Sapphire Sky

April 20, 2014

Jesus Between the Criminals

Filed under: encouragement, theology, Uncategorized — Steve Knaus @ 12:06 am

Commentary from the Desiring God web site for Easter:

Jesus Between the Criminals

Crucifixion in the ancient world was intended to take as long as possible. No vital organs were damaged, so it took two or three days to die, often from shock or asphyxiation, as muscles used for breathing grew weak.

Luke 23:39–43 is a conversation between Jesus and the criminals crucified alongside him, and it is in the Bible because crucifixion was slow. There was time to talk. This conversation is surely one of the most extraordinary in the Bible. It shows us the similarities of these three dying men, and yet, at the same time, how very different Jesus is.

I encourage you to read the rest of the article:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/jesus-between-the-criminals

April 12, 2014

If I were the Devil … Harvey 1965

Filed under: culture, marriage and family, politics, economy, etc., video — Anthony Biller @ 9:57 pm

The legendary newscaster saw what was happening as it began to unfold.  He called it.

April 1, 2014

And what about you too?

Filed under: music, theology, video — Anthony Biller @ 2:57 pm

U2′s Bono on Christ.

March 30, 2014

I’m a Christian and I think ‘Noah’ deserves a four star review

Filed under: culture, encouragement — Anthony Biller @ 5:45 pm

Originally posted on The Matt Walsh Blog:

untitled (37)

On Friday, my wife and I had a very rare date night.

Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian filmmaking to come along since, well, probably just last week.

In fact, if I learned anything from Noah, it’s this: despite popular perception, you can often judge a book by its cover. Also, giant deformed rock monsters make for awkward supporting characters.

We’ll meditate on that second item in a moment, but it’s the first point that should be especially emphasized.

Christians: you’ll hear people insist that you can’t criticize the movie until you’ve seen it. Noticeably, the loudest voices in this camp are the ones who will (rather coincidentally, I’m sure) profit immensely if you meet their challenge.

Don’t.

Don’t bother.

You can hate this film without watching it, for the same reason…

View original 2,159 more words

March 29, 2014

Praying for Children

Filed under: marriage and family, Poem — Anthony Biller @ 11:04 pm

We pray for children
by Ina J. Hughs

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray, for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never “counted potatoes,”
who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And we pray for those who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find any bread to steal,
who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at
and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
who want to be carried
and for those who must,
for those we never give up on
and for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smother
and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
kind enough to offer it.

We pray for children.
Amen

So Sleep Binka

So Sleep Binka

February 27, 2014

Answers in Genesis to begin Construction of Ark Encounter

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 7:57 pm

Bond Offering Succeeds for Full-Size Ark

Ark Encounter moves forward; groundbreaking in sight

During tonight’s live web stream hosted by the president/CEO of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, AiG announced that enough money had been raised for the Ark Encounter bond offering to allow the release of the funds to start construction of the Ark project in Williamstown, Ky.

Under Ham’s direction, a full-scale 510-foot-long Noah’s Ark will be built as the featured attraction at the Ark Encounter. Research indicates that the Ark, located south of Cincinnati in Grant County, Ky., will draw up to 2 million people in its first year.

“We praise our Creator God for His blessings and for the incredible support we just witnessed from our generous supporters around the country,” declared Ham. “Yes, there have been days of nervous anticipation. Many challenges and road blocks came up as we worked through the stages of the bond offering leading up to the final bond delivery. From atheists registering for the bond offering and attempting to disrupt it, to secular bloggers and some reporters writing misleading and inaccurate articles about the bonds—the obstacles were numerous and disruptive.”

“It was a challenging time, one that on a human level required a miracle to overcome,” Ham added. “And God in His providence supplied our needs.”

