Happy New Year!

2020 has been described by many as a year that most of us would like to forget. Everyone seems very eager to get “back to normal.” But what if “normal” never returns?

As Christians we need to be tethered to the unshakable truth that God has revealed in His Scriptures. Often in Apologetics there can be a lot of focus on training and equipping and strategy for the next time you are in a situation where you need to provide a defense of your faith. These are all good practical fundamentals, and come from the trademark Bible verse referenced by virtually every Christian Apologetics ministry – 1 Peter 3:15. But often the most important part of the verse (the first clause) is omitted, or at least glanced over: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Here at the Ambassadors Forum we would like to encourage you to pray and consider how you will get back to basics and obey this command in 2021. How will you read more of the Bible, and interpret it correctly, and apply it daily, and proclaim it boldly?

Right now is the most important time to be “in the game.” Don’t miss out on this opportunity to let the light of Christ shine through you in these increasingly dark days ahead! And one of the most essential ingredients that you will need is community. We were not meant to live out our Christian lives in isolation. With the extended lockdowns and obstacles to gathering that have become ingrained in our culture we need to find ways to remain deliberate in our fellowship. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
  1. Invite families over to your house to build friendship and connection.
  2. Openly discuss the environment we are in and study the Bible together to search for biblical ways that we should respond.
  3. Pray with and for each other.
  4. Ask God what big thing He is calling you to be a part of, something bigger than yourself.
  5. Put the focus on how you can join God in what HE is doing, rather than focusing on what YOU aren’t allowed to do.
Also, please join us for one of our engaging monthly forums where we have excellent speakers presenting on relevant topics, with lots of open Q&A at the end:
  • Jan. 15 – “6 Practical Dialogue Tips: What We’ve Learned from Talking with 5,000 Pro-Choice People” by Josh Brahm
  • Feb. 19 – “What Does It Mean To Be Made In The Image Of God?” by Derry Tseng

Hard Question Corner

"I heard about a Christian girl who committed suicide during the pandemic. Did she go to heaven or hell?"
This is an increasingly common reality. This is what Jesus said in the Bible:

John 10:27-29 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Suicide is wrong because it is taking a life made in the image of God (your own). But people don’t lose their salvation because they sin, whether it is taking a life or telling a lie. So whether or not she went to heaven is the same criteria for all of us: had she truly believed in Jesus as Lord and confessed Him as her Savior? Suicide is a very delicate and painful subject for those who have lost loved ones in this way.

Linguistic Theft Corner

Christians rightly regard Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” as normative. Jesus continues: “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." The fact that the Law and Prophets flow from this provides the proper context to this command. Without this, “love your neighbor” can easily descend into sentimentality, private opinion, and guilt manipulation.
“Loving our neighbor” first means doing him and his family no harm: no physical harm, no financial harm, no legal harm, etc. Additionally, every individual has a right to impartial judgments by civil authorities. There is to be no favoritism by civil authorities toward the poor, or the stranger (alien), nor toward the rich or politically powerful. Scriptural Justice is “blind.” The Law requires this because God himself is no “respecter of persons.”

Today, many in the world have perverted this biblical phrase to justify their call for “Social Justice." The first objective has been the immoral redistribution of wealth – arguing that “loving our neighbor” requires taxation of “the rich” for the benefit of “the poor.” But Scripture neither requires nor authorizes civil government to tax one person or family to give to another. When Christians enlist government to administer charity we are not “loving our neighbor,” we are asking the State to show partiality for one neighbor (the poor or the stranger), over the neighbor with means, and through debt (his children, or even children’s children). This is not loving our neighbor, it is “hating” our neighbor.

A more recent development from those in power has been that extreme social lockdown measures should be taken, such as widespread shutting down of businesses and schools and churches, to prevent the spread of a disease that 99% of people recover from. Those who dare to try to open a dialogue about the horrific human cost of such measures – mental health crises due to isolation, starvation of the poor across the world as productive output is choked out, dramatic increase in suicide rates, etc. – are accused of not “loving your neighbor.” The fact that we are starting to see this same perversion parroted in the church as a form of manipulation is a disgrace.

Real love must be voluntary. This is the way that God has demonstrated his love. In sending the Son, God fully showed his love, and the Son fully participated in that decision, freely laying down his life for us.

Science Corner

No true Christian can ever correctly be accused of being “anti-science.” It’s impossible. Let me explain. (part 3).
Science is irrefutably “Christian.” God created the building blocks of 1) Uniformity, 2) Creative Thought, and 3) Logic that are the basic ingredients of science. Those concepts are only part of a biblical worldview, and were captured and described in the Bible thousands of years before Francis Bacon ever coined them as the “Scientific Method.”

In the last two newsletters we considered the concepts of “Uniformity” and “Creative Thought.” This month we will conclude this series by briefly exploring the final building block required for science: Logic.

Science is one of the most quoted but least understood constructs in our day. Most people have no idea how it REALLY works. It is often deified as the ultimate weapon that secures the final victory of a completely materialistic worldview. How many times have you heard something like, “I follow the science!” or “I only believe in the cold hard facts!” or “I demand data and irrefutable proof for my conclusions!”? The problem is that science itself requires an immaterial reality – the laws of logic.

