Beware: Impulse Buying!

Salesssss

I remember early on in our marriage shopping for a new BBQ. The store had a sale on so I bought not only a whiz bang BBQ but also a heap of extras to go with it. In the end, I had overspent and busted our budget plans. It took a few months to recover from that impulse buying spree. Nowadays, when Nicole and I are discussing a possible purchase we will often say to each other, “Let’s not do another BBQs galore!” Continue reading “Beware: Impulse Buying!”

To Russia With Love

As I teenager I loved to play RISK, a board game similar to Monopoly, but in RISK the goal is to conquer the world, not just own the houses in the neighbourhood. Each player is dealt a certain number of countries and armies to placer on them. Then through the roll of the dice they choose to attack neighbouring countries endeavouring to conquer them and expand their territory. The winner is the one who eventually conquers the world. We played it for hours, even creating multi-day games through treaties and all sorts of secret strategies. 

I also loved Geography while growing up and I have been privileged to travel to over 30 countries of our wide world in my fifty-six years on the planet so far.

In 2010, I visited Russia for the first time. I had an invitation to speak at a pastor's conference in Moscow which allowed me to then apply for an entry visa. The visa process was complex. Just ONE of the questions was, "What countries have you visited in the last 10 years (date of entry and departure)?" I needed extra paper for this one and it took hours to backtrack my overseas trips, as you can imagine. 

During my first visit to Russia, I found the people to be friendly, very hospitable and they have a terrific sense of humour. I have now been back to Russia four times, having visited St. Petersburg and more recently two trips to Siberia – to the cities of Novosibirsk and Achinsk. 

RiskWhen I visited Siberia for the first time, I suddenly remembered all of those remote Russia regions on the RISK board – places such as Ural, Yakutz, Irkutz and Kamchatka.  

Here are a few interesting facts about Russia:

  1. Russia is a huge country. In fact, it is SO big that there are 11 time zones! Think about that. 
  2. Moscow is amazing. So many people, so much history, such rich culture and so much traffic!
  3. St. Petersburg is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world and home to the State Hermitage Museum with over 3 million artefacts including the original of Rembrandt's Prodigal Son painting.
  4. In Siberia, it gets so cold in the winter (-52 Celsius!) that people leave their car engines running 24 hours a day so they don't freeze. 
  5. Russia is rich with history and both heroes and villians. If you love reading big books and want to grasp the full sweep of Russia's history, check out the 945 page historical novel by Edward Rutherford called Russka. It is an epic story, covering over 1800 years of Russian history traced through the generations of four families.
  6. Alexander Pushkin is Russia's most famous poet. He influenced many other writers such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Check out my wife's BLOG post on "From Russia with Love" for more about this creative poet.

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This old building pictured above (with a huge below ground basement) is in the remote city of Achinsk, Siberia. It was once a storage place for vegetables for the Russian military. When I was there a few weeks ago week it was packed with 3,000 enthusiastic Russian Christians worshipping Jesus. See below for a short video clip.

Hundreds of these people are former drug addicts, alcoholics and criminals whose lives have been literally transformed by their experience of Jesus. Grace is still amazing! It reaches out to every person, even to the remotest places on our planet.

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If you can ever visit Russia, please do so … with love.

The Mystery of our Emotions (Part 3)

Inside

Yesterday, we talked about sadness and I shared a very personal poem with you. Like journalling, poetry is another way to give expression to our emotions. I am very much an amateur but writing poetry has been worth the effort. It helps me to put my feelings into words, my thoughts on to paper, and to give a voice to my emotions. [Read more of my poems here]
 
In our modern society, men have often been known to bury their feelings and therefore to not be in touch with them. Sadly, these suppressed feelings can fester there and then burst out through the common emotion of anger or even violence. This is not healthy and does a lot of damage. 
 
Can I encourage you to give more attention to your feelings. Slow down a bit and look within. How DO you feel? What is going on inside of you? Don’t just skim through life at breakneck speed. Hurry is a great enemy of the soul and nothing of quality or depth can be done at high speed. 
 
Get in touch with your own feelings. Set aside some extended time to talk openly to a counsellor or a safe friend. Then seek to be more aware of the feelings of others. Practice empathy – which means to “feel with”. Slow down and really listen, not just to people’s words but to their feelings and emotions. Everyone has a story and it needs to be heard. Be a listening ear, an understanding heart, and a supportive friend. 
 
