faith and doubt

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I hear and read, time and again, that the lack of faith many people have in God stems from the deficiency of proof of His existence and Jesus' own claims of deity. As I have thought about this, I am reminded that the Bible tells that many persons in the multitude shouting for Jesus' crucifixion were earlier the same ones who had witnessed first hand His teachings and miracles. In the Old Testament, Gideon doubted that God could really use him to lead Israel to victory. Abraham and Sarah, because of their advanced age, laughed at God's promise for a son. In the New Testament, even Thomas the disciple doubted the resurrection until he could physically touch the scars on Jesus' body. The Bible even records that the eleven remaining disciples saw the risen Christ face to face, yet still doubted (Matthew 28:17). The beauty of these Biblical stories of the aforementioned "doubters" and many others like them is that in spite of their doubts, hesitations, uncertainty and blatant unbelief, God still used them, and in great ways.

Now I am not saying doubt is good. In fact, the Bible is very clear that for the Christian, doubt is something to be overcome, or it will overcome you (James 1:6-8). As the Christian works out his/her salvation with awe and reverence (Philippians 2:12) they can remember that Thomas, Gideon, Abraham, Sarah, Peter, Paul, Zechariah, Martha and even many of Jesus' own disciples doubted at times. In fact, have you considered Job? He was stripped of everything he held dear. Doubts rose, but he was not overcome. In fact, even in the midst of his "toils and snares," Job proclaims a great statement of faith; "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth" (Job 19:25).

As I read the Bible, it is encouraging to know that even on the days when my faith is not where it needs to be, I'm in good company. My prayer is the same as the doubting father who asked Jesus to heal his afflicted son; "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

financial peace university

Preview Night - Tuesday, June 3 at 6:30pm

Classes - Tuesday June 17 to August 12

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On average, FPU graduates pay off $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 in only the first 90 days!

Want to learn more about Financial Peace University (FPU)? This is the place. Take a step toward real financial freedom.

There are lots of programs out there to help you get out of debt and secure your financial future. There’s no one who does it better than Dave Ramsey and the Financial Peace University program, a nine week course designed to help you break free from the financial barriers that get in the way of your financial health and sense of peace.

Most people struggle to make ends meet. They just have too much month left at the end of their money. If you have made mistakes and feel like your money vanishes each month, you are not alone. In fact, 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, regardless of income.

In Financial Peace University, the average family eliminates $5,300 in debt, while saving $2,700. During this life-changing class, you will learn how to:

  • Get in control of your money
  • Stop struggling to make ends meet
  • Tell your money what to do
  • Change your family’s future

We’re offering a special nine-week course starting June 17. This class is big deal, a life-changing one, and we really hope that you’ll make this investment in your financial future. Read on to get more information about Financial Peace University and find out how to break the cycle of financial turmoil.

Financial Peace University Preview

Millions of people have gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). They’ve worked a plan, rewritten their stories, and changed their futures. This class meets for nine weeks, once a week. It incorporates small-group discussions that help encourage accountability and discipleship. FPU teaches members how to handle money God’s ways, and His ways work!

Want to find out about this course toward financial freedom? Come to the Preview on Tuesday, June 1 at 6:30pm at Istrouma Baptist Church, Baton Rouge campus. We will meet in H-201, which is in the Hope building.

What Will You Learn?

Take a look at some of the key principles that are going to help propel you into the financial future you hope for.

Lesson 1

Super Saving: Common Sense for your Dollars and Cents

Dave explains the seven Baby Steps that will guide you throughout Financial Peace University. You will also learn the three key reasons why you should save money, and why you must start now!

Lesson 2

Relating With Money: Nerds and Free Spirits Unite!

Learn why it’s important for spouses to communicate and work together toward success. Also, singles will learn the importance of accountability, and parents will find out how to teach their kids about money.

Lesson 3

Cash Flow Planning: The Nuts and Bolts of Budgeting

Learning how to take control of your money starts with a budget. Unlock the secret of developing a monthly spending plan that really works.

