Five Dollar Fridays

February 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Economy

On the morning of February 9th while running stationary on my treadmill, I watched President Obama speak live from Elkhart Indiana where the unemployment rate is now over 15%. That evening I again saw the President live. This time he was addressing the nation about the need for his stimulus package. Later, propped up in my bed, this news junkie watched a show that compared the Great Depression to what is happening in our economy today.

The one thing that struck me, the one continually trumpeted common thread running through it all, was the urgent need to restore consumer confidence. In the great depression, people lost confidence in the banks and began to stuff their mattresses with any remaining cash and hoard it. With everyone hanging on to their money, businesses began to suffer and had to lay people off. As the unemployment rate increased more and more, people sat more firmly on their cash-stuffed mattresses and the vicious cycle continued. In the end, thirteen million people ended up unemployed. According to Wikipedia, that meant that 34 million people were members of families with no wage earner. Even though today’s unemployment figures do not compare with the greater than 25% unemployment rate of the Great Depression, where will we end up if consumer confidence is not restored?

President Obama said that a further erosion of confidence could lead us into deeper economic trouble and the stats testify to this truth. With every passing month, the number of people spending decreases and the amount of layoffs announced increases. Everyone knows that this stimulus package must restore consumer confidence because there just isn’t enough money to turn the economy around without it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the United States in the midst of the Great Depression and expressed the same thoughts in his famous inaugural speech, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

I fell asleep with my mind awash with news flashes and facts but three hours later I was staring at the ceiling with my mind more focused on what was bothering me; the math! There’s almost 400 million people living in the United States and Canada. If 700 billion is injected into the US economy, that represents about $1,750.00 per person. If the government wrote checks to every man, woman and child for that amount, would it turn the economy around? More than likely not. Why? Because we’d put it in our proverbial mattresses until our confidence returned.

As I lay wide awake thinking, in the wee hours of the morning, another famous line from an inaugural speech pulled my thoughts in another direction. Nearing the end of his short, but legendary inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

President Obama said that the only organization with enough resources to avert financial disaster is the government of the United States and that brought to my mind even more weighty and historic words, “We the people…” Less than $2,000.00 a person will not guarantee recovery but we the people can if we’re willing to pull together and ask what we can do for our economy and our children’s future.

Laying there, restless and wishing I could sleep, the words ‘Five Dollar Fridays’ repeated themselves over and over until they were etched in my brain and I quietly got up to write this post. What I’m about to propose is simple logic and even simpler math. However, I’m convinced that if enough people catch the vision, we the people, truly the only organization with enough resources, can avert disaster.

Why $5 bills? Because of several amazing coincidences that tie the $5 dollar bill to what we’re talking about.

In 1933, as an emergency response to the Great Depression, tons of money was printed and pumped into the American economy. A special $5 bill was introduced for the task.

The most recent version of the $5 bill began circulating on March 13, 2008 right around the time that this current recession reportedly started.

The President who appears stoic and unmoved on both of these versions of the $5 bill is Abraham Lincoln. A president who some would say led the people of the United States through the greatest internal struggle of it’s history, and most would say played a huge part in preparing the way for Barak Obama to be able to become President of the United States.

February 12th 2009, is the commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

For all of the reasons stated above, I believe that we the people should step up, not relying on what the government can do for us, but what we can do for the country and flood the economy ourselves with this new $5 bill in celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday and use his bill to again fight the internal crisis we face.

If on this Friday and every successive Friday, every individual and family (in the US and Canada) heads out to the market place and spends just $5 (a symbol of the movement) per person, more than what they would have otherwise spent, 2 billion dollars will be injected into the economy in one day. We must not go into debt to do this, that’s a big part of how we got into this mess. Some won’t be able to afford even this, but in the spirit of community, those of us who can afford to spend more, could give more and also give to those around us who can’t so they can get involved.

If those who can afford to spend many $5 bills do spend more, we’ll easily quadruple our one day goal and 8 billion dollars will be injected directly into the blood stream of our economy.

What if businesses small and large were to get involved and help motivate everyone with $5 specials on ‘Five Dollar Fridays?’ We could inject even more cash and more consumer confidence. As an added bonus, Fridays would become a community day-out with everyone having fun while we’re all solving our crisis together.

No one knows how long it will take the economy to turn around and many doubt that trickling down $2,000 per person will help speed recovery in a huge way. However, everyone agrees that restored consumer confidence is what we need. If we celebrate a year of ‘Five Dollar Fridays’, as the excitement and ripple effect spreads, over 500 billion dollars will have been shot right into our local and national economies with probably a far greater economic impact than the 700 billion provided from the government, and all without incurring any further debt.

In President Barak Obama’s inaugural address he said, “For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.”

In Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address he said this, “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”

This Friday, after a good night’s sleep, I’m going out with my family and a bunch of $5 bills and I’m going to do my part. Will you join me for the recovery party?

Yes WE can do this!

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child to Pray.


