Contemporary Culture

The third ingredient contributing to our everyday happiness (read part 1) is financial control. Money isn't everything but having enough to meet our own needs as well as to give away to others can create a sense of happiness and freedom in our lives. This has nothing to do with our 'net worth' or waiting until we get that next raise or bonus. It's about how we are managing the resources we currently have. Money is a terrific servant but it can be a cruel taskmaster if we allow it control us. Thankfully, we don't have to wait until we have more money. We can start having a sense of financial control ... beginning today. It's about having a common-sense... Read more →


The second factor that contributes to our happiness (read Part 1) is Strong Personal Relationships. Each of us is born into a family and a desire for a sense of belonging is a part of what it means to be human. Although the introverts among us tend to be energized by solitude and alone time, most people enjoy meaningful conversation and are enriched by good friendships. In many ways, relationships are spatial. Most people have lots of acquaintances, many 'friends' or people they know more about or do life together with, but usually only a few close or best friends. Like circles of friendship, the former are further away emotionally while the latter are in close proximity. The key is... Read more →


Are you happy? What does happiness really look like? Australia's longest running and most comprehensive survey on happiness is conducted by the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index. After 15 years of detailed research, the author of the survey, Deakin University Emeritus Professor Bob Cummins, says he's finally cracked the code to wellbeing, which he has dubbed the ‘golden triangle of happiness': A sense of purpose. Strong personal relationships. Financial control. Let's take a look at each of these: A Sense of Purpose Deep inside of each one of us is a need for a sense of purpose and meaning. What are we living for? What is life all about? Why should we even get out of bed in the morning? Good... Read more →


One day Jesus was having dinner at the home of one of the top Pharisees (the religious leaders of his day). As always, there was some lively and interesting conversation around the dinner table. Near the end of this meal, this happened ... Luke 14:12-14. Jesus turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be — and experience — a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned — oh, how it... Read more →


So how do we manage all that incoming email? Here are a few tips: 1. Make Your Email Inbox an 'In' Box. Make your email Inbox a processing station, not a holding station. Imagine if you left all your paper letters in your physical letter box at the front of your house for weeks on end. What a mess it would be! See you email inbox the same way. How many email are there right now? 50, 100, 500, 1000, more? Learn to process items as soon as possible and get that inbox to empty. 2. Set Up a Simple Folder Filing System. Within your email inbox you can create additional folders (just like drawers within a physical filing cabinet).... Read more →


Let's face it, we all send emails to other people and add to their inbox. So let's talk today about how to write effective emails. 1. Don't Over-Communicate by Email. As we have already noted, a big source of stress for people, especially at work, is the sheer volume of emails they receive. So, before you begin writing an email, ask yourself: "Is this really necessary?” Sometimes, it is better to speak directly to the person by phone or in person. Email is not as secure as you might want it to be, particularly as people may forward emails without thinking to delete the conversation history. So avoid sharing sensitive or personal information in an email, and don't write about... Read more →


Yesterday, we briefly referred to the exponential changes that have taken place over the last 500 years in the way we communicate with one another. Today let's talk about some of the challenges of email. 1. We often feel expected to reply immediately. Have you ever had someone ask you if you got their email - yesterday? Long gone is the era where it took 10 days for a letter to a arrive from overseas and you had a few weeks to respond and send a reply! 2. Online messages interrupt our day. Most workers dread the Monday morning over-flowing email inbox. Many people now receive over 50 emails every day and it is estimated that the average office worker... Read more →


Let's do a quick tour of how communication has changed over the last 500 years. In Britain in 1500, only 5-10% of the population could read or write. Wow! What did they do. They probably talked to each other - sharing stories in person. Postcards took off in 1871, resulting in what TIME magazine called an ‘epidemic’. In 1840, the average American sent 3 letters a year; in 1900, that number rose to 69. The telegraph changed everything. A message could be sent across the Atlantic in a matter of hours rather than the 5 weeks it took for 'snail mail' to arrive. This peaked in 1945 with 240 million telegrams a year. In 2007, just over 60 years later,... Read more →


