Sapphire Sky

December 31, 2010

10 Observations on 2010

Filed under: culture — Anthony Biller @ 3:32 pm

 A majority of Americans want a made for TV, iconic, left-wing President, at least until he actually tries to implement left-wing policies.

A callous on the arch of your foot doesn’t hurt or cause problems, until you try to remove it with a utility knife.

It’s okay to like Noah’s ark, so long as it’s a cutesy little story confined to preschool walls.  The Ark strikes a nerve however when it’s built to scale and treated as something that really happened.

Still wasn’t a good year to sell your house.

Homeschooling moms are still a unique blend of saint, drill sergeant, multi-tasking guru, motivational speaker, and teacher.

In the United States, pornography remains the most popular content, with increasing numbers of children’s watching it and being exploited in it.  Yet no one wants to talk about it let alone do anything about it.  Homosexuality is quickly being normalized.  It’s increasingly clear that traditional and Biblical Judeo-Christian norms on human sexuality are being marginalized and even ostracized. 

Theme music for breaking out of worldly ruts – “Smash it. Break it. Shake it. Annihilate it.”  – Andy Hunter.  May God’s Kingdom collide with the World.  Collide.  Best album in 2010 IMO. 

Hanson’s Pure Cane Sugar Ginger Ale redefines what “good” ginger ale tastes like.

A fast bike does not make it easier to pace yourself and save yourself for the run in a triathlon.

Children grow up really quickly.

And an 11th for 2011: The older I get, the better cheeseburgers taste.

Belated entry: Bella – movie of the year …

December 30, 2010

While You Were Sleeping

Filed under: culture, encouragement, Poem — Steve Knaus @ 10:51 pm

Thanks to Casting Crowns for writing this song and making it famous:

“While You Were Sleeping”

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you’re lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had come
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we’re lying in the dark
There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night

December 24, 2010

The Scandal of the Christ Child

Filed under: theology — Anthony Biller @ 5:55 pm

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

The King of Creation, born a powerless babe to peasants in backwater Judea, itself a backwater of Rome, appearing to the world as nothing more than a poor bastard child. Welcomed by the company of livestock and the lowliest of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

On December 19, Dr. Doug Bookman gave an impromptu sermon on the birth of Christ, specifically, on The Scandal of the Manger, and in the course of doing so explained relevant portions of contemporaneous Jewish culture and assailed several Christmas myths.  He spent a good amount of time explaining the prominence of the betrothal and marriage ceremony during the times of Mary and Joseph.  The marriage ceremony was a prolonged, multi-day celebration.  The event was known throughout the community and all were expected to express their support and enthusiasm.  The betrothal period was a time of anticipation as the families prepared for the celebration.

What utter shame and humiliation Mary and Joseph endured when Mary returned to Nazareth pregnant during her betrothal, and not with Joseph’s child.  It was a shame, Dr. Bookman contends, that caused them to permanently move to Joseph’s familial home of Bethlehem where Mary stayed until the time for her to give birth.  Luke 2:6.

Was Mary rejected from a public inn as conventionally told?  Dr. Bookman says “no.”  He contends that translators misinterpret Luke 2:7 when they say there was no room in the “inn” for them.  He says, it should say that there was no upper room or guest room for them.  According to Dr. Bookman, there was no such thing as an “inn” in the cities of first century Judea.  The same Greek word is used in other places throughout the NT where it is accurately translated as guest room or upper room.  See. e.g. Luke 22:11 (the guest room where Jesus held the last supper).  An upper room or guest room was an extra room families kept for honored guests.  Luke 2:6 suggests that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem some amount of time before Mary gave birth.  Dr. Bookman believes Joseph’s family refused to host Joseph with his betrothed and pregnant wife in their room for honored guests.  Betrothed and pregnant, Joseph and Mary were anything but honorable to their kin and fellow Jews.  The best Joseph’s relatives would give them was a manger (livestock cave) on the outskirts of town. This fits the Christmas story perfectly: hardship and humility.

God mocks what we too often take for wisdom and despises man’s pride.  When God sent his son to save mankind from sin, to show mankind our Lord, he sent the Christ child to be born in the backwater province of a pagan empire.  In the backwater province, the King was conceived in one of the poorest and most remote locations.  The wife and her husband were the poorest of poor, essentially peasants and nothing resembling human royalty.  And the pregnancy was completely scandalous.  The pregnancy shamed Mary and Joseph before all of Nazareth, all of Mary’s family.  When they left Nazareth for Bethlehem, Joseph’s family rejected close fellowship with them and sent them to live with the livestock.  Sorry, we can’t put you in our guest bedroom (what would the neighbors say?), but y’all can stay in our barn on the back 40.  The Christ child was born under shameful circumstances and in squalor.  His first visitors were shepherds, the poorest and least esteemed among the Israelites. 

