Sapphire Sky

August 29, 2014

Celebrating Life!

Filed under: adoption, marriage and family, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 11:25 pm

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for times of adversity. – Prov. 17:17

After 23 hours of travel, I turned my phone back on as the plane taxied to the gate.  Within seconds my phone rang, “Are you here?” my friend Allen asked.  He was picking us up in a large passenger van he picked up from the rental lot for us earlier in the day. My brother Travis should be waiting also with his truck to move our luggage.  Allen asked me to give him a 30 second warning prior to exiting the terminal.  He said there were a few folks waiting for us.

Our kids emerged one by one from their various rows on the plane.  We were excited to be back in North Carolina. Some groggy. One son had to be shaken awake; he stumbled toward the door. Then the text messages started pinging.  Same line of enquiry: where are you? Let us know when you’re close to leaving the terminal.  There are a few folks here …

To depart Terminal 2 at RDU, you climb a flight of stairs and walk down a long meeting placepartitioned hallway, about 50 yards long and emerge at a “meeting place” and a Starbucks. After the obligatory airport bathroom ordeal with ten children, we thanked God for our passage, sent the warning text, and ascended the stairs to exit.

We walked about ten yards down the hall and heard them before we saw anything.  It sounded like the vuvuzelas common to southern hemisphere soccer games, but maybe an octave higher pitch. Exiting passengers further ahead looked back, scanning the crowd and grinning.

welcome home1There was a horde waiting for us.  A wonderful, beautiful throng of family and friends, cheering and hooting.  It wasn’t vuvuzelas; it was at least a dozen children running around with birthday whistles blowing as loud as they could.  My brother estimated there were somewhere between one hundred to two hundred people.  Our children were stunned.  Our youngest adopted son was overwhelmed.  I found him and he rested his face against my shoulder.  I would like to say that I was overwhelmed, but I was too tired.10609556_451606891644663_2209963271664009958_n

For three weeks, Lesley and I had counted to ten repeatedly throughout the days, counting to make sure we had all the children with us.  In the past 23 hours, together we probably counted the kids dozens of times as we travelled through several airports.  Now, everyone was lost in the crowd. After the first ten minutes of hugging and embracing, I realized I had no idea where any of our kids were in this crowd.  I didn’t even know where Lesley was.  It did not matter.  We were home, with friends.  We were absorbed into a giant human love sponge.

Welcome home.

On the ride from the airport, I felt great. Home is so much more than a place.  It is where you belong.  It occurred to me that this is a glimpse of what our real homecoming one day will be like.  Surrounded not just by the people of God, but in the presence of the author of life Himself.

welcome home2Our friends were telling us something much more than welcome home. They were celebrating the new lives added to our family. They celebrated our adoption.  They celebrated the wonderful gift of life.  His people love life.  We “get” adoption, particularly those of us that have been close to it.  Adoption is a celebration of the new family, but for believers, it is also a celebration and reflection of the eternal father’s adoption of His children, of those that have placed their faith in His son. Each one of us is adopted.

Sometimes God is not subtle. His holding us up along this way has been so clear in ways big and small.  Even symbolically.  As our friends arrived at the airport to greet us, a giant rainbow showed over the airport. Several friends said that as they approached, the rainbow appeared to end at our terminal.

Rainbow RDU August 20It is good to be home.  The children are doing really well.  In our travels and at home, God has abundantly provided.  He continues to make the way smooth before us.  He strengthens and encourages us, particularly through his people. We are grateful for and continue to covet your prayers. It is humbling. Please keep praying!

There’s still some adjusting.  Our youngest daughter still doesn’t really get “America.”  When we pull into our neighborhood, she still yells “America!” We returned to the start of soccer season, homeschool, co-op and a busy work schedule.  We have little idea of how to figure out the new “normal.” But God is clearly providing, one day at a time. Last night, our “middle” adoptive son proudly recited John 3:16 to us.  Last December, he hardly spoke a single word of English.

God is great.

welcome home 3welcomehome5welcomehome6

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 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 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: adoption, 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 offered 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.

photo 1 (1)

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.

December 6, 2013

The Real St. Nicholas

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 9:34 pm
DECEMBER 6, 2013: ST. NICHOLAS DAYSaint Nicholas
by Dima Kotik

Raising three daughters in 3rd century Turkey is hard for a peasant. Without a dowry they could never get married. The joy of having grandchildren and finding financial security of a large family in the old age is all but a dream for a simple farmer caught in this despair.

