Month: June 2013

Money, Money, Money

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(The Message)

Acts 8:20
20 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable – trying to buy God’s gift!



Do I trust in God or in my own skills to supply my needs? In 1923, several of the most powerful money magnets in the world gathered for a meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The combined resources and assets of these men tallied more than the U.S. Treasury that year. In the group were Charles Schwab, president of a steel company; Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange; and Arthur Cutton, a wheat speculator.

Albert Fall was a presidential cabinet member, a personally wealthy man. Jesse Livermore was the greatest Wall Street “bear” in his generation. Leon Fraser was the president of the International Bank of Settlements, and Ivan Kruger headed the largest monopoly in the nation. It was an impressive gathering of financial eagles!

What happened to these men in later years? Schwab died penniless. Whitney served a life sentence in Sing-Sing Prison. Cutton became insolvent. Fall was pardoned from a Federal prison so he could die at home. Fraser, Livermore, and Krueger committed suicide. These extremely rich men ended their lives with nothing.

Money is certainly not the answer to life’s ills! Only God can give us peace, happiness, and joy. When we focus on God and His goodness in our lives, whether we have money or not, we can live in contentment, knowing that God will meet all our needs.

In my vocabulary, there is no such word as “can’t,” because I recognize that my abilities are given to me by God to do what needs to be done.

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Because

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trials
Job 2

The Message (MSG)
The Second Test: Health

2 1-3 One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan also showed up. God singled out Satan, saying, “And what have you been up to?” Satan answered God, “Oh, going here and there, checking things out.” Then God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him, is there—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil? He still has a firm grip on his integrity! You tried to trick me into destroying him, but it didn’t work.”

4-5 Satan answered, “A human would do anything to save his life. But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health? He’d curse you to your face, that’s what.”

6 God said, “All right. Go ahead—you can do what you like with him. But mind you, don’t kill him.”

7-8 Satan left God and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes.

9 His wife said, “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!”

10 He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?”

Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.
Job’s Three Friends

11-13 Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering.

I am so glad that I spent devotional time with Jesus this day. He revealed to me that eternity is for those who confess and believe in their heart that he died and rose in three days for the remission of their sins. My life is a mess in the natural. A violator of life’s contract- “Felon” living in a unforgiving society coupled with a recession designed to purge society due to the governments lack of stewardship. Living under oppression concealed by bills and legislative tactics I find myself perplexed beyond measure today, but the storm is almost gone because I can see the “Son” peaking through the clouds due to time spent in this word that became “The Son” of Man.

One day in my past, my toddler who has taken the great sleep exclaimed, “I love you dad!” I was curious about what makes a three-year-old tick, so I asked him why he loved me. He answered, “Because you play cars with me.” When I asked if there was any other reason, he said, “Nope. That’s it.” My toddler’s response made me smile. But it also made me think about the way I relate to God. Do I love and trust Him just because of what He does for me? What about when the blessings disappear?

Job had to answer these questions when catastrophes claimed his children and demolished his entire estate. His wife advised him: “Curse God and die!(Job2:9). Instead, Job asked, “shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? (v.10). Yes, Job struggled after his tragedy; he became angry with his friends and questioned the Almighty. Still, he vowed, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

Jobs affection for his heavenly Father didn’t depend on a tidy solution to his problems. Rather, he loved and trusted God because of all that He is. Job said, “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength”. Our love for God must not be based solely on His blessings but because of who He is.

Shall we accept the good from God
But fuss when trials are in sight?
Not if our love is focused on
The One who always does what’s right.

Focusing on the character of God helps us to take our eyes off our circumstances. I am of “Anointed Pedigree” how about you?

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Warning Signs That We Should Prepare For The Worst

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I am seriously looking at the affairs of state and even my life in retrospect of the legal system and our government. Major pieces of the story are unfolding before my eyes. Even while on my bed of meditation “My God” is
still on the throne performing His will in the lives of those consecrated to Him. Position yourself first in The Living God and then prepare accordingly.

The warning signs are all around us. All we have to do is open up our eyes and look at them. Almost every single day there are more prominent voices in the financial world telling us that a massive economic crisis is coming and that we need to prepare for the worst. On Wednesday, it was the World Bank itself that issued a very chilling warning. In an absolutely startling report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, warned that Europe could be on the verge of a devastating financial crisis, and declared that the rest of the world better “prepare for the worst.” You would expect to hear this kind of thing on The Economic Collapse Blog, but this is not the kind of language that you would normally expect to hear from the stuffed suits at the World Bank. Obviously things have gotten bad enough that nobody is even really trying to deny it anymore. Andrew Burns, the lead author of the report, said that if the sovereign debt crisis gets even worse we could be looking at an economic crisis that could be even worse than the last one: “An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09.” Burns also stated that the “importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough.” In other words, Burns is saying that it is time to prepare for the worst. So are you ready?

