September 27, 2023
Fear, and the way through it! That's our theme this week at The Equipped, and we are so glad you are here! Don't forget to invite your friends and also check out the podcast!
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“Some assembly required.” It is one of a parent’s most dreaded phrases on Christmas morning. The perfect Christmas gift is unwrapped with great delight only to discover that it cannot be used until “some” (translation: it is going to take the rest of the day) assembly work is completed. For one birthday gift our family gave to a loved one recently, the required assembly meant that gift was still in the box when we attended the next year’s birthday party! Only slightly less daunting is the surprise, “batteries not included.” This curveball can turn gift time into one of digging through junk drawers for the proper type of batteries, or even into a pajama-pants-drive in search of somewhere that sells batteries and is open on Christmas morning.
How do I know these things, you ask? I just do. Every parent does.
While “some assembly required” and “batteries not included” bring both a smile and a bit of anxiety to our minds, they are reminiscent of many of the gifts we are given in scripture. We serve a God who gives freely and abundantly, but He is also a God who wants our active participation in His work, and who desires to stretch us and grow us deeper into His plan. Because of this, He very often gives us gifts or tools that will require our walking out a new discipline to utilize them.
Consider Ephesians 6:10-20, and the familiar offering of spiritual armor. For context, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus, and he includes a powerful reminder that so many of the church’s challenges are “not against flesh and blood,” but rather against “spiritual forces,” and that by donning spiritual armor, the church will be able to “stand firm” when “the day of evil comes.” Specifically, Paul encourages the church to daily put on the following (which you and I should make a practice of, as well):
- Belt of Truth
- Breastplate of righteousness
- Shoes of the gospel of peace
- Shield of faith
- Helmet of salvation
- Sword of the spirit
It is a lyrically beautiful and powerful description of the tools God gives us to be equipped for an often-hostile world. Paul’s depiction of the armor instantly communicates the armor has to be actively “put on” in order for it to equip as it should. Take a moment today and consider: Is your life guided by Truth? Does righteousness, peace, and faith mark your life? Are you secure in the salvation secured at the Cross? Is the Word of God active in your daily life? These are powerful ways to be equipped for life!
But I also want you to note what Paul asks after describing all this spiritual armor. Again, for context, this is Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, and he has just finished describing this powerful spiritual armor that allows him to stand against spiritual danger. What does he ask for in the next breath?
Paul asks the Ephesian church to pray that he would have courage to overcome his fear!
In fact, Paul asks for this not once, but twice!
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (v. 19).
“Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (v.20).
In other words, here is everything you need, but some assembly required. Or maybe more precise, some courage required.
Friends, God has given you the tools and the equipping you need. So you may wonder why you are sometimes still afraid. Even Paul, at the height of his ministry and after directly encountering the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), was afraid! If Paul was afraid, you and I are very likely to be afraid at times, too!
The question is, what will we do in the face of that fear? Consider today this two-step response:
1) Put on the full armor of God
2) Some courage required!
Shutdown (Still) Looming
A government shutdown is still looming. The last week has yielded no measurable progress toward a deal to fund the government beyond the end of the fiscal year, which expires on September 30, 2023. Should that remain the case, a partial government shutdown would begin. However, services that are deemed “essential” would continue, and benefits that are on the mandatory side of the ledger (like Social Security and Medicare payments) would be uninterrupted.
Analysis and eternal perspective: Normally, we do not write on the same topic in consecutive weeks, but in this case, it is a terrific opportunity for us to put into practice our intentionally distinct approach to the news.
To begin, we aim to be equipped with the facts.
In recent history, spending deadlines and looming government shutdowns have been far more political posturing than actual crisis. To be sure, the lack of a real budgetary process and the leaping from deadline to deadline is a serious problem, but the constant alarmism about pending shutdowns is merely a small symptom of the underlying problem rather than an imminent peril. For example, while a government shutdown might mean you can’t visit a federal museum or make changes to your federal benefits, it does not mean you won’t actually receive your Social Security or Medicare payments. Much of the messaging this week will be ramping up the fear and anxiety, but we can be harbingers of peace by being equipped with the facts of reality.
