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Reformed Christians have lost one of their great theologians, pastors


(James Thompson/WikiCommons)

 

 

 

 

 

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TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, last week, as Americans and people around the world went about their Christmas preparations, a Christian theologian – a personal friend and a mentor of yours – slipped into eternity. R.C. Sproul, at the age of 78, passed away.

DR. REEDER: Just an absolute titan. We think of the great impact of a Billy Graham in the breadth of the church and his commitment to crusade evangelism.

For me, R.C. should be seen in the same way. His outreach commitment and impact was extraordinary as he took the great historic orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ and all the theology attached to it, related to it, undergirding it, surrounding it, and he had this marvelous, wonderful -way of communicating it so that what was considered profound truth, he could communicate with such simplicity and attractiveness.

His commitment to reform theology is legendary. His commitment to the authority of the scriptures – their inerrancy, their infallibility – was truly church-shaking, church-encouraging, church-equipping, and that meant that it was world-shaking and world-impactful as well.

I had five mentors in ministry. Of those five mentors in ministry, one was R.C. Sproul and the other was James Boyce and both of those are with the Lord. Three of my mentors are still living, but now both of them are with the Lord.

By the way, interesting, James Boyce and R.C. were very close friends. If you’ve never read R.C.’s book, The Holiness of God, then you’re poverty stricken – it’s just so powerful.

In his book on the holiness of God, he gloriously describes this scene in Isaiah 6 where the seraphim were gathered around the throne and the angels and the seraphim were singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,” and thresholds are trembling.

When they called me and told me about R.C. on the day he died, one of my first thoughts was, “I know R.C. will be so gloriously enraptured to see his Savior, but I also know he will love to see his mentor, Dr. John Gerstner. He will love to see Dr. Boyce, his dear friend for life. I know he’ll seek out Martin Luther – he loved to study the life of Martin Luther – and, in many ways, R.C. was a reflection of Martin Luther in terms of maintaining, maturing and growing the understanding of reformed reformation theology.

That glorious scene that he so wonderfully paints when he preaches and writes of the Isaiah 6 chapter, that he has now joined it and he is there with praise before the Lord and the trembling thresholds all around him as the glory of the Lord fills the presence of the Lord and R.C. is present in that presence.

And, by the way, R.C. was quite the sportsman. He loved baseball and played baseball. He loved golf –one time, a 2 handicapper – and he also tried to keep me away from making a reverse pivot on my backswing. He was always the coach, whether it was theology or golf. He loved to do trivia. I’d come up, we’d immediately go to three things: theology, Civil War, and baseball.

And, of course, he loved Pittsburgh and I actually played with a number of guys that were with the Pittsburgh Pirates and my dad was a scout in the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was another attraction that we had as well.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the Billy Graham Organization, Young Life Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ, many of those were flourishing and many young people making commitments to Christ. R.C. came along and said, “You know, that’s good, but I really want to see people grow deeper in their relationship with Christ,” and he started Ligonier Ministries.

DR. REEDER: That’s right. And he also was an unabashed churchman. As you said, he was really breaking out in his ministry in the 1970s when I was at Covenant College. I had just graduated and I was a student pastor of a little struggling and new Bible church and he came and did a conference on the authority and sufficiency – inerrancy and sufficiency – of the Word of God – wonderful, wonderful time.

He comes into the PCA and I get to know him there and then, when I had my doctoral work, I had him for a number of classes with Reformed Theological Seminary. Of course, I always tell people, everybody thought that I loved R.C., which I do love R.C., but I loved Vesta more because she’s the one who graded all my papers. And it was wonderful: I got R.C. in the classroom and I got Vesta grading all my reports.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Of course, that was R.C.’s wife.

DR. REEDER: They did everything together. What a great model of loving your wife and what a great model she was for other wives, the way she loved her husband. And, of course, R.C. was an inveterate writer, and author and speaker.

R.C. was a big man with a big laugh – he loved a good joke, he loved good humor. One thing people don’t know is that, if you would talk to R.C. in the last 15 years of his life and ask him, “What has been the greatest joy of your life?” – of course Vesta would be there and there were many, many great things and he loved his children, his son and his daughter – but one of the things he would tell you, the greatest thing in his life was pastoral preaching.

When he became the pastor of St. Andrew’s Chapel, he would tell you that’s been the greatest experience of his life – his pastoral preaching Sunday after Sunday.

TOM LAMPRECHT: What do you think R.C. would want to leave as his legacy?

DR. REEDER: Theology matters because all of life is theology. The way you live reflects your theology. Your view of God, all of life is theology. My personal opinion is that would be what he would want people to understand so do your theology well.

R.C. was a stickler on this – he could not stand to hear people say, “God has an unconditional love for you.” He understood what they meant, but he said, “If God’s love is unconditional, then why is Jesus on that cross?”

