Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reading Schedule for October 1 - 6

Oct. 1: Gen. 18:1-15
Oct. 2: Gen. 18:16-33
Oct. 3: Gen. 19:1-29
Oct. 4: Gen. 21:1-21
Oct. 5: Gen. 22:1-19
Oct. 6: Gen. 24:1-30, 50-66

You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through key scripture passages from Genesis through Revelation. Click here to download your copy of the Useful Breath Reading Schedule for 2007-08.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

September 29 - The One Who Hears and Sees

Today's Reading:
Genesis 16:1-16
"Hagar and Ishmael"

Focus Verses: Genesis 16:13-16
13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. 15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Insight:
Hagar was brought front and center into the story of God's plan when Abram and Sarai struggled and stumbled with understanding God's promise to give them a son. They took matters into their own hands and tried to produce an heir through Sarai's maidservant. Not surprisingly, things went sour between Sarai and Hagar. Sarai wanted Hagar's child, and Hagar despised Sarai.

God, however, looked with compassion upon all concerned. He did not back away from his promise to Abram and Sarai, but neither did he disregard the needs and future of Hagar. Instead, God promised that her son, Ishmael, would also become a great nation--though not the son of the covenant he had made with Abraham.

God is compassionate toward his people even as they struggle to understand how to live by faith. Even when they fail, God's faithfulness and grace abound. Even their mistakes are redeemable by God. The name Ishmael means "God hears." The name Beer Lahai Roi means "the well of the One who sees me."

Response and Action:
I need to remember that God is full of grace and compassion. Even if I fail, he will be faithful to me and redeem my failures for good. God gives direction and hope to all who look to him in faith. I will trust God because he hears me and sees me.

O Lord, provide for my needs and protect me from discouragement. When I fall, please pick me up. Redeem me from my sins and mistakes as I stumble in the way of faith. Protect me from the failures and sins of others. Be my strength, my savior, and my guide. I pray through Christ Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:13
"The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both."

New Testament for Today: 1 John 5:14
14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
In Context: 1 John 5:13-21

Resources:
Genesis: The Story We Haven't Heard
by Paul Carlton Borgman

Friday, September 28, 2007

September 28 - Believing God

Today's Reading:
Genesis 15:1-21
"God's Covenant with Abram"

Focus Verses: Genesis 15:6
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Insight:
Abram believed God's promises, but this did not stop him from asking God the honest questions he had in his heart and mind--"How can I have an heir if I have no children?" (v.5), "How can I be sure that I will possess the land?" (v.8).

In answer to these questions, God instructed Abram to take animals and sacrifice them for a covenant ceremony. In the ancient tribal world, when two parties made a solemn promise to each other, they would cut animals into halves. The person making the promise would then pass between the pieces of the sacrifice. The meaning of this ritual act was essentially, "If I don't fulfill this promise, may I be torn into pieces as these animals."

God used an ancient ritual Abram was accustomed to, and entered into it. Abram had a vision of God's presence (represented by "a smoking firepot with a flaming torch") passing between the pieces of the sacrifice. This solemn vision strengthened Abram's confidence that God would fulfill the promises he had made.

Response and Action:
Even as a believer, I will not hesitate to lift up my questions and doubts to God. In order to know and understand God's promises, I will commit myself to read and apply God's Word. I will ask God to confirm my faith through the everyday ways he blesses, protects, guides, and sustains me.

Where is my faith? Do the choices and actions of my life indicate a trust in God? What are the questions I have about God's promises to me? What has God done to bolster my confidence in the promises of the Gospel?

Even as a believer, I will not hesitate to lift up my questions and doubts to God. In order to know and understand God's promises, I will commit myself to reading and applying God's Word as it is given to me in the Bible. I will ask God to confirm my faith through the everyday ways he blesses, protects, guides, and sustains me.

O Lord, I believe. Help me grow in my faith. When I have honest doubts and questions, remind me to offer them up to you. Show yourself to me, O God, and teach me your ways. With every step I take in following you, increase my confidence to take the next. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:14
"Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble."

New Testament for Today: Romans 4:23-24
23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
In Context: Romans 4:13-25

Resources:
Genesis: The Story We Haven't Heard
by Paul Carlton Borgman

Thursday, September 27, 2007

September 27 - Worship and Trust

Today's Reading:
Genesis 13:1-18
"Abram and Lot Separate"

Focus Verses: Gen. 13:8-9, 14-17
8 So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left." - - - 14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."