The world will be a better place. 
 
P.S. For extras credit, why not get some friends together and watch the animated film Inside Out, then discuss it together. Yes, the picture above is from the movie 🙂
 

The Mystery of our Emotions (Part 2)

Inside

Yesterday, we started talking about the mystery of our emotions. 
 
I am a fairly optimistic person and therefore I have a lot of positive emotions. My family have called me everything from 'Peter Pan' to ‘Tigger'. Yes, I do have a lot of enthusiastic energy … usually from the moment I wake up. 
 
In the first few decades of my life, I had little experience with some of the darker emotions of life such as sadness, grief, disappointment and depression. But as life has gone on, these have come into my world and added new colours to my life. 
 
Three years ago, Nicole and I were in the midst of what seemed like the perfect storm. We were experiencing a diverse array of negative emotions at the time – worry, fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, uncertainty and yes, sadness.
 
As we took off on a plane for our mid-year holidays I wrote a poem unpacking the sadness that I felt. 
 
It’s okay to feel sadness. Even Jesus wept. The Psalmist even believed that God stores our tears in a bottle.
 
Overwhelming sadness
Like a wave crashing hard
A dam of tears about to burst
I can barely hold it back
 
Is this it?
Paradise lost
Dreams faded
Hope run dry
 
Do I want out?
Back to simplicity
Is this what life's meant to be?
Return to innocence
 
Feeling alone
Fragmentation
Too many hills climbed
Can I take one more?
 
Uncharted territory
Unfathomable complexity
Perplexing riddle
Trying to be solved
 
Incredibly tired
Out of reserves
Running on empty
Emotionally rung out
 
Time for a break
Replenishing holiday
Away to the mountain
Drink deeply of the river
 
Fresh perspective
No hasty decisions
Do what's right
No reactionary emotionalism
 
Another storm to navigate
Think clearly
Stand still
Be courageous
 
Stay the course
 

The Mystery of our Emotions (Part 1)

Inside
Emotions. 
Feelings. 
Difficult things to understand … at least for me.  
 
I wouldn’t describe myself as an emotional person while growing up, although I would easily tear up while watching a movie that had anything to do with family. I am an Achiever type. Head down, suck it up, tough it out, get on with it, do what needs to be done … regardless of how you feel. There are many things we do in spite of our feelings not because we necessarily feel like doing them. 
 
As I have grown older, I have learnt to get more in touch with my feelings. Some counselling has helped. Counsellors have a way of drawing out what is deep inside, getting us to talk about our lives and the affect of circumstances that we have navigated through. 
 
Journalling has also helped me. One of the regular questions I ask myself is, “How do I feel?” It forces me to get in touch with the more subjective part of my psyche. By externalising my feelings, I can think about them and reflect on them, which helps me to gain greater understanding of myself.
 
During any given day, we will probably experience a range of emotions – joy, boredom, sadness, annoyance, anger, resentment, jealousy, doubt and disappointment, just to name a few. This is all part of what it means to be human. It’s normal to feel. 
 
Feelings are indicators of what is happening on the inside of us. Although they are not meant to control us, they are there to serve us by getting our attention about what is going on beneath the surface of our lives. Even negative emotions have a place. If a red light comes on somewhere on the dashboard of your car don’t smash it with a hammer and say, “I rebuke you, you negative thing!” No, the red light is your friend. It is getting your attention that something under the bonnet needs looking at. 
 
Not all emotions need fixing. Just let them be. Don’t judge them so quickly. Feel them fully and deeply. Often they simply pass on, like the weather, if we give them time. 
 
 
What are you feeling now? This too shall pass.

Do You Really Need MORE of God? (Part 7)

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If you are a person of faith, do you really need MORE of God?
 
I am all for spiritual experiences but theologically the truth is that we already have all we need. The apostle Paul once wrote a letter to some people living in the city of Corinth who were always after MORE (especially supernatural experiences!) and said, “Everything belongs to you!” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). All we need is already ours – right now, not one day in the future. In the same way, Jesus placed the words, "Everything I have is yours", in the mouth of the father speaking to his oldest son who had failed to embrace the concept of underserved grace (Luke 15:31). We don’t need more of God, we just need to enjoy and experience what we already have available to us through his extravagant generosity.
 
