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.

8 mins ago

Wetlands, crops can mitigate storm damage to coastal cities, study led by UAH finds

Coastal cities can be spared some wind destruction from intensifying hurricanes or tropical storm systems if they have functional wetland ecosystems and agricultural croplands in the area, according to new computer modeling research led by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

“Our study was about how changing land cover in coastal areas affects rain from tropical storms,” says Emily Foshee, co-author of the research and a research associate at UAH’s Earth System Science Center who analyzed the models. Dr. Eric Rappin from Western Kentucky University ran the numerical model experiments.

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The paper was published in Scientific Reports in November. UAH teamed with Western Kentucky University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Georgia, the University of Colorado Boulder, Purdue University, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to conduct the study.

Scientists used the model with a simulation of a flooding storm over Baton Rouge as a control and then modified the type of land the storm passed over to assess the effect. They modeled three land types: healthy coastal marshland, marshland that had become saturated or turned to open water and coastal land that had been converted mostly to agricultural use.

The ground moisture and vegetative buffering of healthy marsh impede storm intensification but increase rainfall in the model.

“If you want to keep the marsh ecology intact because you don’t want to lose all the other benefits of marshland such as preventing soil erosion and the wildlife and aquatic life benefits, and if you are concerned about how to have less damage from storm winds, then you must keep the wetlands,” says Dr. Udaysankar Nair, UAH associate professor of atmospheric science and the paper’s lead author, whose research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

“When you have a landfalling hurricane, if you have wetlands there, then there is a greater chance that the storm or hurricane will weaken,” Dr. Nair says.

Scientists modeled the effects on the Baton Rouge, La., region by using NASA land surface model data and data from an actual large flooding storm. Study findings, which support preservation and restoration of healthy marshes, may be especially important in Louisiana, which loses the equivalent of a football field of land to water every hour.

Agriculture continues to convert wetland in Louisiana to crop uses, and those practices tend to dry soils. Cut off from a source of water vapor, storms in the model that passed over cropland were less intense and windy. But there’s a tradeoff. Single crop agricultural lands don’t possess the erosion control and biodiversity benefits of marshland, Dr. Nair says.

The combined effect of healthy wetlands transitioning to cropland reduced storm intensity in the model no matter what soil moisture conditions were present.

The research says that if current trends continue, a substantial portion of Louisiana wetlands will transition to open water in coming decades, likely making the studied region even more vulnerable to heavy rain events from future tropical systems.

Marsh that has become super-saturated or has turned to open water, known as a brown ocean, produces the most damaging winds in the model, while at the same time spreading out rainfall. That’s because saturated wetlands or open water continue to feed energy into a hurricane’s system.

Air spirals in toward the eye of a hurricane, and as it does it has a tendency to cool, Dr. Nair says. While the storm is over warm open ocean, over open water resulting from conversion of wetlands, or over the brown ocean of a saturated marsh, the energy from the wet and warm surface offsets the cooling effect with warm humid air and the storm can continue to grow stronger.

“What happens when a hurricane comes ashore is that the land cuts off that source of energy,” Dr. Nair says. “Different forms of land cover affect the storm. What we found out is that it’s not just the water vapor that affects storms.”

The natural vegetation in healthy marsh has more buffering friction than if it has been converted to open water or agriculture, he says.

“If all these marsh regions are instead filled with water, essentially that is like the open ocean coming right to land,” Dr. Nair says. “Then you see more wind and more spread out rain, and more damage out of the storm. The storm will continue to intensify as it comes in.”

The work points to other areas for further study.

“If we do more of these kinds of studies,” Dr. Nair says, “then we can potentially be able to say something about how the patterns of land use change and land management affect landfall in hurricanes.”

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville)

1 hour ago

Watch: Bicentennial video tells the stories of Alabama’s great people

The finale of the ALABAMA 200 bicentennial celebration is on Saturday, with the public celebrating with elected officials, celebrities and dignitaries in the state’s capital.

However, even if you cannot make the festivities in person, you can still take time remotely to honor Alabama becoming a state 200 years ago to the day.

A video put together by WBRC and posted by Governor Kay Ivey is a great way to relive the state’s vibrant history.