Insight:
The account of Abram and Lot going their separate ways begins and ends with Abram building altars to the Lord and looking to God. His worship and his trust go hand in hand. Faith in God is strengthened by a life of devotion, worship, prayer, and thanksgiving.

When their families and possessions become to large to manage together, Abram offers Lot the first choice of where he would like to go. Lot seems to grab for himself what he thinks will be the best and most promising option. Abram trusts God to provide for him, and God does not disappoint.

Response and Action:
My time spent in worship and devotion to God will strengthen my ability to trust in him. Living out trust my trust in God is an act of worship. Trusting God to provide for me helps me avoid conflict and petty quarreling with others. I don't have to fight and grab for my own interests if I truly believe God is watching out for me.

O Lord, help me to trust in you with all my heart and to not lean on my own understanding. May my worship before you become the solid foundation for the way I live. Instead of clawing and grabbing for myself, teach me to trust in you for the things I need. Help me to acknowledge you in every circumstance. Make my paths straight, and help me to live in peace with others as I believe you are watching over me and will be faithful to provide for me. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:19
"As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man."

New Testament for Today: Philippians 4:6,7
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In Context: Philippians 4:2-9

Resources:
Genesis: The Story We Haven't Heard
by Paul Carlton Borgman

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September 26 - The Road of Faith

Today's Reading:
Gen. 12:1-20
"God Calls Abram"

Focus Verses: Gen. 12:1-3
1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Insight:
In the story of the Tower of Babel we saw the human tendency to band together for safety, power, and self-preservation. God's call to Abram asks him to do act against this natural tendency--to do something new, go to a place he doesn't know, put himself at risk, and trust God to protect and bless. God promised to show Abram where to go, to bless him, to turn his descendants into a great nation, and ultimately to bless "all peoples on earth" through him.

The road of faith was bumpy for Abram, there were many unknowns and fearful encounters with powerful people. Abram, like all of us, struggled to learn how much God can be trusted to keep his promises. When Abram looked to himself for safety, God's promise was in jeopardy (it's difficult to be a father of a great nation if your wife is given to someone else). When God intervened to protect Abram and Sarai, the path to God's promise for Abram was restored.

Abram fumbled along the way as he learned to trust, but God was faithful through the stumbles and falls. Abram had true faith in God, so God was faithful to help him learn to live out his faith.


Response and Action:
God calls me to trust and follow him. His blessing in my life is part of his larger plan to bless all people. His way may not be the safest or most comfortable, but it is the way of faith and promise. When I take my life and safety into my own hands, I am in danger of losing God's plan and promises. If I trust and obey him with my whole heart, his blessing and destiny for me is secure. Even if I stumble, God will be faithful to help me learn to live out my faith.

O Lord, thank you for the love, promise, and blessing you have for me. Teach me to follow you and to live for you in faith. When I stumble, pick me up and deepen my trust. Make my path straight as I acknowledge you in every day and in every way. As I answer your call and walk in your ways, us my life to bless others around me. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 26:12
"Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

New Testament for Today: Romans 4:16
16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
In Context: Romans 4:16-25

Resources:
Genesis: The Story We Haven't Heard
by Paul Carlton Borgman

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September 25 - Selfish Ambition

Today's Reading:
Gen. 11:1-9
"The Tower of Babel"

Focus Verses: Gen. 11:1-9
8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Insight:
The motivation of those who were building the tower was centered in themselves--"Let's make a name for ourselves." They were trying to preserve the power and strength that comes with numbers, but their motive for strength and power was selfish. As language and dialects diversified and humans spread out and scattered into different regions of the world (languages leading to scattering--scattering leading to more languages), the struggle for power and dominance was scattered too.

God had promised Noah to never destroy mankind again, and now God intervened at Babel to decentralize humanity's power and knowledge (v.5), and slow down the self-destructiveness of "progress" rooted in a selfish grab by a few for control of the many.

The human tendency to selfishly work for power and control over others is alive and well today. It's easily seen in the top news stories of every hour. While the barriers of different languages and cultures are often seen as an obstacle to human potential, I wonder how many times in the course of human history those "barriers" have actually worked to save humanity from itself! How many tyrannical rulers and despotic regimes have ultimately fallen because languages, people groups, and cultures are just too scattered and too complex for any one person or nation to take absolute control?

