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Friday, 24 January 2020

How important is Climate Change?

Is Climate Change the biggest issue facing the world today?

You would have thought from the news today, that the single greatest moral or ethical issue of our time was climate change.

From the old big guns (Attenboroughs) to the new young things (Thurnbergs) everyone is on zee bandwaggon.

So how should a Christian think about climate change? Should we too drop everything and go on a crusade to save the planet?

A Christian view of Climate Change - is it happening?
We must ask ourselves first - is climate change actually
happening. The primary indicator of climate change is levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The earth's atmosphere is made up of Nitrogen (approx 78% thankfully), Oxygen (approx 21%), Argon (approx 0.93%) a few other gasses in tiny amounts and then carbon dioxide coming in at 0.04%. In the lingo of parts per million CO2 comes in at 400ppm - that is minuscule.

That C02 should hold such remarkable power over the earth since it amount to only 0.04% of the atmosphere needs a word of explanation.

C02 is a "greenhouse gas." So too, by the way, is water vapour. Water vapour's greenhouse effect is much larger than C02s but  it is a necessary part of the water cycle: hence the emphasis on CO2.

In a typical back garden greenhouse, light from the sun comes through the panes of glass easily. It is then absorbed by the soil, plants, wood, etc. And here is the trick. When it re-radiates from the soil and plants and wood, it re-radiates at a wavelength that cannot now pass through the glass. So the heat is trapped in the greenhouse.

This is the same phenomenon that is taking place in our atmosphere. Sunlight can pass through the atmosphere where it is absorbed by the earth. It re-radiates back at a wavelength which is trapped by "greenhouse gasses" such as C02, making the earth warmer than  it otherwise would be.

Finetuning miracles...
Isn't it amazing that God has created this little planet with just enough CO2 so that we are not too hot and not too cold! On planet Mars 95% of the atmosphere is CO2! All this fine-tuning passes most people by, but we should be amazed at the Creator's power and wisdom.

The CO2 level is changing
Anyway, back to CO2. The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are changing. Since records began, around 1960, CO2 levels have risen from around 300ppm to 400ppm - an enormous jump of 33% in 50 years. 

Should we believe this? Yes. There is no good reason to doubt the science on this one. Christians are rightly highly sceptical about large theories such as evolution which are founded on enormous philosophical presuppositions (like there is no Creator, or there is a Creator; read Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer). But there is no reason for global warming data to be prejudiced. No-one has God/no-God capital to make out of it. Indeed, it could be argued that the case for global warming is an amazing proof of just how finely tuned the earth's atmosphere was by God for human life.

So yes, the amount of greenhouse gases is increasing and the overall temperature of the earth is rising as a result. There is no reason to doubt this, and its not good news for the future of the planet.

So how then should a believer think about climate change (a much better term than global warming, because though the net effect of climate change is global warming, all kinds of disruptions in weather patterns may cause some places becoming colder)?

We are stewards of the earth
Christians believe that God gave to mankind not only dominion over the earth but stewardship of it (Genesis 2:15). It's not ours to do what we want with, but ours to care for. Our highly mechanised industrial lifestyles in the world today do mean that little by little we are ruining our planet - in a host of different ways.

So we ought to pay heed to the warnings and where we can do our part, we should act......

A Christian view of ethics
.....but we must ask what human behaviour lie beneath climate change. Ultimately it must be human greed, the sin of human greed. If we did not want so much stuff or eat the wrong kinds of food we would not harm the planet.

These underlying sins of greed - that the world completely ignores because it can't deal with them -   are the root causes of climate change.

No-one can change the human heart but God, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ can. No-one can convict of greed and change the human heart to want less except the Gospel. 

The Gospel is the only solution to climate change!

And for this reason, the Gospel remains the Christian's main priority. Let liberal churches who have lost the Gospel preach climate change  - a purely moralistic works religion - but let we who have been touched by God's power preach the Gospel which alone can bring about deep and lasting change in our hearts and lives.

A Christian view of the future of the world
And there is another truth here. A Christian view of the future means we know that the world will one day pass away in the Great Fire. This fallen earth is not humanity's final home.