Welcome Lord Jesus, creator of the Universe.  Of course, this is exactly what God planned and intended and revealed through prophesies over hundreds of years.  But who would have thought THAT’s what the prophecies meant?  And few could fathom that this all-powerful King would conquer through being tortured and crucified.  He confounds the proud.  Indeed, the proud never noticed the birth of Christ. 

It is that way still.

The God of creation became flesh under the most humble of circumstances.  That God became flesh is THE miracle.  If you can have faith that the Christ child was the begotten son of God, all the rest of the New Testament, indeed, of the entire Bible, is easy to believe. 

Merry Christmas!

See also I Wonder if We Wonder by Doug Bookman.

December 23, 2010

Too busy

Filed under: Poem — Anthony Biller @ 10:53 am

The First Christmas

In winter
The Word was made flesh
To dwell among us …
To gather in our scattered minds,
To unify all human hearts.

Celestial singing:
Shepherds heard, rejoiced, adored …
Spring possessed their lives.

A normal world:
“Busy” folks ignored the Babe …
Only quiet people knelt.

Deepest darkness slashed:
Leading kings to worship Him …
Light dissolves the dark.

Sam McKay

The present of presence

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 10:44 am

Love Post

We have a tendency of busying ourselves with the business of being busy.

Smart phones, tablets, computers of every incarnation, et al. fill our every moment with distractions. Despite all these ways of connecting, we still have a lingering desire to connect with others that remains unsatisfied.

Lately, I have fallen prey to the same. Last night, we were finishing up decorating the Christmas tree, and I was busying myself with my latest obsession on the computer. Despite familial beckoning (my daughter physically grabbing my arm), I remained wired to the computer but disconnected from the family.

In hindsight, the older I get, the more I realize the moral for being is connecting with others. More often than not that means being physically and mentally present. Being on the computer or watching TV in the same room doesn’t qualify.

How do you truly connect then, in a meaningful way? I’ve often wondered.

You hear popular notions of connecting, but the one definition that holds me captive each time I read it is I Corinthians 13.

David Ballard

December 22, 2010

A Tough Season for Believers – NYT

Filed under: books, culture — Anthony Biller @ 11:47 am

 Ross Douthat had an interesting op-ed and book review in Sunday’s edition of the NYTs.  Quoted in part:

Thanks in part to this bunker mentality, American Christianity has become what [James Davison Hunter author of To Change the World] calls a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, he argues, the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight.

… . But both books come around to a similar argument: this month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.

Full editorial here.  The authors of these books, which I haven’t read, attribute the waning influence of institutional Christianity to the 1960s cultural revolution and the politicization of Christianity in the “culture wars.”  While these certainly played roles in how Americans view church, I believe that over the past century the academic and cultural elite’s cozy relations with humanist and materialist worldviews (e.g. Communism and “amoeba to man” evolutionary dogma), assaults in academic Christology (e.g. the Jesus Seminar and “modern” liberal theology), and rampant consumerism played more prominently in marginalizing the church and pushing the West toward a post-Christian culture.

December 21, 2010

Reactions and Reactionaries to the Ark Encounter

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture — Anthony Biller @ 12:31 pm

Judging by the hysteria in some quarters of the liberal press and blogosphere, you might think Sarah Palin was just elected president.  Aside from eliciting snide questions and backhanded compliments from Barbara Walters, Governor Palin is not presently the focal point of liberal angst.  While the media coverage has been extensive and overall positive, see e.g. here, the liberal literati express indignation at a theme park that shows the flood and Ark as history.  The editors of the two largest newspapers in Kentucky worked themselves into a lather in opposition to the park.  See here.  Genesis as history is unacceptable to many of our cultural elite.  Even Jay Leno, who is considered one of the more conservative entertainers, took shots at the Ark Encounter.  See here.

