Bible Reading in 2008

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 ESV)

They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11 ESV)

In 2007 I used a reading schedule designed to get me through the Bible in a year. Actually, I didn’t intend to get through the entire Old Testament in 2007, but I did read most of the Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi with the exception of Ezekiel), and I read the entire New Testament.

What I use in most years, and what I plan on using in 2008, is a checklist. It has all sixty-six books of the Bible, with their chapters, and I put a slash through the numbers as I read.

biblechecklist.jpg

This gives me greater flexibility than a schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals, which include making sure I read the entire New Testament in the year. Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:

Kevin’s Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file (44 kb)

My hope and prayer is to encourage you to be in the Word in 2008, and that you would know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ better because of it.

Grace and Peace

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P.S. Here are some reading schedules for those who are more inclined that way:

Navigators reading plans — various schedules to get through the entire Bible or just the New Testament in a year.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading schedule — twice through the NT & Psalms, once through the OT

More reading schedules

Today is the winter solstice, but it has been winter for a while already

Today is the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year—but by some definitions, it has been winter for a few weeks already.

The meteorological definition of winter is that it is the coldest three months in temperate zones, that is, December, January, and February in the Northern Hemisphere. Alternately, it could be defined as starting when the winter pattern of cold fronts and warm fronts begins. By this definition, the starting date of winter could vary depending on when winter-like weather actually begins in a certain year.

The astronomy picture of the day for today is a multiple exposure shot showing the path the sun takes across the sky on the day of the winter solstice. The day is shorter and the weather is colder because the sun rises in the southeast, takes a low arc across the sky, and sets in the southwest. On a winter day, the sun is not up for very long, and it never gets very high in the sky. On the contrary, in the summer the sun rises early in the northeast, takes a high path across the southern sky, and sets in the northwest later in the evening.

winter_solstice.jpg

Grace and Peace

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 7

In Chapter 7 of For the Beauty of the Earth, author Steven Bouma-Prediger gives ten arguments for why we should “worry about spotted owls and the Pacific yew.” All of his arguments have validity to some degree—the author points out weaknesses of some arguments—but I’ll focus on the ones that I think are strongest for me as a Christian.

  • The intrinsic value argument: Nonhuman creatures have an intrinsic value, because God created them. I think this is a real strength of the Christian argument for creation-care, as opposed to secular or non-Christian arguments. The secular environmentalist can assign value to nature only in an arbitrary or self-centered way. To the Christian, nature and its creatures have value simply because God created them. They were valuable before we came on the scene, and are not valuable just because they are useful to us.

“Unlike the animal rights argument, this argument hinges not on the fact that certain nonhuman creatures have rights but rather on the fact that humans have duties to… sentient life, organic life, endangered species, and even entire ecosystems.”

“A focus only on human use—even if wise use—is a stunted viewpoint that fails to acknowledge intrinsic value in a world not of our making.”

“It does not necessarily follow from the intrinsic value argument that we have the same kind of duties to dogs or sequoias or rain forest that we have to humans.”

  • The earth community argument: or the we’re-all-in-this-together argument. This is similar to the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, but Bouma-Prediger modifies it to a Christian form. We, as humans, are a part of a much bigger biosphere, and what we do to the biosphere turns around to have an effect on us. This is not an appeal to self-interest, but rather an acknowledgment that what is good for the environment is good for us.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” — John Muir

“The creatures of the natural world are not there for the sake of human beings. Human beings are there for the sake of the glory of God, which the whole community of creation extols.” — Jurgen Moltmann

  • The divine command argument: or “because God says so.” Bouma-Prediger bases this on his interpretation that the earth-care mandate given in Genesis 2:15 (“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” ESV) means that we are here to serve and protect the earth, not to do whatever our sinful desires would have us do.
  • The image of God argument: or “because God’s concerns are our concerns.” God cares for the creatures of the earth, and as his viceregents—created in God’s image to rule in his place—we are to show the same care.

Given an acknowledgment that God is concerned about more than just humans, and given that we are called to image or represent God, it follows that we should care for more than just our own kind or our own place.

Care for the earth should never be construed as somehow anti-people.

Conclusion: 1. Nature has value in and of itself. 2. We are connected to the rest of creation. 3. God tells us to take good care of the creation. 4. God has made us in his own image, so we have certain responsibilities and obligations.

So how do we live as individuals? How do we live as a church?

Grace and Peace

Pop vs Soda

I like to have meaningful conversations at the dinner table—we are usually all together for the meal—but often I have little control over where the conversation ends up. Tonight we got back to the “pop” versus “soda” discussion that we have fruitlessly gotten into many times before. Shirley and I both grew up drinking “pop,” but our children were all born and spent a good chunk of their young lives in St. Louis, where people drink “soda.”

Here is a map showing the distribution of the use of “pop” and “soda” across the United States. Note that the St. Louis area is an isolated island of soda drinkers.

What I really don’t get is all those southerners who use the word “Coke” to cover everything from cola to lemon lime to root beer. If I ask for a “Coke,” I mean “Coke,” not ginger ale!

For an enlarged view, click on the map.

pop-soda.gif

Here in Romania, you can order pop for the family at McDonalds or KFC, and when they give them to you they often say “here are your juices.” I never think of pop as juice, but it does make it sound more nutritious!

Grace and Peace

Pinching Pennies

You hear in the news that the dollar continues to decline against the euro. So what?

From Christianity Today:

The dollar’s falling value translates into a pay cut for many American missionaries, who receive funding for their work from church and denominational budgets and from the gifts of supporting Christians. According to the U.S. Center for World Mission, many are finding their dollars worth 8 to 12 percent less than they expected this year. In Europe, dollars have lost 45 percent of their buying power since 2002.

This has hit us hard here in Romania, where inflation has added to the problem. The budget our mission has for us—which is the amount of money we have to raise from supporting churches and individuals—has doubled since 2002. And I would say that it was more than enough in 2002, but barely enough to get by in 2008.

Thank you to all who have been faithful in their financial support of our work in Romania. Thank you also for your prayers.

Grace and Peace

Denominations in the U.S.

This item was originally posted in December 2006. It is now part of my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.

The Map Gallery of Religion in the United States has maps showing the distribution of various religious groups in the United States. To view any of these maps in more detail, simply click on the map.

Leading Church Bodies — this map shows the group that has the largest number of adherents county by county. In the red counties, the Baptists are most numerous; light blue is for Catholics, orange is for Lutherans, green is for Methodists, and brown is for Mormons.

church_leading.gif

Baptists — dominant in the south:

church_baptist.gif

Lutherans — dominant in the upper midwest:

church_lutheran.gif

Catholics — along the Mexican border; also strong in the northern states:

church_catholic.gif

Other maps at the site show the distribution of Methodists, Mormons, Mennonites, Jews, Moslems, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and other groups.

Grace and Peace