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


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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.

28 mins ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

SchoolFest sets the stage for Alabama children

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

Plato said art imitates life. Oscar Wilde said it was the other way around. It’s an argument that continues. However, one art form brings us face to face with the connection between art and life, perhaps better than any other: theater. It’s here people act out stories, hoping their audience forgets for a moment that it’s all make-believe. Were it not for the SchoolFest program of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), many Alabama children might never be exposed to the magic of theater.

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Every year, 40,000 students attend SchoolFest in Montgomery. From the professional actors to the costume and set design, the productions are the same as those presented to other ASF audiences. Thanks to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and others, ticket prices are discounted and many schools attend for free, exposing students from all walks of life to art.

For some, it’s an experience they’ll never forget. For others, like Emily Prim, it’s life-changing. Prim is assistant wardrobe supervisor at ASF. She remembers distinctly when the “theater bug” bit her. “I was in seventh grade at St. James School in Montgomery. We had a field trip to SchoolFest, where we saw ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ I remember it so well, because there was a Ferris wheel on stage that was the peach, and I thought that was so cool. I was sorta thinking about theater, because of shows we had done in school and stuff, but when I came to see ‘James’ here, it made me start thinking that this is something I could do after I graduate,” Prim said.

Prim’s experience is what ASF is all about. Executive Director Todd Schmidt put it this way: “It’s really a bedrock of our mission at ASF, which is to create communities through transformative theatrical experiences. It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to theater. It’s important to do that, especially in this time of continued cuts in arts funding.”

Shakespeare Festival’s SchoolFest puts the arts at center stage for Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Just in the past year, students have seen productions of “The Sound of Music,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.” The latter featured 24 students from Montgomery Public Schools in the cast. Schmidt chooses shows that are appropriate for audiences of all ages. SchoolFest builds many of these productions around school curricula.

“We put our programming out to schools, and then they select what they think is relevant to what they’re doing and what they want their kids to be exposed to,” Schmidt said.

What started decades ago as productions appropriate for students has continued to expand. In addition to SchoolFest, ASF offers educational programs. There are theater classes for adults and children, and summer theater camps for students. ASF has hosted a series of conversations that are tied – at least in part – to the shows. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell spoke alongside a cast member from “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.”

“These are not about our productions, but they focus on themes of the productions,” Schmidt said. “There’s one coming up that talks about women dealing with glass ceilings, working in fields normally dominated by men, which ties somewhat into the production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and a new production, ‘Into the Breeches.’”

Lonny Harrison, director of theater at St. James School in Montgomery, has been bringing students to see productions at ASF for 21 years. “We have some students who, up to the point they’ve hit SchoolFest, have never seen a live production outside of a school play. This definitely helps get them more into the arts.

It seems like kids respond differently to every show, but whether it’s something that’s the most amazing thing to them, or something that makes them think more critically, it at least makes them think about it. When we left ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the other day, kids were saying, ‘Let’s do some Shakespeare!’ I had to tell them, ‘Small steps.’”

Harrison has a long history with SchoolFest. He saw stage productions at ASF when he was in school. His experience echoes that of many Alabamians. Were you to poll the state, you’d likely be amazed at the number of people of all ages who’ve shared the marvel of live performance in a theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

In Alabama, it’s a generational thing. When it comes to the art imitating life vs. life imitating art question, perhaps Shakespeare got it right when, in the second act of “As You Like It,” the character Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

The parts being played by the men and women of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are a rich and vital service to the people of our state. These are the people who transform our children, who show them a new and lively way to understand stories, and life – its comedies and tragedies. These are the “players” who expand the minds of our young people, and show them a world that lives within their own ability to imagine.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Aderholt’s advice for Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate candidates: ‘Make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president’

Although it is still the early going of the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary election campaign, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has some advice for the handful of candidates seeking the GOP nod.

When asked what he saw as important to him and his constituents in Alabama’s fourth congressional district, he said it was support for President Donald Trump.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump dominated Aderholt’s district by winning more than 80% of the vote and was the only district in the country to break the 80% threshold.

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“They’ve clearly got to make sure that they make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president,” Aderholt said. “I mean, this president has as much support of any since I have been in office. I have never seen a president that has the support this president has. He has, everywhere I go, people are very optimistic that they are very positive about what he is doing. And they’re optimistic about the future. So I would first of all — they need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

“As someone who is in another branch of government, we always want to make sure we don’t do just exactly like the executive or the president wants to do regardless of who it is,” he continued. “The Founding Fathers wanted the different branches to be a watchdog on each other. But, as I have seen from this president, the things that he is doing is consistent with what the voters want and what has been good for America. I’m fully supportive of this president. I think they need to communicate they’re supporting the president. I think that is probably the biggest thing right now. Alabama is a very pro-life state, and I think they need to communicate that, which again is consistent with the president’s message.”