Also, it is usually the case that it is all but certain there will be a last minute “deal” to head off the shutdown, and it is therefore wise for us to largely ignore the political back-and-forth (which is distinct from being a constant and steady voice for fixing the underlying problem). However, this particular deadline is far more likely to result in at least some length of government shutdown, and it is equally worth arming ourselves (and those around us) with that knowledge.
Next, what are we as Jesus followers to do about it?
First, we should come together across ideological lines and implore our elected leaders to take seriously the business of managing the people’s finances. Luke 16:10 reminds us, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” America has been trusted with vast resources, and we shoulder the responsibility of stewarding that well through our elected leaders. We should choose leaders who demonstrate trustworthiness in this regard.
Next, let’s embody Matt. 5:9 (Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God) this week. I most often associate peacemaking with resolving conflict, but there is an important component of peacemaking that is learning to identify looming sources of anxiety, and then proactively helping others navigate them. The government shutdown is a looming source of anxiety for many, and we can offer a peace that begins with a better understanding of the process, but then exceeds even that understanding (Philip. 4:7).
Viewer's Guide: GOP Presidential Debate #2
For those of you planning to follow the second GOP presidential debate, here is some useful information:
Who: ND Gov. Doug Burgum, former NJ Gov. Chris Christie, FL Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador and SC Gov. Nikki Haley, former VP Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
When: Wednesday, September 27, 2023, 9:00pmET
Where: Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute (Simi Valley, California)
Watch: Fox Business Network, Univision, Rumble
Analysis and eternal perspective: Once again, the news leading up to the debate is the fact that the frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, will not be participating. The former President is banking on his strong lead in the polls sustaining without debating, while the six candidates who have qualified are hoping voters will reward them for making their case from the debate stage.
We as The Equipped community should be grateful for the opportunity to participate in our own governing process. Regardless of party affiliation or preferred candidate, we should take seriously the duty to evaluate the character, platform, and integrity of those who step forward as candidates. It is our responsibility to self-govern even more than it is any one candidate’s responsibility to lead. It is a fairly uncommon privilege when compared against the arc of human civilization, and one worth defending.
It is also worth the effort to resist the cultural norm of animosity and acrimony. There are nefarious actors in every industry, and politics is certainly no exception. But the presence of bad actors in an opposing political party does nothing to alter our call to act justly, love mercy, walk humbly, and embody love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Mic. 6:8; Gal. 5:22-23). Further, if we are to have any influence in encouraging better behavior from our political opponents, Matt. 7:3-5 reminds us we will have to first focus on addressing the shortcomings in our own lives (as well as our political allies).
Rest assured, this approach will stand out during election season! It will very likely even be mocked. But take heart, because we are aiming for an impact vastly different than the one the culturally-accepted approach is repeatedly providing. We are aiming for lives marked by power, love, and sound minds (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and which reach hurting souls with an everlasting promise (1 Jn. 2:25). It’s a goal very much worth pursuing even in the face of cultural headwinds. We draw strength for it by doing it together as a community.
A Senate Indictment
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, along with his wife and three associates, has been indicted on federal bribery charges. The 39-page indictment, which can be downloaded and read here, alleges that Menendez and his wife received “cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other items of value” in exchange for using his influence to benefit the Egyptian government. It is the second federal indictment related to corruption to be brought against Menendez since he was elected to the U.S. Senate. The charges in the first indictment ended in a mistrial as a result of a hung jury.
Analysis and eternal perspective: Sen. Menendez, like every criminal defendant, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He is also, like every other citizen—including elected officials, accountable to the law. His guilt or innocence will be determined by a jury of his peers. If you and I are going to interact with this story, we should commit to reading source documents from both sides (i.e., the indictment above and Sen. Menendez’s eventual response).
If we zoom out for a broader perspective, we should be able to agree that the volume of questionable behavior from our elected officials is beyond disturbing. This particular case also brings to mind Paul’s first letter to Timothy, in which he suggests “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). We would do well to both take an honest look in the mirror to evaluate our own relationship with earthly possessions as well as carefully evaluate the ethical standards we expect from our leaders.
Over the Waters
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Is. 43:1-2)
It may not always be clear how you will make it to the beauty on the other side of the water. But you do not have to fear. You are His. He will be with you.
Remember: 1) Put on the full armor of God. 2) Some courage required!
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