compassion and empathy is not theoretical.

    4. Jesus showed that God is ultimately a God of love for everyone, including those that do evil like you and I. He died in our place, making forgiveness and reconciliation possible, and for me, ending the question about whether or not God really loves us.

    5. Jesus will return to judge all and no evil act will be ignored and no injustice will not be addressed and put right.

    6. In God there is true joy. Life is not about having a happy marriage or a healthy body, or even, not ever enduring violence. Life is about knowing and enjoying our Creator, and that is a joy that is for all and it is a joy that surpasses all other griefs.

 

  • 4. I have never understood the idea of Christ dying in our place. Or how that made forgiveness or anything possible. I cannot see any sense in this. Why died for my sins?

 

  • To answer your question about why Jesus needed to die for your sins and how that makes forgiveness possible, I’ll try to give a simplistic answer and then flesh it out as you feel needs be…The “good news” that Christianity proposes is an answer to a particular “bad news”. This is that, although we are meant to love God with everything and love our neighbour as ourself, we don’t do that. We’d rather live our own way, we’d rather trust in our own authority, we’d rather love ourselves and live for ourselves. Basically, we’d rather not treat God as God. This is what Christianity calls “sin”. It’s not just doing naughty things, it’s a personal rejection of God as God.

    God is the source of life and light and so, turning away from him brings the consequences of death and darkness (whether we intend this or not). To say God is “light” (or the Christian term “holy”) is to say that God is 100% committed to all that is right and good and just. This also means that God is 100% opposed to sin and evil and darkness. Our sin severs the harmonious relationship we should have with our Creator and puts us under his just judgment and condemnation.

    There is nothing we can do to win God’s favour back. We can’t buy him off with a bunch of flowers or our weak attempts at being good. Any good deeds that we do is simply good that we should have been doing in the first place, and so they don’t earn us anything.

    If you think I’m not getting this from the bible, then here’s a couple of verses to back it up:
    “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

    So, the bad news is that we are all sinners to various degrees and that puts us under the punishment of death, experiencing separation from God both now and forever. And the really bad news is there’s nothing in our own strength that we can do to save ourselves.

    Fortunately, Jesus came to bring the good news. The good news is that God was not content to leave us without hope. He came and took on humanity in the person Jesus, lived the perfect life we could not live and then died the death that we deserved. Jesus described his death as a “ransom” (Mark 10:45). It was a payment to enable us to be freed from the judgement that we are under. The death Jesus died was no ordinary death. It was the death that we should have died as the punishment for our sin. God’s hatred for sin and all his condemnation and judgment was taken by Jesus on the cross. It’s like a judge who condemns you to death for your crimes and then steps down from his seat, and says that he will go to the electric chair instead of you.

    The way Peter (Jesus’ closest friend and a key leader in early Christianity) puts it is: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 1:24).The call now to us is not to clean ourselves up for God. It’s not to try to be good to get to heaven. Naturally, we must turn away from our commitment to sin and turn back to treating God as God, but what makes our reconciliation with God possible, is what God has done in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The call is to turn to and trust in Jesus.

    That is how Jesus’ death makes it possible for us to be forgiven. It pays the debt that we owe. It removes the barrier between us and God. It satisfies our holy God’s requirement for justice and for those who trust in Jesus, it leaves no more judgment or condemnation left for us to face. The result is that we are restored to friendship with God and we live in right relationship with him, in light and life, both now and forever – not based on any good works we have done, but based solely on his good work for us in Jesus’ death.

    Now that may have seemed like a very long-winded answer. Sorry about that! Believe me, there is lots more I could have said. This is a fascinating and personally exciting topic for me, as I don’t simply believe it to be theoretically true. I have personally experienced this reconciliation myself, and have enjoyed a restored relationship with God for over 20 years now! Although I know this “good news” about Jesus’ death can seem weird or even nonsensical to some, and I have questions about how it all works, but I believe it to be true because I know that it does work and have found it to be true.

(1183)

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November 15 2015

A Radical Reflection

peace

 

If Islam is a religion of peace, then ISIS shouldn’t be described as “radical” or “extremist” muslims. They should be described as non-muslims. If Islam is a religion of peace, then people should in fact be saying that we need more radical and extreme muslims.