The recent global media coverage of the Ark project and the soon-to-be-released film “Noah” starring Russell Crowe, plus Ham’s well-publicized February 4 debate with Bill Nye “The Science Guy” (over 7 million people watched live), have all helped bring the Ark Encounter to the world’s attention. Accordingly, Ham noted another aspect of God’s providence in the Ark project: “The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God’s timing, not ours, the high-profile debate helped encourage more of our ministry friends to get involved in the past few weeks.”

At Thursday’s live web stream, Ken was joined by AiG scientist Dr. Georgia Purdom, VP of Advancement Joe Boone, Michael Zovath and Patrick Marsh of AiG’s Ark Encounter team, and the AiG board. The mayor of Williamstown, Rick Skinner, was on hand, as well as Darrell Link, the Judge-Executive of the county and Pastor Jeff Davenport of Calvary Baptist Church in northern Kentucky.

The Ark Encounter will be built on 800 acres off I-75 and in phases over many years. The Ark and other supporting elements will open during phase one. The first phase will cost an estimated $73 million. Several million dollars in donations and Ark boarding passes (memberships) had been raised prior to the bond offering, and most of that amount has already been used to pay for the Ark’s land, secure expensive permits and licenses, clear the property, draw architectural plans, design the exhibits, etc.

Meanwhile, with the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., successfully drawing two million guests in six years, AiG is master-planning its expansion  (40 miles from the Ark site) to handle an anticipated 50% attendance increase  when the Ark opens.

“Even in a difficult economy, tens of thousands of supporters have made donations, purchased bonds, or bought Ark boarding passes in the past three years,” Ham observed. “With the funding in place to build the Ark, it is now our goal to raise an additional $15 million in donations to provide more attractions like the special high-tech and interactive exhibits that guests have come to appreciate at our museum.”

With the completion of the bond offering, the next milestone is groundbreaking, for which a tentative date will be announced in a few weeks.

Without government funding to build it, the Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historical themed attraction. In an entertaining and educational way, it will present a number of themes from the Old Testament, centered on a wooden Ark.

The Creation Museum’s attendance has exceeded projections since it opened in May 2007 and has been a major economic asset to the area. With an Ark coming to the region, the Creation Museum’s attendance will grow, and the Ark will spur and support thousands of jobs in the region and bring in significant tourist dollars.

Answers in Genesis is a biblical apologetics ministry. This month, more than two million people visited its website. AiG conducts about 300 teaching meetings each year, publishes the award-winning family magazine “Answers,” and produces the “Answers” radio program heard on more than 760 stations in the U.S.

To watch a recording of Thursday evening’s live web stream featuring Ken Ham and others in the Ark project, go to www.ArkEncounter.com.

ark-encounter-wallpaper-impressionist

Kids Free 2014 Creation Museum

Filed under: Ministry, video — Anthony Biller @ 10:37 am

February 18, 2014

Macho Shrubs

Filed under: humor, video — Anthony Biller @ 10:03 pm

Rhett & Link on gardening …

February 14, 2014

The Legend of Valentine

Filed under: culture, encouragement, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 10:15 am

The Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus, AD 268-70, is said to have been a large and fierce man.  In his efforts to fight the invading Goths and Germans, he attempted to increase the size of the Roman army.  Volunteers were few, due largely to what was essentially a life-long commitment of being a Roman soldier. Legend has it that the Emperor believed young men weren’t joining because they were too comfortable and too interested in pursuing women.  (Some things never change.  My classmates in college often were incredulous that I was volunteering for military service. I was often asked “Why?!”.)  With dictatorial efficiency, Claudius solved that problem by simply outlawing marriage.

One problem, legend has it that the Priest Valentinus continued to marry Christians.  When called before the Emperor, Valentinus refused to acknowledge the Roman Gods and reportedly witnessed to Claudius the truths of Jesus Christ.  Claudius had Valentinus killed.

A few observations from this legend of Valentine, whom we celebrate each year with a festival of love and affection. He was martyred over refusing to surrender the sacrament of marriage to Rome and for proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ to a pagan emperor.  This legendary Valentine sounds more like a man passionate for Christ and the integrity of the church and its sacraments than he does the ruby little cherubs we see on the front of Valentines Day cards who are committed to spreading kisses and romantic mischief.

