Monday, March 31, 2008

March 31 - The Light of Christ

Overview of: John

Today's Reading:
John 1:1-18
"The Word Incarnate"

Focus Verses: John 1:9-12
9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...

Insight:
Jesus is the human manifestation of God's creative word--"all things came into being by him." Jesus is the incarnation of God's word of wisdom--"the true light that enlightens all mankind." Jesus is the embodiment of God's saving word--"in him was life." Jesus is the human face of God's regenerating word--"to those who received him, who believed in his Name, he gave to the power to become the children of God."

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus is God made flesh. I believe that the gifts of God's grace and truth are found in him. I believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. I receive him, embrace him, surrender myself to him, and look to him in faith. I look to Jesus to understand and take hold of God's truth and wisdom. I look to him for salvation and regeneration.

O God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus, into the world. Thank you for showing yourself through him. Thank you for the grace and truth we receive through him. Give me the wisdom and the will to love and follow Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is in his saving Name that I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Prov. 8:27-29
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
In Context: Prov. 8:22-36

Proverb for Today: Prov. 31:8
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."

Recommended Reading:
Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels
See Part 3, Chapter 12, p. 409 for a fantastic explanation of John 1.
by Darrell Bock

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reading Schedule for March 31 - April 5

Mar. 31 - John 1:1-18
April 1 - Matt. 2:1-23
April 2 - Luke 2:41-52
April 3 - Matthew 3:13 - 4:11
April 4 - Mark 1:9-45
April 5 - John 2:1-11


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, March 29, 2008

March 29 - Recognizing Salvation

Overview of: Luke

Today's Reading:
Luke 2:1-40
"The Birth of Jesus"

Focus Verses: Luke 2: 27b
27b When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

Insight:
Simeon was a righteous and devout man who worshiped God with his whole heart, and prayed faithfully for the consolation of Israel. When he saw the baby Jesus at the temple, he recognized the hope and peace for which he had been waiting and praying. He saw in Jesus, the fulfillment of the promised salvation the prophet Isaiah had foretold.

Response and Action:
What do I see in Jesus? Do I recognize in him the hope of peace and comfort? Do I see in him the fulfillment of God's promises to save? I believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. I believe there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father--God from God, light from light, true God from true God.

O God, give me eyes to see who Jesus is. Please help me to recognize him as the Savior you sent into the world to rescue me from the dominion of darkness. Show me the hope, healing, light, and life that are found only in him. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 9:2,6
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In Context: Isaiah 9:1-7

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:30
"The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both."

Recommended Reading:
God in the Flesh: What Speechless Lawyers, Kneeling Soldiers And Shocked Crowds Teach Us About Jesus
by Don Everts

Friday, March 28, 2008

March 28 - Hope and Light

Overview of: Luke

Today's Reading:
Luke 1:57-80
"The Birth of John the Baptist"

Focus Verses: Luke 1:76-79
76 "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

Insight:
Zechariah and Elizabeth had given up the hope of ever having a child, but God blessed them with a son. This son, John the Baptist, would prepare the way and announce the coming of the Lord Jesus to a people who had given up hope of ever seeing the Messiah.

At John's birth, Zechariah burst into a song of celebration and quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah. His song of praise was a message of hope for everyone on the verge of giving up. The long awaited Messiah was coming, and Zechariah's son would be the prophet who would go before him.

Response and Action:
My hope is in the Lord. God is faithful to keep his promises. I will cling to the hope I have in Christ Jesus--the hope of eternal life, the hope of salvation, the hope of purpose and meaning, the hope of restoration, the hope of transformation, and the hope of resurrection.

O God, my hope is in you all day long. Show me your ways; guide me in your paths, and teach me. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Make your light shine into the darkness of my life. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 9:2,6
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In Context: Isaiah 9:1-7

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:5
"Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully."

Recommended Reading:
Hope Has Its Reasons: The Search to Satisfy Our Deepest Longings
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27 - God with Me

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matthew 1:1-25
"Mary, Joseph and Jesus"

Focus Verses: Matthew 1:21-22
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

Insight:
Matthew makes more references to Old Testament texts than any other of the four Gospels. He begins his account of Jesus' life with a genealogy that traces his descent from the house of David. Matthew saw, in the birth of Jesus, a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy to the house of David (Isaiah 7-8). Jesus was the coming King, the coming Messiah, and the one who would deliver Israel from their oppression. He was "God with us."

Response and Action:
Like Matthew, I believe the Jesus is the promised savior. I believe that in his birth, God became flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth (John 1). I believe that Jesus is Immanuel--"God with us." I believe Jesus' departing promise that though he was physically returning to the Father, he would be with us--through the Holy Spirit--always to the very end of the age. I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end.