One winter night, the father of three girls woke up to the noise of something falling through the chimney. In the pile of ashes he found three purses filled with gold. The gold in each purse handsomely provided dowry for each daughter. There was only one crazy man in the town of Myra who would do such a thing. This man, even though he came from a very wealthy family, had given away his entire inheritance to the poor. And even though he was a bishop now, he did not keep any of his salary. Most of it he gave away to children.

Bishop Nicholas of Myra is the real historic person behind our legends of Santa. Unlike Santa, he was an expert in theology and pastoral ministry. He was one of the top 300 church leaders that signed the Nicene Creed in 325AD. And, he was a convicted felon for preaching the gospel, serving a prison term under Emperor Diocletian and a brief exile. Real Santa was hardcore for Jesus!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

July 24, 2013

The Spiritual State of USA — Judgment?

April 21, 2013

Equipping God’s People

Filed under: marriage and family, Ministry, praise — Anthony Biller @ 10:00 pm

Psalm 19:7-9

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

We restarted a family integrated Bible study at our church recently, which is fancy speak for a Bible study where everyone is invited – newborns to grandparents.

Andy Wilson teaches Luke about Hebrews 4:12

Andy Wilson teaches Luke about Hebrews 4:12

The class is committed to equipping and encouraging our families to study the Bible together.  We use the Answers Bible Curriculum (“ABC” for short) published by Answers in Genesis.  ABC is a comprehensive curriculum designed to cover the entire Bible.  AiG explains:

Synchronized Sunday school for all ages!

Answers Bible Curriculum is a full-featured, chronological, 3-year Sunday school program. Its 156 lessons are synchronized across 7 age groups from preschool to adults. Each group covers Genesis through Revelation and learns the same material—but at different levels of depth—empowering exciting and easy discussion for the entire family.

The curriculum teaches both what the Bible says and also why we can believe it’s true and how to read it.  In the first few lessons, the family is taught the meaning of inductive Bible studies, the foundational nature of scripture, how to distinguish between exegesis and eisegesis, and fundamental apologetics regarding the truth of scripture.  Great content and all scripture based.

The curriculum is designed for churches, ie student guides, teaching materials and devotionals are organized by age.  AiG is working on but has not yet released a family integrated curriculum; they have, however, released a family weekly devotional that tracks the lessons.  For our class sessions, our leader Andy Wilson reviews the various age group lessons and merges them into a single class designed for all ages.

Perhaps most importantly, it has helped us improve our biblical discipleship within our family.  We engage the same issues together as a family and have detailed study guides to reference and guide us in the Word.  It has already become much easier for my wife and I to disciple our children on important issues of our Christian faith. Praise God!

February 11, 2013

Let The Nations Be Glad

Filed under: Ministry, politics, economy, etc., praise — Anthony Biller @ 10:15 pm

Another Great Awakening is taking place in our world today. More people are becoming Christians than at any other time in history. God’s Spirit is sweeping across the nations of China, South Korea, Australia, Central and South America, Cuba, and parts of Africa drawing more than 82,000 people every day according to recent surveys. However, only 3 to 4% of these daily conversions are occuring in North America

How can our nation become part of this Great Awakening and experience God’s blessings? Let’s look at Psalm 67 for some answers from God’s Word. Although we don’t know who wrote this psalm, we do know that he wanted God to bless his nation and he wanted to be a blessing to others.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Notice that the first thing the psalmist does is go to the Lord in prayer. He begins with a cry for God’s forgiving grace. This is the first step in receiving His blessing. God forgives, then God gives. Then the psalmist asks for God to bless them and give them a realization of His favor and approval. Finally, he asks that God’s ways may be known and His saving power experienced by all the other nations of the world. That’s a great prayer for us to ask of God.

The Lord has blessed us so that we will be a blessing to others. He answers our prayers so that we might become the answer to someone else’s prayer. If we are not sharing the “Good News” of God’s saving power with others, our spiritual life may end up resembling the Dead Sea, a holding pond with no new life or blessing. This certainly is not God’s plan for His people! He wants us to be a channel of His blessings and share them with others.

The psalmist has a passion to know Him and make Him known. God’s will must be known on earth if it is to be done on earth. If people do not know the Lord’s will, how will they ever follow it? In His Word, God revealed His will by extending His grace to unbelievers. He also demonstrated His method through the life of His Son. The way He communicates His will, in addition to studying His Word, is through His people as they share His way with the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6).