NationalDebt1-1024x765
Our Prosperity Is An Illusion

That being said, I do believe America is in for some tough times ahead. I still believe America is the greatest country on earth, but we’ve had it too good for too long and, as a result, our nation has become sadly complacent with its finances. So much so that I believe we’ve crossed the Rubicon.

Our government is now so massive, and its obligations — both present and future — are so large that, barring a remarkable and sudden change of attitude by our politicians, a systemic economic collapse is inevitable.

The US National Debt is currently more than $16 trillion. Unfortunately, the US currently owes, depending on who you believe, somewhere between $50 and $100 trillion more in unfunded liabilities for things like Social Security, Medicare and public employee pensions.

America has been able to run up these huge debts because it broke away from the gold standard in 1971. The gold standard imposed at least a modicum of fiscal responsibility and faith in the US dollar because the world’s central banks were allowed to exchange their greenbacks for the gold sitting in Fort Knox.

But once the gold standard was abandoned, our politicians were freed from the constraints that had previously forced them to be fiscally accountable. Pandora’s box was opened.

Since then, lawmakers have been borrowing an unlimited quantity of freshly-printed money to fund their spending sprees — courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank — thereby eliminating the need to worry about tax hikes.

As you can see by the chart below, government spending — and the inherent money printing that is ultimately required to finance it — is now completely out of control; the National Debt is expected to reach $20 trillion by the end of this decade.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Every new dollar that is printed by the Fed increases the money supply, which in turn reduces the value of the dollars already existence — including the ones in your wallet and retirement account.

As you can see from the chart below, soon after the United States abandoned the gold standard in 1971 — and our politicians began to greatly expand the size and scope of the government — cumulative price increases embarked upon an exponential trajectory. Those price increases are the result of the declining purchasing power of the US dollar. In fact, the buck’s purchasing power has been decimated since 1971; so much so that today you would need $559 to buy something that cost $100 back then.

Inflation-in-the-United-States-Since-18001
Clearly, abandoning the gold standard was a fiscally reckless decision, akin to giving a teenager a credit card without a credit limit. To illustrate, let’s first look at the current impacts of America’s spending addiction:

2012 Federal revenue: $2,468,000,000,000
2012 Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
2012 New debt: $1,352,000,000,000
National debt: $16,350,000,000,000
Interest paid on National Debt in 2012: $220,000,000,000
Proposed 2013 sequestration spending cuts: $ 85,000,000,000
Next, let’s drop a whole bunch of zeros from those figures to make the federal government’s ledger look at least little more like a typical household’s finances:

2012 Household income: $24,680
2012 Household expenditures: $38,200
2012 Credit card debt: $13,520
Outstanding balance on the credit card: $163,500
Annual interest on credit card debt: $2,200
Proposed 2013 spending cuts: $850
The figures reveal a dire situation. A financially responsible individual who found himself in a similar situation would drastically cut his spending while looking for ways to increase revenue.

Our politicians insist that’s exactly what they’re doing but, as you can see from the proposed spending cuts, they’re really just going through the motions, financing the nation’s obligations in the same way any financially irresponsible individual would — by taking on even more debt through the selling of US Treasury bonds.

It’s a practice that’s essentially no different than using a VISA card to pay the MasterCard bill.

The Illusion Is Unraveling

The problem is, using one credit card to pay another credit card bill only works for so long. As long as a debt addict can continue to find lenders who are willing to extend additional credit, the game can continue. But once the pool of lenders dries up, the game is over.

No, I can’t say exactly when this will happen. But it’s coming, folks — and when it does, middle-class America’s way of life will undergo a catastrophic change that will dramatically drop their standard of living forever more.

Until recently, the United States’ profligate spending wasn’t much of an issue. For years, plenty of investors — both foreign and domestic — have willingly parked a portion of their money into the perceived safety of America’s bonds. But over the long march of time, the dollar’s standing has seriously deteriorated and, as a result, foreign nations are becoming increasingly reluctant to buy US Treasury bonds because, thanks to the Fed’s near-zero interest rate policy, the risks are no longer worth the reward.