Lesson 4

Dumping Debt: Breaking the Chains of Debt

It’s time to debunk some common debt myths! Dave reveals the truth about credit lies and gives you a plan to walk out of debt with confidence.

Lesson 5

Buyer Beware: The Power of Marketing on Your Buying Decisions

Dave draws on decades of experience to reveal the power and influence that marketing has on your everyday buying decisions.

Lesson 6

The Role of Insurance: Protecting Your Health, Family and Finances

In this lesson, Dave walks you through the world of insurance, carefully explaining what you need—and what you need to avoid.

Lesson 7

Retirement and College Planning: Mastering the Alphabet Soup of Investing

Dave walks you through the maze of retirement options and helps you figure out your best retirement plan. You will also learn how to plan for college so your kids can graduate debt free!

Lesson 8

Real Estate and Mortgages: Keeping the American Dream From Becoming a Nightmare

Dave draws on more than 20 years of real estate experience to teach you the ins and outs of mortgages and how to win when buying or selling your home.

Lesson 9

The Great Misunderstanding: Unleashing the Power of Generous Giving

Learn how generous giving can completely revolutionize your attitude and improve your finances, business and relationships.

Getting Your Course Materials

Getting the most out of this course requires a kit of materials that will guide you through the FPU coursework. If you already have a kit, great; just show up to one of the classes. If you don’t have a kit, you’ll need one and you can get them from us for a discounted rate of $100 (per household).

So, you’re ready to go and ready to take control of your financial health. Let’s get started. Come to the preview class and register. If you cannot attend, then contact Diane Friley by calling the Istrouma offices at 225.295.0775 or by email at drily@istrouma.org to register for the main classes beginning June 17.

songs you won't here on the radio - gift of faith

I love everything about this song...the lyrics, the guitar hook, the production, the vocals, the groove, the organic sound...it's just great. Now Toto is not a "Christian" band, but this song resonates with me and what I believe more than some Christian singers do at times. The Bible talks about the "gift of faith" and the explanation by S. Michael Houdmann below is so cool. If you like the song, you can buy it here.

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of faith?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of faith is found in the list of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 9 says that some people are given the gift of faith, but the gift is not specifically explained. All believers have been given saving faith by God as the only means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), but not all believers are given the spiritual gift of faith. Like all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gift of faith was given for the “common good,” which means the edifying of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The gift of faith may be defined as the special gift whereby the Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God's promises, power, and presence so they can take heroic stands for the future of God's work in the church. The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, and His promises. Examples of people with the gift of faith are those listed in Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter, often called "the hall of faith," describes those whose faith was extraordinary, enabling them to do extraordinary, superhuman things. Here we see Noah spending 120 years building a huge boat when, up to that time, rain was non-existent and Abraham believing he would father a child when his natural ability to do so had ended. Without the special anointing of faith as a gift from God, such things would have been impossible.

As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of faith is given to some Christians who then use it to edify others in the body of Christ. Those with the gift of faith are an inspiration to their fellow believers, exhibiting a simple confidence in God that shows in all they say and do. Extraordinarily faithful people show a humble godliness and reliance on God’s promises, often so much so that they are known to be quietly fearless and zealous. They are so convinced that all obstacles to the gospel and to God’s purposes will be overcome and so confident that God will secure the advancement of His cause, that they will often do infinitely more in the promotion of His kingdom than the most talented and erudite preachers and teachers.

So to sum it up, God gives all Christians saving faith. The spiritual gift of faith is given to some, who exhibit extraordinary amounts of faith in their Christian walk and who, by their faith, are a joy and an encouragement to others.

lyrics

All this pain surrounding me
Hopelessness is all that I see now
Does it have to be this way
Brought up on hypocrisy
The seeds they sow don't last forever
They just fade away

Don't be confused by the lies 
Of the fools and deceivers
Hope and believe in the things
That we need to survive

We can make it if we'd only take the gift of faith
We can change it if we'd just accept the gift of faith

Take away my dignity
Take away my hope and my freedom
You got a world full of rage
Don't cover me with apathy
Don't buy and sell what I believe in
Don't lock me in a cage

In a world where no one's alone
Trust should come easily
Just reach out your hand
And I'll give you mine

We can make it if we'd only take the gift of faith
We can chage it if we'd just accept the gift of faith 

Don't be confused be the lies 
Of the fools and deceivers
Hope and believe in the things
That we need to survive

We can make if if we'd only take the gift of faith
We can change it if we'd just accept the gift of faith
We can make if if we'd only take the gift of faith
It's yours to choose but only fools refuse the gift of faith

can the u.s return to the gold standard?