Aderholt also suggested the Senate candidates should be supportive of Trump’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

“I am also getting the feedback that the Mexican-Canadian trade agreement that the president is trying to negotiate — to redo NAFTA, people are very supportive of that,” Aderholt added. “But again, the president has been very supportive of these issues. What the president is doing, I’m very supportive of. I don’t see any issue as far as supporting what the president’s issue is.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

5 hours ago

Georgia-based Colonial sues contractor over Alabama spill

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. has sued an Alabama contractor over a spill that threatened gasoline supplies along the East Coast three years ago.

The pipeline operator contends faulty work by the Birmingham-based Ceco Pipeline Services caused a crack that spilled at least 250,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Shelby County in September 2016.

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The spill shut down a major pipeline for weeks, tightening gasoline supplies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The pipeline carries fuel from Houston to metropolitan New York.

With headquarters near Atlanta in Alpharetta, Colonial Pipeline filed the federal lawsuit Friday seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Ceco Pipeline Services has not filed a response in court, and general manager Luke Hotze declined comment Monday, citing the lawsuit.

Hired to replace coatings that protect the pipeline’s exterior, the contractor failed to adequately replace dirt around the pipeline after maintenance work, the suit said.

The failure left a void beneath the pipe, which bent as it sagged.

The bend caused cracks that led to the breach, according to the suit.

The failure cost Colonial Pipeline lost income, plus money spent on repairs and cleanup, the lawsuit said without specifying an amount.

The lawsuit said Colonial Pipeline transports an average of 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of refined petroleum products daily through a system that includes more than 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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‘School choice’ also means ‘tax choice’ in Alabama

It’s back-to-school season and for some parents, this is a happy time.

But for those whose children are stuck in underperforming schools, or schools where they are bullied or are in danger, this is a heartbreaking time, especially if they cannot afford to move or go to private school.

“There was fighting every day. People wanted to shoot me, kill me, and everything,” said Calvin Coleman in a speech about his experiences at his Mobile public high school.

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Did you know that you, or your company, can help students like Calvin by donating a portion of what you already owe in state income taxes to a program that funds scholarships for low-income families in Alabama?

“When my son Carlos was in the fifth grade, he was constantly bullied and I wanted to desperately put him into a private school,” wrote Nyenya Webster of Montgomery in Alabama Daily News. Every day was a struggle, she added. “I was at a loss as to what to do to help my son.”

Then Webster learned about the tax-credit scholarship program created in 2013 by the Alabama Accountability Act that serves roughly 4,000 low-income, mostly minority Alabama students.

She applied, and Carlos received a scholarship to attend Success Unlimited Academy in Montgomery.

“Success Unlimited has been a lifesaver for my son,” Webster wrote. “He … is now considering college. My son never talked about going to college before Success.”

For those who want to help other Alabama families break the cycle of poverty through education, it’s a no-brainer.

“For a donor, it doesn’t cost them anything,” said Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids, one of the scholarship granting organizations funded by the program.

That’s because a tax credit is different from a charitable contribution. When you make a charitable contribution to a non-profit organization, you deduct a portion of that on your income tax. However, a tax credit allows you to take a dollar for dollar reduction in your state income tax.

“Basically, donors are redirecting some of their state income tax liability to a [scholarship granting organization],” Callaway said. “So, if you give $100 to us, you can reduce your state income tax by $100.”

Who benefits from the donation?

“The average household income for these students is under $30,000 so these are families that would have no other way of choosing the school that is best for their child,” said Ryan Cantrell, director of state strategy and political affairs for the American Federation for Children, during an interview of the 1819 podcast.

Higher-income families have always had school choice, Cantrell said, but “it’s the low-income families who get stuck with no options in under-performing schools or schools that don’t work for their child.”

There are $30 million in tax credits available and, so far, only about a third have been claimed, according to the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website.

Here’s how you can reserve your tax credit before the December 31, 2019, deadline:

Step 1: Estimate how much income tax you or your business will owe Alabama next year by checking how much you paid last year. Individuals and corporations can donate up to 50 percent of their tax bill, and while individuals are limited to $50,000, corporations are unlimited.

Step 2: Visit the My Alabama Taxes website and follow instructions for reserving an Alabama Accountability Act tax credit.

Step 3: Send a check to one of the seven scholarship granting organizations in Alabama within 30 days.

Step 4: When you do your taxes next year, fill out an Alabama Department of Revenue Schedule AATC form to reduce your income tax bill by the amount you donated.

For more help, individuals may call the Alabama Department of Revenue at 334-353-0602 or 334-353-9770, and corporations may call 334-242-1200.

You’re already going to have to write a check for your state income taxes. Why not control where some of that money goes, especially when it has the power to change lives?

“It was a relief that nobody would understand,” said mother-of-five Alleane West in an Alabama Opportunity Scholarship video about the program’s impact on her family. “You know, you’re a single mom with boys trying to not make them a statistic.”

Watch:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.