Normally, depressed demand for bonds results in higher interest rates, but so far the Fed has managed to keep bond demand artificially inflated via their quantitative easing campaigns. And the Fed is keeping US Treasury bond rates as low as possible now because interest payments on the National Debt already consume roughly 10% of annual revenue. If US Treasury bond rates increased to merely 5%, America would be forking over one-third of its annual revenue just to satisfy the interest on its $16.5 trillion National Debt; it would also be increasing its annual deficit by more than $800 billion.

The Beginning of “the End”

Although they won’t admit it, the Fed backed itself into a corner with its reckless easy-money policy. They know that once the money-printing party stops, interest rates will have to rise — and then the bond market will almost certainly crash. If that happens, things are going to get very interesting. For example:

As bond rates rise, mortgage interest rates will naturally follow them upwards. And since higher mortgage rates ultimately result in higher house payments for a given size loan, it follows that home prices will have to drop in order to keep them affordable — and the decline could be devastating.
The cost of borrowing will also go up for everyone else including small businesses, corporations, and state and local governments.
The stock market should fall as higher interest rates hurt economic growth and hurt stocks’ value.
Once interest rates start rising, a vicious cycle can ensue as higher interest rates beget larger deficits, which in turn lead to still higher interest rates. As the debt piles up, and the faith in the US dollar continues to diminish, the US will eventually reach its day of reckoning. The US will then be faced with two very unpleasant choices for solving the crisis: print away the debt or default.

Default would lead to the loss of the US dollar’s standing as the world’s reserve currency which would, among other things, cause the price of imports to skyrocket. Consumers’ purchasing power would plummet, and the government would be forced to severely cut back on its spending since it would no longer be able to finance its deficits. However, this is politically untenable.

So the more-likely alternative is that the Fed will simply print away the debt. That would result in hyperinflation as the last vestiges of the dollar’s utility as a reliable store-of-wealth all but disappeared.

What Will Economic Collapse Look Like?

While I don’t expect a Zombie Apocalypse resulting from either scenario, temporary supply disruptions caused by market uncertainties will be inevitable — and that will lead to empty supermarket shelves, fuel shortages and, possibly, utility failures that will almost certainly result in civil unrest and increased crime in more densely populated areas.

The good news is a new (hopefully gold-backed) currency will be issued and society will slowly recover. Eventually. I’m hoping it will take no more than six months before the supply chain recovers enough to eliminate most shortages.

Thankfully, tangible assets won’t go up in smoke after the economy resets; your home, automobile, and other possessions will be unaffected.

More good news: Any long-term debt you hold in old US dollars will essentially be wiped out because you should be able to retire it with worthless currency. It’s why I no longer bother trying to pay down my mortgage early.

Even so, things will never be the same for most people.

Although it’s anybody’s guess, I believe Americans will be lucky if their post-collapse standard-of-living will be equivalent to half of what it is now; worst case, one-third. That isn’t so bad if you earn $1 million per year but, if my assumption is correct, and you earn $60,000 annually, then your post-collapse standard-of-living will be between $20,000 and $30,000 today.

The ensuing economic collapse won’t be the end of the world, but it’s going to be a wild ride. Next, I’ll share some tips on how to survive an economic collapse, and get out relatively unharmed.

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Recession Obsession

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The Canadian dollar has reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976. They are now equal in value. The euro also soared to its highest-ever level against the dollar, trading above $1.40 for the first time since the currency was introduced in 1999.

So why is the dollar plunging, and what impact does that plunge have on U.S. and world markets? Here’s a look at some of the reasons for the dollar’s fall, and the consequences

Why the Weak Dollar?

There are several reasons. First, there’s the difference between the interest rate in the United States — the one the Federal Reserve just dropped by half a percentage point to 4.75 percent — and the interest rates of other central banks around the world.

When the United States dropped its rate, other banks did not follow. Now the spread between the interest rate at the European Central Bank (home of the euro) and the Federal Reserve (home of the dollar) is smaller than it has traditionally been, and that has weakened the value of the dollar against the euro. Put another way, you would get a better interest rate return holding a euro than a dollar.

Second, central banks around the world have been diversifying their holdings away from dollars to euros, British pounds and so on. That means there are more dollars out there in currency markets available to purchase. More dollars floating around means diminished value.

What Effect Does This Have?