Jay Leno and the Kentucky editors simply reflect the perspective of our cultural elite who genuinely believe that the more a person reads the Bible as history and as the inspired word of God, the more ignorant and un-educated the person must be.  With the passing of each decade of the 20th Century, European and then U.S. cultural elites increasingly took aim at religion in general and the truth claims of Christianity in particular.  In the first half of the 20th Century, it was socially unacceptable to openly denounce basic Christian truths.  Since the close of the 20th Century, western cultural elites treat as unacceptable to publicly proclaim fundamental Christian truths, such as salvation through Christ alone, the inerrancy of scripture, the reality of Satan and an everlasting Hell.  To believe in the historical claims of the Bible is a cause for public ridicule, at least according to our self-proclaimed educated elite.  At the core of our cultural “elite” are those that make their living with words — the literati (a.k.a. chattering class) – journalists, professors, playwrights, screenwriters, and to a large extent attorneys.  Though they make up a tiny minority of our population, such elites disproportionately affect what we see and think of ourselves. 

The chattering class’ hostility to all things Christian is pervasive, for matters big (the Ark Encounter) and small (how we greet each other in December).  For example, major media outlets strip Christ out of Christmas.  Nearly 99% of network Christmas coverage is “Jesus-Free.”  See here.  Further, ever increasingly over the past decade, we are told that the word “Christmas” and the wish “Merry Christmas” are offensive. Perhaps to the chattering class, but not to the rest of us.  We are told to say “Happy Holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas,” despite the fact a significant majority of people in our country prefer to hear “Merry Christmas.”  See here. Very few, if any, are offended.  See here.  When it comes to Christmas and all other things Christian, too many of our chattering class colleagues are bah humbug Scrooges. 

The chattering critics insist rebuilding the Ark to biblical scale is an outrage or at least an embarrassment.  Again, they do not report that Americans disagree with such sentiment.  76% of Americans believe Noah’s Ark was actually built.  63% of Americans would take their family to visit the Ark.  (American Research Group polling data.) The outrage isn’t the Ark or keeping Christ in Christmas.  The outrage is a cultural literati that relentlessly assails all things Christian while pretending to reflect American culture.

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2010

Porn Undressed

Filed under: culture — Anthony Biller @ 12:42 pm

“I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” – Psalm 101:3

“All healthy men, ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, know there is a certain fury in sex that we cannot afford to inflame, and that a certain mystery and awe must ever surround it if we are to remain sane.” – G.K. Chesterton

Pornography is a huge industry in the United States, one of the largest.  As of 2004, porn was calculated to be a $57 billion year industry worldwide, with the US generating over $13 billion in revenue (but producing nearly 90% of the content).  The US ranked 4th in porn revenue, behind China, South Korea and Japan.  In the US, porn revenue is larger than the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises. US porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC (6.2 Billion). Child pornography generates 3 Billion annually. 

Since 2004, the supply of “free” hardcore porn video websites has exploded, which has likely impacted direct sales revenues of porn.  See here. While revenues in some porn quarters might be depressed, the amount of available pornographic content is exploding.  PR Newswire reports:

Predominant content on the Internet is pornography, which makes up 37% of the total number of Web pages online, according to a new study published by Optenet, … .  The report, which includes a representative sample of approximately 4 million extracted URLs, shows that adult content on the Internet as well as illegal content such as child pornography and illegal drug purchase has undergone a significant increase of 17% in the first quarter of 2010, as compared to the same period in 2009.

Tens of millions of Americans regularly consume porn, to include ever-increasing numbers of children.  Children between the ages of 12 and 17 form the largest group of viewers of Internet porn (Family Safe Media, December 15, 2005).  Porn particularly harms children and young adults.  Beneath porn’s alluring mask lies a vicious and pernicious perversion of God’s gift of sex and of life.   “Mainline” pornography often endorses, condones, and encourages abusive sexual desires or behaviors.  See here (warning – analysis contains further links to graphic images).  Foremost, porn teaches and condones rampant sexual immorality. Further, the number of children physically and emotionally damaged by pornography only continues to increase.  Porn damages children directly when children are sexually exploited in porn.   According to a National Children’s Homes report, the number of Internet child pornography images has increased 1500% since 1988.  Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement. Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2003).  Porn also indirectly harms children when it incites adults to sexually abuse children under their control.   See here

In addition to being a moral blight, pornography spreads disease, such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes.  See here.

