Pastoral reflection
Many times, Jesus took time for reflection upon His ministry. You should, too. (Lightstock )

During 2016, the economy continued to grow at an anemic rate. Through the third quarter, real domestic product grew at a 1.7 percent yearly rate (compared to 1.8 percent for 2015).

Through November, the economy added an average 188,000 jobs each month (compared to nearly 230,000 per month for 2015). The unemployment rate fell from a rate of 5 percent a year ago to 4.6 percent in November of 2016—but, the major contributing factor was individuals leaving the work force. The annual inflation rate increased from 0.4 percent a year ago, to 1.7 percent in November 2016 (still below the Federal Reserve goal of 2 percent). 

Through the third quarter, average national new home prices have increased at an annual rate of 5.6 percent. Oil prices have increased from their year-to-date lows but are still well below historical averages. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) appears to be collapsing as departing care providers leave consumers with few choices in some areas, and huge premium increases are making it prohibitively expensive in many states. The new administration and Congress are likely to repeal and replace Obamacare.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to lower corporate and personal taxes significantly, reduce the number and scope of federal regulations, implement $1 trillion in infrastructure projects, lower the cost of U. S. corporations repatriating U. S. dollars from abroad, secure the border and take retaliatory action against U. S. corporations moving jobs to other countries. 

Not everything promised will be supported by the Congress. To the extent that the campaign promises are implemented into law, expect greater economic growth, higher interest rates, higher inflation, more people employed, higher wages, a stronger dollar and a larger budget deficit. Since Mr. Trump's election victory, we have seen numerous all-time stock market highs, higher interest rates and a stronger dollar.

Times of reflection are a necessity for Christian growth. Taking the time to reflect on what the Lord has done, what He is doing and what He will do honors Him and strengthens us.

Ordered times of reflection (Feasts of the Lord) were required in the Old Testament. Knowledge of these feasts strengthens Christian faith today. As a practicing Jew, Jesus kept the feasts. He also fulfilled four of the seven feasts and will fulfill the other three. 

Leviticus 23 describes the seven required feasts of the Lord. The feasts followed a harvest cycle with four feasts in the spring and three in the fall.

The seven feasts are described below:

1. Passover. Commemorates Israel's deliverance from Egypt by God. Jews killed the Passover lamb, put the blood on their door posts and ate the lamb at the Passover meal. Jesus is our Passover lamb and was crucified on Passover. Fulfilled at Calvary (Lev. 21:5, 1 Cor. 5:7).

2. Unleavened Bread. The Israelites were to remove all leavened bread and leaven from their houses. Leaven is a symbol of sin and evil. This seven-day feast is a symbol of a holy walk. Jesus lived a holy and sinless life. He was buried during unleavened bread. Fulfilled at his burial (Lev. 21:6-8, 1 Cor. 5:8).

3. First-fruit. Expresses gratitude for the fertility of the land and God's faithfulness for the early harvest (barley). Jesus was the first fruit from the dead. Fulfilled at His resurrection (Lev. 23:10-14, 1 Cor. 10:23).

4. Pentecost. Expresses gratitude for the fertility of the land and God's faithfulness for the late harvest (wheat). The feast required an offering of two loaves of bread baked with leaven. Symbolizes the church, composed of Jew and Gentile. The Holy Spirit was sent in power, and the church had its beginnings on the day of Pentecost. Fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost (Lev. 23:15-21, Acts 2:1).

5. Trumpets. Commemorates the trumpet that was blown to signal Israel to come to the temple to worship. The trumpet also proclaimed liberty throughout the land and people. Represents the Second Coming. To be fulfilled when Jesus returns to earth with the blast of trumpets (Lev. 23:24-25, Matt. 24:31).

6. Atonement. Provided a day of confession. Represents atonement through judgment. To be fulfilled at the Lord's second coming (Lev. 23:27-33, Zech. 12:10).

7. Tabernacles. Commemorates the fact that the Lord provided shelter for the Israelites when they left Egypt. Represents the Lord's shelter and rest as He reigns during the millennial kingdom from Jerusalem (Lev. 23:34-38, Zech. 14:18). 

The Lord emphasized the need for times of reflection with the seven feasts of the Lord in the Old Testament. He emphasized the need for reflection in the New Testament as he retired to the mountains to pray. Perhaps we should do likewise.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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