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Oh boy … Americans don’t think they sin very often


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

SURPRISING POLL RESULTS

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, I want to take you to two polls. One, a rather scientific poll out of Gallup, which says 55 percent of Americans still believe religion can answer today’s problems. According to the recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans agree that religion can answer all or most problems in life. 71 percent of Republicans say so, 50 percent of Independents and 47 percent of Democrats share this sentiment.

The other poll, a little less scientific, out of Family Feud. In a recent episode of Family Feud, in the fast money segment, two individuals playing the game were asked, “How many of the Ten Commandments have you broken this month?” To the surprise of many people, the answer at the end of the day, after the survey of 100 people, came back was, “I have broken one of the Ten Commandments this past month.”

DR. REEDER: Well, clearly, there is a lack of theological refinement in the audience because Jesus has taught us that, if you break one, then you’ve broken them all; and then, if you break them all, you’re guilty of breaking them all, so the automatic answer is ten. And we violate God’s Word by what we omit as well as what we commit. Sins of omission and commission, we can do in thought, word and deed.

That’s pretty much an interesting dynamic of what they answered about the Ten Commandments, which I think is rather revealing. Here’s what it reveals: It reveals we have a church within our culture which is attempting to preach the Gospel of good news without communicating the reason of the glory of the Gospel, which is the bad news.

LACK OF SHAME FOR SIN

There was a time where, very clearly in this culture, people knew that they sinned and people knew that they had a sinful heart and they had a sinful record because pulpits communicated the reason the Gospel is precious, which is the bad news. The Gospel is like that beautiful diamond with all of its character, and color, and cut and content but that diamond is always presented on the backdrop of a black velvet, which is where you see its beauty.

Well, so it is with the Gospel. Before Paul develops the Good News of the Gospel in the Book of Romans, he gives for three chapters the bad news, ending up with, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death.” Now he says, “Is there any solution for us who are helpless and hopeless?” I got good news, “When there was no way, God made a way and that way is His Son, Jesus, Who is the way, the truth and the life.”

Then he begins to develop the glorious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior but he does so first by communicating the bad news. Well, it’s very clear today that the Gospel has become — this is very important and I want our listeners to listen to this — the prosperity Gospel that Jesus went to the cross so that you could be healthy, wealthy and wise. The Gospel has become a counseling therapy Gospel that, if you come to Jesus, you’re going to feel better about yourself.

NEW AGE NONSENSE

The other day, somebody said to me, “You know, my problem is I haven’t learned to forgive myself.” I said, “Well, I hope you never do,” and they said, “What? Why don’t I want to learn to forgive myself?” “Because you can’t forgive yourself. Here’s a fact: the day that you show me that you can make an atonement for your sins is the day that you can forgive yourself of your sins. You can’t make atonement for your sins, so you can’t forgive you. You’ve sinned against God. And here’s the good news: God has provided an atonement. You don’t need to forgive yourself — you need to accept the forgiveness that He gives. He is the one that forgives. You and I are the ones that need to be forgiven. Now, you have to believe that forgiveness and receive that forgiveness by faith and repentance.” Those are just the basic thoughts that are revealed in our communication today.

Therefore, Tom, the interesting thing in this survey about people believing that religion is important, that part of what you opened with, how do people see religion? They see religion as something that fixes things. Actually, Biblical religion is what God does to have a relationship with you and He, Who alone can do it, is the one who fixes us to have a relationship with Him and then fixes us out of that relationship with Him to make Him known, and love Him and serve Him. He doesn’t exist for us. God exists and He who made us is able to change us and save us so that we can enjoy Him and glorify Him forever.

RELIGION HAS SAVING POWER IF IT IS PURE RELIGION

Now, I am grateful that there’s still a sense that religion has a changing power, but not all religion has a changing power — there’s only one religion that has a changing power and it’s not a manmade religion, but a God-designed and God-revealed and God-communicating religion. And that is that there is a God who has come down to save us and to bring us up to be with Him and to serve Him now and into a new heavens and a new earth.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Well, I was going to ask, Harry, if Gallup had called Harry Reeder in this polling and asked you that question — do you still believe religion can answer today’s problems — how would you answer that?