Silly Prayers I've Prayed
Years ago I would find myself saying familiar prayers such as, "Jesus, please be with us today." What's funny about that is that some of Jesus' last words spoken on earth were, "I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). So the truth is he is already with me and has promised to be with me until the world ends, which it hasn't yet. So it's actually silly to ask him to do what he is already doing! A better prayer is, "Jesus, thank you that you are with me today."
 
Another prayer I often said while leading church meetings was, "Isn't it good to be in God's presence today." The obvious question is, "Where were we yesterday?" Does God live in the church building waiting and hoping we will come and visit him every week!? Of course not, God is 'omni-present'. He is everywhere at once. There is no where you can go where he is not already there. We don't lack God's presence or need more of it. What we lack is awareness. We need to wake up to the reality that God is with us all the time.
 
We also don't need MORE of God's love. What we need to do is accept and experience the great love he already has for us. 
 
The old legalistic, religious, rules-based mode of living is all about 'DO and LIVE'. If you do the right thing, be a good person, try to keep all the rules, then God will love you and bless you. The new grace-based way of living is to 'LIVE and DO'. You ARE already loved - just as you are. You don't need to DO anything to earn or deserve it. Your just need to accept it and live in it. Grace like this is still amazing. What a difference that makes! We then seek to do the right thing, not in order to be loved by God but because we already are. 

I still remember holding our firstborn son in my arms – Josiah. I was so excited to be a dad and as I held him I thought about how much I loved him. You could take my car or my house or my job, but don't take my boy. He was worth more than anything else to me. Then I thought about WHY I loved him. He hadn't DONE anything yet. He hadn't made a goal in a sports game, scored an 'A' on a test, or made any money. In fact, it cost us a heap of money just to get him there! I loved him NOT because he had done anything but only because he was my child – nothing else. If I as a flawed, imperfect human parent feel that about my children, how do you think God feels about you!
 
We also don't need MORE of God's power. The Spirit who God gives us provides us with all the power, love and wisdom we need for living each day.
 
2 Timothy 1:7. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (or wisdom). NIV
 
Like a bank account with a huge supply of resources, it’s all there … ready for you draw upon it. Simply thank God for his provision and ask for an appropriation in your life of what has already been provided for you. All the courage, strength, wisdom and faith you need for today is already available to you. Yes, ask him for it … but most importantly thank him for it. 
 
Everything is yours! Enjoy it … with great gratitude to the Gracious Giver of all good gifts.
 

Do You Really Need MORE Relationships? (Part 6)

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As human beings, we are designed for relationship. No one is meant to do life 'alone'. We are all better off when we are connected with other people. It's part of our inner need to belong. Of course, experiencing a sense of belonging takes effort and time (the very word "belong" comes from two words "be … long"). It also requires a degree a compatibility, common interest, shared values and trust. 
 
Our relationships can be seen as occurring in a series of concentric and widening circles.
 
1. The crowd. We all know and connect to hundreds and even thousands of people in our lifetime. This includes the many casual interactions we have – at home, at school, at work, out shopping and in various groups we may be a part of (sport, church, community organisations).
 
2. Acquaintances. These are the people we know by name and have some history with.
 
3. Casual Friends. These are people we hang out with from time to time. We know more about them, and have more shared experiences. 
 
4. Close Friends. These are the few people we spend the majority of our time with. We have common interests and a closer heart connection with them. There is also a mutual replenishment that comes from the interaction because both people are contributing, rather than one person always taking the lead to initiate things or ask all the questions. Your time with each other could be described as energising, rather than draining. 
 
Jesus himself loved the crowd, had many acquaintances, yet had 70 people who he spent more time with and out of which he had 12 close friends, three of whom were his best friends. Yes, relationships are ‘spatial’ or defined by different degrees of proximity. 
 
Being friendly and outgoing is an important part of living together as humans. Every person we meet is a potential friend (whether casual or close), and should be treated as such – with worth and value.
 
But do we really need MORE relationships? Like a LEGO block, we all have different capacities for connection. If you have no friends, you have ample space for more relationships and would benefit from making an effort to meet and get to know more people. In contrast, if your LEGO block is full, you don't really have the capacity to take on a heap of new relationships. 
 
