October 4, 2023
It was a wild week on Capitol Hill. This week’s edition of The Equipped will focus on how we as Jesus followers should respond to the furious activity. We’ll also consider what to expect moving forward.
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On the Other Side of Disappointment
The phone call brought disappointing news. But on the other side of that disappointing news was the most important conversation of my day.
As I’ve shared with you before, our family is blessed to live on a few acres in the woods, and to share that land with a small assortment of farm animals. Ever since moving onto the property, we’ve been interested in purchasing an additional vacant parcel of land behind us, with a vision to eventually pass it on to our children. The owners of the vacant parcel are wonderful people, and are interested in selling it. There’s only one problem, and I’m sure you can guess it—the price! As is so often the case with a real estate offering, the hardest thing to do is determine a mutually agreeable price, and even if that is accomplished, the buyer has to be able to pay that price. In our situation, neither of those hurdles has been cleared, and the phone call was from a loan officer I’d been wanting to speak with to explore creative solutions.
Unfortunately, the news I received was conclusively negative. Because of our recent decision to follow God’s prompting and become self-employed, we could not show sufficient income history to even consider the financing options I had in mind. We simply didn’t have a long enough self-employed income profile to be considered. The answer was no before the conversation could even begin.
It was disappointing, especially because I felt our lack of qualification was directly tied to following God’s call on our life, and I was about to hang up when the loan officer asked, “What is Every Good Work?” He had seen the name of our new business on the loan application, and it sparked his curiosity. I briefly explained to him that it is a phrase found in 2 Tim. 3:16-17, and that our business looks for ways to equip followers of Jesus to make an impact in a wide variety of fields.
It was as though fresh breath filled his lungs as he exclaimed to me that his parents had been missionaries overseas, that he had lost them during the COVID pandemic after a prolonged inability to see them, and that our conversation had reminded him anew of the eternal impact of his parents’ lives, and how their investments in him had equipped him for the road ahead.
We talked for several minutes, encouraging each other in our faith, and in the call that God has made in each of our lives. When I hung up, Proverbs 16:9 rang loud in my heart: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
I had hoped this loan officer would offer a way forward on what I believed to be an inheritance for my children.
The answer had been, and still was, no.
I was back to square one on the course I had planned.
But the Lord had ordained and established my steps.
That loan officer needed comfort, encouragement, and equipping, and he found it in our conversation. Truth be told, I had needed the same, and I found it in our conversation, as well! It was a precious gift that had been wrapped in a package of disappointment as it related to my plans, but I was so grateful to have not missed the divine encounter that God had prepared in advance.
I challenge you today: Be on the lookout for the way in which God will establish your steps!
It may come by way of the course you have planned. Or, like it was for me, perhaps it will come when your charted course hits a dead end. But either way, don’t miss it! God wants to use you to reach those He loves! And he wants to use others to reach you, because He loves you!
Your course for today, this week, this month, and this year is charted. But if you will allow the Lord to establish your steps, you will be blessed in ways you never even considered, and you will be a blessing to those you don’t yet know!
Government Shutdown Avoided
It was nearly midnight proverbially, but a last-minute deal to avoid a government shutdown (at least in the short term) was approved by both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and was signed into law by President Biden on Saturday evening. The deal includes a 45-day extension of funding at current levels, as well as disaster relief funding, but does not include additional funding for the war in Ukraine. The bill passed 335-91 in the U.S. House and 88-9 in the U.S. Senate.
Analysis and eternal perspective: There’s no getting around it—this was a very ugly process. Because Congress has developed a habit of forgoing any real budget process, and instead relying on negotiations that take place outside of the legislative process, we are repeatedly left with bills that fund the entirety of government in a status quo fashion. This is particularly problematic when the status quo includes significant annual deficits.
This time around, when it became apparent that his conference would not be able to agree on a bill to fund the government, Speaker Kevin McCarthy orchestrated a deal for 45 days of funding that would pass the U.S. House with more Democrat votes than his own Republican majority party would deliver. It was a surprising move with political ramifications that have yet to fully play out (more on this later in The Equipped).
Even after all that, the end result was an extension of spending with no evaluation about which spending should continue and which should not, as well as the need to do this all over again in a little more than six weeks.
So, what are we as The Equipped community to do about it? This is where all of the bleak news above turns into opportunity for us to model a new way forward—both politically and within our communities.
