A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label God's Character. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God's Character. Show all posts

May 20, 2024

What Does God Demand of Us, and What Does the World Tempt Us to Covet?

As I have expressed in past posts, I want less of what the world has to offer. And as I advance in my faith [and my number of years on this planet], I yearn, instead, for more of the Kingdom in my life. Furthermore, as I learn what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, I can discern the differences in a life lived surrendered to Him, and one that answers the call of the world.

So, these considerations have led to an awakening in my spirit of the ways our Enemy diverts the paths of Christians and steals our peace and joy. It's easy to see how the Unbelievers respond to the world. For them, there is no contemplation of what the Lord might ask of them, or how He might desire they live their lives. Instead, those with little or no faith simply are drawn to what the world tells them has value, or that promises them they will receive validation from their fellow men. 

What does that look like? It's easily seen with spiritual eyes. The world sets the standards ... you must have a big house with a pool; hundreds of followers on social media; the latest hairstyle, clothes, and weekly pedicures; belong to the "right" club, group, or clique; climb the corporate ladder; have a title, whether it's in the boardroom, the community, or the church. And above all else, the world teaches us that we put ourselves first; that self-gratification is our means to achieve happiness, success, wealth and power -- it all culminates in the indulgence or satisfaction of one's own desires. 

But did Jesus teach any of that?? What does God demand of us? What does He desire our lives to look like? If we call ourselves Christians, there is an obvious Bible verse that shines a light on what God desires. It's Micah 6:8 ... And what does the Lord require of you except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness [compassion], and to walk humbly with your God. Put simply, God wants you to live a lifestyle that shows you know right from wrong. Such a lifestyle is characterized by being just [ethical, moral, righteous, principled, full of integrity] in an unjust world. Jesus is our example. Consider how He conducted Himself in the midst of Roman autocracy. He did not respond as the world would have responded. He hit the mark on every one of those descriptions that I used to describe what just means. But the world would have us react out of anger, pride, and vengeance. Just turn on the TV and watch the News channels, talk shows, and the live broadcasts of our Congress in action.   

Secondly, God desires that we love others and practice kindness, compassion, and mercy. Remember that at the time Micah wrote this, Israel's religious focus was on their rites and sacrifices as the way to curry favor with God for forgiveness of their sins. But their emphasis was all wrong! They were convinced by hard hearts to add to the sacrifices sanctioned by the Law of Moses. They followed the pagan culture and began sacrificing their firstborn sons as a means to cover their sins. That gives such a profound meaning to Jesus's quote in Hosea 6:6 ... I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I think God's most intimate desire is that we know His love and how to share it with others. That is the most important thing to Him; He sent His Son to model that for us. He does not demand rigid, religious rites. He desires changed hearts which reflect Him to the world; justice, mercy, and love are the foundation of God's Holy Nature. The modern Church has sadly compromised with the world, and too often subverts God's holy commandments in order to listen when the world's culture whispers "diversity, equity, and inclusion".   

Thirdly, Micah 6:8 tells us God desires us to walk humbly with Him. Again, this shows a heart fully surrendered to God; one that sets aside worldly pride to stand committed to showcasing God's glory and His attributes, rather than our own. Let's be honest, it is easy to recognize a person who puts God first in their life. They do not call attention to themselves [as the world tempts them to do], but rather, they simply do what is right, and people are drawn to them because of their loving heart. Their walk with Jesus is their way of life. And that brings us to another thing God desires of us: that we walk in all His ways in our steadfast relationship with Him. That requires a healthy fear [or reverence or awe] of the Lord, rather than idolizing what the world holds up for our entertainment and worship. His goodness should motivate us all to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and spirit because He is worthy of such adulation and respect. Walking in the ways of the Lord means it is incumbent upon us to seek knowledge of His Word, and to walk in obedience to do what He calls us to do, wherever He sends us, giving all honor and glory to Him. The world, however, encourages us to love ourselves and what it defines as worthy -- money, fame, beauty, material things, power.