Entitled, “Alabama Bicentennial: The Stories of Our People,” the approximately 50-minute special looks back on the state’s past 200 years, hearing from some of its most memorable voices in the process.

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In an introduction to that video, Ivey says, “As we celebrate our state’s bicentennial, I want to recognize my fellow Alabamians. As governor, I’m proud to be from a state that has remained steadfast through good times and bad.”

“Our resiliency and southern spirit have allowed us to grow and become the great state we are today,” she continues. “To put it simply, Alabama is defined by its people, and we have some of the best. I look forward to the future generations of Alabamians who will help take us to even greater heights. Happy birthday, Alabama!”

Watch:

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

4 hours ago

Alabama’s ‘white gold’ draws worldwide interest

Ruth Beaumont Cook’s latest book started 10 years ago as a brochure request from Sylacauga‘s B.B. Comer Memorial Library in advance of the city’s first marble festival.

“They asked me to put together a brochure about the history of the marble,” Cook said. “It was overwhelmingly successful, so the next year they asked to me write a book.”

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New book celebrates Sylacauga’s marble legacy from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Nearly nine years and dozens of interviews later, Cook celebrates the natural resource that nurtures both the economy and the cultural heritage of Alabama’s “Marble City” in her new book, “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story.”

“Whenever you start working on a book, you have all of this information but you look for a story thread through it,” Cook said. “I had no clue when I started what that was going to be.”

Cook said the clues starting coming together as she started talking to people who grew up mining marble.

“There are so many people who grew up in Gantts Quarry,” Cook said. “Most people have good memories of growing up there and work they are proud of. Telling those stories was the most interesting part of it.”

Commercial marble quarries began in Sylacauga in the late 1800s. Cook said the marble was initially used by sculptors such as Giuseppe Moretti, the Italian who created the Vulcan statue on Red Mountain in Birmingham.

“His Vulcan won gold prize at the 1904 World’s Fair, but what most people don’t know is he also took another piece with him, ‘The Head of Christ,’ which he had carved from Sylacauga marble,” Cook said. “It won a silver medal.”

The notoriety caught the attention of construction managers around the world who were seeking dimension marble for their projects. By the 1930s, Sylacauga’s creamy white marble had been used in hundreds of buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court building and the ceiling of the Lincoln Memorial.

“It was chosen for the Lincoln Memorial because it can be cut very thin and still be strong,” Cook said. “They cut it thin enough to be translucent and then rubbed it with beeswax and put it in the ceiling.”

Despite the marble’s beauty and strength, Cook said the demand for dimension marble in construction dropped dramatically by the 1950s.

“It became obvious that granite was much easier to withstand pollution than marble,” Cook said. “Marble is still great if it’s thick enough, but if you make a facade of it on a building, it’s probably not going to last because it deteriorates from the pollution.”

Instead of closing the mines and laying off employees, Cook said the Sylacauga marble companies survived and thrived thanks to a growing need for calcium extracted from marble deposits and used in hundreds of products, such as cosmetics, paints and glue.

“They turned to industry and began to grind up the marble into fine powder – called GCC, ground calcium carbonate – which industry had a strong demand for,” Cook said.

Cook said Sylacauga continues to be a rich marble resource more than 70 years later.

“I’ve been told there’s enough marble there for sculpture and industry for at least another 200 years,” Cook said. “The vein of marble is 35 miles long, a mile and a half wide and goes down quite a ways — 300 or 400 feet I believe. It’s a very valuable resource.”

Sylacauga Marble Festival

Since 2009, the city has celebrated its heritage through the Sylacauga Marble Festival, a 10-day event drawing sculptors from around the world to work alongside an Italian master sculptor. Visitors can watch, tour local quarries and purchase sculptures. Cook said the festival brings Sylacauga’s rich heritage full circle.

“It came from art, up through all of these others, and now you have this wonderful balance,” Cook said. “You still have major industry but you also have major art appreciation. It’s a great story.”

The 12th annual Marble Festival will be March 31 to April 11, 2020.