Look at the record-high price of oil. Even if the same amount of oil is being pumped out of the ground, since it is traded in dollars and the dollar has weakened, the price of oil has increased to make up for the lost value of the dollar, creating a sort of vicious cycle.

Oil-producing countries don’t want to keep all the dollars they are getting for their oil, since it’s worth less, so they are diversifying and converting their dollars into euros or other currencies. That pushes more dollars back out into currency markets, which in turn pushes down the dollar’s value.

One analyst told ABC News that Russia used to have 90 percent of its financial reserves in dollars. It now has 45 percent in dollars, 45 percent in euros and 10 percent in British pounds.

What Does This Mean in the U.S.?

The news is mixed. It’s good, because it makes what we produce here cheaper to sell in foreign markets, and that in turn spurs exports of our products around the world. That translates into more manufacturing and more jobs. For example, BMW and Mercedes Benz want to build cars in the United States, because they can do it cheaper in nonunion states than in Germany, where they’d pay labor and parts in euros, and then bring the cars to the United States, where they would be too expensive to sell at a profit.

For years now, the collapse of the dollar has been in the cards. Recent developments show mounting pressure on the dollar’s reserve currency status. With a major international deflation going on, the threat of inflation through money printing is unreal. However, should the dollar’s reserve currency status end, the repatriation of trillions of petro- and Eurodollars could lead to a strongly inflationary scenario.

The roles of a reserve currency are to finance international trade and to function as a store of value for Governments. Until the second world war it used to be the British pound, but with the demise of the British Empire, the pound lost its international relevance and was overtaken by the dollar. This was formalized in the 1944 Bretton Woods system. All other currencies were fiat currencies, but pegged to the dollar, which in turn was pegged to Gold at 40 dollars an ounce and redeemable for international trading partners.

We are seeing the advent of the new currency order. There will be a number of more or less equal blocks: a dollar zone, a Yuan/BRICS zone and the euro, with the Yen and the Pound as lesser entities. These will later be able to converge to even more ‘cooperation’, in the Money Power’s relentless march towards World Currency.

These units will be at least partially Gold backed, implying long term deflationary pressures. Central Banks are buying Gold in major quantities, creating the interesting question why Gold prices have not risen in the last 18 months.

Well it looks like we’re heading into some really tough economic times. You’ve already heard much about these high profile banks that have failed and a few others have merged just to survive. Perhaps you haven’t heard just how many other business mergers have been proposed in these tough times. For example:
1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. are set to merge. The new name will be: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
2.) PolyGram Records, Warner Bros., and Zest Crackers will join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMM Good.
4.) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Doofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa
5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
7.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!
And finally:
8.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

Well OK, that’s not happening. But I thought it might be good medicine to laugh a bit because these days, when it comes to the economy, we’re all a little panicked and afraid. And I don’t blame you. One friend of mine last month was trying to enjoy a wonderful vacation in Europe with her grown children when the news came of the stock market tumble. She said to me, “I just couldn’t enjoy the moment Aaron, because I was thinking about what percentage of my nest egg was blowing away like smoke.”

She’s not the only one in that situation. Small business owners in my church are concerned about laying people off. Some of you have been laid off. Milgard, laid everyone off. Bayliner is done in 60 days kicking over 600 unemployed workers into the job market. A person I spoke with this week, losing their dream home because they’re upside down on their mortgage.

WE FORGOT GOD’S PRINCIPLES
So now we have Republicans and Democrats jockeying for political position to look better than the other in the aftermath of this mess. I’m a bit weary of them all, frankly. Tons of fears and angry thots run through our minds in the context of a hot presidential race.
– Who allowed this to happen?
– What will the candidates do to fix it?
– What’s going to happen next?
– And in a pessimistic moment, we might even ask:
o Are we the generation that will be able to say that we were there when America ended?

So now, I want to weigh in on this, not as an economist but as a student of the Bible and a follower of Jesus Christ. You’ve had an anxious few weeks. You’re mad at the pride of our leaders. You’re mad at the short sighted selfishness in all of us that lead to this subprime mortgage mess. So there’s two parts to God’s wisdom to heed in our fear and anger. The first relates to the world of your finances and the second relates to the world of your heart.