1 oz Gold Eagles. They have a $50 face value, but are currently worth about $1,400. Believe it not, $50 was once worth $1,400. The cash has lost its value, the gold coin has not.

1 oz Gold Eagles. They have a $50 face value, but are currently worth about $1,400. Believe it not, $50 was once worth $1,400. The cash has lost its value, the gold coin has not.

Can a leopard change his spots? Well, the following is a verbatim article published in the Wall Street Journal on September 1, 1981. Its author is Alan Greenspan, who at the time was a partner in Townsend-Greenspan & Co. - an economic consulting firm. It is relevant and very significant to also know that Greenspan was the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from 1974 to 1977, a period witnessing dramatic changes in the price of gold.

CAN THE U.S. RETURN TO A GOLD STANDARD?
By Alan Greenspan

The growing disillusionment with politically controlled monetary policies has produced an increasing number of advocates for a return to the GOLD STANDARD - including at times president Reagan.

In years past a desire to return to a monetary system based on gold was perceived as nostalgia for an era when times were simpler, problems less complex and the world not threatened with nuclear annihilation. But after a decade of destabilizing inflation and economic stagnation, the restoration of a GOLD STANDARD has become an issue that is clearly rising on the economic policy agenda. A commission to study the issue, with strong support from President Reagan, is in place.
The increasingly numerous proponents of a GOLD STANDARD persuasively argue that budget deficits and large federal borrowings would be difficult to finance under such a standard. Heavy claims against paper dollars cause few technical problems, for the Treasury can legally borrow as many dollars as Congress authorizes.

But with unlimited dollar conversion into gold, the ability to issue dollar claims would be severely limited. Obviously if you cannot finance federal deficits, you cannot create them. Either taxes would then have to be raised and expenditures lowered. The restrictions of gold convertibility would therefore profoundly alter the politics of fiscal policy that have prevailed for half a century.

Disturbed by Alternatives

Even some of those who conclude a return to gold is infeasible remain deeply disturbed by the current alternatives. For example, William Fellner of the American Enterprise Institute in a forthcoming publication remarks "...I find it difficult not to be greatly impressed by the very large damage done to the economies of the industrialized world... by the monetary management that has followed the era of (gold) convertibility... It has placed the Western economies in acute danger."
Yet even those of us who are attracted to the prospect of gold convertibility are confronted with a seemingly impossible obstacle: the latest claims to gold represented by the huge world overhang of fiat currency, many dollars.

The immediate problem of restoring a GOLD STANDARD is fixing a gold price that is consistent with market forces. Obviously if the offering price by the Treasury is too low, or subsequently proves to be too low, heavy demand at the offering price could quickly deplete the total U.S. government stock of gold, as well as any gold borrowed to thwart the assault. At that point, with no additional gold available, the U.S. would be off the GOLD STANDARD and likely to remain off for decades.

Alternatively, if the gold price is initially set too high, or subsequently becomes too high, the Treasury would be inundated with gold offerings. The payments the gold drawn on the Treasury's account at the Federal Reserve would add substantially to commercial bank reserves and probably act, at least temporarily, to expand the money supply with all the inflationary implications thereof.
Monetary offsets to neutralize or "earmark" gold are, of course, possible in the short run. But as the West Germany authorities soon learned from their past endeavors to support the dollar, there are limits to monetary countermeasures.