God chose and blessed Abraham so that he might be a blessing in reaching a lost world with the saving message of His Name (Genesis 12:1-3). Later, He took on flesh and blood and became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:8) in order that the “Good News” of salvation might go out to all the nations.

First, God’s grace draws us to Himself; then we gain knowledge of Him as we spend time in His Word; then He gives us the desire to see others experience His saving power; and the result of this process is praise. We cannot see God without His grace and we cannot praise God without knowing Him.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah 5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

When believers share God’s love and the way of salvation with others, praise results. However, nations will never be glad and sing for joy until they come into a personal relationship with the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:25; Rev 7:17). Then and only then will they be glad and sing songs of praise and joy.

6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. 7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

The prayer of the first verse is the song of the last verse. He blesses and blesses and blesses! As we humble ourselves and pray, trust Him and obey Him by sharing His saving power with others, He will meet our needs and cause a Great Awakening to sweep across our nation (John 4:34-35).

One day all the nations of the world will fall down and worship the King of Kings (Isaiah 45: 20-24; Philippians 2:9-11). However, the worldwide worship of God will not become a reality until the “Good News” of Jesus Christ is shared both here in the United States and in the nations of the world.

Ask God how he might want to use you to bless others and see our nation be blessed by Him (Psalm 33:12).

Dave Dagwell
Assistant to the President
Capitol Commission

October 17, 2012

Ark Encounter & Salvation Message

Filed under: Ministry, video — Anthony Biller @ 9:32 pm

The lifetime family pass offering is nearly sold out: http://arkencounter.com

July 28, 2012

Billy Graham: ‘My Heart Aches for America’

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 2:38 pm

In a recent prayer letter to his supporters, Billy Graham explained the heavy burden he feels for the United States:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.

Just a few weeks ago in a prominent city in the South, Christian chaplains who serve the police department were ordered to no longer mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. It was reported that during a recent police-sponsored event, the only person allowed to pray was someone who addressed “the being in the room.” Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God.

Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.

My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. …

Read the rest of this excellent letter and what Dr. Graham and his son Franklin are doing in response here.

February 19, 2012

From the tears of a precocious peasant child who loved Jesus …

Filed under: books, encouragement, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 8:17 pm

And thus we see in this life that God has need of the high and the lowly, the great and the small, the gold and the baser metal; and out of all, and through all, and in all, He works His wondrous way, and permits His Creatures to join, as it were, with Him in the turning of the world from darkness to His marvelous light.  Mary E. Ropes, Mary Jones and Her Bible (1882)

Little Welsh Mary Jones was dirt poor.  She loved Christ from the earliest age and studied God’s word from a neighboring farmer’s Bible.  Welsh Bibles were exceedingly rare and hard to come by.  This intelligent and precocious girl was determined to one day have her own Bible.  She worked and saved, and after six years finally had enough to purchase her own.  She walked barefoot from her village at the foot of  Cader IdrisLlanfihangel-y-pennant to  Bala – 25 miles away to buy one from the renowned Pastor Thomas Charles.  He did not have one to give her.  Her immediate tears and obvious devotion inspired the creation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804.  That organization and its spin-offs have distributed millions of Bible and conducted thousands of translations in the past two centuries.

Although he didn’t have one to give her, Mary’s tears melted Pastor Charles and he nonetheless found someone else’s Bible to give the girl.  Mary Jones’ story is an inspiring read and insight into the not terribly distant past.  Thanks to Mark Hamby and Lamplighter publishing, the book is in print and available: Mary Jones and Her Bible.

From the Bible Society’s website:

The need we address
Bible Society exists because millions lack the Bible in a language they can understand, in a form they can use or at a price they can afford. At the same time millions still have no understanding of the Bible’s value for them and their communities.

We call this Bible poverty.

The vision we have
We are working to see a day when the Bible’s God-given revelation, inspiration and wisdom is shaping the lives and communities of people everywhere.

Our task is urgent. This is because of what people, communities and nations lose when the Bible’s life-changing message is not theirs.

Our task is huge:

  • More than 4,400 languages still wait for even one book of the Bible.
  • Though a billion people can’t read, only 3 per cent of languages have the Bible in audio.
  • Every 5 seconds, someone goes blind but the complete Braille Bible exists in only 35 languages.
  • In our own country the Bible is no longer a point of reference for everyday life.
  • Christians often lack the confidence to apply the Bible’s message in a society that increasingly sees it as irrelevant.