And anyone who has experienced life with Jesus knows that those things are empty and meaningless in the Kingdom of God. Regrettably, I have seen those very temptations draw people [that I love dearly] further away from a life that will lead them to God. The world speaks lies that these idols are worthy substitutes for a life lived in the midst of God's love, and the joy and peace it brings. It doesn't mean our life in the world will be a bed of roses -- in fact, our Enemy will do everything to persuade us to abandon our allegiance to God and His ways. But, I will continue to pray that I grow more into the image of Christ, that they may have the dirty veil removed from their eyes and see the world in all its decay and deceit. Until then, I will do my utmost to live a righteous life; show kindness, compassion and mercy to others; and to walk in humbleness before my Lord. I know I am not perfect and there will be times I fail [a lot], but I also trust that He knows my heart because I know He is full of forgiveness for the repentant.

So, join me in praying for the world; pray that we who desire to please the Lord by following Him in all His ways can be a righteous influence and role model for those who desperately need to know Him. Let's show them that they don't need to follow any religious rules, but just allow Him to come close to them. They are His delight and His joy, and He paid everything for them to restore their relationship. And then let us invite them to tell them how we know!

2 Peter 1:4     And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world's corruption caused by human desires.  

December 23, 2023

Questioning "The Sovereignty" of God ... Is He In Control of Everything?

Several years ago, I presented this question on this blog, and in the intervening years, I have discovered that it is still a stumbling block to Christians and their understanding of God. Without a doubt, the question of whether you believe God is in control of everything [or not] will shape your belief system and your view of Him. And depending on your answer, it will likely determine whether you believe you have Power and Authority in the Name of Jesus. And it will definitely shape how you respond to life's adversities and spiritual attacks. So, I decided it was time to take another look at this confusing obstacle to a Believer's understanding of God.

Those who respond "yes" [to God controlling everything] will point to the characteristic of His Sovereignty, saying it means God has supreme power, authority, and control over His creation.  They will cite Scripture they believe points to God's sovereignty over nature and nations. They will quote Bible verses they say validate God's sovereignty over history and the affairs of men. And, ultimately, they will say that even if something bad happens... It was God's WILL!  God can use everything and everyone for His purpose, and therefore that means that He controls things by His will.  So, I knew -- for me -- I had to determine what this concept of God's sovereignty had to say about whether or not He controls everything.

But here is an astounding thing that I discovered when I first tackled this dilemma ... I looked up "Sovereignty" in the Dictionary and got this definition:  jurisdiction, rule, supremacy, dominion, power, ascendancy, domination, authority, control, influence.  I thought, "Okay, that is how the secular world defines sovereignty. How is it defined in Strong's Concordance?", which is an index to the Bible that lists words, and allows one to compare how that word is used in different passages, and to see different meanings, depending on the context. Well, guess what? I went to my well-worn Concordance... and the word sovereign wasn't listed! You know how you try to justify something that doesn't seem possible?

When the Concordance went from the word, southward to the word sow, I found myself repeating the alphabet to make sure I wasn't looking in the wrong place.  Surely this couldn't be! But there it was ... Neither sovereign nor sovereignty were listed in Strong's Concordance.  So, what does that say when a well-trusted and accepted reference book doesn't even acknowledge the concept of sovereignty?  This well-respected book provides an independent check against translations, and offers readers of the Bible an opportunity for greater, and more technically accurate understanding of the Scriptural text (from both the Hebrew and Greek perspective) -- yet how was I supposed to understand text that seemingly didn't exist?

Now, I was faced with an even bigger dilemma! One of the primary arguments that God is in control of everything has been the characteristic of His Sovereignty... yet, that word doesn't seem to be used in the Bible?!?!  How can that be?  This quandary demanded more research, and I was actually amazed to find the following information....  The words sovereign and sovereignty do not appear in the 1611 King James Bible at all!  (MY CAVEAT: I am not advocating a "King James only" interpretation. I merely reference it because it is the oldest among the Bible versions in use today and it is the interpretation/translation used by the Concordance, which is the most utilized reference book for defining words in Scripture).

I discovered that sovereign and sovereignty appear sporadically in the ESV and Amplified versions (written in 1971 and 1965, respectively).  Sovereignty appears eight times in the New American Standard version (published in 1971), although it refers to the LORD God, only twice. But the word sovereign appears 297 times (I looked it up on biblegateway.com) in the NIV translation, written in 1973, and nearly all usages refer to the title, "Sovereign LORD".

