The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index was 101.1 in October—the highest in more than 13 1/2 years, up 6.3 percent for the month and 15.9 percent for the last 12 months. Consumer perceptions of current economic conditions was up 4.2 percent for the month and 12.8 percent for the year. Consumers are even more optimistic regarding the future. The index of consumer expectations was up 8.2 percent for the month and a very large 18.9 percent for the year.
Specifically, consumers are expecting modest increases in their incomes, small increases in interest rates, low unemployment and low inflation. According to the University of Michigan, the report suggests robust consumer spending which could extend the business cycle expansion until at least the middle of 2018.
In contrast, NFIB's small business optimism index fell to 103—the lowest level of the year, down from 105.3 the previous month, and two to three points below pre-report expectations. The NFIB doesn't believe the recent hurricanes were a major factor in this month's index, as the drop in optimism occurred throughout the country. Although the index is still historically high, six of the 10 indicators were lower; led by a drop in owners expecting higher real sales, believing it was a good time to expand, and planning on making capital outlays.
Last week was characterized by conflicting economic signals. In addition to consumer sentiment, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Russell 2000 both established all-time record highs and initial jobless claims fell. But in addition to small business optimism, retail sales were weaker than expected, and the MBA mortgage purchase and refinance indices fell.
As believers, are we sending conflicting signals to those around us? Are we the same person in word and deed in church, in our families, at work and in our social lives? We are expected to be lights in a dark world that desperately needs Jesus. Are we allowing our light to always shine on a candlestick, or are we sometimes placing it under a basket when it might be uncomfortable to do otherwise? Our generation and future generations need us to consistently model the love of Jesus in righteousness, peace and joy. The early church changed the culture and the world because, by and large, it refused to send conflicting signals.
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick. And it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16).
Some unbelievers, when approached by consistent Christ-followers, are not open to the gospel because of their previous experiences with so-called Christians and their poor examples. Most believers want to send consistent signals regarding their faith. However, many do not. Peter's life provides insight into how to send more consistent non-conflicting signals which glorify the Lord.
Peter loved the Lord, but before Pentecost, he was impetuous and inconsistent. He had the faith to step out of the boat but became distracted and began to sink (Matt. 14:28-31). He declared that he knew the Lord was the Christ, but then took it upon himself to rebuke Jesus as He was telling of His forthcoming death and resurrection (Matt. 16:16-22). Peter declared that He would die for the Lord and later proved it when he took a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant (John 18:10). But, a few hours later, Peter publicly denied the Lord (Luke 22:60-61).
But Peter became a stalwart in the kingdom. He became a valiant soldier who was bold in the most challenging circumstances. As an apostle to the Jews, he later showed no fear and glorified the Lord in all. The following insights from the life of Peter should prove useful to anyone who wants their life to send consistent and non-conflicting signals which glorify the Lord.
- Repent: After denying the Lord, the Scripture says Peter went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). We also need to repent of the times we have been less than valiant.
- Commit: Peter promised that he loved the Lord more than others and was told to demonstrate his love by feeding and caring for His lambs and sheep (John 21:15-17).
- Obey, wait, pray and seek the Holy Spirit: In obedience to the Lord, Peter, with 119 other believers, continued in prayer and supplication for 10 days awaiting the arrival of the Holy Spirit. If they had they quit after nine days, they would have missed the promise of the Father (Acts 1).
- Flow in the Holy Spirit: In defense of the events at Pentecost, Peter gave a sermon which clearly presented the gospel and three thousand souls were added to the kingdom. The new church held steadfast to the teachings, fellowshipped with each other, saw signs and wonders and distributed their possessions according to need (Acts 2).
- Demonstrate and teach the gospel: Peter and John used the name of Jesus to heal the lame man at the temple gate called Beautiful. Peter then presented the gospel to the crowd attracted by the miracle and the new church grew to 5,000 (Acts 3-4:4). We also need to testify of what the Lord has done.
- Be brave. Peter and John were arrested: Facing the same Sanhedrin which crucified the Lord a few weeks earlier, they proclaimed that they would obey God (Acts 4:5-22). We also need courage.
- Pray in unity for more boldness, signs and wonders: Upon release from the Sanhedrin, Peter and John joined other believers and prayed for boldness in speaking the word and miracles (Acts 4:23-30.
- Expect an increased Anointing, signs and wonders. As they sought more boldness, the place was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit—even though it was after Pentecost (Acts 4:31). The church experienced many signs and wonders at the hand of the apostles and people even attempted to place the sick in Peter's shadow.
This world needs Jesus. As believers, we can ill afford to send conflicting signals. Too much is at stake. Scriptures demonstrate that the Lord will give us the ability and means to send consistent, non-conflicting, God-edifying signals. Do we have the will?
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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