God’s love is unmerited, God’s love is unstoppable, God’s love is relentless, God’s love is unconquerable, God’s love is glorious and triumphant, God’s love is overcoming and God’s grace is the outworking of His love into your life because of the unmerited favor of God, but it can’t be unconditional. God is holy and that’s the glorious thing about God’s love is He gave up His Son to satisfy the unimpeachable holiness of God.

He saw that statement, “unconditional,” as diminishing the majesty of God’s love and actually, ultimately, attacking the unmerited nature of God’s love. God’s love is not just a wink, “Well, I’m holy but it doesn’t matter.” No, God’s love is so glorious, He found a way when there was no way to make a way to save you and that way was the gift of His Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, there’s always a remnant – God always has a remnant. It’s sad to see someone like R.C. Sproul leave this earth and his gifts are no longer with us but, as we speak, God is raising up others.

DR. REEDER: I don’t even belong hardly in the same room with R.C. – I like the way Chris Larson says that he was omnicompetent – but guys like me are a remnant. There were ten of us that used to meet with R.C. every year. We’d go down to Orlando, play some golf, have a good meal, talk theology, challenge and encourage each other.

I think of all those guys – John Woods, Sandy Wilson, John Sartelle and a number of others, the guys at Ligonier – his dear compatriot, Burk Parsons and Chris Larsons, the Ligonier Ministry, which now has captured all of this material and now will be used of God for that, the Reformation Bible College and, of course, St. Andrew’s Chapel.

Let me just finish today by saying these two things: Pray for Vesta, pray for his son, R.C. Jr., and pray for his daughter, his grandchildren. He’s a big man and filled a big space so there is a big space. When you have somebody that loves you deep, and you love them deep, there is a deep loss so I’m praying for them.

Pray for Ligonier as it takes this next season. Chris and Burk have been preparing for this. Pray for St. Andrew’s Chapel as I’m sure Burk Parsons will continue that ministry, there.

And pray for the PCA – we’ve lost one of our great theologians. Pray for all of us that have been impacted that, somehow, we as that remnant, as you said, will be able to carry forward.

Pray that God will use this in just really glorious ways for the work of the kingdom because, if there was any time that we needed to know that theology matters and your theology is not from human imagination, but divine revelation, from God’s inerrant, infallible, sufficient Word of God, it is in this day.

That would be my second thing, my exhortation is: Take what R.C. has given us, use it, build on it and take it to the next generation.

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.

8 hours ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

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First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

8 hours ago

What’s wrong with Calhoun County’s economy?

Earlier this week, Zippia, one of the many job search websites out there, released its list of 2018’s 50 worst job markets in America. Only one in Alabama made the list: Anniston-Jacksonville, AL, which came in at number 43.

That’s not bad given what we’re told about Alabama and poverty. But it does raise one question: Why are Anniston and its surrounding areas struggling compared to other similar places in the state?

Although unemployment in Calhoun County is not nearly as high as counties in the Black Belt, compared to other quasi-urban areas of Alabama, Calhoun has the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 5.9 percent according to data posted recently on the Alabama Department of Labor’s website.

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That far exceeds the seasonally adjusted numbers for the state of Alabama, at 4.1 percent, and nationally, at 4 percent.

So, what gives? Why does Calhoun County struggle economically?

“It’s a good question,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in response to that in an interview with Yellowhammer News back in April. “I saw those numbers come out for my congressional district and Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate, still. It is better than it has been, but I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Rogers said part of the answer to that question may be tied to military spending during the Obama administration and its impact on the nearby Anniston Army Depot.

“[T]here was a real downsizing at the Depot,” he added. “They had had a couple more thousand employees than they have now at the height of the war and there had been a downsizing since the drawback from Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t need to refurbish as much equipment. But now they’re trying to ramp back up as we try to rebuild our military.”

He credited the potential for a turnaround in that trend to President Donald Trump’s commitment to the military.

Beyond that, why isn’t Calhoun County booming? It seems like every other day, Gov. Kay Ivey is announcing a new addition or manufacturing facility in the Huntsville area that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Let’s compare the Anniston-Oxford area to another economic hot spot in Rogers district, the Auburn-Opelika area.  Although Lee County isn’t quite enjoying the successes of Madison and Limestone Counties, it seems to be growing. Its unemployment rate is 4.7 percent – a little higher. But when you look around Auburn and Opelika, there are all kinds of new commercial and residential construction projects.

That doesn’t seem to be a trend in Anniston and Oxford.

Both Lee and Calhoun Counties have some similarities. Having Auburn University in Lee County is a big difference. Besides that, the two approximately the same distance from Atlanta and its international airport. The two are served by the Interstate Highway System – I-20 in Calhoun County and I-85 in Lee County.

If Lee County can make it work, then why not Calhoun County?

Getting to the bottom of determining what is ailing Calhoun County is not an easy chore. Although reading the pages of The Anniston Star is not quite the adventures of “Alice in Wonderland” it was when H. Brandt Ayers was in charge, under Josephine Ayers and Anthony Cook, it still tends to dwell in the politics outside of Calhoun County.

