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A Crazy Man, a Crazy Reaction, and Crazy Forgiveness - January 3, 2024

Published about 2 months ago • 9 min read

January 3, 2024

Happy New Year! We look forward to another year of growing together, and to viewing all things in our world through the lens of the True and the beautiful!


The True

A Crazy Man, a Crazy Reaction, and Crazy Forgiveness

You should read the book of Jonah today. Seriously, do yourself a favor and read it. It is four short chapters, and there is so much more than just a man surviving being swallowed by a huge fish (although that is incredibly wild and worthy of the notoriety it commands). But you should read the whole story today, because there are so many lessons for us to apply in our world today. I’ll highlight one here, and I invite you to share your takeaways with me at theequippednewsletter@gmail.com.

Let’s zoom in on chapter three. Jonah has already survived the belly of the fish, and has finally relented and agreed to carry God’s message of warning to the people of Nineveh. A summary of this chapter could be: A crazy man, a crazy reaction, and crazy forgiveness.

A Crazy Man – I want you to imagine something. Imagine what would happen if your city (or whatever city you are most familiar with) was suddenly warned by a dirty, stinky street preacher that it was going to be destroyed in 40 days. To be honest with you, this is not hard for me to imagine, as my city—Washington, DC—regularly has all manner of street preaching, protests, demonstrations, and the like. Sometimes they are professional, well-produced, and articulate, and other times not so much. In many ways, it is an endearing feature of my city. However, I can tell you with great confidence what would happen if a dirty, stinky street preacher started warning Washington, DC of a looming destruction. He would be called a crazy man and ignored.

A Crazy Reaction – It is easy to read over, but an absolutely wild thing happened when dirty, stinky, crazy Jonah warned Nineveh: Everyone believed him! It is unfathomable to me, based on my imagining this occurrence in my city, but everyone in Nineveh not only believed Jonah, but actually repented and began fasting and praying for forgiveness! If you think that is a crazy reaction (and I certainly do), it gets crazier, as even the king had this reaction! In verse 6, it says, “When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” What a crazy and unexpected response!

Crazy Forgiveness – As crazy as the man and the reaction were, God’s response is even crazier. Verse 10 says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” What a compassionate God we serve! A city so debauched God had decided to destroy it completely, and yet the only thing it took for God to show compassion was a decision to repent and turn from their wicked ways.

There are so many applications for our world today, and more importantly for you and me. But here is the one I ask you to consider today. It is from verse 9 as the king orders the people to beg for mercy for all they have done wrong. He says, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

It is easy to see what is wrong in our world. It is easy to assume all is lost, and that God’s wrath and judgment are imminent. But we know from scripture that we serve a God with abounding compassion. Let’s today exclaim together: “Who knows? God may relent!” And then let’s be the first to act on repentance.


U.S.

New Year, Same Story

Stop me if you have heard this one before: The U.S. Federal Government is about to run out of money. Unlike previous funding deadlines, Congress returns to DC for the second session of the 118th Congress with not one, but two, expiration dates looming. Under the terms of the deal reached in November, part of the government is funded through January 20, 2024, and the remainder through February 2, 2024. As with previous negotiations, the Republican-held U.S. House, the Democrat-held U.S. Senate, and President Joe Biden have very different perspectives and priorities, and the multiple deadlines do very little, if anything, to ease the negotiations.

Analysis and eternal perspective: We will continue to cover this recurring story for as long as this underlying fact remains true: The budget and spending process for the U.S. Federal Government is broken, and there is no serious proposal for fixing it under genuine consideration.

It is important to state that underlying fact clearly and consistently for two reasons: 1) It is critically important to address the spending crisis and there are certainly ways to do it, but neither party, when it has had the opportunity to do so, has embraced those steps, and 2) We can be equipped for the largely empty, but heated, rhetoric that is sure to come if we understand in advance what is, and what is not, true of these negotiations.

What is true is that the system is deeply broken. There is no semblance of connectivity between the government’s revenues and its expenditures. As every family managing a monthly budget understands, that is not sustainable.

What is not true is that there is a remedy for this problem being seriously advanced by either party leading up to these two deadlines. No matter your political party, you are almost certain to hear the opposite in the days ahead, but this cycle has played out dozens and dozens of times in recent years, and we should learn from that history.

A clear-eyed grasp of the current situation will both ease your stress about the current negotiation and focus whatever engagement you choose to have on the matter in a direction that makes a tangible impact. In the end, it will require the election of officeholders who prioritize an embrace of basic budgeting principles.

As we consistently remind ourselves at The Equipped, “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” (Luke 16:10) We do not always add verse 11 to this analysis, but it is extremely relevant for this story: “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

The wealth and the financial resources of the United States is not our ultimate aim. However, the way you and I together as Americans steward that wealth directly impacts the extent to which we will be trusted with true and lasting rewards.