Maybe it is time to evaluate and do a 'relational stocktake'. Otherwise, we end up continually 'skimming' with a large group of casual friends but never really going deep with any of them. We are always in a hurry and end up relating superficially. I know this feeling, especially having been part of a church with thousands of people for so many years. 
 
Many friendships can be work or career based (just like school friends). When we stop working together we discover there’s not much left to the relationship. Or maybe you recently moved house or started to attend a different church or social group. As a result, your friendships change.
 
I was born in Melbourne, Australia but moved to the USA when I was 10 years old. I lived there until I was 18 when our family returned to Australia. Moving at age 10 was an adventure while returning at 18 was much harder as I had an established network of friends. I kept in touch with some friends in the USA but gradually lost touch with most. They were part of my past but not part of my future. It was a time to start again and make new acquaintances, some of whom gradually became close friends. 
 
This is just part of how life works. You are no longer in the same environment or context and so it tends to be ‘out of sight out of mind’, unless there is intentional and mutual effort to continue the relationship and sow into new areas of commonality. Otherwise, everyone simply gets on with their own life.
 
Could life be better for you through spending more quality time with fewer people – your family and the friends that mean the most to you at this time in your life? 
 
[See also my BLOG posts about Connecting with People]
 
 

Do You Really Need MORE Work? (Part 5)

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My dad used to say, "The reward of work well done is more work!" How true is that.
 
Making a contribution is an important part of being human and adding value to society. We were created for meaningful work. But when is enough enough? There are many other important aspects of life other than work. No one on their death bed wished they spent more time at the office!
 
I love work. So much so that I clearly have workaholic tendencies. I can become so absorbed in what I am doing that I keep going and going, attacking that endless task list and never ever feeling like I am done. As a result, I have had to deal with burnout due to my failure to draw necessary boundaries and through neglecting the Sabbath principle of rest.
 
In early Jewish history, they actually killed you if you worked on the Sabbath day! The weekly day of rest was that sacred. Nowadays, we just kill ourselves … by never stopping and continually being on the go, addicted to our work. 
 
This message is not for everyone. Some people need to get off their backsides and get to work. Laziness is just a big of an issue in society as workaholism. But for those of us who love our work, there are dangers in the air. 
 
So, do you really need MORE work?
 
Take a moment to read the story of the fisherman … and think about what you really want out of life.
 

Do You Really Need MORE Money? (Part 4)

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Do you really need MORE money?
 
Sometimes more money can be of help – especially to meet our needs and to do good in the world. There is nothing wrong with money. Contrary to the opinion of some, money is NOT "the root of all evil". The apostle Paul declared that "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10) … and you don’t have to have money to love it. The issue is not whether we have money or not but whether money has control of you.
 
It is easy to buy into the belief that the answer to personal financial problems or pressure is to earn more money. Occasionally, that may be true but more often than not our problem is with our spending not our earning. Most people will earn well over a million dollars in their lifetime. But where does it go?
 
"The #1 money problem today is spending more than you earn, resulting in destructive debt."
 
A budget can help but the disciplines of regular saving and consistent spending within our means are vital.
 
"The #1 key to financial freedom is to spend less than you earn, then save and invest the difference over a long period of time."
 
Interestingly, after a certain level of income, more money doesn’t guarantee more happiness. In fact, it can simply add more stress and pressure to your life. That's why there is such an array of current trends  today emphasising activities such as downsizing, de-cluttering and minimalism.
 
"In the end, there is much more to life than money. In fact, the most important things in life you can't buy with money. This includes personal integrity, inner peace and quality relationships."
 
You may need more money … but you may not. Don't just naively jump on the conveyor belt to acquiring more and more wealth without thinking of the cost involved and the possible repercussions. Could contentment with what you already have be today's choice?
 
If you are interested in learning some practical principles for becoming financially free, check out my new book Money Talks.
 
Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary was kind enough to recently endorse the book:
 
“Countless books on how to use money compete for readers. It is easy to find complicated ones. It is common to find those that just promote getting rich, even by so-called Christians. There are plenty of theoretical studies that are hard to apply and how-to-manuals not based in good theory. But where does one find a short, practical, biblically grounded, clearly written little book that addresses all the important questions about using money in Christian ways with up-to-date charts, graphs and statistics to back everything up? Mark Conner has now written it. Get a copy. Devour it. Then live it out.”
 
