The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

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

December 27, 2007 Posted by | Christianity | 1 Comment

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

December 22, 2007 Posted by | Astronomy, Meteorology | Leave a comment

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

December 22, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

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

December 21, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Maps | 4 Comments

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

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Missions | Leave a comment

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

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Blog Recycling, Christianity, Maps | Leave a comment

Free Bach

Free Bach organ works:bach.png

http://www.blockmrecords.org/bach/

http://www.bach-fest.org/podcast.aspx#Schmidt

I haven’t listened to organ music much in the past, but this stuff is growing on me. For one that you have heard, try “Toccata & Fugue in D Minor BWV 565” from the second site (www.bach-fest.org).

Thanks to: Cyberbrethren

Grace and Peace

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Misc | Leave a comment

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Forget “White Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” THE movie to watch for Christmas is “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” (click for the movie at Google video)

The Wikipedia article says this film “regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made.” It is so bad it is actually fun to watch.

santa_martians.jpg

Internet Movie Database

Grace and Peace

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Fun | Leave a comment

Wisdom from Sally Brown

I was looking for a quote from the “Peanuts” character Sally Brown. These are from her reports written for school:

  • When writing about Church History, we have to go back to the very beginning. Our Pastor was born in 1930.
  • This is my report on Rain. Rain is water which does not come out of faucets. Without rain, we would not get wet walking to school and catch a cold and have to stay home, which is not a bad idea. Rain was the inspiration for that immortal poem, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” After a storm, the rain goes down the drain which is where I sometimes feel my education is also going.
  • English Theme: “If I Had A Pony.” If I had a pony, I’d saddle up and ride so far from this school it would make your head swim!
  • Some people are right-handed. Some people are left-handed. There are other people who are able to use both hands with equal ease. Such people are called Handbidextrous.
  • This is my report on the importance of knowing how to read. If you can’t read and you get a love letter, you won’t know what it says. That would be very sad. Although in the long run, it also could save you a lot of trouble.
  • Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. … So why are the afternoons so long?
  • One “Rod” equals nine feet. One “Span” equals nine inches. One “Pace” equals three feet. One “Handbreadth” equals three inches. And one “School Day” equals a hundred years! … Sorry, ma’am, I couldn’t help slipping that in there.
  • There are seven continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, and Aunt Arctica.
  • The largest dinosaur that ever lived was the Bronchitis. However, it soon became extinct. It coughed a lot.

These are from Wikipedia

Grace and Peace

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Quotes | Leave a comment

A Montana Native’s Perception of New York City

A couple days ago I commented (click here) on a map of Montana printed by The New Yorker Magazine. (I got the map from Strange Maps). Those Easterners know that Montana has everything from militia groups to radical environmentalists, but they didn’t know what part of the state to put them in.

I was thinking to myself: “Hey, you worked as a cartographer for eleven years. You can certainly make just as good of a map of New York City as they made of Montana.” So, here it is:

ny.jpg

I was at JFK airport in 1980, so it isn’t like I haven’t been there.

Grace and Peace, even to any New Yorkers (is that what they call themselves?) who read this.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Maps, Montana | Leave a comment

Prince Caspian trailer

The movie trailer for “Prince Caspian” can be found here. I’m looking forward to it; Disney did a good job of remaining faithful to the Christian elements of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

At the opposite end, Albert Mohler comments on the intensely anti-Christian fantasy “The Golden Compass” (which I will not bother to go to) here. If you or your children plan to go to this movie, prepare your mind beforehand.

Grace and Peace

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Misc | Leave a comment

Following Jesus

From the introduction to The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

When the Bible speaks of following Jesus, it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression, from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience. If they follow Jesus, men escape from the hard yoke of their own laws, and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ. But does this mean that we ignore the seriousness of his command? Far from it. We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when his command, his call to absolute discipleship, is appreciated in its entirety. Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, find his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. “His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5.3). The commandment of Jesus is not a sort of spiritual shock treatment. Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster, strengthen and heal it.

Grace and Peace

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

A different map of Montana

A few weeks ago I commented on the new geologic map of Montana. A beautiful work of art.

Strange Maps has a map called Montana: The gorgeous mosaic:

montana.jpg

This map, from The New Yorker Magazine, is proof from once again that Easterners know nothing about Montana. The “obsessed environmentalists” are really concentrated around Missoula, in the western part of the state, the militias are mostly in the extreme northwest (though their sympathizers are scattered throughout), and a lot of the “Hollywood pseudo-cowboys in need of privacy, open air, and a full-time staff of forty” are down around Bozeman. My hometown, Billings, is right on the border between “Obsessed environmentalists” and “Obsessed anti-environmentalists.” It is all very interesting; Montana often only makes the news when things happen like the arrest of the Unibomber, a convention of white supremacists, or if Ted Turner buys another 100,000 acres of land.

I’m not sure that Montana has more than its share of “UFO buffs” or “Right-wing religious fanatics,” but I’m sure my misconceptions about New York City (slums, druggies and prostitutes, air pollution, honking taxis, left-wing atheist fanatics, Yankees fans, etc…) are just as bad. Perhaps in reality, not all New Yorkers like the Yankees.

Grace and Peace

December 5, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Maps, Montana | 7 Comments

HIV/AIDS: A.B.C., S.L.O.W., or S.T.O.P.?

Christianity Today has an article on Kay Warren’s framework for fighting HIV/AIDS. (Kay Warren is the Wife of Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren).