DR. REEDER: I would have answered that it depends on the religion. Is it a manmade religion? That will not answer man’s problems; that will only exacerbate man’s problems. But then I would say to Mr. Gallup, do you have another category where I can talk to you not about a man-made religion, but a God-designed, God-delivered religion that begins with God establishing a relationship with us when we did not deserve it and a religion that delivers men and women from sin’s guilt and sin’s penalty and sin’s power and begins to eradicate sin’s practice? Now, that one fixes things because it fixes me and it gives me a life forever.

WHY HAS FAITH DECLINED IN THE PAST SEVERAL DECADES?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, what does it say about our society, when you look at these statistics going back to 1957 when 82 percent of Americans said that they believed that religion can answer today’s problems and, in 2015, that number dropped down to 51 percent?

DR. REEDER: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. First, they’re finding out that man-made religion can’t solve the problem so there’s some despair. Secondly, we live in a post-modern age in which religion is seen as an antiquated mythological system that needs to be jettisoned. Thirdly, we live in a day in which Christianity has not clearly dealt with the man-made religions of this world and where Christianity is not clearly communicated.

To use James’ language, what is pure religion? Religion is a way of sacred life. Pure religion is not a way of sacred life to get a relationship with God, but pure religion is a way of sacred life that is because of your relationship with God that He has accomplished for you.

In other words, to take the old Sunday school song, we are climbing up Jacob’s ladder. Actually, that’s a wonderful song with a catchy tune for children, but it’s terrible theology because the whole purpose of Jacob’s ladder is not to teach us that we’ve got a ladder to climb up to Heaven; Jacob’s ladder is actually Jesus, Who comes down from Heaven to take us up to be with Him.

WHAT CAN SOLVE PROBLEMS 

And that’s what we need to do is teach this glorious Gospel of saving grace that comes to us relentlessly with unstoppable purpose to bring us from death into life and sin’s guilt is erased. There is, therefore, now no condemnation, sin’s power is broken — you’ve been born again — and sin’s practice is being eradicated as you pursue sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord.

And that’s what we need to again communicate with clarity so that Christianity, while a pure religion that is initiated by God, not a man-made religion that seeks to manipulate God, is now communicated no longer as a ritualistic way of life for self-therapy, but an invasive and glorious and undeserved way of life that comes from the Lord Who is the way, the truth and the life.

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

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

2 hours ago

A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club breaks ground on $7.2 million clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex

A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is building a $7.2 million Walter Howlett Jr. Clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex, but if history is any indication, it’s also building future leaders. Leaders like Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who is a self-proclaimed “club kid” having grown up in Boys & Girls Clubs.

“I can personally speak to the power of the Boys & Girls Club,” Woodfin said. “I spent some formative years here as a club kid.”

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Woodfin said it was on the sports practice fields in downtown Birmingham where he learned the value of teamwork.

“The greatest lesson I learned from the club … is the importance of teamwork in this city,” he said. “I learned that no matter how great the individual players were as part of the club or on the team, it’s the unity that ensures victory.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State and Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice has made mentoring and youth programs like Boys & Girls Club a pet project nationally. She praised the possibilities the new clubhouse in Birmingham holds.

“This great, new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is just going to be full of possibilities,” she said. “It’s not just programs that they deliver on. They deliver on caring and compassion for our young people.”

Rice co-chaired the campaign to build a new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club along with Altec CEO Lee Styslinger III and Regions Financial Corp.Chairman Grayson Hall.

She said those who contributed to the new clubhouse initiative have demonstrated they make children a priority.

“This is about the possibilities when a community comes together,” Rice said. “It’s absolutely the case that when the corporate community and private citizens like the McWanes and people from across the city come together and say, ‘We’re going to do something special for our kids,’ something magnificent happens.”

Frank Adams, CEO of A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, said the new facility will include a new gym, a music room, a game room, a new café able to serve hot meals and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math) labs. The two-story facility will have a floor dedicated to teens and will be able to serve twice as many children as the Kirkwood R. Balton facility it is replacing.

Adams said the clubhouse will be a great addition to the CrossPlex campus.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help revitalize this area while serving our kids at a higher level,” he said.

