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What the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly prayer gets wrong


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PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF THE USA BRINGS IN PRAYER TO PRAISE AND VALIDATE NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, the denomination that you’re a part of, the Presbyterian Church in America, recently had their assembly in Atlanta, Georgia. The Presbyterian Church USA also conducted their general assembly. At the 222nd General Assembly in 2016, a Muslim was invited to invoke an Islamic prayer at the opening of that general assembly.

Well, that didn’t happen this year at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA — however, there was a prayer and everyone was asked to participate in reciting in this prayer: “We praise you for the gift of faith we have received in Jesus Christ. We praise you also for diverse faith among the peoples of the earth. You have bestowed your grace to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, practitioners of traditional religions and others may celebrate your goodness, act upon your truth and demonstrate your righteousness. In wonder and awe, we praise you, great God.”

Matine Elise writes, “Reading this prayer carefully, one discovers that faith in Jesus Christ is just one of many diverse faiths on earth, all of which are good. God’s gift of grace is not linked uniquely to the work of Christ opening up salvation for all the world, but rather only one way of coming to God.”

DR. REEDER: Let’s take this prayer on from a Christian world and life view. At the core of any Christian world and life view is the Gospel claim that man is wrong with God because of his sin and that God has made a way for man to be right with Him and that way is His Son, Jesus, Who is the way, the truth and the life. And the Christian message is we want to communicate to you the love of God in Christ is that, through the death and resurrection of Christ, you can be right with God when Jesus Christ alone is your Savior because only Christ can save.
THE CHRISTIAN TRUTH CAN REPEL NON-BELIEVERS BECAUSE OF THESE THREE THINGS

Now, let me go ahead and acknowledge upfront that there are three things that causes the Gospel to be an offense to everyone who hears it unless the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives giving them eyes to see and ears to hear.

What are those three things? First is the declaration that we are sinners and we need a savior. Second is that you can’t save yourself, nor can your manmade religion save you. Third, Jesus alone can save you. You need a savior, your religion can’t save you and Christ exclusively is the only one Who can save you. That is, as Peter says, a stone of stumbling — a rock of offense — to any and all who hear that unless the Lord works in their life and then that rock of offense becomes the rock of their salvation.

What does this particular prayer say? Well, it starts off pretty good, actually. “We praise you for the gift of faith we have received in Jesus Christ.” So, first, the opening statement, this is really amazing how, in the space of two sentences, you can go from the heights of confessional orthodoxy that exalts the glory and grace of God to the depths of manmade deception and rebellion against God — you can do it in two connected sentences.

BREAKING DOWN THE STATEMENT — WHAT DOES IT GET RIGHT AND WRONG?

The first sentence, “We praise you,” is worship to God. For what? The gift of faith. That’s accurate. The Bible says, “For by grace are you saved. Through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” so that’s correct. “Through the gift of faith, we have received,” — so faith isn’t something we work up but faith is something that God works in us that we receive from God the ability to believe

And then it says, “In Jesus Christ.” Therefore, what is the right object of saving faith that we receive from God? Jesus Christ. That’s a glorious statement. Then the next statement, “We also praise you,” — for what — “diverse faith among the peoples of the earth. So, among all of the nations, we want to praise you for the diverse faiths. And then a third sentence is given on what are these diverse faiths? Oh, these are the evidences of your grace — “You have bestowed grace that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, practitioners of traditional religions may celebrate your goodness, act upon your truth and demonstrate your righteousness.” “So, in wonder and awe, we praise you, O great God.” That was on Page 113 of their program book that they all participated in.

THERE IS THE RIGHT TO RELIGION, BUT NOT ALL RELIGIONS ARE RIGHT

Now, let’s be very clear: do people have the right to believe whatever they want to believe? Absolutely. Does God, because of common grace, have elements of truth in many religions and “isms” out there? Absolutely. For instance, I can name all the main traditional religions that all affirm monogamous, heterosexual, covenantal marriage — at least up until now. Praise the Lord for that blessing of common grace. Though the religion is wrong in terms of how a man can be right with God, it does have some right things in it from which we can have conversations.

