7540 Lyndon B Johnson Fwy Dallas, TX 75251
In Person Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM Streaming Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM
6401 Parkwood Blvd Frisco, TX 75034
In person Sunday 9 AM Streaming Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM
6400 K Ave Plano, TX 75074
In Person Sunday 9 and 11 AM Streaming Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM
Todd and Ethan review basic foundational truths and principles that are being violated in this country today, and why we need to PREP: Prepare spiritually, Reallocate our resources, Economize our lifestyles, and Pay off debt. Primarily, be ready to share the gospel, the hope you have within you, with those people around you who are looking for answers.
The Pursuit of Happiness #4: Aborting Your Silence and Dealing With the Shame of Abortion
Immigration and the Christian: The Balance of the Welcome and the Wall
The Pursuit of Happiness #3: The Key to the Return to the Blessed State: Repentance, Humility and Prayer.
Prayer: A Declarationers Position
Declaration Discussion on Economics and "Preparation"
The Pursuit of Happiness #2 Economics and the "House Law"
The Pursuit of Happiness #1 Defining Marriage Correctly
The Declaration of Liberty and the Responsibility of Those Who Have It
The Declaration of Life - How It Can Go Well With You
Todd Wagner: We are glad you are here with us this evening. It's awesome to see that all of us could work out a time in our day that is not normally there. For those of us who are in the morning to jump back in the evening, and for those of us who are normally here in the evening, you have a tremendous opportunity this evening to be encouraged by myself and, I'm confident, Ethan.
Let me jump right to it a little bit. I want to let you know the purpose of us being here. We're in the middle of a series called Declaration, which is a revelation from God, a declaration from God, that he wants us to experience life and liberty, true freedom, and have a road map to pursue the happiness that he intends, that it might go well with us.
We have been talking about this for some weeks now, and we've begun to really take a look at the things we need to do if we're going to experience the blessed life where it would go well with us. One week we talked about when you tamper with God's primary, core, foundational institution in society, which is family, and redefine it or disregard it or do not concern yourself with it, it will not long go well with that society. We spent a whole week on family and marriage.
We spent a week on the economy, where we talked specifically about how when we ignore certain foundational principles in our lives, individually and corporately, it will not go well with us. We did that specifically last Sunday, and we offered to you then that we would have this time together tonight with a member of our body who has written an outstanding book called Prepare that I will share more with you about as we go through the evening.
I want to just let our friends know that in the Watermark News you're holding is a prayer guide I wrote that allows you to respond to all of the messages in the series so far in a way that is personal and prayerful and biblical, because we're not here just to raise an alarm at all. We're here to make a declaration, and the purpose of any declaration is that you might hear it and respond. In fact, you're going to see tonight that that is the source, ultimately, of wisdom and security: that you don't just hear but that you act.
So we spent our entire morning looking at how we should respond individually (that's the front side of your sheet), and then on the back side I pulled 10 of the 31 topics I pray about over the course of every single month for our country. I mentioned to you that some friends of mine, some ladies I know, went together a number of years ago and wrote down 31 different topics that people can pray about in response to God's declaration that these institutions, values, and truths need to be embraced by a country.
Spread out randomly inside the Watermark News, on the back of the front sheet, which everybody has the same, are different topics for you to pray about, and at the bottom of all of them I've given you the website, americanprayerinitiative.org, where you can go and sign up, like I did years ago.
Every morning you'll get emailed to you a simple one-page reminder of how to pray for the country with Scripture and already well-thought-out sentence prayers that can help you fulfill the command in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, which is, "Pray for kings and all those who are in authority." It has been a tremendous blessing to me, and I think it will be to you.
We're not going to do this evening what we did this morning. We're going to do something else, and we're glad you're here with us. Let me waste no more time in bringing up my friend Ethan Pope, who helped me in no small way think about this topic when I addressed it a week ago with you. Ethan is a gentleman who has been in the ministry for a number of years. He actually worked with Campus Crusade as a campus director/pastor, and then he was involved with Josh McDowell Ministry for a number of years.
He left that to go and study further at Dallas Theological Seminary but at the same time pursued a course as a certified financial adviser, because he really felt like he could genuinely help people in this area of personal fiscal responsibility and wed spiritual shepherding with financial encouragement and counseling. So let me bring up Ethan. Ethan, welcome. We're glad you're here with us.
What Ethan and I have done in talking about this topic is we have compiled questions we've both received and we know are the most commonly asked questions, and we want to make sure we cover those. We also talked a lot about how we can best use our time. We have an hour to spend together, and what we thought we would do is give you a quick review of some of the basic foundational truths and principles that are being violated currently in the land in which we live and why we need to be ready and prepared. Ethan, with that as a setup, why don't you get us started any way you feel fit?
Ethan Pope: Todd, first let me say I'm so privileged to have a pastor like you and a church like Watermark that will take on a message like this and embrace it and want to get the truth out. I'm very thankful for you and for Watermark Church for taking on a topic like this. There are churches all across the nation that I've found out personally do not want to touch this topic, so thank you.
Todd: You're welcome. This is a good time for me to say this. We're not here to be financial forecasters tonight. That's not why we're doing this. We're doing this because we care for people. We love God's Word. We know it's true. We know it's sufficient in every situation and, we're going to find out, even when our country is doing what civilizations have done for centuries in violation of these things. We're just showing you that God's Word is sufficient and that he has a road map for you even in times like this. You've done a great job of that in your book.
Ethan: I want to start out by talking about three goals for tonight. The three goals are what you need to know (the facts), what you need to do (the plan), and what you are thinking (Q&A time). That's my agenda for tonight as we talk about this topic. I want to start out by talking about a story. It took place in my life a number of years ago. I was on a flight from Chicago to Memphis, Tennessee. It was an early morning flight. We'd have been in the air for probably about 20 or 30 minutes.
