House on the Rock or House on Fire
straighten up and lift up your heads, because your
redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
“These things” that the Lord referenced here seem to all be unfolding now. As declared in Hebrews12:26-27, “everything that can be shaken will be shaken,” and everything is now being shaken. Even the most powerful, stable, and wealthy nation on earth is tottering on the edge of collapse. According to the verse above, our response should be the following: 1) “straighten up,” and 2) “lift up our heads” because our redemption is near.
To “straighten up” is what our parents used to tell us when we were getting out of line. It means the same thing here. We must put off the sin, dissipation, and lukewarm spirit to walk uprightly before the Lord.
To “lift up our heads” implies walking in encouragement and boldness. Where does this boldness and encouragement come from? We’re told in Proverbs 28:1 that “the righteous are bold as a lion.” Again, “the righteous” are those who do what is right in the sight of the Lord. There is no greater peace, joy, or confidence that we can have than knowing that we are right with the Lord.
but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).
The peace and joy that can be found in this world are getting harder to find and will soon be impossible. There is only one source of true peace and true joy—abiding in the Lord and living in His kingdom. If we depart from the ways of the Lord, we will have tribulation. This tribulation does intensify as we get closer to the end of this age, but so does the peace and joy of living in the kingdom. We are told this in Proverbs 4:18-19:
that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.”
If we are on the right path, our life will be getting brighter and brighter. If our lives are not getting brighter and brighter, then we have gotten off of the path of the righteous or the right path. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the wrong path never turns into the right path. If we are on the wrong path, then the only way back to the right path is to go back to where we missed the turn. That is repentance.
We are living in the times of the fulfillment of Daniel 2. The statue that represents man’s empires and kingdoms is collapsing. The same time that the “little stone,” which represents the kingdom of God is growing into a mountain, or government (see Daniel 2:35), it will continue to grow until it fills the whole earth. There is a kingdom growing in the earth with its own government, economy, justice system, media, and even social services. It is still small, and few have found it, but it is here and it is growing just like Daniel 2 predicted.
The Lord tells us in John 16:33:
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
At this writing, the world financial markets are experiencing the most extreme roller coaster ride in history. Trillions of dollars of the value of world business was shed by the markets in the last few days. After a 600 + point drop in the Dow, it would rise 500 points the next day. When our President spoke to try to calm the equity markets, they plunged several hundred more points. Why? It was so obvious to the markets that he was out of touch and had no real solutions but just platitudes. Platitudes in such turmoil will always be counterproductive because it reveals a lack of clear, decisive leadership, and the world markets would prefer no leadership to that.
The next day the Fed Chairman tried to do the same thing but came with an unprecedented plan—stating that it would not raise interest rates before 2013, telegraphing its intentions out many times further than it ever had before. This was just as unsettling as the President’s speech because it revealed what desperate shape the Fed obviously felt that we are in, and the markets plunged even more. It is obviously more encouraging to the markets when the leaders don’t get involved and scary when they do.
This is not just because we presently have a leadership that is out of touch with the economy, which is actually almost always the case, but our present leaders actually think they know what to do. To date, their actions have not helped and sometimes have made things much worse. Because the economy was doing well enough over the last few decades to weather meddling politicians, this was not as much of a problem as it is now when the economic crisis is so serious. Now the meddling by those who do not really understand our economy is dangerous.
In the midst of this growing chaos, the kingdom of God is growing. We have a King that no one will ever be disappointed in and Who even upholds the universe with His Word. If we keep our trust in Him, we will not worry. If we’re worried, it is because we have put our trust in the wrong place.
The kingdom is marked by the increasing peace and stability of those who live in it. The kingdom has the answer to every human problem. We know from biblical prophecies such as Isaiah 60:1-5 that there will be a time when the nations turn to its light. As the “darkness covers the earth, and deep darkness the peoples” the light, and those who are walking in it, will stand out even more.
