The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the January Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.5 percent for the month. The monthly change was 0.2 percent higher than pre-report expectations and 0.3 percent higher than the upwardly revised December estimate. Consumer prices were 2.1 percent higher than those of one year ago. Without the more volatile food and energy components, the CPI increased 1.8 percent during the past year.
Many consumer prices increased during the month. gasoline (5.7 percent), apparel (1.7 percent), medical care services (0.6 percent), food (0.2 percent) and shelter (0.2 percent) all saw monthly price increases. Prices fell for natural gas (-2.6 percent) and electricity (-0.2 percent).
The BL also reported the January Producer Price Index (PPI). The PPI increased 0.4 percent for the month (equal to forecasts, but 0.4 percent higher than December). On a year-to-year basis, producer prices increased 2.7 percent (compared to 2.6 percent in December). Without food and energy, producer prices increased 0.4 percent for the month and 2.2 percent over the past year. From year-ago levels, the prices of producer goods were 0.9 percent higher, and the prices on services were up 0.4 percent.
Inflation has been cited often as a reason for the stock market sell-off, which began with the January employment report. The yearly increase in average hourly earnings of 2.9 percent spooked the markets and was cited as an early indicator of inflation, which could be expected to decrease earnings, spur the Federal Reserve to more aggressive action in raising interest rates, and encourage more investors to replace stocks with bonds. Service costs of the federal debt would increase.
But, inflation and interest rates have been historically low since the financial crisis. Exotic financial instruments, which base their value on market volatility, were a major contributing factor of the weakness in stocks. A more complete evaluation recognizes that a stronger economy will result in interest rates and inflation which are at least marginally higher. Longer-term, a stronger economy is beneficial for wages, employment, the deficit and debt.
As believers, as members of the kingdom of God, and as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, we are expected to evaluate our situations, whatever they may be, correctly. As the sons of Reuben, we are expected to be brave, to be equipped, to be skillful, to pray and to trust God. We face any situation by being prepared in the natural, praying for supernatural favor, trusting in God and believing that all things will work out for good.
The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh numbered forty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty valiant men, men able to bear shield and sword, to shoot with a bow, and who were skillful in battle, who went to war. They made war with the Hagrites, namely Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. They were helped against them, and the Hagrites and all who were with them were delivered into their hand, for they cried to God in the battle, and He heard their prayer because they trusted in Him (1 Chron. 5:18-20).
"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28),
David was a teenage shepherd boy—the youngest boy in his family. He was accomplished with the sling—likely practicing on lonely days with his flock of sheep. David was also known as an accomplished musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior and a man prudent in speech who had the Lord with him.
But today was different. He faced a well-armored giant who was experienced in warfare. As champion of the Philistines, he made the entire army of Israel cower in fear. Saul, a man who stood head and shoulders above most, was no match. But David was different. He was skilled with the sling, brave, and knew the power of the Lord. Goliath was no match. The Lord gave David and Israel the victory.
"Then one from the servants answered, and said, 'I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is experienced in playing music, a mighty man of valor, a man of battle, and skillful in words, even a man of fine appearance. And the Lord is with him'" (1 Sam. 16:18).
"Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a shield, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have reviled. This day will the Lord deliver you into my hand'" (1 Sam. 17:45-46a).
The church was having growing pains. People were showing favoritism. Some Hellenistic Jews were complaining that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the apostles directed that seven men be chosen to take over the task. Stephen was one of the men chosen. He was known as a man full of faith, the Holy Spirit, grace and power, and was performing great wonders and signs.
"The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit ...," Acts 6:5, NASB.
"Now Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people" (Acts 6:8).
Stephen was arrested and falsely accused. He boldly preached the gospel to the council and confronted his accusers with their killing of the Messiah. While seeing a heavenly vision of the Lord, he was stoned to death. The devil may have claimed victory. But Stephen's willing martyrdom caused the church to spread outside Jerusalem and was likely motivation to Paul, who later carried the gospel to the world.
"And Saul was consenting to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem. And they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).
Believers are called to correctly evaluate every situation. We have a responsibility a be brave, to be equipped, to be skillful, to pray and to trust God. We know that the victory is ours. We have assurance that all things work together for good, because we love Him.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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