1. FINANCIAL
A. BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
I want to read some bible verses to you and I want you to imagine these were hung on the offices of every bank, every mortgage office and every home in the country.
– Prov 22:7: the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
– Prov 17:18: It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s
debts.
– Prov 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer
– Ps 37:21: The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.
– 1 Tim 6:10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

Have we lived by these principles? No. Not personally and not nationally. And now the piper must be paid. We cannot escape these principles, friends. God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows. With God’s laws, you don’t break them. If you disobey them, they break you. And now, they may break our economy. If we keep going down the path we’re on, one Christian financial consulting firm put it like this:
Failure to heed the principles God has plainly established for our own good will destroy the good faith and credit of the United States government. Should that day come, the consequences will be dire. Our entire economy will collapse with sudden speed, bringing mind-numbing consequences to world order. To avoid the pain, we can print more money, bringing on devastating hyperinflation.

That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.

B. GET OUT OF DEBT
So what can you do? One, save.

Two, the time is now to get out of debt. The Bible does not forbid debt, as it gives rules for how to repay it. But if ever there was a good time to be in debt, now is not that time. And the Bible gives us so many good reasons to want to avoid it:

First, the simple truth, Crown of Life, Kansas Ave and communities abroad is that whenever you sign up for a debt of any kind, you’ve just surrendered a slice of your freedom. The Bible says, Proverbs 22:7: The borrower becomes the lenders slave.

A friend of mine was complaining about how they attempted to garnish his wages for a debt he owed that he had fallen behind on. So he closed his bank account to stop them. He didn’t like them just taking it. He wanted to be back in control.

Well this guy just didn’t get it. Debt takes control over you. It puts you OUT of control. The lender is not obligated to be nice to you. It’s a voluntary legal contract you enter into. And it’s a type of slavery. You don’t get free, until the debt is gone. So if you choose debt, don’t get mad when your freedoms are diminished.

Second, debt enslaves you to excessive earning pressures. Hag 1:6 says, “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Debt is simply more holes in your money purse. The more holes, the faster and more frantically you have to pour in.

Third, debt enslaves us to Joylessness. PROVERBS 12:25 says, an anxious heart weighs a man down. There’s nothing like debt pressure to rob you of sleep.

Fourth, debt ties your hands when opportunities to do good come along.

So what I’m driving at is that there are many things about the gov’t’s spending habits that might make you mad, but today is a good day to look in the mirror. Many things you can’t control, but this you can. You can seek to get out of debt as fast as possible and start to save.

Whatever the economy is going to do, this is what YOU can do.

So, friends this is a good time to take some radical steps:
– One, make a RADICAL DECISION TO END YOUR SLAVERY. No one “drifts upstream.”

– Second, analyze your current situation to see where the holes are in your purse:
o House is too big, car is too new?
o Hobbies, vacations? clothes?
o Credit cards?
Simplify.

– Third, get on a repayment plan. Good Sense is available. Sign up.

– Fourth, be generous with God. God invites you to invite him into your financial picture. The Bible says this over and over. Prov 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your wealth…; then your barns will be filled to overflowing.” Now, with the economy bad? Especially now! Tithing is an act of faith that invites God to bring supernatural power to reverse your situation.

– Fifth, please consider God’s financial laws as you decide who to vote for in this upcoming election. Anyone, at any level, running for office who isn’t talking about REAL and considerable cuts in government programs – and by that I mean, from the welfare state to the warfare state – is either a fool or lying about what’s coming.

So that’s very practical. But some of you are mired in this thing spiritually and emotionally and I have some even MORE practical news from you, from the Christian gospel. It’s good news! It will cheer you up and give you tremendous hope, if you receive it.

1. SPIRITUAL
A. ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
First, this time of financial insecurity is a chance to get focused on forever things, and not temporal things. The American dream isn’t ultimate goal the Christian is shooting for. Neither is seeing America survive as a national, financial and military power. In fact, when some of those temporal things are taken away, we may get closer to our REAL goals.

Jesus said,
“what will it prosper a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul? …For where your treasure is, there will heart be also.”

It’s not an all-together bad thing to get a hard reminder that if we gained all that this world tells us we should gain, wealth, security, comfort… that that still isn’t what REALLY matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save money for retirement. You should. No one wants to be a drain on their kids or the system.

But what is the true point of life? The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
Eccl 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

What is the bible saying, friend? It’s saying, this life is not the end. This life is not all there is to live for. The purpose of this life, is to live and prepare for the next life. And ironically that makes for an even richer life here and now.

My parents are volunteers at a college that trains foreign nationals for Christian ministry – in Hawaii. And these people come from the down and out places on planet earth. Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan, Peru. And my parents wondered how these people from destitute countries would react to the extravagant lifestyles that we live here, the meals, the cars, the homes.

