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A Perfect Plan - December 27, 2023

Published 2 months ago • 7 min read

December 27, 2023

The Equipped is turning one year old! This issue marks 52 straight weeks of our community gathering together to grow in the grace of viewing our world through the lens of the True and the beautiful! We wanted to mark the occasion by inviting you behind the scenes for a video greeting from The Equipped "studio" (translation: a converted end of the Bennett barn):


The True

A Perfect Plan

God has a perfect plan, and that plan is His Church!

That is my paraphrase of John 14, and it is a major reason why you and I engage so specifically around this effort to view our world through the lens of the True and the beautiful. It is because our God has vested His entire plan for our world in a manner that invokes our participation!

Here is the shorthand of John 14 (I encourage you to read the whole chapter on your own):

1) God the Father has a place for us, and Jesus the Son is preparing that place (vv. 1-3)

2) Jesus the Son is the only way to know God the Father and to claim the place being prepared for us (vv. 4-14)

3) The Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father at the request of Jesus the Son, is our helper and our advocate here on Earth (vv. 15-31)

That is the holy game plan, friends! We talk about this in many different ways here at The Equipped, and from all sorts of angles and perspectives, but the bottom line is that our three-in-one God is working to bring glory to Himself, and He so desires relationship with us that He has written us into His perfect plan for accomplishing that mission!

No matter how many times I express that idea, it gives me a bit of a holy shiver of excitement! Consider it again this way: The almighty God, creator of the universe, lacking and needing nothing, has chosen you to play a leading role in His story. It should take your breath away and fill you with a holy confidence.

We should also note the context for John 14. Jesus is preparing to leave the physical world He entered as a baby. His disciples are disheartened by the prospect of being left alone. Jesus, knowing this, presents a multi-layered assurance that God will never leave them. In verse 18, Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Consider the several miracles in that promise. God has, by his own volition, chosen you! He has made you His own. You will never be alone. He sent His Son from His place on high to come to your place on Earth and redeem you. Finally, He left His Holy Spirit here on Earth to be with you until the day when you go home to the place He has reserved for you, and which His Son is preparing for you!

It is a plan that seems too good to be true. A plan that started with a baby in a manger and required death on a cross, but which now abides in you in the form of the Holy Spirit.

You are no longer an orphan. You have been chosen. God has come to you.


World

Early Christmas in Ukraine

Christmas came earlier than usual in Ukraine this year when the country joined most of the world in celebrating the holiday on December 25. Until this year, Ukraine formally celebrated Christmas according to the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, which observes Christmas on January 7. The move is the latest in a series of decisions to further separate Ukraine from Russia.

Analysis and eternal perspective: This is more than a human interest story on a number of levels. First, it will carry significant changes for large numbers of religiously-affiliated Ukrainians. While the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (only recently independent from the Russian Orthodox Church) will continue to follow the Russian liturgical calendar, most Ukrainian Christians will now observe the holiday in sync with most Christians around the world.

Next, the move sends yet another cultural signal that Ukraine is severing all ties with Russia in response to the nearly two-year war that remains ongoing after Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. While peace remains elusive, this is yet another sign of Ukraine’s natural insistence that peace be predicated on freedom.

Finally, and most personally, this story implores Jesus followers of all backgrounds and from all corners of the world to live as though Jesus came to Earth in human form, felt the struggle of the human condition, and paid the ultimate sacrificial price in order for you and I to walk in personal relationship with the holy God.

The reality of that sentence should pack a punch. It should radically change us. It should inform everything we do. It should be the foundation of everything we are.

Jesus came to this world in human form. That is part of the story the Ukrainian people now celebrate in unison with most of the world. The true miracle, however, is not the date on which any one of us celebrates. The miracle is in the stunning reality that Jesus came to our world in the form of a human infant, and lived a life that changed everything.


World

U.S. Military Attacked in Iraq

The United States carried out air strikes on multiple targets in Iraq early this week. The strikes were ordered by President Joe Biden, and were in response to an attack on the U.S. military base in Erbil, Iraq, which critically wounded one U.S. service member and injured two others. These attacks, carried out by the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, are the most recent in a series of escalating hostilities, as the militants express support for Hamas and blame the U.S. for supporting Israel.

Analysis and eternal perspective: Once again, these developments are tragic, but unsurprising. Iran is the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and has long sided with both antisemitic and anti-American terror groups. All escalation of violence is sobering, as is the sustained public rhetoric from both Iran and Hamas that Israel must be eradicated.

As Jesus followers, we are warned to be wary of “those who call evil good and good evil” (Is. 5:20). Hamas continues to call for the destruction of the Jewish people, and Iran continues to support Hamas with its words, its resources, and its violent proxies. This is an unadulterated evil, and, while we are to endeavor to be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18), Isaiah also reminds us that evil knows neither peace nor rest (Is. 48:22; 57:20).


U.S.

2024

As the calendar begins to turn toward 2024, the U.S. presidential election moves toward center stage. Both major political parties will soon nominate a candidate, and while political momentum can change very quickly, all signs currently point to a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Analysis and eternal perspective: It is time to buckle in for 2024. For many Americans, the prospect of another bitterly divided presidential campaign is discouraging. Recent polling suggests that nearly 60% of Americans would be either “very” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with both Biden and Trump as a nominee. More than anything, these paltry support levels indicate the extreme polarization in American politics, as they indicate near-zero support from independents for either major party candidate, and even scarcer cross-over support. The bottom line is that America is deeply divided.

Adding to this divide is the fact that both major candidates have significant legal and political baggage (President Biden is facing an impeachment inquiry and his son Hunter is under criminal indictment on charges that implicate the President, while former President Trump is in court on charges related to his business dealings, as well as a series of cases arguing that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies him from holding office). Each of these cases warrants separate consideration, but for purposes of looking ahead to 2024 and charting a path toward flourishing, we as The Equipped should start by acknowledging the significant challenge presented by the extreme polarization in America, and by extension the world.

In many ways, the freedom to dissent and engage in an open and robust public debate is a blessing of liberty. It is a blessing that has often not been afforded to humankind, and the American people are blessed with the opportunity to shoulder such freedom and responsibility.

If you are a Jesus follower in America, you too are blessed with this liberty. You are also, however, blessed and tasked with a mission higher than “winning” that public debate. To be sure, there is significant import—even distinctions between truth and evil—in some of these debates. But your ultimate mandate is so much higher than victory in any political scheme established by men. You have the privilege of being a citizen of heaven (Philip. 3:20), and of being an Ambassador for Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

As we prepare ourselves for a year where so many forces will pull us away from our primary mission, let’s together as The Equipped family determine to model a better way forward. The current approach to civic engagement is not satisfying most people. May we lead the way in modeling an approach that draws all people to the only true source of satisfaction!


The Beautiful

The Lamp's Light

I have long been fascinated that God’s Word is likened to a small lamp (Ps. 119:105). God so often leads us in a fashion that reveals just one step at a time. It is His beautiful way of building relationship with us as He leads. Take the step His beautiful Word reveals to you today, and trust Him to reveal tomorrow’s step when the sun again rises.


Thank you for a great first year! We look forward to serving you in 2024! If you want to help sustain The Equipped by giving on a monthly basis or at any level you choose, we invite you to join the team!

If you are planning your year-end charitable giving, we invite you to check out A Fearless Life, which exists to find and fund a family for every adoption-eligible foster child in America! Your gift to A Fearless Life is tax-deductible, and every dollar goes to an adoptive family.


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