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Disrupted, Dismissed, and Disordered - November 22, 2023

Published 3 months ago • 8 min read

November 22, 2023

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are deeply thankful you are a part of The Equipped family! Our prayer for you this week is that you would sense God's presence and be reminded of His many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!


The True

Stand in the Gap

“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (Ez. 22:30).

It is both an inspiring and alarming reality. On the one hand, and to understate the obvious, it is beyond alarming when the all-powerful God has decided the people in the land must be destroyed! There is nothing insignificant about, and no way to downplay, the seriousness of God’s wrath being stirred because His people have been found unfaithful.

Even so, in yet another astounding display of the magnitude and complexity of our God’s mercy and love, He is looking for someone to stand in the gap for a land and a people who deserve judgement, and He is willing to extend mercy rather than judgement if He finds that person. What an astonishing reality! The holy and blameless God has already rendered a verdict: Those in the land are guilty and deserving of wrath. Even so, He desires and is actively looking for someone to come between Him and those who deserve punishment.

This dynamic recalls Genesis 18:16-33, when God is moving to bring judgement down on Sodom and Gomorrah, but His servant Abraham intervenes. This has long been a passage that captivates me for the way in which it depicts God’s longsuffering, as well as His tender heart toward our pleadings. Abraham engages in this lengthy back-and-forth negotiation with God over the fate of Sodom. Abraham initially asks God to show mercy if 50 righteous people can be found in the city. Remarkably, God says yes!

Perhaps more remarkable, Abraham proceeds to renegotiate six times with God, lowering the number required from 50 to 45, and then to 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. Each time Abraham puts a new request before God, the answer is yes!

When Abraham is willing to stand between the people in the land who are guilty and the looming wrath of God, and when He does so for the purpose of asking for undeserved mercy, God says yes again and again.

I see every reason for this to be true in our day, as well. A look around the land will surely lead you to the conclusion that we are guilty, and that God’s hand of judgement is deserved. We might even be tempted to call down that judgement (though we too are deserving of it).

But what has He asked of us instead? What is He actively looking for? Ezekiel 22 and Genesis 18 both suggest He is looking not for someone to enlighten Him about where judgment is needed, but rather for someone with the faith and temerity to request He instead grant mercy. He is looking for someone to stand in the gap—in that place between His wrath and those deserving of it.

I don’t have a thorough understanding about the duration of God’s patience. But scripture is clear that we are called to stand in the gap and cry out for undeserved mercy. It is equally clear that He is incredibly inclined to grant our requests for mercy. He is even searching for those who would ask for it! My prayer this week is that we as The Equipped community would be found in that gap. We don’t deserve mercy, but He desires to grant it anyway if only we will just ask!

One final observation about Genesis 18. Sodom is ultimately destroyed after Lot escapes, and so we are left to conclude that Abraham was not able to find 10 righteous people. But why was 10 the number required? Was it that God finally set a limit and said no to Abraham’s next request? No, it was because 10 was the final request Abraham made. Although he showed tremendous courage in going through six rounds of pleading before God, he eventually stopped asking for more. Ten was the final ask, and God said yes.

Our land needs a 2 Chronicles 7:14 moment of repentance and turning back to God. I personally need that posture. But alongside that posture of repentance, you and I have a remarkable opportunity to continue asking God to pour out additional mercy on our land. He is looking for us to make that request and to stand in that gap for those around us. Let’s not give up on making the request when God hasn’t given up on hearing it, and granting it. Let’s together be the people who are found with repentant hearts, and who continue to stand in the gap and ask for an extension of mercy for our land.


Technology

Disruption in AI

The industry of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in a bit of tumult after the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI was fired, and then hired by one of OpenAI’s main investors, Microsoft. OpenAI, a nonprofit perhaps best known for creating ChatGPT, had been led by Sam Altman since its inception, and has grown rapidly over that time. Shortly after Altman was dismissed by the OpenAI board, he was hired by Microsoft, along with Greg Brockman, who also co-founded OpenAI but resigned when Altman was fired. According to reports, a number of additional former OpenAI employees are also moving to Microsoft.

As for OpenAI, it announced an interim CEO when Altman was fired, but a few days later named Emmett Shear as the permanent replacement.

Analysis and eternal perspective: Artificial Intelligence is one of those issues that is tempting to ignore, because it is difficult for most of us to wrap our minds around both the concept and the potential ramifications of its use. However, AI has a rapidly growing presence and influence in our lives, and it is important to steward its potential while also maintaining proper boundaries for its role in our lives.