Response and Action:
I need to be on guard against selfish grabs for power. I do not want to be guided by a desire for control or selfish gain. I want honoring God to be my motivation, not "making a name for myself." I want to serve the best interests of others, not control others to serve my own selfish interests.

O Lord, thank you for all the times you save us from ourselves. Help me, like Jesus, to be willing to lower myself to serve and to save others. Help me to always humble myself before you and to trust that you will lift me up in the times and in the ways that are the best for me, and the most honoring to you. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:6
"Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men..."

New Testament for Today: Philippians 2:3,4
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
In Context: Philippians 2:1-18

Resources:
Genesis: The Story We Haven't Heard
by Paul Carlton Borgman

Monday, September 24, 2007

September 24 - Living the Rainbow

Today's Reading:
Genesis 9:1-17
"God's Promise to Noah"

Focus Verses: Gen. 9:12-16
12 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

Insight:
As God had instructed Adam in the beginning (Genesis 1), he now instructed Noah and his family to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. In the Garden, God had given every plant for food, but here in the account of Noah's new start after the flood, God gives every living thing for food (changing the relationship between humans and animals).

God warns against the taking of human life because "in the image of God has God made man." One who takes another's life will lose his own.

God makes a covenant with Noah and all life on earth, to never again destroy them. The rainbow is a constant reminder to humanity and to God of this promise.

Response and Action:
All life is precious. Human life is especially precious because it somehow reflects the very image of God. A rainbow is a reminder of God's promise of good will toward all life on earth. As a person made in God's image, the rainbow should remind me of my responsibility and good will toward all life. I should have a reverence for human life and a sense of respectful stewardship for all living things.

O Lord, thank you for life. Shape and guide my attitudes and actions that I might truly value, with reverence for you, the lives of all people as they are made in your image. Direct my heart and mind to respect and care for all living things, as all life is precious. Thank you for the salvation and life you have offered to all people through Christ. Thank you that you are reconciling all of creation to yourself through Jesus. It's in his name I pray, Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:17
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD."

New Testament for Today: Colossians 1:19,20
19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
In Context: Colossians 1:15-23

Resources:
Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship
by Fred Van Dyke, David C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon, and Raymond H. Brand

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Reading Schedule for Sept. 24 - 29

Sept. 24: Gen. 9:1-17

Sept. 25:
Gen. 11:1-9

Sept. 26:
Gen. 12:1-20

Sept. 27:
Gen. 13:1-18

Sept. 28:
Gen. 15:1-21

Sept. 29:
Gen. 16:1-16

Download the Useful Breath Reading Schedule for 2007-08. Six readings each week will take you through key passages of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation by August of 2008.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

September 22 - Worship and Humility

Today's Reading:
Genesis 8:1-22
"Back on Dry Land"

Focus Verses: Gen. 8:20-22
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. 22 "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

Insight:
In reverence before God, Noah built an altar and offered sacrifices. No doubt, he was very thankful for being saved from the flood, but he was also very likely humbly recognizing that even though he had been saved, he too was a sinner. Though God was pleased with Noah's act of worship, the reality of the human inclination toward evil could not be ignored. God, however, determined to never again destroy all living creatures or curse the land because of the sins of humankind.

Response and Action:
Through worship, I can demonstrate my gratitude and humility before God. I need to be honest about the ways my heart is inclined toward sin. I need God to save me from the consequences of sin. Even more, I need God to change my heart so that it is inclined toward righteousness. I will worship God and thank him for salvation. I will humble myself before God and ask him to transform me.

O Lord, thank you for the many ways you save and preserve my life. Help me to offer myself to you as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you. Don't let the world squeeze me into its mold, but instead, by your grace, transform and renew my heart and mind, that the life I live (my attitudes, words, deeds, and choices) might be a spiritual act of worship. Amen

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:4
"Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life."

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:1
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
In Context: Romans 12:1-3; Hebrews 11:1-7

Resources:
The Life You've Always Wanted
by John Ortberg

Friday, September 21, 2007

September 21 - Starting Over

Today's Reading:
Genesis 6:1 - 7:24
"The Flood"

Focus Verses: Gen. 6:5-9
5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

Insight:
We've barely gotten a start in the Bible's account of mankind's beginning (the genesis) and the creator is ready to start over! The wickedness of humanity had so quickly become so great that God was grieved to have created them. Noah, however, stood out among the people of his time and found favor with God. He walked with God, turned away from the evil around him, and pursued righteousness.

