Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 30 - Justice Today

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 25:31-46
"The Sheep and the Goats"

Focus Verses: Matt. 25:31-32
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

I am currently reading N. T. Wright's new book, Surprised by Hope. Yesterday I read chapter 9 ("Jesus, the Coming Judge"). Early in the chapter, Wright says, "The picture of Jesus as the coming judge is the central feature of another absolutely vital and nonnegotiable Christian belief: that there will indeed be a judgment in which the creator God will set the world right once and for all." This judgment, he explains, is part of the Good News because we will all be delivered from "a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression.”

Those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus, and have embraced his agenda for the world, have already begun to participate in the redemptive work the kingdom. As followers of Jesus we are, today, bringing hope to the "least of these." We are, today, standing in opposition to systematic injustice, violence, and pride. We are his sheep, we hear his voice (John 10), and we follow his lead today. We are committed to Jesus, and so we anticipate his coming to judge because we see it as the ultimate realization of the Good News.

Response and Action:
I must live the Good News of Jesus today. Because Jesus is my king, I must commit myself to the work of his kingdom. He is my shepherd, so I will follow where he leads. I must oppose sin, and unrighteousness of every kind: injustice, disregard for the poor, violence, marginalization of minorities, and abuse of the environment. I must live with a concern for the lost, the poor, the sick, the hurting, the forgotten, and the abused.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as myself. Give me a heart for righteousness and a compassion for the oppressed. Help me to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with you. May your kingdom come--your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Through Christ Jesus, who will one day judge the living and the dead, and whose kingdom will have no end, Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Ezekiel 34:15-17
15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. 17 " 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.
In Context: Ezekiel 34

Proverb for Today: Prov. 30:5

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

Recommended Reading:
Surprised by Hope
by N. T. Wright

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 29 - Watchful, Faithful, and Ready

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 25:1-30
"Parables: Lamps and Talents"

Focus Verses: Matt. 25:13, 29
13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

29 "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

The two parables in today's reading have been interpreted most often in the light of the second coming of Christ. Of course, for anyone who believes in God, the ideas of being watchful and faithful have much broader application and importance. Had the first century Jewish leaders been more watchful and faithful, they would have recognized Jesus as the Christ. And today, if followers of Jesus are going to be ready for opportunity, service, hardship, death, and crisis, they must be watchful and faithful.

Response and Action:
I want to approach life with thoughtfulness and readiness. I will live with reverence toward God, think ahead, and give prayerful consideration to my actions. I will remember that my thoughts and actions have consequences, and hold my choices up to the light of God's word. I will strive to be a good steward, to be faithful with all God has given to me, using it for his purposes and for his glory. I want to be faithful to Christ, so that whatever happens, I will be ready.

O God, 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. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given 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 be watchful and to fix my eyes on Jesus. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 23:4
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
In Context: Psalm 23

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:18

"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law."

Recommended Reading:
Interpreting the Parables
by Craig Blomberg

Monday, April 28, 2008

April 28 - More Workers

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 20:1-16
"Parable of the Vineyard Workers"

Focus Verses: Matt. 20:13-16
13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

The master of the vineyard was not primarily interested in pay, but rather in people and purpose. His main concern was to enlist people into the meaningful work of his kingdom. Some of the workers were more concerned about pay equity than about helping the others find employment.

It's likely that many of the last to be hired were in the worse condition; maybe they were less desirable or unable to compete or be as productive. In such a case, the mercy of the master is even more profound. Whatever the case, it's clear the master was motivated by his own generosity, not by the merits of his workers.

Response and Action:
God's grace is extended to everyone. I will rejoice in his generosity to all people and be thankful for his goodness to me. I will not waste my time by comparing myself to others. I will serve God with a thankful heart knowing that it is only by his grace that anyone serves. I will give thanks and praise for every new worker in the vineyard and pray for more to come.

O God, thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you for giving me a place to work in your vineyard. Your generosity and goodness are such a blessing. Serving you gives me hope and purpose. Keep calling more and more people to your vineyard, O Lord, and bless them with all good things. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 146:5-8
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.
In Context: Psalm 146

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:20

"A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished."