O God, thank you that though you existed in the very form of God, you did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead emptied yourself to become a man who lived among us. Jesus, thank you for the gracious work of salvation and deliverance you accomplished. Thank you for being faithfulness to obey God all the way to death, even death on the cross. I will exalt you and give you my praise. Your Name is above all other names! My knee is bowed before you. My mouth declares that you, O Christ, are LORD. Be with me this day as I commit myself to live out my faith in you. Amen.


Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 8:9-10
9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! 10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.
In Context: Isaiah 8:1-10

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:11
"Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt."

Recommended Reading:
God in the Flesh: What Speechless Lawyers, Kneeling Soldiers And Shocked Crowds Teach Us About Jesus
by Don Everts

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March 26 - Promises Kept

Overview of: Luke

Today's Reading:
Luke 1:5-52
"The Births of John and Jesus Foretold"

Focus Verses: Luke 1:16-17, 30-33
16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Insight:
The Old Testament prophets spoke of a future hope that Israel had yet to see. This hope was more than the rebuilding of Jerusalem, more than the return of the Jews from exile, and more than the restoration of the temple. They spoke of the coming Messiah who would save his people. He would bring redemption and give new hearts. He would bring freedom and eternal life. The coming Messiah would be announced by a special messenger who would shout, "Prepare the way of the Lord."

An angel appeared to Zechariah and said, "Your son is going to be the messenger who proclaims the coming of Christ." The angel Gabriel told Mary, "You will have a son--the son of the Most High God--and he will be the long awaited Savior." It's exciting to see that the first words of promise in the New Testament are the fulfillment of the last words of promise of the Old Testament.

Response and Action:
I am thankful for God's unfolding story of redemption and salvation. By faith, I embrace the promises of the prophets. By faith, I believe that Jesus is God's promised Messiah. By faith, I believe that God is present in the world today, still working toward redemption and salvation. By faith, I have given and continue to give my life to Jesus. By faith, I have entered the unfolding story of redemption, and pray that God will direct and use me for his redemptive purposes as I serve and follow Jesus.

O God, thank you for your son Jesus, who for us and for our salvation became incarnate from the virgin Mary and was made man. Thank you that for our sake, he suffered death, but rose again on the third day as the victor over death. Help me to love and follow Jesus, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Malachi 3:1
1 "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.
In Context: Malachi 3:1 - 4:6

Proverb for Today: Prov. 26:6
"Like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool."

Recommended Reading:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 25 - Drinking Living Water

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 55:1-13
"An Invitation for the Thirsty"

Focus Verses: Isaiah 55:1,6-7
1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. - - - 6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Insight:
The God who restores and saves, through the redemptive work of his Messiah, calls all who are thirsty to come to him. He calls us to seek him, and to forsake our evil ways and thoughts. He promises to pardon our sins and provide for our needs. Surely, this passage from Isaiah must have been in Jesus' mind when he said, "Let everyone who is thirsty come to me and drink."

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus is God's Messiah. I look to Jesus for redemption, for pardon, for meaning, for purpose, and for fulfillment. My thirst for a satisfying life compels me to answer Jesus' call to come to him and drink. My need for forgiveness leads me to Jesus for pardon from sin. My desire for redemption and wholeness motivates me to turn away from unrighteousness.

O God, thank you for the invitation for life that you have given me through Christ. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Satisfy the needs of my soul through the living water of Jesus. May my faith in him cause streams of living water to well up and flow out of me, that I might be a blessing to others. Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 7:37-38
37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
In Context: John 7:25-44

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:25
"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land."

Recommended Reading:
Come Thirsty: No Heart Too Dry for His Touch
by Max Lucado

Monday, March 24, 2008

March 24 - My Savior and Lord

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 53:1-12
"The Servant's Victory"

Focus Verses: Isaiah 53:11-13
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Insight:
While God's righteous servant, as foretold by Isaiah, "would pour out his life unto death" as he "bore the sins of many." He would also, after his suffering, "see the light of life and be satisfied." He would receive from God "a portion among the great." He would "divide the spoils with the strong." Jesus, the suffering Savior who died on the cross, has risen, and now reigns as Christ Victorious.

Response and Action:
Jesus is more than my Savior; he is my Lord. He not only redeems, he reigns! I will look to him not only for forgiveness and salvation, but also for his guidance and command. I will not only call him "Lord," I will strive to prove his lordship by walking in his ways and doing what he commands.