The Three Questions
The three basic questions we use as a paradigm for evaluating the times are the three questions asked by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore in Vietnam who was made famous by the book and movie, We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young. When his regiment was desperate after being surrounded and attacked from many directions at once, kind of like we are economically, he sat down to concentrate on answering three questions:
1) What is happening?
2) What is not happening?
3) What can we do about it?
We should apply these personally in our businesses, organizations, and as a nation. If we apply these personally, they should be easy to answer. If the light, peace, and joy in our life are increasing, we are on the right path. If this is not happening, then we have somehow gotten off of the right path. What can we do about it? Again, repent, go back to where we missed the turn, and get back on the right path.
Organizationally, they may be a little more complex, but we will briefly and superficially apply them to the nation, and to some degree, the world economy.
What Is Happening?
The world is falling apart. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken. There is little or no trustworthy leadership coming from world leaders. Then when our leaders lie, it is even more destabilizing. They have told so many lies now that even when they tell the truth, it is not believed. Even some of the most traditionally reserved nations are on a thin edge of anarchy and are burning with riots. If we only have hope in this world, then it is understandable why men’s hearts are starting to fail them for fear of the things that are coming.
We don’t have time in a bulletin to cover all of the areas of crises, but we will look in a bit more depth at the main crisis at this time—the economy. The economy affects everyone, so everyone is starting to get engaged in understanding what’s happening, and that is a good thing. It is also very scary. When I opened one of my news apps recently, these headlines jumped out at me:
Housing Prices Fall Beats Great Depressions Slide
Florida Couple Forecloses on Bank
China Divests 97% of Holdings in U.S. Treasuries
More Americans Think Economy Will Never Recover
With the exception of enjoying the one about the Florida couple that foreclosed on a bank, each of these headlines would have been shocking if they had been the only news that day, but they all came in just one day. It has gotten so much worse since then, and that news was actually one of the better days we’ve had recently!
We predicted at our New Year’s Conference that 2011 would be one of the most intense and dangerous years of our lifetime, but I don’t think any of us thought that it would be this intense. One friend said that he lived in a town that had been so devastated by the economy that when a tornado recently hit, it did six million dollars worth of improvements!
The U.S. Government is the most stable, powerful, and wealthy in the world, but it is broken. All doubts about this had to be removed with the humiliating process of raising the debt limit. Ronald Reagan once said that there were two things no one should see: how sausage was made and how bills are made in Congress. That process has always been shocking when we get even a glimpse of it, but the shock of the low state of leadership now, and how our Congress passes bills that have a major impact on all Americans without even reading them, is eclipsed by the shock of finding what’s in them when they are read.
A good example about what was actually happening, which was misunderstood by the government, was when just about everyone was blaming the recent market meltdown on the degrading of our bond rating. If this were the reason, why did so much of the money leaving the equity markets go to buying the bonds that were downgraded? The markets had factored in the downgrading of our debt weeks ago, and they were selling because of the condition of the economy, and the government seemed unable to comprehend this.
To accurately answer the question about where we are economically is that we are in another recession, and it is far more dangerous than the previous one. The reason it is much more dangerous now is because those who are in positions to help stave off such a catastrophe have no more ammunition to fight with, having expended it in ways that did not work. The Fed can’t go any lower with interest rates, and the mismanagement of the stimulus combined with the deficits make another stimulus impossible, which is a good thing now because the present leadership does not know how to use stimulus money to actually stimulate the economy.
The world economy is like a ship drifting toward the rocks and those who might be able to steer it have repeatedly steered us closer to the rocks rather than away from them. Their speeches, intended to calm the markets, are terrifying, but when they take the helm to actually do something, the panic is even more so. We can still get out of the crises, but right now it is much better to keep the government on vacation and away from the helm.
There is another factor that is likely to have a major and devastating impact on the world economy, and presently almost no one even sees it. Marc Nuttle is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and respected people concerning world finance, and he was the first to start warning about the potentially catastrophic “debt wall.” The debt wall is when it does not matter how much we raise the debt limit, there is not enough liquidity in the world to buy it.