Isn't that another amazing truth being made very clear in these days? While astronomers are looking for new planets to inhabit (impossible given the fine tuning of this planet) we know that the answer to this world's fate is not to save the planet - as if we could! (there's another problem with "save the planet" folks - we are not God!)

Our deepest response to climate change is to long for the return of Jesus Christ when all things will be made new. We wait for a new heavens and a new earth in which only righteousness will live. Our hope is not in a fixed up clapped out old world - this one - but a brand new renewed heaven and a brand new earth.

Gospel Gospel Gospel
So instead of making climate change the one-issue passion of our lives, we continue to make the Gospel the all-consuming passion of our lives, for it is the power of God unto salvation.

A word for Christian Parents 
Christian parents must teach their children to be influenced by the Gospel of hope more than the teenage stars of this world's passing media. Although, no doubt, it is a good thing to encourage good stewardship of the earth, our children must be taught to look up to Christians who are working for much greater, more important and eternal causes.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

How much should we pay our church pastors?

The Big Difference
We start with the fact that church pastors have been called by God to preach the Gospel, and consequently their calling is different from a secular calling.

Sometimes, pastors leave behind careers which would have made them rich. Sometimes they leave behind careers that would have paid little above survival. Either way, the driving motive of ministry is not making money, it is love for Christ and his Church. And the great assurance that God will look after them, according to his wonderful promise in Mark 10:29-30.

Many pastors have fallen through a love of money. For example, in 2014 Korean pastor Yonggi Cho was convicted for embezzling $12 million USD in church funds that he bought from his son Cho Hee-Jun.

A pastor motivated by money is in the wrong profession, fullstop. If a man wants to get rich he should pursue a different calling.

Scriptures for personal giving
The obligations of God's people, according to God's Word are to pay those who feed them spiritually and also to give more generally to the work of the Gospel globally.

Leviticus 27:30, "A tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord's, and is holy." The 10% tithe is not mentioned in the NT, but like all transitions from OT to NT, the obligations are far higher to people like us who have been blessed infinitely greater. 

Think about the OT economy: 11 tribes supported 1 tribe, the twelfth tribe, the Levites who served at the temple. 11 tribes giving 10% of their different incomes (the actual total giving was more than 10% when all considerations have been made, I am told), were naturally and mathematically, able to support 1 tribe: work it out! 11x10%s = 110%. Every ten full-time earners in a church should surely be able to support one full time Gospel worker on an average wage. Especially in our exceedingly wealthy time in history.

1 Corinthians 8: Paul forsook his right to receive payment because in pioneering missionary settings  it is not right to burden infant believers, and because motives for missionary work can be questioned thus putting the Gospel reputation at stake. (Many missionary endeavours have been hampered by the missionary living like some high and mighty foreign king.) But the principle Paul sets is that those who sow a spiritual harvest should reap a material harvest. "those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel." (v.14).

Galatians 6:6: "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor." The principle is that no-one should belong to a church, listen to the preaching but not give towards the ministry costs of that church.

Philippians 3:10-19. The church at Philippi clearly supported Paul in his missionary labours. Christians want to give not only to support their local pastors but also missionary work.

So! Every believer should go before the Lord, work out how much they can give sacrificially and cheerfully, using the 10% as a starting guide, and then give as much as they can, knowing that they will reap in line without how much they sow (2 Corinthians 9). We should also periodically review our giving, since from time to time we get a rise.

Four principles for paying your church pastor

(1) The  size of the church determines whether he can be paid a living wage
The principle of not being a burden on the church comes from 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Paul's principle when church planting was not to burden young Christians as they began to walk the walk. Once they grew into mature believers then they should be taught to give. But at the start they cannot be expected to give. Although this principle applies in particular to virgin-soil church plants among unbeliever, it is a general principle. Church members should not feel burdened by pastoral pay. If the church is small, then they simply may not be able to pay a full wage.

For example, suppose a church is composed of 10 working people and the church also supports a building and some missionary work. While in a rich land 10 people tithing at 15% may be able to pay a pastor the average of their salaries, if they only tithe 10% of their salaries then they may not be able to pay a pastor their average salary.

If, however, the church has 1000 full-time wage earners, it does not follow that the pastor(s) should be paid far more. In that case, the following principle kicks in. 

