July 19, 2023
Welcome into The Equipped as we focus this week on harnessing true power, and on how that power is revealed through us. Thank you for being in community with us. Please help us grow by inviting a friend to subscribe, and also by supporting our work. Also, don't forget to check out the new podcast!
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“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
It is one of the more confounded assertions in scripture. How and why is God’s power most perfect and most potent in the presence of our own weakness? It defies human logic, and my inclination is to insist that God’s power is most perfect and potent when I, too, am strong! When I, too, add something to the arsenal! My instinct says that God’s power combined with my power makes me truly strong! But therein lies the rub, as God is asking for my submission to Him rather than my addition to His already-completed work (Jam. 4:7; Jn. 19:30).
The context for Paul’s profession of God’s perfect power is his confession of a serious struggle—he calls it a “thorn in the flesh” Satan is using to “torment” him (2 Cor. 12:7). Paul repeatedly begs God to take away this weakness (v. 8), to which God responds, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).
We serve a jealous God. He desires—and deserves—all the glory. He grants us great mercy (Ps. 86:15), but He also longs to demonstrate His power in the very place of our weakness. While Paul was naturally desperate to be rid of his weakness, he was so much more desperate for God’s perfect power to be revealed. When informed that God’s power increases when it combines with his own weakness, Paul immediately “boasted” (v. 8) and took “delight” (v. 10) in his weakness so that God’s power might fully rest upon him (v.9).
As we today consider three stories dealing with various forms of power, let’s remember that while our own strength is so often futile, it is through the surrender of our weakness to God’s power that we can experience truly perfect power!
Focus on Defense
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which provides $886 billion worth of legal authorization (appropriation of these funds is a separate process) for the programs carried out by the Department of Defense (DOD). This is usually a widely bipartisan effort, but this year the legislation passed the House by a narrow 219-210 vote, with just four Democrats in favor and four Republicans opposed. The reason for the more partisan process is the emergence of a number of non-defense related initiatives within the DOD, and therefore in the bill.
For example, the DOD is currently paying for service members to travel over state lines to obtain abortions. An amendment to prohibit expenditure of taxpayer funds for that purpose was approved during debate on the House floor. Additional amendments restricted taxpayer funding for the DOD from being used for gender reassignment procedures or certain diversity programs. These programs and activities, and the amendments responding to them, created an unusually divisive process for the NDAA. The bill now has to be considered in the U.S. Senate, which is likely to produce a very different outcome, after which the two chambers will have to resolve their differences.
Analysis and eternal perspective: First, speaking strictly from a policy perspective, two things stand out: 1) It would be wise for our Department of Defense to focus on defense, and 2) While there are sharp differences of opinion on the issues covered by these amendments, it is refreshing to see those differences debated in a legislative forum. While it is difficult to say what the final NDAA will look like, our legislative process was designed to include the refining process of debate and amendments. That process has been too often absent in recent years, and our policymaking would be strengthened by its return.
Next, as Jesus followers, we should be mindful the Bible has a lot to say about the value of life in the womb and our Creator’s loving and intentional design of us. Psalm 139:13-14 speaks to both of these blessings in a unified fashion: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What an incredible blessing to have been designed with such care and purpose! We should endeavor to genuinely share and demonstrate that care and purpose of design with those who do not yet know it.
There’s a new entrant in the race to develop and perfect Artificial Intelligence (AI), and it’s none other than Elon Musk, the Twitter owner and Tesla CEO who just recently called for a “pause” in AI development. It appears that Musk changed his tune after his recommendation gained little traction. His new company, xAI, will aim to compete with OpenAI, a company that Musk helped found and that developed the controversial ChatGPT technology.
Analysis and eternal perspective: As we’ve discussed previously here at The Equipped, the influence of technology is expanding at a rate that is impossible for any of us to fully absorb. Musk is likely correct there is a certain amount of inevitability to this advance. It is also true that constantly advancing technology comes with both blessings and hazards.
Our role as Jesus followers is to steward our interaction with this (and every) human and technological advancement. As is true with so many creations of man, AI has the potential to be used for great good or great ill. It also has the potential to be the object of our trust and worship. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” For all of human civilization, it has been tempting to trust in created things that possess great power—"chariots,” if you will. As we together navigate how to interact with emerging technology, let’s do so ever-focused on ensuring our trust remains in the Creator rather than the created.
Close Encounters in the Sky
A Russian jet forced a manned U.S. aircraft to deviate course when it flew provocatively close over Syria this week. It was the latest in a string of hostilities in the region, as military ties between Russia, Iran, and Syria appear to be getting stronger. The three nations also appear to have a growing collective appetite for conflict with U.S. aircraft, ships, and personnel. According to U.S. officials, the latest encounter was particularly concerning because it directly threatened the lives of U.S. servicemembers aboard the aircraft.
Analysis and eternal perspective: We have often reflected on the command to be at peace with everyone as much as possible (Rom. 12:18). It is one of the more challenging instructions in scripture, both because it is difficult to get along with some people, and because it is challenging to know when to acknowledge it is not “possible” to be at peace.
A story like this one calls to mind Matthew 7:16-20, which reminds us, “You will know them by their fruits.” There is quite simply a common fruit being produced by the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the Iranian regime led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That common fruit is violence and senseless destruction of the innocent. Our God’s mercy is inexhaustible and beyond comprehension (Lam. 3:22). Even so, we are repeatedly reminded to be prudent when confronted by dangerous men (Pr. 22:3; 27:12).
True strength involves the pursuit of peace, but it also demands prudence and a defense of the innocent from their oppressors. Let’s ask God today for wisdom to balance that tension.
Consider the Lilies
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:28-29).
Beauty is displayed in our lives not through our own toil or strength, but as a result of God’s perfect power.
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