The economy is sending a number of mixed signals. Last week, the S&P 500 stock price index rose to its highest levels since last February. But earnings of the companies listed on the index continue their downward trend. Price/earnings ratios for the S&P 500 are still very high.
The median price on April new home sales, at more than $321,000, is at an all-time high. April new home sales were nearly 100,000 units higher than the average pre-report estimate. The estimate of 619,000 homes sold was the highest since January 2008. The 16.9 percent monthly increase in new home sales was the largest since January 1992.
With rents increasing at about 8 percent per year, something will have to give. Are we seeing a Fed-induced bubble? Was the large monthly increase reflecting consumer expectations of higher mortgage rates? Are consumers concerned about rising rents? With record numbers of automobile loans (often to sub-prime borrowers) and increasing health care costs, will consumers be able to afford the house payments?
New durable goods (new goods designed to last more than three years) orders increased 3.4 percent for the month of April. The increase was more than four times the previous month and more than 10 times the pre-report estimate. But the part of the report dealing with capital goods, gave the opposite picture of business investment. April core capital goods orders were down 0.8 percent for the month; 8 times the previous month's decline and the fifth time, in the last six months, it has dropped. Today's economy is giving many mixed signals.
However, in the kingdom, mixed signals can be devastating. Effects can be temporal and eternal. Generations can be saved or lost. Today's church is probably giving more mixed signals than in any time in history. It is important and critical that faithful shepherds give clear, biblically based, culturally relevant, Holy Spirit-empowered direction. Examples of mixed signals in the kingdom abound.
Some are teaching that there are no differences in religions, that we all worship the same God and that everyone will go to heaven. While the doctrine may be politically correct and have popular support among some, it is incorrect. The Bible clearly states that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anyone who tries another way will be eternally disappointed.
Some are teaching a hyper-grace philosophy. The doctrine emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of repentance and confession. Sin or hell are rarely, if ever, mentioned.
The result is that many experience the consequences of sin, separate themselves from a relationship with the King, do not fulfill their God-given callings, and live an example that turns others away rather than toward the saving gospel.
Some are accurately preaching the Word, but to keep from offending, they do not engage the culture. Jesus spent a large portion of His ministry engaging the culture of His day. We should do likewise. We need to love the sinner. But failure to warn of clear biblically opposed cultural dangers is a serious error.
Some are not preaching the power of the gospel to transform. Our congregants, communities and the world desperately need miracles. The Bible is a book of the miraculous. Our Lord is a God of miracles. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide, comfort and empower us. The Bible is the living Word of God. The need for miracles is so great that people will seek other sources (eastern religions, the occult, cults) if we have a powerless religion.
Some have made our churches places of entertainment and convenience instead of places to equip the saints, minister to each other and encounter God. Entertainment and convenience alone will not provide the depth of relationship and power needed to be fruitful in the last days.
Mixed signals will be eliminated in the kingdom when we teach and live the full gospel of Jesus Christ with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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