10/28/09

Facing Scary Financial Predictions

What do we do when we hear predictions of crashing stocks, bonds, and real estate, or that the explosive national public debt will spark deflation? How do we handle predictions that the deficit will reach about $3 trillion by 2011?

“The sky is falling” predictions instill fear and panic. There are financial advisers at both extremes—some predict dire days ahead; others scoff at the fear-mongering. I like my Christian sister-in-love’s balanced approach. As a highly-successful financial adviser, Janice Thompson (Strategic Financial Solutions, Inc.) has seen the uptrends and downfalls in the financial market. I talked with her recently about a scary report I read.

Janice replied: “Ultimately, do we know that global economic challenges are going to become so severe that only the Antichrist will be able to solve them? Yes. Is that now? I don’t really know. I’ve reviewed the historical data from all the recessions that have occurred during the past 60 years. They all had a common theme—a sense of hopelessness. In reality, while circumstances leading to this economic collapse have been unprecedented, this recession has actually behaved quite normally. In perspective, however, we are still nowhere near the financial devastation of the Great Depression.”

So what did Janice suggest we do in the meantime? “Approaching financial matters without fear is a good place to start,” she said. “Fear is a dangerous emotion. I encourage everyone to be selective about the types of media sources they listen to and how much of it they allow into their lives. I am not suggesting people pull an ‘ostrich’ move, but it is very difficult to remained balanced and be at peace with the mind of Christ (Phil. 4:8-9) when you feed on a steady diet of sensational ‘noise,’ strategically designed to consume your emotional focus.”

Just a few years ago, she noted, it was a challenge to rein in greed-filled emotions with the tech market bubble and booming real estate frenzy. Now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, with fear-filled emotions driving the decision-making process.

So what is the wise choice? Janice said it is wise to get our house in order and stay in balance, regardless of whether we’re in a depression, recession, or a period of economic growth. She lives by and shares foundational financial counsel that transcends any economic condition—boom or bust:
(1) Spend less than you earn.
(2) Avoid the use of consumer debt.
(3) Build up a solid emergency reserve. (and she recommends one year’s reserve these days)
(4) Set long term goals and keep working on them regardless of market conditions.
(5) Keep God first in your finances.

“There are no market conditions that take God by surprise,” she said. “Matthew 25 still works!”

Janice believes people should have short-term money in savings or money market accounts, but, “Long-term money can appropriately weather economic challenges," she said. "Purposeful allocation must always precede asset allocation, or you will never be content in any economic environment.”

The wise choice is to be neither greedy nor fearful, but, as Jan says, “Remain content and emotionally balanced as you implement God’s wisdom in your financial affairs.”

Are you still struggling with fear? Perhaps this recent post will help: "Power and Might, in His Hands," ... or these, concerning the "fear" of Halloween: "Kick Out Fear!" and "No Fear of 'Fright Night.'

Focus on the Scriptures to help you conquer your fears: Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 27:14; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 13:6; and 1 John 4:18.

10/21/09

Exposing the Devil's Work

By the very fact that Christians hold a biblical worldview—or they should—they make powerful enemies. There are some in the culture who simply will not tolerate a Bible-believing Christian. Christ-followers are too radical. They take God at His Word. They do not apologize for standing on the truth of scripture, and they refuse to bend the scripture to fit any chosen lifestyle.

I teach a class of women on Sunday mornings, and lately, we’re seeking to become “Courageous Women with a Christian Worldview.” We’re touching on discernment, apologetics, theology, and biblical perspectives on current issues in the culture. We’ve discovered that one of the consequences of studying the truth is that Satan’s lies and work are exposed (John 8:44).

(We probably won't recognize lies if our Bibles are collecting dust on the coffee table!)

My heart grieves that our nation is so quick to believe Satan’s lies, whether they are told by government officials, financial advisers, university educators, or preachers in our pulpits. Anything contrary to the Word of God is the playground of the enemy.

Just one example—Satan has had a field day with people in the area of finances. Materialism has become our God, and the devil loves it. A.W. Tozer once said of Satan, “Oh, what a cheat the devil is! What a deceiver and what a confidence man he is! I think of the cheating devil when I think of the sly confidence men who have sold the Brooklyn Bridge to poor people, grinning as they have taken their last dollar, leaving them to find out too late that the Brooklyn Bridge was never on the market. The devil is a liar, I say, and a deceiver. He is busy leading people to spend the best years of their lives laying up treasures for themselves, which even before they die will begin to rust and rot and decay.” (A.W. Tozer, I Call It Heresy! p. 96)

Satan tries to bind and imprison us with his lies, even though Christ came to set us free (Hebrews 2:14-15; John 8:32). Our enemy hates God, and he hates the faith, prayers, and works of the children of God. The more we resemble our Heavenly Father, the more Satan will try to destroy us; but we must remember that the ultimate battle is already won (John 12:31; 16:11; Colossians 2:15).