However, do we praise God for those religions as evidences of His grace? The answer is no. How can I praise God for a manmade religion that deceives people into false assurance that they can be right with God apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross? I cannot praise God for that and I will not call religions as a gift of grace — on the contrary, they’re counterfeits to the work of grace.

Will they, by God’s common grace, have elements of truth? Absolutely. But are they, of essence, a statement of God’s grace? No, on the contrary, they are manmade religions and they all tell you not the grace that you need but all tell you what men and women can do to earn salvation. Therefore, I don’t see those as something to celebrate in worship but I see those as something to deal with in evangelism and apologetics — that is, the defense of the Gospel.

Therefore, we don’t celebrate God’s goodness by the presence of false religions. I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it — only it — is the power of God unto salvation. For everyone who believes — for the Jew and to the Gentile — for, in it, that Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. It’s not revealed in other religions. It is revealed in Christ.

THIS PRAYER BROUGHT NO OPPOSITION?

Now, the amazing thing, Tom, is that this was written, it was vetted and it was included in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and this very statement that we just went through stands in opposition to the confession that they say that they believe, the Westminster Confession of Faith — it stands in opposition to it.

As Mr. Elise says, are we making too big of deal of this? First, your leadership put this prayer that celebrates the deceptiveness of the religions of the world by the wording of the prayer and giving praise to God for manmade religions as statements of God’s goodness and righteousness while they lead people with a false assurance of life and they lead people into the pit of hell apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ.

God’s only Son gave His life on the cross and rose from the dead so there is only one way and that is the Christ Who provided that atoning death. And the biggest decision you’re ever going to make in your life is will you stumble over Christ as the rock of salvation or will He become the rock of your salvation?

It is also amazing that no one brought a protest to that prayer. No one who was there, called upon to participate in it, raised a protest in it. And, by the way, that astounds me that there was no protest because I do know some solid pastors that love Jesus and are faithful to His Word within that denomination and some churches but what I long for is a great movement of the Gospel of grace throughout our nation and in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America as well.

STAND UP FOR CHRIST AND HIS ATONEMENT TO SHARE THAT SALVATION WITH OTHERS

Whenever we see such statements that eviscerate the claim of Christ — that “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man can come to the Father but through me,” — and celebrate manmade religions designed to rebel against God’s grace, designed to deceive men and women from grace and to celebrate those in the context of a worship service is utterly astounding.

It breaks my heart — grieves my heart — because of the false assurance it gives to men and women standing on the edge of eternity. Would you hear me tell you there is the big decision that you will make: either Jesus was a liar, He was a fool, He was insane or He was the Lord. And, if He’s the Lord, then you got to hear what He says: “No man can come to the father but through me.”

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.

13 hours ago

Geneva County Commission strips funding for school resource officer program

The Geneva County Commission has placed the Geneva County School system in a bind after it pulled funds committed to the school resource officer (SRO) program.

Per a Dothan Eagle report, the county commission voted in June to give $15,000 to the SRO program this year, including an additional $60,000 next year.

After commissioners found that the budget would not balance, they realized that the promised funding for the SRO program could not be provided.

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Fred Hamic, chairman of the Geneva County Commission, sent a letter informing Superintendent Becky Birdsong of the decision and included a $15,000 check.

Birdsong said she was “disappointed,” but assured she will work hard to ensure the SRO program remains in place.

“I am disappointed, but I am still committed to doing what’s right for our students,” Birdsong told Dothan Eagle. “We don’t want parents to be concerned that this is going to make our schools less safe. I’m not saying we have the money now, but I am going to work on this and try to secure funding for this.”

Birdsong said that she is working with parents to increase security on school campuses in the schools she oversees.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

13 hours ago

Steve Marshall talks liberal tech bias, joins select group of national officials tackling the issue

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Tuesday joined a select group of state attorneys general for “a productive dialogue” led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Department of Justice (DOJ) officials regarding perceived discrimination against conservatives by leading tech companies.