The only seeming solution is for the U.S. to create a fiscal and monetary environment which in effect makes the dollar as good as gold, i.e., stabilizes the general price level and by inference the dollar price of gold bullion itself. Then a modest reserve of bullion could reduce the narrow gold price fluctuations effectively to zero, allowing any changes in gold supply and demand to be absorbed in fluctuations in the Treasury's inventory.

What the above suggests is that a necessary condition of returning to a GOLD STANDARD is the financial environment which the GOLD STANDARD itself is presumed to create. But, if we restored financial stability, what purpose is then served by return to a GOLD STANDARD?

Certainly a gold-based monetary system will necessarily prevent fiscal imprudence, as 20th Century history clearly demonstrates. Nonetheless, once achieved, the discipline of the GOLD STANDARD would surely reinforce anti-inflation policies, and make it far more difficult to resume financial profligacy. The redemption of dollars for gold in response to excess federal government-induced credit creation would be a strong political signal. Even after inflation is brought under control the extraordinary political sensitivity to inflation will remain.

Concrete actions to install a GOLD STANDARD are premature. Nonetheless, there are certain preparatory policy actions that could test the eventual feasibility of returning to a GOLD STANDARD, that would have positive short-term anti-inflation benefits and little cost if they fail.
The major roadblock to restoring the GOLD STANDARD is the problem of re-entry. With the vast quantity of dollars worldwide laying claims to the U.S. Treasury's 264 million ounces of gold, an overnight transition to gold convertibility would create a major discontinuity for the U.S. financial system. But there is no need for the whole block of current dollar obligations to become an immediate claim.

Convertibility can be instituted gradually by, in effect, creating a dual currency with a limited issue of dollars convertible into gold. Initially they could be deferred claims to gold, for example, five-year Treasury Notes with interest and principal payable in grams or ounces of gold.
With the passage of time and several issues of these notes we would have a series of "new monies" in terms of gold and eventually, demand claims on gold. The degree of success of restoring long-term fiscal confidence will show up clearly in the yield spreads between gold and fiat dollar obligations of the same maturities. Full convertibility would require that the yield spread for all maturities virtually disappear. If they do not, convertibility will be very difficult, probably impossible, to implement.

A second advantage of gold notes is that they are likely to reduce current budget deficits. Treasury gold notes in today's markets could be sold at interest rates at approximately 2% or less. In fact from today's markets one can construct the equivalent of a 22-month gold note yielding 1%, by arbitraging regular Treasury note yields for June 1983 maturities (17%) and the forward delivery premiums of gold (16% annual rate) inferred from June 1983 futures contracts. Presumably five-year note issues would reflect a similar relationship.

A Risk of Exchange Loss

The exchange risk of the Treasury gold notes, of course, is the same as that associated with our foreign currency Treasury note series. The U.S. Treasury has, over the years, sold significant quantities of both German mark - and Swiss franc denominated issues, and both made and lost money in terms of dollars as exchange rates have fluctuated. And indeed there is a risk of exchange rate loss with gold notes.

However, unless the price of gold doubles over a five-year period (16% compounded annually), interest payments on the gold notes in terms of dollars will be less than conventional financing requires. The run-up to $875 per ounce in early 1980 was surely an aberration, reflecting certain circumstances in the Middle East which are unlikely to be repeated in the near future. Hence, anything close to doubling of gold prices in the next five years appears improbable. On the other hand, if gold prices remain stable or rise moderately, the savings could be large: Each $10 billion in equivalent gold notes outstanding would, under stable gold prices, save $1.5 billion per year in interest outlays.

A possible further side benefit of the existence of gold notes is that they could set a standard in terms of prices and interest rates that could put additional political pressure on the administration and Congress to move expeditiously toward non-inflationary policies. Gold notes could be a case of reversing Gresham's Law. Good money would drive out bad.

Those who advocate a return to a GOLD STANDARD should be aware that returning our monetary system to gold convertibility is no mere technical, financial restructuring. It is a basic change in our economic processes. However, considering where the policies of the last 50 years have eventually led us, perhaps there are lessons to be learned from our more distant GOLD STANDARD past.