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(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

A Time for Miracles

January 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Economy

I love reading about Elijah and Elisha, two prophets whom God used to accomplish some marvelous miracles: calling fire down from heaven, conquering enemy armies with the assistance of angelic armies, proclaiming the start and end of famines, outrunning chariots, and much more. In the midst of these mind-boggling acts of God that altered kingdoms, these two prophets also dealt with and talked to God about three mothers.

While that land writhed in a severe drought (which Elijah had announced ahead of time), God told the prophet to visit a widow whom God had commanded to feed him. He found her and asked for food. She replied that she was about to use the last of her oil and flour to make one final meal for her and her son. Elijah had the audacity to ask her to feed him first, but promised that when she did, a miracle would happen. And it did: the flour and oil never ran out – no matter how much she used – until the drought ended. Later, when this same widow’s son died, she took the boy to Elijah, and the prophet prayed and delivered the son alive back to his mother (1 Kings 17).

Fast-forward to Elisha’s time and another widow; she came to Elisha, explaining that she had no way to meet her commitments and that creditors were coming to take her two boys as slaves. Elisha told her to borrow as many big, empty jars as she could and to pour into them the oil she kept in a little jar. When she did this, the oil didn’t stop flowing until she and her sons ran out of borrowed jars. Then she sold the oil and had enough money to pay her creditors, plus extra to live off of (2 Kings 4).

The third woman was neither a widow nor in need of provision. This married woman of means prepared a private room in her home for Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he traveled. Elisha wanted to reward her kindness and tried to find out what she wanted or needed. Elisha’s servant reminded him that she was childless, so Elisha told her that she’d have a son in about a year from that time. She got pregnant, had a son, and one day while he was still young, he died. The distraught woman put her boy on the prophet’s bed without telling anyone what had happened and traveled to see the prophet. He came to her home and raised him back to life (2 Kings 4).

While Jesus ministered in his own hometown, he mentioned one of these widows to help explain why he didn’t perform any great miracle there, where everyone knew him as Joseph’s son.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” (Luke 4:23-26)

Many things get in the way of our faith. Neither the widow whom Jesus mentioned here nor the man he spoke of in his next example was an Israelite. This made the crowd so angry that they drove Jesus out of town and tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-30). Sometimes we get so comfortable in our Christian faith and in the way we live, that we forget God is a supernatural God who can provide for us and answer our prayers in a way far beyond our wildest expectation.

The first widow made food for Elijah before she served herself and her son, even though a few minutes earlier she had enough food only for one last meal for her own starving family. God rewarded her demonstration of faith and provided for her during the drought. She continued to feed and house Elijah, and when her son got sick and died – even though she couldn’t conceive of such a thing – her son was returned to her from the dead.

The second widow came to the prophet Elisha seeking God’s intervention. When she heard his instructions, she followed them to the letter; demonstrating her faith; and her sons not only escaped the clutches of her creditors, but she found her family abundantly provided for.

The third woman approached Elisha without need, but with a desire to help him in doing God’s work. Her service demonstrated her faith in God, and the Lord rewarded her with a son. When the son died, she lay his body on the prophet’s bed and left to tell the prophet, showing that she knew God could and would take care of her dire situation.

Did you notice that, in each of these cases, the children involved were provided for, cared for, and kept safe? In fact, each instance dealt with the concerns of a mother and her children. The children would have seen their mother’s faith and obedience at work, bringing God’s grace, power, and help into their homes.

God sent his power through these mighty men of God to change the political map, steer nations, and bring his people back to himself; but he also sent them to establish faith in and help needy families.

So where do we find a mighty prophet of God? Jesus is God’s Son, and he lives in us by his Spirit. God is our Father, and as Christians we no longer need a prophet to stand in the gap; we can go directly to him and “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Many years ago, when things got quite tight financially for our family, we opened our home to another family going through an even tighter time. The few groceries we had got divided carefully before each meal. One day we had enough hot dogs for each child to have one apiece. We prayed together and asked God to make the food we had to be enough. At the end of the meal, two hot dogs remained on the plate. One child asked for another. Her face fell when we carefully explained that we had enough for only one each. Of course, we thought her look showed disappointment, until she explained that she already had eaten two. In order to find out who went without, we rounded up all the kids and took a count. They had eaten more hot dogs than we started with – and yet two still remained on the plate!

This was no earth-shattering, life-changing kind of miracle, but my children have never forgotten it. The incident inspired both their faith and their prayer life.

The author of Hebrews wrote:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and he rewards those who earnesty seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

I love that verse. God not only insists that we believe in him, but he also requires us to believe that he rewards us when we seek him! It’s impossible to please God without faith; it’s therefore impossible for us to raise children who please God without demonstrating to them faith in action.

There are some tough times ahead with the way the economy is going but if you look to God for help and trust him, one way or another, he’ll come through and your families Faith will be strengthened. It’s a time for miracles.

Oh, and don’t worry about having enough faith to make all this work – taking the first step, just like the three mothers in the previous stories, demonstrates your faith; God will take you from there. A simple prayer over some hot dogs can get the ball rolling.

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child to Pray.