Per a DOJ release, “The discussion centered on ways the Department and state governments can most effectively safeguard consumers using online digital platforms. Each state attorney general’s office shared their views of the important issues for federal and state authorities to consider when addressing these evolving technologies. The discussion principally focused on consumer protection and data privacy issues, and the bipartisan group of attendees sought to identify areas of consensus.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Marshall – who joined the meeting by teleconference – made it clear that there was a long way to go before reaching a consensus on how to tackle the complicated issues of tech transparency and bias, saying, “To the degree that there was any consensus, it is that we still have a lot to learn about how to best protect consumer interests in this context.”

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“Today I participated in a bipartisan meeting of several state Attorneys General, hosted by Attorney General Sessions, to discuss consumer protection concerns related to the tech industry. The conversation covered many of the same concerns raised in recent Congressional hearings,” Marshall outlined.

He continued, “I appreciated the invitation to participate and was interested to hear the perspectives of the various states represented. To the degree that there was any consensus, it is that we still have a lot to learn about how to best protect consumer interests in this context.”

The DOJ, which was represented at the meeting by Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore and other senior staff, explained, “Many shared the view that it is essential for federal and state law enforcement authorities to work together to ensure that these challenges are addressed responsibly and effectively.”

Sessions’ DOJ will review the information and insights shared by the state attorneys general and expects the constructive dialogue will continue moving forward. Marshall, in an interview earlier Tuesday morning with Talk 99.5’s Matt Murphy and Andrea Lindenberg, made it clear that he prefers a market-based solution as opposed to stifling government regulation.

“It is a field that I think we need to tread very lightly,” Marshall explained. “You look at the ability of government to regulate – I think we do the military well and everything else is a struggle. So I think we need to be very, very careful in how we tread in that regard.”

The argument from some is that social media platforms are like modern-day utilities.

“You hear it coming more from Democratic AG’s across the country … it’s why, I think, you have to be very careful, because the market itself has the ability to regulate and one of the things that we have to do from the government side is do not tread into the world of antitrust lightly,” Marshall outlined.

Alabama’s attorney general used Google as an example, saying consumers have multiple choices in search engines, free online email providers and the web browsers themselves (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, etc.).

“It is important, however, when you do hear the stories of internally that Google may be directing people for political purposes that otherwise is not disclosed. That is concerning,” Marshall said.

For Marshall, the questions of whether these tech companies should allow their left-leaning biases to affect consumers “need to be asked, whether or not government needs to get involved in that, however, is a different story.”

Marshall summarized that his overall view is the tech services need to be held accountable to being open and honest with what they are doing and then the market can effectively take care of the rest. If consumers do not like what the services are doing, competition, not the government, should be the counterbalance.

“To the extent that there is transparency, I think it’s a good thing. Across the spectrum, whether it be private business or in government, and in this field particularly, if they are able to respond to questions about how it is that they control content and what they do, then I think we all have knowledge and then can make decisions ourselves,” he advised.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Strong like Samson, tough like Benaiah and wise like Solomon -Thomas Cox reveals his plan for himself and raising his kids

Finding the time to do everything in a day is tough, but Thomas Cox shared his secrets on “The Ford Faction.”

In this episode, Thomas Cox from Mealfit.co discussed where his parenting techniques come from and how he finds time to execute them. He breaks down the processes he does with each of his children.

First, he teaches them to be strong like Samson. He wants his kids to be strong in many ways: mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.

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Second, Thomas wants his kids to be tough like Benaiah.

He said, “Toughness is one of the biggest parts of our lives we have to get better at so we can adapt to what’s happening around us.”

Finally, you have to be wise like Solomon.

Thomas told host Ford Brown, “I think if you’re not spending a lot of your day on self-development, you are missing the boat.”

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Rep. Byrne: Breaking down Tax Reform 2.0

Since Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, the American economy is booming, and Alabama families have more money in their pockets. By lowering taxes and simplifying the tax code, we have unlocked our economic potential and made life better for hardworking Americans.

