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The Cost of Following Jesus

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 9:57-63; is the cost of following Jesus.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus did a lot of walking. Today, we drive cars or ride public transportation to quickly get where we are going. Jesus was on a journey from one town to the next, as it seemed he was doing most of his ministry days. Telling him to wait while you went to take care of personal affairs would be a little hard, because Jesus didn’t have a house he was headed to. He wasn’t operating out of a particular operations center or worship facility. Jesus was on the go. Planning a trip can be complicated; there is the business of getting your affairs in order before departure, planning the finances for your home while you are away, finding someone to take care of the pets. Planning flights, hotels, car rental and food can make travel costly and stressful. Imagine following Jesus in this day and age, leaving it all behind at the drop of a hat–funerals to attend to, inheritances to procure, family and friends to say goodbye to, no Cell phones or Facebook to stay in touch. To be an apostle in those days carried quite a cost.

Following Jesus today, we often do it with deliberation. We consider what Jesus might be saying to our heart, where he might be calling us, who we should be helping, checks he wants us to write. Do we say, “Interesting, I’ll think about that later, but right now my favorite TV program is on”?

However, Jesus is talking more seriously here, isn’t he? People were considering if they should follow him on HIS journey, and go his way, at whatever the cost to their personal lives. Jesus said those who wanted to contemplate the cost–the ramifications to life for quite a while–were not worthy of the Kingdom of God.  That is a pretty serious consequence. These were people that probably not only wanted to put their houses in order, but also wanted to really think about the decision, perhaps even float it by their non-believing friends and relatives.

To consider the cost of ventures is okay; to plan one’s affairs accordingly makes sense.  However, to live our lives following Jesus, yet fail to respond to his call on a daily basis to do this or that, and to weigh his will against our wants, our finances, or what it is going to mean to our friends and family is not good, not good at all, entirely not suitable to the character of Christ that he wants for us, and for the Kingdom.

The decision to follow Christ must have a cost. We are fooling ourselves if we think that it might not cost us a lot of money in terms of career choices, money given, friends and family that might not like us as much if we are radical followers of Christ. It might cost us dreams we have for ourselves as we give them over to what his dreams are.  Following Jesus must have a cost. Salvation is free, something we get without making payments. Living a life with him today has a payoff in joy and peace that is more mind blowing than anything the world can promise and deliver on, free gifts because Jesus loves us. There is cost, a consequence to following Jesus on his path; however, as eternal citizens of God’s kingdom, we will be richly rewarded.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the thirty fourth post in this series.

Weekending Financial Scorecard

Here’s the most important financial data that you need to know to be fairly well informed. Each Friday evening I post the weekending scorecard of data for 8 financial markets and 10 economic indicators. As of 3/15/2013:

FINANCIALS: The US stock market continues to do well, while other indicators show early signs of inflation. Another Recession Coming?*  A few months ago, it was looking like a double-dip recession was likely for 2013; I’m now thinking this might be avoided, but it is too early to tell since things are still sluggish. I like the slightly good manufacturing output and employment news, a little uptick in consumer spending vs last year, and better sales in real estate and automotive. On the negative side GDP increased only 0.1% last quarter and we still have a high Federal deficit and debt and unproductive Federal government to put forth a balanced budget. Overall this is a very sluggish recovery.

  • Mortgage Rates INCREASE: 30-year last/this week: 3.64%/3.72%, 15-year 2.89%/2.92%
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average INCREASE from 14,379 to 14,514
  • S&P 500 INCREASE from 1551 to 1560
  • US Treasury’s MIXED: 2-Year Note from .261% to .265%, 10-Year Note from 2.046% to 1.996%
  • Crude Oil Futures INCREASE from $91.95 to $93.45
  • Gold prices INCREASE from $1,578 to $1591 (High $1,895 9/6/11) per ounce
  • Euro INCREASE from 1.3003 to 1.3075 (all time 1.59 7/2008)
  • US Dollar Index DECREASE from $82.71 to $82.13

RECESSION WATCH SCORECARD: *

FINANCIALS:* 4 NEGATIVE vs 3 POSITIVE 🙁

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – Negative, real GDP had a small increase of  0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012. The economy grew 2.2% in 2012 up from 1.8% in 2012. We really need to see GDP in the 4% – 6% range to fuel an economic recovery. From 1947 – 2012 it has averaged 3.23.
  • Manufacturing output – Positive, for the first time since the first part of last year, we are starting to see some positive change in US manufacturing output. This is a good indication of how industry is doing; it was modestly increasing a year ago, leading to some guarded optimism, but for the balance of 2012 it decreased.
  • US Consumer Spending – Positive, is currently at 89 compared to 69 one year ago. Overall the past 12 months has not been strong, holiday spending was down; however, this year we are starting to see an uptrend. Economists watch consumers’ spending trends to try to track their confidence in the economy. The more confidence consumers have, the more willing they are to spend money.
  • US Household Debt Service – Positive, as a percentage of people’s disposable income is at 10.69% (June) and has been steadily decreasing from its 10 year high of about 14% in the 3rd quarter of 2008. We are keeping a watchful eye on this number, since early indicators are showing an uptick in consumer debt.
  • The Federal Deficit – Negative, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to be $1.1 trillion for 2013; this will make 5 years in a row it has exceeded $1 trillion, and this doesn’t include all the money our Federal government borrows.
  • The US National debt – Negative, exceeds $16.5 trillion.
  • Consumer Price Index – Negative, U.S. consumer prices jumped by 0.7 percent in February, the largest increase since June 2009 due to the increase in gasoline costs last month. Annualized growth rate through December for the CPI in 2012 was 1.70%, compared to 3.0% in 2011. The long-term average annualized rate of 3.63%. The CPI is the most common indicator of inflation.