TONIGHT at 9.30pm on ABC TV, Ka-Ching Pokie Nation will screen across Australia. By all reports, it is a shocking report into the way that poker machines are placing a terrible cost on our society. There is stunning new evidence that pokie addiction functions in exactly the same way as heroin, cocaine or ice. This product has not just been licensed by the State but spread irresponsibly throughout Australia for the profit of the gambling industry, not to mention State Treasuries. PLEASE help us lift awareness about poker machines by: Watching Ka-Ching tonight and encouraging others to watch it to. You can see and share Ka-Ching's trailer here. Live tweeting during the event with the hashtag #kaching so that we... Read more →


The apostle Paul worked hard to relate to a wide variety of people. Have a read of this from his letter to the church at Corinth in the first century: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose–living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized––whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ––but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet... Read more →


We live in a time of rapid change. Yesterday is gone. Today is momentary. Tomorrow is never far away, though never guaranteed. We are called to live in the present, while learning from history and yet looking toward a better tomorrow. Our God is the one who was, who is, and who is to come. The Great I AM - past, present and future are all one to Him. Futurists study the future, yet no one can fully predict what it will be like. Stefan Hajkowicz has been thinking for the last twenty years about how people plan for an uncertain future. With training in economics, geography and decision theory, Stefan is one of CSIRO’s leading thinkers about trends, shocks... Read more →


Paul at Athens The apostle Paul gives us an insightful example as to how to engage with our culture during his time in the pagan city of ancient Athens as recorded in Acts 17. He spent time in the synagogue, in the marketplace and then was invited to the Areopagus to engage with the philosophers there. These places can represent three different environments or spaces in our own world today. The first space is the synagogue, which is where Jews and God-fearing Greeks gathered (vs.16-17). These are people who believe in God and share a common language, experience and belief system. This space can refer to the church community today or to a Christian organisation. It is where we share... Read more →


We live in a rapidly changing culture that often seems at odds with the character of God's kingdom. Some Christians choose to reject the surrounding culture, escaping to live separate lives. Others seem to embrace the culture uncritically and end up no different than the world around them. Could it be that a better approach is to engage with the culture - to be in the world but not of it. The apostle Paul modelled this exceptionally well during his time in Athens, especially at Mars Hill - a place full of idols, altars and pagan philosophers. Where is your Mars Hill and how well are you engaging with it? That's what we'll be talking about this month at CityLife.... Read more →


Life left to itself tends to become more and more complex and cluttered. It takes a concerted effort to reverse the trend - to simplify, to become a minimalist. Some thoughts worth reflecting on: Could the best way to organise your stuff be to get rid of the heap of it? How might your life be better if you had less? What would it look like to get rid of your excess and enjoy the remainder more? Our physical world represents our internal state. Dealing with the external can affects the internal. Do you suffer from mental clutter? Is it time for you to create a 'not to do' list rather than continuing to add more and more tasks that... Read more →


Looking for a baby name? In 2014, around 1 in 10 Australian babies were given one of the Top 10 most popular baby names; a total of 30,581 babies. There were more than 2,189 boys named Oliver and 1,796 girls names Olivia last year. Keeping the top spot from 2013 is Oliver, the top boy baby name in Australia for 2014 having overtaken Jack and William which were 1st in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Oliver was the top boys’ name in all 6 states (NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, WA, TAS) while William was the top boy baby name in the 2 territories (NT, ACT). There were 230 more instances of Oliver than William, an increase on the margin of 37... Read more →


Every year a new word is added to the English dictionary. In 2014, it was 'shirt-front', thanks to our Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott. In 2013, it was 'selfie'. Yes, taking a self portrait. Doesn't that capture the spirit of our age! We even have selfie sticks to get a better view of ourselves and the latest technological invention is selfie drones who can fly around and give us an even more 3 dimensional experience of ourselves. Yet, the truth is that life is not about ME! It’s about GOD and OTHERS. I am happiest when those priorities are the focus of my story. Jesus calls us to adopt a giving stance rather than a getting mode of existence. Matthew... Read more →


