5 years ago

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of God

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama from atop Ruffner Mountain (Photo: Alby Headrick)
Downtown Birmingham, Alabama from atop Ruffner Mountain (Photo: Alby Headrick)

(Sherri Burgess, Christian women’s speaker and writer, is the wife of popular radio talk show host, Rick Burgess, of the Rick and Bubba Show.)

I was recently asked to speak to a group of baseball moms, and the first thing I thought about was America.  I don’t know if baseball is still “American’s pastime,” but it is certainly a part of who we are, a part of our heritage and culture.  Americans like baseball and football and lots of other sports that are wholesome and good and fun because that’s who we are, wholesome and good and fun.  I’ve been around the world and have seen places where this isn’t the case, where kindness and compassion aren’t the norm.  I’ve seen poverty and sickness and injustice like you can’t find here in America.  A lot of it has to do with oppressive governments, but most of it lies in the prevailing religion of the land.

I have a book called Jesus in Beijing written by David Aikman, the former Beijing bureau chief forTime magazine.  In it, Aikman writes about a study done by a leading research group in China.  They wanted to find out what makes America so great.  This is what they said, “One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.  We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective.  At first, we thought it was because you had the best political system.  Next, we focused on your economic system.  But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion:  Christianity.  That is why the West has been so powerful.  The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics.  We don’t have any doubt about this.”

China knows what makes America great. Do we?

William Tyndale was an Englishman who lived from 1494-1536.  I share his story here because he was a man of conviction who lived and died for what he believed in.  He was a clergyman with a gift for languages who felt called by God to write a translation of the Bible in his native tongue.  The problem was that it was illegal to do so at the time.  He had to go into hiding to to do the work.  He had completed the New Testament and much of the Old when he was caught, strangled to death, and burned at the stake.  Two years after his martyrdom in 1536, King Henry XVIII authorized the Great Bible to be read in the newly established Church of England.  The Great Bible drew heavily from Tyndale’s work as did the Geneva Bible released in 1557.  But the top dog of them all came in 1611 when the King James Bible was printed and released, just 75 years after the death of William Tyndale who had laid the foundation for its publication.  Within a decade, in 1620, the pilgrims set sail for America.  On board the Mayflower were two Bibles, the Geneva Bible and the King James.  Before those pilgrims ever set foot onto Plymouth Rock (and no coincidence that it was a rock either ), they had formed a compact that drew them together as a society that was based on what they had learned and read of God and His law, His standards, and His freedom in those Bibles.  That Mayflower Compact set the groundwork for the law and the liberty that would prevail in the yet to come United States of America.

Two things we can glean from this story:

1.  Never underestimate the impact that one person can have on a society and on the world at large.

2.  America was founded upon the truth of God’s Word, and that, most assuredly, is where it’s goodness comes from.

Sherri Burgess (Photo: Facebook)
Sherri Burgess (Photo: Facebook)

America has done and still does a lot of good in the world.  We provide food for the hungry, shelter for the weary, and send out the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere.  We are the peacekeepers of the world keeping evil at bay.   I read a book this summer called Unbrokenby Laura Hillebrand about an American POW during WWII who had been captured by the Japanese.  We have all heard of the atrocities of the holocaust and what happened in Germany under Nazi leadership, but I had never really studied or read about the horrors that went on in those Japanese war camps.  The prisoners of war in Japan were beaten and starved and tortured in ways a normal human being couldn’t fathom.  There was a great darkness there.  Louis Zamperini had been an Olympic runner.  His athleticism was probably one thing that kept him alive.  The other thing was the conviction that someone would come for him.  Salvation did come.  When the American bombers finally flew overhead and tipped their wings at the prisoners, Zamperini knew he would survive the war.  He did and lived to tell the story.

America is a force for good in the world.  As I’ve said before, a strong America doesn’t just benefit America.  A strong America is important for the whole world.  Our values, beliefs, and religion are needed everywhere.  Salvation came that day for Louis Zamperini in the form of American fighter pilots, but true peace came to his soul through Jesus Christ years later.  Believe it or not, it was at a Billy Graham Crusade.  Never underestimate the impact one person can make upon a society and upon the world.  William Tyndale and Billy Graham certainly prove that point.

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours called Rick to see if he could fill in for him at a church in Russellville, Alabama, for a Wednesday night service.  Scott Dawson, an evangelist in the tradition of Billy Graham who speaks at churches and youth events around the country all the time, had double booked himself.  His conflict was that he had promised to take his teenaged daughter to a One Direction concert on the same night.  Of course Rick understood and gladly accepted the request.  He later got a call from the church where he would be speaking that a young man in their community had been involved in an ATV accident and was clinging to life in the ICU.  He was a star football player for the local high school team.  Rick knew it was no accident that he was the one called there to comfort and encourage that community at such a tragic moment.  Rick’s message was basically this:  that this is a world where star football players cling to life in the ICU and where beautiful baby boys drown in their own backyards.  Bad things happen in this world, but if you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, this is the worst of life you’ll ever know.  But if you don’t know Him, this is the best you’re ever going to get.