O God, thank you that Christ Jesus has conquered death. Give me the faith and surrender to embrace him as Savior. Grant me the wisdom and the will to obey him as Lord. Help me to not only hear his words, but also to put them into practice. I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Revelation 1:18
18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
In Context: Revelation 1:9-20

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:5-6
"A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers."

Recommended Reading:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Reading Schedule for March 24 - 29

Christ the Lord
is Risen Today!


Mar. 24 -
Isaiah 53:1-12
Mar. 25 - Isaiah 55:1-13
Mar. 26 - Luke 1:5-52
Mar. 27 - Matt. 1:1-25
Mar. 28 - Luke 1:57-80
Mar. 29 - Luke 2:1-40

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, March 22, 2008

March 22 - Jesus is Lord and Savior

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 52:1-15
"Salvation and God's Servant"

Focus Verses: Isaiah 52:10,13-15
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. - - - 13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness— 15 so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Insight:
The ultimate salvation for Israel would be more than the return from exile, more than the rebuilding of the temple, and more than the restoration of Jerusalem. It would be good news of peace and salvation under God's reign. But how and through whom would this salvation and peace come?

Isaiah's words about a faithful and wise servant were hard to understand. Who would this servant be? Why would suffer violence? What would kings and nations come to understand about him?

Christ's life, crucifixion, and resurrection seem to be the perfect fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. The Good News of Jesus is the ultimate salvation for all people made possible through his atoning death on the cross.

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus has conquered death and offered salvation to a people. My trust and hope are in him. I am depending on Jesus for salvation from sin, strength and guidance for life, and the promise of eternal life.

O God, thank you for Christ Jesus who has taken up my infirmities and carried my sorrows. Thank you, Lord and Savior, for bearing the punishment that has brought me peace. You were pierced and crushed for my sin; by your wounds I am healed. I exalt and worship you, Jesus, for you were lifted up on the cross, dying that I might have life. Praise the name of Jesus! Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:2
"Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life."

New Testament for Today: John 12:32-33
32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. In Context: John 12:20-36

Recommended Reading:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Friday, March 21, 2008

March 21 - Hope in the Lord

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 40:1-31
"A Promise of Hope"

Focus Verses: Isaiah 40:3-5
3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Insight:
The words of the prophet Isaiah promise something beyond the restoration of Israel. They look beyond the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They look to the salvation and hope for all humanity. They look to the time when all things will be put right. This promised hope was centered in the coming of the Christ, the Lord who would save and redeem.

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus is the Christ. I have put all my hopes for salvation and restoration in him. I will look to him for the strength, hope, and guidance I need for every day. All my aspirations for the future are resting upon my trust in him.

O God, you give strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. My hope is in Jesus. Renew my strength in him. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to soar on wings like eagles. Give me the strength to run and not grow weary. Sustain me that I might walk and not be faint. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 21:30
"There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD."

New Testament for Today: Matthew 3:1-3
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "
In Context: Matthew 3:1-17

Recommended Reading:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 20 - Sin in My Suffering

Overview of: Job

Today's Reading:
Job 42:1-17
"Job Repents in Faith"

Focus Verses: Job 42:3-6
3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Insight:
When someone is suffering, it's easy to see that person's need for comfort and help. It's not so easy to see that person's need to be confronted or corrected. Who would rebuke a person who is suffering?

It's important to remember that suffering presents unique and intense challenges and temptations. There are some sins to which we are only susceptible during times of suffering. We are tempted to reject God or blame him. We are tempted to think everything is meaningless. Subsequently, we begin to live in self-centered, bitter, or careless ways. Suffering can produce its own peculiar kind of arrogance that finds its root in a sense of unjust victimization.

When confronted by God, Job wisely recognized the subtle arrogance at work in his suffering heart. He stopped shaking his fist at God, and came to the startling epiphany: "I am suffering for reasons too awesome and mysterious for me to know." Job humbled himself in repentance and entrusted his suffering to God. This kind of trust and humility is perhaps the deepest and most profound expression of faith any human can offer to God.

Response and Action:
I will entrust my suffering and hardship to God. I choose to believe that my life—including my suffering--has meaning, even if that meaning is too wonderful for me to comprehend. I will examine my heart in times of trial and guard against the unique sins suffering can provoke in me. I will humble myself before God.

O God, forgive me when trials and problems get the best of me. Help me to draw near to you, and to trust you with my sorrows and difficulties. Help me to have a thankful heart, and as I lift up my requests to you, guard my heart and mind with the peace of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:27
"The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being."

New Testament for Today: Phil. 4:6-7
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.
In Context: Phil. 4:4-9

Recommended Reading:
Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 19 - Trusting in the Dark

Overview of: Job

Today's Reading:
Job 30:11-31; 38:1-41
"Tough Questions"

Focus Verses: Job 30:20; 38:1-4
30:20 "I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.
38:
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand."

Insight:
No one can fault Job for questioning God. Job had reverence for God and did his best to lead a righteous life, but his life had collapsed into loss, pain, fear, and suffering. He began doubting God after the constant verbal barrage from friends and family who were convinced he was being judged by God for something he had done. Job’s doubts, fear, and anger intensified when it seemed to him that the Lord would never answer his cries for help

When God finally did answer Job, it was in the form of a long list of questions. God essentially said, "Job, I know you don't understand what is going on in your life, but have you thought about how many other things you don't understand? Do you trust me to know what's going on? If you don't trust me, who will you trust? Who else has the answers?"

Response and Action:
It’s hard to live with unanswered questions. It's difficult to be crying out in the darkness of hardship, and yet trust that God knows and cares. But doubting or denying God will not remove the darkness. In fact, it makes the darkness even darker because now I am alone in my doubts.

There is so much I don't understand, why should I be surprised that I cannot understand my own struggles and difficulties. Would denying God give me a more satisfactory answer to my questions? Do my problems make a case for there not being a God, or do they underscore my need to humble myself before God, trusting he knows my needs and can redeem my life?

O God, you know all things; but I don't. You can do anything; no plan of yours can ever be shaken. There is so much I do not understand. Life is too big for me. Hear my cries and come to my aid, O Lord. Show me your ways, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me. Give me the strength to trust in you, to wait upon you, to persevere and cling to you, even when life is more than I can bear and you seem silent and distant. You are God, my Savior. My hope is in you all day long. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:8
"He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers."

New Testament for Today: 2 Corinthians 1:9-10
9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us..."
In Context: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Recommended Reading:
Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 18 - What's in It for Me?

Overview of: Job

Today's Reading:
Job 1:1 – 2:10
"Job's Faith Is Tested"

Focus Verses: Job 1:9-11
9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

Insight:
The writer of Job sets the scene of Job's story with Satan making an accusation against God. He says, "The only reason people serve and worship you, God, is because you bribe them with blessing and comfort."

Response and Action:
Why do I honor and praise God? Is it because he is God--my maker, the giver of life, and only wise almighty sovereign? Or is it because I am looking to him for health, success, prosperity, and comfort? Does God have to buy my praise? Would I honor him and acknowledge him if there was no obvious benefit in it for me?

The Scriptures, my life experience, and the testimony of others show me that God does, indeed, bless those who trust in him. They also teach me, however, that a person who truly trusts God will give him honor and praise even in times of suffering. God is God regardless of my circumstances. The truest praise and deepest reverence I can offer God is the worship, faith, and loyalty I give him when there is no apparent benefit for myself.

O God, you give and take away. Blessed be your name in times of plenty. Blessed be your name in times of need. My lips will praise you in times of prosperity, and in times of trial and loss. I want to exalt you whether by life, or by death. Teach me the secret of being content in any and every situation. I pray this through Christ Jesus, my Lord, who in faith looked past his trials and hardship to the eternal joy set before him, and endured the cross, scorning its shame. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:14
"A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?"

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 4:19
19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
In Context: 1 Peter 4:1-19

Recommended Reading:
Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Monday, March 17, 2008

March 17 - When Faith Seems Futile

Overview of: Malachi

Today's Reading:
Malachi 2:17 – 3:18
"Judgment will Come"

Focus Verses: Malachi 3:14-17
14 "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.' " 16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 17 "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.

Insight:
Even though many had returned to Jerusalem, and the Temple been rebuilt, and the city walls repaired, life for the exiles was still far from the glorious restoration spoken about by the pre-exilic prophets. Jerusalem was nothing more a small and struggling enclave in the remote regions of the Persian empire. It was tough situation and many people lost sight of God. Evil and arrogant people who boldly challenged the truth of God prospered and succeeded. Faithfulness to God seemed futile, but Malachi proclaimed that God would one day set things right. Those who were faithful would, in the end, be God's treasured possession.

Response and Action:
Some days it's easy to be overwhelmed with life's struggles and injustices. Faith in God can seem futile when those without faith--or worse yet, those who mock it--seem to rule the day. It's understandable to ask, "What good is my faith and righteousness?" But God promises he will one day set things right. He promises that those who remain faithful through thick and thin will eventually experience his compassion and know they are his treasured possession.

O God, help me to press on to take hold of all you have promised. Give me a faith that perseveres through trial. Give me eyes to see hope for tomorrow beyond the trials of today. Give me peace that passes understanding, and remind me that I am yours, that you love and value me. Help me to see the futility of life without you. When following you seems costly, remind me that not following you costs even more. Amen, even so, come quickly Lord!