The captain comes on the intercom and says, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have an important announcement to make. We've just lost power in one of our engines, and we'll be making an emergency landing in Evansville, Indiana." An eerie silence filled that plane, as people were folding their Wall Street Journal newspapers, their USA Today papers, and quietly putting them away. Mothers were holding their babies closer, and I'm sure everyone was praying. Even if they didn't know God, they were still praying.
Shortly after that, I heard a man laughing out loud. I glanced up. One row over and one seat up, I saw a man watching a movie on his laptop. He had big earphones on, listening to the movie. There was a man right in front of me who was sound asleep and didn't wake up until we landed in Evansville, Indiana, and, boy, was he surprised. A few minutes after this man started laughing, the flight attendant came by and tapped him on the shoulder and informed him of the drama that was taking place on the plane.
Todd: So he had to shut off Dumb and Dumber.
Ethan: That's right. So he removed his headset, turned his computer off, put it away, and prepared for landing. We eventually landed in Evansville, Indiana. No problems. The fire trucks and emergency crew were there. As I thought back about that event in my life, something came to mind. There's a parallel between what happened on that plane and what I believe is going on in America today.
There are people in America today who are on alert and well informed. There are people who are distracted and are entertaining themselves and watching a lot of movies and really couldn't care less what's going on. Then there are those who are asleep. I think the question all of us need to ask ourselves tonight is "What category do I find myself in? Am I on alert, am I focusing on being entertained, or am I asleep?" Our goal tonight is to cover these three things.
You mentioned last week about Ezekiel 33, the watchman on the wall. For the last seven years, I have tried to be that watchman on the wall. I've committed a large portion of my life researching and studying this topic, the economy, and also just from a biblical perspective. Four years ago, I wrote a book called America's Financial Demise, and it was simply an economic book…all the facts, all the data.
When my wife and I would go over to friends' houses for dinner, they were always asking me, "Ethan, what are you working on these days?" So the economy would come up. We would leave every evening with everybody just depressed. After about a year, we were driving somewhere, and my wife said, "Ethan, do you think maybe we can not talk about the economy tonight?" I said, "Sure. I'm all in with that one now. Let's just avoid that."
We want to move beyond just the facts and data that really become depressing. What I think we need to do is to live like the sons of Issachar. First Chronicles 12:32: "They understood the times with knowledge of what Israel should do." You threw up a chart last week on the growth of the national debt. You're going to see a lot more slides tonight. When people see that, what kicks in is cognitive dissonance.
We want to push it away. We want to get rid of it. We want to ignore it and hope that one day it will go away, but, simply, this is not going to go away. Some of you might be looking like this. You want to put your head down and say, "I don't want anything to do with this." So starting out, what I'm going to say is a view from thirty thousand feet above. I want to set the framework for what this is all about.
The first thing we have to say is Democrats and Republicans are both responsible for the crisis we're in today. Did everyone hear me on that? Do not be sending Todd and me emails saying we're bashing a president or something. I'm saying that Democrats and Republicans are both responsible, and the data is there to verify it.
The second one is our economic problems are symptoms of our spiritual problems as a nation. God has not promised perpetual prosperity to any person or any nation, and it includes the United States of America. Even though we are the most powerful nation in the world, God has not promised America perpetual prosperity.
Todd: I'm going to tip my hat a little bit. This is what's so amazing about the whole immigration issue we're facing and we're going to touch on next week. Not only has God not promised perpetual financial blessing to America but he never intended that it would be limited to America. God's design is not that America would be the only place where you could pursue prosperity and freedom.
He wants every country on earth to be a place that folks would want to go to and find that freedom, which is why our hope should never be "Bring everybody to us." It should be "Take the Word of truth that made us a great nation for so long to them." That's a little tip of the hat toward next week. These principles we're talking about are not American principles. The reason God gave this book to Israel to begin with… He said, "I'm going to bless you with this declaration, the revelation, in order that you might be a blessing."
That's why we're doing this again tonight. We are just saying if we're people who have a relationship with God, who believe God has spoken to us, we want to make sure we are ready to do what God wants us to do, which is to encourage and equip people to live in every kind of economic system with a sense of security and hope and a correct biblical mindset, whether you're prospering or whether you're not.
Ethan: Another framework for tonight. We do not know whether God's plan for America includes continued economic prosperity, judgment, or perhaps another spiritual awakening, but I think we're about to find out. When the economic storms come ashore, we will have the greatest opportunity for ministry in the history of our nation. There's an opportunity on the horizon, but the question is…Will we as individuals and will we as a church be prepared to be involved in the greatest harvest in the history of our nation?
Todd: We've said this a number of times. Most people never look up until they're flat on their back. So much of our nation's security is built up in our position in the world, the prosperity which is still here, which is amazing. Last year in this most prosperous nation on earth, 17 percent of our country experienced not just real food insecurity about not knowing where their next meal was going to come from but with a real sense, especially in children, of "Can I find the nourishment I need?" That's in America.
One of the things we want to make sure we say is we do think the coming potential economic collapse if this unsustainable economy doesn't sustain itself… Not only is that going to be a great spiritual opportunity, but we would never tell people to wait for the disaster to be spiritually assertive. Correct?
Ethan: That's part of the plan for tonight. That's part of the PREP plan. Spiritual preparation is first in order, not the last thing we think about. Totally agree.
Todd: Not only that, but one of the ways you get ready for a real test is during times of relative prosperity to use that as a time to be bold and to be declaring, not about the coming economic disaster but about the coming judgment for all men who are outside of relationship with God and don't live according to his revelation. So if you're not actively sharing your faith and loving and encouraging people and playing your role… You don't want to be the person who all of a sudden shows up when they're flat on their back. They're going to say, "Well, where have you been?"
So we want to be actively engaging right now. There's no question after 9/11 our country leaned in and said, "Does anybody have a word for us? Clearly, what we thought was going to be our security isn't as secure as we thought." We shouldn't be shaken in those moments. Obviously, we're not happy about the fact that innocent men and women died, if you can call anybody innocent (see what Jesus did in Luke 13, where he said, "What makes you think those who died are more wicked than you?")
