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.

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

6 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

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

7 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

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

7 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

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