(2) The average wealth of the church shapes what he should be paid
It would be an offence to the Gospel if the pastor was paid more than the average wage of the church members. For example in a working class church where the average pay of the members is £15,000 per year, pastors should not be on £30,000. And contrawise if the average wage of the church was £30,000 then their pastor should not be expected to live on £15,000. No pastor should expect to live way above the living standard of his average church member. And no church should pay their pastor way below the average pay level of their members.

(3) The diligence of the pastor
A third principle comes in here - a pastor who works hard should be paid accordingly. "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worth double honour (the word "honour" could also refer to pay), especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17). Not the word "well." A lazy pastor - a contradiction in terms and a blight on the ministry - should not be paid as much as an industrious pastor. Elders must consider these things.

(4) The needs of a pastor
There is a principle in 1 Timothy 5:18, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain." The idea is that an ox as it grinds out grain needs to eat to live. It would be a crying shame if the pastor was struggling but unable to say so; if unusual but genuine present needs were not being considered.

The tragedy of some evangelical churches
Some evangelical churches do not regularly talk about the financial needs and requirements of their pastors. Here is a test of a church's commitment to the Word: how much do we give to visiting speakers? I have preached at churches where they have given me £10 or £20 in payment for the Word - sometimes not even enough for the fuel costs. I have sometimes been handed an envelope with words that imply that I do not need to take it if I don't want/need to!

Suppose a pastor takes 15 hours to write a sermon. At £20 for the sermon, that's less than £1.33 per hour. At that rate a pastor would have to work 375 hours a week to earn £500 to feed his family - more than twice the number of hours God actually gives!

How much a church gives to visiting preacher can be a litmus test of how much they value the Word - and value ministers of the word.

So how much should we pay pastors?
In the UK evnagelical community a common pay range for evangelical pastors is the teacher's pay range. That seems a common sense payscale to work with, given all the factors above.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

1917 - Why every 15 year old should watch this film

1917 - The story
Not to spoil your experience, but 1917 is the story, based on truth, of two young soldiers stuck in the trenches of Europe who are told that they must undertake a dangerous journey to tell another division of soldiers not to attack at dawn the next day - because that division were being lured into a trap. If they attack, the "Huns" will massacre them.

The pounding motive for this daring act for one of the young soldiers is that his brother was in that division and would die. He's running to save a brother's life.

The seamlessness of the film is the first thing we notice - there are few "cuts" - it's as if we are constantly with these two men; then one.

Visceral danger
Life in the trenches was dangerous and exhausting. At any time you could be attacked, and the sights and smells of death were ever present. The film allows you to experience trench warfare in a way that puts you right there - it's tension every moment of the film, except for the odd moment of reprieve. Blossoms falling, American soldiers singing and meeting a fearful woman and little child provide a few moments of rest in the relentless tension stirred up by a fitting musical score.

Why watch?
So why watch this film? War buffs will love it, no doubt. But its greater value lies in reminders to a soft culture of the realities of normal life in a fallen world.

What do I mean? We in the West live exceedingly easy lives. We have every material need met - and more. We live in peace. We have police that don't ask for bribes and politicians who - whatever we may say - are roughly honest. When we are ill we can go to a hospital or see a doctor. We eat like ancient kings.

Does this lavish lifestyle do us any good? I would not want to live in a war torn country, but the consequence of living in times of such great ease are that we become complacent, ungrateful and self-centred. We also find it hard to persevere through trials because we have endured such little hardship by comparison with other generations.

Why fifteen year olds?
They can't help it,  but our young people today have no clue as to what life is like in most other parts of the world. They have not experienced war or any other kind of deprivations. What this film may do is to show them, by mighty contrast, what life was like for so many young people in war, and what life is like for many young people in the world today.

Our Need of History
It's why we need to read history. Otherwise we think that our little bubble world is all that there is. We judge the world by today, we become extremely narrow in our concerns and projects and moralities. We become monochrome Greta Thurnbergs, wrapped up only in the issues of our blip in time and space. (If the young lady in question was born in an African village, global warming would be her very last interest and concern).