Anyway, I think the thing you need to hear is when pain and crisis hits, that's when people do ask a lot of questions. Meanwhile, our job is to be engaging them right now with a lot of truth, not economic but biblical truth. That's what I love, Ethan, about what you've done here. The stuff you're writing about is not just relevant if there's a coming crisis. It's just relevant because it's always wise.
Ethan: I talk about it in the book, that people who applied the PREP plan principles during the prosperous 1990s benefited from applying those four principles. This is for today and tomorrow. This works at all times. These principles are timeless.
Todd: In every economy, every nation.
Ethan: Every nation, every economy, every person. We should view any peaceful years as God's gift of mercy, allowing us more time to prepare spiritually and financially. In other words, it's time for us to begin to put our financial houses and lives in order, if they're not already in order. That's just one of the reasons I personally serve with Moneywise. I want to take an opportunity to promote the Moneywise ministry that we're offering at Watermark, an incredible ministry that will help us prepare spiritually and financially for the days to come, whether they be prosperity or an economic crisis.
It's no longer about your children or grandchildren. How many times have you heard someone on the national news or radio say we're mortgaging our children and grandchildren's financial future? Over and over again. I want to say, after looking at the data and the research, it's no longer only about your children and grandchildren. It's now about you. It doesn't matter if you're 20 years old or 40 years old or 80 years old. It's really now about you.
Todd: It's here.
Ethan: Also Prepare is more about you, tonight is more about you and me than it is about solving the problems of the federal government. This is an exciting part for me about all of this. Prepare offers a platform, this topic offers a platform, an open door to share Christ with people, with coworkers, with neighbors, with family. Just bringing this up and people talking about it is that open door we need to understand.
So that's the framework we're operating in tonight. Those are the principles. I want to understand where we're coming from and who we're saying is responsible and the biblical framework for this topic. We have to lay that foundation.
Now just a quick overview. I believe there are four issues. There's the problem, the perspective, the plan, and the people. The actual problem is it's unsustainable. We're on an unsustainable course as a nation. The United States is on an unsustainable course and headed for bankruptcy unless things change.
Todd: And that's not just your opinion. That's what the GAO (Government Accountability Office) has been saying for…how long now?
Ethan: Since 1998.
Todd: They've been telling our Congress, "Hey, guys, this is not sustainable." In fact, you showed me that they went on to say, "I don't think unsustainable is transmitting to them," so they defined unsustainable as that which cannot continue. Correct?
Ethan: That will stop. Yeah.
Todd: Something that must stop.
Ethan: The Government Accountability Office sends a report several times a year and testifies to the members of Congress. I've read all of those reports since 1998. I went back and read those. What they said, over and over again…
Todd: More than those. Right?
Ethan: Oh, this is a small sampling.
Todd: Bro, can I give you some advice? Not only do you need to stop talking about finances when you go to dinner but you need to get a better reading list. That's what I'm going to tell you. But thank you. You've read it so we don't have to.
Ethan: The GAO, the Government Accountability Office, an agency of our own federal government, has been consistently telling the 535 members of Congress since 1998… The word they use all the time is, "We are on an unsustainable course," and then they defined it. "Unsustainable means something that will come to a stop." Report after report after report, they've been telling Congress, "We have a problem." So those are the reports.
Many of you hear about Social Security. This is the annual report that the Social Security Administration sends to Congress and is available to anyone who wants to download it at home. This is the 2014 annual report of the trustees of Social Security. Todd, I want to give this to you as your Christmas present.
Todd: Thank you. It's soon fire season out there, so we now have kindling.
Ethan: The perspective. What does God's Word say about economics, eternity, nations, and our individual responsibility? The plan. It's personal. Begin to take personal responsibility to develop a plan and help others do the same. Finally, people. It's global. Every person in every nation will be affected in some way. Todd, I'm just going to fly through these, and you can slow me down if you need to.
Todd: Yeah, we're going to go quickly, because we want to get to those most asked questions.
Ethan: The facts we need to know. Some of this you saw last week, and some of this is new stuff. Three terms everyone needs to know: budget surplus, budget deficit, and national debt. Don't get those terms confused. A surplus: if $10,000 comes in and expenses are $9,000, you have a surplus of $1,000. A deficit: if $10,000 comes in and you spend $12,000, you have a deficit of $2,000. A really simplistic illustration.
The United States government in 2013…$2.7 trillion came in, $3.45 trillion expenses, $680 billion deficit. Illustrated. Todd used this last week. For an average family, how would this look? Revenues of $27,000 and $34,000 of expenses means a $6,800 deficit or overspending. You ask the question, "How can a government or family have a deficit?" There's only one way. It's to borrow the money. That's the only way you can do that.
This leads us to the term national debt. Overspending creates the debt. In other words, that deficit we had in 2013 of $680 billion creates the debt. US government, 40-year history… How have we been doing with surpluses and deficits? Thirty-six years deficits, four years surplus, and even in surplus years we did not pay down the debt; we simply spent the surplus.
Understand this. Deficit budgets flow into and grow the national debt each year. So our national debt of $17.9 trillion right now is the sum total of all of the past deficits and compounding interest on the national debt. Deficits flow into and create the national debt. Right now, as of November 5, a few days ago, there is $17,938,000,000,000 in debt.
Note the trend. Note how fast it doubles. It took our nation over 200 years to reach $1 trillion, yet from 1981 to now, 2014, we've added on $17 trillion. The projections are from 2009 to 2017 the debt will grow from $10 trillion in 2009 to $20 trillion in 2017, projected.
Todd: We're going quickly. I walked a little slower through this last week, but it's great that we're being reminded of this. We debated whether or not to spend any time on this. We felt like it would be good. What the government does on this… Tell them this term: Keynesian economic theory. That's a strange word, but it's very simply explained. Tell them what Keynesian economic theory is.
Ethan: The theory basically is when there are economic problems it's the government's job to put money into the system to help solve the economic problem. So the focus on that economic theory is it's the government's job to step in and to stimulate the economy.