Addressing Calhoun County’s struggles is a politically worthwhile endeavor. While Kay Ivey is patting herself on the back for economic prosperity in north Alabama at plant-opening ceremony number 105, and Walt Maddox is championing his heroics in Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado devastation, what about Anniston? What about Oxford? What about Jacksonville?

From an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be a presentable case for manufacturing to make Calhoun County a home given its infrastructure and proximities it Atlanta and Birmingham. But first, we need to determine what’s behind its current struggles.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

9 hours ago

Six vote difference: Republicans Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood in tight race for House District 38

Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood are in a tight race to become the Republican nominee for House District 38, where only six votes separate the two candidates. Wood has 2,165 votes to Rauch’s 2,159 votes.

The number is well within Rauch’s reach considering there are still votes to be counted.

A winner won’t be declared until at least next Tuesday, July 24, when provisional ballots are officially counted and even then, it could take longer for Secretary of State John Merrill to certify the results officially declaring a winner.

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“There’s never a winner until everything is certified,” Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News.

Even in the case of such a wide margin as Attorney General Steve Marshall has over Troy King – 62 to 38 percent – there is still no official winner because it hasn’t been certified, Merrill said.

Provisional ballots are provided to those whose names do not appear on the voter roles when they show up to vote but who insist they belong, and still want to vote.

In order to have their votes counted, those who participate in the provisional process must prove to the board of registrar’s office that they ought to be on the roles.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

10 hours ago

Alabamians less likely to be understood by ‘Alexa’ and other ‘smart’ tech because of southern accents

The remarkable drawl that embodies Southern culture may be responsible for the frustration many Alabamians feel when trying to get their smart tech to answer a question. The repeated “Sorry, I didn’t get that” can lead people with accents to underutilize voice-activated devices such as Alexa and Google Home that are rapidly growing in popularity.

study conducted by the Washington Post and two research groups revealed people with Southern accents were three percent less likely to get accurate responses from a Google Home device than those with Western accents.  Foreign accents face the largest challenge with 30 percent more inaccuracies.

But, help is on the way.

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According to the study, the artificial intelligence used in programming the technology is taught to comprehend different accents by processing data from a variety of voices.  The more it learns, the more accurate the programming will become.  Even though these tools may be more useful for some people at the moment, Amazon, the maker of the smart home product Alexa, says to keep trying.

“The more we hear voices that follow certain speech patterns or have certain accents, the easier we find it to understand them.  For Alexa, this no different,” Amazon said in a statement.  “As more people speak to Alexa, and with various accents, Alexa’s understanding will improve.”

Over 20 percent of U.S. households with WiFi utilize smart speakers, and the number of users is growing.  Hopefully, for the benefit of Alabamians, that growth will happen in the South.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

Learning from President Trump: Words matter

“I don’t see any reason why it would be”.

Those words, voiced by President Trump when asked whether he believed it was true that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, set off a media firestorm early this week.

Trump, of course, is used to media criticism, but this time was different. Joining the normal critics were a multitude of Fox News hosts including Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Dana Perino, and even Brian Kilmeade of the oft-lauded by Trump Fox and Friends.

The morning after Trump’s press conference with President Putin, Kilmeade spoke in second person “you” language and pleaded for President Trump to clarify his statement and his belief in our intelligence agencies over Russians who, as Kilmeade said “hate democracy.”

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To his credit, Trump – who had previously agreed that Russian meddling existed – corrected his statement within twenty-four hours.

Regardless of whether his clarification was believable or timely, this episode reminds us that in politics and government – and in everyday life – words matter.

19thcentury German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the power of words. Nietzsche wrote, “All I need is a sheet of paper, and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down”.

Nietzsche’s statement wasn’t merely hypothetical. His declaration that “God is dead” shattered worldviews across western civilization into pieces that PureFlix (the movie company behind God’s Not Dead and its sequels) is still trying to pick up.

Even so, it seems that many have forgotten the power of words and have embraced the idea that simply being heard, regardless of content, is of utmost importance.

In NBC’s hit show The Office, Michael Scott tells viewers, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” I think a lot of us are more like Michael Scott than we’d like to admit.

We might do well to envision more intentional dialogue from ourselves and from our elected officials, especially our state and local representatives.

In an environment where soundbites are everything, Trump’s statements in Helsinki and the backlash that ensued ought to prompt Alabama officials and candidates to rethink any “wing it” sympathies they may have towards public statements, press conferences, or tweets.

This is even more important in the post-primary period of our election cycle.

Now that the nominees are chosen, we must remind each of their responsibility as leaders to use words, strategies, and express differences in a way that is less divisive and more unifying, less bombastic and more genuine. Our officials and candidates should think twice before resorting to name-calling or vilifying their opponents, as doing so endorses that type of behavior and lowers the standard of Alabamians for those who represent them.

We should also expect, now that the in-fighting of our primary process is over, nominees to run thoughtful campaigns where issues, not personalities, are articulately debated.

Candidates and regular Alabamians alike must remember that words yield tremendous power. Therefore, as Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, and Matilda, suggests, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words”.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.