Response and Action:
What are the inclinations and thoughts of my heart? Do I grieve the heart of God? Do I turn away from the wickedness? I need God to flood my life and wipe out the wickedness in me. I need to be made new and walk with God in righteousness. Even though evil is so prevalent in my time, I can be different and pursue righteousness. Jesus Christ has made a way for me to have new life!

O Lord, I do not want to grieve your heart. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Thank you for giving me a new start through Jesus. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen

Proverb for Today: Prov. 21:29,30
"A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways. There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD."

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 3:18
18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
In Context: 1 Peter 3:18-20; Romans 6:1-4

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Thursday, September 20, 2007

September 20 - Sin and Strife

Today's Reading:
Genesis 4:1-24
"Cain and Abel"

Focus Verses: Gen. 4:8-12
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" 10 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

Insight:
Sin not only separates us from God, as we saw in Genesis 3, it also separates us from each other. Sin and selfishness are so destructive to the human heart that even efforts to know and worship God can result in social strife and violence. When envy, anger, pride, and sin master the human heart, the result is conflict, hate, and bitter competition. Instead of living in harmony with each other, people become disconnected--restless wanderers fearful of others.

This animosity gets passed on from generation to generation. The strife of two brothers becomes the strife of cities. The vengeance of seven people becomes the violence and murder of seventy-seven. Only in Christ Jesus can we find the healing and grace we need to be right with God and right with others. Only with humility and surrender to God can we break the chain of retaliation and hostility that divide us as individuals, people groups, and nations.


Response and Action:
I need to recognize the ways sin, jealousy, lies, pride, and selfishness destroy my relationships with others. If I want to understand and overcome conflict among people--nations, families, neighbors, religions, siblings, races--I need to recognize the underlying causes of sin. When I am in conflict with others, I will humble myself and prayerfully examine my heart and mind for sin. If I want to live in harmony with others and be a voice and influence for peace, I must seek to be right with God. I must love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, soul, mind and strength if I am to be able to love my neighbor as myself.

O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is despair, hope; where there is doubt, faith; where there is darkness, light. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that I receive, it is in pardoning that I receive pardon, it is dying that I am born to eternal life. Amen

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:3
"It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel."

New Testament for Today: Matthew 18:21-22
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
In Context: Matthew 18:15-35

Resources:
Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community
by Robert Linthicum

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 19 - Separation from God

Today's Reading:
Genesis 3:1-24
"The Fall"

Focus Verses: Gen. 3:23-24
23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Insight:
This short passage is absolutely packed with important things to think about. How did sin begin? What are the consequences of sin? What is the nature of temptation? What is the hope of redemption?

It's clear that sin damaged humankind's relationship with God. Instead of enjoying God's presence in the cool of the garden, and being glad to hear his voice, Adam and Eve felt naked and afraid and hid from him. Though God demonstrated care for them and gave them garments to wear, he banished them from the Garden forever, told them how terribly difficult their lives would be apart from him, and how they would eventually die.

But even in this sad story of humanity's fall, there is a hint of hope and redemption. In God's curse of the serpent, we see the promise that one day a descendant of Eve would crush the serpent's head. Christians believe that promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as he conquered death and rose from the grave and broke the curse of sin.

Response and Action:
I do not want to disobey God or disregard his word. I want to be careful to not be deceived by anything or anyone who distorts what God has said. I will guard against questioning God's truthfulness or faithfulness. I want to avoid the consequences of sin. I am thankful that Jesus has overcome sin and death and gives me hope and purpose for life.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and help me to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, and care for my body. Help me to put my trust in you and to have faith in your goodness and saving grace toward me. Amen

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:16
"He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die."

New Testament for Today: Romans 5:17
17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
In Context: Romans 5:16 - 19

Resources:
The Smell of Sin: And the Fresh Air of Grace
by Don Everts

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September 18 - Made for Fellowship

Today's Reading:
Genesis 2:4 - 25
"Adam and Eve"

Focus Verses: Gen. 2:18-22
18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Insight:
God looked at all he created and said, "It is good." But when God looked at the man he created, he said, "It is not good for him to be alone." Human beings were created with the capacity and need for fellowship. It is not good for us to be alone. We were made for social interaction--to give to others and to receive from others. The relationship of husband and wife is the closest relationship two human beings can have--"bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." The human experience is meant to be shared. That is why it is so important for us to protect and nurture community, family, and marriage.

