2 Corinthians 12:10
The Message (MSG)
7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Bathyspheres are amazing inventions. Operating like miniature submarines, they have been used to explore the ocean in places so deep the water pressure would crush a conventional submarine as easily as if it were an aluminum can, Bathyspheres compensate for the intense water pressure with plates of steel several inches thick. The steel keeps the water out, but it also makes a bathysphere heavy and difficult to maneuver. The space inside is cramped, allowing for only one or two people to survey the ocean floor by looking through a tiny plate-glass window.
What divers invariably find at every depth of the ocean are fish and other sea creatures. Some of these creatures are quite small and appear to have fairly normal skin. They look flexible and supple as they swim through the inky waters. How can they live at these depths without steel plating? They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure on the inside.
Spiritual fortitude works in the same way. The more negative the circumstances around us, the more we need to allow God’s power to work within us to exert an equal and opposite pressure from the inside. With God on the inside, no pressure on earth can crush us!
It is not enough to begin; continuance is necessary. Success depends upon staying power. Abiding in the word and prayer is the way to have strength to deal with the pressures of life.
The Message (MSG)
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”
In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped. Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!
Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great King Solomon. Can you see the majestic cedar? It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds! The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew. Birds have built their nests in its branches, weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms. And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!
We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled truck. Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground. We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature. We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen…!(Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.
We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram King of Tyre” (2 Chron.2:3) take it down the mountainside. From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean. And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God. As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the Almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting? The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house”(Hag.2:9)
So many people are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare, and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances. But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His heavenly Zion> And He says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God”(Isa.62:3). I don’t ask my cross to understand, my way to see-Better in darkness just to feel Your hand, And follow Thee.
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!
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.
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
– 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?
– 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.
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.
“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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A government, for protecting business only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption and decay.
Amos Bronson Alcott
Are payday loans a good source of emergency cash? Thanks to misleading marketing, many of its consumers unfortunately think so. Corruption painted as help only in low income communities. Can you see what is taking place under the guise od humanity and helping others?
“Payday lending stores are opening their doors in low-income neighborhoods at a rate equal to Starbucks [opening its doors] in affluent ones,” states NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond to illustrate how payday lenders are rapidly sinking their roots into our communities.
Many payday loans trap consumers by encouraging them to repeatedly pay high fees for borrowing small amounts of money. The average loan size is $375; but borrowers end up paying about $520 in interest. And repeat borrowers, many who secure an additional loan to pay back their previous loan, account for 91 percent of all payday loans per year.
Single mothers, African-Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly targets for payday loans, according to studies by FDIC and CFSI.
Mass predatory lending products and deceitful financial practices contributed to the 2007 financial crisis. However, with foreclosures being the focal point of the crisis, payday lending has not been discussed as prominently– until now.
Payday lending’s economic impact cannot be understated as it drains the economy significantly. A recent study by the Insight Center shows that in 2011, payday loans cost the U.S. economy nearly one billion dollars and thousands of jobs. Payday loans reduce household spending by taking away money that consumers could spend on businesses, which in turn fuels business growth and job creation.
Consumer advocates, along with state and local governments, are initiating efforts to protect consumers from these types of “debt traps” in disguise. The Obama Administration established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help protect consumers from the disastrous financial products on Wall Street that financed and contributed to the greatest losses of wealth for the average American in modern history.
Recently, the CFPB released their initial findings on payday loans. Their report found that these loans are not used regularly for emergency cash – which could be easily paid back in a short period of time – but rather by those who do not have enough income to meet their regular expenses. The study concludes, “These loans raise substantial consumer protection concerns.”
This study proves that small dollar high-cost lending is predatory and unfairly targets the economically weakest members of our community. They exploit consumers’ inability to meet their regular financial obligations while stripping wealth from segments of our society that can ill afford it.
Financial institutions, including Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), have joined the CFPB in cracking down on the banks it oversees by issuing guidelines on their payday products called deposit advance loans. These guidelines require banks to better assess the customer’s financial capability to pay back a loan so the consumer can better avoid being caught in a debt trap. They also require that each deposit advance loan be repaid in full before issuing another deposit advance loan; and that banks cannot offer more than one loan per monthly statement cycle.
At the NAACP, we engage the community around predatory payday lending by connecting NAACP state and local units with CFPB national field hearings and representatives and hosting fair lending workshops nationwide to inform consumers of how to beware of these debt traps.
Whether payday loans are dispersed through storefronts or well-respected financial institutions, accountability is key. We are encouraged that government agencies, along with other consumer advocacy groups, are moving on all fronts to protect our communities from economic exploitation. Economic empowerment and justice are at the root of advancing racial equity. And we must eliminate barriers to economic justice like predatory payday lending, which weakens the economies of so many Americans.