If we want to celebrate Valentines Day consistent with the man for whom the day is named, we should honor this legendary martyr through observances he would approve and that would be consistent with his life.  Foremost, we should take the opportunity to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to someone.

Second, we should look for a way to support the sacrament of marriage.  For those of us married, that should start with tending to our own marriages.  Are we entirely faithful – not just physically, but also emotionally, in our relations, and with our time as well – to our life mate?  We should pray over our marriage, with our spouse.  For those not married, give an encouraging word to your married friends and pray today for their marriages.  Tell them you are praying for them.

Third, recommit today to loving in a manner worthy of our Christian calling — with all that we have and all that we are.  We are called not just to love others and God with all that we are, but to love also our enemies and those we just do not like.  May Christ so strengthens us.

God bless and Happy Valentines Day.

Update: A Godly Valentines Day Gift from a husband to a wife: commit to praying with your bride – see Spiritual Intimacy a Marriage ‘Game Changer’

February 12, 2014

Nye and Ham Exchange Facebook Challenges

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 7:55 pm
Nye issued Ken Ham a post-debate challenge via Facebook.  Nye challenged Answers in Genesis to create and live on an ocean bound ark.  Ham responded by asking Nye to explain the reason for his reasoning, literally, one of many questions Nye repeatedly ignored during the men’s recent debate.  Ken’s FB response yesterday warrants the best Christian-philosophical-apologetic Facebook challenge post ever … reprinted below with permission:
Liked · 17 hours ago

Bill Nye, after our evolution/creation debate last week at the Creation Museum, publicly issued me a challenge yesterday on his Facebook page.He stated :

From Bill Nye The Science Guy: “I would challenge him to build a real ark. Instead of trying to fund an ark park, Ken, why not build a real one and take it to sea for a full year? And Ken, if you’re too busy with your flock there in Petersburg, KY, have your most competent parishioners take a shot. Send 8 of your toughest, smartest people to, say, Norfolk, have them design and build a 500 foot wooden boat, load it up with 17,000 pretty good-sized animals, and show us how straightforward it would be to have it remain seaworthy for a year. They have to gather all the food needed locally before they set sail, of course. It’s one more thought experiment that would illustrate how unbelievable the literal story of Noah is, as translated into modern English. Also, we’d have to stipulate that all humans and animals come ashore alive …”

So I would like to publicly respond to Mr. Nye in the following way.Bill, during the debate last Tuesday, I asked you this question:“How do you account for the laws of logic and laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God?”I challenge you, once again, to provide a rational basis for your worldview. You dodged the question in the debate, and you continue to do so. Until you answer that question, you have no reason to trust your inductions or the uniformity of nature and have no basis to tell us what is right and wrong. I trust those things because I know the God of the universe who created those laws and has promised to uphold them in a uniform way–which is consistent with His perfect character. Indeed, I have a reason for my reasoning.The battle, as I said more than once in our debate, is not about the evidence. (And it seems even a number of Christian naysayers about the debate still don’t get this vital point, either!)

And besides, Bill, you know this, as I even showed you a “single piece of evidence” of an out-of-place fossil (using the secularists’ own dating methods)—45,000-year-old wood in 45-million-year-old rock! You said one piece of evidence like this would change your mind—but you willingly ignored it.

Again, why is your assumption that science is possible apart from God reasonable?

Frankly, you are not a “reasonable man” because no reasonable man who claims to be consistent with reality rejects the truth of God’s Word. In fact, the Bible makes it clear in Romans chapter 1 that you know God exists, but you are suppressing that truth in what the Bible calls unrighteousness.

No “reasonable man” believes that reason, emotion, or morality evolved from the random interaction of chemicals over billions of years. Therefore, you have no foundation. You have a blind faith, one which causes you to borrow from the Christian worldview to even make sense of the world around you.

