Sunday, November 27, 2005


Have you caught the flu yet? In Sydney where I live, there is an epidemic sweeping through the suburbs. Take precautions – it’s highly contagious!

Af-flu-en-za (n). 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the dogged pursuit of the Australian dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

Affluenza – a thought-provoking read! In essence this book helps demonstrates that we, as a society, are loosing sight of our reality, and we are becoming miserable because of it. We no longer have the ability to separate what we ‘need’ from what we ‘want’. Luxury fever has struck, and the simple things in life no longer satisfy. Our society is obsessed with wanting more!

We eat-out more than we do in. $6K honeymoons become the expectation. Louis Vuitton is a household name. Baby bonuses are spent on flat screen TV’s. Cap plans have saved us from $100 mobile bills. We drive 4WD’s because they are safer. People pay 18% interest on their credit cards. We mortgage our lives.

The banks love it! Each year they set a new billion-dollar record profit fuelled by this disease. “Waiting is boring, get what you want now with a personal loan from St George”. No wonder household post-tax savings have gone from 16.4% in 1975 to -3.2% in 2004 (even though real incomes have almost doubled in the same period). We no longer need to save for anything; we simply get it now on credit. Instead we save by shopping for great deals at the sales. A friend of mine recently told me that he bought himself a bargain in the USA! He only paid USD$200, compared to AUD$500. That is a bargain, until you hear that all he got was a pair of jeans. As we no longer have to wait to get what we want, we don’t have time to assess all the pros and cons of spending our hard-earned savings. As a result, we have more, are satisfied less, and we waste more.

We have lost perspective of how rich we really are. 62% of Australians claim they can’t afford everything they need – and 46% of our richest 20% of households agree. By world standards most of us are filthy rich!

The side-affects of this disease are nasty! I owe I owe it’s off to work I go … Debt and overwork are big problems! In 1990 average household debt:income was 56%, it’s now 125%. Despite having a reputation of being lazy and leisurely, Australians now work on average longer than any other country in the developed world. We have less public holidays than Japan (15) and most EU countries (12). EU countries average 5 weeks annual leave, with Germany and Holland getting 6; in 2002, only 39% of Aussies managed to take their 4 weeks.

This disease (and the burden of paying it off) also take their toll on our health as we work longer and harder, our families and friendships when we are not around (and worn out when we are) and our communities. Do you think the 45% of us who work more than 50 hours a week have time to coach little Johnny’s soccer team?

The smart guys from the Australia Institute know it, Ross Gittens often writes about it, the Downshifters live it, and Simple Plan are singing about it:
Tell me what's wrong with society
When everywhere I look I see
Rich guys driving big SUVs
While kids are starving in the streets
No one cares
No one likes to share
I guess life's unfair
Is everybody going crazy?

How come the Christians don’t see it? Are our preachers teaching it? Jesus speaks more about money than any other topic doesn’t he? You know what he says:

“don’t store up treasures here on earth … So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life--whether you have enough … Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things?”
"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

As followers of Christ, our attitudes and activities towards money must go beyond giving 10% to reach the 10%. We must live within our means. We must spend like salt and light. We must elect governments for better reasons than keeping interest rates low. We must become ‘worldly’ to see how wealthy we really are and help those who are not. We must serve only one master!

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
~ Jesus of Nazareth

Sunday, November 20, 2005

“Be Still and know that I am God”

My life is usually anything but “still”. There are always things to do, places to be, people to see. Stuff that keeps my body, mind and spirit occupied.

Last weekend I had the chance to be still. I was attending a retreat on a spectacular private residence within Sydney’s Royal National Park. We were instructed to go away and be still. I found a bench by the creek that ran past the house. I sat. I closed my eyes. I listened to the wind in the trees. I breathed the fresh air. I opened my eyes …

To my initial surprise, and later delight, I saw a red-bellied black snake sliding through the grass next to the creek. My first thought was to get-up and back away from this venomous snake. But instead, I sat there, remained still and enjoyed watching this beautiful creature go about its business. Looking for some lunch, the snake struck at a dragonfly that was hovering a foot in the air, above the creek. Having missed, the snake turned its attention towards me. I continued to sit still and enjoy this rare experience. Curiosity brought the snake two meters from me. Our eyes locked and then it slithered on its way.

Across the creek the bushes started to rustle. Then nothing. Rustling. Nothing. I sat silently and watched, expecting a deer. To my surprise, an echidna appeared, slipping and sliding down the hill, coming to the creek for a drink. More rustling and an Eastern Water Dragon boldly emerged, looking to sun itself on a rock by the water.

