May 24, 2023
Hidden in the woods! This week's edition of The Equipped explores the spiritual wonder of being hidden in Jesus, and also the beauty that can be found in your local neck of the woods! We are so glad you are here, and we invite you to journey with us toward viewing everything in our world through the lens of the True and the beautiful!
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If you are a follower of Jesus, God sees you as the perfected work of His spotless Son! Colossians 3:3 says it this way: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Hidden. What an image that word conveys! Each of us has things we are ashamed of, and shortcomings that, in and of themselves, separate us from God. But in His eyes, those flaws are entangled with, and overwhelmed even to the point of being consumed by, the all-surpassing beauty of His Son and the work that was accomplished on the cross! That work done for us should transform how we live and how we interact with those around us.
People let people down. It’s just reality. You can no doubt recall a time someone disappointed you, and you can just as surely remember an instance in which you were the one who disappointed. When Paul wrote his second letter to the church at Corinth, he said it this way: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be” (2 Cor. 12:20). Paul was trying to warn his friends in advance that they would each probably be a little disappointed in the other if they focused simply on what could be offered in their own strength. What an important reminder for us when we encounter disappointment with someone around us—or when we are the ones who disappoint! We should decide in advance to give grace, because that grace has already covered us and allowed us to be hidden in the perfection of Jesus.
One final thought to carry with you. Your life’s goal is to follow Jesus, not to please people. I chuckle a little at Paul’s candor about this reality when he says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the best strategy for winning a popularity contest. But the reward for bowing in service to the Almighty God is so much greater and so much longer! Your reward is that you will be found not as you are, but rather as one who is hidden within, and perfected by, the One who is the object of your affection!
A newly released 127-page court order has revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) misused its foreign surveillance authority more than 278,000 times in recent years. The investigation tool in question is authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and is intended for use on gathering intelligence on foreign individuals outside the U.S. However, the new court order reveals the tool was used sweepingly to gather information on U.S. citizens inside the country. These improper applications of Section 702 were used in cases involving everything from the U.S. Capitol protest and riot on January 6, 2021 to the racial justice protests and riots over the summer of 2020.
Analysis and eternal perspective: “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:20). The FBI and the broader law enforcement community play a critical role in maintaining our free and ordered system of government. Truly ordered liberty requires accountability for wrongdoing, and we in The Equipped community have frequently discussed the importance of respecting and submitting to God-ordained authorities over us (Rom. 13:1). However, it is equally critical that the law be respected by those to whom it yields awesome power and responsibility. When the law is flouted by those who wield its might, and then used against those who live under the authority of the law (in this case, warrantless intelligence gathering against U.S. citizens), it fractures the foundation of our republic. This is true regardless of how sympathetic (or unsympathetic) you and I find the targets of that application of power to be. The volume and scope of these improper applications is truly breathtaking, and it leaves the unshakable impression that the FBI culture was one where the ends justified the means, so long as the stakes of a particular case were high enough.
This is a sobering reality, but as Jesus followers, and as The Equipped community, how are we to respond?
First, let’s heed Matt 7:20 and clearly recognize the problem. The “fruit” from the FBI in recent years (including the findings of politically-charged infidelity to the law we discussed last week) is sour. While the role of the FBI is critically important and there are untold numbers of true public servants within its ranks (let’s resist the urge to react in a way that adds to the harm already done), the power we’ve granted to the agency has been repeatedly misused on U.S. citizens across the political spectrum. The fruit is bad, and we should recognize and acknowledge it.
Next, we should work together for a productive remedy. As Congress debates whether and how to reauthorize the FISA authorities in coming months, elected officials of every political persuasion should, at a bare minimum, decline to reauthorize the tools that were misused unless far stronger safeguards are put in place. After all, while the governed should submit to authority, those doing the governing are to be held to an even higher standard under the law.
Overcome Evil with Good
Leaders of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States) gathered in Hiroshima, Japan for the G7 summit over the weekend. The summit focused on the group’s shared concerns about both China and Russia, and in a show of solidarity against Russian aggression, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was invited to participate in some of the proceedings.
In a lengthy joint statement, the G7 leaders vowed to “support Ukraine for as long as it takes in the face of Russia’s illegal war of aggression,” and, while expressing a desire to “build constructive and stable relations with China,” pledged to “counter malign practices, such as illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure.”
Analysis and eternal perspective: Psalm 94 provides a helpful lens through which to view world conflict. It reminds us that judgement belongs to God and that corrupt nations and rulers cannot be aligned with Him. Even so, it can be difficult to determine how to apply this principle on an international stage. No nation, including the United States, is without blemish, but every nation should seek to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). As Jesus followers, we should, no matter our home nation, be constantly working to strengthen our own country’s right standing, and in turn standing up for what is just around the world.
Here is your three-sentence (no more is warranted) update on the debt limit debate dominating the news out of DC:
There is not a deal yet.
There will be a deal at some point.
Federal spending is still far greater than federal revenue.
Eternal perspective: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philip. 4:6-7).
As we consider what it means to be hidden, I invite you into a glimpse of why I love spending time in the woods, especially as it explodes with life at this time of year. This image, captured by my bride, says more about the flourishing, the mystique, and the serenity of the woods than could my words. So I invite you to linger a moment in its beauty, and then to perhaps find your own neck of the woods to enjoy today.
May you turn now and face the world from a posture of Truth and beauty, and fully equipped to offer the covering of hiddenness to those you encounter.
Thank you for being a part of The Equipped family! We are grateful to be on this journey with you!