 

Do You Really Need MORE Success? (Part 3)

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Today we continue our series of BLOG posts reflecting on the question, "Do You Really Need MORE?"
 
Those of us who live in the West are born into a world dominated by the religion of capitalism. From our early years, we hear it preaching its gospel of success. "Growth is good!" "Bigger is better!" "MORE is the goal of life!" To be fair, capitalism does a lot of good in the world but unquestioned it can develop a sinister dark side. We do ourselves a favour when we question its assumptions. Let's not embrace the status quo so easily and so uncritically. 
 
Let's be honest, there is a certain appeal to climbing the ladder of success. I was recruited to the pursuit of achievement from an early age, based on my upbringing and culture. I'm also an achiever by nature and I love setting goals, accomplishing things, and completing tasks and projects. There is a positive side to all of this but there is also a cost. When is enough enough? Is this all there is to life? At some stage you have to ask whether your ladder of success is leaning against the right wall. After all, success always creates more pressure and more work. The god of success is never satisfied and the admiration of the crowd quickly fades. Could a shift from success to significance be really what our heart longs for? What truly gives life meaning? What brings joy and is life-giving? 
 
 
Popular business thinker and author Jim Collins, after investing extensive research into studying businesses and companies that are built to last and then companies that move from being good to great, turned his focus to how great companies lose their way – how do the mighty fall? The fall always begins with hubris (pride in one’s own achievements) followed quickly by the relentless pursuit of MORE. That’s often the beginning of the end … yet very few people want to talk about the addictive, intoxicating nature of success that in the end often destroys organizations … and people. 
 
The church world is not immune to the alluring seduction of success. As a young church leader, I quickly bought into the belief that churches needed to grow and that bigger is always better. Having the church NOT grow bigger was not even an option. After all, wasn’t rapidly increasing church attendance the true measure of success and a mark of favour with God? Who would question that? 
 
I think it is time to question our assumptions about growth and success. If your neighbours have more kids than your family does are they a better family? Is bigger really better? Is a bigger church really better than a smaller one? You will never read a letter from the apostle Paul to a church in the first century saying, "I'm so excited you've broken the 200 barrier!" It's just not there. But he did commend his churches for qualities such as their growing love for one another (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3), which just happens to be what Jesus said his followers should be known for (John 13:35).
 
For over 20 years, I was involved in leading a church congregation that grew from 1,500 people to around 10,000 people and I can tell you that reaching more people can be exhilarating. But it comes at a cost. There is a shadow side no one really likes to talk about, including the increasing stress and strain on staff and volunteers, often due to an unsustainable pace and unrealistic schedules. The contemporary church can become like a machine, gobbling up good people up and spitting them out. No wonder we are seeing such a sharp increase in the DONES.
 
Nicole and I actually missed the intimacy of the church when it was smaller. In the end, it felt like managing a large corporation, with all internal politics that come with that. We knew thousands of people but had little time to go deeper with many of them. How easy it is for pastors to degenerate into professional managers of organizations delivering religious goods and services, competing with each other and fighting for people’s attention within the broader marketplace of our consumeristic society. 
 
Is this what Jesus had in mind? Who are we doing this all for? Genuine care for people can easily morph into empire building and the cult of personality, if we are not careful. Yes, the church world today creates it’s own ‘celebrity stars’ who become the ‘rich and famous’ working their brand and distributing their products just like people in every other sector of society. 
 
So, do we really need MORE 'success' – personally, in our businesses, and in our churches? 
 
This post is not 'against' success. I think Dwight L. Moody captures best what I'm trying to say:
 
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure,
but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter.”
 
Maybe its time to change the scorecard and the focus of our success orientation.
 
 

Do You Really Need MORE Stuff? (Part 2)

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We live in a world that continually seeks to make us dissatisfied with what we currently have and tries to motivate us to buy the latest and the greatest things. As a result, we end up with far more stuff than we really need. Where I live in Australia, many homes have a double garage. The trouble is many people can't fit their two family cars in the garage because of all the stuff they have stored in there. As a result, one of the fastest growing businesses in Australia is the the self-storage industry! People pay money for more space to store all of their things. 