So, by now I'm curious as to what appears in the King James instead of this word sovereign. What I found was that "Sovereign Lord" in the NIV replaced the use of "LORD God" in the King James.  Apparently, the translators of the 20th Century NIV decided to translate the word LORD as Sovereign.  This word, LORD, was translated in the King James Bible from the Hebrew Adonai (meaning Lord, Master) and Jehovah (meaning Lord).  When I compared the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (and written and completed before Christ was born!), with every occurrence of the NIV's Sovereign LORD, I found the various terms "Master and Lord", "the Lord thy God", "O Lord, King of gods", or simply "Lord".

So, let me make my position clear ... Every time you read “Sovereign God” in the NIV Bible, it actually should read “Lord God”. The original Hebrew did not mean "sovereign" and that was a translator’s decision.  And while I cannot explain the reasoning behind this recent mis-translation, I can definitely see how assigning the word "Sovereign" has resulted in a faulty doctrine. Let me elaborate...

So, once it was decided that God would actually be called sovereign, then His sovereignty became an established theological characteristic according to the NIV Bible, and is actually listed in Theopedia (a conservative, evangelical, Christian encyclopedia) as an official characteristic of God.  So, man's ignorance of the Hebrew language, along with religious tradition have actually created a false doctrine of God's "Sovereignty", which now translates into His control of everything because of our 21st Century dictionary definition of what "sovereign" means -- refer back to the third paragraph.

But regardless of whether you are willing to follow the argument I've presented on the historical mis-translation or not, I still want you to understand why I feel it is important you recognize that God is NOT in control of everything. Let me start by asking you a simple question ... If you think God IS in control of everything... how has the world come to be in such bad shape? Why isn't God controlling His world better? Surely, He doesn't approve of the wickedness, crime, and perversion we see in the world today?

And if you truly believe He is All-Powerful, and has the power to prevent the evil, why do we continue to see such evil being perpetrated by humans? Take, for instance, the recent viral videos of innocent people being assaulted for no reason by roving gangs intent only on causing harm [or death]. Or consider the increase in child molestation and torture; or the hate crimes and racial prejudice resulting in burned synagogues, and crimes against religious organizations. Do you think it's  God's will that His people suffer torment and agony? If He is in control of everything, then why doesn't He stop these things from happening? And, as it is oftentimes preached, if there is a purpose for His good in these horrible situations, does that fit your impression of God -- that He would let such pain and humiliation be inflicted upon one of His creation to serve His own purpose?

Now, let me break down my own thoughts ... Yes, God has infinite Power and CAN control anything He wants to. But He used His free will to create us in His image.  Put in very simple terms, if God has free will, then so do we, because we are made in His image. But it is quite evident that it is our free will that has caused the world to be in such bad shape. It is the decisions we make to follow either our flesh or the temptations of the Enemy -- instead of following Lord God-- that result in the pain and misery on this earth. Could He have made us to be creatures that automatically follow Him in every circumstance? Absolutely! But how would that have glorified Him? Wouldn't we all just be robots then? And how does that glorify God? He wants us to choose [out of our own will] to glorify Him. 

Ultimately, our free will results in a decision either to be loyal to Him, or to follow a path to rebellion. (And there's another facet to this question of free will -- Satan was created by God as Lucifer, and he used his free will to make a decision to rebel. And he is trying to convince us to do the same).

Here's what we need to understand ... What we see on earth is man using his free will to disobey God to serve his own selfish desires. Think about this --- If everything was "sovereignly" controlled by God, then there would be no need to pray, no need to give financial offerings, no need to even live right — because whatever happened would be what God wanted regardless of our efforts. In effect, if God controls everything, why even bother to pray? After all, wouldn't God just make things happen for the best anyway?