Mary Jones died in 1864 and was buried at the graveyard of Bryn-crug Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. The Bible, she walked 25 miles to buy, is now stored in the Bible Society’s archives in Cambridge University Library.

February 18, 2012

Answers in Genesis Announces Properties Purchased for Ark Encounter Park

Filed under: entertainment, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 2:32 pm

Answers in Genesis made the following announcement this past week about completing the necessary real estate purchases for the Ark Encounter Park and that the ministry has received over $ 5 million in donations for the park, to date.  In addition, the ArkEncounter.com website re-design was also rolled out this week.  Keep praying that we’re able to complete and open this park soon!

Final Piece of Land for Full-size Ark Purchased

Petersburg, Ky., Feb. 15, 2012—Passing another significant milestone, the Ark Encounter, LLC, closed today on the last and largest piece of land for its planned development on an 800-acre site in Williamstown, Ky., off Interstate 75 (south of Cincinnati). Under the direction of Answers in Genesis (AiG), a full-scale Noah’s Ark will be constructed as the featured attraction at the Ark Encounter. Research indicates the Ark Encounter will draw well over a million people in its first year.

In addition, the completion of complex engineering and architectural work on the Ark structure has allowed for significantly greater guest capacity inside the Ark than originally anticipated. This finding has eliminated the need to build additional biblical attractions simultaneously to accommodate the projected crowds.

Accordingly, the Ark Encounter will be built in multiple phases over many years, with the Ark and other supporting elements opening during phase one. This approach will reduce the initial construction period and funding requirements. It will also allow the utility infrastructure to be able to grow with the Ark Encounter’s expansions at a reasonable pace. Phased-in construction is also a safe way to proceed in a difficult economy. Even then, over $5 million in donations have already been received for the building of the Ark itself. In addition to that milestone, many more millions of dollars in memberships and private funding have been raised or committed for the construction of the other attractions surrounding the Ark, the centerpiece of the project.

Michael Zovath, Senior Vice President of Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter, declared he was “elated to cross two milestones this week in the Ark’s progress.” Zovath, who was in charge of building AiG’s successful, high-tech Creation Museum, noted that “due to the rolling hills and ravines of this scenic property, about 800 acres are needed in order to get at least 160 useable acres—plus create a necessary buffer around the Ark Encounter attraction. It has taken considerable, but necessary, time to close on all the different parcels, and there have been environmental studies that took time to perform on parts of the land, but all the needed acreage has been purchased.”

Additional updates on the Ark Encounter include the following:

  • The worldwide media coverage of the full-size Noah’s Ark has exceeded expectations, including a news item on ABC-TV’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.” With some exceptions, the mainstream media have generally been fair and accurate.
  • With the Creation Museum successfully drawing over 300,000 visitors a year, AiG is already master-planning the museum complex in Petersburg, Ky. (40 miles from the Ark site) to handle even larger crowds when the Ark opens. A 1,000-seat auditorium has been finished, as has a new observatory with high-power telescopes.
  • AiG continues to be encouraged to see that even in a difficult economy, thousands of supportive people have already made donations to the full-size Ark (including through the “Pegs, Planks, and Beams” sponsorship program) or have purchased boarding passes (lifetime Ark memberships). Now that the land has been secured, AiG—as more revenue is received—has the next milestone in its sights for the ambitious project: groundbreaking.

Donations to AiG for the Ark structure itself are just one aspect of the entire Ark Encounter funding. The major part of the funding is coming through private funding from the Ark Encounter, LLC, a Missouri limited liability company, which will own the attraction. Through a wholly owned subsidiary, AiG is the managing member of the LLC and is raising a portion of the funding (i.e., to build the Ark component).

“The Ark Encounter, LLC, and AiG continue to trust the Creator of the Universe to supply the needed funds for this project, just as He did with our successful Creation Museum, even with some bumps along the way in its construction,” said co-founder and CCO Mark Looy. “The museum’s attendance has exceeded projections since it opened in May 2007, and it has been a major economic asset to the region. Moreover, with an Ark coming to the region, it is anticipated the Creation Museum’s best days for attendance are ahead of it.”