Todd: To spend more money. We know our current administration (again, it just happens to be a Democratic one; that's not the point) has said very publicly, "Gang, this isn't working. We're not going to be able to keep this thing going, so what we're going to do is spend more money to make it work." In other words, increase the debt to deal with our debt crisis.
Ethan: It only takes one chart to understand the problem. There are two critical points. If you look at the actual data from 1981 and 1982 you will see that's when unacceptable deficits started out. I know many people don't like for me to use the name Ronald Reagan. It became acceptable under his administration for these deficits to start growing. Now they were not large ones, but they started the process.
So you see a curve there in '82. Then you see in 2009 that other critical point. Who's responsible? We said earlier both political parties are responsible. Presidential colors are there, with red Republican and blue Democrat, and you have who controlled the Senate, who controlled the House. The fact is it has been a mixture of both parties being in control.
The fact is the national debt has not decreased in 56 years. That is, if you go and look at the debt on September 30… Our fiscal year as a nation ends on September 30. It's not a calendar year. If you look at the national debt each year, you will find it has not decreased in 56 years. During the year it might go down a little bit, but on the fiscal year end it has not, even during the four years there was a surplus.
Now the positive power of compounding interest works for you when you're on the investing side of interest, but the compounding interest works against you when you never pay down your debt and borrow the money to pay the interest due on the debt every year, as the government does. So what happens is that a significant portion of the future growth of our national debt is due to the compounding interest. Sure, deficits are playing in, but the compounding interest is there every year.
Todd: It would be like an individual having a credit card that they can't pay off the principal, and the compounding interest is starting to hurt them, so they get another credit card to pay not just the minimum payment (they can't even make that, which would take it down a little bit) but to pay just some of the compounding interest from the last 30 days. They use another credit card to pay for that.
Ethan: So the total amount due is still the same.
Todd: And your debt is increasing.
Ethan: That's right. Not paying it down. Now here's something that surprises a lot of people. I call it the interest rate time bomb. On the almost $18 trillion we have in national debt right now, the average interest rate is about 2.4 percent. Over the years, the Federal Reserve and the government have driven that interest rate down, simply so we can afford the interest on the national debt. The 30-year historical average for interest is a little over 6 percent.
Look at some of the numbers here. Fiscal year 2014 that ended on September 30 of this year, our interest was $431 billion that we paid. Our total revenues (get the context for this) were $3 trillion. By 2017 it's projected we'll be at least $20 trillion in debt. What if the interest rates were to go back to a historical average of a little over 6 percent and we had $20 trillion in debt? That means our interest for one year would be $1.2 trillion.
Todd: Which is a third of our revenue.
Ethan: Which will be a third of the revenues coming in.
Todd: Okay, but this is where people would say, "Hey, look. We have this thing controlled, because we're the ones who set the interest rate." Our Federal Reserve, which is supposed to be independent from our government, but let's just say we could influence it… They're going to keep those interest rates artificially low, because it's going to cause a great crisis if we don't.
Ethan: They are doing that, and they will do it as long as they can do it, but there will be a point where they simply cannot continue that, and market pressure will come in and force those interest rates to go up.
Todd: By that what you mean is basically no one is going to want to borrow money at those low rates from the United States government as good-faith credit, which is why we've started to borrow some of that money from ourselves.
Ethan: That is why the Federal Reserve is actually buying a portion of the debt in order to keep interest rates down so we can afford the interest on the national debt. If it goes up to 6 percent, we're at $1.2 trillion. Well, what if it went up to 11.5 percent? You say, "Ethan, how can you even put a slide up there at 11.5 percent?" In this stack here I have a printout from the treasury department, October of 1982. Do you know what the average interest rate for our national debt was on that date? Just take a guess.
Todd: Well, some of us do because we were buying homes at that time or whatnot. I'm going to guess it was 11 percent. It was probably higher, wasn't it?
Ethan: How about 11.5 percent? There is historical context to bring in this to say if they were to go up that high again we're at $2.3 trillion in interest.
Todd: So two-thirds of our revenue just to service debt.
Ethan: That's correct. We're sitting on an interest rate time bomb if and when the rates go up.
Todd: How quickly can we wrap up? I want to start to drive to "Okay, what do we do?" and some of the most commonly asked questions we've received.
Ethan: Let's take maybe three or four minutes. Erskine Bowles commented, "Debt is like a cancer." We have this small window of opportunity before it becomes mathematically impossible for our nation to control the debt. Interesting one here. In 2008, the United States government paid $1.2 billion in interest every day. This is the same amount as paying to build one Cowboys' stadium every single day.
Todd: So you're saying we could have had average football teams all across the country had we just used our money wisely.
Ethan: Yes, that's exactly right. Someone asked the question, "Have we passed that point of no return?" You gave the illustration… Where are we in this Niagara River? What year are we now, and when will it be to that point that we're actually going over the falls? This is key. In order to stop the growth of the national debt due to deficit spending, we must first create a surplus in the budget in order to begin paying down the debt.
Until we create a surplus in our budget, the debt is guaranteed to increase at an exponential rate even if we balance the budget. Did you hear that? Even if we balance the budget, the exponential growth of the national debt will continue due to the compounding interest only on the principal.
Todd: What you're basically saying is we can't just deal with the current annual deficit. We have to run a surplus so we can service what's already there, because the compounding interest is so far out of control it's going to kill us.
Ethan: We're at that critical point due to the compounding interest. We talked about the adjusted monetary money rate. The question here is…What do you see? When you look at these charts, what do you see? Proverbs 27:12 says, "The wise man sees danger ahead and prepares; the fool ignores the facts and simply suffers the consequences."
Finally, what do we know and not know? I have to summarize it this way and be extremely clear in our time tonight. We do not know exactly how this is going to happen. We do not know exactly when this is going to happen. Neither one of us is talking dates or projections like that, but we do know that it will happen unless our nation changes course. So that's the overview of some of the facts, and we can get into some of the questions now or we can talk about the PREP plan.