Now, you could say, "But God is all-powerful. He is able to intervene in human affairs, and my prayers can help convince Him". Yes, our prayers rising to Heaven can, and do, result in God intervening in our lives.  But God has given us His power, too, through the Holy Spirit, and the authority to use it!  Jesus makes that very clear in Luke 10:19 ... Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 

Yet we doubting and faithless Christians do not believe this word from our Savior!  Oh, we have no problem believing that God exists -- but all this other stuff about demons, and spiritual attacks, and supernatural forces of evil; well, that's outside the box that we've put God and ourselves in.  But the ancient Jews, to whom Jesus was talking to in Luke 10:19 knew exactly what He was referencing. "Serpent" referred to a deadly, subtle, malicious enemy; and "Scorpion" symbolized torment and wrath.  Yet, we choose to ignore Jesus's gift [to us] of authority over both, and over ALL the power of the enemy!  These terms and symbols are all dealing with the supernatural, spiritual realm.  Jesus has given us authority and power to resist them, and yet we limit ourselves to praying and asking God to handle it for us, and then wondering why He let us down!

Can you consider the possibility that He doesn't want to be the "medicine cabinet God" that handles everything for us?  Can you see that the next time we encounter an attack by the enemy, we have the choice to continue to just sit back and ask God to take care of it for us -- OR we can choose to use the power and authority Jesus has given us over ALL the power of the enemy, and handle it ourselves?  I'm going to ask you to answer this question: Which glorifies Him the most? -- evil forces on the earth continue to torment and attack us over and over because we never stop them; we just wait for God to answer our prayers ... OR, we declare to the spiritual realm that we are using our free will and our authority to call upon the mighty Name of Jesus [and are using His power that abides within us] to wage war as part of His Kingdom servants on this earth.

My spirit gets a very clear picture --- God doesn't want to be in control of everything!  He wants a partner, not a puppet!  He made us in His image and He wants us to act like it!  He sent His Son into this evil world , and transferred His power to Jesus to establish God's Kingdom on earth.  Then Jesus transferred His power to us, and here we are 2,000 years later, with scarcely an idea that we possess that power, let alone know how to use it.  It is not God's will that the world be in the shape it is in, nor that we suffer in our lives from all the slings and arrows of the enemy.

Will there be things outside our control, even if we use the power assigned to us?  The answer is yes. The Prince of this world still has his power, too.  But I don't think Jesus wanted us to believe that God would control everything.  Jesus, Himself, was God ... and He could have called down a legion of angels to stop his crucifixion and controlled the whole outcome.  But He came to our realm to show us the way to fight in the spiritual war that started in Heaven and continues to this day on earth.  He used the Power and Authority given to Him by God to heal the sick, bind and cast out demons, and spread the word that the Kingdom of God (God's heavenly government) was here to take back territory.  It's time we use our free will to work with God and take control of our lives!

This concept that God is sovereign over every thing on the earth must be understand in the context of how it weakens the power and authority of the Believer. In case you haven't noticed, Evil is growing and expanding in the earth. Humans are not prepared for just how bad it's going to get, and if you're expecting God to make it easy for us, then you haven't been reading the Bible. Our free will choices have led to this wicked state of affairs, and there is an accounting that will take place. We have no time to spare! Let us step into our God-given power and authority, and our true identities in Christ, recognizing that our deliverance from the evil of this world is not guaranteed until the moment we are face to face with our Savior. Jesus didn't experience His own deliverance from the Evil, but He glorified the Father with His choices. AND NOW we have the opportunity to declare His Glory, His Judgment, His Grace, His Mercy, His Power, and His Love so that the lost may decide to choose Him over Satan's false promises. We are made in the image of Jesus! Let us walk out this life like our Savior did!

#God'ssovereignty #freewill #isGodincontrolofeverything? #falsedoctrine #questioningGod #wrongbibletranslations #isGodsovereign #God'sfreewill #whyisthereevilintheworld #whydoesGodletbadthingshappen

Romans 14:12      So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.       

October 1, 2023

God's Righteousness and His Wrath: The Fullness of His Character

This may not be a popular post, but it has been on my heart to write about these two very important aspects of God for quite awhile: His righteousness and His wrath. Because I see so much unrighteousness at nearly every level in the world -- from the personal nature of mankind to the global manifestations -- I am left wondering how much longer will God tolerate the wicked passions of His creation? What do we really understand about His righteousness? About His wrath?

The Church is very good at teaching us about that first part of God's character: His righteousness, which is very often portrayed as His Mercy. That is the picture that most Christians have of Jesus and the Father. In the words of Bible teacher Derek Prince, "God's mercy offers His righteousness, which He imparts to those who receive by faith the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf."  True, because of His mercy towards us, He offers His righteousness, but it must be received and accepted by having faith in Jesus. And God has been showing me there is so much more to this concept, and His character.