God calls us to choose courage—to fear Him alone. Greater is He who rules within us than he who rules in this present, evil world (1 John 4:4). It’s not a time to cower in our homes or even huddle in churches, but to get into the Word and make strong defense for truth in our culture, no matter the cost.

10/14/09

Marriage 'Breakthroughs'

One of the wisest choices in marriage is the foresight to plan ahead for success. My friends, Bill and Pam Farrel, talk about this in their new book, The Marriage Code. They write (p. 26): “Our experience is that most couples are one step away from a breakthrough that will make their marriage a very enjoyable partnership. Every time the marriage code is activated in your love, a breakthrough happens. You cannot force the breakthrough to happen, because it involves a change of heart in both you and your spouse. You can, however, set up all the elements that make it likely that a breakthrough will happen.” (Emphasis mine)

Their emphasis on a code is timely: “Codes are all around us: access codes for banking accounts, to make reservations for travel, or to gain entry into buildings or our own computers.” With humor, solid wisdom, and practical illustrations, the Farrels—relationship specialists—teach couples about the “secret code to unlock love” in marriage. The book is available at their website, Farrel Communications. They will also be on Focus on the Family radio, October 21-22, discussing the book.

In a related vein ...

I am thankful to the Lord that Bob and I had incredible marriage training during the 1970s when we served with Life Action Ministries, years that prepared us well for the natural struggles in marriage. As we sat through a new church "revival" every week or so, we heard—over and over again—the powerful principles that encourage strong marriages. I learned the importance of showing my husband respect, and Bob learned what it means to truly love a wife. I know that, even today, those truths we learned from the scriptures bind our hearts to our biblical roles and each other. Our love is stronger than ever as we experience fresh "breakthroughs" in our relationship.

I'm also thankful for the True Woman movement, which began in October of 2008. True Woman continues the efforts of Life Action and their women's ministry, Revive Our Hearts, in reminding women about biblical roles and so much more. I'm excited about the three True Woman conferences that are coming up in 2010 in Chattanooga (March 25-27), Indianapolis (September 23-25), and Fort Worth (October 14-16).

Though now living in California, I'm going back to my Indiana roots to attend the Indianapolis conference. I hope you'll find your way to a True Woman conference, too. Do it for your marriage!

10/7/09

Lusting for a Jacuzzi

I confess. I was lusting for a Jacuzzi this week. It consumed my thoughts for two days. The struggle went something like this:

“Father God, you know I like to enjoy life, and you know I have achy muscles. I’d love to have a Jacuzzi.”
Nothing wrong with a Jacuzzi, I heard, but why don’t you long for heaven with that much desire?
“What do you mean? I’m serving you, and didn’t you promise to give us abundance in life?”
No, I promise abundant life. But it’s not all about you, anyway. Don’t you care about what is in My heart?

It’s my constant struggle. I love our comfortable home, but know my home in heaven is beyond compare. I want creature comforts, but know there’s more to life than the things I accumulate. I want what I want, but know that it’s not all about me. Do you feel that tension?

It’s a good tension. We need reminders that we only pass through this short span of time once, and we’re destined for eternity. Whether we long for a Jacuzzi, or a shiny red convertible, or a Mediterranean cruise—and there’s nothing wrong with any of those things—we also must remember that there’s a battle for souls going on all around us, and we need to stay strong, alert, and committed in the battle.

In the midst of my lusting for the Jacuzzi, I read something by John Piper. He got it right when he wrote in Desiring God (p. 200), “There is a war going on. All talk of a Christian’s right to live luxuriantly ‘as a child of the King’ in this atmosphere sounds hollow—especially since the King himself is stripped for battle.” Piper spoke of living a simple “wartime” lifestyle, because there is a huge, “worthy cause” to consider. In these Last Days, the battle for souls and the struggle for personal holiness must occupy more and more of our time and money. A wartime mentality will help us achieve victories and guard against loss.

Without the Bible, we wouldn't know the strategies of our enemy; but I’m so thankful God revealed an invisible world with an enemy who wants to destroy us. The Scriptures say Satan deceives and blinds us (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4), and uses our fallen nature and the culture (1 John 2:16) to tempt us to drop our guard. The battle is spiritual, and our enemy is fully engaged and determined. More than ever before, we need to prepare for battle with the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).

We are not helpless; our choices can make a powerful difference (1 Corinthians 10:13). When we surrender to God, He will transform us through His Word and the Spirit (Romans 12:1-2); so we don’t have to surrender to the enemy’s devices. It’s so easy to be sidetracked by our “stuff” and the call of this world. We must be vigilant against our enemy's attacks (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8-9; James 1:14-15).

I’d still like that Jacuzzi (and I may get one someday), but “I get it, Lord.”