Todd: We're going to get to the PREP plan, but let me just… The number-one question whenever you share this information… It was really interesting. One of the things I got this week was, "Todd, you do a great job with God's Word, but you're a lousy economist." That was some of the feedback I got.
I actually had people forward me letters and reports by their financial advisors to counter what I said the prior Sunday. My goal wasn't to try and be their financial advisor. My goal was to say, "Open your eyes." We already quoted Proverbs 27:12. I think I quoted Proverbs 22:3, which is "The prudent see evil…" Evil is behavior that is contrary to wisdom, truth, and goodness.
"The prudent see evil and hide themselves, but the naïve proceed and inherit folly." They suppress the truth and, professing to be wise, they become fools. I have heard a lot of pushback. You hear some pushback. What's the most common form of pushback you get? What's the number-one question people ask in general, and then also what's the pushback, like, "Come on, Ethan"?
Ethan: Two great questions. The number-one question I am consistently asked over the years is, "Ethan, how do I prepare financially?" The number-one question. No close second. I thought about that for months and months, working up that answer and trying to respond to that question.
Then I was out walking early one morning. I love to go out and walk early in the morning, because that's my best thinking time, prayer time, and Scripture memory time. I thought, as I was communicating with the Lord, "Everyone is asking the wrong first question." The first question for all of us should be, "How do I prepare spiritually?"
Todd: That's always the question.
Ethan: Matthew 6:33: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added to you." The first question is, "How do I prepare spiritually?" The second question, which is important, is "How do I prepare financially?" Pushback I receive… I've given this presentation in a lot of places to, I believe, a lot of smart people. The best pushback I've ever received is "Ethan, America is great, and somehow we're going to figure this out." That's the best pushback anyone has ever given to me.
No one can say the data is false. These are the facts from our own government, and these are numbers. I didn't make these up. When you look at the data and if you're honest in analyzing the data, you cannot say our nation is not on an unsustainable course. Our own government says that. Others are saying that. The data reveals that. But that's the best. Now I have also received emails that have been forwarded to me from people with their financial planners, and we're thankful for financial planners and that they help people properly manage their resources.
Todd: I would just add this. We're thankful for financial planners, even Christian financial planners, when they give sound financial advice, and it's not sound financial advice to say, "We want you to use your money to increase your money so you can be more comfortable in the future" when they define the future as your finite life. That's not good financial advice, and that even contradicts Scripture.
We should be wise like the ant and prepare for the coming season, but that doesn't mean we're trying to accumulate great amounts of wealth and pass it on to generations to come so we don't have to worry. Jesus' number-one motivation for you to be generous is for your financial future. When you read Matthew 6, when Jesus gives financial counsel to you, he gives you the motivation to be storing up for yourself treasures that rust won't destroy, thief won't steal, and moth won't eat.
What he's saying is "Be really wise." Now he does tell us we should make provision for coming seasons, but he's saying the longest season you're going to have is eternity, so you'd better live in light of eternity with whatever you do. A lot of financial advisors… All their advice is focused on this side of eternity, and that's not biblical, not wise, and not Christian.
Let's just say this. On a scale of 1 to 10… I know we don't know when and we don't know why. How certain are you that there is going to be some economic event that's going to be earth-shaking? I showed last week those charts, how the wave is building and how if it keeps the continued course it's on, this next time it's going to be one that's going to make the 1930s look very familiar, to say the least. So based on your professional opinion, what do you say?
Ethan: The probability of an economic crisis happening increases every year. As the data grows, it increases. In fact, a number of years ago, when I was first getting involved in teaching on this topic, I sat down and showed my PowerPoint presentation to my wife and daughter and son, and my daughter looked at me after the presentation and said, "Dad, are you really sure about this?" I've thought about the way she asked that question hundreds of times over the last few years.
The more I study the data and read reports from our own government and listen to people like David Walker, who wrote a lot of these reports as the comptroller general of the United States of America, I believe the data is there to say that every year the probability grows and, looking at the stats, is very high. But no timeline.
Todd: We handle questions like this in Moneywise. Moneywise is a ministry we have here at Watermark that Community Groups, members, individuals can go through in order to learn to be wise with money, which is to be spiritually informed with the stewardship that is money. One of the questions we get… It's very practical. It's even related to this. Is it ever okay for a Christian to file bankruptcy? How would you answer that question?
Ethan: Look at Psalm 37:21. It talks about that the righteous man repays. I have never in 25 years of financial ministry advised anyone to take the course and the path to file for bankruptcy. I've known a lot of men and women…
Todd: Everybody who someone owes them money just clapped. By my quick calculation, it's about 3,000 to one that we owe money and don't have it owed to us. The principle there is we don't give surety for ourselves and then just say, "It got kind of hard. All I can do now is beg for mercy." There's nothing wrong with begging for mercy.
As Christians, we do that all the time, but you want to be an individual who says, "I'm going to do everything I can to acknowledge that what I did, maybe out of greed, irresponsibility, an 'everybody else was doing it' mentality…" We're not supposed to be like everybody else. Just because our society lets you do it doesn't mean we should. Our society lets you abort a baby. It doesn't mean we should. Our society lets you look at pornography. It doesn't mean we should.
We are aliens and strangers. My Bible says I'm supposed to let my yes be yes and my no be no. What we can do is come up with a strategy that's reasonable, that allows me to continue to eat while I do this, but to begin to work our way out and not just to say, "I'm going to go hide behind this system that allows us to go 'olly, olly in come free.'" So there's a very practical answer to a very difficult question. What would you say to somebody who goes, "I've done that a couple of times already"? How would you counsel them?
Ethan: To get their financial house in order, to begin living according to God's principles, to begin to be intentional in their planning and budgeting, to live on a budget, to control their debt, to save a small portion to plan for the future, and just to implement basic financial principles. This is told at Moneywise.
