Sapphire Sky

April 29, 2010

National Day of Prayer

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., politics, economy, etc. — Steve Knaus @ 2:12 pm

The following link is an interesting article by the president of Focus on the Family, entitled “A day of prayer for judicial common sense”

April 28, 2010

Piano dedication

Filed under: culture, entertainment — Anthony Biller @ 5:25 pm

We enjoyed a touching and enjoyable piano dedicatory recital Monday evening at the beautiful Butler University Chapel on Campbell University.  Randall Atcheson was the pianist.  He performed on a new Steinway nine-foot concert grand model “D.”  Great performer and wonderful instrument.  Mr. Atcheson, a member of the international roster of Steinway Artists, professed a strong faith in Christ and gave a wonderful performance.  After playing a set from Chopin, he performed a Gospel, popular, and patriotic selection, each of which he arranged.  Mr. Atcheson is a passionate and fun performer who loves God and is excited about everything, particularly music and God and other people.  And he wasn’t afraid to express it. His stories about his southern preacher father were touching and humorous. We also share the same favorite song: Amazing Grace.  Great performer if Monday night was in any way typical for him.

The litany of dedication was also touching:

Creator God, You have given us minds to know You, hearts to love You, voices to sing Your praise and instruments to resound the majesty of Your name. We are grateful You have gifted Your people with music.

When words fail, music can express our deepest yearnings. In those seasons of our lives, we can find You in the notes of the familiar hymns whose melodies bring soothing calm and sweet serenity.

When we are still in Your presence, we can seek You and find You in the songs of quiet contemplation.

When we gather to worship, music can voice our highest and most exalted praise through the sounds of strength and majesty.

April 27, 2010

Easy ‘Square Foot Gardening’ for Homeschoolers (Background)

Filed under: entertainment, food & stuff, homeschooling, marriage and family — dadofmultiples @ 12:25 pm

For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations. – Isaiah 61:11

This is Part 1 in a series detailing our family’s journey into Square Foot Gardening, how we applied it to homeschooling, and how we are using the experience to train our children to love and honor God.

Our gardening saga started a couple of years ago when a family friend overheard my wife and I bantering back and forth about the topic of gardening.  My wife was “encouraging” me to plant a garden.  In response, I was reminiscing about my childhood experiences in gardening with her.  The conversation went something along the lines of this:

Beautiful Wife:  “Why don’t we plant a garden this year?  It would be great to have fresh vegetables and the kids would have fun seeing things grow.”

Supportive Husband (Me):  “That’s great!  I hope that when you say “we” you are referring to yourself and a mouse you have in your pocket.  However, if by “we” you mean that I get to clear, till, plant, weed, mulch, water and maintain while the kids watch, I think we might have a problem.  I’ve helped in a few gardens over the years and I know how much work it is.  I would, however, be happy to show you where the garden tools are kept.”

It was at this point that our friend uttered the words that would lead us on a garden saga that would have been unimaginable to me a few years ago.  (more…)

April 26, 2010

Real Hope …

Filed under: encouragement — Anthony Biller @ 5:06 pm

 With spring comes the warm promise of summer months.  Summer means family vacations, warm beaches, long hikes, and sweaty afternoons.  Spring is positive.  Spring’s filled with hope, and hope depends on a vision for the future, a better future. 

Hope is also one of the three greatest blessings from God – faith, hope and love.  The hope God gives is more than a season; we have hope for eternity.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14: 1-3.

[W]e speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
   “No eye has seen,
      no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him” …

1 Cor. 2:7-9.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” …

Rev. 21:1-5.  God promises us a tomorrow beyond our ability to even conceive.  Faith in Christ is the spring of what will be a perfect eternity.

Motherly wisdom …

Filed under: humor, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 5:05 pm

Why God made moms, here.

April 23, 2010

Hush Now Baby Baby Don’t You Cry …

Filed under: World etc. — Anthony Biller @ 4:06 pm

Update on one of the more revolting stories from the Euro-socialist nanny states (which stories the “mainstream” media routinely overlook):

Swedish authorities will convene soon to decide what to do about seven-year-old Dominic Johansson, who was seized by Swedish police and social workers last year because his parents chose to educate him at home.

In June, the Johanssons watched in horror as police snatched their son off the plane they were taking in order to move to Annie’s homeland of India. Police boarded the plane just one minute before its scheduled take-off and placed Dominic in the custody of social services.

