Sapphire Sky

February 28, 2011

Smarter than a second grade Chinese frog?

Filed under: entertainment, World etc. — Anthony Biller @ 10:07 pm

If you think so, try this here.

February 27, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria – Sanctification

Filed under: encouragement, praise — Anthony Biller @ 5:02 pm

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4 -9

God creates and saves; he also is our sustenance and strength.  Christians have no need to be anxious or troubled, despite our troubling world and troubling times.  Life can be hard, painful and more often than not, it’s unpredictable. When we try to overcome, we so often fall short or become confused.  We should rejoice, even in hardship, because our strength is not in our effort.  Don’t struggle or worry.  Look to Christ for he strengthens those who put their faith in him.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mt. 16:24-25

In the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus explained

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. ” …

We worship the God of the living. The author of life.  The creator of life.  God loves life.  Through his strength he created us.  Through his strength he saved us.  Through his strength he perfects and strengthens us in the likeness of his son – in a truer image of God.  He did not create and save us to then watch us struggle.

Following our master is, again, not about us.  Our strength is about him.  Our peace is about him.  We have to lay ourselves down.  I must become less.  He must become more.

Romans 6: Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians  3:10

Galatians 2:  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

We were saved by grace and we are to live in his grace.  He is our life and our identity.  Our self in Adam is dead.  Our new identity was raised in Christ, our second birth.  Our new self is a historical reality.

Acts 17:28: For in him we live and move and have our being.

How do we become less and he become more?  It is a question of our emphasis, not of results.

I have caught myself impatiently yelling at my children to BE PATIENT!!!!!  BE QUIET!!!!

We teach what we know.  We reproduce who we are.  Are children learn much more from who we are than from what we teach.  We learned more from watching who are parents were than we did from what they told us.  The best lessons were those that coincided with how they lived.  The lessons that resonated were those that matched both how they lived and matched their passions.

We will learn and grow strong in the ways of God when we spend time with Jesus.  When we sit quietly at his feet.  When we look to him first.  Remember as a child, looking to your parent first for guidance? Encouragement? For love?  Those of you with children, when they look up at you trying to figure out what to do, when they are scared, when they need a friend.  Sanctification depends on our resting in Christ foremost. Knowing him.

Remember Mary and Martha – Martha was so busy serving Jesus.  Mary was enjoying the presence of Christ.  Martha complained.  “Martha Martha you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Mt. 7:21-23

The one thing we must focus on first is Christ, sitting at his feet, loyally.  That is first.  We must know him before we can serve him.  Once we know him, our first lesson is that it’s not about us. On the inevitable day of judgment, we do not warrant his approval.  He gave us grace.

Our strength, our identity, our sanctification comes NOT from our efforts.  It comes from knowing and sitting at the feet of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our strength is in Christ, not in ourselves. Our sanctification is to God’s glory only.

February 16, 2011

Merciless progression of time

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 6:12 pm

Love makes us sensitive us to so many things we would otherwise miss.  Ann Voskamp elegantly shares this point today, writing about the convergence of time, love, pain and trust.  Ms. Voskamp captures the heightened and painful sense of time passing when we’re deeply in love, in this case, the deepest love most of us experience, the love for our children.  She shares her struggles over the inability to slow it all down, and where she finds peace in the struggle.

God who is the spring of the river of life, He has plans, places, purposes that time’s current will carry these children to — off to destinations, to new skin, to kingdom dreams.

The water cycle streams: from Him, through Him and to Him are all things.

See The Way a Mother Can Make Peace with Time

February 15, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria – Salvation

Filed under: praise, theology — Anthony Biller @ 9:59 pm

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4 -9

God’s creation walked away and rebelled against Him.  It is through Christ’s blood and the grace of God that we are saved from the consequence of our rebellion and inherent sin nature.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9

Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.

As a lawyer, I “get” the debt of sin we accrue.  Christ explained to a young lawyer that the foundation of the law could be summed up in two maxims: love God with all that you are and love others as you would love yourself.  In law, those two maxims are referred to as “affirmative duties.”  They create an obligation to do something.  Whenever you fail to perform your obligation you break the law.  Accordingly, every time we fail to love God with all that we are or love others (to include our enemies) as much as we love ourselves, we sin.  That means our sins are constantly accruing.  During our “best” moments when we’re loving selflessly and/or praising God with a pure heart and righteous behavior, we’re simply not sinning.

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. John 6:47

It’s not about us. We had nothing to do with our creation.  Our present life was an unearned gift.  We didn’t choose or earn the right to live.  We didn’t select this time, this place, or these bodies.  Life was a gift, which we cherish.