We are within months of hitting this wall, and maybe within weeks. This has the potential to begin a cascade of events that will bring the whole world’s economy to its knees. When we hit the debt wall, the immediate result will be fast rising interest rates regardless of our rating. This is likely to cause the low percentage rates that we are now paying on our bonds to go from under one percent to four or five percent very fast. This will explode our deficits by multiplying what we have to pay in interest—if we can even find someone to buy the bonds. If enough buyers aren’t available, we will have to print more money to buy our own debt. The result of this always leads to inflation, and then hyper-inflation, which can quickly wipe out our entire middle class or worse.
That is bad, but it can get even worse. The more unstable nations will be the first to be unable to sell their debt, causing defaults that will begin to cascade to other nations. The world is already in a most precarious situation because so much of the borrowing is for paying interest on the already accumulated debt. This is a simplified reason why the Tea Party and other responsible leaders are standing firm that we cannot keep raising the debt limit but must start making necessary cuts in government spending. It will be painful now but could be much more painful in the very near future.
Give Us Air!
Much of the stifling of the world economy is the result of governments consuming so much of the world’s liquidity for debt that it is getting harder for businesses to find sources of capital, thereby strangling growth, which directly affects employment. The U.S. Government deficit is already sucking up too much of the oxygen in the room.
Once you start borrowing to pay interest on your debt, you are just delaying the day of reckoning, and that day is now coming upon the nations that have lived so foolishly. State and local governments are also facing unfunded Federal mandates and unfunded pensions. These are all starting to hit now. When we add that crisis to the one created by hitting the debt wall, the consequences could be a very quick collapse of our currency and our system. We are in desperate need of possibly the greatest leadership we have ever had to make it through what is now unfolding. Without question, this is going to take wisdom from above.
Certainly we are in perilous times. If we are prepared for them, every crisis can be an opportunity. To be prepared begins with understanding the times. More are awakening from the delusion that everything is okay and will always be okay, to facing the reality that we are indeed in crisis, and that our very Republic is in jeopardy.
There is still time to avoid a complete meltdown but not much. Even if there is a complete meltdown, we can recover from it. Other nations have actually been in a similar situation. It will depend on the leadership. As we predicted many years ago, every election would be more important than the last one, and 2012 will be the most important yet.
What Is Not Happening?
What is not happening in the world is that they are not finding answers that work to our present or impending crisis. The world’s problems are already beyond human wisdom and human remedies.
The cause of “the great tribulation” is mankind thinking we can run things without God. The answer to every human problem is fast getting beyond human remedy. This leads to the next and most important question:
What Can We Do About It?
We have a God Who is so gracious that He has never turned down those who came to Him for help. More than any other nation on earth, America knows Who to turn to. We are given the promise that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. He does not respond to those who are so ambiguous that they are afraid to use His name. We know His name, Jesus, and we must call on Him. If we do, we will get through this, the Republic will be preserved, we will return to the solid foundations that the nation was built on, and our best days can yet be ahead of us.
The kingdom is not shaking at all. The stock market of the kingdom will not jerk up and down but will always go up. There is no way to lose what we invest there, but whatever we invest in the kingdom has to increase because we have the sure word of prophecy that, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace” (see Isaiah 9:7). His government is the kingdom—it is forever expanding. No one who is building their life on the kingdom needs to worry. No one in the kingdom needs to fear the future.
The best thing that we can do to help the world is to build our lives on the kingdom. Those who do so will be increasing lights in the darkness and rocks of stability in the chaos. To pull others out of the quicksand we must be on solid ground. Get on solid ground. We are called to help the nations we have been placed in as salt and light, but we can only really help them when we are on solid ground.
In spite of the seemingly overwhelming challenges we are now facing as a nation, this could be our best chance to return to the sound principles that the nation was built on. We are now able to see the consequences of diverting from this wisdom, and therefore we will have possibly our greatest chance to return to the foundations that enabled America to reach such great heights.