Since that day, authorities have allowed the Johanssons only one-hour visits with their son – once every five weeks.

Full story here.  The Swedes argue they are protecting the child’s right to an education — the education the bureaucrats believe he should get, not the one his parents desire for their child.  Of course, the child is getting an education in big government: a jackboot is still a jackboot, even when worn by a nanny.

April 22, 2010

Ryan Hall on the Boston Marathon

Filed under: sports — Steve Knaus @ 10:54 pm

see the link here for Ryan Hall’s blog about his attempt win the Boston Marathon this week.  Ryan finished 4th, but set the American record for Boston.

The more I read about Ryan Hall, the more I am impressed with the way he integrates his faith into his running, and uses his running as a platform for reaching out to others.

World Cup Outreach

Filed under: Ministry, sports, video, World etc. — Anthony Biller @ 9:23 pm

In 48 days THE GAMES BEGIN !  The Olympics may involve more nations, but I suspect no event attracts more attention world-wide than the World Cup.  Mark your calendars for June 12 – that’s the USA’s first match … and we get England! Let’s give the hooligans something to holler about.

South Africa is sponsoring the Cup this year and hundreds of thousands of tourists will be traveling there to view and cheer.  There will be plenty of opportunity to meet and engage people from the world over. In response to this opportunity, Nations Touch is gearing up to reach people at the Cup with the Gospel of Jesus Christ using … soccer balls!  Very clever outreach.  Please consider supporting their effort.  See details at Nation Touch’s World Cup Project.  

Go USA!

April 21, 2010

Re: Big Bad Capitalism

Filed under: politics, economy, etc., World etc. — Anthony Biller @ 12:23 pm

  This is really a simple, every day picture.  It’s beautiful.  I’m not referring to the sapphire blue Carolina sky, though that’s beautiful as well.  It’s the FedEx and UPS trucks parked side by side at my client’s place of business.  Just prior to taking this picture, the FedEx delivery van driver was hustling out the door carrying a large box.  She ran into her van and drove off before I snapped the picture.  The tractor trailers from both UPS and FedEx were already parked at loading docks.  Within minutes of the FedEx delivery van leaving, the UPS delivery van pulled up.  You can barely see it in this picture, parked to the left of the FedEx trailer.  Here are two international businesses vigorously competing for my client’s business.  The fierce competition forces each one to drive down prices and innovate.  Akin to an arms race, it’s a “service race.”

In this “service race,” the companies “battle” by trying to out-serve the other. The story on how the UPS representative managed to get some of the business away from FedEx is funny and heartwarming.  And there’s the reality of capitalism, survival in the “struggle” of a competitive marketplace means understanding and serving others — your customers.  Absolutely contrary to what Marxist twits write into too many of the television and movie scripts, corporations don’t succeed by being greedy, self-centered, and evil.  To the contrary, success requires exactly the opposite – delivering the best value possible to the consumer, understanding and anticipating the consumer’s wants and needs, and being trustworthy.  Brands that fail these standards ultimately fail to survive.

Markets function because they satisfy human needs.  To the extent those “needs” can become perverted and twisted, the market can (and does) deliver evil.  Further, markets depend on fallen people for production and consumption.  Accordingly, like any human institution, markets are fallible and make mistakes.  However, companies that fail to correct mistakes in a timely manner fail to survive.  Further, consumers can be fooled, but where information is freely exchanged, the consumer eventually learns and corrects his or her behaviour. 

Democracy operates on similar principles.  Politicians provide what voters want.  Too often, politicians “advertise” one set of policies, but govern according to another once elected.  When that happens and voters realize it, corrective action should occur.  President Obama ran for election on platitudes that sounded centrist.  As it turns out, he is in no way a moderate when it comes to domestic policy.  President Obama is the most statist, big government president since FDR and perhaps in the history of this Country.  At least during the FDR administrations, the country was in a World War and centralised economic planning had not yet been exposed as a complete failure.  Six decades later, no one should be falling for the lie and false promises of centralized planning.  As aptly pointed out by D.O.M., we shouldn’t even fall for the lie of Euro-socialism.  Let’s hope and pray that this November, enough political consumers, ie voters, will learn from their mistakes, take corrective measures, and vote the Euro-socialists out of office.

April 20, 2010

More thanks and praise!