JOBS: 3 POSITIVE, 0 NEGATIVE 🙂

  • Monthly change in non-farm payrolls – Positive: 236,000 new jobs were added in January, compared to 157,000 in January, and 155,000 added in December.
  • Unemployment – Positive: February’s rate of 7.7% fell from December’s 7.9%, the lowest it has been since 12/2008. This is better than some months in 2012 of over 8% – showing a little improvement. However, keep in mind this ‘Official Unemployment’ rate only tracks those who are without jobs and have actively sought work within the past 4 weeks. Since this statistic does not track all people who are not working, some websites report that the ‘Real Unemployment’ rate is about 15% when all able-bodied people of working age are considered. For a historical perspective: The unemployment rate during the Great Recession peaked at 10.10% in October 2010. In 2012 it has varied in the range of 8.10% – 8.30%, so we are not seeing a lot of change this year. It could be worse when you consider that during the Great Depression it peaked at about 25% in 1933.
  • Initial Jobless Claims for Unemployment Insurance – Positive: The four week average has been hovering around 350,000 for several weeks, this is a little improvement. Looking back 52 weeks it averaged about 371,000,  we are seeing a slight improvement on that number too. This number is much better than it was in 2009 when it peaked at over 650,000, better than 2010 when it went from nearly 500,000 to the the low 400,000′s and for 2011 when claims were in the low to mid 400,000′s. The lowest we have seen this rate in 10 years is 282,000 in January of 2006, and the earlier part of the last decade we saw the average similar to what we are seeing now. During the Great Depression from 1929 – 1941 there was not the same level of unemployment insurance that we have today, although unions may have had some. It wasn’t until the Social Security act encouraged it in 1935. Today we have the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax to fund state agencies.

*For an overview of GDP, Unemployment and Recession indicators, see previous article A primer on recession indicators, Gross Domestic Product and Unemployment.

Weekending Financial Scorecard 2/8/13

Here’s the most important financial data that you need to know to be fairly well informed. Each Friday evening I post the data of 8 financial market’s, and 10 economic indicator’s weekending scorecard. As of 2/8/2013:

FINANCIALS: Overall indicators were mixed this week for currencies, stock market, interest rates, and gold- the only noteworthy and positive movements are the decreases in crude oil futures which might indicate lower fuel prices, and consumer spending is up this year. Another Recession Coming?*  A few months ago, it was looking like a double-dip recession was likely for 2013, however I’m now thinking this might be avoided, but it is too early to tell: I like the slightly good employment news, a little uptick in consumer spending vs last year. On the negative side manufacturing output remains down, high Federal deficit and debt, offset by some positive indications in automobile sales, residential real estate and household debt reduction.

  • Mortgage Rates DECREASE: 30-year last/this week: 3.60%/3.59%, 15-year 2.91%/2.89%
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average DECREASE from 14,009 to 13,992 (avg. of 30 companies, highest all time 14,164 10/9/07)
  • S&P 500 INCREASE from 1513 to 1517 (all time 1565 10/9/2007)
  • US Treasury’s DECREASE: 2-Year Note from .273% to .258%, 10-Year Note from 2.027% to 1.950%
  • Crude Oil Futures DECREASE from $97.61 to $95.78
  • Gold prices INCREASE from $1,657 to $1,668 (High $1,895 9/6/11) per ounce
  • Euro DECREASE from 1.3644 to 1.3370 (2011 high 1.48 5/11, all time 1.59 7/2008)
  • US Dollar Index INCREASE from $79.20 to $80.22