Recommended Reading:
Interpreting the Parables
by Craig Blomberg

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Reading Schedule for April 28 - May 3

April 28 - Matt. 20:1-16
April 29 - Matt. 25:1-30
April 30 - Matt. 25:31-46
May 1 - Luke 14:15-35
May 2 - Luke 15:1-10
May 3 - Luke 15:11-32

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, April 26, 2008

April 26 - The Son of God

Overview of: John

Today's Reading:
John 5:1-47
"Healing, Life, and Scripture"

Focus Verses: John 5:24-26
24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself."

Jesus was persecuted for more than breaking Sabbath laws. There were attempts and plots to kill him, not because he was a controversial teacher, but because "he was calling God his own father, and making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). He claimed to be the Son of God, the promised redeemer, the giver of eternal life, the one who would raise the dead, and the one who would judge on the final day.

Response and Action:
My faith is in Jesus. I accept his claims about himself. I believe he is the fulfillment of the promises found in the law and the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. I believe that the scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of the saints all testify to the truth of Christ. My hope of life, purpose, and eternity are in Jesus. I will seek to do good and pursue his righteousness today and every day as I eagerly await the day of his appearing—the day when he will redeem all humankind and all of creation with his resurrection power.

O God, thank you for the life and redemption given through Christ Jesus, your Son. Give me the wisdom and the will to follow and serve him. Help me to live in such a way that my life becomes another testimony of the hope and life he came to give. Strengthen and transform me that I might know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 16:8-11
8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
In Context: Psalm 16

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."

Recommended Reading:
Who Was Jesus?
by N. T. Wright

Friday, April 25, 2008

April 25 - Mercy for the Humble

Overview of: Luke

Today's Reading:
Luke 18:1-30
"Prayers, Children, and a Rich Man"

Focus Verses: Luke 18:13-14
13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus taught that God sees the injustices of our world and will one day bring justice and set all things right. Jesus warned those who looked down at others and felt a little too sure of their own goodness. He told them that truly righteous people understand they are sinners, and have a deep sense of their need for mercy. Humility is the mark of true righteousness.

Response and Action:
I want to be humble before God and others. I want to be quicker to see the sin in my own life than to notice the faults of others. I will deal with the log in my own eye before trying to help others with the speck in theirs. I want to draw upon God’s grace for living a righteous life. I will be careful to give God glory for any good thing he does in me. I will put aside arrogance and self-congratulation and depend on God to lift me up at the right time.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you for your son, Jesus, who has brought your grace and forgiveness to me. Help me to follow him in humility and full surrender. Thank you for the promise of redemption Christ brings for me and for the whole world. Give me the wisdom and the strength to join him in his redemptive work today, as he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: 2 Chron. 33:10-13
10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.
In Context: 2 Chronicles 33

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:6-7a

"Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman."

Recommended Reading:
Why Sin Matters: The Surprising Relationship between Our Sin and God's Grace
by Mark R. McMinn

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 24 - First Things

Overview of: Luke

Today's Reading:
Luke 12:13-48
"Wealth, Worry, and Watchfulness"

Focus Verses: Luke 12:13-48
32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. Security is not to be found in things (even lots of things). Worry about things can lead to misplaced priorities: obsession with self; blindness toward the needs of others; disregard for righteousness; failure to recognize the real beauty of today; and distorted values. Our pursuits and treasures indicate whether our perspective toward life is temporal and false, or eternal and true.

Response and Action:
I want to live with the eternal values and perspectives of the kingdom of Christ. I want to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. I want my faith in Christ, my pursuit of his righteousness, and my submission to his authority to determine the way I live and the choices I make. I do not want my faith in self or the pursuit of things to determine my relationship with Christ. I want to seek Jesus, his ways, and his priorities more than anything else. I will put first the things that last.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Shape my love for others by the grace and work of Christ in my life. Give me the wisdom to recognize what is true and what has eternal value. I trust you to provide for my needs as I put you first. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Proverbs 2:1-5
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
In Context: Proverbs 2

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:19

"Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked..."

