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Treading the Heights - January 17, 2024

Published about 1 month ago • 7 min read

January 17, 2024

Viewing all things through the lens of the True and the beautiful!

The True

Treading the Heights

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Hab. 3:19).

I love the story of Habakkuk (I love it so much I wrote a book based on it), and this final verse of the final chapter reads like a mantra of victory! What could be better than to figuratively walk and navigate with confidence in challenging but influential places? That sounds like an amazing promise worth pursuing, and it is—we should desire, and have been promised, the strength that affords us capacity to make a difference amid the significant challenges of our day.

But if we are to be truly equipped for those challenges, we must be mindful of this truth: Treading the heights happens not in the absence of trepidation, dread, and judgment, but in the midst of them.

To briefly recap, Habakkuk’s story begins with his plea to God for rescue from the evil and injustice that surrounds him. Does that feel relatable to you? How recently have you made a similar plea of God?

God’s response is one of tasking Habakkuk to be the vessel through which God will respond to the great need in the land. Habakkuk answers that call, and it is through his obedience that he eventually arrives at this place where he can proclaim an ability to tread the heights.

But if you read all of Habakkuk 3 (and I invite you to do just that), you will find a powerful opening declaration of God’s power along with an invitation for Him to make it known, and this triumphant closing that includes treading the heights. But in-between those two “mountains,” we find a valley of plague, pestilence, trembling, distress, anguish, anger, wrath, raging, war, trampling, churning, calamity, famine, and more. In a word, between declaration and triumph, there is judgment.

It is easy to default to a feeling of dread over the word judgment. After all, we all deserve judgment (Rom. 6:23). But I invite you to consider judgment in the context of Habakkuk 3. You and I, as indicated by the news stories we consider each week, live in a world full of oppression and worthy of judgment. Time and time again, we live through examples where God’s judgment is needed in order to free the oppressed. We see innocent lives yearning for freedom but suffering under the hand of an oppressor.

Ask yourself today what is required for those who are oppressed to be free? It is judgment for the oppressor, is it not?

The presence of God’s judgment is part of the recipe for treading the heights. So as you look around your world this week and are tempted to feel anxious because of the judgment that is either needed or happening, take heart! Judgment is not ours, but God’s (Ecc. 3:17), and it is only because of His great mercy we are not subject to judgment (1 Pet. 1:3). But the presence of judgment is not separate and distinct from the promise to walk with God. To the contrary, when we walk with God on the heights, we do it in the presence of judgment, but with a posture that neither bears nor dispenses it. As a result, the ground is firm beneath our feet!


And They're Off!

Former President Donald Trump is the winner of the Iowa caucus as the 2024 primary season officially kicked off Monday. Trump cruised to a 30-point win with approximately 51 percent of the vote, securing at least 20 of Iowa’s 40 primary delegates. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finished second with approximately 21 percent of the vote, earning at least 8 delegates, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was third with approximately 19 percent of the vote and at least 7 delegates. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy suspended his campaign after finishing fourth with approximately 8 percent of the vote and at least 3 delegates.

As the campaign heads to New Hampshire for its primary on January 23, there are just three major candidates remaining: Trump, DeSantis, and Haley.

Analysis and eternal perspective: And they’re off! As we noted last week in The Equipped, the seven-week stretch between Iowa and “Super Tuesday” on March 5, 2024 will very likely determine the GOP nominee. On the Democrat side, there are currently no top-tier challengers to President Joe Biden, leaving the distinct possibility that the November general election will be a rematch of the 2020 election between Biden and Trump.

The election will almost certainly remain a headline story throughout 2024. As you work to interact with this story through the lens of the True and the beautiful, remind yourself that the precious gift of self-governance is often a bit haphazard (how is that for an understatement?), and that you can be a gift to those navigating the hazards by participating in good faith.

A final thought: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees our freedom of speech and does so much to inform the election process, affords us the ability to speak into the issues of our day. It is a rare gift in contrast against the broad sweep of human history and should be embraced. Even so, let’s you and I endeavor to enjoy that gift through the lens of Proverbs 17:27-28: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

There is life and death in the tongue (Pr. 18:21). May The Equipped community speak life into the coming months in a way that draws others into relationship with God.


A New President in Taiwan

Taiwan’s Vice President, Lai Ching-te, has been elected President. While Lai focused much of his campaign on economic issues, Taiwan’s contentious relationship with China was also a dominant factor in the election. Lai and his Democratic Progressive Party, view Taiwan as independent, while China views the island as part of its territory and has threatened to take it by force. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) warned the election of Lai would lead to war.

World leaders had mixed responses to the election. British Foreign Minister David Cameron said, "The elections today are testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy," while a spokeswomen for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia still views Taiwan as part of China. As for the U.S., Secretary of State Anthony Blinken praised the “strength of [Taiwan’s] robust democratic system,” but reaffirmed the U.S. has a “one China policy.” President Joe Biden echoed the sentiment, “We do not support independence.”

Analysis and eternal perspective: This issue is consistently contentious and involves a number of intertwined matters. From an American perspective, it is confounding that Taiwan would be a place the U.S. “[does] not support independence,” and yet that has been the basic position of every U.S. administration since 1979. The U.S. views the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as “the sole legal government of China” and “acknowledges” China’s view that Taiwan is part of China, but maintains unofficial diplomatic relations with the elected government in Taiwan.

This is difficult to navigate. However, as Jesus followers, we should acknowledge the thread of freedom that runs through scripture. Galatians 5:13 says we are, “called to be free,” and 1 Peter 2:16 says we are to, “live as free people.” It would be improper to suggest these passages (and many others in the same vein) automatically favor independence in every dispute between governments of men. They do, however, shed light on why the Taiwanese people so fervently desire to live outside the purview of the CCP, which severely curtails the freedom of those under its rule.

While we may not be able to resolve the governing dispute, we should certainly stand in the gap by praying for our brothers and sisters in both China and Taiwan. May they know and live in the freedom for which they were created (Gal. 5:1)!


War on New Fronts

There are multiple new fronts in the war between Israel and Hamas, including both the International Court of Justice and the ever-growing hostilities in the Red Sea.

First, South Africa is accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). While Israel (and many other countries, including the U.S.) routinely ignores proceedings at the ICJ due to a lack of jurisdiction, it is responding to these charges and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “an upside-down world . . . [where] Israel is accused of genocide while it is fighting genocide.”

Next, the Houthis are now specifically targeting U.S. shipping vessels in the Red Sea, due to U.S. support for Israel. While the Houthi hostilities in the Red Sea were already resulting in major shipping disruptions, the targeting of U.S. vessels—including those not bound for Israel—marks a significant escalation.

Analysis and eternal perspective: These developments are tragic, but expected. As we have discussed previously at The Equipped, this is a recurring pattern in history: 1) The Jewish people are attacked, 2) The Jewish people and/or their allies respond, 3) Antisemitic groups retaliate for those responses.

As Jesus followers, we mourn the loss of innocent life no matter where it occurs, and we seek and pursue peace even when it is elusive (Ps. 34:14). We also acknowledge our role and responsibility to defend the oppressed (Ps. 82:3).

Finally, a major reason we gather as The Equipped is to in fact be equipped rather than caught off guard by the events of our day. There is certainty that antisemitism will continue to rear its ugly and evil head. We, as Jesus followers, are to continue to acknowledge God’s special covenant with the Jewish people.

The Beautiful

Perfection not Desired

Beautiful fruit is produced in your life as a result of planting, cultivating and pruning. Perfection is neither required nor desired. He bids you come as you are, that He might produce fruit in and through you.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (Jn. 15:16).

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