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:5
"The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished."

New Testament for Today: Revelation 22:12-13
12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
In Context: Revelation 22

Recommended Reading:
Evil And the Justice of God
by N. T. Wright

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reading Schedule for March 17 - 22

Mar. 17 - Malachi 2:17 – 3:18
Mar. 18 - Job 1:1 – 2:10
Mar. 19 - Job 30:11-31; 38:1-41
Mar. 20 - Job 42:1-17
Mar. 21 - Isaiah 40:1-31
Mar. 22 - Isaiah 52:1-15


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, March 15, 2008

March 15 - Trials Turned to Triumph

Overview of: Esther

Today's Reading:
Esther 7:1 – 8:17
"Threats Turned to Blessing"

Focus Verses: Esther 8:15-16
15 Mordecai left the king's presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.

Insight:
Mordecai and Esther were faithful to God and bold enough to take a stand for their people. Their trust in God proved to be well placed, as Haman's plot to destroy the Jews was turned back against him. Instead of destruction, the Jews experienced blessing.

Response and Action:
I will strive to be faithful to God and faithful to his people. I trust that God will bring me through any hardships or threats. I will be open and bold in my commitment to Christ, believing that his promise to protect and bless is greater than any threat or danger I face.

O God, give me the courage and faith to persevere in the face of adversity. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, strengthen me, guide me, and transform me, that I might stand firm in times of trouble. Give me the trust and confidence to look forward to the day when burdens will give way to blessing. I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:3
"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good."

New Testament for Today: James 5:10-11
10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
In Context: James 5

Recommended Reading:
Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day
by James Emery White

Friday, March 14, 2008

March 14 - My Life and Times

Overview of: Esther

Today's Reading:
Esther 3:1 – 4:17
"Haman's Plot against the Jews"

Focus Verses: Esther 4:12
12 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

Insight:
When Esther was swept up in the Persian court officials’ search for a new queen, Mordecai must have been mortified. Why would God allow a young daughter of Abraham to be drawn into circumstances so abhorrent to devout Jews? But later, when Haman's plan to destroy and oppress the Jews became known, Mordecai could see a good reason for God to allow Esther's situation. "Your opportunity to speak up for the Jews might just be the very reason you have come to your royal position," he told her.

Response and Action:
It's good for me to consider the ways God may be at work in the details of my daily life. My whole perception of my circumstances is changed by asking, "How could God use this to accomplish his good purpose?"

Which of the conversations, opportunities, relationships, responsibilities, or problems of my today will be used by God for some greater purpose tomorrow? I don’t know, and because I don’t, I will commit every detail of my life to God, always remembering that small details in God's hand have big possibilities.

O God, help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Open my eyes to your presence and work in my life. Give me the faith to see how you can use my words, my relationships, and my struggles. Open my mind to the possibilities and reasons you have for me at my workplace, in my home, around my neighborhood, in my family, and in my church. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Philippians 1:12-14
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
In Context: Phil. 1:12-30

Recommended Reading:
Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day
by James Emery White

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13 - Threads in God's Hand

Overview of: Esther

Today's Reading:
Esther 2:1-23
"Esther Chosen as Queen"

Focus Verses: Esther 2:10,17,21b-22
10 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. 17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 21b ...Two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.

Insight:
Out of all the young girls rounded up by Xerxes' court officials, a young Jewish girl, born during the exile, is chosen to be the new queen. Her adopted father (an older cousin), who is keeping an eye on the situation, just happens to be in the right place at the right time to overhear a plot to kill the King. Both of these life events seem pretty amazing in and of themselves, but as the story of Esther unfolds, we will see that these are just two threads in a much bigger tapestry God is weaving.

Response and Action:
I will live one day at a time trusting that God is at work for my future and for his good purposes. It's hard to know how the events of today will be woven into my future. Some things that seem important to me today may end up forgotten. Some things may be the just beginning of some bigger part of my unfolding story. Will someone I meet today become play an important role in my future? Will something I hear today turn out to be a crucial to me in years to come? Who knows? God knows. I will live for God today--seeking his will, living by his word, putting him first, giving Him honor--because I trust my future is in his hands.

O God, search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. Help me to see and turn away from any hurtful or sinful way. I trust you with all my tomorrows. My future hope is in you. I will follow Jesus, trusting that you can use every step I take today to bring me safely into the bright tomorrow you have for those who love you. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:15
"Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard."

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 2:7-9
7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"...
In Context: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Recommended Reading:
Esther: Character Under Pressure
by Patty Pell