Why we need the Old Testament
It's one reason we need to read the OT, to read the violence and wars and horror. None of this has gone away, our world is and always will be filled with it - even though it may personally pass us by.

1917 is rated 15, so that's why I would encourage every 15 year old, but not below, to see it. But it's a good film to watch for 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85.... year olds who live in a soft culture.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Simony in the Evangelical World

Simon Magus
Simon Magus, in Acts 8 offered the apostles money in return for the spiritual gift of laying hands on people for them to receive the Holy Spirit. In other words he wanted to buy spiritual favour with money.

From this story arose the sinful practise called "Simony." Simony is when someone wants to influence the church with money.

Simony in the medieval church
Simony was common in the corrupt medieval church. You could buy an office, for example, you could become a bishop, by handing over money. In the same way that political influence could be purchased in the world, so spiritual influence could be bought in the church.

Of course we don't do that anymore?
We tidy Evangelicals like to think that simony is unknown among our churches. We reject it, we say, as vehemently as we reject priests, dressing up in daft frocks, smells, bells, smoke and so on. etc.

Except that Simony is well and alive in evangelical circles. Every time we allow money to influence an appointment or a decision we are guilty of Simony. Here are some examples:

  • A rich man comes into the local church and is appointed to an office, deacon or elder, because he is rich. If the decision has not been made on account of character or giftings, but has been influenced in any way by his wealth, that is Simony
  • A rich church gives to a poor church and expects influence in return. The money has not been given freely but has strings attached
  • A rich man approaches an evangelical organisation and gives it a large amount of money. But in return he expects his name to be mentioned or expects his viewpoint to be made known or propogated

I know personally of examples of all three versions of Simony.

How to avoid Simony
How do we avoid the evil practise of Simony?

First, we make it a practise that when a rich man comes into our church, we treat him no different than a poor peasant. We make ourselves dollar blind. We may even have to tell him this right at the start, so he is under no illusions (delusions).

Secondly, we teach our church that Christ forbids favouritism to the rich. Rich people then will either melt away to simony-accepting churches, or humbly confess that they should be treated the same as the poor.

We never accept any gifts with strings attached, no matter how seductive those strings are. If someone has told you that they are giving you  money, that, already is a subtle string - why do they need to tell you? Anonymity is the only way to give Christianly.

We teach our people to give anonymously, not even letting their left hand know what their right hand is doing. 

I will never forget a man coming to me as a church pastor and telling me that he was going to give a large amount of money to the church every month. It was code for "I want an office here." In due time when after further less subtle prompts for a certain office none was given, he quietly slipped away.

Rich Christians who use their money anonymously can be a great blessing to the church. Rich Christians who want to use their money in exchange for influence of any kind are a menace in the church, and no church should be seduced by their offers.

Office should be given to those who have godliness, alone, not to the Simon Magus's of the world.

Occasionally, of course, those appointed to office may be wealthy, but their wealth had nothing whatsoever to do with their appointment. It was and is their godliness that counts.

Friday, 3 January 2020

The Blessings of a Burglary

A New Year's Gift
Between 11:30 and 1:00 am New Year's Eve / New Year's Day,  thieves broke two windows of my car, and stole my wife's handbag, contents and all. This was their Happy New Year to me - and who knows how many others.

Scripture commands:

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess 5:18)

So let me count all the blessings that flow out of this burglary and give thanks to God, not for the burglary but in the burglary.

Are you ready, for it's a mighty long list:

Blessing #1: I was the burgled, not the burglar
What a blessing that I, by the grace of God was not the one burgling cars on New Year's Eve. I could have been! I could have been brought up in a home where I was abused and mistreated so much that to rid myself of the pain I turned to drugs, and wanting to forget the past year I smashed a car window to get money for a soothing fix.

Blessing #2: This is the first time my car's windows have been broken
Thank you Lord that I live in such a safe country. We pampered westerners need to spend a few weeks in a country where being burgled is no big deal, because it is so common there.

Blessing #3: The burglar attacked the car when no-one was in it
I read of accounts where brazen thieves stop cars,  mug the driver, then force them at gunpoint to a cash machine, then steal his car - if he is lucky he gets away with a light beating. My car was empty of human beings.