See: The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research

See also: Just Harmless Fun: Understanding the Impact of Pornography

December 18, 2010

Naughty and Nice

Filed under: biz, legal, and professionalism, culture — Anthony Biller @ 10:11 pm

Want to know which national retailers celebrate Christmas, and which really don’t?  For the second year in a row, Focus on the Family is sponsoring a “naughty and nice” list at their Stand for Christmas website.  You can vote and post comments at the website.  The top three Christmas family retailers: Bass Pro Shops, Cabellas, and Lands End.  The three most offensive: Gap, Banana Republic, and Best Buy.  Lane Bryant was the most negligent toward Christmas.  Being openly pro-Christmas during the Christmas season is good business.  It is also likely profitable since 72% of people prefer “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holiday.”

December 10, 2010

Christmas stories

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigbluelab @ 2:49 pm

I came across these videos that are great reminders of what Christmas is all about. It’s so easy for us to get lost in the marketing, celebrating, presents, giving, eating, caroling, parading, movie watching, and all the rest of what has come to be the secular meaning of xmas. Xmas has become just that. We’ve evolved into a society that has X’d out Christ and replaced it with ourselves. So as we celebrate this year, let’s remind ourselves to slow down and be grateful for the mercy given to us by the gracious gift from are Most High.

Here are a couple of great clips to watch and show the family of the real Christmas story.

The Paradox of Christmas:

Retooning the Nativity:

Jesus and Santa:  

Merry CHRISTmas!

December 1, 2010

Rebuilding Noah’s Ark to Biblical Scale

Filed under: entertainment, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 5:10 pm

Kentucky Governor Beshear, Ark Encounter Announce Plans to Build a Full-Scale Noah’s Ark : “Ark Encounter” to employ 900, expected to draw 1.6 million visitors in first year

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2010)—Governor Steve Beshear today joined the Ark Encounter LLC to announce the planned construction of a full-scale Noah’s Ark tourist attraction in northern Kentucky. Partnering with the Ark Encounter is Answers in Genesis, which is most widely known for its high-tech and popular Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.

“We are excited to join with the Ark Encounter group as it seeks to provide this unique, family friendly tourist attraction to the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and with the estimated 900 jobs this project will create, I am happy about the economic impact this project will have on the Northern Kentucky region.”

 The Ark Encounter is scheduled to open in spring 2014 in northern Kentucky. Multiple sites are being considered, although property in Grant County off I-75 is at the top of the list. A feasibility study conducted by the renowned America’s Research Group has indicated that the Ark Encounter may attract 1.6 million visitors in the first year and is expected to employ up to 900 full- and part-time staff.

 The for-profit Ark Encounter project will be privately funded at an estimated cost of $150 million. The final site selection for the Ark Encounter is subject to the ability to acquire all of the land needed for the project, and the approval of certain state and local incentives and other assistance for the project.

 “We are very pleased to be a part of this new project,” said Ken Ham, president and founder of AiG and the Creation Museum. “AiG has been blessed to see the Creation Museum host over one million guests in three years. Based on our experience and success operating the large, state-of-the-art Creation Museum, our board believes the time is right to partner with the Ark Encounter in building a full-scale Noah’s Ark. We hope that this fun and educational complex called the Ark Encounter will become another popular tourist destination for the state.”

 In addition to the full-size Ark, the complex will include a Walled City much like was found in ancient times, live animal shows, a children’s interactive play area, a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits, a 500-seat 5-D special effects theater, an aviary, and a first-century Middle Eastern village.

 To showcase the “green” construction methods and materials that will be used, the complex will also include a Special Events Area for large gatherings, highlighting some of the Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building techniques used to construct the Ark Encounter.

 One of the factors in getting the Ark Encounter to launch the Ark project at this time was a November 2009 CBS News survey, which revealed that the remains of Noah’s Ark would be the greatest archaeological discovery of our day. CBS News stated: “CBS’ 60 Minutes news program, in conjunction with Vanity Fair magazine, recently conducted a web survey asking which archaeological discovery people would most want to see made next. The response: Noah’s Ark (43 percent); Atlantis (18 percent); Amelia Earhart’s plane (16 percent); Nixon’s lost tapes (13 percent); and Cleopatra’s barge (5 percent).”

 The report continued: “Noah’s Ark continues to capture the imagination of the general public, and this interest spans all social, religious and economic segments. The Ark and the flood is one of the few historical events which are well known in the worldwide global circle.”

 Following the release of the article, the Ark Encounter group became even more convinced about the viability of the project. It will be assembling virtually the same team that designed and built the Creation Museum, and have these same talented staff design a full-scale Noah’s Ark.

 For information on the Ark Encounter, see www.ArkEncounter.com

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