In an effort to win new converts, we often say to unbelievers, "Jesus died for my sins. Through my faith in Him, I am forgiven of all my transgressions -- past, present, and future -- and God has poured out His love on me.  That's what He wants to do for you, too."  We are pretty good at expressing that beautiful Truth. But we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and ask the question, "Are we suppressing the whole truth of God's character?" 

It is good [and right] to express to new believers that in the Gospel of Christ, "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith [springing from faith and leading to more faith], for it is written 'The just shall live by faith' ". We often cherry pick this beautiful verse to uplift our spirits when we're feeling down, but do you know the verses that precede and follow Romans 1:17? In verse 16, the Apostle Paul tells us, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior], to the Jew first and also to the Greek". I've included the Amplified version of this verse because it actually tells us what God is saving us from! He isn't just giving us some free gift because He loves us. He wants us to know why we need to be saved and what it cost Him!

So, in verse 18, we get our answer: " For [God does not overlook sin and] the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in their wickedness suppress and stifle the truth". If we are not revealing the significance of the verses that surround the gospel and the power of God for salvation, then we are doing a great disservice to those we are trying to reach, and we are not honoring the full character of God. 

I want to return to Derek Prince's quote and give you the continuation of his thoughts on God's righteousness:  "Christians who question the reality of God's judgment on sin should ponder afresh the significance of the crucifixion. Even Jesus could not make sin acceptable to God, but had to endure the full outpouring of His wrath." So, yes, Christ's substitutionary death at Calvary is the ultimate sign of God's mercy on a sinful world. But often, the Church fails to point out that it is, at the same time, the ultimate revelation of God's wrath, poured out on Jesus when He became identified with man's sin. How many times have you heard Christians refer to the attributes of God's lovingkindness, mercy and grace; and how many pictures of Jesus are hanging in Church sanctuaries and classrooms of the gentle Christ with the lamb around his neck? Do you ever see pictures of an angry God, or of Jesus at the head of His heavenly army, coming to slay the wicked of the earth?  

Instead, we are used to seeing Christ nailed on the Cross, head bowed, but with no marks upon his body. Many Christians will point to the Cross as the true manifestation of God's character, and only see Love. But have you ever seen the depictions of what historians and medical experts say Jesus's body really looked like after He was whipped and scourged before going to the Cross? They speak of horrendous damage to His human body; blood oozing from the capillaries and veins; the skin of His back hanging in ribbons, and the entire area as an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. 

Yes, the fact that Jesus went to the Cross for us is an expression of God's Love; a love so extraordinary that we cannot even imagine it. But we should also be reminded that what is shown to us at the Cross is more than God's love and mercy for us. The Bible, itself, tells us that God does not overlook sin, and the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The Cross is the revelation of God's wrath ... not even His precious Son escaped it. The Cross is a picture of Jesus enduring the outpouring of God's wrath that is due every man for his sins against the Lord; all the wrath that has been storing up since Adam, and will continue to be stored up until Christ returns.  Yes, His love has given us a way to be saved from that wrath through faith in His Son, but that wrath is still in play and will be poured out upon the wicked (those who reject Christ) when Yeshua returns in triumph at the end of this Age.  

The Apostle Paul is careful to make sure that we understand the dual aspect of God's character which includes both Righteousness and Wrath.  He says in Romans 11:22, "Therefore consider the goodness [or kindness] and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off."  Now, I'm here to tell you that Christians don't want to hear that!  This is getting into really uncomfortable territory and forces us to consider that God's wrath has not been taken off the table, so to speak. Once we've seen and felt and experienced the goodness of God through our salvation, we don't want to hear that there's any more possibility of punishment -- or discipline, or wrath, or whatever you want to call it.  You will hear some say, "Well, they were never saved in the first place." But -- and I don't mean to offend you -- but that seems like a pretty convenient caveat, doesn't it?