The article is HIV/AIDS: S.L.O.W. It Down, or S.T.O.P. It?

The approach that has been promoted by many Christians in places like Africa is ABC —

  • A — Abstinence
  • B — Be faithful
  • C — Condoms

To me, ABC is a no-brainer. Virgins don’t get HIV. Mutually faithful couples don’t get HIV. And in the larger community, consistent use of condoms will reduce the transmission rate of HIV.

The SLOW/STOP approach seems to build on this, and addresses some of the legitimate criticisms of the ABC program. SLOW/STOP has the two-pronged goal of slowing the transmission of the virus in the general population, and stopping it among those who will listen to moral reasoning.

Read the article for a description of SLOW and STOP.

You don’t have to be a Purpose Driven Life fan (I’m not) in order to admire the work of compassion that is going on here. I do wonder why they have copyrighted the SLOW and STOP acrostics.

Grace and Peace

December 4, 2007 Posted by | Ethics, Health | Leave a comment

Divorce is bad for the environment

Divorce is bad for the soul.

Divorce is bad for the children.

Divorce is bad for the environment too.

Headline on Yahoo News: Mother Nature feels the pain of divorce.

Divorce can be bad for the environment. In countries around the world divorce rates have been rising, and each time a family dissolves the result is two new households.

“A married household actually uses resources more efficiently than a divorced household,” said Jianguo Liu, an ecologist at Michigan State University whose analysis of the environmental impact of divorce appears in this week’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More households means more use of land, water and energy, three critical resources, Liu explained in a telephone interview.

Read more by clicking on the link above.

What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. — Matthew 19:6 ESV

Grace and Peace

Cranach and the Evangelical Ecologist have also commented on this today.

December 4, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Ethics | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 6

for_the_beauty.jpgChapter 6 of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger is “What kind of people ought we be?” In this chapter, the author develops seven ecological virtues:

1. Act so as to preserve diverse kinds of life.

Biodiversity is an intended result of God’s wise and orderly creative activity.

Creatures exist to praise God and are valuable irrespective of human utility. From this theological theme comes the ethical principle of intrinsic value.

We have an obligation to protect our watershed not only to preserve safe drinking water for the people who live there but also because we have a direct duty to the trout and herons and muskrats who inhabit that watershed.

We are obligated to preserve nonhuman species except when other moral considerations outweigh or overrule this duty. And since such species cannot exist without their homes, we are also obligated to preserve habitats.

There are many practical reasons to preserve biodiversity that Bouma-Prediger doesn’t go into here. Instead, he focuses on the moral and theological arguments.

2. Act so as to live within your means.

We have a prima facie duty to preserve nonrenewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources.

The author doesn’t advocate austerity, but rather discipline and self-restraint, as individuals and as a society.

3. Act cautiously.

We are to act cautiously in our relationship with the creation both because we are finite and because we are faulted. Because we are finite, we don’t understand all of the implications of our activities. Because we are faulted—fallen into sin—we are “alienated from God, other humans, ourselves, and the earth.”

4. Act in such a way that the ability of living creatures to maintain themselves and to reproduce is preserved.

It is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful, not just people. — Calvin DeWitt

We are permitted to use the fruit of the earth, but we are not allowed to destroy the earth’s ability to be fruitful.

Ecologically speaking, foolishness is the disposition to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable and expendable.

5. Act in such a way that the creatures under your care are given their needful rest.

In the ten commandments, the command for sabbath rest doesn’t just apply to humans, but to their livestock as well.

6. Act so as to care for the earth’s creatures, especially those creatures in need.

Dominion does not mean domination but responsible care.

To till (‘abad) means to serve the earth for its own sake, and to keep (samar) means to protect the earth as one caringly guards something valuable. In Aaron’s benedictory blessing, in which God is called upon to bless and keep his people (Num. 6:22–26), we catch sight of what it means to be a keeper. We are to serve the earth for its own good and protect creation as God protects us.

It is not enough merely to refrain from doing harm; in certain cases we are morally required to do good.

7. Act so as to treat others, human or nonhuman, fairly.

It is not that animals are equal to humans, but that we have certain responsibilities toward them because of our position over them.

In the face of ecological apathy, ignorance, and fear, it takes courage to persevere.

Grace and Peace

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 2 Comments

Unirii Day 2007

December 1 was the Romanian national holiday, Unirii Day, celebrating the unification of Transylvania with the rest of Romania at the end of World War I in 1918.

The biggest celebration in Romania was at Piata Unirii (Unification Square), a twenty minute walk from our apartment. The highlight was the lighting of the “largest Christmas tree in Europe,” a giant lighted metal Christmas tree outside of one of the large downtown shopping centers. There are lots of videos of the fireworks and lighting of the tree on the internet; the best I found is here. The lighting of the tree occurs at 3:28 in the video, and the grand finale (around 6:00) is also worth watching. With the entire area surrounded by high-rise concrete apartment blocks, the sound of the fireworks was almost deafening.

The best part: the lighting of the tree.

The worst part: the densest crowd we’ve ever been in. Shirley and I felt like we were going to be crushed at times, and it was the first time I’ve ever been in a crowd where if there had been a panic, people would have been trampled. We are thankful that this didn’t happen.

Grace and Peace, and happy Ziua Unirii.

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Romania | Leave a comment

Feline diet program

Cat survives 19 days with jar on head

December 2, 2007 Posted by | Fun | Leave a comment