Bill, I urge you to use your God-given reason to respond to God’s Word, such as:

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

Bill, Noah’s Ark was a real ship—and it is a picture of a real message of salvation from God’s judgment on man’s sin, including yours. (And the answers to your questions about the seaworthiness of the Ark and how it could have been built are on our website; also AiG is not a church and so we don’t have parishioners.) Just as Noah and his family went through the door of the Ark to be saved, we need to go through the door of our Ark of Salvation.

Jesus Christ said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

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Nye Ham

February 11, 2014

A Lesson in Writing from CS Lewis

Filed under: books, homeschooling — Anthony Biller @ 9:56 pm

The Kilns,cs-lewis-writing
Headington Quarry,
Oxford
26 June 1956

Dear Joan–

Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same. His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keepthem.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love
yours
C.S. Lewis

From the collection of C.S. Lewis’ response letters to children: Letters to Children

Hat tip: http://www.lettersofnote.com/

February 5, 2014

Dr. Mohler on the “Nye Reasonable Guy”

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture — Anthony Biller @ 10:12 am

Last night during the debate, I had the privilege of sitting next to Dr. Al Mohler, the Dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I’ve long admired his writings, blog, and lecture series.  As freezing rain pelted Northern Kentucky last night during the debate, Dr. Mohler’s mind was on fire, as I suspect it always is.  As While I sat back to observe and enjoy the debate, Dr. Mohler wrote furiously throughout the evening.  Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, he posted an excellent debate analysis.  Excerpts follow and I strongly encourage you to read the entire post at Dr. Mohler’s blog:

In this light, the debate proved both sides right on one central point: If you agreed with Bill Nye you would agree with his reading of the evidence. The same was equally true for those who entered the room agreeing with Ken Ham; they would agree with his interpretation of the evidence.

That’s because the argument was never really about ice rods and sediment layers. It was about the most basic of all intellectual presuppositions: How do we know anything at all? On what basis do we grant intellectual authority? Is the universe self-contained and self-explanatory? Is there a Creator, and can we know him?

On those questions, Ham and Nye were separated by infinite intellectual space. They shared the stage, but they do not live in the same intellectual world. Nye is truly committed to a materialistic and naturalistic worldview. Ham is an evangelical Christian committed to the authority of the Bible. The clash of ultimate worldview questions was vividly displayed for all to see.
….

Ken Ham is a Young Earth Creationist (as am I), but the larger argument was over worldviews, and the debate revealed the direct collision between evolution and the recognition of any historical authority within Genesis 1-11. As if to make that clear, in making one of his closing arguments, Bill Nye actually went back to cite “this problem of the ark.”

The ark is not the real problem; autonomous human reason is. Bill Nye is a true believer in human reason and the ability of modern science to deliver us. Humanity is just “one germ away” from extinction, he said. But science provides him with the joy of discovery and understanding.

The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. The question was not really about the ark or sediment layers or fossils. It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared “reasonable man” and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace.

See entire post here.

 

Re: The Debate

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture, entertainment — Anthony Biller @ 12:11 am

I generally agree with Rev Travis’s comments about the debate, below.  Some thoughts after having just returned from the debate in person …  I found striking the complete difference between the men – not just content, but also in character and style.  In person, I found Nye routinely condescending and arrogant to Mr. Ham, while Ken seemed continually meek and humble in response.  I wonder if this viewed the same on the live streaming.

Nye refused to concede that there was any difference between historical and observational science.  He seemed to argue that we presently observe the age of the earth, apparently through radioisotope dating, but he had no response to the wildly inconsistent age readings from such methods.  He offered no explanation regarding the problems with the assumptions upon which these methods rely.  He looked surprised when Ken showed the nearly hundred different type isotope dating methods and the fact each on produces quite different results.