As you look at God's Word and study the topic of faith, there are about 500 verses on faith, about 500 verses on prayer, but more than 2,000 verses that deal directly and indirectly with money and possessions. God's Word has great principles if we just apply them, put them into practice. It talks about the wise man in Matthew 7. "Hear these words of mine and put them into practice."
Todd: So our counsel with anybody who has had any kind of lifestyle that has been irresponsible is what Jesus came right out of the chute saying: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." You've made decisions previously. Let's say you were unfaithful maritally. You don't just go, "Well, I'm a guy who's unfaithful maritally, and I'm going to probably do it again." You repent.
You begin to order your life so you wouldn't get yourself back there, and you go back and seek forgiveness, you make amends, and you begin to restore a life of trust. You trust in the Lord. You do good. You dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness, Psalm 37 says. You turn it around and acknowledge the harm you have brought to others with your irresponsible living and do what you can to make restoration.
How about this? Let's answer a couple other questions we have down here, because I don't want to get too macro in the economy. Let's talk about the PREP plan. Ethan's book is very accessible. Sometimes you read books about financial situations and you're like, "Oh my gosh." Ethan wrote this book so you can understand this so you can communicate it clearly to other people. I looked at it a lot before I spoke last week. I met with Ethan, I read the book, and I compiled this stuff. I pulled charts from the book.
In there are very practical steps. Remember what his wife said? "Hey, let's not just depress people. Let's give them a road map." I think that's why a lot of folks are here. They go, "I want to do the right thing. What do I do in light of the coming economic storm?" The answer is what you always do when there's a coming economic storm or coming economic prosperity, which is prepare spiritually.
Ethan: That's step one.
Todd: Let's just give them (and you do this in your book) the four major characteristics of a person who is serious about preparing themselves spiritually.
Ethan: If I can just set up the PREP plan, and then I'm going to cover those four points. The PREP plan is what most people are looking for. They're looking for, "What do I do since this situation is coming? How do I prepare?" There are four primary ingredients: (P) prepare spiritually, (R) reallocate resources, (E) economize your lifestyle, and (P) pay off debt.
The thing about the PREP plan we need to understand is that the PREP plan will work anytime. Meaning, it will work during the economic seasons of prosperity, recession, or even depression. It will work for anyone regardless of age, status, race, or nationality, and it will work anywhere. Meaning, it's going to work in any country.
The two examples I'll draw from that answer "How do I know these four principles work in people's lives…?" Well, you have the Great Depression. You study the Great Depression, and the people who applied these principles… They didn't know the PREP plan back then, but they applied these principles. They were prepared spiritually, allocated resources, economized their lifestyle, and had low debt.
Many of them actually prospered financially during the Great Depression. Not everyone lost everything during the Great Depression. In the prosperous 90s, those who did not put all of their resources and investment money in tech stocks… They applied these principles. They prospered, and they avoided the tech crisis. So, prepare spiritually. Four quick points. It all begins with relationship with God. Do you know God? Do you have a relationship with God?
Todd: There's that "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." This is where I'm going to tell you, gang, God's Word is sufficient in every circumstance, and it's always the right thing to do to not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. That doesn't mean the prudent see evil and don't prepare themselves, but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
That means you have to have a relationship with Christ. You have to deal with the fact that you're not pursuing life and true freedom based on God's declaration. Get that straight, and then it'll start to affect the way you have your financial house in order, and you don't just get swept up in the American way…massive student loans, bankruptcy when it gets difficult, spending more than you make, leveraging up with credit cards.
We go, "Everybody does that." We are not to be everybody. I can't say that enough. We are to live distinguished lives, that the world goes, "If everybody lived like you, this would be a better place." It wouldn't be the great party, because you couldn't run it on up for a while and then deal with reality later. That's what children and fools do, and may it never be said that children of the King are not wise or are rebellious against wisdom. So seek first the Lord. Have a relationship with the Lord. Secondly?
Ethan: Know God's Word. Study, meditate on, and memorize God's Word.
Todd: Focused and intentional study of God's Word. We need to spend some time coming up with an app that would send people God's Word every day so they would know what to read, where they could journey through God's Word and fellowship with others and discuss it. Note to self, jointhejourney.com. Let's work on something like that so we can equip people.
One of the things I want to tell you about Ethan… The Bible talks about disciplining yourself for the purpose of godliness. One of the examples he gives in this book… His wife Janet, who's a member of our women's ministry, is a really amazing person. Janet has done these things in her life. She is focused and intentional. Just like the national debt might blow you away and you kind of go, "I don't know what to do with that the number is so big," here's something true about a member of our body.
His wife has memorized over 140 chapters of God's Word. The book of Revelation, memorized. Hebrews, memorized. The Sermon on the Mount, memorized. Pastoral Epistles, memorized. James, memorized. The book of Ruth, memorized. Now this is not because she's brilliant. Beautiful and smart, but she's not some savant with a photographic memory.
Ethan: That's correct. She's disciplined. She's organized. She gets up early, most mornings probably at 5:00, meditates on God's Word, studies God's Word, memorizes God's Word, reviews books she has memorized. I live with her and see how she organizes her day, and she is so focused and intentional, because she loves God's Word so much she wants to store it in her heart.
Todd: She has written a book called His Word in My Heart, where she talks about what she does. Gang, this is what I'm trying to tell you. I'm not asking you to go memorize 140 chapters of God's Word. I'm asking you to memorize one verse, and not just memorize it but to apply it.
Janet would tell you the only thing harder than memorizing God's Word is living it. Jesus would tell you a fool could memorize every chapter in the Bible, and if he doesn't apply it he's still a fool. What makes you an individual who is wise and who is going to be ready for the storm, which falls on the fool and the wise man alike, is when you… Matthew 7:24-27.
Ethan: Put the words into practice. "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice may be compared to the wise man that built his house upon the rock."
Todd: Do you hear what we're trying to tell you tonight? The way to begin to deal with our national debt crisis is not to stroke a $17 trillion check but to begin to live rightly and righteously today, to spend less than we take in, to address our sin and our self-indulgence, to begin to create… This is a question people have asked.