Walter Howlett Jr. was a prominent member of the business community in Birmingham and served as the chairman of the board at A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club for more than 20 years. Adams said it’s a worthy tribute to name the new facility after him.

The CrossPlex campus and the new facility are in Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt’s district. He said the new clubhouse will be a welcomed addition.

“Today is very much about an orchestrated optimism and the future of our young people,” he said. “This new club is a symbol of hope.”

Rice said that hope has been realized again and again through Boys & Girls Clubs.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs talk about building great futures,” she said. “Well, you can only get a great future if you have a great start and that is what this is really all about.

“The best in us believes that every life is worthy, and every life is worthy of greatness,” she added.

Who knows, maybe the next mayor or the next secretary of state will come from there.

“I believe in the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club because I know it’s power,” Woodfin said. “It’s a training ground to guide our young people in the right direction. It’s where they will make lasting friendships, make community connections and acquire life lessons that will serve them well when they become the next leaders of our city.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Exceptional Foundation carolers bring holiday spirit to Alabama businesses

What the Exceptional Foundation carolers may lack in perfect pitch and rhythm they more than make up for with enthusiasm and sheer joy.

The result is exactly what is intended: delivering the Christmas spirit to businesses around Birmingham.

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That delivery is clear by the smiles produced among the audiences.

This is the fifth year the Exceptional Foundation carolers have visited corporations to thank them for their support. CEO Tricia Kirk said the number of performances has grown from less than a handful of businesses in the first season to five or six a day this year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Alabama Power works to save threatened snails on Coosa River

While many property owners used this fall’s Coosa River drawdown to make repairs to boathouses, piers and other structures along the water’s edge, Alabama Power biologists were on another mission.

APC Environmental Affairs employees worked with members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to protect rare snails on Lay and Mitchell lakes.

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The first step involved surveying threatened species — literally by counting the number of snails in a given area.

Two species of freshwater aquatic snails listed under the Endangered Species Act, the rough hornsnail and Tulotoma snail, call the Coosa River home. Both are native to Alabama and are found nowhere else in the world.

“We do a manual count, which gives you an estimate of the number of that species within a certain area,” said Jason Carlee, APC Environmental Affairs supervisor. “You can then multiply that number by the area of the lake bottom affected by the drawdown to estimate how much of the population is affected.”

The work wasn’t limited to surveying. The biologists were also charged with saving snails affected by the drawdown. Snails that might have had trouble navigating to the lower lake levels were picked up along the riverbank and returned to the water.

“The primary objectives at Lay Lake and Lake Mitchell were surveying known populations of Tulotoma and rough hornsnail, searching for new populations of the species and relocating species to suitable habitat in deeper water,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist with Alabama Power.

The snails live anywhere from one to 30 feet below the shoreline but prefer to live just below the water’s edge, according to Carlee.

“The lowering of the water forces the snails to follow the water and, as they move, they can get trapped by vegetation or stuck behind a log or rock,” Carlee said. “Our priority is to identify new populations and to salvage as many snails as we can.”

The teams focused on areas with known populations and salvaged snails when the water was at its lowest level to make the most significant positive impact. A previous survey and salvage effort was conducted during the 2013 drawdown, and additional snail surveys were done in 2009 and 2012.

“Part of our week was spent searching for new populations of rough hornsnails, and we found them,” said Fitch. “Before this week, the species was only known to occur in four different locations on Mitchell Reservoir, but we found them in three other creeks this week as well as along the shorelines in the main channel.”

Several other steps have been taken to protect the snails. For example, the timing and frequency of the fall drawdowns have been adjusted to benefit the species.

“Historically for Lay and Mitchell, there were drawdowns every year. Then they went to every other year. Since the discovery of rough hornsnails at Lake Mitchell and at Yellowleaf Creek on Lay Reservoir, drawdowns are conducted every five years to decrease impacts to the snails,” Fitch said.

Tracks left by the snails leading from the riverbank to the water indicate that the species can adjust to water level fluctuations. Lake levels are now lowered very slowly over a three-day period, to give snails more time to follow the dropping water.