Eternal life is also a gift from God.  Our original sin was turning away from God and looking to our own ways, our own wisdom.  The world’s false religions teach us how we can or should warrant God’s approval.  That is the first principle of sin and Satan’s lie – look to ourselves first.  The way that seems “right” by our own reckoning is the path of destruction, for we are creatures of wrath warranting destruction from the eternal and perfect Creator.

Creation and salvation are about what God has already done through Jesus Christ.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘  Mt. 7:21-23

Testimonies on the day of judgment about how well we lived and what we did for Christ will be a denial of God’s grace.  Such testimony will reveal a soul still self-focused and oblivious to the mountain of sin in our lives.  On the day of judgment, those who rely upon themselves and what they did will be cast away as evildoers.

Jesus said, “only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  God’s will is for us to place our faith in him, in Christ, and not in ourselves. We are to look to our Lord.  Even in the Old Testament, the story is told over and over again.  God called his people to look to and rely upon Him.  Repeatedly, the people of Israel looked to their own ways, which repeatedly led to their misery and destruction.

Our salvation is to God’s glory only.  It’s all about Jesus.  It’s not about us.  Salvation is entirely through the holy blood of Christ, it is not about our sweat.  And the fantastic thing is, there is great, perfect and lasting pleasure in enjoying and praising God’s grace and perfection.  People praise because we were designed for it and it feels great.  Indeed it does.  Praise Christ, our Savior.

February 14, 2011

What if the mountain is you?

Filed under: Ministry, praise, video — Anthony Biller @ 9:28 pm

What happens when a gifted worship minister struggles with God’s call to leave his (and his family’s) comfort and enter the foreign mission field?  Well, if it’s David Loftis with a camera and an Internet connection, it’s a new song and video about the struggle to follow God’s call and what happened when he prayed for the faith that moves mountains:

February 13, 2011

The Legend of Valentine

Filed under: culture, encouragement, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 10:29 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless and Happy Valentines Day.

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

February 12, 2011

It’s all about me

Filed under: politics, economy, etc., theology — Anthony Biller @ 10:59 pm

Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:15

Representative Christopher Lee recently resigned from Congress after his overtures, fraudulent representations, and shirtless photos to a woman he found on Craigslist were exposed.  The Congressman was married.  See New York Congressman Resigns Over E-Mails The incident is a sober reminder of basic truths regarding sin.

Foremost, unrepentant sin exposes and destroys.  Sin is a cancer that ravages and eats away what is good.  Even sins from which we repent can continue causing destruction for long periods of time thereafter, both to the sinner and to those whom it affected.  While Christ’s blood washes away the weight and spiritual consequences of sin, the scars and temporal repercussions may be with us until our final breath, or Christ’s return.  Mr. Lee was at the height of his career, a national leader in the prime of his life. That’s all gone.  Career is over; he’s shamed; his name is sullied, and his family is likely devastated.

Which leads directly to a second nature of sin.  It’s insatiable.  Being a US Congressman with a beautiful family wasn’t enough.  While Christ is the living water and bread of life, sin only creates a deeper hole in our being that demands more and more to be filled.  It temporarily satiates, but the hunger returns quickly and more fiercely. There is no lasting peace or enduring joy in sin.  Sin is a ferocious lion whose end purpose is destruction.  Sin only feeds its own hunger, until it devours all whom it touches.

Third, sin is always self-centered.  The NYT’s article does an excellent job “showing” this truth. The story shows a picture the Congressman sent to the woman — a self-portrait Mr. Lee took of himself posing in the mirror, flexing his muscles.  His intentions for pursuing this woman are obvious and too common to the nature of man.  His shirtless posturing in front of the mirror captures his utter vanity, the essence of sin.  Sin starts with focusing on the self and taking our eyes off of Christ.  Sin always focuses on the self first.  If we focus on God and the needs of others before ourselves, sin falls away.  Such focus comes from Christ; it is not of the flesh.

Sin leads to suffering and death. This is appropriate.  Suffering breaks us and causes us to realize that we are not in control or in charge. It causes us to take our focus off ourselves and to reach out to God.  It was for good reason that the lost and downtrodden sought out Christ and worshipped him, while the powerful and mighty plotted against Christ.  At the end, death is the final reminder we cannot ignore that we are not in control.  God is.  And he offers the bread of life, the true source of peace and strength.

Please say a prayer for Mr. Lee and especially for his family.