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(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

The Economy and the Harvest

November 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Economy

How many times have you heard a sermon framed around Jesus’ comments about the harvest? The ones I’ve heard usually come around to making the point that we should be involved in the harvest, tell everybody around us, all the time, about Jesus.

I’d like to ask you to read on as I look at this section of scripture more closely because I believe that it not only generally applies to all times, but it specifically applies to today as our world goes through a difficult financial time.

Matthew, Luke and John all record Jesus’ words about the Lord of the Harvest, but they all put them in a slightly different context. It’s likely that Jesus talked to his disciples about this more than once. I’d like to start with Matthew’s account.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35 – 38)

Notice that before Jesus said that the harvest (of people) was plentiful, the scripture gives us a glimpse of what he was thinking and why he said what he did. He saw the crowds and their situation, that they were harassed and helpless, and he had compassion on them. Jesus said the harvest was plentiful because of the state that the people of his time were in.

Let’s take a look at what the people who Jesus was looking at were going through. I’m not a historian but it doesn’t take much research to come up with a general picture. Not only were the people of Palestine under the heel of the Roman Empire, they were also suffering financially for it. First of all, the reason why tax collectors were hated was because the Roman empire was taxing the people beyond their means to pay. Add on top of that the taxes that Herod was inflicting on the people and the burden was unbearable.

Next, let’s look at loans and interest. The Jewish law limited interest by outlining when it could and could not be charged and how much could be charged. However, the Romans had no such laws and many of the Jewish people had left God’s laws behind in favor of greater profits. Some accounts say that interest rates were as high as 50%.

Here’s what was happening. The Romans demanded that their taxes be paid with money. Many of those who lived in this agrarian society didn’t have money, so they had to borrow it. The only way they could borrow money was to take out a mortgage on their property. Between rising taxes and rising interest rates, the property owners would end up in foreclosure and lose their land. As the rich got more and more land through economies of scale and the use of slaves to work their vast farms, they prospered and sent more and more families off their lands. Because those foreclosed on had no trade and slave labor was so cheap, many became destitute.

The system made the rich, richer – and the poor, poorer. The poorer you got, the more you needed loans and the higher the rate of interest you were charged. So financial devastation started due to ill-advised loans at high interest rates resulting in foreclosures in a system that favored the rich. Sound familiar?

Jesus saw that many of the people who flocked to him were sick, oppressed, financially devastated and in bad need of God’s love and intervention. That’s when he concluded that the fields were ready for harvest. Remember, it’s God’s goodness that leads us to repentance. Jesus knew (as he outlined in the story of the prodigal son) that many people don’t look up until they come to the end of their rope. When they do, God is there ready to show them his love (Jesus had compassion on them) and meet them where they are.

I believe that we are now in a time where again, the fields are getting white and ready for harvest. Although financial difficulties aren’t pleasant, we as Christians know that if we trust God, he’ll meet our needs. So should we be spending our time complaining about the times, or should we be praying that the Lord of the harvest send workers into the harvest?

In John 4, we find Jesus also talking about the harvest. He’s just finished talking to the woman at the well and is waiting for her return. He probably knows that she’s about to lead the whole village out to see him. The disciples offer him something to eat and he refuses saying, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” Then he went on to talk about the harvest.

Was Jesus saying that when we’re doing God’s will, we don’t need to eat? No, I believe that he was contrasting a physical harvest to a spiritual one and telling us that the spiritual one is of far greater importance. If we have to tighten our belts and learn to rely on God a little more for the sake of a spiritual harvest, it’s well worth it.

I know I’ve blogged on for a bit, but stick with me a little further. If we are in, or going into a time of harvest as I believe, what do we need to do besides pray? Let me return to those sermons we hear so often on Jesus’ words about the harvest.

It’s pointed out to us that Jesus said ‘pray for more workers’, then he immediately sent the ones he was talking to out to work. The sermon’s conclusion, when you pray, be willing to be sent. However, let’s go a little deeper. Why would Jesus tell them to pray and then instruct them to go? Why not just send them? They probably didn’t even have time to pray before he sent them.

I think Jesus did this as a reminder to them and to us that we are not in charge of the harvest. He is the Lord of the harvest and he is in charge of the times. He is the one who prepares the harvest and directs the workers. We are to pray that THE LORD SENDS workers into HIS harvest. That’s the emphasis.

We of course can gear up to help the poor and reach out to the hurting. We’ve been given those basic tasks. But more importantly, we need to pray and ask the Lord to send the workers that he needs to send, to do what he knows needs to be done, to reach those he knows are ready, in this time. Then like the disciples, we need to wait on our instructions and see what he wants us to do. Don’t worry about how you’ll get by, he’ll meet your needs. Don’t worry about how you’ll get it done, he empowered his disciples and sent them out with nothing, and don’t worry about how he’ll direct you. If you’re open to his direction and praying about the harvest, he’ll find a way to show you what to do. You may even already know.

And remember, as you go, the Gospel isn’t about populating our churches. It’s about God reaching out in love, wanting to adopt the lost and care for those who are hurting. We bring them to church so that they’re close enough to receive God’s love and help through us.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child to Pray.


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(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)