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4 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)

23 mins ago

Auburn Police officer shot in the line of duty

An Auburn Police Department officer was shot in the line of duty Friday evening.

Sources reportedly confirmed the shooting to WVTM. The condition of the officer was not immediately known.

The shooting occurred at the Dollar General near Niffer’s Place off of Opelika Road.

WSFA was on the scene live in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which resulted in a massive police presence. The suspect is believed to still be at-large, with a “manhunt” underway.

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This comes after Birmingham Police Department Sgt. Wytasha Carter and Mobile Police Department Officer Sean Tuder were shot and killed in the line of duty in recent weeks.

This is breaking news and may be updated.

Update 8:00 p.m.:

WSFA posted a new live stream.

Update 8:15 p.m.:

Police administrators told reporters the incident occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m. as the officer pulled the suspect’s vehicle over responding to an armed robbery call. The officer was talking and alert when he left the scene. More on his condition was not released by law enforcement on the scene. The officer was shot “multiple” times. His name has also not been released.

The suspect is Christopher James Wallace. He is 38 years old. A female was in the vehicle with Wallace at the time of the shooting. Her name is not being released at this time.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Del Marsh on Trump declaration: ‘It is an emergency — It is about protecting this country’

Alabama Senate leader Del Marsh (R-Anniston) voiced his support for President Donald Trump’s latest action on border security while blaming Democrats for their inability to fix the long-standing issue.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Marsh said he supports Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency along the Mexican border.

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Marsh explained that the urgency of the threat made it necessary.

“It is an emergency,” Marsh stated. “It is about protecting this country. That’s where the threat is. The threat is the southern border. All our borders should be secure. But the threat right now is the southern border. No one can deny that.”

When asked where border security should rank among the country’s priorities, Marsh said border security should be number one.

And he expressed frustration at how policy-makers have approached the issue.

“I cannot for the life of me understand how people in Congress can put people who are not citizens of this country above our citizens’ welfare, and that’s what I see happening,” he remarked.

He cited a single reason why, in his mind, the issue of border security has gone on for so long without resolution.

“Politics,” Marsh declared.

Specifically, he believes Democrats view illegal immigration as providing a pool of potential new voters and that has threatened national security.

“They have put that above the safety of the citizens of this country,” he said. “Democrats are basically saying, ‘Don’t worry about a process. Come on! We’re your buddies!’”

Marsh also pointed out the fact that he has already filed a bill in the Alabama legislature to allow Alabamians to help build the wall.

The legislation would provide taxpayers the option of checking a box on their tax returns should they want to donate to We Build the Wall, Inc.

Marsh has already donated to the fund himself.

“It’s about sending a message to this president, President Trump, that we support him and by sending these dollars to build the wall, showing our support for him,” he explained. “I believe it and I think the people of Alabama believe that security is the most important thing, the most important issue at this point in time. We want to support the wall, and we want to see the wall built.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

1 hour ago

Alabama Supreme Court reinstates Alabama Memorial Preservation Act

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Friday that the Alabama Supreme Court has granted the state’s motion to stay a recent “[erroneous]” Jefferson County Circuit Court judgment that declared the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 to be unconstitutional.

This means the law, which prohibits the removal and alteration of monuments more than 40 years old on public property, will still be in effect while the state appeals the decision. Marshall requested the stay three weeks ago.

“I am pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court has granted the State’s motion to stay the Circuit Court’s ruling,” the attorney general said in a statement. “We think that U.S. Supreme Court precedent clearly demonstrates that the Circuit Court erred in striking down the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. Thus, we asked the Alabama Supreme Court to preserve the status quo regarding the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park until the Court rules on our appeal.”

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It was reported that the City of Birmingham was considering removing the monument at the center of the controversy after the law was struck down. The Sailors Monument has been covered by a large black wall since August 2017, near the end of former Mayor William Bell’s tenure.

“The Supreme Court’s stay allows the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act to remain in effect until the Supreme Court resolves this appeal over the Act’s constitutionality. We continue to hold that the Circuit Court erred when it ruled that the U.S. Constitution grants cities free speech rights that they can enforce against the State,” Marshall added. “For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has held just the opposite, recognizing that ‘a political subdivision, created by the state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the federal constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator.’ We look forward to presenting these arguments to the Alabama Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court’s order Friday also stayed the accrual of any financial penalties under the law.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

David Cole departs Alabama Farmers Federation for BCA

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is adding another star to its governmental affairs team.

Shortly after breaking BCA’s hiring of Molly Cagle from Manufacture Alabama, sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News that Alabama Farmers Federation Director of State Affairs David Cole is coming on board at the same time.

Cole, like Cagle, is joining BCA’s governmental affairs staff effective February 28, just in time for the March 5 start of the state legislative session. Most recently, Cole spearheaded the federation’s lobbying efforts in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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Sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News Friday that federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan sent out an email announcing Cole’s departure and thanking him for his commitment to Alabama agriculture — the state’s biggest industry. Pinyan also outlined how the staff would be moved around in response to Cole leaving.

Director of External Affairs Matthew Durdin – and his staff members, Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts and administrative assistant Jessica Mims – will now be involved in some state governmental affairs work. Former Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who has been working as a political consultant for the federation, will now add governmental affairs work on contract.

An official announcement with details of the federation’s staff changes is expected to be released in the coming week.

Update, 6:15 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt announced the two major additions in an internal email sent out to the business council’s leadership Friday evening. Britt took the reigns of BCA January 2. Cagle and Cole are her first hires.

The email detailed that Cole is being named senior vice president of governmental affairs and Cagle vice president of governmental affairs.

“These two additions to our team position the BCA to serve our members and advocate effectively on behalf of the business community,” Britt wrote.

Mark Colson, who most recently filled in as BCA’s interim president after serving as chief of staff and senior vice president for governmental affairs, will continue to serve the organization in his new role as senior advisor through the transition period.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Molly Cagle joining BCA from Manufacture Alabama

One of Alabama’s rising stars in the governmental affairs world is on the move.

Sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News Friday that Manufacture Alabama (MA) Director of External Affairs Molly Cagle has accepted a governmental affairs position with the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). While an exact title has yet to be released, Cagle is expected to bolster BCA’s legislative affairs team.

The hire marks the first in BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt’s tenure. She was hired by the organization’s executive committee in December and took office January 2.

Cagle’s last day at MA is February 20, according to an email from her to the association’s membership obtained by Yellowhammer News.

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“My time at Manufacture Alabama over the last four and a half years has been incredibly rewarding. The friendships, lessons, and advice are things that I cherish and will take with me throughout my career,” she wrote.

Cagle comes to BCA with an impressive track record in legislative work, including past service as the Senate Liaison for Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh. She received her bachelor’s in Political Science, with a minor in Broadcast Journalism, from Troy University.

Named to Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “Power and Influence: Who’s Next?” list for 2018, Cagle will be a major addition to BCA as the organization refocuses on its pro-jobs mission of “making a sweet home for business” in Alabama.

Cagle’s email noted, “As I prepare to take on my new role, I want to assure everyone that the staff at Manufacture Alabama has taken the steps to make my departure as seamless as possible. A special thank you to George Clark for his guidance and support not only over the last several years but also throughout this process.”

The state legislative session begins March 5.

As of Friday at 2:30 p.m., BCA had taken down its online staff directory. An official announcement of the hire is expected in the coming days.

Update, 6:15 p.m.:

Cagle is being named BCA’s vice president of governmental affairs.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn