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(Public Domain Pictures)

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its third and final estimate for third quarter GDP. Real output grew at an annual 3.2 percent rate in the third quarter, compared to 3.1 percent in the second quarter. If the fourth quarter also grows at a rate of 3 percent or more, it would be the first time in 12 years of 3 percent growth for three connective quarters.

The Census Bureau reported November new home sales at a very strong annual rate of 733,000—17.5 percent above October (the largest percentage increase in 25 years) and 26.6 percent above the year ago number. The median new home price is $318,700 (down 0.3 percent for the month, but up 1.2 percent for the year).

The U. S. labor market is strong and strengthening. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows via its data document that the current 4.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in 17 years. During 2017, we have seen a record low (with 45-plus years of data) Latino unemployment rate and the lowest black unemployment rate in 17 years. Approximately 17 million jobs have been added, including 171,000 in manufacturing.

Stock market prices incorporate current and expected economic conditions and profits. The U. S. stock market has been on a roar. To date, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index has established 70 all-time record highs during 2017—an average of a new record about every four days. Before this year, the Dow had never increased 4,000 points in a single year. During 2017, it increased more than 5,000.

The newly signed "Tax Cut and Reform" law should add significant stimulus to the economy and will benefit most families. The Tax Foundation expects the law to add another 1.7 percent to GDP, increase wages 1.5 percent and create 339,000 new jobs. On the personal side, a near doubling of the standard deduction, increasing the child tax credit and lowering all tax rates will benefit most individuals and families. A new tax calculator from MarketWatch allows those interested to compute their expected federal tax liability under the new law.

The U. S. economy is at the beginning of a turnaround. Some argue that the economic improvements have been large enough to call it a turnaround. Regardless of what it is called, things have improved. The standard of living has improved, more people are working,  wages are up slightly, stock prices are at near record highs and the new tax law will put more money into most peoples' pockets.

Many believers need a personal turnaround, and God is the author of these. His Word gives principles which are to be followed and examples of people(s) throughout the ages who have obtained theirs.

The first book of Chronicles describes the sons of Reuben, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who were facing the Hagrites, among others. From their experiences, we can discern five principles of victory:

    • Principle 1: Be brave and courageous (they were described as "valiant");
    • Principle 2: Be equipped (they possessed weapons);
    • Principle 3: Be skillful (they were skillful in the use of these weapons);
    • Principle 4: Pray (they cried out to the Lord in battle); and,
    • Principle 5: Trust in the Lord (their prayers were heard because they trusted in the Lord).

The sons of Reuben, 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).

The story of Gideon also gives insight into how to experience turnarounds (Judges 6-9). Israel was oppressed by the Midianites. The Lord used Gideon to defeat 135,000 Midian soldiers with 300 men. The principles gleaned from His experiences will help all of us obtain our turnarounds if we apply them to our lives. The Lord does not change. But perhaps we need to change.

Principle 6: Expect miracles. Gideon had a correct understanding of miracles, even though at first he had only heard about them.

"Then Gideon said to him, 'O my lord, if the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us? Where are all His miracles that our fathers told us about?'" (Judg. 6:13a).

Principle 7: Recognize your esteem and ability come from the Lord. Gideon suffered from low self-esteem. The solution was recognizing the Lord was with him.

"And he said to Him, 'O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house.'  Then the Lord said to him, 'But I will be with you, and you will strike the Midianites as one man'" (Judg. 6:15-16).

"The angel of the Lord appeared and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor'" (Judg. 6:12).

Principle 8: Make sure you are hearing from the Lord before taking action. Gideon wanted to make sure that he wasn't deceived. He asked for signs three times (Judges 6:17, 36, 39). We don't necessarily have to ask for a sign, but we should be sure we are hearing from the Lord. Check the Scriptures. Get wise, godly counsel.

Principle 9: Have faith and be obedient. Once assured that he was hearing from the Lord, Gideon was obedient in all. It takes faith to tear down your father's idols, to reduce your army from 32,000 to 300 and to attack an army of 135,000.

Principle 10:  Give thanks and dominion to the Lord. Gideon expressly gave dominion to the Lord.

"Gideon said to them, 'I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you. The Lord will rule over you" (Judg. 8:23).

Having just celebrated the most miraculous birth in history, let us decide to give Him the glory by overcoming. He is able. He is willing.

The Russells send our warmest Christmas greetings and best wishes for the New Year.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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