Denison Forum – The Vietnam summit, clergy abuse, and YouTube videos on child suicide: Is the world getting better or worse?

The second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un begins later today. The two are scheduled to meet Wednesday night in a one-on-one session (with translators) before moving to a private “social dinner” and more meetings tomorrow.

We can look for the negative as the summit unfolds. NPR reports, “While talks may hold off the immediate threat of a military conflict, they also give North Korea time to continue to develop its arsenal.”

Or we could look for the positive. One example: the two leaders are meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. I remember when news coverage from Vietnam showed bloody images of American soldiers fighting and dying in its jungles. We could not have imagined then that the US and Vietnam would be diplomatic and economic partners today.

“God can help you, he really can.”

I told the story yesterday of Craig Coley’s thirty-nine years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Rather than focus on the negative, Coley told New York Times reporters that he often talks to people about the power of perseverance: “People that are down and out or having a hard time, my message to them is don’t give up, tell the truth about everything because the truth will always come back and support you.

He adds: “Lies never do. And God can help you, he really can.”

We can focus on the horrendous crimes Vatican Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of committing. But we can also be grateful for the courage of clergy abuse victims who have told their story, intensifying the spotlight on such sins today.

We should be horrified by reports of sex trafficking that have surfaced in the wake of Robert Kraft’s arrest. But we can also support International Justice Mission and other organizations working to end sex trafficking and other forms of slavery.

We should be appalled by YouTube videos that offer children instructions on how to commit suicide. But we can be grateful for Christian Parenting and other ministries that help parents raise godly children.

In short, we can decide that the world is only getting worse. But, as the Wall Street Journal reports, in significant ways it is getting much better.

“She is not dead but sleeping”

Unfortunately, many in our secular culture consider faith to be neither a cause for the good nor a solution for the bad. Young Americans are especially less inclined to identify as religious or attend regular services. Studies consistently show that religion is declining in Western Europe and North America while growing everywhere else.

As our culture becomes increasingly secularized, more and more people agree with Karl Marx that religion is “the opium of the people” which must be abolished so that “the illusory happiness of the people” can be exchanged for “their real happiness” (his italics).

According to Marx, “Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man so long as he does not revolve around himself.” Of course, he learned how wrong he was the moment he died and faced the God whose existence he denied (Hebrews 9:27).

Marx was the prisoner of presuppositions that blinded him to realities he could not then see. He was not the first or the last.

In Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go’” (v. 1).

But the Egyptian ruler responded, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord” (v. 2). In Pharaoh’s view, what he had not experienced could not exist.

When Jesus told those mourning the death of Jairus’ daughter, “She is not dead but sleeping” (Luke 8:52), “they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead” (v. 53). Because they had not seen Jesus raise the dead, they assumed that he could not raise the dead.

Two ways to demonstrate the relevance of our faith

Before we can expect the pharaohs of our day to believe that our God is real and relevant, they must see that he is real and relevant for us. Consider two principles.

One: Do not judge your future by your past.

Exodus 6:23 tells us that Aaron, the future high priest, was married to the daughter of Amminadab. Ruth 4:18–19 tells us that Amminadab was descended from Perez. Genesis 38:29 tells us that Perez was the child of Tamar, who pretended to be a prostitute and became pregnant by her father-in-law.

Nothing that has happened in your past need determine what happens in your future. Only Jesus can forgive the past, empower the present, and redeem the future. When you seek and follow God’s “good and pleasing and perfect” will (Romans 12:2 NLT), others will be inspired to do the same.

Two: Give Monday to God.

Jesus becomes irrelevant to our lives when we separate him from our lives. A Sunday faith must be a Monday reality.

Oswald Chambers: “Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness.” Here’s why: “When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.” When he is King of every part of our lives, others will see that he is King of all of life.

According to C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, God desires for us “the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.”

David echoed this joyous fact more simply: “This I know, that God is for me!” (Psalm 56:9).

Do you know that God is for you today?

 

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