Filed under: encouragement — Anthony Biller @ 10:10 pm

No. 1- 10 here.

11. Friends

12. Friends that are encouragers

13. Friends that need encouragement

14. Sun soaked strawberries

15. A child’s ear

16. Listening with my daughter to Antonio Pompa-Baldi play Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto

17. Little league soccer

18.  The Gospel of John

19. Carbon fiber tri bikes

20. Moms loving on their kids

April 19, 2010

Reality Check on the Record of Big, Bad Capitalism

Filed under: politics, economy, etc., World etc. — dadofmultiples @ 9:15 pm

Our current President has defined his core economic tenets on the assertion of fairness, or to be more accurate, the unfairness of our economic system. Equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity is the root principle. A forced re-distribution of wealth will act as an equalizer for the past sins of Capitalism.

The administration, the Congressional majority, and an agreeable media are systematically dismantling the free-market mechanisms and installing a centrally regulated, command economy all for the sake of fairness. Evidence over the last fifteen months is overwhelming: Government takeovers of major industries and individual companies, massive ramp-up of government regulations on industry, tax changes to force re-distribution of wealth, and lectures on behavior by our Grand Arbiter of Fairness, the President. The consequences on all 330 million Americans are enormous.

But where is the clear, unemotional evidence of either how bad it was under capitalism or how many more people will benefit under the new system? What is the alternative system? Where is it working today? All we have seen are a string of anecdotes and a parade of victims. Wall street bonuses are bad, out-of-work people are victims, millionaires don’t deserve their wealth, change will make it better.

Facts are rarely useful in debates with ideologues and religious zealots. Yet we cannot allow partisans to make unchallenged, generalized claims about the free-market system with such consequential implications. Using comparative data over the long-term, we can find objective conclusions on the comparison of free-market capitalism to more regulated economies. The last twenty-five years, virtually a generational view on economies, gives us a broad perspective of market performance during a relatively stable period.

Let’s compare countries side-by-side, answer claims of economic unfairness with facts, and decide which economy we would like for our children.

Data source: The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a 30 country member group1 that provides unbiased, consistent economic data comparisons. Please note: For purposes of balance, comparisons are made of the U.S. economy compared to the top five western democratic economies, and the OECD average where data was available. 1987 through 2007 were selected only for completeness of data.

Claim #1:
Our economy has been weak for the last decade. Our problems have only been covered up by deficit spending and cheap credit.

Facts:
The U.S. has out-performed all economies over a 20 year period, out producing goods and services, worker for worker. In terms of annual growth rates, our free-market system has more extreme highs and lows but has climbed out of recessions faster and provided more sustained growth periods. (more…)

Authentic Living

Filed under: theology — Travis Biller @ 11:35 am

As he walked down the street a business man was approached by a street vendor wearing a long overcoat. The street vendor stopped the business man, opened his coat and proceeded to remove fake Rolex watches from the coat’s many inside pockets. The business man, intrigued, looked over the watches, inquired as to the amount and was pleased to learn they cost only thirty dollars. With his purchase on his wrist, the business man walked away proudly sporting his “Rolex” watch.

It looked good, but there was one problem; it was a cheap fake. I once heard a preacher comment that the one real problem with Christianity was that it was too easy to fake. Like the watch it has all the glitter of the real thing, but lacks true authenticity.

Speaking with an unauthentic group of believers, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

Authentic Christianity is difficult. Jesus likens it to a narrow road that is both hard to travel and unpopular (Matt 7:14). It requires the determined effort to live for another, whose ways are sweet but altogether unfamiliar (John 14:5). He requires absolute devotion to Him alone (Matt 10:37). He seeks to make you into something that is altogether different from what you have been (2 Cor 5:17). He requires you to die to your ambitions and earthy desires (1 John 2:15-16). And He seeks to eradicate everything from your life in which you once found both comfort and security (1 John 5:21). Finally, recognizing that He can accomplish none of these things while you are alive, He demands that you die (Luke 9:23).

And therein lies the rub. In Luke 9:23 Jesus said to them all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” This is what faith looks like… dying to self and living for another.

The authentic Christian however, has joyfully succumbed to this admonition of faith. He does so gladly because he knows that it is only in dying to self that he can begin to live through the power of Christ’s resurrected life (Phil 3:7-11).