Answers in Genesis is a biblical apologetics ministry which conducts about 300 teaching meetings each year, publishes the growing family magazine “Answers” (winner of the 2011 best Christian magazine award from the Evangelical Press Association), and produces the “Answers” radio program heard on more than 500 stations in the U.S. The AnswersInGenesis.org website is this year’s “Best Ministry Website” as picked by the 1,200-member National Religious Broadcasters (about 1 million web visits a month). AiG’s Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 to much international press coverage, has welcomed over 1.5 million visitors in four and one-half years.

October 19, 2011

STUMBLING DOWN THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

I have been on a whirlwind adventure the past few weeks, hopping around the country from one event to another.  It all started in Orlando, when I was honored to present a workshop for folks attending the CareNet annual conference.  My topic was timely in this coming election year – how can nonprofit charities exercise their First Amendment rights in light of the tax code and IRS regulations that restrict their ability to speak in the political sphere?  CareNet people are passionately pro-life and would love to see pro-life candidates elected.

Charities can participate in lobbying to a limited extent but are absolutely prohibited from supporting or opposing a particular political candidate.
Charities can engage in “issue advocacy,” but need to be wary of traps—candidates talk about issues and plan their campaigns around issues.  Frankly, I believe the restrictions are unconstitutional, but people need to be informed and either follow them or be prepared to litigate a test case.

I decided to make it fun – and easy (or at least easier) – to navigate the rules.  We all wear different “hats” as we move into different roles in our personal and professional lives.  I bought some party hats and gave them names:  “Freddie Free Speech” (individual citizen), “Charlie, President of Choo Choo Charities” (official representative of charity), and “Cathy Candidate” (candidate for political office).  Once you identify your “hat” and know WHO you are when you speak, you can jump into a series of familiar questions:  WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW.

WHO:  Are you speaking as an individual citizen (“Freddie”) with First Amendment rights, or as the representative of a charitable nonprofit (“Charlie”)?  Do you want to invite a candidate (“Cathy”) to speak at your charity’s event, or simply introduce a candidate who happens to attend?

WHAT:  Are you talking about a particular candidate, proposed or pending legislation, or giving a moral exhortation?  Many issues overlap the religious/moral and political spheres in today’s world.

WHY:  Are you trying to support or oppose a candidate – or legislation you want to see passed (or not)?  Are you teaching a Bible study or giving a moral exhortation about an issue like abortion that is also a controversial political issue?

WHEN:  Is it close to the time for an election, or a legislative vote?

WHERE:  Are you at an official function for a charity you represent, or writing in an official publication for the charity?  If so, you can’t remove your “hat.”  Are you away from your charity, speaking solely as an individual and not on behalf of the charity?  If so, you can put on your “free speech” hat.

HOW:  How is the communication financed?  How is it presented—does it appear that the charity is biased in favor or against a particular candidate?  Has the charity provided an unbiased public forum for candidates—or perhaps given a candidate some advantage it doesn’t offer to others?

This is “food for thought,” as the IRS restrictions require some time to digest.  I hope to write a short guide that is reasonably easy to navigate—with a touch of fun.

September 29, 2011

Prayers for Pastor Nadarkhani & the Barbarism of Iran

Filed under: Ministry, World etc. — Anthony Biller @ 9:41 pm

Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is facing the death penalty, again refused to convert to Islam to save his life.

Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 for the crime of apostasy because he allegedly abandoned Islam for Christianity. As a pastor, Iranian clerics believe that Nadarkhani was preaching in order to convert Muslims.

Before his last hearing Wednesday, Nadarkhani had been given three previous chances to repent, and all three times he has refused. After his final refusal Wednesday, no verdict has been announced, but many expect that he could be put to death as soon as Friday.

See Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death: Nadarkhani Refuses to Convert

Senator Rubio’s (R, FL) statement today:

Iran’s rulers have spent over three decades terrorizing their neighbors, the entire world, and even their own people. Whether it was the violent crackdown following illegitimate elections in 2009 or the daily repression that has become routine, the Iranian people deserve America’s support.

I am deeply distressed by news accounts regarding Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is facing imminent execution for apostasy (abandoning Islam) and failing to recant his Christian faith. Pastor Nadarkhani is 34 years old, has a wife and two young children, and is the pastor of an evangelical church in Iran.

Equally troubling are the facts that his wife was imprisoned to force him to recant, and his lawyer has been sentenced to prison and banned from practicing or teaching law. This is an unjust violation of the religious freedom that is a universal right of every human being.