Recommended Reading:
The Pursuit of God
by A. W. Tozer

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23 - Convinced

Overview of: Luke

Today's Reading:
Luke 16:1-31
"Money, Marriage, and Mercy"

Focus Verses: Luke 16:29-31
29 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

There are honest skeptics who are truly searching for truth. There are dishonest skeptics who have no intention of looking beyond their own opinions. An honest skeptic is open to dialogue and receptive to new ideas. A dishonest skeptic would not be convinced even if someone rose from the dead (they would explain it away).

Response and Action:
I want to be a discerning and thoughtful person. I want to develop critical thinking skills and be able to give careful consideration to difficult questions about life and faith. I do not, however, want to confuse critical thinking with dishonest skepticism. I don't want to confuse tough questions with thoughtful conclusions. I will look to the scriptures with an open mind and a receptive heart. I will avoid the arrogance that leads to a closed mind.

O God, thank you for your son, Jesus, and for the Scriptures, and for the Holy Spirit. Thank you for the capacity to think and to believe. Grant me the courage and honesty to be open to truth. Give me the wisdom to discern my own weakness and limitations. Make me wise and give me understanding, so that I might live by the truth and give you praise. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 14:1-2
1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
In Context: Psalm 14

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:23

"Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding."

Recommended Reading:
Letters from a Skeptic
by Gregory A. Boyd

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 22 - Making Time

Overview of: Mark

Today's Reading:
Mark 6:14-56
"John Beheaded, Jesus Besieged"

Focus Verses: Mark 6:31-34
31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

With the news of John's death and the relentless press of the crowds, Jesus decided to retreat to a solitary place with his disciples for rest. There was no escape. Everywhere Jesus went, the crowds anticipated his arrival and were waiting for him.

Instead of being completely upset with the crowds and telling them to leave him alone, Jesus had compassion on them. Jesus saw how desperate they were for guidance and truth. And so, instead of sending them away and guarding his own needs and agenda, Jesus began to teach them many things and sent his disciples to find food for them. When only a small amount of food was found, Jesus multiplied that food and fed the crowd.

Response and Action:
Jesus' love and compassion for others is compelling. I am thankful that he sees our needs and extends his grace and provision, putting our interests and wellbeing above his own. I will give God thanks for the grace upon grace I receive from Christ. I will follow Jesus' example and look beyond my own interests to the interests of others. Like Jesus, I want to have compassion and care for others who may interrupt my plans. I want to be willing to serve the needs of others, even if it means upsetting my schedule and delaying the fulfillment of my own needs.

O God, thank you for Jesus who although he existed in the very form of God did not consider equality with a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself for us. Thank you for the sacrifices Christ Jesus has made for us and for our salvation. Help me to follow him and, strengthened by his Spirit, to be ready and willing to empty myself and make sacrifices for others. Give me compassion and mercy for others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 103:13,14
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
In Context: Psalm 103

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:9

"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

Recommended Reading:
Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World
by Allen M. Wakabayashi

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 21 - Kingdom People

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 13:24-58
"Parables from a Prophet"

Focus Verses: Matt. 13:31-32
31 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

When the kingdom of heaven takes root in a person's life, it takes over. It "becomes the largest plant in the garden" and it "works its way all through the dough." When you truly find it, you value it above anything else and "sell everything to buy it." At the end of the age there will be a great sorting out of all things--the good from the bad, the righteous from the unrighteous, and the kingdom from the non-kingdom.

Response and Action:
If I believe that Jesus is the King, I must live in the ways and values of his kingdom. To accept Jesus is to surrender to his purpose and agenda in the world. If I am truly a believer and follower of Jesus, his kingdom and his righteousness will become the dominant and all-consuming center of my life. I must seek him and value him above all else.

I will do all I can to grow in my love, obedience, and knowledge in Christ Jesus. I will thoughtfully and purposefully do my best to bring all of my life--my thoughts, my actions, my choices, and my desires--into conformity with Jesus and his kingdom.

O God, your name is Holy. I long to see your kingdom established--your will lived out on earth as it is in heaven. Help me to be a person of your kingdom. Give me the faith and humility and courage to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might live a kingdom life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 21:1-4
1 O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give! 2 You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah 3 You welcomed him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head. 4 He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—length of days, for ever and ever.
In Context: Psalm 21

Proverb for Today: Prov. 21:1

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases."