Response and Action:
I have been made for relationship with other people. I will seek out relationships that nurture and support me. I will give thanks for the wonderful people God has brought into my life. I will make every effort to be a blessing to people around me. I will look to God for the guidance and strength I need for every relationship.

O God, thank you for the blessings of relationship. Thank you that am not alone. Thank you for my wife, for my family, for my church, and for my friends. Help me to honor you and to bless others--as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, pastor, and colleague. Through Christ, I pray. Amen

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:22
"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:17-18
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
In Context: Romans 12:1-21

Resources:
The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends
by Richard Lamb

Monday, September 17, 2007

September 17 - Caretakers in God's Image

Today's Reading:
Genesis 1:1 - 2:3
"The Beginning"

Focus Verses: Gen. 1:26-28
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Insight:
God created the heavens and earth with order and with purpose. Humanity was made in God's image and given the special calling of being caretakers of the earth.

The power of humanity in the world is obvious. Among all the creatures on earth, human beings are clearly the ones who are subduing and ruling it. From technology, politics, and communication, to knowledge, art, religion, culture, and environment, what humans do has a huge impact on God's creation. That is why it is so important for us to seriously consider the ways our choices and actions impact our world.

God made us in his image and called us to be caretakers of his creation. The impact we have on our world should be guided by our desire to honor and serve our maker.

Response and Action:
If I believe that I am created in God's image, the way I live should reflect that image. I should care for creation and live within it in a way that honors the Creator. As a human being made in God's image, I have a greater capacity to affect the world around me than plants and animals. This means I have a greater responsibility.

O God, help me to be a good steward of all you have given to me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to honor you in every attitude, word, deed, choice, and action. Help me to impact the world for good. As I am made in your image, help me to leave a trace of your image upon all I touch whether that be relationships, community, culture, or the environment. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:5
"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."

New Testament for Today: Colossians 1:1-17
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
In Context: Colossians 1:3-23

Resources:
The Care of Creation: Focusing Concern and Action
by R. J. Berry

Sunday, September 16, 2007

September 16 - God the Seeker

The new Useful Breath Reading Schedule for 2007-08 will begin tomorrow, September 17. Download the complete plan by clicking the link in the right column. Six readings each week will take you through key passages of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation by August of 2008.

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:153 - 176
N.T. - Luke 15

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:174-176

174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. 175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. 176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

Insight:
Even those who delight in God's law can stray from it. Getting lost doesn't mean that you've forgotten God's commands. The psalmist asks God to seek him out when he strays, and to bring him back to the truth.

Response and Action:
Knowing God's word helps me know how to live and what choices to make. It also helps me know when I have strayed or lost my way. I will seek God with all my heart, but I will also ask God to seek and save me!

O God, teach me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. When I stray, O Lord, please seek me and bring me back to the green pastures and still waters of your truth and blessing. Thank you for Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. Amen.

Proverbs: 16:17
"The highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life."

Resources:
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour
by Gordon Fee

Saturday, September 15, 2007

September 15 - God's Help and My Hope

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:129 -152
N.T. - Hebrews 4:1-13

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:145-147

145 I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. 146 I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.

Insight:
Calling for help and heeding God's Word go hand in hand. The psalmist called out to God for an answer, realizing that the answer would require obedience. He called out for salvation, understanding that he must keep God's statutes. He cried to God for help, and at the same time put his hope in the promise and direction of the Word.

Response and Action:
As a person to calls out to God for help, I must also obey the direction of God's Word. As a person who looks to God for salvation, I must be ready to live out my salvation by keeping God's Word. In order to live according to God's Word, I will need to read it, delight in it, meditate up on it, know it, respond to it, follow it, and hope in it.

O God, the unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Give me a heart that longs for your words and a mouth that is ready to speak them. Direct my footsteps according to your word that no sin may rule over me. Your words are forever right; give me understanding that I may live by them. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 15:32-33
"He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor."

Resources:
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour
by Gordon Fee

Friday, September 14, 2007

September 14 - The Right Path

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:105 - 128
N.T. - Titus 2

Focus Verses:
Psalm 119:127-128
127 Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, 128 and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.

Insight:
The psalmist considered God's word to be right and more precious than gold. It follows, then, that everything that anything that led him astray from God's commands, he considered to be worthless. Anything that contradicted God's precepts, he considered to be wrong.

