Although I grew up in a Christian home, I can frankly say that I never truly knew God until about two years ago where I met God and experienced the realness of His presence during a 6-month Discipleship Training School in Hawaii. That was when I truly made Christianity a faith of my own and where I made the conscious decision to die to myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. It was the best decision of my entire life. Prior to that, my life was in a complete and utter mess. I was ruled by pride, hatred, unbelief, fear of man, and insecurity.
The bitterness and distrust I had towards my entire family incited me to run away from home. I simply cannot begin to imagine the amount of emotional pain I had inflicted onto my parents during that period of time. I turned to alcohol as a way to escape from the reality of my broken and failed life, which could never satisfy the profound emptiness I had in my heart. This cry for meaning and to satisfy the extensive void in me came to a point whereby I would perpetually end up intoxicated in a cubicle toilet of a nightclub every night, weeping and questioning the meaning of my life. I was tired of running from God. Through my rebellious phase, He seemed to always be at the back of my mind and I came to a realization that nothing in this world would ever satisfy the emptiness in my heart because God created us to need him; only He can satisfy the deepest longings in our heart.
Ever since I gave my life to Jesus, I have never felt so content, full of joy, purpose and hope. It has and continues to be an exciting journey with my Heavenly Father as I discover more about Him and my identity in Him. Going to Summit drew me one step closer and a level intimately deeper in my walk with God.
The Conversation that Encouraged Me to Come to Summit
Last year, a deep conversation about God and Christianity with my grandfather really shook me and challenged my faith as a Christian. This was one of the main reasons that motivated me to attend Summit. My grandfather is a loving, selfless, humorous, polite, well-educated man who seemed to be incredibly knowledgeable in regards to religion; specifically in the field of Christianity. In his personal search for truth, he has read the Bible several times, studied Islam, Buddhism, and other such religions too. Hence, with him having this wealth of knowledge about Christianity contrasted with my naïve Christian self who had never read through the entire Bible but gullibly proclaimed it to be true, was in all honesty, very daunting.
Undoubtedly, our conversation about the existence of God left me bombarded with more questions than answers. What frustrated me was that I knew deep in my heart that God was real, because I have genuinely experienced His power, love, and tangible presence in my life. Yet, I had no solid answers to the questions that came up in his argument. My “experience” of God was clearly not substantial enough to counter-argue my case for God’s existence. Jesus tells his disciples that we have to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” In this case, my soul was spiritually content but my mind was evidently not aligned with my soul; my heart too, was significantly conflicted.
The Summit conference has been an intellectually challenging, yet fulfilling time for me. I have been inundated with wisdom and knowledge about many prevalent issues in society today and what the Bible says in relation to these issues. We are presented with a vast spectrum of ideas and opposing opinions and taught to evaluate and dig deeper for ourselves in order to come to our own personal conclusions rather than blindly taking on others’ views. I love that the Summit faculty of speakers does not impose their opinions on us but rather, give us the freedom to do our own investigation and make our case. I also appreciate the diverse range of faculty they invite to speak and the humility of the speakers as many taught us the same message that admitting “I do not know” is perfectly okay.
I also incredibly enjoy the space given for us students to ask speakers questions. Be it whether it is at the end of their presentation, staying up after the session, or even during meal times, we have countless opportunities to approach the speakers with any questions that we have or even for a wee banter. Furthermore, just observing how respectful and loving the speakers interact with each other despite having irreconcilable views has set a good example and given me hope that it is possible to have healthy debate with someone who holds broadly different opinions.
Why Would God Allow Evil, Pain, and Suffering?
One of the most simplest yet widely asked question I wanted to fully understand coming to Summit, was that if God were a good and just God, why then would he allow evil, pain and suffering in the world? Greg Koukl addressed this question in his session proving that the existence of evil in the world is the reason for bad things to happen in the world. Evil is a word that describes something missing, a privation, like donut holes and shadows; where goodness is missing. That is why there are terms like lawlessness, impurity, unrighteousness – because they all signify something bad because of the lack of something good.
Evil is an intruder, brought by man, not God. It was not something created by God. Evil is a description of what happened when man refused God’s leadership. Everything was made just the way God intended, and God saw that all he made was “good.” But the world denied the way He created us to be and thus, goodness drained out. “We live in a world that we crippled, and a crippled world produces crippled people and crippled circumstances.” Which is also the reason why “good people” get hurt too, because innocent people suffer from the sins of others.
What We Discussed in 2 Weeks at Summit CA
Within the span of two weeks, we managed to discuss the biblical perspective of pervasive issues in all the 7 spheres of society – Family, Economics (Science, Technology & Business), Government, Religion, Education, Communications/Media, and Celebration (Arts & Entertainment). Each sphere plays a unique role in seeing “God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
As believers, we are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Therefore, we need to know what God and the Bible says about each sphere and the dilemmas facing them today, so that we know how to approach it, whichever sphere we feel called to get involved in.
John Stonestreet shared a very insightful session about “being in but not of” the world. Many people tend to end up asking the question, “Where do I draw the line?” Instead, what we should really be asking is, “What is my salvation for?” Christianity offers not merely a way of being religious and moral, but a distinct vision for being fully and truly human in God’s world. Escaping or accomodating to culture should not be an option for Christians. As Jesus prayed for mankind not TO be taken out of the world but to be protected from the evil one, we are called to be in the world but not of the world in a way to build our faith. Many Christians are tempted to accommodate to culture through belief, methods, and habits. We have to engage culture at the middle and bring our attitude of “hope in Christ” into this hopeless world.
Freedom without virtue is unsustainable. And the church is seen as one of the four crucial mediating institutions that help people govern themselves. If the church does step up to engage culture, secular culture and pop music is left to train the young men and minds of today’s society. Our call is to be hopefully engaged in the world God made for the sake of the people He loves. Ultimately, the centre of reality is that Christ has risen! No matter the struggles we face or how severe the problems in the world may seem today, Christ has risen. We are more than conquerers through Christ! Hence, as we engage culture, let the truth of our experience always be one of hope.
“Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer