Pastor Harry Reeder: Some evangelicals disagree, but here’s why it’s good to emphasize church celebrations during Christmas


 

 

 

 

 

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ISIS violence

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I’d like to cover a story today dealing with an attack that took place over our Thanksgiving Day weekend. Militants attacked a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing over 300 people, including 27 children. Another 128 suffered injuries.

DR. REEDER: Now wait just a minute. Did you just say that Muslims attacked Muslims? Well, the answer to that is “yes” and “no.”

What’s really been interesting is you have seen the movement of ISIS. ISIS as a caliphate movement sought to be faithful to all of the injunctions of the Koran’s call to put the world under Sharia Law. Therefore, they would take a Holy War not only against Christians and Jews and secularists, but they would also bring their Holy War upon Muslim heretics.

But there is no offshoot of Islam that is more despised than the Sufi heretical movement from their perspective – they would call it a heresy. One of the reasons is because they have something akin to saints and sainthood and people that they would speak to – either to speak to Allah they would speak through these people and therefore any intercessory work that you do speak to anyone other than Allah in your prayers is considered a rank heresy.

That and a number of other things. So the Sufi branch of Islam is not considered within the boundaries of Islam is considered a cult of the cult and therefore they are targets of the caliphate movement as well.

So now we see Muslims upon Muslims but then again, if you ask an ISIS Muslim, the ISIS warrior, they would say, “No, this is not a valid Islamic expression, therefore, we are not bringing war against Muslims but upon Muslim heretics is what we’re doing.”

Therefore, we have this horrendous act of these gunmen surrounding during the worship services taking place in the Sufi mosque producing this genocidal slaughter of human beings that took place in Egypt. Of course, Egypt itself is under the attack of the ISIS caliphate, as well.

Interestingly, Tom, it happens in a Sufi mosque in what is called the Sinai, which is, of course, the very region where the Israelites existed for 40 years as the Lord was disciplining them to bring them into the Promised Land under Joshua.

But for 40 years having been delivered from Egypt, they wandered in that very area where this atrocity took place. They wandered where the Lord sustained them from marauding nations and supplied for them the manna from heaven and prepared them to cross over the river Jordan under Joshua to give them the Promised Land.

Advent season

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, let me switch gears. Today is December the 1st. I don’t know where 2017 went – it flew by – but here we are in the final month. We’re in the Advent Season. Let’s switch gears from the news of the day to look at the Good News of the coming of Jesus Christ in the Advent.

DR. REEDER: Yes, a glorious message of the unique Gospel of saving grace in Jesus Christ. Not a man-made religion whereby what do we do thinking that we can be right with God. But the glorious good news that those who are not right with God, cannot be right with God because of our sin, and are incapable in a man-made religion to be right with God that God has done what we could not do.

And when there was no way God has made the way and that way is His Son Jesus who is The Way, the Truth and the Life and we celebrate His birth into this world. We celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15 that this “is a trustworthy statement serving full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Praise the Lord that He came into the world in order to go to the cross to pay for our sins and then He is risen in victory, He is ascended, He now intercedes for us and is coming again to bring His people to Himself and to a new Heavens and a new Earth. Oh, the glorious, wonderful Gospel of Saving Grace in Jesus Christ.

Briarwood Christmas events in Birmingham

Well, Tom, I know, at Briarwood, we have a wonderful time to celebrate this season because of two things: 1) By focusing on the birth of Christ we get an opportunity to focus on the gospel in a very succinct way.

God’s purposes and God’s plan were seen in the person of Jesus as the Son of God humbled himself, not by subtracting His deity but by adding humanity to come into this world. Since by a man came death. 2) Adam, now a man, the second Adam, Jesus the Messiah, by Him comes the resurrection of the dead, comes life itself. So that’s what we get to celebrate.

I know, even as you and I speak, we’re on the verge of one of our first events – the Angel Tree Carnival. We do Samaritan’s Purse ministry, packing the shoe boxes to send all over the world. And we also do Angel Tree, in which we pack boxes and take them to the children of prisoners and minister to them.

The next week is the big walk-through nativity, 14 scenes of the birth, the life of Jesus, His death, and His resurrection. Then our Briarwood ballet, Sunday on December the 10th, “Glory to the Newborn King.”

And then, the most unbelievable, phenomenal choral symphonic concert, phenomenal choir and it is so exciting. We’ll be doing that on December 17th. Break forth into singing – the Lord has come and we join the angels in singing to the Glory of God. You just do not want to miss that.

Our wonderful Christmas Eve services, we have a 5:00 family candlelight festival, 7:00 family candlelight festival – we just can’t get everybody into the 5:00. We conclude our Advent celebrations with the Christmas Eve communion service that Sunday night on December the 24th.

We love this time because it’s not only a chance to focus all the texts of Scripture why Jesus came into the world, but it also allows us to bring our friends and invite our friends to come and enjoy these marvelous celebrations and hear the glorious truth that Jesus Christ, who is no friend to sin, is a friend to sinners because He has come to save us from our sins.

Should evangelicals downplay seasonal celebrations?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, there are some in the Evangelical Christian circles who want to downplay these certain celebrations. The thought is every Sunday ought to be the same celebration as it would be around Christmas and Easter. Is it proper that we magnify and celebrate this season?

DR. REEDER: Well, you know, in the Old Testament you had certain feast days and what happened in the New Testament, in the New Covenant and in the early church by the apostolic leaders and then those that they disciple was kind of a development of a non-conscience binding.

In other words, these are not things that we would bind any church to do, but it’s good to have feasts, it’s good to call for fast, and it’s good to have feasting times. And so the early church – kind of as a reflection of the Old Testament, three great feasts of the Old Testament – the early church also had its three feasts around the celebrations of the birth of Jesus in the Advent season, the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus during the Easter season, and then the celebrations of the outpouring of the Spirit of God at Pentecost. And so, mirroring the Old Testament feasts were these feasts.

I would totally agree that’s one of the things I love about Briarwood and meeting with our team that plans the worship – every Sunday is Easter and every Sunday is Christmas as far as we’re concerned.

This doesn’t mean that we love the Lord more during these feasts, it’s just a season of focus that in the culture gives us a bridge to talk to people about the Lord that we don’t always have. It’s a ready opportunity for us to tell them. As one person said, Jesus is the reason for the season and we would like to tell you about Him. So on the one hand, I would agree with my friends.

There is nothing in the Bible that should bind anyone’s conscience to the celebration of an Advent season. We celebrate the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus every Lord’s Day and each and every day of life.

But there’s also nothing that prevents us from having seasons that we embrace as an opportunity to focus on one theological dynamic of the life of Jesus that opens up an opportunity to declare the majesty of the Gospel of Grace and it provides a bridge for us into the world to invite people to hear of the Savior we tell them about each and every day.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

39 mins ago

Merrill: Alabama’s ‘greatest champion and favorite son’ Richard Shelby delivers once again

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill on Wednesday released a statement praising U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby’s role (R-AL) in the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

Merrill also touted the overall leadership being provided to the nation by Trump, as well as the work Governor Kay Ivey is doing for the Yellowhammer State.

Shelby is Alabama’s longest serving senator, and his accomplishments for his home state are well recognized by political observers. Merrill outlined that the COVID-19 stimulus package is merely the latest example of Shelby delivering for his fellow Alabamians.

“Our state is incredibly lucky to have leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for Alabama, which is precisely what Senator Shelby has done,” Merrill stated.

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“The historic coronavirus relief package recently appropriated to the states would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of Senator Shelby,” he continued. “How do I know this? I know this to be true because those words came straight from Senator Mitch McConnell and his team. When liberal extremists pushed their agenda, Senator Shelby drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no farther!’”

There were reports that Democrats were trying to insert provisions related to the Green New Deal into the package, as well as voting measures championed by the left that Merrill and others believed could have jeopardized election security and increased voter fraud.

“I am most grateful for the $400 million provided by Congress to protect the 2020 elections. I am also thankful for the provisions that allow each state to do what is best for that state,” Merrill commented.