What gets held up as the ideal is those that are called “moderate muslims”. Think about that. The implication is that you have to moderate Islam to make it a positive thing.

When it comes to Christianity, no one should want to be a “moderate Christian”. Genuine Christianity is radical and extreme. A radical Christian is one that takes the words and message of Jesus seriously. An extremist Christian is one that takes the love, mercy and grace of Jesus to extreme lengths – loving their neighbour, being generous, offering forgiveness and praying for their enemies.

If you saw a group of people who called themselves “Christians” but went around raping little girls and beheading people of other religions, you wouldn’t say they are a “radical Christian”. You wouldn’t say they are an “extreme Christian”. You’d say they weren’t a Christian.

When it comes to being a Jesus follower, we don’t need to be wary of “radicalisation”. What’s the alternative? Nominalism? Apathy? Our society and indeed the Christian church is way too full of that already.

Christians need to be a lot more extreme, a lot more radical. And if muslims around the world want people to take their claims that “Islam is a religion of peace” seriously, then they need to get more radical and extreme as well.

Their efforts to denounce, defund, expose, re-educate and stamp out the increasingly active streams of Islam like ISIS, needs to be a lot more than simply “moderate”.

(1753)

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May 1 2015

The Death Penalty in Australia – a poem

crosses

THE DEATH PENALTY IN AUSTRALIA
a poem by Simon Camilleri

I weep as lives are taken

By a law so cold and strange.

I wonder why the government

Has not done more for change.

I shake my head at such a waste

Oh, what their lives could give!

Who knows what good they could have done

If they were free to live?

I hope one day we’ll value

Every life as having worth,

And learn that killing will not solve

The problems of the earth.

So do you #standformercy?

And will you stand with me?

And will you weep as lives are lost

Due to this tragedy?

Well, just before you answer,

Let me clear something please…

I’m not talking about the deaths

Of Aussies overseas.

Though stopping the death penalty

In Bali’s a good cause,

We have a worse injustice

Right at home upon our shores.

It’s Australia’s own death penalty.

Abortion is its name.

And every single year

100 thousand lives it claims.

I weep as lives are taken

By a law so cold and strange.

I wonder why the government

Has not done more for change.

I shake my head at such a waste

Oh, what their lives could give!

Who knows what good they could have done

If they were free to live?

I hope one day we’ll value

Every life as having worth,

And learn that killing will not solve

The problems of the earth.

So do you stand for mercy?

And will you stand with me?

And will you weep as lives are lost

Due to this tragedy?

(1590)

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February 17 2015

QUANTUM – a word game

Quantum

One day, back in High School, someone (probably my best friend Daniel) explained Quantum Physics to me with the idea that everything is connected to everything else. Now, I have no idea about Quantum Physics, but from that basic idea I developed my own little word game, which I called “Quantum”. Back in High School I really liked word games. I was particularly into the game called “Word Morph” where you have to get from one word to another by just changing one letter at a time (if you’ve never heard of this game, check it here).  Quantum is similar to Word Morph, in that you have a starting word and you have to try to get to a finishing word, but it is different in that you use conceptual links to change the words, rather than simply changing letters. It is also different in that it is not a solo game. It can be played with as many people as you like, but it best works with two people. This creates the most fun and challenging part of the game as you each compete to link to your word without knowing what the other person’s word is.

I have made many games over the years (Mega Church, Treasure Island, Royal Rescue, Please Finalise Your Purchases, Back Story, Nukes Spies & Propaganda, Paparazzi, Whoever Has the Four of Clubs Wins). Some of these have worked well and some of these have failed miserably. Quantum is definitely a game that has worked. Even today, over 20 years after inventing the game, I still play it quite often with my wife when we go on road trips or are killing time waiting for something. I thought I’d write up the rules here so that you can enjoy it too.


HOW TO PLAY “QUANTUM”

AIM:
The aim of the game is to be the first player to create a legitimate link to your winning word.

THE BASIC IDEA:
All players think of (or are secretly given) a word that they will try to get to. This is their winning word. A starting word is chosen and then players take turns saying words that link to the previous word. So player 1 says a word that links to the starting word, and then player 2 says a word that links to the word that player 1 just said. Each player is trying to pull the game towards their winning word, but neither player knows which word their opponent is trying to get to. Thus the game involves using multiple tactics to both get to your word and avoid the other player guessing what you word is.