The economic numbers speak for themselves: higher wages, lower unemployment, more jobs, bigger paychecks, employee bonuses and much more. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the average family in Southwest Alabama will see their tax bill decrease by $2,187 a year.

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The good news is that we aren’t stopping here. This week, the House is expected to vote on additional changes and improvements to the tax code, something we are calling Tax Reform 2.0. Working with President Trump, we will continue to make the tax code even fairer and more competitive.

Tax Reform 2.0 includes three major pieces. Here’s a quick overview.

First, we want to make the tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families permanent. Due to Democrat obstruction and arcane rules in the Senate, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was only able to lower taxes for ten years. Under Tax Reform 2.0, we will make the tax cuts permanent.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation found that making the middle-class and small business tax cuts permanent will create 1.5 million new jobs and increase gross domestic product (GDP) by 2.2%. This further expands our economy and makes life even better for families and small businesses.

Making these changes permanent, will also lock-in the simpler tax filing process. As you may remember, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified the tax code to the point where many Americans are now able to complete their taxes on a postcard-style form. A Tax Foundation study shows that this will save Americans between $3.1 to $5.4 billion in compliance costs. Instead of needing an accountant to navigate the complicated code, most Americans will be able to file on their own.

Second, Tax Reform 2.0 promotes family savings and helps more Americans plan for retirement. Currently, too many Americans have been unable to save for retirement or put money aside to cover unforeseen emergencies.

We want to help small businesses provide retirement plans to their workers by allowing small businesses to join together to create a 401(k) plan more affordable and by giving employers more time to put new retirement plans in place. Just as important, we will help more workers participate in retirement plans by exempting small retirement accounts from mandatory payouts and by eliminating the age limit on IRA contributions.

We don’t stop there. Tax Reform 2.0 will create and expand additional programs to help Americans save. For example, our plan creates a new savings account to offer a fully flexible savings tool that families can use at any time right for them, expands 529 education savings accounts, and creates a new baby savings program to help with the birth of a new child or an adoption.

Finally, Tax Reform 2.0 will help grow the economy by promoting start-up businesses and spurring innovation. We do this by allowing new businesses to write off more of their initial start-up costs and by making it easier for start-ups to bring in new investors. America must lead the way on innovation.

As you can tell, Tax Reform 2.0 builds upon our efforts in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to ensure the American economy remains strong. We do that by allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets. I fundamentally believe our country is the strongest when money is with the people instead of the government.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

14 hours ago

Ivey, Merrill celebrate National Voter Registration Day – ‘Easy to vote and hard to cheat’

Tuesday is recognized as National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), which Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill celebrated by encouraging all of the state’s eligible voters to register.

The annual occasion is the largest single-day drive to register voters of the year. Merrill joined hundreds of different partners around the nation to observe NVRD, with Merrill specifically encouraging a “voter refresh” effort to update state voter rolls with correct information about Alabama citizens.

“Since I became Secretary of State, we have registered more than a million new voters who have helped us shatter state records for voter registration and participation in our elections,” Merrill said in a release.

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“But we also want our voter rolls to be up-to-date, so we are urging everyone to take a moment to make sure their current address is correct in the state system. We are pleased to participate in this special day that encourages more participation in our electoral process. We continue to work daily to make sure every eligible U.S. citizen in our state is registered to vote and has a photo ID. We want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Merrill continued.

NVRD, held on every fourth Thursday of September since 2012, is endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors. Since 2012, more than 1.4 million people around the nation have registered to vote or update their registration as part of this event alone. This year, libraries, schools and other partners will hold local voter registration drives.

Since Merrill took office, Alabama has registered 1,064,616 new voters, bringing the state’s total to 3,418,839 as of September 7. Yellowhammer State residents can update their voter registration information by downloading the “Vote for Alabama” app on a smartphone or visiting the Secretary of State website here.

“There is no freedom more integral to this Republic than the right to vote and participate in our democratic process,” Merrill emphasized. “I am so proud we are able to work with the partners involved with National Voter Registration Day to help make increased participation a reality here in the state of Alabama.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn