It’s obvious to regular readers of this investment newsletter that 2015 was not a good year for the Value Focus portfolio. To eyes of flesh, it appears to have been disastrous. Of course, my investment decisions have been 100% driven by faith for some time now, at least to the best of my ability. So, while eyes of flesh believe that things look terrible, eyes of faith can see that I am right where I’m supposed to be!
That being said, I still thought it would make sense to do some type of quick performance review. There is no relevant benchmark for the investment strategy I use. If there were, say, a universe of Christian money managers who managed equity portfolios based on the leading of the Holy Spirit, then I guess there might be a relevant benchmark. But no such benchmark exists. Further, I don’t know of anyone who is taking large concentrated positions in highly distressed equities. Indeed, the volatility is so high with this strategy that a normal performance review is not very useful nor insightful. The real issues to be considered when thinking about my investment strategy, and its results thus far, are these:
1) Jesus Christ is either faithful, or he is not faithful
2) I actually belong to him, or I don’t
3) I am actually led by the Holy Spirit, or I am not
4) He knows how to lead me and work things out according to his will and his good purpose in spite of my sinful nature, mistakes, and so on, or he doesn’t know how to do that (i.e. he is somehow limited by my limitations, or he isn’t).
I could go on, but I think we all get the idea. So, without further ado, I will simply point out that the Value Focus portfolio began the year with $106,460.46 worth of market value, and ended the year with $47,620.07 of market value. So, the 2015 return was -55.27%. Here is what the portfolio looked like as of year end 2015:
So far, the market value of the portfolio has continued to fall in the new year. Before you tell me to quit my day job, I should remind everyone that this is my day job. I lost my investment management career in February of 2009. For about 3 and ½ more years after that, I continued to be destroyed by my enslavement to sin (i.e. what the world calls drug and alcohol addiction). Then, having turned to Christ and been set free, I began to pray about what God would have me do professionally. The idea for a Christian investment newsletter came about, I believe around January of 2013. I began working on the idea immediately and the website was up and running by October 2013. In November of 2013, I launched the Value Focus Newsletter (then called Dividend Focus) to zero fanfare (not much different from today 🙂 ). In January of 2014, a family member’s retirement portfolio was placed in my hands to manage. In July of 2014, I began to share the actual portfolio I was managing with readers of this newsletter, and to pursue a much different strategy that was driven by my faith. To this day, I have all of my eggs in this basket, so to speak. I am trusting the Lord to use this portfolio, website, and newsletter to restore and rebuild my professional life. Though it's worth noting that my professional life will look different and be for a different purpose than it used to be.
Why Do I Keep Going?
But things have seemingly gone very bad for me from very early on. So, why am I still here? Why am I still doing things that seem crazy to everyone else? Why am I not completely panicking over the seemingly hopeless state of most of the stocks and companies represented in this portfolio? Because my faith is not in anything I can see. My faith is in Jesus Christ, alone.
I do follow the news. I follow these companies as well as any news that might affect the prices of their securities. But I don’t put my trust in those things. Jesus has promised to deliver me and to lift me up at the proper time. At the end of the day, that’s all the assurance I need. I don’t know what form his rescue and deliverance may take, so I watch news closely. I eagerly watch and wait for his rescue and deliverance day in and day out. It has been a very emotional process, with many ups and downs.
However, at the end of each day, I know who is in control of it all. That’s why I don’t fall completely apart, panic, and change course when OPEC doesn’t cut production, oil prices keep falling, climate change accords get struck, the EU extends Russian sanctions, Iran and Saudi Arabia’s tensions become inflamed, and so on and so forth. I watch those things. But my trust is not in OPEC. My faith is not in any investment bank’s forecast of oil/gas/coal prices. My faith is absolutely not in my own human ability to see clearly into the future. Again, I think we all get the idea. My faith is in Jesus Christ!
That’s why I’ve been able to spend the last several days praising the Lord with joy and peace that are indescribable to anyone who has never experienced those things. As I’ve said, I have ups and downs because I still live in a body of flesh. But when I am walking according to the spirit, when I have my eyes on Jesus, it does not matter how difficult my circumstances are. I can experience joy and peace in the midst of them! This is not unique to me, but I do believe it is unique to Christians. Just the other day, God blessed me with the opportunity to attend a church service inside a prison. I listened as a prisoner expressed tremendous joy and gratitude, tears streaming down his face, as he reflected on how good Jesus has been to him.
Jesus Christ Is Not A Fairy Tale
That brings me to a relevant side note. I saw an internet meme recently that said, “Zeus is God. Haven’t you read the Iliad?” The point the meme creator was making was that the Iliad is really no different from the Bible. In that person's estimation, they are both just ancient books full of stories that are based in fantasy. Is it a valid argument? Maybe, if it’s not examined any further. I’m sure there are plenty of good rebuttals from apologetics (i.e. Christians who are smarter and have put more time and thought into their responses than I have). I have a question though. Where are Zeus’s witnesses? Is there anyone alive today who is testifying to the fact that Zeus has saved them, healed them, delivered them, made them whole, and imparted peace, righteousness, or joy to them? Is there anyone around claiming that Zeus has completely changed their lives? If he does actually have living witnesses, do you find them to be credible? What is the fruit of their lives?
One thing that really bothers me is to see the increasing number of people who refer to the Bible as a “fairy tale”. If we keep testing the Lord, he may very well demonstrate to us that he is not a fairy tale. But we will almost certainly regret having tested him when he does!