HOW TO MAKE A LEGITIMATE LINK:
In Quantum, words are linked conceptually, meaning the linking word must have some understood relationship to the previous word. Common relationships between words may be things like:

  • They are commonly together in use or just in how people know of them (eg. “bacon” – “eggs”)
  • They are similar (eg. “cry” – “weep”)
  • They are opposites (eg. “hot” – “cold”)
  • They go from general to specific (eg. “job” – “accountant””)
  • They go from specific to general (eg. “cow” – “animal”)
  • They have some other relationship that is understood (eg. “vampire” – “scary”, “ninja” – “Japan”, “beans” – “flatulence”, etc.)

If you suggest a word that is not a good enough link, the other player may contest its legitimacy. For example, if after the other player said “fish” you tried to link it with the word “Christmas” because you always have fish at Christmas with your family, the other player could dispute it. At which point, you can either try to convince them of its connection, or you can more productively, just suggest another word.

No matter how lame the connection is though, the other player has the option of accepting it and playing on. They would do this naturally because it served their efforts to reach their own word. For example, if your opponent’s winning word was “Holiday” they may be very happy with your offer of “fish / Christmas”, as it will allow them to say “Christmas / “Holiday” and go on to win the game.

GAMEPLAY EXAMPLE:
This is how a game may play out…

  • Player 1 and 2 each secretly think of a word. P1 chooses “tree” and P2 chooses “snow”. They do not tell each other what their word is.
  • One of the players (let’s say, P1) chooses a starting word. To be fair, they try to choose something that is not an easy link to their own word. They decide the starting word is “fish”.
  • The player who didn’t choose the starting word (P2), then begins the game. They firstly say the word they must link to and then they say a linking word. They say, “Fish – Water”. They choose the word “water” hoping that it may eventually lead to allowing them to link to their winning word, “snow”.
  • P1 accepts the link by playing on. The new word they must link to is “water”, and so they say, “Water – Nature”, hoping this will lead to something to do with their winning word, “tree”.
  • At this point P2 contemplates going straight from “nature” to “snow” as snow is a part of nature, but they worry this might be seen as not a strong enough link and they don’t want to give away what their word is. Remember, they would only win the game if the other player accepts their linking word by playing on. They decide to go with something half way. So they say, “Nature – Weather”.
  • P1 continues with “Weather – Wind”, thinking that may somehow connect with the wind blowing through the leaves or something.
  • P2 then says “Wind – Blizzard”, trying to get it back to snow.
  • P1 is at this point wondering how on earth they might get from “blizzard” all the way to their winning word, “tree”. They muse to themselves, “I reckon I might be able to get from blizzard to Christmas, with the whole white Christmas cliche and Santa in the North Pole. And if I can link to a Christmas tree I could get to my winning word.” And so, without any idea what P2 winning word is, they say “Blizzard – Winter”.
  • P2 then puts on their best poker face and says, “Winter – Snow”.
  • P1 naturally accepts this and continues with “Snow – Snowman”, hoping this will push it towards Christmas.
  • P2 then smiles and declares, “My word was ‘Snow’!” And with that P2 wins the game.

The above description shows a lot of the thinking behind each word, but this is how the game would sound:

  • P1: The starting word is “fish”.
  • P2: Fish – Water
  • P1: Water – Nature
  • P2: Nature – Weather
  • P1: Weather – Wind
  • P2: Wind – Blizzard
  • P1: Hmm… Blizzard – Winter
  • P2: Winter – Snow
  • P1: Snow – Snowman
  • P2: My word was “snow”
  • P1: Wow. I suck at this game.

Now, this is a very short example. It can be this quick, but usually, the game goes a fair bit longer and involves various attempts by each player to get close to their word before someone finally gets it.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CHOOSING WORDS:
The more complex or unique the word, the harder it will be to get to, so effectively you can choose the level of difficulty of the game by the word that you choose. Choosing the word “car” may be fairly easy, whereas choosing the word “chlorophyll” may be really difficult.

Also, think about how many ways you might be able to get to your word. If your word is “nail-clipper” you may be quite limited in getting to your word, but if your word is “bill” you could get to your word through, “electricity” or “restaurant” or “name” or “money” or even, “duck”. Even though all these words get to “bill” in a different way, they are all legitimate links.