In the Greek translation of the New Testament, Paul actually cautions new Gentile converts who think that their profession of faith and salvation renders them immune from God's wrath forever:  "Stop having such a superiority complex; but be fearing...".  He then goes on to remind them of both God's kindness and severity, in the cutting off of the natural branches, the Jews... "for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either". But we know the way to eternal life, and should not fear God's wrath if we continue in His goodness. That's why I'm always cautioning the faithful to not compromise with the world and its sins. Remain faithful to God, and He will remain faithful to deliver you!    

The Church has been living in a self-declared "Age of Grace". But it is time the Church and all Christians who fear Him to present the full character of God. It is quite evident that the world is spiraling out of control and the depths of sin have become abominable.   We must declare that there can be no doubt of the wrath of God against all the wickedness of men—against sin. It was seen at the Flood; in the destruction of Sodom; and on the Holy One who was made sin for us. It is also revealed that He is coming in judgment, taking vengeance. The wicked will be cast into the lake of fire. The love of God alone, will not rescue us on His Day of Wrath. It will be God's own righteousness that He sees in us [through our faith in Jesus] that will save us and deliver us from the wrath that the world has brought upon itself. "The just[ified] will live by faith"!  

I know this is not a subject that is easy to hear or receive. We would rather live in the message of God's Grace, Mercy, and Love. But we must live our faith in Truth. God has shown us both His Righteousness and His Wrath. We should be able to accept that a Righteous God cannot tolerate sin, because that would demean His moral, good, and guiltless nature. And therefore, He is entitled to His wrath against those who would walk in sin against His creation. To look upon one part of His nature, while denying the other, is to both misinform and deceive. Instead, praise Him for the fullness of His character and His heart to draw all men -- both the justified and the wicked -- to Him. He never gives up on us!

Romans 11:33    Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways!


April 21, 2023

How the Biblical Story of the Canaanite City of Ai Reveals our AI Dilemma

Once again, I am amazed how the Holy Spirit speaks a spiritual truth to me, seemingly out of nowhere. If you've been a reader of my blog since 2011, then you will know that both my husband and myself are just ordinary people who have made ourselves available to be used by the Lord to advance His Kingdom here on earth. We are not exceptional; and we hold no titles, other than "obedient followers of Jesus Christ". We don't seek unmerited favor, but are willing to receive whatever Word He has for us. So, when I suddenly [and amazingly] see a Biblical connection to something I've never been aware of before, I know, without a doubt, that it is something I need to consider and pursue. I will now share what I have discovered with you, put it into context with the the peril I believe we are facing, and ask you to pray about whether your spirit is in agreement..

Central to this article is the question, Is there a connection between the Biblical account of the Canaanite city Ai and our current unease regarding the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the world? In other words, can we make a link between Ai and AI, or is it just a coincidence? 

Because I have a strong Biblical worldview, and I believe that God is intimately involved in our daily lives -- just as He was in the lives of His chosen people in the Bible -- I believe that He wants to show us things so that we can align our spirits with Him, and partner with Him for His glory. So I began with a look at the city of Ai, first mentioned in Genesis 12, as a city where Abram pitched his tent as he journeyed to the land God promised him and his offspring. There he built an altar to the Lord and "called upon the name of the Lord".

NOTE: Let me digress for a moment, because our understanding of what it means to call upon the name of the Lord is important for the sake of this connection I'm trying to make between Ai and AI. To call upon the name of the Lord means "to pray earnestly in order to know how to serve Him in obedience; to submit ourselves to His authority and will; to repent of our sins, asking for mercy, compassion, and salvation/deliverance from our circumstances".  

But what is the significance of that Canaanite city of Ai in terms of our relationship with God? Historically, it is the site of a consequential defeat of the Israelites due to the open rebellion of a single man in Joshua's army. Here's the setting: The Israelites, with Joshua as Commander of the army, is on the precipice of taking possession of the land of Canaan, just as the Lord God had promised. Joshua and the people bind themselves in covenant with God to obey all of His commands, declaring that whoever rebels against any commandment will be put to death. The test of their faithfulness came in the battle for Jericho, a heavily fortified city, and a key component for conquering all of Canaan. If defeated, Jericho would open up the interior land and cities for easy conquest. 