According to international legal experts, the death penalty is not even codified in the Iranian Penal Code. Yet the Iranian courts claim that the writings of Islamic scholars and the “fatwas” of the Ayatollahs take precedence over the Iranian Constitution or law. Under Sharia law, the pastor can be executed after refusing three times to recant his Christian faith.

In recent years, there has been a very troubling increase in religious persecution in Iran. This is true for anti-Christian efforts, but it has also been evident in the repression of non-Shiite Muslims. While there has been some good documentation of this by a few in the media and in the human rights arena, there has unfortunately been a cowardly silence by the United Nations and most of the international community in this case and others.

Our own State Department should call for his immediate release. These are the moments when the government of this great nation must not be silent, and must be a voice for freedom for those who are defenseless.

In free and civilized societies, the freedom to practice one’s religion is a fundamental right. Once again, Iran’s government is proving to the world, and to the Iranian people, that it will spare no means to suppress their God-given right to freely express their ideas and worship.

As history has proven, countries that do not respect the rights of their citizens seldom respect the rights of their neighbors. The Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for its own citizens should raise alarms about its behavior in the region and the world should its illicit nuclear program be allowed to go on unchecked.

America’s commitment to the universal rights of man requires us to clearly speak out against their violations wherever they make occur. I urge the administration to relentlessly call for an immediate and unconditional release for Pastor Nadarkhani.

As if the West needed further evidence of the evil barbarity of the Republic of Iran or of the gross intolerance of Islamic regimes and their utter disregard for liberty (and for Christians, Jews, etc …)

July 13, 2011

The future of the global church is Open

Filed under: Ministry, technology, video — Distant Shores Media @ 6:57 am

Tim Jore, of Distant Shores Media, is a guest contributor to the Sapphire Sky blog. He, together with his wife and a great team of people at DSM, are helping to equip the global church with unrestricted discipleship resources that are intended for use on mobile phones. Find out more in the video and join the community at facebook.com/distantshoresmedia and facebook.com/door43!

The rise of the Internet and worldwide mobile phone technology is the greatest opportunity for the advance of the global church since Gutenberg’s press half a millenium ago. But taking advantage of this opportunity requires discipleship resources that are released from copyright restrictions so that they can be legally translated, adapted and redistributed without restriction.

This video introduces Door43, an open-access project to create and translate discipleship resources that are free of charge and released from copyright restrictions under an open license so that anyone, anywhere has the legal freedom to use and improve them. Join the movement at door43.org and help us make this vision a reality: Unrestricted discipleship resources, in every language, and on any mobile phone. Find out more at dsmedia.org/​intro.

May 19, 2011

Ark Encounter Officially Anticipated to Be a Tourist Attraction

Filed under: entertainment, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 5:21 pm

Ark Encounter Receives State Approval
for Tax Rebates:
Economic impact study gives themed attraction high marks

 PETERSBURG, Ky., May 19, 2011 – This afternoon, the Tourism Development Finance Authority of Kentucky unanimously approved the application of the Ark Encounter LLC to receive a rebate of sales tax that is to be collected when the attraction opens in Grant County. Based on evaluating a 3-month study, the Authority determined that the project exceeds the criteria established by the state’s Tourism Development Act and thus qualifies to receive a sales tax rebate that Kentucky offers as an incentive for prospective tourist attractions to build in the state.

The Authority today approved the analysis conducted by the independent research group Hunden Strategic Partners. HSP was commissioned by the state to determine how much money tourists would spend at the future Ark Encounter and whether the attraction would have a net positive economic impact for Kentucky even after the rebates are factored in.

The report’s executive summary presented the bottom line of the likelihood of success: “Overall, the Project scores high on nearly all the critical success factors,” adding that “the Project meets all criteria identified by the Kentucky Tourism Development Act.”

The Tourism Authority determined that the Ark Encounter is eligible to receive a sales tax rebate from the sale of tickets, food, and resources at the Ark Encounter for 10 years. The performance-based incentive allows the Ark Encounter to recover up to 25% of its construction costs if it meets attendance and sales projections.  The remaining sales tax that is kept by the state plus other taxes collected (e.g., income taxes of citizens employed at the attraction and at businesses created by the Ark, plus sales tax collected by those businesses) will have a net positive impact for the state. If the Ark Encounter was not built-in Kentucky, those millions of dollars in potential revenue would go to another state. The Tourism Development Act offers impressive financial incentives through rebates without taking existing money out of the state’s coffers.