The 2019 Marble Festival, which was one of several events highlighted by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission as part of the state’s 200th birthday celebration, was sponsored by the Alabama Power FoundationAlabama State Council on the ArtsAlabama Tourism DepartmentAmerican Legion Post 45 SylacaugaArchitectural Stone ImportsB.B. Comer Memorial LibraryBlue Bell CreameriesBlue Horizon TravelCity of Sylacauga, Conn Equipment, Coosa Valley Medical CenterCurtis and Son Funeral HomeImerysIsabel Anderson Comer Museum and Arts CenterJ. Craig Smith Community CenterMiller Lumber CompanyMorris Custom Marble & GraniteNemakOmya, Inc.Pizza & Pint, Representative Ron Johnson, SouthFirst BankSylacauga Arts CouncilSylacauga Chamber of CommerceSylacauga Housing Authority, Sylacauga Marble Quarry, Towne Inn, 21st Century Signs and Utilities Board of Sylacauga.

To learn more about “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story,” visit newsouthbooks.com/magicinstone.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Birmingham Business Alliance reveals new mission, economic development approach

The Birmingham Business Alliance revealed a new mission and a new approach to economic development as it heads into 2020.

The BBA’s 2019 Chairwoman’s Annual Meeting was at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham Dec. 11. Chairwoman Nancy Goedecke passed the gavel to Jim Gorrie, president and CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie.

Gone is Blueprint Birmingham, which guided the BBA through its first 10 years. In its place is a strategy that keys in life sciences, advanced manufacturing and technology. Those are some of the main industries the Alabama Department of Commerce is expected to emphasize in its revision of Accelerate Alabama, the state’s economic development plan.

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“Those are the three areas that we’re going to focus on,” said Fred McCallum, interim CEO of the BBA. “I will tell you that when you look at our state plan, there are a lot of similarities.”

Birmingham Business Alliance announces new direction from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A main component to Blueprint Birmingham was a set of metrics that measured Birmingham’s success against a cluster of peer cities. Doing so often looked too broadly, McCallum said.

“Blueprint was a good plan at the time,” he said. “It was very wide and in some ways it was successful and in other ways it wasn’t so successful. I think what we’ve come to now is a point in time where we’ve got to focus in on jobs and economic growth.”

There will be a new set of metrics created and benchmarked in a new BBA strategic plan, McCallum said.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin did highlight one comparison between Birmingham and other cities.

“Since the great recession around 2008, 60% of all jobs have only gone to 25 cities in America,” Woodfin said. “You need to know that Birmingham is not on that list.”

Woodfin feels Birmingham should measure itself against its own potential instead of comparing itself to others.

“We don’t have to be like Nashville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or Austin,” he said. “We need to be the best version of ourselves. But that is going to require us to shake off the way we’ve always done things.”

Woodfin said the companies and organizations that make up the BBA should be prepared to take greater risks and push boundaries.

“Being risk-averse at this time as we move into 2020 … will not work for us – as an organization or for our city,” he said. “So the question becomes when you walk out of this room, are we prepared to invest in our competitiveness? Do we want to compete? Do we want to set ourselves apart, not be like any other city in America?”

A primary goal for the BBA is to find a new CEO. McCallum has led the organization on an interim basis after former CEO Brian Hilson stepped down at the end of March. Hilson now works on rural economic development initiatives in the state.

Other changes will include aligning the BBA’s internal strategy to execute the new strategic plan, updating its governance structure to be more effective and efficient and aligning the funding model to support the BBA’s new strategic plan.

“I think the organization will be more focused on specific strategies and focused on doing what we do well,” McCallum said.

McCallum believes Birmingham leaders and economic developers can tell the region’s story more forcefully and proactively.

“We’re on a good trajectory. I feel good about where we are as a community,” McCallum said. “Our leadership is strong. Our public leadership is strong. Our private leadership is strong. I feel good about where the BBA is focused.”

This year’s annual meeting was more a call to action than the rah-rah sessions of the past.

“Usually I would get up here and give you all some stats about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished,” Woodfin said. “I think it is fair to say that 2019 has been a good year for many of your organizations individually and collectively for our Birmingham Business Alliance.”

It was a good 2019 in the Birmingham metro area. Halfway through the year, the region reached and surpassed its pre-recession height of employment. There were 32 projects with 1,180 jobs and $492.2 million in capital investment announced in the region in 2019.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

The biggest birthday party in Alabama history is TODAY!

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place today, December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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