Alabama Power works with USFWS and ADCNR to find ways to protect and improve habitat conditions for snails and other aquatic species as part of its license to operate dams issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. All the hard work is paying off. The Tulotoma snail was downlisted from endangered to threatened in 2011 as populations below Coosa River dams increased. It was the first time a freshwater species of mollusks, which includes clams, mussels and slugs, was downlisted. New populations of rough hornsnail provide hope for its recovery.

Results from this year’s snail survey will help regulators determine the impact of water level fluctuations on species like these snails and help provide guidance concerning future drawdowns.

This story originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.

8 hours ago

Artur Davis: What the next Montgomery mayor needs

The coming mayoral race in Montgomery matters whether you live in city limits, or whether it is simply important to you or your business that Alabama’s capital thrives. The conversation on the ground is that the outcome could be the next historic milestone for the city that launched civil rights.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson caused a stir with a recent Montgomery Advertiser column that argues “it is time for the occupant of the mayor’s office to reflect the predominant (African-American) citizenry.” She further suggests that there is a burden on black voters and leader to “filter black candidates early,” so that the ranks be purged of those who by some test fail, in her words, to “serve the best interests of the African-American community.”

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I know the judge’s sentiments are well-intentioned but as one of the seven or eight folks who will be running for Mayor, as the only contender who has officially registered a campaign committee, I view this election through a different lens. Montgomery has challenges at every turn. The test is not the mayor’s color or gender but whether the city’s next leader is visionary and substantial enough to unlock those opportunities disguised as challenges.

Mayor is not an entry-level job, as the judge correctly observed. The mayor-to-be will have to learn and master the details of making urban policy work for ordinary people. The job demands persistence and a clear eye about the questions that threaten Montgomery’s future.

Can our schools be rescued? For a while now, the leadership of our school system has resembled its population demographically: that by itself has meant nothing to the children in our eleven failing schools, or the 37 percent of children who graduate high school without core reading and math skills. The next mayor must join forces with the new school board to extricate the schools from the state takeover, a mismanaged event that creates the kind of uncertain chain of command that makes it impossible to attract a national caliber superintendent. The next mayor will have to sell the neighborhoods whose children are in magnets or private schools on the imperative of financing traditional schools adequately. He or she will also need to overcome forces who resist innovative reforms or stricter accountability.

Can we make a real dent in Montgomery’s poverty problem? West and North Montgomery are statistically identical to the chronically poor Black Belt. The southern boulevard is one long patch of neglect and collapsed businesses. Too many of our working people are still poor and trapped in dead-end jobs. For decades, the struggling parts of our city have had representation that “looks like them.” That fact has not yet stopped the decline.

Can we roll back crime and the root causes of crime? An overwhelming majority of criminal defendants are drop-outs. Our city has yet to fashion a comprehensive plan to identify and engage students who have encounters with the law or are chronic disciplinary problems. At the same time, if a city as complex as New York can reduce its rates of gun violence and murder, the next mayor of Montgomery should be expected to devise an anti-crime plan more robust than empathy and short-term anger management courses.

I could go on. We have reached new heights in corporate investment in the city but more of that newly infused wealth must be targeted toward creating jobs that pay high wages. Promoting minority investment is an urgent, consistently unmet need that takes more than conferences at the Renaissance to solve. Our municipal government structure has not been reorganized since the time when smartphones had not been invented and the internet in this city was limited to government offices.

The record of the mayor who is leaving, Todd Strange, will loom over this election. I ran against him but will grant him this: in an era when national politics has degenerated into all or nothing partisanship and what the experts call tribalism, Mayor Strange has kept the volume temperate and moderate in Montgomery. The next mayor should emulate that decency. He or she must match it with a boldness and a capacity to challenge old assumptions and challenge 21st Century problems.

I do agree that this city is on the edge of making history. But the test for candidates is not how well we represent one community or satisfy that community’s insiders and gatekeepers. It is whether any of us has what it takes to make Montgomery a trendsetter in repairing failing schools and blighted neighborhoods and in forging a more prosperous, more equitable future.

If you live in Montgomery, vote for the guy or lady you think just might know how to get us there.

Artur Davis is a former four-term congressman from Montgomery running for mayor.