First, politically. We as Jesus followers, regardless of our political affiliation or persuasion, should elect leaders who demonstrate a commitment to returning to budgetary restraints. Proverbs 22:3 tells us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” We can see plainly where this disregard for fiscal constraints is leading. Both Republicans and Democrats have had unified control of government since this habit of “deadline negotiations” became the standard for doing business in DC, and neither has rebuffed it. We should insist on more from the leaders we elect.
Next, in our communities. Candidly, this is where the real opportunity to make a change exists. As DC lurches from deadline crisis to deadline crisis, it also messages in a way that pits voters against each other. As we work to care more about serving one another across all dividing lines (Matt. 5:43-44) than we do scoring political points, DC’s incentive for politically-motivated divisiveness will diminish, and its incentive to return to responsible governing will increase.
Friends, this dynamic is unlikely to change overnight, and the next “crisis” (manufactured as it may be) is just 45 days away. But our commitment to lead by example in both the political party we call home and with those who do not share our political affiliation can start to make a difference today!
Fire Alarms and a Motion to Vacate
The hours leading up to a possible government shutdown were chaotic, and the days since have been similarly so.
First, just hours before the fiscal deadline, Congressman Jamaal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in one of the Capitol complex buildings—a move he claims was a mistake, but others suggest was an attempt to delay a vote in the U.S. House. The U.S. Capitol Police are investigating, and a move to expel Rep. Bowman has been introduced.
Next, after the last-minute spending deal was passed and as a new legislative week dawned, Rep. Matt Gaetz offered a Motion to Vacate on the House floor. The motion passed by a vote of 216-210, which removed Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the role of Speaker. According to Rep. Gaetz and the seven additional Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy, the action was appropriate as a result of the Speaker having using Democrat support to approve the spending deal. Rep. Patrick McHenry was appointed as Speaker Pro Tempore until a new Speaker is selected—a process that is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Oct 11. The last Speaker election process (at the beginning of this Congress) took five days and 15 rounds of voting to complete.
Analysis and eternal perspective: Chaos is clearly the order of the day on Capitol Hill. There is little value for our community to use this venue to try to determine the motives of Rep. Bowman, or even to get overly consumed by who wields the Speaker’s gavel in the U.S. House.
It is, however, productive for us to collectively step back and acknowledge the frivolous—and even petulant—tone that marks our current governing process. Although Congress is tasked with the weighty responsibility of stewarding trillions of taxpayer (and borrowed) dollars, it instead spends copious amounts of time and energy on publicity stunts, verbal jousting, and palace intrigue. This behavior falls far short of the standard set in Ecc. 9:10, which says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
The way we self-govern matters. A healthy process would involve an airing of various viewpoints in order that the most merited ones would rise. If our community is to make an impact toward that end, we should stand together across political lines in support of leaders who will return to that serious process. In the meantime, we would do well to heed 2 Tim. 2:16, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein Dies at 90
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Senate, has died at the age of 90. Sen. Feinstein began her service in the U.S. Senate in 1992, and was in her sixth term at the time of her death. Before joining the U.S. Senate, she was the first female Mayor of San Francisco. California Gov. Gavin Newsome has appointed Laphonza Butler to serve out the remainder of Feinstein’s term, which ends in January 2025.
Analysis and eternal perspective: Senator Feinstein’s passing is a reminder that even the most well-known among us have a limited amount of time on this Earth. We are beings created for the glory of God, temporarily dwelling in human bodies, but with souls that are eternal. As we navigate the often-confusing terrain of this temporary home, let’s do so with an eye constantly focused on our eternal home. This will steady our steps (Ps, 37:23-24; Pr. 16:9) and offer hope to those around us (1 Pet. 3:15).
Let us also commit to praying for the Feinstein family. It is easy to think about the passing of a public figure in terms of how it impacts the public, but each of us is first and foremost an individual fashioned by the Creator and placed into a family. This week, the Feinstein family knows and feels the pain of separation that accompanies death, and we should together pray comfort over them.
Music of the Soul
In her wonderful devotional, Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman tells a story about the famous Italian violinist, Paganini, in which the musician’s prized instrument is stolen and he is forced to perform with a cheap replacement. Though initially disheartened, Paganini exclaims to his audience, “Ladies and gentlemen, I will now demonstrate to you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul,” and proceeds to play to the great delight of the audience.
As you turn now to venture out into a world with an abundance of trying circumstances, I invite you to take with you this beautiful reminder from Cowman:
“Dear tested and tried believer, it is your mission to walk onto the stage of this world in order to reveal to all of heaven and earth that the music of life lies not in your circumstances or external things but in your own soul.”
You have charted your course. The circumstances of this world will disrupt that course. But the true music in your life comes from the One who fills your soul, and He will establish your steps!
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