Reflections from Israel — and how it has changed in the past 30 years


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A VISIT TO THE HOLY LAND AFTER THE U.S. EMBASSY DECISION

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I’d like to review with you something that you’ve been involved with personally — you do this every other year — that is your latest trip to Israel. You’ve been over there for the last couple of weeks. Give us an update on what is happening politically and what is happening spiritually.  

DR. REEDER: Tom, I did ride by the proposed site of the U.S. Embassy. I also stayed in Jerusalem at a hotel that’s next to the old U.S. Consulate. I did talk to many people and, as you would suspect, the Palestinians I talked to, both Muslim and professing Christian, were not happy about it. The Jewish people I talked to pretty much across the board were grateful for it and they felt like, “This is our capital.”

I still am of the opinion it was the right thing to do in terms of normative geopolitics to put the embassy at the capital. It’s the right thing to do, it was done and I think, actually, it may move the discussions for peace further down the road. It’s a complicated situation and you have to understand the War of Independence in 1948.

GETTING TO KNOW ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS 

It’s also interesting that I ended up with an Arab bus driver and a Jewish licensed guide. I had conversations with Jewish leaders, I had conversations with the everyday people who are Jewish and shared the Gospel — our perspective, what does it mean to have a personal relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. By the way, it has moved from 80 percent professing Christians in Bethlehem now to about 18 percent.

Tomorrow, you and I are looking at doing a program in terms of the denial of security and privacy in terms of public accommodations for the necessities of life, if we can be appropriate in our language, and I actually had the opportunity in one of the ruins site and what did the Romans do, and what did they do from a pagan world and life view and what is it that you can learn from that?

It’s really interesting how you’re able to take a look at our present popular culture and the unraveling of our culture because of the loss of a doctrine of creation and what does it mean that men and women are made in the image of God and what are the sanctities of life and compare that with pagans.

THE APOSTLES INSPIRE US TO EVANGELIZE

And, when I was in Bashan, I also had the opportunity to stand at kind of the epicenter of New Testament Christianity which is a place called “The Upper Room.” The building actually is a reflection of the crusader building, a church at that site, but there were other churches built on that site all the way back to the third century.

And I just said to people, “I want you to stop and think of what happened here. First, the last Passover was here and the fulfillment in Christ as the Lamb of God. Second, the first Lord’s Supper was here. Third, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2 happened here as the Spirit of God came upon the 120 people in prayer after the ascension of Jesus. Fourth, it is here that they were praying when James had already been killed — that is, the brother of John — and Peter was threatened and, in their intercessory prayer, Peter was free while they prayed here. It was an upper room of a house that was owned by the parents of John Mark. It’s also the place where they selected the disciple to replace Judas and that was Matthias,” which, of course, is the name of my grandson, so that makes it a special place for me.

I just shared with people, “Don’t despise small places and small things. It is amazing what God does there. What God did with these frightened disciples, giving them courage after the resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit, the lifting up of the name of Christ, 120 including the family of Jesus that got converted after the resurrection and, out of that place was a tsunami wave of a gospel earthquake that has moved throughout the world.”

We also had the opportunity to go to a number of places, not the least of which was the new synagogue in Magdala. It would have been one of the places where Jesus taught. The Bible says that he went to the synagogues around the Galilee — there are seven of them — to stand there and sense what it was on those floors, those mosaic floors, that Jesus stood.

VISITING THE HOLY LAND BRINGS FAITH TO LIFE

It reminds you that Christianity is not an ethereal abstract philosophical concept, but it is something that has happened in space, and time and history. The God Who created men and women, who sinned against Him, so loved us that in no coercion, the Father so gives His Son Who redeems us. The Son comes into the world and he actually has a true body, lives in true places and there is a historical reality to His atoning death — it wasn’t just a concept, His resurrection, His ascension as well as there is a prewritten historic reality that He is coming again.

To be able to share that with people and to see that enhance their life and their Bible go from black and white to color, from 2-D, to 3-D to 4-D in its dimensions, is very exciting, as well as the bridges it opens up to share the Gospel with others.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, you’ve been doing this for a number of years now — I would guess 20 years you’ve been going over to Israel?

DR. REEDER: No, it’s been longer than that. I started in my very first year in ministry, 1982, and now it’s every other year so I’ve been there 15 times now.

HOW HAS ISRAEL CHANGED OVER THE DECADES?

TOM LAMPRECHT: How has Israel changed 1982 to now?

DR. REEDER: This doesn’t sound like much to people, but from a miniscule number of Christians that you could almost count on your fingers and toes, now there are 2 percent of the population that are Christian. There is a movement of Christianity within the Israeli army. There has been the securing of the freedom of Christians to build churches legally that used to not be there. There is the constant development of archaeology that keeps affirming the reality of Christianity and the claims in the Bible that liberal seminaries used to dismiss and now have to acknowledge — “Oh, yeah, there was a King David. There was a Pontius Pilate. There was an Elijah that ministered in the times of Ahaziah, etc.”

Those things have come about throughout the years and all the excavations that are taking place. You also begin to see the dynamic of politics and how they play out in the world: that, on the one hand, the world’s shame at what they allowed to be done to the Jewish people under the regime of Nazi Germany and wanting to “do penance” for that, yet in the Balfour Declaration and in the 1948 Mandate, how the nations — under the leadership of Great Britain, by the way — fell short because they did not carry out the mandate rightly.

Now we have this issue of Palestinian displacement and Jewish development of their home state but, because of how it was not dealt with in the creation of a previously unheard-of nation, Jordan, that was done for political reasons by the nation of the world, in general, and Great Britain, in particular, the very provisions that were made in the original declaration, because they weren’t carried out, they continued to have this issue. I believe there’s got to be a two-state solution and somehow, that’s got to be accomplished.

THE JEWISH STATE SEEMS TO BE PROVIDENTIAL

And then, finally, while I am not one of those that believe that God is going to go back and resurrect the Temple and the sacrificial system as is affirmed in dispensational theology, I do believe that the Lord has promised a gospel movement among the Jewish people and now there are over 8 million Jewish people that occupy this land and it continues to grow as many more begin to come. And I see God providentially gathering the Jewish people for the opportunity that is given to us to take the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.

And so, I stand with the reformers such as Calvin and Knox, who believed that is a mandate to Christians. The Gospel came to us through the Jewish people and, while I do not believe that Zionism is a requirement of Biblical Christianity, I do believe the gathering of the Jewish people into this nation is a providential act of God to enhance our evangelistic opportunities and relationships with the Jewish people.

COMING UP TOMORROW: BIRTH CERTIFICATE MADNESS IN NEW YORK

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, on Thursday’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to take you to a couple of news stories. One is out of Fox News that is reporting that, in the city of New York, they are considering a new law that would allow adults to change their birth certificates — go back in time and change their birth certificates from male or female to X.

DR. REEDER: Having already declared parents have the opportunity to declare the sex of their children as “undetermined” or “unknown.” Now, what does this lead to, and why is that here and what is the end game of such regulations of such laws? What does it reveal concerning our world and life view and what will it ultimately lead to?

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.

 

23 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.