If on the other hand you want to choose a completely random word (or you find it hard to just think of a word off the top of your head) you can use cards from a game like Taboo or Pictionary, or if you have your smartphone, you can go to wordgenerator.net and get a random word from there.taboo-cards

In choosing the starting word, you can employ any of these techniques as well, but if you don’t have those games cards handy and you don’t want to look up a website, you could ask a friend who is not playing the game to think of the starting word. Alternatively, you could think of some creative way of choosing a starting word, like the first word that you see on a car’s bumper sticker or the word you put your finger on when you randomly open up a book off the shelf. The starting word can be unique or complex and it won’t be a problem, so have fun with it! If you just have one of the players choose a starting word (like in the gameplay example above), they must try to choose a word that has no obvious link to their winning word, and the other player starts the game, to try to make it as fair as possible.

WINNING THE GAME:
The game is won when your winning word is said and accepted as a legitimate link. This can happen by your opponent suggesting your winning word as a linking word, although this is quite rare. More commonly, you will say your winning word as a linking word. You only win if your opponent accepts it as a legitimate link, and they do this by linking another word to your winning word. Once this has happened, instead of taking your turn, you declare yourself to have won.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES & RULES:

  • Trust
    • The game relies on trust. It is very easy to cheat or just pretend that you have won by saying, “That was my word!” at any stage. Play by the rules and don’t be a douche and you’ll have fun.
  • Numbers of players
    • The game works best with two players but can be played with more people with no change of the rules at all. The only problem is that the more people you play it with, the less your turn will influence it in your direction. Any more than three players and the game becomes more about luck than strategy.
  • Game length
    • The game will take as long as it takes. It could be as quick as 2 minutes (like in the gameplay example given above) or it could take a whole day (yes, I have actually played it for a whole day once when I was in High School). Generally though, once you get the hang of it, an average game goes for around 5-15 minutes, which makes it great for a road trip, as you might get in a few games by the time you reach your destination.
  • Sounding the same but different.
    • In Quantum, with every link the meaning of the word could change. For example, if P1 said “Vacation – Break”, P2 could say “Break – Destroy”, even though the meaning of “break” was different for both players.
    • This is even allowed if the spelling of the word is different, but it sounds the same. For example, if P1 said “Vacation – Break”, P2 could legitimately say “Brake – Accelerator”. Even though “break” and “brake” are spelt differently, in this verbal game, the change of the word’s meaning is allowed as they sound exactly the same.
    • This does not apply if the word sounds similar, but not exactly the same. For example, P2 could NOT say “Brick – Wall” just because “break” and “brick” sound similar.
  • No repeats
    • You may not repeat a word that has been accepted in the game. This would create an annoying loop in the game. If a word was offered but then rejected as an illegitimate link, it could be used at a later stage as long as the link was legitimate.
  • Random direction strategy
    • There are many strategies you may discover while playing Quantum. Primarily, you must think of what words you need to get your opponent to say so that you could possibly link to your winning word, and you have to think of creative ways to push the game in your favour. But there is also something else you are trying to do at the same time – namely, prevent the other player from reaching their winning word.
    • If you sense your opponent is getting close to reaching their word, feel free to throw the game in a completely random direction. You can do this by employing the rules mentioned above about linking words that have a completely different meaning to the word offered by your opponent. Changing the topic of the game from “Vacation – Break” to “Break – Destroy” may totally throw off your opponent’s strategy and open up new opportunities for you to get the upper hand. Basically, the point to remember is, you can say a word for a strategic reason to work towards your word, or to prevent your opponent from reaching their word, or for no reason at all. As long as the link is legitimate, it is allowed.

So that’s it! Hope those rules made sense. Try it with a friend and tell me what you think!

In fact, if you record a game of you playing it with a friend and send me the YouTube link, not only will I post it on this blog (if you want me to) but I’ll also let you know the EXPANDED RULES for Master Quantum players!

Have fun playing and I’ll leave you with a video of me and my very generous wife playing a couple of games, so you can see it in action!
(Sorry, the sound and video goes out of sync after a while. Cat wants a rematch to do the video again, so stay tuned!)

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