Blessing #4: The burglar took my possessions, not my life
The burglar took possessions which are here today and gone tomorrow. Who cares? Possessions are either replaceable or gone forever. They did not take my life.

Blessing #5: The burglar missed far more valuable items!
Being in such a hurry, the burglar missed three far more valuable items that were in the same car! 

Blessings #6: The burglar did not steal life-giving medicine. 
The thief could have stolen a defibrillator or life-essential pills. But he didn't - everything he stole was non-urgent.

Blessings #7: The burglar took my material possessions but he could not take my spiritual treasures. 
Material blessings come and go. They last - at most - for the short duration of this life. We can't take them with us. Moth, thieves and rust all degrade them. But treasures in heaven are kept safe by God, and those treasures are eternal. No thief can take away peace with God or the hope of heaven.

Blessing #8: The police did not ask me to bribe them 
When we rang the police they did not ask us for a bribe before they gave me a Crime Reference Number. There are plenty of places in the world where I would have had to "pay" for a CRN!

Blessing #9: Everything was insured
The windows they smashed and the handbag they stole are all insured. So apart from the nuisance value, everything will be back in shape soon.

Blessing #10: Although they stole my house key, our house has an additional security door before the main door
So when we got home we shut the outer door, which they have no key to! And we'll soon change the inner lock.

Blessing #11:  In the wider family we even have a second car which we can use to get around, plus feet that still work!
We all rely on wheels too much, it's good to go without a car for a while, though we have a second car in the wider family should we need it.

Blessing #12: We were able to cancel the cards in an instant
We will not have to claim money back, because we were able to cancel all bank cards in a moment. The wonders of technology.

Blessings #13: We're a little more careful about security
We will all be more careful about all security matters in the future! A litle incy wincy scare does us all  good.

Blessing #14: The incident has not troubled us one little bit: we thank God for faith
I realised this blessing when sharing the incident with an unbeliever who thought it was the most terrible way to start a new year and nigh on the end of the world! I realised that I did not see the theft that way at all and that God had given me the faith to trust him and not be fearful over such insignificant matters....

Blessing #15: The faith to believe that there are far more important things than material stuff
... and I realised how differently I view material possessions, since I own the Pearl of Greatest Price. In the eyes of the world material stuff is precious, houses and cars are everything. But we who believe know that it will all be burned up in The Fire. In the world to come, we cannot take anything  with us. And that perspective shapes our attitude - or it should shape our attitude - to money, house, car, possessions, gadgets, everything!

So there you go! 

Fifteen reasons to rejoice!

Fifteen reasons to count our blessings!

I am sure, given the time, I could find 15 more!

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Monday, 16 December 2019

The Scandal of Christmas

Everything upside down
In our Western world we prize the following:
  • high education
  • rich people
  • large numbers of people
  • letters-after-their-names folk
  • famous folk, or folk with famous folks in their ancestry
  • good looking people 
  • people with "fit bodies"
To put it another way, we look, our world looks, on the outward appearance.

We who are evangelicals are little different. The people we look up to in the Evangelical world, fall roughly in the categories above. 

The Scandal of Christmas
Both Christmas and Easter turn the world's values on their head. At Christmas, the baby born to us is so so ordinary. Born supernaturally to an inconsequential mother, and her inconsequential shortly-to-be-married to husband, Joseph. Born in backwater Bethlehem, but coming from no-where Nazareth.

No trumpets blow at his birth, no royal photographers, just a few smelly animals welcome him, and a few nobody shepherds.

In life no home, no powerful friends, no money. Just lots of jealous enemies and a few ordinary disciple-friends. 

Same too at the end. A brutal death, friends all scatter fearful. Buried by the kindess of virtual strangers.

Saying something?
Do we hear? Do we not hear? Do we not want to hear? That the world is upside down and Jesus alone is the right way up? That the truly great in this world are not the proud and rich and educated, but - didn't Paul have something to say 'bout this?

"Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast in His presence. "

Humbleness Applied
The Lord is pleased to use the "great", don't get me wrong. But only after like Paul they have been flattened and humbled. Until they no longer mention the things that once made them great in the eyes of the world. Until they no longer regard them things as anything other than "dung."

