Pastor Harry Reeder: Churches must stay on-mission as evangelists, not cultural acceptance-seekers


 

 

 

 

 

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TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, on Today in Perspective, we deal with a number of different news stories.

Each of these stories that we deal with, obviously, we try to hit them head-on and we try to give a perspective through the lens of Scripture so that believers might be able to be salt and light in the public square and take with them some of God’s common grace as we apply his principles to the situations of life.

But, Harry, is there another answer? Is the ultimate answer something larger?

DR. REEDER: You know, Tom, that’s exactly right and this is something that is very important, I know, to you and it is to me. We work from a perspective that you are not an accident.

You know, when I pick up an iPhone, I know that that thing didn’t come together because unexplained parts, I don’t know how they came into existence – somehow got thrown into a place and then, all of a sudden, an iPhone came out. I know when I see that iPhone, somebody designed it, somebody made the parts, somebody put it together – I know that.

Well, when I look at this world, I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. I can’t look at everything and not believe that there is a God – it just doesn’t make any sense.

And that means, if there’s a God who made us with all that which is good and beautiful and true, then how did it get marred?

I believe God’s already told us, “It got marred because of your sin,” but this same God is a God of love and grace and mercy so that, while He cannot wink at sin, He has made a way for sinners to be saved and that way is His Son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world.

“A body has been prepared for me.” Why? So that He could defeat Satan, sin, our death, our sin – He could defeat all of it on the cross. And now He has risen, He is at the right hand of the Father, and He offers eternal life. That is what I believe the answer is.

It is God’s answer and it is good news. The bad news is we’re sinners, our sin is ever before us, our sin always takes us deeper into its clutches and there is no way out – our religion can’t save us, our sincerity can’t save us – only the grace of God can.

And that’s what we want to proclaim to people – that’s the ultimate news you just referred to – but we also go a step further.

As you and I work through these programs, we know that this God has created humanity and has established for humanity three institutions that are crucial: the state, the church and the family. They are interdependent, but they are not hierarchical – the state does not own the church or the family; the church does not own the state or the family; the family does not own the church and the state. They all exist under God.

For those who listen to us, you, personally, and your family need to know, “How do I Biblically – that is, in a way that God has revealed – how do I relate to the church and state and what do I expect the church and the state to do?”

The church’s mission, while consequentially it speaks to all kinds of issues, its mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. “You are to go evangelize. You are to baptize them, enfold the believer in this household into the body of Christ. You are to teach them, that is, to equip them to observe all that I have commanded you and I am with you always.”

Our mission is not only the message of the Gospel and the call to evangelism, enfolding and equipping of God’s people, to win, to train and to send people into the world to serve Jesus Christ in every sphere of society, but the second thing is we’re to do it by embracing the Great Commandment, which is “Love the Lord with all of your heart, your soul, and your mind and then, in light of that, to love your neighbor even as you would love yourself in loving God with heart, soul and mind.”

That then leads me into the public arena, not only with the message of the Gospel, but with the truth of God’s word because I love my neighbor.

I want my neighbor to know that, “While you might not have a Christian marriage, you certainly ought to embrace marriage because that’s how God created you.

You may not want to embrace sexuality for the sake of the Gospel the way God has said it, but I still want you to know that you cannot put sex outside of marriage without having terrible consequences in your life and in the culture.

I want you to love life because Jesus loves life and the power of the Gospel gives you the love of life but, even if you don’t, I want the sanctity of life to still rule in the public square because I don’t want the culture of death to destroy people, which I know is what has happened, and is happening, and will happen.”

Therefore, we will speak to those issues, but our mission and our message is to make disciples – evangelize, enfold, equip and send them into the world. Tom, until the church in the United States of America gets back to that, we’re not going to do the job.

Right now, the church is trying to be culture players. There is the left side, the progressive side, that refuses to speak to the issues of the sanctity of sexuality, the sanctity of marriage, and the sanctity of gender from a Christian world and life view because they want to be accepted and they want to be a player in the world of culture.

And then there’s the other side which says those things are wrong, but now the church has become a culture instrument, a shaper of the culture, instead of an entity fully committed to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment – which, when done, will affect the culture – but our mission is not to change the culture; our mission is to spread the Gospel of the kingdom of God to this nation and to all the other nations.

Now, if we do our job well, by the power of the Spirit of God, what will happen? A culture will be blessed. Tom, that’s what we bring. We are actually posted on a number of news programs, a number of stations and a number of websites and I am grateful for all of it, but we are not there to be political players.

We’re there to bring the world and life view that is buttressed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and an insatiable appetite that you and I both enjoy together and that is to fulfill the Great Commission – to make disciples of all the nations – and we want to do that in our own nation, and, Tom, to love our neighbor as ourselves because we love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind.

The church doing that is exactly why our founding fathers put in place a Bill of Rights and, in that Bill of Rights, a First Amendment, and in that First Amendment, six Affirmations of Liberty and, of those, the very first one was the freedom of the practice of religion.

They knew, No. 1, the state’s job, from a Biblical world and life view, was not to pick and choose the religion to be accepted because we can’t trust the government to do that. They knew that they wouldn’t trust future governments to pick the right religion. And when that field of religion is opened up with freedom, they knew that Christianity would win the day.

A federal republic ruled by law can only exist when, in fact, you have a moral people, which is why they said America is only great if our churches are great. And, when the church of Jesus Christ did its job, Great Awakening No. 1, Great Awakening No. 2, the revivals that we experienced in the 50’s and 60’s that were of some benefit – whenever it does that, that’s what benefits the culture.

And it turns out people who know how to live with all of life under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ and bringing the benefit to that culture, all because of the power of sovereign grace of Jesus Christ who loves to take sinners right where they are, forgive them, rebuild them, transform them, and then send them into the world to serve Him in their business, in their neighborhood, in their family and among their friends and that begins to shape a culture.

We’re just on the other side of Thanksgiving – well, my wife and my sisters made that Thanksgiving meal that we all sat down to, those vegetables, oh, man, they’re good. I know a part of what made them good was the salt and it didn’t take much salt to change that whole bowl of vegetables if the salt was salty.

And that’s what we need to make sure that a clear salty message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of light that shines into darkness – salt and light – and watch the light dissipate the darkness and the salt penetrate, permeate, purify and preserve all that is around it.

And that’s why we’ve got to stay, dare I say it again, on-mission, on-message and in the ministry God has given to us believers which includes the declaration of truth and love to the public square.

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

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

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

6 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

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

7 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

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

7 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

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