Response and Action:
If I am to accept God's word as true, I will have to reject things that are contrary to it. If I consider God's word to be true and valuable, I will have to consider things that counter it to be false and worthless. To truly follow God's word, I will need to forsake everything that contradicts it.

O God, help me to know and understand your Holy Word. Give me a love for truth and the testimony of Scripture. Help me to value the Bible and to demonstrate my love for your Word as I study and apply it every day. Amen.

Proverbs: 14:8
"The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception."

Resources:
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour
by Gordon Fee

Sunday, September 09, 2007

September 9 - Sweet Are Your Words

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:81 - 104
N.T. - 1 Peter 2:1-3

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:97, 103-104

97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Insight:
Bible reading should not be approached as a mere duty or study assignment. The psalmist loved the Scriptures and savored them like honey. When something is sweet and desirable it is approached as a joy and privilege. Those who delight in the richness of the Word gain understanding for life and find every right path.

Response and Action:
I am thankful for the Bible and I read it because I want to! I want to enjoy and delight in the precious gift of God's Word. I cannot think of anything sweeter than finding my way in life and growing in wisdom.

O God, thank you for the sweetness and goodness of your Word. Help me to delight in it each day. Lead me and bless me as I do. Amen.

Proverbs: 8:10-11
"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her."

Resources:
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour
by Gordon Fee

Saturday, September 08, 2007

September 8 - My Ways and My Maker

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:57 - 80
N.T. - 2 Timothy 3:10-16

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:59, 73

59 I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. 73 Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.

Insight:
Living according to God's Word is sensible! In verses 59 and 73, the psalmist gives two very practical reasons for doing so. First (v. 59), he considered the ways he was out of step with the instruction of Scripture and decided that living by God's statutes had better results. Secondly (v.73), he concludes that since God was his maker, God's commands would be the best guidance he could get.

Response and Action:
First, I need to give consideration to my ways. How would my life be better if I turned my steps to follow the instruction of the Bible? What difficulties and burdens in life are the result of failing to follow God? Secondly, since God is my maker, I need to trust him to know what is best for me. Doesn't it make sense to listen to my creator?

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and lead me. Teach, rebuke, correct, and train me through the wisdom of your inspired and useful Word. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 8:10-11
"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her."

Resources:
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour
by Gordon Fee

Friday, September 07, 2007

September 7 - However, Wherever, Whenever

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:33 - 56
N.T. - Phil. 4:4 - 13

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:50-55

50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. 51 The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. 52 I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them. 53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law. 54 Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. 55 In the night I remember your name, O LORD, and I will keep your law.

Insight:

The psalmist found God's Word to be a source of encouragement and hope in every circumstance, place, or time. In suffering, God's promises preserved and sustained him. In the face of mocking and wickedness, God's ancient laws gave comfort and direction. Whether at home or traveling, God's decrees were like a song in his heart. Night or day, the Word filled his thoughts and brought the Lord's name to mind.

Response and Action:
Reading and meditating on God's Word makes me ready to face every situation. No matter what my circumstance, no matter where I am, no matter what time of day it is, God's Word will sustain me, direct me, put a song in my heart, and bring to mind thoughts of God and his goodness.

O God, I long for your Word. Help me to hide it in my heart that it might sustain and direct me everyday, everywhere, and in every circumstance. Amen.

Proverbs: 7:2-3
"Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."

Resources:
Transforming Bible Study: Understanding Scripture Like You've Never Read It Before
by Bob Grahmann

Thursday, September 06, 2007

September 6 - Strength, Truth, and Freedom

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 119:17-32
N.T. - 1 John 2:1-8

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:9-11

28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. 29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. 30 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. 31 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. 32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Insight:
Taking time to read Scripture and meditate on it gives strength in times of weariness, and moral clarity in the face of lies. Running the path of God's commands leads to a heart that is free.

Response and Action:
Life is draining and demanding; I will look to God's Word as a source of strength. The world is filled with lies and deceit; I will look to the Bible for guidance and wisdom. My daily path is filled with snares and burdens; I will look to the words of Scripture to find freedom and peace for my heart and mind.

O God, by the power and grace of your Spirit, bless me and sustain me as I take time to meditate upon your Word each day. Grant me strength when I am weary. Give me joy in times of sorrow. Give me wisdom to discern what is true. Give me freedom as I follow your commands. I pray in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Proverbs: 6:22-23
"When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life..."

Resources:
Transforming Bible Study: Understanding Scripture Like You've Never Read It Before
by Bob Grahmann