February 11, 2011

A worthy family devotional

Filed under: books, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 9:32 pm

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. …” John 14:6

One of my goals for this year is to start doing our family devotional every night at dinner again.  In our experience, having a pre-packaged, written out devotional that you can pick up and do with little preparation is essential for me.  After a long day of work, home school, chores, sports, etc., it’s easy to sit down to a family dinner and want to simply enjoy the fine food and fellowship … without more work and thinking, at least in my experience that’s the case.  Even with the best devotional and best of intentions, though, it’s been too easy to fall out of the habit of doing a focused family devotional. 

In any event, we’ve been studying Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson.  The Clarksons have written several excellent books (to include a good book about good books!) and run Whole Heart Online.  It’s a great study that I recommend to those of you with families.  The devotional is built around 24 week-long studies.  Each study focuses on one family attribute or “way.”  Each day consists of reading several Bible passages elaborating on that week’s way coupled with several conversation provoking questions relating to that “way.”  Each lesson concludes with a suggested prayer.  It’s Bible focused and requires no preparation in advance.  You just need ten to fifteen minutes, a Bible, and your family.

Each of the “ways” is set forth below.  The list alone is worth study.  Again, each way is the focus of a one week lesson.  Our kids have taken to memorizing the list.  It’s a good list for adults also.  I do well to review it regularly…

Our 24 Family Ways
from the book by Clay Clarkson

 Concerning AUTHORITIES in our family…

  1. We love and obey our Lord, Jesus Christ, with wholehearted devotion.
  2. We read the Bible and pray to God every day with an open heart.
  3. We honor and obey our parents in the Lord with a respectful attitude.
  4. We listen to correction and accept discipline with a submissive spirit.

 Concerning RELATIONSHIPS in our family…

  1. We love one another, treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect.
  2. We serve one another, humbly thinking of the needs of others first.
  3. We encourage one another, using only words that build up and bless others.
  4. We forgive one another, covering an offense with love when wronged or hurt.

 Concerning POSSESSIONS in our family…

  1. We are thankful to God for what we have, whether it is a little or a lot.
  2. We are content with what we have, not coveting what others have.
  3. We are generous with what we have, sharing freely with others.
  4. We take care of what we have, using it wisely and responsibly.

 Concerning WORK in our family…

  1. We are diligent to complete a task promptly and thoroughly when asked.
  2. We take initiative to do all of our own work without needing to be told.
  3. We work with a cooperative spirit, freely giving and receiving help.
  4. We take personal responsibility to keep our home neat and clean at all times.

 Concerning ATTITUDES in our family…

  1. We choose to be joyful, even when we feel like complaining.
  2. We choose to be peacemakers, even when we feel like arguing.
  3. We choose to be patient, even when we feel like getting our own way.
  4. We choose to be gracious, even when we don’t feel like it.

 Concerning CHOICES in our family…

  1. We do what we know is right, regardless of what others do or say.
  2. We ask before we act when we do not know what is right to do.
  3. We exercise self-control at all times and in every kind of situation.
  4. We always tell the truth and do not practice deceitfulness of any kind.

February 8, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria – Creation

Filed under: praise — Anthony Biller @ 9:23 pm

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4 -9

God is the Creator, our Creator.  God created and creates – we contributed nothing to our creation

Only God can create ab initio … from nothing, something.  Amazing power.  Power beyond our ability to comprehend.  To create where once there was nothing.  The power of creation.  The power to create.  The only true creator.  At best, our most brilliant artists only use and make derivative works and repurpose what God has created.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …

Let there be light.  And there was.

Expanse. Earth.  Vegetation.  Stars.  Universes.  Galaxies.  The Boundless cosmos …

Ps. 97:6 – The Heavens declare the glory of God … There are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy.  If you counted one star ever second, it would take over 3,000 years to count each one. Beyond our galaxy, there are estimated to be over 100 billion more galaxies.

Fish, birds, and land animals.

One of the joys of parenting is seeing the world again through the eyes of a child.  The complete fascination with the curiosities of other living creatures.  Bugs.  Horses.  Dogs. Puppies. Cats.  Wow.

Sitting on the bottom of the ocean, watching schools of fish swim in unison.  A mountain goat climbing in the Rockies.  A city of termites living underground, too close to your house.  Pterodactyls.   A herd of elephants walking across the Serengeti plain.  A common house finch making and tending its nest next to a common garden spider constructing an ornate web.  A grizzly bear.  Leaping salmon.  The water moccasin.  The behemoth. A bald Eagle sitting majestically in a yellow pine overlooking a lake as the sun rises.  A preying mantis.  A lion.  A mutt welcoming you home, licking your face. So much more. Each one of these created from the mind of God.

Humans.

