August 16, 2023
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Pick a Fight You Can't Finish
Conventional wisdom says to avoid picking a fight you can’t finish. But God has a funny way of instructing us to do just that at times. Consider these two examples:
In 1 Kings 20:13-14, God speaks through a prophet to King Ahab, and tells him to pick a fight he can’t finish. Here is the conversation:
Prophet: “Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.”
Ahab: “But who will do this?”
Prophet: “This is what the Lord says: ‘The junior officers under the provincial commanders will do it.’”
Ahab: “And who will start the battle?”
Prophet: “You will.”
Then, in 1 Chronicles 28 (one of my favorite passages), King David assembles every government and military official in the nation for a strange purpose—to announce he will not finish one of his primary life missions: the building of God’s temple. Why did King David make such a huge deal out of this cancellation announcement? Because it was not a cancellation, but instead a commissioning, as God had instructed the mission be passed to King David’s son, Solomon. In an act as opposite of the territorial credit-seeking that so often marks leaders from every time, King David willingly obeyed and did everything in his power to not only relinquish authority, but also publicly enable his son. Twice (vv. 10, 20), King David implored Solomon to, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.”
In both these examples, God is imparting a monumental mission to His people. In each case, whoever completes this task will attain significant acclaim as a result. And in each case, God asks one person to instigate, and another to complete. He asks one person to strike the match, but then directs that person to yield to another who will light the torch.
Why does God do this? It seems to me God is still doing this, and it’s for the purpose of connecting His people together within His work! He wants to speak to those who go before us in order that we might glean from them! And He wants to speak to us in order that we might invest in those who come after us! It is yet another way He is working His perfect will in a way that enhances relationship with and between His people—you and me!
So today, is there a mission someone else started that you are supposed to finish? Or, is there something you are supposed to start building in order that someone else might finish it? If we as Jesus followers are to be truly equipped, it will require this kind of unselfish and unterritorial mindset.
Take the challenge. Ask God: “Who will start this?”
Then be expectant of His likely reply: “You will.”
Note: We are aware of the significant developments in the legal cases against both former President Trump and Hunter Biden, and we will continue to cover those stories. However, we’ve already spilled a lot of ink on both of them, and there are other events to stay abreast of, so we will check back in on both stories soon. But as always, if you are digging into those stories now, endeavor to read source documents for yourself. That is your best strategy for separating fact from narrative.
Fires in Paradise
Hawaii is known for its idyllic setting and scenery, but more than 100 people are confirmed dead—a number that is expected to rise “significantly”—as wildfires raged across large parts of the Maui island this week. While the cause of the multiple fires remains under investigation, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green called it, “the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced,” and it has already claimed more lives than any U.S. fire incident in at least a century. Firefighters were spread thin, as multiple outbreaks quickly spread over vast terrain and raced through neighborhoods, with the area in and around Lahaina being particularly devastated.
Analysis and eternal perspective: God has promised to be near to both the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18) and those who call on Him (Ps. 145:18-19). The Hawaiian island of Maui is full of broken hearts this week, as the death toll continues to climb and survivors assess the extent of the destruction. Let’s stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters, and pray that God would be near to them in this time of great struggle.
Let’s also look for tangible ways to provide comfort. Do you know someone who lives in the region? Check on them and offer your assistance. As humanitarian responses mobilize to the region, consider supporting one you trust, or even volunteering to serve in some capacity. We cannot undo the devastation, but we can be a part of God’s promise to be near to the brokenhearted who call on Him.
The White House has requested from Congress $40.1 billion in supplemental emergency funding. The request includes $24.1 billion for the war in Ukraine, $12 billion for FEMA to address natural disasters, and nearly $4 billion for border security. Because the request is deemed an “emergency,” it will be considered outside the regular budget and appropriations process.
Analysis and eternal perspective: There is a strong case to be made that each of the main incidents covered by the supplemental request (Ukraine war, natural disasters—including the Hawaii fires we just discussed, and border security) constitute “emergencies.” Each of them is its own widespread humanitarian disaster, and each has a strong case for receiving public funds in response.
It is more difficult to make the case that these expenditures are “unforeseen” and therefore unable to be considered within a larger budgeting framework. The war in Ukraine has now spanned multiple budgeting cycles, there are natural disasters every single year, and the border has been insecure for quite some time. The White House and Congress could—and I would argue, should—consider line items like these within its regular spending process, and make a good-faith, business-like plan for estimating all spending needs over a fiscal year, and then prioritizing allocations accordingly. Candidly, the reason they don’t is that it is easier to get the spending approved if it is deemed an “emergency.”
God’s Word is full of examples—Joseph, Daniel, David, the servants who multiplied the talents, just to name a few—of people who were faithful with a little, and therefore were entrusted with much (Matt. 25:23). Americans, and the American government, has been entrusted with much. If we are to be able to continue providing for the most serious needs—and emergencies, we must prove faithful in our use of resources in “small things.” Jesus followers across the political spectrum should implore our leaders to take careful account of all spending—emergency or otherwise.
Five Americans have been removed from prison and are now under house arrest in Iran as the first step of a deal reportedly involving the release of prisoners from both countries. According to reports, the swap also includes a loosening of restrictions on approximately $6 billion in funding for Iran.
Four of the Americans had been held in the brutal Evin Prison, and they join a fifth American who was already under house arrest, with the expectation they will all return home once some other components of the deal are in place. Reports suggest this will include the release of undisclosed Iranian prisoners, as well as granting Iran greater access to approximately $6 billion currently held under trade restrictions in South Korea.
Analysis and eternal perspective: These delicate situations hit close to home for me, as my previous work put me in close proximity to negotiations involving Americans detained in the horrific Evin Prison. While I am not personally familiar with the cases of the Americans involved here, it is cause for rejoicing they are out of Evin, and we should continue to pray for their safe return home.
It is always concerning, however, when the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world—Iran—gains greater access to billions of dollars. It is also problematic if prisoner swaps become normal, as this incentivizes more wrongful detention of Americans by countries looking to extract a price from the U.S. Government.
As Jesus followers, one of our primary purposes is proclaiming “liberty to captives,” and “freedom to prisoners” (Is. 61:1). So we should rejoice with those who have been liberated. However, we should also be clear-eyed about the ramifications of the tactics used to achieve their release, and our leaders should be vigilant to guard against future wrongful detentions by the Iranian regime.
Springs in the Valley
“What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem” (Ps. 84:5-7).
Friends, as we journey toward heaven, we will pass through some dry valleys of weeping, but our God has promised that He will both refresh us in those valleys and carry us through them.
I am certain there are aspects of weeping in your world. I am equally certain He longs to show you beauty and refreshment as you journey through those valleys and on to eternity!
Remember: What might God be asking you to start? What might He be asking you to relinquish to another to finish? What might He be asking you to receive from another to finish? Ask Him!
We look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org!