Hunden Strategic Partners specializes in conducting what is called a “fiscal impact analysis” as it studies a potential tourism project. An economic impact study rather than a feasibility study, the HSP analysis presented two Ark Encounter scenarios and the possible results of each: Scenario A, in which the Ark Encounter will present biblical events from the Old Testament that would exclude the creation account of origins; and Scenario B, in which the project would be similar in content to Answers in Genesis’s Creation Museum and its teachings from the first chapters of the book of Genesis. The Ark Encounter satisfies Scenario A, for it will be an attraction that starts with Noah’s Flood and then continues through the rest of the Old Testament.

 The HSP analysis noted that if the Ark Encounter follows Scenario A, then it:

  • benefits from a theme (the Bible) which has “perhaps one of the largest built-in audiences in theU.S.”; very conservatively, HSP predicts 1.2 million visitors should visit the first year.
  • could have an expected impact to the state of $119 million (e.g., from sales tax, income tax, etc.) over ten years; after the rebate is factored in, the Ark Encounter will generate an estimated $64.6 million in taxes for the state over 10 years.
  • will see (among many benefits): guests filling about 600,000 room nights per year at area hotels, see the hiring of over 3,000 people at the attraction and also at tourism-related business that will be created by the Ark Encounter, etc.

Mike Zovath, Senior Vice-President of Answers in Genesis and head of the team that built the successful Creation Museum in Boone County, further noted: “ThisArkproject will be great for Williamstown, Grant County, and Kentucky. It will bring much-needed revenue and jobs to the Commonwealth. I am satisfied with the HSP analysis because it confirms what we have believed for some time: the Ark Encounter is a viable and worthwhile project.”

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 full-size, all-woodArk.The attraction also includes a walled city, a first-century Middle Eastern village, a tower of Babel, a large petting zoo, and other attractions. A nationwide feasibility study commissioned by Answers in Genesis in 2009 estimated that the Ark Encounter could draw over 1.6 million visitors the first year.

The Ark Encounter is scheduled to open in spring 2014 on about 800 acres off I-75 in Grant County, Kentucky, south of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Groundbreaking is tentatively planned for late August 2011. The for-profit Ark Encounter will be privately funded, with an estimated cost of almost $150 million. Answers in Genesis is a member of the Ark Encounter LLC and will oversee the project.

March 4, 2011

Gay Testimony

Filed under: culture, marriage and family, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 4:53 pm

Several years ago, Tim Wilkins was a guest speaker for a Sunday service at the church where my family and I attend.  He was introduced to our large congregation with his darling wife with babe in arms.  With thousands of people in attendance, Tim talked about being gay.  Our church is a conservative, independent Baptist church. Very conservative.  People don’t typically stand up in the pulpit and talk about being gay there, ever.  I also wasn’t too far removed from serving in the Airborne Infantry where being, acting, or in any way resembling “gay” was … looked down upon, to put it mildly.  Seemed kinda akward to stand up in front of a thousand conservative Baptists on a Sunday morning and talk about what it’s like being gay.  But I soon came to realize that Tim is a brave man. He explained his homosexuality and gave a moving and powerful testimony, which can be read here, about growing up gay and how through his pursuit for Christ, he fell in love with a woman and left homosexuality.

His wife convinced him that God would use Tim’s past to reach men like himself for Christ.  Tim was a pastor and friends advised him he would ruin his pastoral career.  Tim listened to his bride and formed Cross Ministry to reach gay men with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As I said, Tim is a brave man.  There are presently few if any areas more charged and filled with rancor than the intersection of Biblical Christianity and homosexuality.  Homosexuals insist that society normalize and recognize same-sex relations and punish those that would discriminate against homosexuals.  In numerous books of the Bible, Apostles and prophets expressly condemn and prohibit homosexuality and its concomitant acts.  Having been torn between these worlds, Tim stands at the crossroads to minister to homosexuals, to reach them with Jesus’ transforming love.

Tim recently sent out the following, which I think is an excellent testimony on what it means to rely upon and be transformed by Christ.  Tim’s lessons is applicable to each one of us:

A New Leash on Life

-Tim Wilkins

Man’s best friend had his or her day when the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show occurred the middle of February in the “Big Apple.” This was an occasion where one could honestly say “Madison Square Gardens had gone to the dogs.” And though the spotlight was clearly on the four-legged fidos, the most overlooked part of the show was that thing that connects dog to his or her master – the leash.