They were worried that they would be so jealous and envious. They were worried that our wealth would be a stumbling block to them spiritually. They would surely say,
‘why o God did you put me in my horrible country where there’s no MTV? Where I can’t get a Twinkie when I want to, like my American friends? Where I can’t see news of the Brittany Spears saga. Ah, the injustice!”

Well, guess what? They didn’t say that. Friend, this will come a shock to some of you, but those church leaders from around the world look at us and they are overwhelmed with one emotion and it’s not envy. You want to know what it is? It’s Pity.

The pity us. Because they see so clearly that our preoccupation with this life is killing our chance at dying well. They think about dying all the time. In Malawi, the average person dies at my age. They find truth that totally escapes us in what Jesus said,
– Blessed [happy, lucky, favored by God!] are you who mourn
– Blessed are you who are poor
– Blessed are you who are persecuted.

Look, I understand that it’s a rotten thing that some of you might have had your net worth cut in half last month. I feel for you and I wouldn’t be happy about that either. But you and I can have a hope in Jesus Christ that draws us into the Life of God. It’s a forgiven life, a life full of joy and peace and hope for resurrection.

Can I just remind you of how many rich people have gone into depression, dove into drugs or self destruction or even committed suicide because they don’t have what the simplest, poorest Christian has in spades? Peace of mind. Peace with God. A heart full of joy and a family who loves them; Hope for tomorrow and no fear of death. Curt Cobain, Howard Hughes to name two.

Some people would give their fortune for the simple gifts that Christians take for granted.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

B. NO HOPE IN MONEY
I believe Christ might also use the market downturn as an opportunity to remind us that putting our hope in money is a bad idea. Today, I want to challenge you directly. If we are depressed or mad or fearful, then we have likely put too much trust in money and not enough in God. Perhaps this is a chance to ask yourself how you can move beyond.

IN the Bible it says:
1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.

Maybe you never heard that before, but do you think God knows what’s talking about now? Does your money seem uncertain to you now? Money isn’t bad, but the Bible treats it like sex and power. Nice gifts that make terrible gods. And God would spare you the trauma of putty all your security into something that could vanish with one decision by the Fed.

So if your heart has been too wrapped up in your financial security, if your computer is following the Markets a little too closely and your heart is going up and down the roller coaster ride, friend, here’s a simple message: get off! You can try and control what cannot be controlled and go insane trying. Or you can trust God more than you trust money.

The Bible asks for us to store for a rainy day. And we should. But when did God ask us to bend our lives and our hearts out of shape to gain perfect security for tomorrow? It’s impossible. You don’t even know if you’ll be here tomorrow. So beyond reasonable measures to save, you will have to trust God for daily bread. And guess, what? That’s just the way God wants it.

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Sectarianism and Schism

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“Divide and rule, the politician cries;
Unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gedichte

The Danger of Schism Sectarianism and Schism

We’ve been noticing and remarking on the ever-increasing number of denominations, church splits, and intramural sectarianism in the wider Protestant world. This not an issue Protestants can or should easily sweep aside. It is quite true that schism is a fruit of sin and unfaithfulness, and it hurts our testimony.

The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for having a sectarian spirit: “Each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Later in the epistle he added, “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one” (3:4-5).

Deliberately causing schisms in the body of Christ is a demonic sin—so much so that divisive people are not to be tolerated in the church. In Matthew 18, Christ outlined a series of four steps churches should go through in calling a sinning brothers to repentance. But when someone is schismatic, Paul says, that discipline process may be accelerated. He wrote in Titus 3:10-11: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

It’s fair to ask, then, if schism is such a serious sin, why are there so many different denominations? The Protestant Reformation gave rise to Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, Congregationalism, Methodism, Episcopalianism, the Plymouth Brethren, the Open Brethren, the Closed Brethren, the Church of Christ, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, Holiness churches, Pentecostal churches, Dutch Reformed churches, Christian Reformed churches, Protestant Reformed churches, Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Sovereign Grace Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Independent Baptists, American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Freewill Baptists, General Baptists, Regular Baptists, Particular Baptists, and Strict and Particular Baptists.

Let’s be honest: one can hardly blame non-Christians for being nonplussed by the variety. The pagan from a non-Christian society is not likely to look at Christendom and say, “Behold, how they love one another.”

