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Wander and Wonder - December 20, 2023

Published 2 months ago • 6 min read

December 20, 2023

Merry Christmas! It is hard to believe how fast this year has flown by, and we're so glad to have shared a few minutes with you each and every week this year! As you gather with friends and family this week, cherish the moments you have with them. They--both your loved ones and the moments--are truly a gift from God!


The True

Wander and Wonder

“Thank you that we don’t have to wander or wonder.”

It was a simple prayer offered by my wife, Brooke, over our kids earlier this week, but the profound truths it contained have stayed with me in the days since. We are so prone to wander away from what we know to be true, and Who we know to be good. As a result, we are so inclined to wonder where and to whom we belong. It is why Brooke and I frequently remind our kids to, “Remember who you are, and Whose you are.”

Identity is everything. But it is critically important to define what that means, because we live in a world that tells us identity is something to be searched out, and to discover. We are told it is something that can be crafted, and built by our own desires and efforts. In some respects, that sounds enticing. After all, who wouldn’t want to embark on such a worthwhile endeavor? This approach is fatally flawed, however, and if embraced, it will cause us to both wander and wonder.

True identity isn’t wrapped up in our own ambition or self-actualization. It isn’t found through a relentless pursuit of acclaim or achievement. It isn’t even the result of being in touch with our innermost desires. In truth, our identity isn’t even about ourselves at all. When you or I believe the notion that we must go out and find our own identity, we must wander to do it. When you or I accept the suggestion that our identity is subject to interpretation, we are left to wonder who we are.

Our true identity is so much more glorious than what can be found through the process above because it is wrapped up in One so much greater!

True identity isn’t “out there somewhere” to be discovered, but rather safely under the shelter of our Creator’s wings (Ps. 91:4). We don’t have to wander!

True identity isn’t something rooted in self, but rather in the promise that we can be wholly found within the identity of Jesus (Philip. 3:7-9). We don’t have to wonder!

Life can be a bit of a hamster wheel. I am chief of the guilty in this regard! It is so easy to get caught up in the urgency of the moment. It is so tempting to strive, and to constantly reach for that which is just beyond my reach. My friends, our God-given mission is both simpler and grander than that striving! The entirety of our mission can be realized and accomplished in the singular place where it is wholly entangled within His being.

You don’t have to wander any more. You have already been found (Lk. 15).

You don’t have to wonder any longer. You are, and have always been, His (Is. 43:1).


Business

U.S. Steel Sold . . . to Japan

The United States Steel Corporation is set to be sold to the Japan-based Nippon Steel. The deal, which is valued at around $14.9 billion (approximately $14.1 billion in cash, plus the assumption of debt), drew immediate criticism from elected officials in Pennsylvania (U.S. Steel has been headquartered in Pittsburgh since its founding in 1901, and is a major employer and job creator in the region).

Analysis and eternal perspective: U.S. Steel was one of the most important contributors to the United States’ rise to industrial prowess in the early 1900s. For more than 120 years, it has been a major supplier for the production of buildings, bridges, automobiles, and more. Although it is privately owned, both its name and its place in the rise of America as the superpower of the world lend heft to its national significance. There is likely to be significant opposition from both sides of the aisle to the sale’s finalization, and that opposition will certainly include reasons of both economic (American jobs) and national security origin.

We as The Equipped community should use stories highlighting the increased globalization of our world to remind ourselves of our eternal identity. We are first, foremost, and forever citizens of heaven, and an enduring symbol of our time on Earth is an anticipation of our Savior’s return (Philip. 3:20). Within that assurance of an eternal home, we should have confidence to lay hold of our mandate to steward the Earth (Gen. 2:15, Deut. 11:12, 1 Cor. 4:2).

This instruction belongs to Jesus followers around the globe. However, at this moment in history, America weilds a disproportional amount of influence, and the international sale of such a significant company triggers questions specifically for American citizens about how this resource will be stewarded going forward. At the same time, the federal government’s role in private property (including the directing of actions by a private company) should be very limited.


World

War Spreads to the Red Sea

The war between Israel and Hamas has spread to the Red Sea, as the Yemen-based, Iran-backed Houthis are waging acts of war on targets in the Red Sea it deems to be supportive of Israel. The attacks have caused significant disruption to an important shipping channel, and many companies are rerouting their vessels. The U.S. is leading a joint military operation to secure the international waterway, but the Houthis say the attacks will continue as long as the war wages. Meanwhile, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed the war will continue until Hamas is eliminated and all of the Israeli hostages are freed.

Analysis and eternal perspective: When a story involves the Jewish people, the nation-state of Israel, and the Red Sea, it should catch the eye of Jesus followers. There are numerous important layers to this story, and it is of course concerning that the violence is spreading. We as The Equipped community mourn the loss of every life created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26).

Because we have been anticipating it, we should be unsurprised that the imminently reasonable stipulations from Israel about what must precede peace are coming under attack. There are no easy answers about how to achieve peace, but it should be apparent that the return of all hostages and the neutralizing of those responsible for the horrific violence on October 7 is a proper place to start. Hamas is an oppressor, and should be held to account, and the world should not expect Israel to rest as long as innocent Israelis remain held hostage.

We are to seek and pursue peace (Ps. 34:14). We are also to seek and pursue justice as we defend the oppressed (Is. 1:17). These are difficult commands to hold in tension with one another, but the scriptures call us to do just that.


U.S.

Security at Home and Abroad

The U.S. Congress remains at an impasse on negotiations over proposed security funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the U.S. southern border. Congress will head home for the Christmas holidays without approving a $111 billion international spending bill (more than $60 billion of which is earmarked for Ukraine), and the most significant disagreement is over how to better secure the U.S. southern border (which continues to experience record-breaking numbers of illegal crossings every day).

Analysis and eternal perspective: While the international aid and the debate about securing the U.S. southern border are technically separate and distinct, they have become inextricably linked, and for good cause. It is all-but-certain that a majority of both chambers of Congress would support the international spending package despite the record-setting levels (the Council of Foreign Relations reports that U.S. aide to Ukraine since the Russian invasion totals more than $75 billion—not including war-related aid sent to other allies). However, it seems equally clear that many of those Members are unwilling to address the international security crisis unless the domestic security threat on the border is also addressed.

Immigration, including the national security considerations that accompany it, is one of the trickiest areas of public policy on which to achieve consensus. It is a fundamental American ideal that we are a “melting pot” land of opportunity for all, and yet even support for that ideal is waning as the national security crisis at the border continues to escalate. It should be clear that the latter must be remedied if the former is to sustain.

Once again, we as The Equipped must hold multiple biblical truths in tension. There are numerous passages to guide us, but consider Psalm 82:3, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed.” Jesus followers, no matter what country we call home, should serve those in need. As with so many stories we consider, this mission actually thrives best when it is carried out under the protective shelter of an ordered security.


The Beautiful

Beauty from the Vine

God’s beautiful work in you is accomplished when you neither wander nor wonder. As you remain in Him, you will reflect His beauty!

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5)


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