I'm going to divert just for a second, because people say, "Well, isn't our growing national economy the solution to this? As long as our GDP keeps growing, aren't we going to be okay? Didn't the tech boom of the early 2000s kind of kick the can down the road a little bit? Aren't we going to be okay? We are exceptional America. We're innovative and hardworking, and we'll figure this out by growing our GDP."
Ethan: If I could find the report, I'd pull it out right now. The Government Accountability Office has stated in a report to Congress that we are past the point, documented, of simply growing the economy to solve the problem. That's their documentation. That's not what I'm saying.
Todd: Those are the experts who advise our nation.
Ethan: We're beyond the point of simply growing the economy to solve the problem. We're past the point that that can alone do it.
Todd: It's one of the things we need to do.
Ethan: It has to be a combination of growing the economy and decreasing spending and then looking at tax revenue. They're saying it has to be a combination, but just the fact they're saying we can grow the economy… We're past the point.
Todd: Let's finish this quickly. Seek God first. Get your relationship right with God. Know God's Word. Thirdly in the PREP plan for being spiritually ready, we talk about the fact that we need to be constantly… I've talked about engaging the culture, sharing your faith, being prayerful.
Ethan: The third thing is pray consistently, pray continually. First Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray without ceasing."
Todd: This is not rocket science. This is so frustrating, Ethan. Don't you have some magic little green bean that's going to grow a stalk to freedom?
Ethan: Todd, this is what you do every Sunday. This is what Watermark stands for: being intentional in our relationship with Christ, in our walk with God. This might frustrate some people when I speak it, and it might frustrate some tonight. The focus and the key to this issue in preparing is, first of all, spiritual preparation.
I am convinced with the men I know and meet with who take this seriously, who walk with God, who pray James 1, "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously…" If we're prepared spiritually, God is going to give us that wisdom financially to be putting our house in the right financial condition.
Todd: You're not saying he's going to tell you whether to bet on red or black, Apple or Google. What you're saying is that he will show you the foundational wisdom practices that are good for 1930s depressions or 1990s prosperity. It frustrates people. We could make a zillion dollars off folks telling them we have the seven keys of financial security and charge you $9.99 and get you to come, where you're going to hear somebody just whisper one little truth.
Gang, it's right here. It's being declared to you from the heavens. God wants you to have life, liberty, and happiness, and that's what Ethan is going to tell you. I love what the fourth thing is. Individually get right with God. Individually be intentional and focused on God's Word, not just knowing it but applying it. Be a person who's prayerful and proclaiming that hope and wisdom to others, and then the last one…
Ethan: Live in community.
Todd: Don't do it alone.
Ethan: Go through life with others. Iron sharpens iron. We need to be asking others, "What are you doing? What are you thinking? How are you processing this? How are you preparing for this?" Living in community.
Todd: There are some times that you can live a very wise life, and something is not going to go well with you, and you're going to need others around you to take care of you. Sickness. You can be hardworking, and there can be a season of drought. There need to be other people who can come and care for you.
So be connected. Don't just show up and go, "Hey, help me." Be in relationship. Live in community. We beg you that all the time. I don't want that to frustrate you, but, everybody, here's the word:
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
Now let's go to the second thing in the PREP plan.
Ethan: Reallocate resources.
Todd: One of the questions that came in was, "Hey, my husband and I were about to make some investments. This all makes me very hesitant. Should I not make investments? Is that what you mean by 'reallocate resources'?" Should I buy a bunch of Krugerrands and gold chains and become a rapper? What should I do, Ethan? Tell me. You look like you had a career in hip-hop for a while before you did this. No? Okay. Just a guess.
Ethan: Reallocate resources. What we're simply saying is that you take the resources you have and make sure… The common word is to be diversified. That was Ecclesiastes 11:2: "Divide your portion to seven; yea, I say eight, because you do not know what misfortune might happen on the earth."
Todd: So you're telling me diversification is a biblical principle that if you just read your Bible you'd see it.
Ethan: Yes, that's correct. Ecclesiastes. Take an example of during the 1990s. I knew a lot of people who put a huge portion of their resources in investments into the tech stock sector. It was returning 40, 50, or 75 percent per year. Everything went that direction. When the bubble burst, they lost 70 to 80 to 90 percent of their resources because they were not diversified. So we say to allocate them. That's the key word. Set apart for a purpose. Distribute according to a plan.
In all seasons of life, especially when preparing for an economic storm, we need to be confident that we're evaluating and allocating (deploying is a word I like too) our resources in alignment with God's Word and sound financial principles, now more than ever before. Here's where I step aside to many financial planning concepts and say that giving is a part of your investment reallocation and thinking. It serves as the foundation for your investments.
Todd: It's the best of all investments.
Ethan: It's not a category on the side. You don't have giving over here and investments over here. It's the foundation for the reallocation of your resources. There is no risk involved. There are eternal rewards. Giving is the most important aspect of your resources. No risk. High return. Jesus' words: "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."
I know our time is running out. I can fast-forward about 15 to 20 slides and get to the final picture for reallocate resources. Giving is the foundation. Small surplus. Not an emergency fund but a small surplus. In my opinion, when a tire goes out or the hot water heater goes out or you need to repair your roof, that's not an emergency.
An emergency is when you lose your job or when a financial storm comes ashore. So I say a small surplus and then an emergency fund. Then you have investments, and you have them diversified into at least seven or eight categories, and that's kind of your big picture of what I'm talking about with reallocating resources.
Todd: Okay, somebody might go, "Hey, this is great. What if I'm a hand-to-mouth person? What if all I can do is just live?"
Ethan: I actually address that in the book. At the end of this chapter I say you might be a single mom on very limited income. Do not let this overwhelm you. You simply do what you can. Start setting aside a small portion if you can, but even for a person who can do this, come back to the spiritual basis. Our trust and security is in God, whether it be a single mom with limited resources or someone sitting there managing possibly a large amount of money.
