August 9, 2023
From the very beginning, God’s pinnacle of creation—mankind—has grappled with the difficult task of effectively governing itself. God designed each of us—His created—to be free (Gal. 5:13), and He also instilled in us wondrous capacity for organization and collaboration. This week, The Equipped will take a trip around the world and get a glimpse of this dynamic challenge in real time. Our goal will be a better understanding of God’s perfect design, and of our ability to impact events to that end.
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What do You Want?
Do you want what Jesus came to give you? It might seem a strange question, but as I recently listened to my friend Joshua Symonette preach on the blind man, Bartimaeus, whose sight was restored in Mark 10, it struck me that I so often approach my conversations with God backwards.
For example, I so often begin with my own circumstances and what I need. If my budget is squeezed, I go to God and earnestly ask Him to provide relief. If my family is struggling with something, I ask God to fix it. If I am sick, I ask for healing. Essentially, I start by evaluating my situations, and what I want or need, and then I invite God into those things.
But God’s desires and ways are so much higher and greater than yours or mine (Is. 55:8-9). God desires to remake our hearts more like His (Ez. 36:26). He wants us to desire what He desires! He wants us to ask for the thing He came to give us!
In the case of Bartimaeus, yes, he wanted to see (v. 51)! But that is not where he started the conversation with Jesus. Instead, he started the conversation by simply crying out for the very thing Jesus longed to give him: mercy (v. 47-48). Bartimaeus first longed for a change of heart. As a result, his more tangible need—eyesight—was met, as well, but he started by evaluating what it was Jesus had come to give him, and he asked for that!
What is it that Jesus came to give you today? What does His Word say, and even promise, about what you are facing today? It may be different than the temporal need you feel, so really press in: What has God said He has come to give you in your current place of need? He is a good father who gives good gifts (Matt. 7:11), so whatever He has come to give you, ask for that! You may not realize it just yet, but it is the very thing you need most. So ask for the thing that your God has come to give you!
Opposition Not Allowed
Alexei Navalny, the most public political critic and opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges related to his political foundation work. It is the fifth conviction of Navalny handed down by Russian courts, and Navalny has already been behind bars—often in a small isolation cell—since 2021. After the sentence was issued, Navalny said, “I understand perfectly that, as many political prisoners, I’m serving a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.”
Analysis and eternal perspective: Governing a free society requires two components (among many others) that are very tricky to accomplish together: 1) Everyone, including those in power, must be accountable to the law, and 2) Those in power, and therefore largely responsible for ensuring accountability under the law, must exercise restraint in how they use that power.
For as long as men have been trying to govern, these two ambitions have proven elusive. It is human nature for those in power to use that power to suppress opposition voices while looking the other way when allies flout the law. It is also human nature to cling to power rather than hold it loosely. These pursuits contribute to the American experiment being both dynamic and more fragile than many realize. We’ve come to expect peaceful transfers of power, as well as the exercise of prosecutorial restraint by those in power. Neither are assured. In fact, history tells us that both are frequently abandoned.
Putin’s tactics to silence opposition, and his obvious exclusion from accountability under the law, should serve as a warning signal for the rest of the world. Those in power must be held accountable for their actions. Proverbs 11:1 warns us about dishonest scales that favor those in authority. At the same time, those in power must show restraint as they enforce the law. The biblical example of Joseph serves as a model, as Joseph, upon finding himself in power and with the authority to mete out deserved punishment on those who had wronged him, chose to exercise restraint instead.
Ultimately, this is a heart issue—for both our leaders and us. Today, are you holding your preferred leaders accountable for their actions? Am I exercising restraint where I have the power to retaliate for wrongs done against me? Both actions can feel like acquiescence. In reality, they are essential for the survival of our republic, and for the flourishing of our faith.
Assassination Plot Foiled
A plan to assassinate Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was disrupted this week, according to officials in Ukraine. The officials say a woman was caught “red-handed” providing Russia with details of Zelensky’s upcoming travel plans, as part of a Russian effort to kill the Ukraine President. Officials in both Russia and Ukraine have accused the other of trying to assassinate their leader, but this week’s incident was a particularly public reminder of the brutality facing the people in the region.
Analysis and eternal perspective: It is tempting to believe that what is happening between Russia and Ukraine could never happen in your neck of the woods. But the truth is that the events and the conflicts there are the natural destination for human inclinations that are not tempered. I recently read through the books of Judges, I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles. To be honest, they are frustrating books, because they depict a human cycle of turning away from what is right that seems so simple and easy to avoid. But God’s chosen people fell into that same trap again and again.
If God’s chosen people are so prone to missing the mark, we must be vigilantly aware that so too are we! Fortunately, God’s Word gives us great hope and vision for charting a better way! We are to respect our authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), while leading upright lives that prioritize service over selfish ambition (Rom. 13:8-14). It is actually an incredibly liberating reality to commit ourselves to service, while leaving vengeance to our God (Rom. 12:19-21).
For the first time since 2011, the U.S. government’s credit rating has been downgraded by one of the major credit rating agencies. Fitch Ratings, in explaining the rationale for the downgrade, blamed “erosion of governance,” as well as, “repeated debt limit standoffs and last-minute resolutions.”
Analysis and eternal perspective: This is not a surprise to The Equipped community. You and I have been preparing for this reality by dealing with facts rather than rhetoric when considering America’s debt and spending habits. In fact, the only thing that should be surprising (but really isn’t) is that those who know best still claim to be surprised. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called the downgrade “puzzling” and “entirely unwarranted.”
As we make a habit of doing here at The Equipped, you and I can prepare ourselves in advance for the premeditated brinksmanship that is being deployed to manage our fiscal policy. We know another spending deadline is coming, as well as a debt limit deadline, and we are equally aware that no changes have been implemented to alter that reality. This knowledge does nothing to reduce the importance of accomplishing those changes, but it does allow us to avoid being surprised by the arrival of either deadline or by the news of a credit downgrade.
We’ve been given so much in this country—especially in financial terms. We are truly blessed. As a result of this blessing, much is required of us (Luke 12:48). Rather than be surprised by a credit downgrade, we should work together to address the spending crisis that grips us.
Hold Each Other Up
One of the most beautiful gifts we’ve been given is the opportunity to journey within a community of Jesus followers. One of the primary functions of The Equipped is to serve as a place where we can hold each other up in our mutual pursuit of His glory. There will be challenges in life, but there is great beauty formed though the process of supporting each other.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thes. 5:11).
God came to give you freedom! So ask Him for it! Endeavor for your desires to align with His, and He will provide what you most need! Thank you for being a part of The Equipped community!