Science is rooted in and constrained to the material world. It is wholly centered on observations: it starts with observations, proceeds through observations, and is ultimately vindicated by accurate predicted observations. But those observations are only a beginning, and without the laws of logic to characterize and define and govern those observations they are meaningless.

One simple example is the “law of non-contradiction.” It basically means that something can’t be “true” and “not true” at the same time. It is so simple that even a small child is intuitively assured of its veracity, yet so profound that no analytical conclusion could be deduced without it. As we observe the world around us and organize our conclusions into hypotheses about what should happen if our analysis is correct, we are instinctively assuming that our conclusions cannot be both “true” and “not true” at the same time. But can that law of non-contradiction itself be observed? Can it be measured? Can it ultimately be tested and repeated? The great irony of a materialistic worldview that tries to be culminated in science is that the necessary philosophical underpinnings required FOR science cannot be proven BY science.

The next time someone describes science as “the source of all truth,” ask them to explain themselves and be ready to engage in a productive conversation. If they are open-minded, perhaps you may be able to help them understand the true nature (and limitations) of science. Remember, science only works if it has the ingredients provided by a biblical worldview.

Legal Corner

Where do churches stand now in the ongoing saga of coronavirus restrictions?

Last spring, legal challenges to COVID restrictions by churches in Oregon and other states were uniformly unsuccessful.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the first two cases that came its way. Around Thanksgiving, identical legal challenges abruptly began to enjoy success, with courts in New York and Nevada cases clipping the wings of overzealous governors and mayors, and the Supreme Court backing them up. So what changed?

It was easy in the pandemic’s early days for judges to defer to officials handling a novel public health emergency. However, as weeks became months, executive “guidance” issued outside legal channels tested the patience of judges and churches targeted by restrictions. “Requirements” initially applying to everyone became selective “guidance”, ever-changing and confusing, with tolerance of “mass gatherings” depending on the message or political influence of the “mass”- constitutionally and politically indefensible.

Second, patience and trust in “health authorities” and their “guidance” waned as COVID infections and deaths spiked despite restrictions. As churches, synagogues and mosques continued pushing back, officials (especially in California and New York) responded with civil and criminal sanctions, arresting pastors, even ticketing parishioners in their cars in church parking lots. This became a battle elected government leaders couldn’t win in court or in the court of public opinion. Such open anti-religious bias, recently condemned by the Supreme Court in its Masterpiece Cakeshop, Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza cases, led inevitably to judges who could no longer rationalize blatantly unequal and unfair restrictions on places of worship.

This turnaround would not have happened without sustained and principled opposition by people in faith communities invoking God’s Word and constitutional protections. Theological debates about Romans 13 and I Peter 2:13-15 (written in times of church oppression) finally gave way to recognition that there may be limits to civil obedience when faith and tyranny collide. Is it really civil disobedience when the church utilizes lawful means to preserve “assembling together” when the apostles and others of the first century church willingly died for their faith rather than submit to governing authorities? The church does well to speak truth to power through government channels for the sake of the Gospel while it still has the chance.
Disclaimer: The above column should not be regarded or relied upon as legal advice. The reader should consult legal counsel for specific guidance in particular circumstances.

Current Events Corner

The Resurrection, Fact or Fiction

(Part 1)
A recent discussion with a friend…
“Are you a Christian?”
“Then you believe that Jesus rose from the grave?”

Regrettably, there are many who claim to be a Christian who have no understanding of what it really means to be one.

This friend would be known today as a ‘cultural Christian’. While he considers himself a ‘good person’, he doesn’t grasp that true Christianity is defined by God in His given word, the Bible. Paul said… ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, not that of works…’ (Eph. 2:8 – 9). In other words, while God desires each of His followers to be a ‘good person’, being good does not unlock the door to God’s grace. That key is provided through faith. Faith in what?

Paul stated in 1 Cor. 15:17 ‘…if Christ is not raised, you are still in your sins…’. In other words, the gift of salvation banks on the resurrection. To receive His grace, you not only have to believe that Jesus walked this earth and that He died on the cross, but also that God raised Him up on the third day. (Paul outlines these requirements in 1 Cor. 15:3 – 7.) The resurrection is the keystone of Christianity. Without it, Christianity would have long ago collapsed, becoming lost in the dust bin of history.

Is the resurrection a fact of history?

Throughout the ages, skeptics have made many attempts to debunk the resurrection. But, unlike other religions, Christianity is historical and verifiable, both from Biblical and external evidence. By becoming familiar with this evidence, we’ll be able to ‘provide a defense’ (1 Pet. 3:15) of our belief in Christ’s resurrection.

There are many who have offered theories disclaiming the resurrection, all of which can be shown to fail the tests of logic, reason, historical validity, and Biblical veracity. As we will see in coming issues, the only rational conclusion we can draw from the evidence is that God did indeed raise Jesus from the dead!

Yet, even after extensive analysis and case-making, the resurrection is still an unacceptable proposition to many. Why? Because in order to believe God raised Jesus from the dead, you have to believe He exists and that He can do miracles. Surprisingly, the friend earlier alluded to did believe in God and that He could do miracles, but still balked at the resurrection as a bridge too far.

Next month: Using “Minimal Facts” in destroying ‘arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God' (2 Corinthians 10:5).

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