From the audience, it seemed that Nye repeatedly and directly assaulted on  reliability of scripture in the second half of the debate.  In criticizing Ken’s positions, Nye criticized Ken’s reliance upon the Bible by implying the Bible is unreliable based on the “Chinese whispers” logic of passing along information over long period of time and made numerous critical remarks about relying upon “an ancient document that’s been translated into English.”  Nye scoffed at the idea that sin affected all of creation and was all but contemptuous of the global flood.

Favorite part of the debate was when Nye could not answer where the matter that led to the Big Bang came from.  In response, Ken responded “Bill, there is this book that has the answer …”  Ken then quoted Genesis 1:1 and explained the Biblical account on the origins of matter.  The next question to Nye was what was the materialist explanation for consciousness.  Again, Nye could not answer.  Again, Ken responded, “Bill, there is this book that has the answer …” and he quoted and explained Genesis 2.

Nye’s explanation of consciousness was bizarre, something about our conscious   being “the universe looking at itself.”  Weird.  In the last quarter of the debate it became increasing apparent that Nye all but worships materialism.

I wish Ken had more time to explicate the “scientific” evidence of a young Earth.  See Ten Best Evidences from Science of a Young Earth. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to respond to many of Nye’s points.  I believe Answers in Genesis is doing a follow-up streaming broadcast to go over many of these points.

As expected, I don’t think either side “won.”  Each side presented their position with clarity. For those already familiar with the arguments and issues, there was not anything new.  For those new to the debate or previously apathetic, it should have provided plenty of food for thought from both sides.  It was a general civil and engaging evening.  As stated, Ken explained the creationist perspective with humility and grace.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I’m particularly interested to see whether or to what extent notice is given to Nye’s assault on the Bible and on basic biblical doctrines beyond creation.

UPDATE: see Debunking Bill Nye’s Arguments

February 4, 2014

The Debate

Filed under: culture — Travis Biller @ 10:34 pm

Some thoughts on tonight’s debate: Bill Nye is a very good speaker. He is very personable and inviting. He has a good sense of humor. He is very likeable. I also think that his debating skills are very good. But … he presented only one real argument. His main argument, indeed, his only argument was based on a grand presentation of doubt. He did not prove evolution. He did not debunk creationism, or a young earth. He did not prove the superiority of naturalism. He simply raised the specter of a single question: is it reasonable? He failed to prove that creationism was unreasonable. He failed to debunk any argument that Ken Ham presented. He simply exalted man’s ability to be skeptical and doubt what he does not want to accept.

At the core of Bill’s argument was the philosophical position that man’s doubt and skepticism are the ultimate authority. Notice, that while he promoted science, he only presented skepticism. Even the so called scientific arguments he presented were actually props to raise doubts about creation. For example, he presented ice cores, and said that in order for those cores to be created in four-thousand years, that there would most likely have to be around 170+ summer/winter cycles per year. However, he did not present scientific evidence that those cores are old, and that they were developed in the manner he suggested. He did not present a scientific argument based on evidence that they are as old as he said they were. He simply used an assumption that they are old (he mockingly spoke about injecting bubbles into the ice) to raise doubts that the world is young. He succeeded in that endeavor, but failed to present any real scientific argument that would have led one to a reasonable conclusion that creationism is wrong – based on evidence.

Ultimately, Bill Nye the “Science guy” is a product of his culture. Instead of promoting science, he promoted man’s ability to declare himself the sole authority on matters of truth and falsehood. Notice, he had no problem appealing to “mystery” when it was convenient to do so. But when Ken Ham appealed to God, Bill mockingly said Ken was relying on “magic.” His appeal to “mystery” however, was intended to promote the unlimited imagination and wisdom of man; and was instead to be a grand appeal to man’s ability to define the boundaries life for himself. According to Bill, an appeal to God is small and unworthy of man’s intellect. But, an appeal to mystery, and man’s ability to imagine the possibilities, is the real god that should be enshrined.

If Bill Nye proved anything, he proved that man’s quest for self-deification has only intensified since the fall (we are the universe becoming itself). I did not walk away from Bill’s arguments having gained one shred of information that was meaningful. I walked away from him with the feeling that man’s only legitimate quest is to enshrine human imagination as the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge.