The things that Jesus seeks to accomplish in our lives can never be accomplished while we are clinging to this life. Jesus taught that we cannot serve two masters; for we will hate one and love the other (Matt 6:24). If we believe in Him, let us also trust in Him and allow ourselves to die, so that He can live through us with the power of His eternal, indestructible, and holy life. Only in so doing can we know the joy, strength and hope of that eternal life He so earnestly seeks to give away.

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5).

April 18, 2010

Encouraging Words

Filed under: encouragement, Poem — Anthony Biller @ 9:24 pm
  •  
  • Somewhat rare to find
  • Often difficult to give
  • yet curiously
  • they cost nothing to make
  • but they may cost
  • a hug or a smile
  • once given away
  •  
  • Cool water for a parched throat
  • A dry coat to a wet man
  • Warm sunrise after a cold night and
  • Extra energy during a long marathon
  •  
  • They are easy love
  • A bright smile
  • A reason to believe
  • And blossoms of hope for tomorrow.
  •  
  • Give a few away
  •  
  • And you’ll have no less to give.
  •  

April 16, 2010

My favorite song …

Filed under: entertainment, praise, video — Anthony Biller @ 5:40 pm

I learned this song in Ranger school.

Really amazing …

The movie by the same name is also excellent entertainment and well worth the watch.

April 15, 2010

April 15

Filed under: politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 11:59 am

The Titanic sank on this day, Abraham Lincoln died on this date, and it’s our deadline for paying the government what we owe.  The “good news” is, compared to what’s coming down the pike, we’re getting off lightly today.  See here and here.  Spending, particularly entitlements, is spinning out of control.

April 14, 2010

Eternal Investments

Filed under: encouragement — Anthony Biller @ 6:03 pm

Nothing lasts forever … except us, if we hold our hope in what Christ, the apostles and the prophets taught.  Nothing else lasts, however.  Jobs, cars, houses, stuff, stuff and all the stuff will be gone.  Forever burned away.  Replaced with a new creation, uncorrupted.  But we will remain.

Every person is of infinitely more value than all the stuff of the world combined … yet, we don’t typically view each other that way, at least, not in my experience.  We don’t even typically view ourselves in that light.   

Relationships.  Relationships are the stuff of eternity.  How we relate and what we do with each other have eternal consequences.  Our relationships with God and with each other are the only things of ultimate consequence. What we do with the life God’s given us is determined primarily by the countless small decisions we make each day, most with very little consideration or forethought.  Most of us have substantial interactions with others throughout each day.  Those interactions are the component parts of our relationships.  What are we doing with them?

Yet, it’s so easy to fixate on the sparkly things of creation instead of on the creator and on the other eternal souls around us.  From those with whom we are in regular contact – spouse, children, co-workers, to those with whom are meetings are few and fleet, God give us the eyes and wisdom to value our relationships and interactions more, help our relationships be marked by love and encouragement.

April 13, 2010

Rise and Shine!

Filed under: encouragement — Travis Biller @ 10:17 am

“And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius … For the last will be first and the first last” (Matt 20:9,16).

Some people thrive in the morning. They wake up bubbly and ready to go. They usually wonder how anyone in their right mind can sleep past, say 6 am! By seven they have cut the grass, ran to the store, cooked pancakes, sausage and eggs and begun any chores that were needed to be done that day. Others, not so much; they are slow to rise in the morning. Like a 747, they need a long runway to get going in the morning.

I’m a not so much person. I need a long runway before me in the morning. When my alarm goes off, I’m usually somewhere between death and the comma state. I usually have to set my alarm a good hour before I have to get up. It takes me a good 45 minutes to even hear the confounded thing! It takes me another 30 minutes to even realize where I’m at. And people wonder why I drink so much coffee in the morning.

The Christian life can be like that sometimes. There are some people who jut take off running. Before they are a day old in Christ they have won people to the Lord, volunteered for every VBS, missions trip, and service community project the church can throw at them, and they still want more. Those are the early morning Christians! God bless ’em!

Then there are others who wake up to the Christian life much more slowly. It takes them a good while to warm up to everything. Coming into the church is a strange experience. They love the Lord, but are sometimes unsure of His people. They want to grow, but take longer to be comfortable in Sunday school and worship. They know the direction they want to go, but are not always certain on how to begin. That describes my first few years as a Christian!