You will recall the history of Jericho ... the Israelites were to march around the city walls once a day for six days, accompanied by the priests and the ark of the covenant, with trumpets blaring. On the seventh day, they were to march around it seven times, seven priests blowing the trumpets, and with a great shout from the people, the walls of Jericho would fall. Result: the city of Jericho was given to the Israelites by the Lord, with the command that everyone and everything within was devoted to the Lord to be destroyed.  (except for Rahab and her family, the prostitute who helped hide the Israelite spies). There was a specific commandment that nothing was to be taken as spoil from wicked Jericho because it would make the camp of the Israelites a target for destruction and "bring trouble to it". Furthermore, "all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord". 

Unbeknownst to Joshua, there was an Israelite man, named Achan, who willfully disobeyed the command of the Lord and coveted a beautiful robe and some gold and silver, taking it from Jericho and hiding it within his tent. Because Achan disobeyed the Lord regarding His commandment, "the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel", and He orchestrated their humiliating defeat at the small city of Ai. Joshua was distraught, not understanding why they were defeated, until God revealed that someone had violated the covenant and taken things from Jericho. God instructed Joshua to give the people a night to consecrate themselves and give the guilty party time to admit their wrong-doing. Until this was done, the Lord would no longer support the Israelites in battle.

The next morning, the tribes of Israel were called before Joshua to be questioned; tribe by tribe, clan by clan, and man by man. When he stood before Joshua, Achan did not repent, even though he confessed to his disobedience. And God's justice was swift. All of Israel stoned Achan and his family and burned them with fire. Then the Lord turned from His burning anger and delivered the city of Ai and its king into the hands of the Israelites. Their destruction was complete and Joshua renewed the covenant of the people with the Lord.

It was an important lesson for Joshua, and it's one we need to understand ourselves ... the nation of Israel had entered into covenant with God, and when one man transgressed, the relationship of the entire nation was at risk. In this ancient story we can clearly see God's Nature and how important His principles of obedience and repentance are to Him. We see His holiness and the consequences upon nations whose citizens are disobedient.

Can you see the connection between the Canaanite city of Ai and the danger of today's AI? The field of Artificial Intelligence research was founded at a workshop at Dartmouth College in 1956, and the US is a world leader in the high-performance infrastructure of AI research and has developed the world's most advanced AI systems [think GPT-3, for instance]. Increasingly, we are being warned of the dangers of AI, and the inherent destruction of our nation, all humanity, and the world. AI is a creation of man, and there is no identification with the spirit of God.

The ancient city of Ai points to the humiliating defeat of God's chosen people due to the consequences of breaking covenant with Him. It also is evidence that what God designated as holy was stolen from Him. Add to the list of sins the disobedience to His commandments and the refusal to repent. So, could the defilement of our covenants as a Christian nation, and our agreement with the modern-day AI lead to our own destruction? Remember, a whole nation is held liable for the ungodly actions of one man, or a few. Matthew 25 tells us that Jesus will judge between the sheep and goat nations [not just individual people]. Sadly, our leaders refuse to repent for the unholy laws we have instituted; have violated the sanctity of life; have stolen and lied to God, keeping His bountifulness for themselves; and opened us up to invasion and ruination. What can we do about it?

I think we must continue to do as 2 Chronicles 7:14 instructs us ... Call on the name of the Lord as a people -- praying earnestly to know how to serve Him in obedience; to submit ourselves to His authority and will; to repent of our sins, asking for mercy, compassion, and salvation/deliverance from our circumstances. As Scripture says, we must humble ourselves and pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, praying that He will hear and act on our behalf. But as the tale of the Israelites and their battles with the city of Ai show us, we, as a nation, may still be held liable for the sins of the unrepentant. Will the modern-day AI be the tool of our final destruction? If Chaos-GPT (an autonomous implementation of Chat-GPT) has its way, it will achieve its goals to destroy humanity, establish global dominance, cause chaos and destruction, control humanity through manipulation, and attain immortality.  Sounds like it is in league with the devil, doesn't it?

But never forget or lose hope! Our God is still greater than anything man and Satan can collaborate on! Jesus, our Savior, will forever be with us and is our Stronghold, Deliverer, and Protector. He will be going before us in battle and leading us to victory. Praise Him! Confess and Repent! And trust that we will be saved from our enemies. He is Jehovah-Chereb, The Glorious Sword! 