Australia has more churches (13,000) than schools (9,500), and more Australians attend a church service each week (1.8 million) than there are people in South Australia (1.6 million). And while the latest Census results show that Christianity is the religion with which most Australians identify (61.1%), well above the second most popular religion in Australia, Buddhism (2.5%), less than one in seven of the Australians who ticked “Christianity” on their census form regularly attend a church. Easter is a time of the year when church attendance increases, but what do the 92% of Australians who are not regular church attendees think of churches, and churchgoing in 2013? Check out Mark McCrindle's recent BLOG post for the latest infographic which shares... Read more →


Every December, Barna Group compiles its top findings and trends from research conducted in the USA in the past year. From legalizing marijuana to increasing secularization trends to America’s complicated relationship with sports — 2014 was an interesting year. 1. Bible Skepticism Is Now Tied with Bible Engagement. 2. Young Adults Question the Value of Their College Degree. 3. Global Poverty Is on the Decline, but Almost No One Believes It. 4. Millennials Want a Church to Feel Like a Church. 5. Protestants Like Pope Francis, Too. 6. Americans Favor Legalizing Pot but Believe It’s Morally Wrong to Use It. 7. Practicing Christian Millennials Maintain a High View of Scripture. 8. Americans Say They Care Too Much About Sports. 9.... Read more →


As we head towards the crazy Christmas season, it's a good thing to pause and think about consumerism and the follower of Christ. At CityLife, we have a social justice LifeGroup and they have put together a paper designed to be a thought provoking series of questions and comments exploring some key issues which confront us in our Western, first world culture. We hope that it can be used to start discussion and to promote action in your family, your LifeGroup, your social network and your work colleagues! 1. On the Issue of “Stuff” When is enough, enough? Or we could ask ourselves what would Jesus buy? Thought Spot: Jonathon Comford, in his article - Daily Bread: The Economy of... Read more →


Back in 1964 Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a changing." How true and the changes haven't let up. One business writer put it this way: Winds of change are barrelling in from all directions. Competition is tougher than ever and coming from places you least expected. The customer is more sophisticated and demanding. Technological changes are incessant. Government regulations are tougher. And everyone is restructuring, reorganising, reinventing, downsizing, outsourcing - all at an ultra sonic pace. Don't look for a safe place to wait out the storm, because these winds are unrelenting. If anything, they're getting stronger and coming faster, blowing the shutters off corporate headquarters and small businesses alike... The weather report? More of the same! The... Read more →


Last night, my family and I attended a preview of the new movie Noah starring Russell Crowe [trailer]. Without doubt it is a well-made movie, with amazing affects and some star actors. However, the treatment of the storyline was disappointing from my perspective and I came away feeling like the movie was a combination of themes and ideas from Lord of the Rings and Transformers ... with a big double rainbow finish. No doubt it will generate a lot of discussion and that's a good thing. Reviews so far indicate that those looking for a fully accurate biblical story are upset while others are rating it highly as a movie experience in its own right. It is interesting how Bible... Read more →


We live in an age where attention deficit affects all of us. We are bombarded with information and messages, each trying to gain our interest. In the process, we tend to skim from item to item, from matter to matter, from person to person ... never really slowing down enough to go deep ... to really listen and connect. I visited a cafe recently where there was a sign that said: "No, we do not have wi-fi. Why not just sit and talk with your friends!" Watch this video. How did it affect you? I was personally challenged. Which scene did you identify with the most? Which was the most moving? For me it was the one with the girl... Read more →