Todd: This is why you need to be connected. There are going to be people in our body that no matter what they do, where they're going to be at economically for a while, maybe for a long while… They are what the Bible calls in 1 Timothy widows indeed. They're pure, they're hardworking, and because of the system of that day, widows indeed needed some help and assistance from the broader community.
You can't just show up in the crisis. You need to already have lived in community with us. There is never going to be a member of Watermark who is going to be homeless or financially vulnerable who has been abiding with Jesus, abiding with us, as long as any of us have provision, but we need to begin to communicate and share that information right now, today.
Let's do this. Some people say, "Well, do I just move out of the country? Do I get out of here?" I'm going to answer this question. I want you to think through what you want to make sure you let them hear in the next three or four minutes as we shut this down. People ask, "What do I do? Do I just CLEP out of America? Do I get out of here? Do I go to another place?" No. God has you here. What you do is live a holy life in the midst of a people…
You be a bright and shining star in the midst of a dark and perverse generation. You do prepare yourself in every way that you can and seek the welfare… This is Jeremiah 29:7: "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile…" We're here as exiles. We're aliens and strangers among them. "…pray to the Lord on its behalf…" That's what I beg you to do with the American Prayer Initiative. "…for in its welfare you will have welfare."
You don't need to leave America. Make America great. The way America is great is when Americans are great. So what you have to do is pray, purify your own life, and proclaim God's better way. People ask, "What's the church going to do when the crisis hits?" The answer is if the church is ready and we have equipped the saints, we're going to have little platoons, churches, all over this city.
You're not going to pull out your AR-15 and shoot them when they come for your beans and ramen noodles. You're going to say, "I told you I loved you. I've done what I could to be ready. I'm as diversified as I could be. I know other people in this city who will care for you. In the name of Jesus Christ, what I have I do give to you. We'll share it together, and God will provide more or we'll starve together.
Yes, you've been irresponsible. Yes, you've mocked me, but the grace and mercy I've received I eagerly extend to you. But you have to begin to live wisely with me today. I'm not just going to send you back with a bunch of food so you can go and live riotous lives. I never should have done that. I need to ask your forgiveness that I didn't do more to vote for people who wouldn't have let you do that for the last years. But meanwhile, I'm ready."
The church is trying to be ready. We don't have one distribution center. You are God's plan A, and there is no plan B. You are the church. You are his lights in your neighborhood. If you need help prepping, don't watch Discovery channel; read God's Word. The way you're a doomsday prepper is by knowing Jesus, knowing his Word, knowing how to share the gospel, and being wise with all of these things.
If you're somebody who is hand-to-mouth, we're not going to ask you to spend $10. Just walk up there and say, "I don't have any discretionary money." Commit to signing up for Moneywise. We'll give you a book. Some of you guys have money. Pay for the book and sign up for Moneywise, but read this thing, because it's thick with Scripture. Ethan, what's your last word?
Ethan: One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13. At the end of Apollo 13, when the capsule is getting ready to reenter the atmosphere, there's a conversation taking place between two of the people at the Houston control center. The person turns to one and says, "This could be the worst disaster in America's history." The chief who overheard that conversation… I'll never forget this. He stood up straight, straightened his tie, turned and looked at those two men, and said, "With all due respect, sir, I believe this could be America's greatest hour."
The message I have for the church and for all of us is that this is our opportunity. Church, this is our opportunity. Do not live in fear. Seize the opportunity. Do not retreat or play defense. Do not walk out those doors depressed or discouraged. Know your facts. Live like the sons of Issachar, who knew the times and knew what Israel needed to do. When we speak and communicate with people, we speak with kindness and love.
Memorize 1 Corinthians 13, one of the first chapters I memorized years and years ago. Use the economy and the news as a platform, as a door opener for conversation for Christ, and finally, live for Christ, walk with Christ, take the opportunity to be salt and light in the world in which we live, do what God has called us to do, and simply remember that, truly, for the church… I believe we're going to have the greatest opportunity for spiritual harvest in the history of our nation, and as a church, let's be prepared. Thank you.
Todd: We want to be people who practice the beginning of wisdom. We fear the Lord. We're not scared of God. We just know his Word is good and true. Gang, the reason I'm doing this Declaration series is so you can share it with others and say, "Listen to this message, and let's talk about it." At the end of each of these messages, I give you the PREP plan.
Ethan and I did not put our heads together. We just read the same source material. It's not complicated, but it won't be easy, because you live in a world that wants to eat, drink, and be merry right up until the days of the flood. Be God's man or woman. This is your moment. We believe in you. We want to spur you on to love and good deeds.
I wish we could close by having your wife tell everybody what is going to happen by having her quote the whole book of Revelation. That's what's going to happen. But we don't have time for that, so let me just pray for you.
Father, I pray that we would not just be money wise; we would be life wise. I thank you for saints of God who have been intentional and focused and have prepared themselves so they can play a prophet's role. Lord, I know it's your desire that we would raise up a sea of prophets, that the church would be gathered to be equipped and scattered to be faithful, that your name might be declared in all of the earth.
We don't want just America to be great; we want every nation on earth to be filled with good news and, frankly, Lord, we know that's your plan: to go and make disciples of all nations, because you want every nation, not just America… You want Mexico and Guatemala, you want Thailand and Saudi Arabia to know that relationship with you is possible, and where relationship with you is present so are wisdom, kindness, hope, freedom, and the way of life.
Lord, we hold, every single one of us, your Word, and we don't want to scoff at it. We want to believe it, trust in it, learn it, abide with it. We want to read it in. We want to pray it in. We want to live it out. We want to pass it on, just like you did when you were here, that we'd be your servants. Would you use this book? Would you use God's Word to make us ready?
Father, help us to be ready. That's what it says all through Luke 12: be ready, be ready. We don't know if an economic storm is coming. We do know that a bigger storm is coming. Help us to walk in great freedom. You are the one we should fear, respect, love, and cling to. For the glory of the Father, furtherance of the kingdom of the Son, and the good of your people I pray, amen.