He said, “Senator Shelby and his team have been receptive and engaged in finding proactive solutions to ensure the safety and security of our elections are not compromised.”

“After countless calls from me and other election officials from across the country, Senator Shelby made it a priority to see that states were granted the flexibility to best accommodate their respective communities under the bill’s stipulations,” the secretary of state added. “Unlike others who have attempted to implement nationwide election changes – many that would increase the likelihood for voter fraud and voter intimidation to be committed – Senator Shelby has proven yet again that federal interference into the elections process in unwarranted and unnecessary.”

Merrill concluded by lauding the stalwart service of Shelby, as well as casting an optimistic and unifying message as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“While we work to get through these trying times, we must remember there is much to be grateful for, such as the collaboration of federal, state and local officials across the country who are working together to provide assistance to those who are most in need,” he advised.

“At the forefront of this fight, finding a solution to the problems we face is Alabama’s Senior Senator, our greatest champion and favorite son, United States Senator Richard C. Shelby!” Merrill concluded.

RELATED: ‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality

Merrill’s full statement as follows:

As we navigate these unchartered waters, we must remember that Alabama has a lot to be grateful for.

The leadership exemplified by state and national leaders like President Donald J. Trump, United States Senator Richard Shelby and Governor Kay Ivey should not go unnoticed.

Our state is incredibly lucky to have leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for Alabama, which is precisely what Senator Shelby has done.

The historic coronavirus relief package recently appropriated to the states would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of Senator Shelby.

How do I know this? I know this to be true because those words came straight from Senator Mitch McConnell and his team. When liberal extremists pushed their agenda, Senator Shelby drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no farther!’

I am most grateful for the $400 million provided by Congress to protect the 2020 elections. I am also thankful for the provisions that allow each state to do what is best for that state.

Senator Shelby and his team have been receptive and engaged in finding proactive solutions to ensure the safety and security of our elections are not compromised.

After countless calls from me and other election officials from across the country, Senator Shelby made it a priority to see that states were granted the flexibility to best accommodate their respective communities under the bill’s stipulations.

Unlike others who have attempted to implement nationwide election changes – many that would increase the likelihood for voter fraud and voter intimidation to be committed – Senator Shelby has proven yet again that federal interference into the elections process in unwarranted and unnecessary.

While we work to get through these trying times, we must remember there is much to be grateful for, such as the collaboration of federal, state and local officials across the country who are working together to provide assistance to those who are most in need.

At the forefront of this fight, finding a solution to the problems we face is Alabama’s Senior Senator, our greatest champion and favorite son, United States Senator Richard C. Shelby!

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

6 suggestions to protect yourself from stimulus check scams

Congress moved quickly to help the American public with a $2 trillion stimulus bill.

Unfortunately, fraud experts believe scammers will move just as quickly to try to take your share away. The key is to arm yourself with information.

“No doubt, there will be fake messages that will make countless claims,” said Don White, head of Corporate Security at Regions Bank. “Scammers may text, email or call you, asking for your banking information or claiming they can process your stimulus payment for you. Don’t take the bait. Do not, under any circumstance, give away your personal information via text, email or phone to someone you do not know who is soliciting you.”

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The bipartisan legislation to boost the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic includes economic relief for American taxpayers in the form of stimulus checks. Each eligible adult will receive up to $1,200, based on gross income.

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the checks could go out in the next two weeks, although there are still questions as to how the money will be distributed. For example, someone who received a refund on 2019 taxes via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) could receive a direct deposit.

Meanwhile, scammers are ready to take advantage by reaching out and saying your account information is needed, or that you can have their relief check for a small fee.

To avoid fraud, consider these suggestions:

1. Hang up. Don’t reply. The IRS, Treasury Department or other government agencies will not call, email or text message people to collect account information, Social Security numbers or credit card information. Anyone who does is likely a scammer, White said.

2. Do not pay anyone offering to get your stimulus funds early or sell you additional stimulus checks. This is a promise that they will not be able to fulfill.

3. Enroll in your bank’s or credit card company’s online and mobile applications to monitor your account activity frequently, looking for suspicious activity.