Here's The Part About Earthquakes
Speaking of that and of my deliverance, I have of course imagined many different scenarios and forms that it could take. I have heard other Christians testify that deliverance always, or at least normally, happens for them in some way that they couldn’t possibly have imagined. That may very well end up being the case for me as well. I have imagined so many different ways that I couldn’t even begin to list them. However, there is one scenario in particular that concerns me, so I’ve decided to share some thoughts on it publicly. I have briefly mentioned it in the past, but will give further thoughts today.
Again, I do not claim to know what is going to happen. But, the possibility that concerns me most is the potential for large earthquakes that are associated with land based oil and gas activity. Obviously, I am concerned for the people who live in areas that might be affected by such an event (or events). I am first and foremost concerned for their souls. People everywhere need to wake up and realize that this life is extremely short:
yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. – James 4:14, ESV
There is no sense in living for the things of this world:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2:15-17, ESV
Those things are true for all of us no matter where we live. However, if you live in Oklahoma, Texas, or other areas which are experiencing earthquakes associated with oil and gas activity, take some time to consider the following:
1) The earthquakes have been increasing in frequency and intensity for some time now. That makes them highly analogous to birth pains. Take some time to read Mark 13:8, and Matthew 24:7-8. Jesus warned of earthquakes and used birth pains as a metaphor for them! In Luke Chapter 21, we see that he warned of “great earthquakes”. So, to recap, he appears to be warning of earthquakes that increase in size and intensity, eventually becoming “great”. That’s something to seriously consider given what is happening in places like Oklahoma and Texas! Are these earthquakes going to continue to increase in frequency and intensity? Are they warnings or signs from the Lord?
2) Many people in America seem to be shaking their fist at the Lord in just about every way possible. The more God has blessed America, the more we seem to turn away from him and oppose him. Yes, God’s people have been warning of impending judgment for what seems to us to be a long time. However, that is in keeping with scriptural examples (e.g. the worldwide flood) which show that God sometimes warns people of his coming judgment many years before it actually comes. His patience and mercy and forbearance toward human rebellion are great, but they do come to an end at some point. Do we really want to keep testing the Lord? Are we that determined to see how far we can push him? He stands ready to offer us mercy and grace and blessings that we can’t even imagine, if only we will repent! But right now, that does not appear to be happening on a large scale. In fact, the opposite appears to be happening. Large earthquakes could of course be physically devastating. They could also wreak havoc on the U.S. economy through the devastation of certain industries, extremely high energy prices, and so on. They certainly could end up being a form of God’s discipline, correction, and judgment.
3) The greed associated with many of the companies that appear to bear responsibility for these earthquakes appears to be extreme by just about any standard. Beyond the issues addressed at those last two links, I personally believe the shale industry itself was largely built upon deception. The Bible has a lot to say about greed. One theme I see in the Bible is that, as with all sins, it doesn’t end well for those who practice it.
4) Over the last couple of weeks, Oklahoma and Texas have both experienced earthquakes, flooding, blizzards, and tornadoes. All of those things happening at the same time appears to me to represent a rare occurrence. Might all of those be warnings from the Lord of something worse to come? Either way, I pray that people in those places and all over our country will turn away from their sin and set their hearts and minds toward serving the Lord! This is a critical message for anyone, no matter where you live: Turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved while you still have the opportunity!
5) Right now, you have a Christian who operates a Christian investing website who is telling you that God has led him to invest largely in extremely high risk coal and offshore oil and gas stocks. From my limited human perspective, these companies pretty much need some kind of drastic event (or events) to occur in the near future if they are to survive and thrive. I am also telling you that the Lord has promised me that he will deliver me from all the trouble I am facing. Again, I cannot say that God has shown me anything definitive in regard to earthquakes. I haven’t heard any word from the Lord that large earthquakes are definitely coming to the U.S. I just know that large earthquakes which prove to be devastating to the shale oil and gas industry would certainly be a very effective way for him to deliver me. In fact, beyond various combinations of multiple events, I'm having trouble thinking of any way that might be more effective.
6) When I recently wrote articles on another site pointing out some of the many risks I saw to the U.S. shale industry, the enemy used several “critics” of me, my articles, my faith, etc. to attack me repeatedly. One of them even explicitly attacked my faith and proclaimed the superiority of his idols. Those people are obviously invested in the shale industry and therefore did not like what I had to say. In the past, my response to anyone trying to hurt me was to attack them 10 times as hard. However, I am living a new life in Christ. While I fell very short of God’s righteous standard, I tried very hard to respond the way I believe God wanted me to respond. But, the enemy can be persistent at times. Sometimes we must resist him with a good bit of effort and for quite some time before he flees. As best I can recall, I prayed sincerely to the Lord and told him I wanted to please him, and would do whatever he wanted me to do, but asked him for help in how to view and deal with the situation. This is what he told me, immediately after I prayed that prayer:
“Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.” – Philippians 1:28, NLT
That is the exact scripture he gave me, from that exact version, right after I prayed about that situation. When I read it, I knew that the Holy Spirit was giving me a clear answer about that situation. Again, I can’t draw any firm conclusion regarding how God is going to deliver me from these troubles. But, I am telling you plainly, just like he has told me, that he is going to deliver me.
My sincere hope for anyone reading this, no matter where you live, is that you will fall to your knees and seek the Lord Jesus Christ earnestly. We are all going to leave this world one day. So first and foremost, seek him about the salvation of your own soul if you are unsure about that. Secondly, seek him about the salvation of others and the repentance and revival of the people of the United States! If you are a Christian who lives in Texas or Oklahoma or other areas experiencing oil and gas related earthquakes, call special prayer services at your church to seek the Lord’s mercy and salvation for your neighbors and communities, and to seek his guidance. That is really all I know to say on these topics, so I will leave you with this scripture:
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? - Joel 2:12-14, ESV
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.
May the Lord have mercy on us all!
In Christ’s Name,