The economy is softening but it is not disastrous. The U.S. economy is much stronger than the rest of the industrial world. The U.S. Stock market, depending on the index, either moved into a bear market (down 20 percent from recent highs) or is very close to moving into bear territory at the week's close. Oil prices fell off a cliff. Some of the economic and geopolitical highlights of the past week follow.
- The NASDAQ Index lost 8.3 percent and is now an official bear market.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Index fell 6.8 percent (worst week in 10 years).
- The S&P 500 Index fell 7.0 percent (worst week in 10 years).
- U. S. crude prices fell 11 percent (worst since January 2016).
- Sears is considering closing another 50 to 80 stores at year-end.
- The Fed hiked its key interest rate target 1/4 percent, but also indicated that it may only raise interest rates twice in 2019 (instead of the three to four times expected).
- Treasure interest rates are close to becoming inverted (where long-term treasuries have a lower yield than short treasuries), which is a strong signal of impending recession.
- Approximately 25 percent of the federal government is shut down as Republicans, Democrats and President Trump are at loggerheads over border-wall funding.
- Manufacturing optimism remains record high.
- The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index is the highest in nearly 20 years.
- London's second busiest airport (Gatwick) was closed during the heaviest travel day of the year due to drones over the runways.
- Yellow-vest protests continue in France and are spreading to other countries.
- Britain faces the most uncertainty in years with the Brexit deadline quickly approaching.
- The justice department indicted alleged Chinese hackers for commercial/military espionage.
- The clock continues to tick toward the March 1, 2019, deadline for the current U.S./China trade truce.
- Computer trading is blamed by many as a major contributor to stock market volatility.
The chance of a recession in 2019 is currently about 33 percent. In other words, there is a 67 percent chance that the economy will continue to grow next year, albeit at a slower pace. But risks and uncertainty are significant. Many decision-makers and analysts see a light at the end of the tunnel; they are just unsure whether the light is an indication of brighter times ahead or a train-wreck heading our way.
With a world that was without form, empty and filled with darkness, the Spirit of God was moving. God gave His first recorded word, "Let there be light, and there was light." Light was created immediately, while the sun was created on the fourth day (Gen. 1:14-19). The remedy for darkness was light, and the word of God was the vehicle which provided the solution. Is the world any different now? Our world is filled with spiritual darkness, light is needed, and the word of God provides the remedy.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light" (Gen. 1:1-3).
Seven hundred years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah taught that the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, while in darkness, would see a great light. Though they were in the shadow of death, a Light would dawn. The prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus moved to Capernaum in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali (Matt. 4:12-13).
"Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned'" (Matt. 4:15-16, see Isa. 9:1-2).
Jesus was in the beginning and created all things. He is life. He is the Word. He is the Light. His expels the gloom and hopelessness of darkness.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:1-5).
In this earth, two kingdoms are at odds; the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light. The light of Christ shined in our hearts. We were forever changed.
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).
"For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
Many of us have been celebrating the birth of the One who moved us from darkness to light. He asked us to share the light. What are we doing?
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16).
May the Lord bless you and yours richly during this Christmas season and the coming New Year.
—Jim and Sofia Russell
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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