March 8, 2023
Happy Wednesday, equipped family! We're so glad you are here! The news items for this week, as well as The True and The Beautiful, have a common thread running through them: A person, a story, or an idea's beginning doesn't dictate that person, story, or idea's end! What happens in the middle can change everything!
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What Happened in the Middle?
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” That is how the third chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy opens. It is not exactly hopeful. In fact, it leaves the reader with a pretty ominous sense of dread about the future.
But by the end of the relatively short chapter, Paul is assuring Timothy that “the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So what changed? What happened in the middle of 2 Timothy 3? How could “terrible times” lead to a people who are “thoroughly equipped for every good work?” This is an extremely relevant question for our community, because we are aiming for exactly that goal. We want to be thoroughly equipped for the times ahead, be they terrible or triumphant.
I think what happened in the middle of 2 Timothy 3 is actually pretty simple. Paul was describing a people who lived in terrible times, but who chose to live by the authority of the Gospel over the wisdom of their times (2 Tim. 3:16).
That choice would not lead to a full redemption of their world (a promise reserved for eternity), but it would produce a people compelled to give of themselves in order to redeem those caught in the downward spiral of the “terrible times.” It would produce a people who were, in a word, equipped.
Friends, it is possible there will be terrible times ahead. But we need not fear them. We can instead be equipped for them. We must simply choose the authority of the Gospel over the wisdom of our times.
Superpower of the World
Who will be the world’s superpower a generation or two from now? That question sits at the center of a simmering feud between the governments of the United States and China. The United States has been the clear superpower of the world—both economically and militarily—for many decades. But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long been methodically strategizing a takeover of that status. China’s economic and military strength has been on the rise, as has its use of more subversive tactics, such as surveillance and intellectual property theft.
It is against that backdrop that Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang this week said that the two countries are “surely” heading toward “conflict and confrontation.” The Foreign Minister’s comments are the latest in a series of recent escalations, including the U.S. shootdown of a Chinese surveillance balloon that traversed across the entire span of the North American continent.
Analysis: The U.S. has been incredibly blessed and prosperous, and has reaped the benefits of a founding rooted in individual liberty and economic freedom. This prosperous beginning (the U.S. declared independence less than 250 years ago) has led to unprecedented opportunity for its citizens, and has impacted the rest of the world in countless positive ways. It has also come with a mantle of responsibility that can be challenging to balance and difficult to shoulder. Meanwhile, the communist aim of the CCP has repressed hundreds of millions of its own people, while its government has a singular aim at world dominance.
Eternal Perspective: Followers of Jesus are citizens first of heaven. This is true in the U.S., China, and everywhere else in the world. It is cause for rejoicing that more people are deciding to follow Jesus in China today than in any other country of the world. The Chinese people are responding to the liberating message of the Gospel, and we should all rejoice with our brothers and sisters in China.
On an earthly level, we should be sober-minded and realistic about the threat of the Chinese government’s communist mindset and tactics. While it does nothing to change or threaten our gift of the Gospel, it certainly threatens individual liberty all around the world, including in the U.S. As followers of Jesus, we should work to preserve the liberty of every image bearer. While oppression cannot stop the spread of the Gospel, God’s character is best reflected in freedom (John 8:32), and we should be creating and defending environments in which people can freely choose Jesus.
Crime in the District
In a surprise move, President Joe Biden announced he will sign a congressional resolution to overturn a crime bill recently passed by the DC City Council. This decision has further-reaching ramifications than just a single city’s criminal code, and the debate has divided Democrats on both a local and federal level. The City Council’s bill would have revised DC’s criminal code by eliminating many mandatory sentences and reducing penalties for even violent offenses. Largely due to the fact that DC has been suffering from a wave of armed robberies and carjackings, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the measure. The City Council responded by overriding her veto and setting the bill on a path for enactment.
However, because DC remains under the ultimate authority of Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to overturn the bill. The resolution received significant bipartisan support and, while initially expected to be opposed by the President and blocked in the U.S. Senate, now appears poised to clear the upper chamber and be signed into law by the President.
The President’s reversal, coupled with the U.S. Senate’s impending action, caused the DC Council chair to announce he is withdrawing the bill. The Senate is still expected to approve the measure, and President Biden is still expected to sign it. This action will constitute a formal rejection of the DC Council’s bill.
Analysis: Scripture is clear that we are to stand in defense of the afflicted and the vulnerable (Ps. 82:3-4; Is. 1:17). While this is a command for each of us as individual followers of Jesus, it should naturally lead to protections under the law for the weak and vulnerable. While we should always be a people who work and strive for redemption and reconciliation, this should never come at the expense of the afflicted. True redemption comes through reconciliation, not impunity.
There is also a secondary policy debate about whether Congress should maintain authority over the DC City Council. President Biden and Mayor Bowser support statehood for DC, while others favor either a continuation of the current arrangement or retrocession of the city to either Maryland or Virginia. Retrocession would leave only a small area encompassing the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the National Mall as a federal district outside the boundaries of any state.
Protest or Incitement?
An Atlanta law enforcement training center was attacked with rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks, resulting in 35 people being detained. The Atlanta Police called it a “coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers." The violent clash occurred in the midst of ongoing protests opposing the training center known as the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
Eternal Perspective: Jesus followers should work fervently to resist the tactics of division that run rampant on this issue. The Bible clearly directs us to respect the authority of those governing us (Rom. 13:1-8). We are to hold this command alongside the command to speak up for and defend the rights of the poor and needy (Pr. 31:8-9).
Peaceful protest, accompanied by passionate good-faith advocacy, has a long history of effecting positive change in this country. This storied history should not be conflated with violent actors and actions, no matter their agenda or goals. Jesus followers should be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9), and we should remember that it is wrath that motivates violence (Pr. 15:18; Pr. 16:28). Violence and incitement are not the same thing as peaceful protest.
Jesus followers should aim to accomplish the difficult balance that includes respecting law enforcement, standing with victims and the oppressed, and working toward the redemption and reconciliation of the repentant oppressor.
"I Just Have a Feeling"
Spring is trying to emerge on our little farm, and this year that means we are trying to hatch new chicks from our existing flock of chickens. After monitoring eggs for fertility and carefully selecting three dozen eggs, we were all set to place the eggs in the incubator.
That’s when our daughter Hope discovered a stray egg from one of our ducks and proclaimed, “I just have a feeling I’m supposed to put this one in the incubator.”
While we were not planning to hatch any ducks, I knew it was very unlikely this egg found in the woods would be both fertile and fresh enough to develop, so I agreed, “Put it in the incubator, and we’ll see what happens.”
A week later, it was time to “candle” the eggs to see which ones were growing. Wouldn’t you know it . . . which egg showed the strongest signs of development? Hope’s lone duck egg, of course!
The beauty of God’s creation is all around us, and it so often emerges from the least likely places. If you just have a feeling that God is leading you to an idea or an action this week, pay attention. If He confirms that feeling, put that idea or action into the incubator of your life and see what starts to grow.
You can see an amazing photo of the candled duck egg below.
It is easy to believe the "news" is our reality. But our reality is actually the Good News! Let's remember to stay aware of the times, but let's be vigilant to keep the Good News as the focus of our lives!
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