The heart of the debate around AI is immediately apparent when considering the mission statement of Open AI, which states:

Our mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence—AI systems that are generally smarter than humans—benefits all of humanity.

It is a seemingly noble goal to benefit all of humanity. In fact, it is consistent with the full biblical thread of the Gospel to be focused on serving those around us (Matt. 25:35-40 and Amos 5:14 are just two of many examples).

Perhaps less clear is the merit of the belief that a technology “smarter than humans” can be a benefit to humanity. To be clear, there is an incredibly wide expanse of useful applications for AI. Virtually every field can, and in many cases already does, benefit from certain aspects of AI.

Even so, it is prudent (to put it mildly) for Jesus followers to be on guard against the temptation that first showed up in the Garden of Eden, when mankind was tempted to “be like God” (Gen. 3:5). It was a similar mindset that motivated the people of Babel to “make a name for themselves” by building a “tower that reaches to the heavens” (Gen. 11:4).

Since the dawn of creation, mankind has been tempted to assume the role reserved only for God. As we grapple with how to properly interact with AI, it is critical to constantly evaluate the posture of our heart. God has invested tremendous ingenuity into the pinnacle of His creation—mankind—and we should steward that creativity into serving our fellow man. In doing so, it is critical to remember that He is God, and we are not (Ps. 100:3).


World

Dismissed in Argentina

There is a new president in Argentina, and it is Javier Milei, who cruised to a convincing double-digit victory over Sergio Massa. Melei’s victory dismisses Massa’s Peronist party from power, and marks a significant change in the political direction of the country. Polling leading up to the runoff election suggested a very tight race, but in the end Milei received a larger share of the vote than any presidential candidate since Argentina’s 1983 return to a democratic system. Massa said the voters “chose another path” and conceded the election.

Analysis and eternal perspective: Daniel 2:21 says that God “deposes kings and raises up others.” Given the context and totality of scripture, it would be a mistake to conclude that every election result is somehow evidence of God’s hand of favor on the victor (there are scores of biblical examples that directly contradict this idea). However, it is equally clear that God can, and does, move in the hearts of kings and rulers (Pr. 21:1).

For those of us who live in some form of democratic government, God most often raises up leaders and moves in their hearts through our engagement with them. A current leader is affirmed or removed through our action, a new leader is raised up with our support, and the hearts of past, present, and future leaders are turned by way of our influence.

Rather than a testament to our own greatness, these realities are actually a testament to the astounding truth that this is yet another way God has allowed His power to be vested in, and channeled through, His people—us. He could raise up kings and rulers on His own, and He could remove them on His own. But He has chosen to entangle His story and His mission with us, and He has infused us with His power.

As is always true after a new leader comes to power, it remains to be seen what the lasting impact of Milei’s leadership will be. But for those of us who follow Jesus, it is yet another reminder of the awesome blessing and responsibility to be in such intimate relationship with the One who turns the hearts of kings.


U.S.

Disorder on Capitol Hill

It seems to be a recurring theme, but disorder once again led the way on Capitol Hill last week. In the short span of just a few days, more than 300 people were arrested during a violent pro-Palestine protest, a Congressman and a witness nearly came to fisticuffs during a hearing, and a former Speaker had a physical altercation with another Congressman in a public hallway.

Analysis and eternal perspective: The inciting factors of each of these three events vary significantly, but there is a common thread—Capitol Hill is currently a very volatile place. Truthfully, that tone is in many ways reflective of our larger society. It is jarring to see behavior from our leaders we wouldn’t tolerate from our toddlers, and yet, that behavior is increasingly common, and even increasingly lauded. Mix in a significant dose of deeply-held and deeply-divergent views about events as significant as wide-scale war, and you have the ingredients for a constantly-simmering tinderbox on Capitol Hill.

What should our response as The Equipped community be in moments like these? There is no easy answer, but as we often do, it is helpful to begin with personal reflection.

What contributions are my actions having on the broader societal tone?

How is the way in which you interact with the world moving the substance and the tenor of the public debate?

By focusing first on our own actions and responsibilities, we are heeding the counsel of Matthew 7:3-5, which enables us to respond productively to the chaos rather than simply contribute to it. Most of us would prefer character over chaos on Capitol Hill, and the best way to achieve more of it is to model it in our own lives.


The Beautiful

A Firm Path

As you gather with friends or family to celebrate Thanksgiving, give thanks for the beauty along God's path for your life. May He order your steps, make firm the ground beneath your feet, and grant you courage to stand in the gap for others.



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