In the end, he proved Ken Ham right.

February 1, 2014

What are you going to believe?

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., Ministry, theology — Anthony Biller @ 7:21 pm

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 26:12

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

“What are you going to believe, science or your lying eyes?”

That fairly summarizes how I felt about evolution and naturalist explanations on the origins of the universe and life, before I became a Christian at the age of 29.  I knew I didn’t want there to be a God of morality and judgment, but I also knew what I saw all around me: incredible complexity and order from the subatomic all the way through to the galactic level.  Our bodies testify to the same – incredible and massively interdependent complexities working together to form what I take for granted as simply “myself.”  It seemed equally arrogant, naïve and foolish to think that humanity was at the pinnacle of life, that what we could measure with our little instruments captured all of reality, that our space-time continuum was “it.”

I also wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ. I did not know and thus certainly did not understand the Gospel, but I knew that I did not want to be answerable for how I chose to live. I was wed to my pagan ways.  If I had to pick a religion, Zen Buddhism suited me just fine only because of its literal irrationality.

In my life, God has a way of quietly catching me off guard and then turning my life upside down.  Ultimately for my better.  One such instance was (more…)

January 28, 2014

Ranger Christianity

Filed under: love, marriage and family, Ministry, theology, video — Anthony Biller @ 5:21 pm

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

IMG_0106On the side of the church parking lot before a soccer game, Thea Lewis told me they will “rock your world” and implied we would never be the same again.  Sounded like a threat to me.  No. Thea assured that we would find ourselves most blessed.  I wasn’t entirely confident.  Thea and her large family have adopted multiples from overseas and are in the process of adopting another. She’s invested in the adoption community. She told me gritty, hard stories about the difficulties and pain of adoption. Her stories reflected what we heard from others that traveled down the adoption path: struggle, joy, pain, healing, brokeness, happiness, despair, lies, praise … drawing closer to the Lord.  We had committed to host six orphans from Eastern Europe over the holidays and I was scared.

DerekLoux Quote

Our oldest child of four, our 13-year-old daughter, kept asking us when we were going to stop talking about possibly maybe someday adopting or fostering or possibly doing something like that.  It’s time to stop talking and start doing she insisted. She gained access to the children “available” for hosting pages on the Open Hearts and Hands (“OHHC”) and New Horizons web pages and began emailing us pictures of available children from Eastern Europe looking for their “forever family.”  Soon, our other three children joined the search.  They happily agreed that our hosting children for a month over the holidays would be their Christmas presents.

So we started reading the pages. Not surprisingly, it was heartbreaking surfing pages of pictures of orphans. Each picture carried a short caption giving insight into these children. Many expressed their desires for hosting – swim in a pool, learn how to pray and ride a roller-coaster were recurring themes.  My wife and I quickly began setting our rules and expectations: (more…)

January 25, 2014

Tommy Burleson’s Advice on Making a Champion

Filed under: Ministry, sports, video — Anthony Biller @ 11:17 pm

Tommy Burleson shared his testimony during the intermission of my son’s photo 2 (1)Upwards Basketball game this morning.  Mr. Burleson played starting center for the 1974 North Carolina State NCAA Championship team. He was the MVP of the 1973 and 1974 ACC Tournaments and was All-Final Four in 1974.  He also played on the US Olympic basketball team and played eight years in the NBA.  He now lives down the road from Raleigh in New Bern, NC.

Mr. Burleson mentioned that at age 14, he was already 6’8″.  Now, at 7’2′ tall, he’s large.  I’m 6’5″ and felt small next to him.  Not a feeling I’ve had much since childhood.

In his testimony, Mr. Burleson shared the importance of building foundations in life. He stressed that Jesus Christ was the foundation for his life.  He spoke of the importance of taking care of the fundamentals, like praying and reading the Bible each day.  He founded and operates the Tommy Burleson Christian Evangelistic Ministry, which supports a medical mission in tiny Malawi, Africa and through which Mr. Burleson operates outreach basketball camps.