Technology

Theft of Billions

The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft over what it describes as theft. The legal challenge hinges on the technology companies use of articles from the Times to train artificial intelligence (AI) “chatbots.” The Times alleges these chatbots are using billions of dollars worth of journalistic work in a way that competes with the rightful owners of that journalism.

Analysis and eternal perspective: AI was one of the dominant stories in 2023, and it is likely to be so again in 2024. As with so many things, AI can be used for tremendous good, but also poses significant threat if utilized in unproductive (or more nefarious) ways.

As Jesus followers, our primary mission is a deeper relationship with our God, and a life that reflects the character of Jesus and draws others to His side. As with every relationship, there is no shortcut to this growth. It requires time in His presence, a searching out of His character, and a committed discipline of heeding His instruction.

We live in a world where this kind of long form nurturing feels archaic. It is tempting to view the latest technology as a way to “improve” the process. But as we learn how to harness technological advances in a manner that brings glory to God, let us also hold fast to the reminder in Romans 12:1-2 that it is not the patterns of this word that should transform us, but rather the renewing of our mind that comes through leading lives fully yielded to Him.


U.S.

Eligible to Run?

Litigation has occurred, or is occurring, in at least 32 states over the question of former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to again hold the presidency. Colorado and Maine became the first states to deem the former President ineligible to be a primary candidate (though he will remain on the ballots as he appeals the decisions), while at least 19 other similar challenges have been dismissed (many of them voluntarily).

Analysis and eternal perspective: As the calendar turns to 2024, this may be the most divisive story in the news. Supporters of former President Donald Trump call it an attack on democracy and your freedom to vote. Opponents of the former President say it is the constitutional ramifications of January 6, 2021. What are we as The Equipped to make of it all?

First, it is helpful to posture ourselves within two biblical reminders: 1) We are promised the ability to lead lives rooted in power, love, and sound minds (2 Tim. 1:7), and 2) The Gospel is foolish and confounding to the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18-31). These reminders might seem disconnected to the topic at hand, but I reiterate them at the outset because the measured approach below will be rejected—and even mocked—by many. For those primarily aiming to elect or defeat Donald Trump, the following will be deficient. But for those aiming to be equipped and able to operate with power, love, and a soundness of mind, the following tools offer incredible liberation from the predominant narratives you will encounter around the pending legal challenges.

First, there are two portions of the U.S. Constitution that form the foundation for these disputes. I encourage you to read the short and relatively simple text of each. This two-minute read is the single most effective way to be informed on this story, and both portions are linked below:

1) Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution lists just three qualifications for the Office of President: a) Natural born citizen, b) 35+ years old, c) 14+ years U.S. resident. Former President Trump clearly meets all three requirements and there is no serious legal challenge to this fact.

2) Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says that anyone who has “previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution…[and]…engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same” is disqualified and ineligible to “hold any office.” The pending litigation is a legal fight over, a) Whether this provision applies to the presidency, b) Whether January 6, 2021 constitutes an insurrection, and c) What governing entities have the authority to enforce disqualification, and whether it requires a criminal conviction.

It is likely you have default opinions on some or all of the legal questions above. Court and state officeholders have started to render opinions, as well, and while the decisions in Colorado and Maine have generated the most attention, at least 19 cases have been dismissed (many of them voluntarily). What remains is to resolve these disparate decisions. (Note: You can find a useful tracker for all of these cases here.)

To be clear, these are extremely important cases. Few things are as important to a democratic republic than broad freedom to run for office. The barriers to that freedom should be, and are in fact, quite high. They should neither be enforced arbitrarily nor disregarded summarily.

Very few will approach this story in the deliberate manner outlined above, but we as The Equipped should do so. The Constitution is neither a weapon by which to disqualify a disfavored candidate nor a license to circumvent the law. The legal questions at hand are significantly important, but not overly complex. They are well within the grasp of those who read the constitutional text. Additionally, it is nearly certain this litigation will reach the U.S. Supreme Court in some fashion soon. While the outcome of that litigation is certain to be lauded by some and decried by others, it is in fact the way our constitutional republic is designed to function.

This story will continue to be incredibly divisive. But we as The Equipped can maintain sound minds—even in the midst of differing opinions—if we are honest with ourselves about the legal questions at hand, and if we yield our personal preferences to a devotion to all that is True and beautiful (Philip. 4:8).


The Beautiful

Snow

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is. 55:10-11).

The beauty in God’s Word, as in His gifts in nature, is in so much more than just what meets the eye. It is also in the blessings that remain long after the physical presence of His Word can be seen and felt!



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