Last year I shared the dream that I had of America as a log cabin. Each room was a different part of America. As I was being shown through the rooms, little fires were igniting on the floor. Those who were leading me through the cabin kept stomping them out and then acting as if they were no big deal and moving on. I was very bothered by these fires, and when one flashed up near me, I went to put it out. When I noticed that it had burned a hole through the subfloor, I got down to see if I could find out what was causing the fires. I saw that the entire foundation was ablaze and I knew that the house was about to be consumed. When I tried to grab my most valuable possession and flee, I heard a voice say, “You don’t have time for that! Get your wife and get a hose!”
I woke up from this dream with a greater sense of urgency for our country than I have ever had. I also knew there was still time to put the fire out before the house would be destroyed, but I also knew we had no time to waste.
At the time of this dream, I thought that I already knew how the foundations of our nation were being consumed, but since then I have seen more and know that it is far worse than just about anyone seems to realize, which is the way it was in this dream. We are facing possibly the most dangerous crisis ever. Since I had the dream, the fires are springing up much more frequently, and they are much bigger fires.
Where Are We Going?
America is in decline, but it does not have to keep going in that direction. Our best times can be in our future. There is still time to draw back from the cliff that we have been hanging over for so long now and get our house back in order.
That is not blind optimism, but fact. The American economy that was based on sound biblical principles is still so powerful that it has proven to be able to weather just about anything thrown at it and keep chugging along to at least some degree. We are in the worst shape we’ve been in for nearly three quarters of a century, but we are still better off than most countries are when they’re doing their best. Even with all of our problems, if we can change our direction soon, we are still better positioned than any other nation for leading the world through the 21st century.
A New Breed of Leader
It was recently leaked that the strategy of the Obama campaign for 2012 will be simple—to annihilate their Republican opponent. This is because they know they cannot win if they run on their record. Everyone on the Republican side knows that if the Obama record is kept the issue, then they cannot lose. It will obviously be a very brutal, ugly fight. Even though it may not change for this election, we are in desperate need of a new kind of leader—the kind that the Founders said the Republic could not survive long without.
In the beginning, our leaders did not run for office like they do now. Most of them were basically drafted. There were cases when mayors, governors, and representatives did not even know their name was on the ballot until they heard they had been elected. They were expected to serve as a duty.
In the beginning, elected officials did not get the pay and benefits like they do now, and the creepy species we call professional politicians did not exist. People were nominated or had their names put on ballots by their fellow citizens, or communities, because they were recognized for their leadership and integrity. The self-seeking, self-promoting we now have would have been considered obnoxious and disqualifying. Some of the Founders wrote strong warnings about electing those of such low character that they would behave the way virtually all of our candidates do now.
Even until the late 1800s there were some presidential candidates who did not campaign for themselves. Others did, but some considered this so demeaning that they would not do it, and the parties who nominated them did all of the campaigning. As radical as this seems to us with the way campaigns are now conducted, we are going to begin to see the present campaign strategies become more counterproductive. It should be if we are going to return to having representatives who esteem the concerns of those they represent, and the nation, above their own selfish ambition. We have a clear warning about such ambition in James 3:13-18:
Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart,
do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
This wisdom is not that which comes down from above,
but is earthly, natural, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every evil thing.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits,
unwavering, without hypocrisy.
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness
is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Who would we vote for if we used this biblical litmus test for the source of our wisdom?
In Scripture, the great leaders were all drafted. The prophet would come and throw their mantle on them, pour oil on their heads, and declare their calling and purpose from the Lord. This is actually the way candidates were chosen for about the first hundred years of our history in the U.S. The pastors’ recommendations were the most powerful factor in who got elected in most of the communities of the country.
We may think this could never happen in America again, but it can. Another great awakening is building, and many things we think could never happen again very well could. Of course, there must be a credibility reestablished in the church and her leadership again for this to happen, but there is movement in that direction. After nearly falling off the scale of trusted professionals in America, trust in pastors has been rising steadily but quietly so that they are again near the top. As we are told in Isaiah 60:3, eventually the whole world is going to turn to those who walk in the light.
As the anthem declares, America’s blessings are the result of God shedding His grace on her. That grace is still available.