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Mr. Burleson also mentioned the impact of his father, a former Army Green beret.  As a former Airborne Ranger with sports active kids, I was interested in his father. Mr. Burleson explained to me that his father was in the elite advance troops that glided into Normandy on D-Day and he served in the Green Berets and on President Truman’s honor guard. His father would wake his son up every morning at 5:30 a.m. so they would work out together, running anywhere from one to three miles each morning.  Sounds like a good idea.

Mr. Burleson was also enthusiastic for the testimony of another former NCSU athlete – Russel Wilson and recommended the following video he and some of his teammates made on the Making of a Champion:

Almost makes me want to cheer for the Seahawks. Almost, but note quite.

January 17, 2014

Who? What?

Filed under: encouragement, Life! — Travis Biller @ 10:32 pm

 I want Christ. I want the fullness of God. The Bible tells me I can have that. The Bible tells me I can have all of Him. Wow! I can be filled with the fullness of God! I can have God’s joy. I can have God’s peace. I can have God’s life. I can have it all! And I want it – all of it. I am greedy for God.

The Bible tells me that this is what God wants for me! He tells me to ask for that very thing. He tells me that He wants to be my joy. He wants to be my peace. He seeks to give me the fullness of His life – forever! “Come,” He says.” Take from the tree of life and eat. Have it all! Be full! Rejoice!”

“But there is a condition.”

I don’t like conditions.

“The condition is very simple. You can have all of God, when you agree to have none of yourself.”

What?

“That’s right, none of yourself. You must die to yourself. You must die to your ambitions. You must die to your desire. Quite simply, you must first die before you can live.”

Why?

“Because you cannot have God and you. You can have God. You can be you in your rejoicing of God. But you cannot have God and you.”

But I like me.

“I know. You like yourself more than God.”

No I don’t!

“Oh?”

Yeah, that’s right! I love God more than me!

“Okay. If you say so. Let me see your calendar.”

Why?

(more…)

January 16, 2014

Closing Doors

Filed under: Ministry — Travis Biller @ 3:09 pm

What motivates people to come to church? I recently had this conversation with a person who attends church every time the doors are opened. We recently began a men’s group for the express purpose of promoting and encouraging men to be followers of Christ. The conversation began as a response to our men’s discipleship group. I was told, in effect, that the group was useless as it does not give men answers to the problems they face in daily life. Right. It is not meant to. It was designed for the express purpose of encouraging men to be disciples.

But, the conversation was very productive. I was asked what my goal for the church was. I explained that I want the church to become a place where people are saved (come to know Jesus as Savior), and where they learn to be disciples (learn to follow Christ), and where they are sent out as servants with the gospel of Christ. The response I received was very revealing. It began with a sigh, a lowered voice, and a slumping of the shoulders. Considering that non-verbal’s account for 93% of communication, that was a loud expression of disapproval.

Next came the statement, “I was hoping you would understand why people come to church.” Essentially I was told that the reason people come to church was to find answers for their problems. “Everyday life beats people up. They come looking for answers to their addictions, personality disorders, family problems, relational problems, etc. etc.,” I was told. In effect, I was being informed that I was out of touch with people. There was not a complaint that I had not addressed an urgent need in ones life, but just the general sense was given that I did not understand people. Hmm.

Immediately after that conversation I read an article that revealed that over six-thousand churches a year are closing their doors. The top reason given as to why this is happening was attributed to poor leadership in the church. The writer of the article defined poor leadership as one who fails to lead the church to accomplish the mission. The mission, he insisted, is to make disciples. I wanted to laugh, but instead I experienced a sick feeling in my stomach.