Many gave their lives to Christ that night including at least one of the football player’s teammates.  Tragedy works like wildfire in the Christian church spreading it like nothing else can, mainly for the reason that Rick gave in his speech at the church that night.  People want more than this.  Tragedy makes us realize that things aren’t right, right now, and it makes us want more.  It makes us want what we were created for, God – holy and righteous and good.

Some of the players on the football team asked their coach and team chaplain if they could be baptized on the football field after practice in honor of their friend and teammate and brother.  Who could deny a request like that at a time like that?  The boys were baptized, but somehow a group from Wisconsin called “Freedom From Religion” got wind of it and began to threaten the school, coach, and chaplain with a legal fight because of it.

It seems the most illogical of complaints to me.  First of all, how far away from Russellville, Alabama is Wisconsin?  How could they make any claim at all that their freedom was infringed upon?  And what freedom can they claim from religion?  It is religion itself that is protected as a first amendment right, not the lack thereof.  I don’t believe the “Freedom From Religion” group has a leg to stand on, but the point is that they exist at all.  Groups like these have never before existed in America, nor should they.  No one has the right to be free from religion, not in the way they expect.  They expect me to be quiet, to sit still and let them take away my religion, which tells me to bold in proclaiming the truth of the gospel to any and all who will hear, to be a light and a witness to an unbelieving world, to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ Jesus EVERYWHERE.  That is my religion, and to prohibit my free exercise thereof is a violation of the constitution upon which this great nation was founded.

“But take heart,” Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”  Jesus is greater and more powerful than anything.  He conquered the grave.  He has the power of resurrection.  He holds the keys of death and Hades, and He will triumph over all evil with the breath of His mouth.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He will reign forevermore.  With this kind of power on our side, what are we afraid of?

“No power of Hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand.”

Be bold, brothers.  Be of good courage, my sisters.  Fear not, for He is with us.  We are living in a day when we will have to stand up and fight for what we believe in.  We are living in a day when we must be bold.  We are living in a day when we must say with the Apostle Paul that “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

If the rest of the world is an indication of the health of the church, then let the persecution come, for a persecuted church is a thriving church.  Let it be.  What will come will come.  I will not fear persecution.  What can man do to me?

“What then shall we say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the One who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  What shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

2 hours ago

OK, it’s time to start talking about opening up Alabama’s economy

The irresponsibility of the media, national public health officials and China has effectively destroyed our economy, individual businesses and American lives.

It is time to look for the exit ramp.

On March 14, Ramsey Archibald, son of John Archibald, was responsible for a completely ridiculous piece of video that rightly scared the heck out of many Alabamians.

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Archibald helped push the message that 2.5 million Alabamians would get the coronavirus, adding, “Let’s be conservative and say 50% get COVID-19.”

But wait, there’s more.

The video also makes the following claims:

  • 500,000 will need to be treated at a hospital.
  • 125,000 will need treatment at an intensive care unit.
  • 25,000 people could die

The Alabama Media Group “data reporter” painted this projection of millions getting sick and 25,000 dead as the best-case scenario.

He — and his publication — got it wrong. Big time.

But it worked. In concert with other lunatics, they declared that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey wanted people to die, or was at least cool with it, if she didn’t declare Alabama to be a “shelter-in-place” state.

After all, they just heard of such a thing and the smart states were doing it, so the dummies in Alabama should do it as well.

I, for my part, saw this for what it was and pointed out that at some point the governor’s office would cave and make the order, so she should just do it.

That’s exactly what happened.

The numbers began to change.

March 14 — 25,000
March 31 — 1,700
April 1 — 7,300+
April 2 — 5,500+
April 5 — 923
April 8 — 634

Now, this other info came from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projections.

Archibald’s info? A CBS News piece and a calculator. The projection went from 25,000 to 634 in less than a month.

The national line moved from 2.2 million to 60,000+ in that same time frame.

But the storyline didn’t reflect that change.

“People will die!” after all.

It won’t change now either.

It’s time to acknowledge that Alabama should be figuring out how to get back open for business.

Here is my suggestion how:

  1. Social distancing continues until August 1
  2. All businesses, outside of bars, restaurants and sporting events, can open on May 1
  3. Bars, restaurants and sporting events can open on May 15 with half occupancy
  4. Everything can fully open up on June 1
  5. Dates can change based on data

Why these dates?

Why not? Archibald based his on less.

The other steps we took were based on incorrect information and a guess.

Nations in Europe are doing similar things, and I thought people wanted us to be like Europe.

Give Alabamians some hope. Let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be optimistic, but safe. Be smart, but understand that people are suffering here.

Jobs and businesses are already lost, unemployment is through the roof. It’s time to show the people of Alabama that there was a reason for that.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

2 hours ago

Yellowhammer connects your business to Alabama consumers

After nine years, our mission remains the same: reflect our state, its people and their values. As the state’s second-largest media outlet, Yellowhammer connects your business to the people of Alabama.

Online, on the radio, podcasts, events and more. What can Yellowhammer do for you?

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3 hours ago

Ainsworth encourages Alabamians to ‘Ring for the Resurrection’ on Easter

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth is asking all Alabamians to join him in a “Ring for the Resurrection” campaign on Easter Sunday. The effort is intended to promote unity at this COVID-19 time of prolonged separation and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion.

Ring for the Resurrection, which was created by Ainsworth, calls for all churches and individuals across the Yellowhammer State to ring a bell at noon on Sunday, April 12, in joint celebration of the holiday.

“Social distancing guidelines require us to remain apart from our extended families, church members, and other individuals on a sacred religious holiday that normally encourages us to gather together,” Ainsworth said in a statement on Wednesday. “But I realized that the simple act of ringing a bell can allow us to remain physically distant while being united in spirit.”

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“My wife, Kendall, our twin boys, Hunter and Hays, and our daughter, Addie, will be among those ringing a bell at noon on Sunday to celebrate the miracle of Easter,” he concluded. “While Gov. Ivey’s stay-at-home order, the public’s health and safety, and simple common sense prevent Christians from gathering in large groups even on the holiest of days, all of us can join together in spirit as we ring a bell to recognize that Christ has risen.”

This comes after Ainsworth earlier this week unveiled a new website designed to provide small business owners with a one-stop online information hub related to the ongoing pandemic.

RELATED: Ivey announces campaign encouraging Alabamians to pray for medical personnel, first responders

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

3 hours ago

COVID-19 restrictions unfairly choke small business

When Mark and Susan Anderson were required by a statewide mandate to close the doors of their Dothan clothing and outdoor gear store, Eagle Eye Outfitters, they felt like it was a necessary sacrifice for the good of public health. By limiting retail shopping to essential items such as groceries, prescriptions, and fuel, the governor’s order takes a great many people off the streets.

Hopefully, it slows the spread of the rampant COVID-19 virus. But the closure is incredibly painful for owners like them: it has forced them to furlough more than 150 employees, and the massive loss of revenue will leave a mark on their business for years.

What the Andersons don’t understand was how it is fair for one of their local competitors, the national chain Academy Sports and Outdoors, to continue selling the same types of apparel and outdoor gear.

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In this case, the loophole for Academy is their small firearms counter. Guns and ammunition are considered essential under the current order. Therefore, Academy and others who carry firearms have been allowed to continue to do business — even if guns and ammunition are only a small percentage of their overall sales.

One of the unintended consequences of the mandate is that small businesses, which often specialize in a more narrow range of merchandise, are penalized more heavily than their national chain competitors.

You heard that right: businesses owned and operated by Alabamians are absorbing the crushing cost of total closure, while national chains based out of state continue to snatch up what little retail demand still exists in the downturn.

If all businesses operating in Alabama were restricted from selling non-essential goods, small businesses might at least expect to benefit from the pent-up economic demand that will exist once the mandate is lifted. As it is, demand for those goods and services is funneled immediately to the big chains, cutting small business owners out of the deal entirely.

Bob Couch of Couch’s Jewelers feels that his small business is paying a higher price than others, as well. While he is forced to shutter his 75-year-old family jewelry store in downtown Anniston, Wal-Mart is allowed to continue selling jewelry just a short distance away. Because they carry groceries and have a pharmacy, they are allowed to sell anything.

None of the small business owners I spoke with this week felt the retail sales restrictions were unnecessary, given the scope and seriousness of the pandemic. But they think the state government has picked winners and losers with a poorly-conceived order.

They are right. And the governor can correct it today if she chooses.

Vermont heard a similar outcry from its small business community. In response, it amended its closure order so that businesses that remain open to offer essentials are limited to just those sales. In a large department store that offers a variety of goods, selling non-essentials is temporarily prohibited. No more going to Wal-Mart for groceries, but then wandering the aisles looking for a pair of gold earrings or a sleeping bag.

These are trying times for businesses of every size. But there’s no good reason for our own state government to damage Alabama’s small business owners further.

None of us likes the loss of civil liberties, or the freedom to do business as we choose — not even for a day. But if our current public health concerns are so extraordinary as to require such restrictions, the least government can do is ensure that they be equally and fairly applied. Every business operating in this state — big box or main street — should bear its share of the burden.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute; reach her on Twitter at @dhmccain.

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

5 hours ago

Alabama community colleges donate medical supplies to those fighting COVID-19

Community colleges across Alabama, many of which house nursing programs, are donating their medical equipment to those on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a release from the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), many campuses across Alabama have equipment for their “simulated healthcare settings” where students train for medical careers.

“We are grateful for the daily sacrifice of Alabama’s healthcare providers and are grateful we can do our part to help serve our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the ACCS.

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The equipment donated includes much sought-after ventilators that can help treat the most serious coronavirus cases.

The community colleges also handed out their supply of Personal Protective Equipment like masks to cover the face to local hospitals.

“Much like our efforts to meet the needs of every student that crosses our paths, our colleges work every day to help meet the needs of the communities they serve,” added Baker.

“On behalf of the Alabama Department of Public Health, I am grateful for the willingness of the Alabama Community College System to grant the urgent request for the loan of their available ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented State Health Officer Scott Harris.

“We are continually encouraged by the number of entities across the state that are rising to the occasion to meet the needs of the citizens of Alabama,” Harris concluded.

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