February 22, 2023

Welcome to The Equipped! It's Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lent season. While personal traditions and observances vary, it is a great time for all of us to intentionally reflect on, and participate in, the miracle that is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Take some time today, and over the next several weeks leading up to Easter, to acknowledge your need for a Savior and revel in all He has done for you. Thank you for being a part of The Equipped community!

The True

Where He's Wanted

“God goes where He’s wanted.” That is how Pastor Jon Tyson paraphrases this truth, but it is one that is consistently repeated in scripture, especially in the Psalms. Perhaps my favorite expression of this truth is in Psalm 145:18-19, which says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”

This does not mean we are the initiators in our relationship with God. Rather, “we love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). It must always be first and only about God, and always for His glory. Even so, as we have been exploring together recently, our God is relational and desires to be pursued. He invites us to seek Him out, and to yearn to know more of Him. A natural byproduct of this truth is that He rewards our pursuit of Him with His presence. Those of us who seek Him will find Him (Jer. 29:13). In other words, while God is the initiator and longs to be with each of us, He also makes haste to accept our invitation of His presence. Like the good Father He is, He responds when His children call.

So today, do I want more of God? Have you made known to God your desire for more of Him? Does our desire for proximity to, and intimacy with, our God surpass every other desire? Are we pushing aside lesser things in order to prioritize a pursuit of Him? If the answer is yes, God is going to show up. Because He goes where He’s wanted.

International Affairs

Surprise Visit

President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine on Monday. The visit was his first to the country since Russia invaded nearly a year ago. According to the President, the trip’s main purpose was to “reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” President Biden met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in the presidential palace, and the two also walked outside together as air raid sirens rang out in the background.

Meanwhile, the debate over whether and how the U.S. should continue to aid the Ukraine military defense continues in Washington, D.C. While there is near-universal agreement that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the hostile aggressor, there is a lively debate about the proper role for the U.S. to play in the conflict. President Biden acknowledged the ongoing debate, but focused on points of agreement: “For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine. It’s not just about freedom in Ukraine. It’s about freedom of democracy at large.”

Analysis: Jesus followers should pray earnestly for an end to the bloodshed in Ukraine. We should also pray that the lust for power demonstrated by the invasion is not rewarded.

There is no easy policy solution, and there are a number of valid considerations that conflict with each other. As we weigh those considerations, we should carefully avoid letting our preferred policy outcome dictate our thought process. President Vladimir Putin is the aggressor, his forces currently occupy sovereign territory, and he has the blood of tens of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians on his hands. The only truly morally just outcome would be for every square inch of Ukraine land to be restored to Ukraine, and for President Putin to be held accountable for the unspeakable horrors he has caused.

The reality, however, is that President Putin is very unlikely to come to his senses voluntarily. It is therefore very likely the war will continue until there is a negotiated settlement. This scenario would almost certainly include Ukraine concessions that are morally reprehensible (imagine the U.S. being forced to surrender part of its land mass to an invading nation). No matter the outcome, it is highly likely the conflict is not near its end, and it is therefore necessary for the U.S. to make difficult decisions about its long-term involvement.

Jesus followers should acknowledge that these pieces do not fit neatly together, and we should engage in a way that reflects the compassion and love of Jesus.


Fact or Fiction

Important note: This story is a prime example of how critically important it is to read primary sources. Virtually every news story about this case will, by definition, be written by either the defendant in the case or one of its industry competitors. It will be exceedingly difficult to separate fact from narrative in those stories. For that reason, we are not linking to any news sources for this news item, but only to the court filing that happened this week. If you feel this story is important to dig deeper on (it may be for some, but it will certainly not be for many others), it would be prudent to read directly from court filings as the case moves forward.

Dominion Voting Systems made a 192-page filing in its defamation lawsuit against Fox News. As with any legal challenge, you cannot get a full picture of the dispute without reading the eventual filings from both sides. As Proverbs 18:17 says so aptly, “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right until someone comes forward and cross-examines.” In its filing, Dominion claims that Fox News, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, engaged in deliberate and repeated airing of information it knew to be erroneous. The filing includes a large batch of internal Fox News employee communications that suggest a disparity between what the company's reporting showed to be true and what made it to air. Fox News will certainly have a decidedly different interpretation of those deliberations, and is advantaged in this suit by very broad First Amendment protections. In order to prevail, Dominion will have to prove more than that Fox News was repeatedly wrong, but also that it willfully disseminated factually inaccurate information in order to damage Dominion. It is an appropriately high legal hurdle to clear.

Eternal perspective: There is limited utility in digging too deep on this story. However, it should definitely serve as somber warning for Jesus followers about all media consumption. We must be vigilant to understand that all news sources (including ones like The Equipped that aim to guard against it) are managed by human beings with biases and agendas. As we work to walk out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to hold loosely to our preconceived biases, and apply scrutiny (especially the scrutiny of scripture) to the information we consume. If we are to be honest brokers of truth and freedom, we must use this lens for everything from Fox News to CNN to The Equipped. Our ultimate authority must always be the truth of scripture.


Still Shaking

On Monday, Turkey was again rocked by multiple intense earthquakes. There have been thousands of aftershocks since the 7.8 magnitude quake on February 6, but Monday proved to be particularly intense and included quakes measuring 6.4 and 5.8. Approximately 47,000 people have been confirmed dead in Turkey and Syria, and workers continue to recover both deceased and surviving victims from the widespread rubble.

Prayer/service point: The human suffering in the areas of impact is hard to comprehend. Pray for a peace that passes all understanding. Pray for comfort. Pray for the safety of those working to recover victims and lend aid. Look for ways to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus. If you are compelled to go and serve, do not dismiss the prompting without submitting it to prayer. If you are prompted to give, follow through. If you have other talents or resources, offer those. “Mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15).

The Beautiful

Ode to Joy in the Midst of Pain

Dr. Osman Kivrak is the director of a local youth orchestra. He is of Turkish descent, and, when considering how to help those suffering in Turkey, asked who among his students would want to help with a charity concert. This is the crescendo from the performance that came out of his request and his students’ response. It is an “Ode to Joy” in the midst of pain. It is, in a word, beautiful.

In the midst of pain, both Truth and beauty remain. Let's walk into the world from those two places of strength!

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