4. Avoid clicking on unknown links, which may expose you to viruses or malware.

5. While online, verify the legitimacy of websites you visit.

– Turn on browser tools, which can help identify fraudulent websites.

– Ensure the websites are secure and encrypted with HTTPS.

– Look for links that are broken or take you away from the original website.

– Shop through websites you know and trust.

6. As always, slow down, verify, and verify again the legitimacy of financial transactions before approving. Look for changes to account numbers, phone numbers, email addresses or other identifying information.

“We are seeing a spike in fraud activity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jon Kucharski, Fraud Strategy Manager at Regions. “No matter what this payment winds up being, only scammers will ask you to pay to get it. Just keep in mind, these unusual times require patience and a little extra vigilance to keep your finances safe.”

(Courtesy of Regions)

2 hours ago

‘Don’t let the corona get on ya!’ — Alabama retirees sing during COVID-19 crisis

An Alabama retirement community shared a helpful message on social media this week amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a video posted on Facebook, residents of Wesley Gardens Retirement Community in Montgomery joined with facility driver Lee McBryde (while practicing social distancing by staying six steps away) to dance and sing some important lyrics during the COVID-19 crisis such as properly washing hands and covering up when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread.

“Don’t let the corona get on ya!” McBryde sang as residents danced around him while holding containers of disinfectant wipes.

Watch:

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Birmingham meal prep business offers buy one, give one to help feed those in need

During the novel COVID-19 economic and health crisis, one Birmingham based small business has created a way to give back. Mealfit, a catering and meal preparation company, is donating a free meal to someone in need for every meal that is ordered.

Each customer who purchases a meal for themselves will be offered an opportunity to identify someone who may be in need. Mealfit will provide a meal to those in need at no additional costs.

Mealfit founder and CEO Thomas Cox launched the program as a way to help the community during a time of need.

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“I’ve been racking my brain as a small business owner on how I can provide high-quality, healthy food in a time when people are stuck at home, while also helping people who are in need,” said Cox.

“Everyone has someone who is in need whether it be an elderly person, a single parent or someone who has been laid off because of the crisis we are going through. So from now until further notice, every time you order your Mealfit meals, we will give to a family in need,” Thomas stated.

Customers can order through the company website by 12:00 p.m. on Sunday and pick up food between 4:00-5:00 p.m. on Monday at one of 17 different locations in Birmingham. Once an order is placed the customer can simply respond to their confirmation email and identify the name, number of family members, phone number and email of the person they would like to have a free meal. Mealfit will handle the rest.

Cox only has one small request for the greater Birmingham community: “We ask that you spread the word. We can’t reach everyone on our own, but with your help, we can reach more of the people who are in need that we aren’t directly connected with.”

Go to this website and order food for you and your family. 

3 hours ago

Jefferson County: Recovering elderly COVID-19 patients must be returned to their nursing homes

The Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) is asking nursing homes in the area to take back patients still testing positive for the coronavirus, according to a letter brought to light by the Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA).

The leading studies available have shown that COVID-19 is much more deadly for people over 65 than any other age group.

ANHA communications director John Matson told Alabama Media Group that the new county guidelines go “against sound medical advice.”

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The JCDH cites “the possibility that our hospitals will not have the capacity to care for a large number of patients infected with COVID-19” as the reason for nursing homes to take in the coronavirus-positive patients.

According to the department, individuals testing positive for the virus will only be returned to a nursing home if two conditions are both met:

  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath)
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

The department added that some patients may be returned before those conditions are met if their facility is able to adopt certain extra precautions.

Because the new guidelines are being issued by the Jefferson County Department of Health, they only apply to nursing homes in Jefferson County.

Additionally, patients hospitalized without COVID-19 symptoms do not have to test negative before being readmitted to their nursing home.

“For weeks we haven’t allowed family members and volunteers to visit our nursing homes, and our families understand why,” Matson told Alabama Media Group.

“Now they can’t visit, but we’re supposed to admit someone that’s COVID-19 positive?” Matson added.

The Jefferson County Health Department is assuring the public that it is following guidelines laid out by the CDC.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.