Research in America shows that 59% of millennials (also known as Gen Y) drop out of church after attending regularly as a teenager. For the past decade, Barna Group has been working to understand this important age group. After interviewing more than 27,000 millennials and conducting 206 studies of this group, they have amassed a significant body of knowledge on millennials. Now they are sharing that knowledge via a special section of their web site that contains research, articles and carefully curated information on this elusive and often confusing age groups. Check it out at barna.org/millennials. In many ways, Australia is a unique environment that has major differences to the American context, but there is much we can learn from... Read more →


Engaging Culture

When it comes to culture, including media (TV, movies, etc) and politics, there are three different approaches that Christians tend to take: 1. Reject Culture. Some Christians see the world as ‘evil’ (and at times, rightly so) and therefore all culture is to be rejected. Christians are called to be ‘holy’ which means to be ‘separate’ from the world. Christians end up living in their own sub-culture – with Christian communities, Christian bookshops, Christian TV, and even Christian jewelry! The danger with this approach is that Christians end up very ‘different’ from the world but because of their isolation they have ‘no audience’ and therefore no positive ‘influence’ on the world. 2. Embrace Culture. Other Christians go the other way... Read more →


Ever feel overloaded? Overwhelmed? Ever wish there were a few extra hours in the day or maybe even an extra day in the week? If you are anything like me, there are so many things to do and hardly enough time to do them in. This requires us to determine our priorities. Today and the coming week will most likely be busy but what will they be busy with? It takes discipline and focus to ensure that we keep first things first and not get swept up in the urgent or the trivial. Here is a helpful article by Tony Schwartz that I read recently about dealing with overload. There are some great insights here for improving your personal productivity... Read more →


It’s that time again — the beginning of a new year when people resolve to make some changes in their lives. New Year’s resolutions are certainly nothing new. In fact, for many people, they are the same year after year. Making and breaking resolutions is something of a tradition. A new study from the Barna Group examines the temptations Americans say they most commonly struggle with — and how they resolve to deal with these moral and ethical lures. The research reveals some new, and not so new, aspects to the temptations facing today’s adults. The research was conducted in conjunction with a book project from Todd Hunter called Our Favorite Sins. New Temptations Resolutions relating to technology are becoming... Read more →


Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the evening of August 9th last year? It was census night here in Australia, a day every five years where the government requires every person living Australia to complete a survey (conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics). It includes questions about personal details, the people we live with, our education, our employment, and any significant changes that have taken place in the last few years. This helps to provide a snapshot of our nation, which becomes useful for the government as well as many other organisations. One of the questions in the census is about religious belief. Here are the results from the 2011 census with a... Read more →


In this week’s special wireless issue titled, “THE WIRELESS ISSUE. 10 Ways Your Phone is Changing the World,” TIME explores how mobile phones have become a super-extension of ourselves, altering in fundamental ways how we approach everything from education to politics, from medicine to romance. The issue includes an exclusive TIME Mobility Poll, conducted in cooperation with Qualcomm, that highlights the increasing significance of mobile technology in our lives. TIME‘s Nancy Gibbs writes, “It is hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones.” Read more here. When it comes to people and their devices, 61% worldwide plan to replace... Read more →


Jesus told his disciples to be IN the world but NOT OF the world. Maintaining that balance is a constant challenge for Christ-followers. We can more easily lean towards either extreme, resulting in and isolation or immersion, both of which lead to minimum impact for Christ. On my BLOG, I have written some posts about engaging with contemporary culture. You will find articles on topics such as: engaging our culture, global trends, generational issues, creativity and innovation, as well as on the issues of tattoos and gambling. Click here to being reading. I hope you find your reading insightful! Read more →


Everyone loves a good movie but sometimes it can be hard to find a good one. Hours can be spent in your local DVD shop browsing through what seems like an endless array of violence, sex and pointless comedy. Christianity Today issues a list of what they believe are the most redeeming movies each year. Click here to view their list for 2011. Who knows, you might find something worth watching in there. P.S. Focus on the Family's Plugged In web site gives a good detailed overview of moveies, which is helpful to know before you see one. However, sometimes their reviews are so critical that you'd pretty much get the opinion that no movie is worth your time. It's... Read more →