The Necessity of Separation

The Necessity of Separation On the other hand, we who are Christians must understand that Christendom is not “the church.” All who call themselves Christians are not true followers of Christ—and there’s no reason we should try to make Moslems or Hindus think all varieties of so-called Christianity are truly Christian.

Just because a church or denomination calls itself “Christian” does not mean it is part of the body of Christ. That has been true even from biblical times. Consider, for example, the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. At least one was totally apostate and three or four others were already apostatizing. We know from Jesus’ warning to the church at Laodicea that it is possible for a church to abandon the truth so completely that Christ Himself will reject that church and spew it out of His mouth.

True Christians must not fellowship with such apostate groups (2 Cor. 6:15-17; Eph. 5:11).

In other words, some degree of doctrinal purity is a valid prerequisite for organizational unity. It’s simply wrong to set aside all our doctrinal differences for the sake of an artificial organizational “unity.” This is particularly true of those doctrinal issues that are immediately germane to the gospel. In fact, the apostle Paul taught that so-called “Christians” who corrupt or compromise the utter freeness of justification are not to be regarded as brethren at all! He pronounced a curse on them (Gal. 1:8-9). The apostle John taught the same thing (2 John 7-11).

Since the major point at issue between Protestants and Catholic or Orthodox traditions is the gospel (particularly the doctrine of justification by faith—which is the very point Paul wrote to defend in his epistle to the Galatians), it is utterly fatuous to suggest that a show of external unity should take precedence over our doctrinal differences. It is tantamount to saying Christians are not supposed to be concerned with truth at all.

It is my prayer that we all grow mature in the spirit and keep our focus on Jesus, He and He alone is the only thing that can save us and has saved us. It is finished, now we have to man up and do our part despite whatever the enemy spits out through our friends, our church leaders, our lay people, our visitors, our messengers, whatever mature and quite yourself to resolve in prayer and being a positive model as our savior to defeat these divisions. Love is our commandment remember.

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Faceing Our Fears

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fears

Judges 6:11-23

The Message (MSG)

11-12 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”

13 Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”

14 But God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”

15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”

16 God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

17-18 Gideon said, “If you’re serious about this, do me a favor: Give me a sign to back up what you’re telling me. Don’t leave until I come back and bring you my gift.”

He said, “I’ll wait till you get back.”

19 Gideon went and prepared a young goat and a huge amount of unraised bread (he used over half a bushel of flour!). He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot and took them back under the shade of the oak tree for a sacred meal.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unraised bread, place them on that rock, and pour the broth on them.” Gideon did it.

21-22 The angel of God stretched out the tip of the stick he was holding and touched the meat and the bread. Fire broke out of the rock and burned up the meat and bread while the angel of God slipped away out of sight. And Gideon knew it was the angel of God!

Gideon said, “Oh no! Master, God! I have seen the angel of God face-to-face!”

23 But God reassured him, “Easy now. Don’t panic. You won’t die.”

A mother asked her five-year-old son to go to the pantry to get her a can of tomato soup. But he refused and protested, “Its dark in there.” Mom assured Johnny, “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is in there.” So Johnny opened the door slowly and seeing that it was dark, shouted, “Jesus, can you hand me a can of tomato soup?”

This humorous story of Johnny’s fear reminds me of Gideon. The Lord appeared to Gideon, calling him a “mighty man of valor” and then telling him to deliver Israel out of Midian’s hand. But Gideon’s fearful reply was, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house”. Even after the Lord told Gideon that with His help he would defeat the Midianites, he still afraid.

Then Gideon asked the Lord for signs to confirm God’s will and empowerment. So, why did the Lord address fearful Gideon as a “mighty man of valor”? Because of who Gideon would one day become with the Lord’s help. We too may doubt our own abilities and potential. But let us never doubt what God can do with us when we trust and obey Him. Gideon’s God is the same God who will help us accomplish all that He asks us to do.

The Lord provides the strength we need to Follow and obey His will; So we don’t need to be afraid that what He asks we can’t fulfill. We can face any fear when we know the Lord is with us…

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The Black Family Is Worse Off Today Than In the 1960′s, Report Shows

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The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of
15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans is committed to bringing African American men
back to church. NBCI, in partnership with major black religious leaders and denominations nationwide,
believe that African American men have nowhere to go but back to church. Given the serious issues
facing African American men, including rising levels of incarceration, drug use and unwed fatherhood –
we can no longer stand by while our men openly defy God’s word.
This program is a part of NBCI’s Healing Family Initiative, programming which seeks to bolster African
American families against the tide of violence, poverty, moral depravity, and failure. It is time for the
majority of African Americans to follow the examples set by successful African American families; the
Obama’s being a shining beacon of accomplishment, and reverse trajectory of the African American
family.