His more general way is to start with nobodies, so that through them he might display his awesome power and people might say things like "these unschooled geezers have turned the world upside down."

How repentant we should be! Whenever we find ourselves glorying in numbers, education, secular standing, riches. Whenever we despise a poor man or exalt a rich man.

Lord forgive us and help us to look at the world and the church, from now on, through the lens of the manger and the cross.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

How Church Planting brings New Life to a Church

The deathly grip of tradition!
There are few greater terrors for a Christian, than "getting into a rut" and fewer disasters for a church to stay-the-same. This is what tradition is, it is doing the same things for decades without change. It is seeing the same people for decades without change. It is sitting in the same "church" building and sitting in the same seat without change. It is meeting in the same home group decade by decade without change. It is engaging in the same spiritual routines decade by decade without change.

(BTW: Tradition is not believing the same fundamental doctrines decade by decade -there is another name for that- that is called faithfulness not tradition, and faithfulness to truth is what we are all called to. To eternally believe that men can't be women and women can't be men and to eternally believe that homosexual practise is sinful, is not a tradition, it is truth and faithfulness.)

Why is tradition so deathly?
(i) Idolatry. The chief reason tradition is so deathly is because traditionalism becomes a comfortable rock on which we end up trusting, an alternative god we find refuge in. We may think we are trusting in God but really we are trusting in a set of comfortable traditions which we hope will not change.

(ii) Faithlessness. Linked to idolatry is the fact that a comfortable situation is one which never tests faith. We know the routine, it's not going to change, we don't need the faith needed to step out in uncharted waters and do something new and radical and different. Faith in traditional churches is rarely challenged.

(iii) Growth implies change. The third reason tradition kills spiritual growth is because by its very nature growth needs change, growth is the opposite of tradition. A church or a believer who is growing is constantly changing. Tradition stymies growth.

The large church at Jerusalem scattered
The scattered church at Jerusalem
I have often pondered the divine reasons for the most remarkable incident in the early church. After phenomenal growth, from 3000 to 5000 converted men (which translates to at least 10,000 people in total),  suddenly they are scattered from Jerusalem (Acts 8). A magachurch scattered! What a "failure!"

One reason they were scattered was to fulfil the command of Christ to preach the Gospel in Judea and Samaria. If we don't obey the commands of Christ he will make sure they are fulfilled!

But perhaps a second reason the church was scattered was to prevent Jerusalem becoming some great spiritual centre, to prevent deathly traditions being established, and to ensure the virulent growth of the church.

Forest fires renew the forest
In the same way that devastating forest fires renew a forest, so change in church life renews the local church.

The role of church planting
There are many ways that God renews the local church. He may renew the church by persecution. He may renew the church by allowing a deceiver or wolf to slip into  the midst scattering some of the sheep. He may prune the church of dead wood to make it more fruitful. He always challenges the church through his Word. Or he may encourage them to plant churches. As churches are planted new people must rise to new tasks, new resources of money must be raised and new relationships made with all those challenges.

Church Planting Stirs up a Church
A reason not to plant
My guess is that the singular reason churches fail to consider church planting is that they want to remain comfortable, and that means remaining traditional. Perhaps it is just too much hassle. Another reason may be that they fear losing their fame, as instead of growing they shrink in size! But God will always bless the church that sacrificially gives.

How is your faith?
Every Christmas I get newsletters from Christian families around the world. Sadly, many of them (with notable exceptions) are in very comfortable traditional church situations. And tragically it shows. What you get is a list of all the holidays, educational qualifications, job promotions the family have experienced in the last year. Normally there is no hint of anything spiritual - except the obligatory Christmas verse at the end. No mention of faith growing through sacrifice or sorrow. No mention of perseverance through pain. No mention of new levels of sacrifice leading to joy. What you read is a typical western  life style sprinkled with the lightest coating of Christianity. Luke warm is putting it mildly. Kinda remember that Jesus had a word to say about that kind of religion?

So how is your faith? The same as it was 10, 20, years ago? Is your serving at the same level, your sacrificial giving the same?  Are you growing or have you become stuck in a rut?

May he cause us to grow in 2020!