I'm as guilty as anyone in getting sucked in by the gravitational pull of materialism. I love new technology and I love books.  There is a certain joy in buying a new book even if I haven't read the last few books I bought. Fellow book addicts understand. Those are two of my weaknesses. What about you? 

Let's face it, material things always under-perform in bringing us true happiness. Yes, there is a momentary buzz from buying something new or better but before long that feeling fades.  

Beware of impulse buying, which refers to unplanned expenditures that we make based on emotion. Some of us get excited at the very sight of the word ‘SALE’, an interest free offer or an offer of ‘2 for the price of 1’. Just because you can afford it does not mean you should buy it. If you buy something on sale, you are not saving, you are spending!

Research indicates that women do this more often than men. But men do it in larger amounts. Come one guys, that extra pair of shoes your wife recently purchased will not bust the budget as much as that new mega-size television you bought for the games room! In fact, when it comes to credit card debt, men owe an average of $450 more than women.

So, when is enough enough? Why don't we all step off the treadmill of endless consumption. Could less actually be more? Is it time to de-clutter, to give stuff away, and to down-size?

On this matter, the wisdom from the sacred text calls to us:  

Ecclesiastes 4:6. Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind. NLT

Think about that. Could it be better for you to have less and with it joy and peace than to have more and the debt and accompanying stress that goes with it? I believe so. If your standard of living is creating pressure and anxiety in your life and relationships, why not lower it? Right-size your living expenses to match your income.

It amazing how much stuff we can accumulate through the years. There is something therapeutic about cleaning up, clearing stuff out and simplifying your life. Nicole and I have down-sized a few times in the last year and each time it has felt so good. 

Have a read of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Become a minimalist. It will change your life. 

Think about it … do you really need MORE stuff?

Next: Do You Really Need MORE Success?

Do You Really Need MORE? (Part 1)

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We live in a society that continually encourages us to pursue MORE – more money, more work, more success, more relationships, more experiences and more stuff. Personally, I love working towards goals and continually accomplishing new things. But this constant achievement-orientation can become addictive and it takes a toll on us – physically, mentally, emotionally and relationally. I can testify to that first hand. In fact, I've experienced what it is to virtually wear myself out in the unquestioned climb up the mountain of MORE.
 
For those of us who live in the West, we are born into a world where we breathe the air of Capitalism. It tells us that the 'normal' life involves acquiring more education, earning a bigger salary, moving to a bigger house, driving a newer car, building bigger businesses, living in expanding mega-cities, and growing larger churches. But is this what life is meant to be? And at what cost? Could the relentless pursuit of MORE actually be killing us and our planet? We sure have moved a long ways from the hunter-gatherer era of our human species where we only pursued what was sufficient for the day.
 
Yuval Noah Harari, who has a PhD from Oxford University, is the best-selling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind  and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. In his most recent book, he calls Capitalism the religion of our time, with its belief in the supreme value of growth. He says, “If we somehow succeed in hitting the brakes, our economy will collapse, along with our society. The modern economy needs constant and indefinite growth in order to survive. If growth ever stops, the economy won’t settle down to some cosy equilibrium; it will fall to pieces. That’s why capitalism encourages us to seek immortality, happiness and divinity."
 
Australian sociologist Hugh Mackay talks about the human desire for more in his book What Makes Us ticks? The Ten Desires that Drive Us. He notes that the human appetite for whatever feels good seems insatiable and that the desire for more has an inherently dark side – greed. Greed can tip the balance towards excess, addiction and even mania. Instead of moderation and self-control, we end up with feelings of entitlement and frustration.
 
Could it be time to jump off the fast moving conveyor belt heading to the land of MORE and be satisfied with LESS? Is it worth considering being counter-cultural and choosing to live in the land of contentment?
 
Listen to these words of wisdom from the apostle Paul who lived in the all-consuming Roman Empire of the first century. 
 
"I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." Philippians 4:11-13. The Message Bible.
 
Here we have someone who is not against MORE but who isn't looking for MORE in order to be happy.
 
Over these next few weeks, we will be diving a little deeper into the specific things we seem to want MORE of … and questioning their validity. In the process, we might be able to live even more meaningful, fulfilled and joyful lives.