The master knows what he want his dog to do and the leash is his tool.

The Master, the Eternal God of all creation knows precisely what He wants us to do, but we – like those uncomprehending canines – think we know best.

Having reached puberty with the shocking awareness that I had same-sex attractions, I felt as if I lay at the bottom of the Mariana Trench – a body of water measuring almost seven miles deep. Raised in a Bible-believing church, I knew homosexuality to be wrong. What I needed to know was how to escape from this “thing” that pervaded my every waking thought. Thank God sleep allowed me a brief respite to my bewildered brain, but I could not sleep my life away.

I set out with preconceived notions as to how I would achieve freedom. When one idea fell flat, I moved to the next one and on and on I went. But I found myself still burdened under a profound adversity. Every which way I moved proved the wrong direction.

In his classic Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis addressed adversity using an illustration drawn from the domesticated but dumb dog. “If the dog gets its leash wrapped around a pole and tries to continue running forward, he will only tighten the leash more. Both the dog and the owner are after the same end: forward motion. But the owner must resist the dog by pulling him opposite of the direction that he wants to go. The master, sharing the same intention, but understanding better than the dog where he really wants to go, takes an action precisely opposite to that of the dog’s will. It is in this way that God uses adversity!”

Having first read that paragraph many years ago, I began a different path in finding freedom from that despair beyond description – same-sex attractions. Notice I wrote “same-sex attractions” not “same-sex activity.” Yes, while I had given into the temptation at a point in time, the despair, the horror, the emotional quicksand that preceded my involvement in homosexuality was the closest thing to hell I knew of – though I have never visited the place.

Based on Lewis’ illustration and my story, let me list a few tips for those persons wondering “how in world do I get out of here?” or “how in the world can I help my friend out of there?”

Relinquish ALL those preconceived ideas as to what YOU think the solution is. That means stop telling God what you want Him to do. He doesn’t need your advice. He really is “THE KNOW-IT-ALL!”

If your view of God is Him pacing His throne room, beads of sweat running down His brow and wringing His hands over this issue, be of good cheer; God is neither befuddled nor dismayed. Ask God what He wants you to do, not just about this particular issue but all of life. But beware of asking God what He wants you to do if you have no intention of doing it. You’re wasting your time, not His – because He is eternity. This unique concept of doing what God says is called “obedience”. You ask “Has it really come to that?” Yes, as Oswald Chambers wrote “God will task the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us when we obey Him.” Try it. Obedience is more refreshing and productive than giving God orders. I ought to know.

But you say “I don’t hear God telling me what to do.” He speaks to those who listen and as John Lloyd Ogilvie writes “You can not have the will of God in your life till you have the Word of God in your life.” Read more than the half-dozen or so classic Bible passages that address homosexuality. You need the whole counsel of God. Reading only the prohibitions to homosexuality provides a diagnosis (it’s a sin), but you need a prognosis.

Ask yourself what you really want. If your answer is to become a “former homosexual” or an “ex-gay”, you’re trudging the wrong road. (The previous answer would be correct if you want to be known for what you USED to be.) Let’s take this another step; if your answer is to be “heterosexual” you’re still off target. If your answer is – more precisely – to be attracted to the opposite sex, you’re still missing the boat. “Heretical” you say? Your answer should be “I —want— to— become— a— follower— of— God’s— only—- Son.” You say “well of course I want that” but do you – really? Chambers cut me to the quick and knocked the wind out of me when I read these words “Getting in a right relationship with God is the easiest thing in the world— unless it’s not God you want, but only what He gives.” Jesus said it this way. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Peter Marshall said that verse is the most unbelieved verse in the Bible.

Freedom for me results through a rigorous reading of Scripture and a relentless reliance on Jesus Christ. No, I used the correct verb tense in the previous sentence. You think I should have used “resulted.” I depend on Him everyday. And I know what you’re thinking “you mean this is an ongoing effort?” I know of no better way to answer that question but to say this—while actor Harrison Ford played the role of Indiana Jones in a few movies, I live the adventure of Indiana Jones every day. I’m having a blast and I’m not even from Indiana. Why would I give up the adventure; that’s what God made me for.

Lewis continues “We truly can trust in the God who loves us with an everlasting love because He knows the direction we need to go, AND He knows exactly how to get us there!”

Did you know that another word for leash is “lead”?

(Permission granted to reprint; www.CrossMinistry.org )

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