Let us consider [for ourselves] if what the Lord taught Joshua through an ancient city called Ai, could be relevant to us. Could our version of AI be the means of our destruction? Listen to what the Lord said to the Israelites:

Joshua 7:12    That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.  

May 13, 2022

The Psalms: Knowing The Fullness of God's Character


I have found myself spending a lot of time reading the Psalms lately. I don't know, maybe it's the wide range of personal experiences that are shared, where I know I will find something that will minister to my spirit. It doesn't matter what is on my heart, there is a Psalm that will speak to me and oftentimes open up a conversation between me and Jesus... jubilation, praise, sorrow, war, peace, worship, judgment, messianic prophecy, tribulation, God's love, God's wrath, deliverance, salvation, healing, discipline, and damnation -- there is not a topic that Jesus and I have discussed that it is not present in the Psalms. 

In fact, my husband and I [who often examine separate portions of the Bible during our study time in the mornings] both found ourselves reading Psalms this morning. On the days when I can't stand to hear another news cast, it somehow comforts me to read the same descriptions of human flaws, folly, and failings that I see in the world today. If God could rescue them from themselves, then surely there's hope for us! And the Psalms share the whole spectrum of this volatile and glorious relationship with our Father in Heaven!   

And it is exactly that hope amidst the accounts of man's rebellion and God's discipline and love that I am grateful for and celebrate in the Bible! I can hear God speaking to me [and all of us] in both Psalm 118 ("His Steadfast Love Endures Forever") and Psalm 78 ("Tell the Coming Generation"). So, why do I often find myself at odds with other Christians who question why I contemplate the less than cheerful and joyous verses in this confirming Book of man's experiences with God? Why do they misunderstand my ability to look at the "Big Picture" and full counsel of God's witness -- both the destruction of man and the redeeming love God displays?

For instance, in Psalm 78, there are some pretty scary verses that tell us what God is capable of doing ... In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite His wonders, they did not believe. So He made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror. That should be enough to make anyone stop and assess where we stand today. After all, He is still the same God and the Bible makes it clear that His attributes and character never change... I, the Lord, do not change (Malachi 3:6). Yet, within that same Psalm, we read this: Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; He restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath. And so, I recognize the immutability of God -- that He is unchanging in His character, will and covenant promises. But that immutability defines ALL of God's attributes ... among them, His wisdom, His goodness, His mercy, His grace ... and His righteous wrath and anger.

Have you ever found yourself in discussions with a fellow Christian where they only want to consider the "feel good" verses about God's love and mercy and our ultimate victory in Christ? And do you ever sense that they think all you ever do is look for the bad in the Bible? I have yet to find a way to make myself adequately understood that it is exactly because I am grounded and anchored in His goodness and love that I am able to look upon His wrath and anger with no fear; understand what led up to His reaction; and then caution the Body of Christ to guard against the same sins. For me, it is understood -- it is a given -- that if I call myself a Believer, I know the Lord's love endures forever. If it didn't, He would have every reason to destroy us and start over. And if I didn't believe in His love and our victory, I wouldn't be able to encourage others to battle in their power and authority in Christ.

But being the same God as He was throughout Psalm 78, I must also caution us not take Him for granted! If we are reading the Bible in Truth and Spirit, then we must not fool ourselves into thinking we will be exempt from "vanishing like a breath", should we continue to test and rebel against the Most High God and do not keep His testimonies; if we turn away and act treacherously and deceitfully; if we anger Him with our "high places" and our idols. We must not think He will no longer consider delivering "His power to captivity, His glory to the hand of our foe."

For He is a jealous God and a righteous one! But He will uphold those who walk humbly in His ways; He will uphold us with His mighty right hand! The Bible represents a composite picture of our Most High God and it is important we behold Him in His fullness. If we only look at the verses that make us feel comfortable, we will miss out on the "tough love" that assures us He loves us enough to train us up in ways that secure our eternity with Him. So, if you think I only depict the "doom and gloom" of the Bible, I promise you that my faith is solidly rooted in the goodness, love, mercy, kindness, and grace of God. And it is from that position that I am not afraid to share His attribute of righteous judgment against those who rebel against Him. Make no mistake, I know what it is to fear the Lord [in all that means] and I praise Him for all that He is! 

Psalm 118: 15-16    Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly. The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things! The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.