NBCI’s Education Initiative is a holistic approach – a whole family
program wherein we also account for all of the adverse socio-economic factors impacting student
achievement and family structure.

African Americans represent the strongest church attendance and affiliation amongst all ethnicities in
the United States. According to the Pew Forum 2007 survey, people of black ethnicity were most likely
to be part of a formal religion, with 85% being Christians. However, according to the Barna Research
Group, a Christian research firm based in Ventura, Calif., more than 90% of American men believe in
God, and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christian. But only 2 out of 6 attend church on any given Sunday.
This means that in America, 60% of church attendees are women.

Black women overwhelming outnumber black men in regular church attendance. While black men may
believe in God, in most cases it ends with belief. If single black women are attending church regularly
and following the guidelines that the church has put in place and the black men are not, what does this
say about the future of the black family?

Our focus is to open our doors, arms and hearts to understand the complex sociological and
psychological factors that prohibit African American men from being consistent churchgoers, better
fathers, less abusive spouses and better members of society.

As a religious leader in the African American community for the past twenty years, we take our position as a moral authority very seriously.

NBCI believes that the first step for our African American brothers is to return to church – atoning for
their sins and reestablishing their relationship with God through Christ. Over the next ten years we will
develop comprehensive ministries to sustain this initiative and commit African American men to the
path of righteousness.

According to a report released by the Urban Institute, the state of the African-American family is worse today than it was in the 1960′s. Before you become offended and charge, “What about the White family?!” The report also discloses that families of all ethnicities are showing a decline; however, the African-American household has suffered the worst decline.

In 1950, 17 percent of African-American children lived in a home with their mother but not their father. By 2010 that had increased to 50 percent. In 1965, only eight percent of childbirths in the Black community occurred out-of-wedlock. In 2010 that figure was 41 percent; and today, the out-of-wedlock childbirth in the Black community sits at an astonishing 72 percent. The number of African-American women married and living with their spouse was recorded as 53 percent in 1950. By 2010, it had dropped to 25 percent.

The original report titled ”The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” was released in 1965 by the late New York Sen. Daniel Moynihan. Moynihan, who was the assistant labor secretary at the time of the report’s release, laid out a series of statistics on the African-American family. Moynihan, in his report’s conclusion declared, “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time.” Sadly, the outlook of the African-American family is more bleak than when Moynihan wrote his conclusion.

“An analysis of national data indicates that little progress has been made on the key issues Moynihan identified,” wrote Gregory Acs, of the Urban Institute, in a statement released with the report. “Further, many of the issues he identified for Black families are now prevalent among other families.” The Urban Institute’s report also added to the original scope of the Moynihan report to include the rate of incarceration, employment, and educational attainment in the African-American community. “Since the Moynihan report was released, another major social trend has put further strains on Black families — the mass incarceration of Black men,” Acs said. “By 2010, about one out of every six Black men had spent some time in prison, compared with about 1 out of 33 white men.”

A demographic breakdown by race was not available for the 1965 report, but numbers beginning in 1974 showed disproportionate numbers of African-American men being sent to prison. In 1974, it was nine percent of Black men compared to one percent of white men. By 2010, that had risen to 16 percent of Black men and three percent of white men. The report did note that number has started to decline slightly among Black men.

Unemployment for African-American men remains more than twice as high as among white men. For white men in 1954, unemployment was zero. For African-American men in 1954, it was about 4 percent. By 2010 it was 16.7 percent for African-American men and 7.7 percent for white men. In 1954, 79 percent of African-American men were employed. By 2011 that had decreased to 57 percent. For Black women the numbers rose. In 1954, 43 percent of African-American women had jobs. By 2011 that had risen to 54 percent. The trend among African Americans was mirrored among whites, but in both cases white men and women fared better in terms of employment. Although the earnings gap between African-Americans and their white peers has narrowed, it still persists with Black men earning about 70 percent what white men do. In 1960, Black men earned about 60 percent what white men did.

There is one area of improvement: High school graduation. In 1964, fewer than half of African-American students finished high school. That compared to roughly 70 percent of white students. That has since risen to about 85 percent for both Blacks and whites. But, the number of Black students that repeat grades or were suspended was higher than for whites. Half of Black male students have been suspended, compared to 21 percent of whites.

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