RECESSION WATCH SCORECARD: *

FINANCIALS:* 3 NEGATIVE, 1 Neutral vs 3 POSITIVE 🙂

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – Positive, GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.7%, for the third quarter, however this would only add up to 2.1% for 2012. We really need to see GDP in the 4% – 6% range to have a fueled economic recovery.
  • Manufacturing output – Negative, this is a good indication of how industry is doing; it was modestly increasing this past winter, leading to some guarded optimism, but for almost the last 6 months it has decreased to Spring 2009 levels.
  • US Consumer Spending – Neutral, is currently at 77 compared to peaks last year of 96 in March, and 51 one year ago. Overall the past 12 months has not been strong, holiday spending was down, however this year we are starting to see an uptrend. Economists watch consumers’ spending trends to try to track their confidence in the economy. The more confidence consumers have, the more willing they are to spend money.
  • US Household Debt Service – Positive, as a percentage of people’s disposable income is at 10.69% (June) and has been steadily decreasing from its 10 year high of about 14% in the 3rd quarter of 2008.
  • The Federal Deficit – Negative, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to be $1.1 trillion for 2013; this will make 5 years in a row it has exceeded $1 trillion, and this doesn’t include all the money our Federal government borrows.
  • The US National debt – Negative exceeds $16.4 trillion.
  • Consumer Price Index – Positive annualized monthly growth rate through November for the CPI in 2012 was 1.80%. The long term-term average annualized rate of 3.63%. The CPI is the most common indicator of inflation.

JOBS: 1 POSITIVE, 0 NEGATIVE, 2 STAGNANT 😐

  • Monthly change in non-farm payrolls – Flat: 155,000 new jobs were added in December, compared to 146,000 added in November, and 171,000 in October.
  • Unemployment – Flat: December’s rate of 7.8 matched the revised November rate of 7.8% (previously estimated to be 7.7% – which would have been the lowest since December 2008). This is better than some 2012 months over 8% – showing very little improvement. However, keep in mind this ‘Official Unemployment’ rate only tracks those who are without jobs and have actively sought work within the past 4 weeks. Since this statistic does not track all people who are not working, some websites report that the ‘Real Unemployment’ rate is about 15% when all able-bodied people of working age are considered. For a historical perspective: The unemployment rate during the Great Recession peaked at 10.10% in October 2010. In 2012 it has varied in the range of 8.10% – 8.30%, so we are not seeing a lot of change this year. It could be worse when you consider that during the Great Depression it peaked at about 25% in 1933.
  • Initial Jobless Claims for Unemployment Insurance – Positive: The four week rolling average stayed around 360,000. Looking back 52 weeks it averaged about 373,000,  we are seeing a slight improvement. This number is much better than it was in 2009 when it peaked at over 650,000, better than 2010 when it went from nearly 500,000 to the the low 400,000′s and for 2011 when claims were in the low to mid 400,000′s. The lowest we have seen this rate in 10 years is 282,000 in January of 2006, and the earlier part of the last decade we saw the average similar to what we are seeing now. During the Great Depression from 1929 – 1941 there was not the same level of unemployment insurance that we have today, although unions may have had some. It wasn’t until the Social Security act encouraged it in 1935. Today we have the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax to fund state agencies.

*For an overview of GDP, Unemployment and Recession indicators, see previous article A primer on recession indicators, Gross Domestic Product and Unemployment.

Top 20 Jesus Money Personal Finance Articles of 2012

2012 was the first full year I have been consistently blogging at Jesus Money, and the following articles were the some of the most popular ones of the last 3 months:

  1. How to help others financially, interestingly this was the most read article
  2. Money Bible verses, excellent that people were referring to this page
  3. Dave Ramsey and tithe, people taking his classes and reading his books wanted to know what Dave thinks about tithe
  4. Eye glass monopoly rip off, article explains why eyeglasses cost so much
  5. List of articles from the Gospels about Jesus and Money
  6. Does Jesus favor the poor?
  7. Comic strip “Coffee with Jesus” viewpoints on life and money, cartoons can communicate better than articles
  8. How to save on groceries at major chains, you don’t have to be a coupon queen to save bucks at the grocery
  9. The new economy, Jesus’ Style
  10. Don’t go in debt for Christmas
  11. Dave Ramsey FPU  week 1,  how to accomplish baby step  number 1
  12. Do you want to know what the fiscal fight is really about
  13. Jesus and financial abusers Matthew 9:9-13   
  14. Financial miracles happen
  15. Lord’s prayer about money
  16. Not judging others finances
  17. Are young people saving more money
  18. Hard Work and God’s blessing
  19. Tithe, Matthew 23:23-25
  20. Underwater Mortgage Financial Relief Options for Struggling Borrowers

Free eBook Today Only, The Art of Neighboring

A few weeks ago, Jay Pathak, pastor of the Mile High Vineyard in Colorado, spoke at the Vineyard Columbus leadership conference. He recently wrote a book titled “The Art of Neighboring.” Jay is a great guy with a lot of experience and success at his approach to loving his neighbors, an easy and practical way to live out the second greatest commandment; to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Today only, you can download the eBook version for Kindle at Amazon at no cost. If you have a Kindle or the free software downloaded to your personal computer, you can download the eBook for FREE, but only today.

I downloaded the Kindle application a few weeks ago onto my laptop, and it was really easy. Downloading the book was a cinch too; I just had to read the instructions (which I am not always apt to do), and the short link to download the book is http://amzn.to/Po9X8p.

To download the Kindle application into your laptop, desktop, or tablet computer, just go to the link above and BEFORE trying to download the book, click on “Free Reading Apps” in the upper menu bar.