I have spent lots of time in National Parks. Usually, I am hiking, biking, paddling (recently hunting rattle snakes). While all these things are good for the soul, quite often they don’t allow us to be still. The animals, although all around, know not to show their faces while we are being noisy.

The creatures copy their creator, only showing themselves when we take the time to be still. That day I was still and the Lord showed me some of his often-unseen creatures and in doing so, reminded me that, indeed, He is God!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

a shameless plug

Brothers & Sisters – please forgive me for the shameless plug in support of another brother.

Nathan Tasker has a new album, “Must Be More” coming out on on 24 Nov. I was in the USA with him recently and got to hear some rough cuts of his new work – this will be a great album! As this CD has been created in ‘truth and excellence’ seeking to ‘share a beautiful and believable Jesus’ (Nathan’s mission), as always it will prove itself to be a an encouraging and challenging piece of work which you, or people you know could benefit from, in this long walk of faith with our Lord. Being a Christian muso in Australia isn’t the easiest road to walk along – if you’d like to support and benefit from Nathan’s ministry, buying the CD is a great way to do that. Check it out at

for U2 fans:

Forgive me for the plug(s) ...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Communion As Community

In a recent conversation with my father, he shared that he believes the church in the western world is in need of community more than anything else. Looking at the state of people in the western world, he may very well be right. Churches offer small “community groups” that are really little more than Bible studies and speak of Christian community, but many people still live their lives independently, making decisions on their own amid a corporate body that feels little responsibility for the actions of the individual. Yet living this way, we are living a lie – and our yearning for community betrays this.
The word “community” comes from the same Latin root as “communion,” that being communis, which means “common” or “shared.” Perhaps, in order to fully understand community, we must first go back and consider communion and what this identifying tradition is all about.
Most of the Christian world celebrates communion every Sunday, if not more regularly. Only the Protestant tradition has reduced this to a monthly, quarterly, or yearly event. In my experience, Protestants would also be among the first to abandon the practice of taking communion. However, for the rest of the Body, the thought of forsaking communion is tantamount to forsaking one’s faith. This emphasis on communion grows from a proper understanding of its place within the life of the Church and its necessity as a basis for community.
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
Communion signifies many things: it is a new Passover covenant, reminding us that, as we are marked with the blood of our Lord, God’s judgment will pass over us; it is a taste of the great wedding feast of the Lamb that is to come, where we will live in the presence and light of our Lord; and it is an act in which we proclaim our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This final aspect of communion is the most central to understanding the significance of communion for community in the contemporary church.
When my Grandma was doing Weight Watchers, she had a magnet on her refrigerator that was shaped like an ice cream sundae with the words “you are what you eat” superimposed on the ice cream. Theological arguments aside, communion is, in some profound way, a consuming of the body and blood of Christ, at least he wanted his disciples to understand that, as they shared their Passover meal, they were verging upon a new covenant involving his broken body and shed blood and that this covenant too must be remembered. As we “proclaim the Lord’s death” through eating the bread and drinking the cup, we “are what we eat.” If I remember year 10 biology correctly, our bodies break down the bread and it is carried through our blood stream to our cells giving us energy. In churches that use wine, the alcohol too is carried to every cell, altering our blood chemistry. And this is where community comes in. We do not eat many bodies of Christ; there is only one body, often visualised by a single loaf. We do not drink from a different metaphorical cup, hence the practice of taking from a common cup. And in this, we become part of one body – the same body that Paul and Peter, Mary and Martha, Timothy, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Theresa, and John are a part of. As the communion elements become a part of our body, we become, again, a part of each other and we proclaim that we are not our own.
While Paul’s words that follow are not specifically in reference to recognising that we form one body, I think they are still very applicable. He writes:
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. (1 Cor. 11:27-28)
When we fail to recognise the significance of what we receive in communion, both in terms of Christ’s death and in terms of that which with we are aligning ourselves, we sin against the very death of our Lord. When we fail to see that we are truly “not our own,” we ignore the metaphysical reality that we are a “new creation” in Christ and now incorporated into his body. Understanding this forms the basis for Christian community as we belong to each other. We are not a community because of similar ideals, hopes and aspirations, because we share the same culture and socio-economic class, or because we like each other and think each other wise. We are a community because of the shed blood of Christ and as such we are responsible for each other – for each other’s actions and thoughts, for each other’s needs and pain, and for each other’s encouragement and hope. If we are to bring about the desperately needed community within the western church, then we much first bring about an understanding of communion with Christ as our saviour, husband, and head.