January 4, 2023
Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Equipped! We're so glad you're here! Our goal at The Equipped is to provide a concise and easy-to-digest way to stay aware of the world around you while remaining focused on the True and the beautiful. Your mission is an eternal one. Our mission is to equip you for that work. We invite you to learn more about The Equipped and also dig a bit deeper into what we aim to provide you through this publication (this is a longer read, but we want you to understand the biblical mooring for what we are aiming to help you achieve). Let's get started, and don't forget to forward this to a friend and invite them to subscribe!
Made for the Mess
What a mess! There is very little consensus in our world today, but if there is one thing most of us seem to agree on, it is that we have made a mess of things! Communities, churches, and even families are more divided than ever. Division and animosity mark the times. It’s a mess, and the temptation is to throw our hands up and walk away. For those who don’t walk away, there is a constant urge to point the finger at those we think responsible, and to focus our lives on wresting control from them.
But what is true? Is the world a mess? Yes, it is, and that should come as no surprise to us. Jesus promised us this world would bring us trouble (Jn. 16:33) and Peter added that we would have to be peculiar and set apart from the world. (1 Pet. 2:9)
Jesus told us how to respond. In the very same breath He promised us this world would bring us trouble, He also said He was telling us that hard truth in order that we might have peace, and that we should take heart because He has overcome the world! (Jn. 16:33)
The world is a mess right now. In fact, it always has been, and it always will be. But let’s shake off both the temptation to walk away and the temptation to adopt a conquest mentality. Our God made a remedy for this mess, and He vested that remedy inside of you and me. We are made for this mess!
A New Congress
Divided government is back in Washington, D.C. For the last two years, Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. Voters, as they are historically prone to do, chose a return to divided government, electing a Republican majority in the U.S. House while adding one seat to a now outright-majority for Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
This week, the 118th Congress formally convened under this new power-sharing dynamic. If history is any indicator, gridlock will ensue, as the two parties are increasingly inclined to entrench rather than coalesce.
Visitors to D.C. will notice two additional impacts of this change. First, most of the U.S. Capitol will fully re-open to the public for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, more Members of Congress will actually be in D.C., as permission to vote by proxy because of the pandemic will no longer be granted.
Consider: Voters provide a vital check on power every two years. In order for those checks to hold real value, voters need to hold their own party—not just the opposition—accountable for the power it holds. We, as followers of Jesus, would do well to reaffirm our commitment to defending a governing structure that protects protects a wide array of viewpoints and belief structures. We should do so not because all belief systems are equal—there is only one way to the Father, but because the gift of salvation is freely offered and must be freely accepted. The ability to freely accept does not exist at the tip of a sword, but only when there is an option to freely reject. We are called to offer the Cross. Others will offer something different. Our mission is not to preclude the other offerings, but rather to demonstrate the supreme value of freely choosing the Cross.
Race to 218
Article I, Sec 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants Members of the U.S. House of Representatives the authority to choose their chamber’s leader. This position carries the title of Speaker and is, by law, behind only the Vice President in the Presidential line of succession. There is no stipulation the Speaker be a sitting Member of the U.S. House. However, current House Rules require a Speaker to be chosen before the new Congress can formally organize or begin its work. Those rules also require the support of an outright majority of Members who vote for a named candidate to secure the post. Because the new Congress begins with 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats, 218 votes are needed to become Speaker.
After Republicans won back the House in November, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was nominated by the Republican conference to be Speaker, but fell well short of the 218 votes he would eventually need to win the Speaker’s gavel on the House floor. He has been negotiating with his colleagues over the last several weeks to attain that level of support.
On Tuesday, when the 118th Congress convened, its first order of business was to elect a Speaker. Rep. McCarthy received only 203 votes (19 Republicans opposed) on the first ballot, triggering the first multiple-vote scenario for a Speaker election in 100 years. On the second ballot, McCarthy again received 203 votes. On the third ballot, his total dropped to 202, after which the House adjourned until noon on Wednesday.
As a result of this historic standoff, Wednesday, January 4, 2023 dawns with zero sworn-in Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. A fourth ballot will be called sometime after noon, and subsequent ballots will follow until someone can secure the support of a majority of Members voting for a named candidate.
Eternal perspective: We are citizens first of heaven, but ambassadors here on Earth. The affairs of men matter, but only for the ultimate purpose of glorifying God. God may call us to both lofty and lowly positions at various times in our life. Each are worthy of equal devotion, if He has called us to them, and we will need the support of others to fulfill our calling. Ambition can be productive, but it can also easily become a hindrance. We should allow the scrutiny of fellow believers to keep our ambition aimed at an eternal goal.
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mk. 3:25)
Newly elected U.S. Representative George Santos (R-NY) admitted to “embellishing” his resume, including his professional experience and educational background. Despite his admission, he is expected to be sworn in as a Member of the 118th Congress as soon as a Speaker is elected.
Exaggerations and falsehoods like these have become something of a norm for candidates in both political parties. What seems to have changed is the penalty for being dishonest with voters, as those who are caught in the act increasingly choose to apologize and remain in public office.
Apply: Let’s together endeavor to reject the example of elected officials, and to instead “choose a good name over great riches.” (Pr. 22:1)
Layers of War
War continues to rage in Ukraine. The “in Ukraine” portion of that sentence is operative in so many ways. It denotes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nearly unilateral responsibility for the atrocities experienced by the Ukrainian people, and his blatant disregard for national sovereignty and previously agreed-to instruments of law. It also serves as the focal point of the U.S. debate over how to honor its commitment to defend Ukraine from exactly this type of hostility without compromising national and fiscal security by overstepping U.S. authority around the world.
Meanwhile, the ugly layers of war continue to surface. Shortly after addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law granting his government more power to regulate domestic media.
Consider: How do we hold in tension the command to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) while also standing against the oppressor (Is. 1:17, Lk. 4:18-19)? As we grapple with that tension, we would do well to see through the popular competing narratives. There is no moral equivalency between Putin’s repeated violent incursions into sovereign territories and those nations’ defense of those sovereign territories. At the same time, acknowledging Ukraine’s moral high ground in the military operations does not excuse every war-time decision it makes. The U.S. role is also a tricky one, as it has both previous security agreements with Ukraine it should honor and a need to more carefully avoid overextending its military commitments around the world.
Each week, this section will highlight something beautiful—an act of service, a display of kindness, an unprovoked generosity, or something particularly special from the creative arts.
But for this inaugural edition, we want to lay a foundation for why beauty in the midst of a broken world matters. Why even bother with beauty? If the Earth is passing away and we are destined for eternity, why notice or care about beauty?
God gave us a glimpse of the answer in Ecclesiastes 3, where the author bemoans “the burden God has laid on the human race” (v.10), but then rejoices that “He has made everything beautiful in His time.” (v. 11)
Friends, God gives us glimpses of His beauty because He is making all things beautiful. As we grapple with brokenness and a fallen world, let’s make sure we notice the beauty that is emerging from within it. That beauty is an ever-growing gift from our Creator—a gift which will one day replace all that is fallen. But we can and should begin to enjoy it in the here and now.
We are so grateful to be in community with you! We live in a world fraught with peril, but there is no need to fear because we serve a God who has called us to lead lives marked by power, love, and a sound mind, and He has vested His solutions for the challenges in our world in His people—you and me! Let's together endeavor to stay aware of the times, focused on that which transcends the world, and equipped to serve those living in it!
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