I don’t think the problem with our churches is that there is a dearth of poor leadership. I think there is a problem in our churches because there is a dearth of poor followership.  A disciple is one who follows Christ. I was told that others feel the same way that this individual feels. I can foresee a time when I am asked to leave my post as the pastor because I am not “meeting the needs of people.” That may never happen, and I have no fear that it will. But it could, and that’s the real problem.

Our churches are closing at an alarming rate because people fail to understand what the real purpose of the church is. Last night I was reading the thirteenth chapter of Matthew‘s gospel. Jesus was preaching in parables, and He was asked why He did this. He responded by quoting the prophet Isaiah, “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed…” (Matt 13:14-15).

Many during the time of Christ came and listened to His teachings. Many of those (more…)

January 15, 2014

Convincing my friend Will to pray

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Anthony Biller @ 6:51 pm

The recent holidays several times brought me to my knees, reminding me of the power and importance of prayer inJS Baxter our daily walk, both my own prayer and the prayers of God’s people.  I also learned to put an emphasis on the word “daily” for my walk with God, a point I had known but not really learned before.  More on that and the past several weeks later, Deo volente.  My coming back to the sweet and utter grace of God in His receiving our prayers reminded me of a recent sermon excerpt from my pastor Stephen Davey, which follows for your edification:

J. Sidlow Baxter was a pastor in the early 1900’s. A prolific writer, powerful expositor, Baxter graduated from Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College in London and went on to be used greatly in his generation, on both sides of the pond. His life literally spanned the 20th century – from 1903 to 1999.

He struggle with prayer as a pastor. He let his schedule get in the way of private communion. One morning he took a good look into his heart, and found there was a part of him that did not want to pray and a part that did. The part that did not was his emotions; the part which did was his intellect and will. He writes – and I quote, a rather lengthy page, but we’re finished when I’m through and I believe you will be equally inspired and challenged by this – As never before, my will and I stood face to face. I asked my will a straight question, “Will, are you ready for an hour of prayer?” Will answered, “Here I am, and I’m quite ready, if you are.” So Will and I linked arms and turned to go for our time of prayer. At once all the emotions began pulling the other way and protesting, “We are not coming.” I saw Will stagger just a bit, so I asked, “Can you stick it out, Will?” and Will replied, “Yes, if you can.”

So Will went, and we got down to prayer, dragging those wriggling, unruly emotions with us. It was a struggle all the way through. At one point, when Will and I were in the middle of an earnest intercession, I suddenly found one of those traitorous emotions had snared my imagination and had run off to the golf course; and it was all that I could do to drag the wicked rascal back. A bit later I found another of the emotions had sneaked away with some off-guarded thoughts and there I was in the pulpit, two days ahead of schedule, preaching a sermon I had not yet finished.

At the end of that hour, if you had asked me, “Have you had a good time?” I would have had to reply, “No, it has been a wearying wrestle with contrary emotions and a truant imagination from beginning to end.” What is more, that battle with the emotions continued for weeks. If you had asked me at the end of that period, “Have you had a good time in your daily praying?” I would have had to confess, “No, at times it has seemed as though the heavens were brass, and God too distant to hear, and the Lord Jesus strangely aloof, and prayer accomplished nothing.”

Yet something was happening. For one thing, Will and I were teaching emotions that we were independent of them. In fact, one morning, just when Will and I were going for another time of prayer, I overheard one of the emotions whisper to the other, “Come on, you guys, it is no use wasting any more time resisting; they’ll go just the same.” That morning, for the first time, even though the emotions were completely uncooperative, they were at least quiet, which allowed Will and me to get on with prayer without distraction.

Then another few weeks later, what do you think happened? During one of our prayer times, when Will and I were no more thinking of emotions than of the man in the moon, one of the most vigorous of the emotions unexpectedly sprang up and shouted, “Hallelujah!” at which all the other emotions exclaimed, “Amen!” And for the first time, the whole of my being, intellect, will and emotion –was united in the coordinated operation of prayer.

This is not only our directive . . . this is to be our delight.

More from Pastor Baxter here and here.

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