A cell.  The organic chemistry.  Toes. Running.  Hearing.  Digestion. The heart.  Emotions. Sex. Thought. An eye.  To see, to capture and decipher certain waves of light.  To design beauty with those lights.  The mouth and the dangerous tongue.  To manipulate air to talk.  To move thoughts across space to others.  Ears.  God created every bit of us.

The elegant ear, its exterior undulating shape should qualify it as modern art but for the fact there’s nothing modern about it.

The simple ear.  The highly intellectual communist Whitaker Chambers, a spy against his US government, sat down unwittingly one morning to breakfast next to his young child in high chair.  Admiring his first-born child, he gazed upon her ear … that delicate, wonderful, incredible ear through which she could hear her father … that ear.  And the realization entered his mind, that ear could not exist by mere chance … that undeniable truth that confronts us all every day in so many ways and that too many try to suppress … He knew her ear could not have been the result of a chance of nature … and the necessary consequence … years in the making, the foundation of his Communist worldview began to crumble, leading to what would become the most high-profile spy dramas of the 20th Century USA.

God created that ear.  Out of nothing, he designed us and created the stuff of our existence, of our being.

Our creation is to God’s glory only, through Christ Jesus.

February 7, 2011

5 Most Popular Sapphire Sky Posts 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anthony Biller @ 8:40 am

Christian Divorce Rates

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I Have A Confession…

Orwellian Sexual Ethics in NC Bar

February 4, 2011

Reasons to Chear this Weekend, and always.

Filed under: encouragement, praise — Anthony Biller @ 11:34 pm

I had the honor of giving the devotional this morning at Answers in Genesis after the scheduled speaker, Dr. Jackson, was not able to attend due to weather.  After discussing the importance of keeping Vegemite out of the Super Bowl, I reviewed four reasons for being a rejoicing fan – of Jesus Christ.  Devotional here: Rejoice! Four Reasons

February 3, 2011

Parental Encouragement

Filed under: encouragement, marriage and family, video — Anthony Biller @ 9:12 pm

10 Points of Joyful Parenting by Ann Voskamp

Build Memories with Your Children by Tim Dudley

Returns on Parental Investment by John Derbyshire

Commercials contain some of the best (and some of the worst) entertainment  …

And yes, I’ve encouraged my kids to take martial arts, essentially for the same overprotective reasons.

February 1, 2011

Jasmine Revolutions and Subversive Democracy

Filed under: World etc. — Anthony Biller @ 5:26 pm

In Communist and Islamic dictatorships, democratic reform subverts the status quo. Mubarak is down in the polls now … but not out.  Dictators are good at digging in and paying overtime to soldiers who shoot straight as Nordlinger reminds in: The Duration of Dictatorships .   I am not, however, certain that even should Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution spread to and topple the Egyptian dictatorship and then maybe Sudan … that we’ll see anything in the region emerge resembling a western democracy, or anything remotely friendly to western liberalism.   In fact, what emerges could well be even more hostile and subversive to our ideas of equality, liberty, and freedom of expression.

If this Mideast revolt persists, will we see an Ottoman Empire of the 21st Century?  Unlikely, given the numerous and violent Islamic factions, but some form of pan-Arabism or Islamic state could start to form.  Not a good time to buying futures in Arminian companies … if any were left.  As Nordlinger’s colleague Rich Lowry reminds us:

Every revolution against autocracy is initially stirring. Who wouldn’t have cheered when Louis XVI was forced to convene the Estates General, or when a liberal provisional government took over from Czar Nicholas, or when the rank and file of the Shah’s army refused to fire on protesters in the streets? All these inspiring events were mere prelude to catastrophe, making the years 1789, 1917, and 1979 synonymous with the onset of tyranny and bloodshed.

Full article here.  A Pew Global poll from December 2010 showed a vast majority of Egyptians in favor of harsh Islamic punishments and Sharia law, and a majority in favor of democracy.  See here.   I predict we’ll have an Islamic “democracy” soon in Egypt, similar to what developed in Iran.  And like there, we won’t like it and they won’t like us.

Iran 1979; Egypt 2011?  Interesting how the parallels between Obama and Carter continue.  President Obama was nearly silent when the citizens of our enemy Iran rose up against the government, but he speaks up in support of those that protest one of our closest allies in the region.

Prayer points from Dr. David Crandall, Answers in Genesis: 1-Restoration of law and order in the country, as there is no security system in place at present. 2-Peaceful transfer of power to a new democratic government. 3-Protection of the Christian people and their Churches. 4-The vacuum of power will not encourage the extreme Brotherhood Muslim group to fill the gap and rule the nation, as this will limit the Christian witness. 5-Quick resolution of this situation, so ministry plans in country will not be disturbed.

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