The wonderful news of the Gospel is that Christ loves the slow to raise Christians as much as the early morning Christians. In fact, the bible says that God shows no partiality between people. Our Father takes delight in all of His children!

So whether you’re an early riser or still waking up, God seeks to bless you richly in Christ. Even if it’s late when you get to the table, He’ll keep the pancakes warm for you!

April 12, 2010

Demographics as Destiny … or is it?

Filed under: politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 6:13 pm

I’ve been following Mark Steyn’s demographics is destiny observations and arguments the past several years (as well as his critique of modern, western culture).  Mr. Steyn argues persuasively that the demographic patterns for most western liberal democracies show a cultural death spiral for native-born citizens.  In contrast, in most these same countries and indeed worldwide, he presents data showing strong birth rates among Islamic populations, who in Europe make up a very large percentage of the immigrant populations.  Mr. Steyn argues that for most of these countries, the “native” western culture appears demographically doomed, claiming that no civilization in history has returned from similar low rates of reproduction.  He also posits that these nations will be primarily Islamic within a few generations, i.e. westerners should start familiarizing themselves with Sharia law.

I’ve read some critics of his works, but most that I’ve found take issue with his premise that we should be concerned about this trend.  The premise of these critics being that it’s either alarmist to assume Islamic citizens will not assimilate or that it’s arrogant to judge western culture as superior.  A few have argued that overall, the total population of muslims in these countries is relatively small.  I haven’t found these counter-arguments persuasive.  In these countries, significant muslim populations are not assimilating and the diversity culture encourages such subgroups to maintain their original identities.  Further, the fundamentalist Islamic worldview is simply not compatible with western liberal notions of human and political rights, as demonstrated by the messages of the Denmark and Paris rioters, those advocating for Sharia in the UK, and others.  Most of the Islamic nations hue fairly closely to Islamic law in how they organize themselves and recognize rights.

I’m not sure, however, that past is prologue.  Computer memory continues to spiral downward in size and cost while processing speed and power continues to increase exponentially.  Moore’s Law and the Law of Accelerating Returns, see here, indicate that our rate of progress and innovation is only going to quicken.  Some of the consequences are potentially quite profound, even changing what it means to be human or changing the nature of thought and communication.  Regardless, this dizzying rate of technological innovation is heavily centered on non-Islamic countries and particularly on liberal democracies.  Indeed, outside of China, which is rapidly liberalizing at least its economy, most innovation comes from the world’s “free” people. 

Technological innovation, to include artificial intelligence, robotics, nanobots, etc., is a wildcard in the mix regarding the relationship between demographics and cultural, economic, and political strength.    According to some, see e.g. Ray Kurzweil, “computers” will surpass humans in their ability to parallel process information sometime within the next decade or so and people will use technology to augment and improve their own organic “processing power.”  This should all have profound implications for production, military strength, and cultural innovation.  

Regarding warfare, right now we’re sending remote-controlled drones into tribal areas.  In fifteen years, we could be sending devices that are much more up-close and personal and autonomous.  What will happen when our machines are our designers for free around the clock?  In short, I’m not convinced that the past is in any way prologue regarding demographics and how society will function. Absent Christ’s imminent return, the 21st Century will be unlike anything humanity has ever seen.  Given the promises of ongoing medical innovation, many of us may be around to witness most of the 21st Century.

April 11, 2010

God’s Word for Athletes

Filed under: encouragement, sports — Steve Knaus @ 9:17 pm

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I enjoy preparing for long-distances races.  The training has its share of hardships, but I am always motivated by how the process makes me better: faster, stronger, more efficient, etc.  There are peaks and valleys, successes and failures, elation and misery. Yet at the end, many of my best experiences have come from these training times — sometimes even better than the races themselves.

Yet every race demands personal sacrifice.  I am frequently not careful about what I eat, and the junk food leaves me overweight and sluggish on my next run.  A close friend repeatedly attempts training, yet he is not careful about his other activities.  As a result he pays the price with frequent injuries — many of which have caused him to cancel his race plans.

The list can go on.  We strive to better ourselves in the physical world and to attain to a form of greatness.  In the passage above, God tells us to approach our spiritual life with the same level of intensity and sacrifice that is expected of an athlete as they prepare for a big race.

Let us pursue greatness in our physical lives, but especially in our spiritual lives!

Reverse

Filed under: encouragement, video — Anthony Biller @ 1:37 pm
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