August 23, 2023
As summer winds down and kids return to a school rhythm, we are grateful to have you in The Equipped community. May each of us stand on what is True and focus on what is beautiful as the seasons change!
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Is it Working?
It is a question all of us should ask with some regularity: “Is it working?”
Matthew 7:15-20 is a very familiar passage that reminds us people will be known by the “fruit” produced in their lives, and that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” It is incredibly tempting to use this passage as justification for evaluating the actions of everyone around us and rendering a judgement on them. However, the greater opportunity here is a chance to evaluate the fruit of our own actions, and to honestly ask the question, “Are the tactics I am currently deploying yielding the desired fruit?”
I have pretty strong opinions and views about a lot of things, and much of that is due to endeavoring to lead a life built on an authority far greater than my own—the authority of God’s Word. However, when I take an honest look around my world and my communities, I see tremendous opportunity for growth in the way I impact those relationships. I often see a wide gap between the impact I am trying to have and the actual result of my actions.
How about you? When you consider your impact on your various circles of influence—family, church, community, friends, political party, nation, etc.—does your impact align with your intended aim? More crucially, does it align with the authority of God’s Word? What is working, and how can you cultivate more of that? What is not working, and what do you need to change to correct it?
Zooming out from you and me specifically, what about in the larger context of our society, and specifically the public discourse? When I evaluate these questions on that larger scale, I confess to observing more that is not working than that which is. I sense we are retreating into tribes and talking past each other rather than pressing into community and welcoming the refinement that comes from close relationship with brothers and sisters (Pr. 27:17). I sense an appropriate alarm with the depravity in the world, but less concern with the inward-facing responses of fleeing temptation (2 Tim. 2:22) and being transformed rather than conformed (Rom 12:2) that we are called to.
We in The Equipped community desire to positively impact the world around us, and this is a tremendous tool for accomplishing that goal! We are invited to constantly check the fruit of our life, and then to look deep within ourselves to ascertain what is producing that fruit—be it good or bad. When it is good, we should cultivate. When it is not, we should take honest stock of what is not working, then recalibrate according to God’s Word and try again.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it (1 Thes. 5:23-24).
Southern California was soaked by a hurricane, rocked by an earthquake, and hammered by a tornado all at the same time this week! Hurricane Hilary made landfall in Northern Mexico before being downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved into California. Residents took no comfort in the storm’s slight weakening, however, as they endured widespread flooding, tornado warnings, and even a 5.1 magnitude earthquake as the storm roared through the state. Perhaps the only silver lining was the impact on several wildfires in the state, as the heavy rain aided the firefighting effort.
Eternal Perspective: As we pray for the residents of Mexico and California, and as we consider how we might tangibly serve them in their time of need, it is a good moment to ensure we are building our lives on that which storms cannot destroy. Matthew 7:24-27 reminds us that if we build our life upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, it will be secure against even the rain, wind, and floods. Hurricane Hilary reminds us that everything belonging to this world will one day pass away, but that which is built upon the Rock will endure.
Update: High Profile Legal Challenges
Note: We in The Equipped community are periodically checking in on the legal cases pending against former President Trump and Hunter Biden, the son of current President Joe Biden. We are updating these stories together not to assert they are factually the same—they are not—but rather to remind ourselves to apply intellectual and factual rigor to stories we may be attempted to view through our natural biases. As part of the effort to be thoroughly equipped for our call into every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17), we are considering these stories together to ensure each of us has the opportunity to practice objectivity in our pursuit of truth.
Update on cases pending against former President Donald Trump: A grand jury in Georgia has approved a fourth indictment against the former President, this time pertaining to his interactions with the electoral process in Georgia after the 2020 presidential election. The former President insists his actions were a legitimate challenge to the election outcome, while the indictment asserts multiple violations of the law, including election fraud and racketeering. All told, the indictment alleges 41 counts against 19 individuals in the former President’s orbit.
Update on the case pending against Hunter Biden: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a Special Counsel to oversee the case pending against Hunter Biden. The new Special Counsel, David Weiss, was already in charge of the ongoing prosecution, but now will operate outside the supervision of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Hunter Biden reportedly agreed to a previous plea deal offered by Weiss and the DOJ, but the deal was rejected by the judge hearing the case. Critics of Weiss’s appointment as Special Counsel cite the plea deal offer as evidence he is not an appropriate choice for Special Counsel.
Be Equipped: Regardless of your political persuasion, you should desire—and be devoted to—both truth and justice (Pr. 12:22; Jn. 8:32; Mic. 6:8; Is. 1:17). While this can be a difficult task to execute, you can start by truly evaluating the facts and circumstances at hand. In a legal case, a good place to start is to read the actual charges brought, as well as the response filed by the defense (Pr. 18:17 reminds us that a case is not clear until both sides have been heard). You can read the most recent indictment of former President Trump here, and his legal team will soon file a response. You can read the parameters of the plea deal rejected by the judge in the Hunter Biden case here.
Even if each of us operates in good faith, it is nearly certain we will still have differences of opinion after reading factual documents for ourselves. However, by doing so, we are then well-positioned to have informed and productive interactions with each other, and to do so with an aim of refining ourselves. This is anything but easy to accomplish, but it is infinitely more productive than the alternative, and it is the process to which Proverbs 27:17 invites us. We can do this together! We can model a better way for those around us!
A Debate Preview
The stage is set—maybe—for the first debate of the 2024 presidential cycle, as candidates vying for the Republican nomination gather in Milwaukee, WI. According to reports, nine candidates have qualified for the debate, but at least one of those nine—former President Donald Trump—says he will not participate. The eight candidates likely to be on the debate stage are ND Gov. Doug Burgum, former NJ Gov. Chris Christie, FL Gov. Ron DeSantis, former SC Gov. Nikki Haley, former AR Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and SC Sen. Tim Scott. The debate will air on Fox News on August 23, 2023 at 9:00pmET.
Analysis and eternal perspective: Debates are an effective way to hear directly from candidates and glean their approach to governing. They are also frequently filled with drama and personality clashes. Our goal at The Equipped should be to approach a debate like this with an intentional aim at flourishing, and a desire to ascertain who is best prepared to promote that flourishing. It is yet another opportunity to heed Pr. 18:17, and to objectively listen to all sides of an issue before rendering a judgement. You likely have a preferred candidate or two (in this debate or otherwise), but your participation in the election process is strengthened if you fairly evaluate his or her positions and actions.
One final thought: In the leadup to the debate, if you choose to spend any additional time with this story, it would likely be better spent reading up on the policy positions of the various candidates than consuming any of the commentary on the various networks. The former—which can be found on the candidates' websites—will enhance your understanding of the debate, while the latter is likely to simply increase your anxiety.
Light in Your Hands
So often, the most beautiful opportunity is the one already in your hands. This week, ask God to illuminate what it is He has asked you to set your hands to!
You have turned on my light! The Lord my God has made my darkness turn to light. Now in your strength I can scale any wall, attack any troop (Ps. 18:28-29).
Remember to ask, "Is it working?" When it isn't, refocus on what is True and beautiful, and on how you can serve! Thank you for being a valued member of The Equipped community!