Recommended Reading:
The Community of the King
by Howard Snyder

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reading Schedule for April 21 - 26

April 21 - Matt. 13:24-58
April 22 - Mark 6:14-56
April 23 - Luke 16:1-31
April 24 - Luke 12:13-48
April 25 - Luke 18:1-30
April 26 - John 5:1-47

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, April 19, 2008

April 19 - Walk this Way

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matthew 11:1-30
"Jesus and Truth"

Focus Verses: Matt. 11:27-30
27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Only Jesus can truly reveal God the Father to us. He extends a promise of rest for the weary and blessing for the burdened. Just as a young ox learns how to work by being yoked together with an older and more experienced animal, Jesus invites us to be yoked with him. By walking beside him, not pushing ahead of him or dragging behind him, we will learn to walk in the pace and power of his Spirit. He will not add to our burden, but will instead share the load with us.

Response and Action:
I want to keep in step with the Spirit of Christ. I will study the scriptures and give careful thought to my ways. I will do all I can to follow in the footsteps of Christ--to walk as he walked. I will yield myself to him so that he might live through me. I will be prayerful and thoughtful about my choices, thoughts, and actions. I will stay in close fellowship with others who are seeking Christ, so that together we might walk in the light as he is in the light.

O God, show me your ways through the teaching and life of Christ Jesus. Help me to obey his commands, to walk in his ways, to meditate upon his words, to follow his example, and cling to his promises. Jesus, walk beside me and teach me to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. It's in your name that I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 68:19-20
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah 20 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
In Context: Psalm 68

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:16

"He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die."

Recommended Reading:
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
by Timothy Keller

Friday, April 18, 2008

April 18 - Knock Knock

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 7:1-29
"Sermon on the Mount"

Focus Verses: Matt. 7:7-8
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Giving and receiving are central to meaningful and loving relationships. The bonds of love are both demonstrated and deepened when one has the freedom to make a request and another has the will to grant it. Just as neighbors open their doors for each other, and just as parents are ready to provide for their children, our Father in heaven is ready to give us good gifts. He also calls us to be ready to treat others with the same goodwill we would like to receive.

Response and Action:
God has invited me to a relationship with him through Christ Jesus. He wants me to seek him out, to knock on his door, and to ask him for help. He promises I will find, the door will be opened, and my needs will be provided. This is the way God demonstrates his love for me; it is also the way I can demonstrate love for others. In the same way that I receive grace and love in my relationship with God, I should extend grace and love in my relationships with others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as myself. Thank you that I can come to you with my requests and needs--that you can be found, your door is open, and you are giving. Grant me a sensitivity toward the needs of others around me. Help me to be available, approachable, and generous. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Jeremiah 29:10-13
10 This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
In Context: Jeremiah 29:1-23

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:15

"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out."

Recommended Reading:
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture
by John Stott

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April 17 - Quiet Good

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 6:1-34
"Sermon on the Mount"

Focus Verses: Matt. 6:1
1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Even righteous deeds can be done with unrighteous motives. Self-sacrifice can be self-centered. In order to guard against self-centered motives, Jesus taught that we should be secretive about our devotion and spiritual practices. True devotion toward God does not seek to draw attention to self. Private piety is less likely to be pretentious.

When we give to the poor, we should do so quietly. When we pray, we should seek out a place where we can be alone. When we fast, we should avoid any appearance or behavior that attracts special notice or concern. The same is true of nearly everything we do for God and for others.

The problem, of course, is not that others know or notice acts of righteousness (of course they will -- "a city on a hill is not easily hid"); the real issue Jesus is getting at is the problem of our hearts. In order to be truly righteous, we must acknowledge our potential for selfishness and false motives. We must realize that true righteousness is directed toward God, not centered in self. We must not let righteous deeds become a way to achieve self-gain, self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, or self-gratification. The way of true righteousness is self-denial.

Response and Action:
I will do all I can to practice righteous deeds in quiet and unassuming ways. I will guard against drawing attention to myself. And if something I do for God does draw undue attention to me, I will be careful to give God the glory. I will seek God's blessing, not the praise of people.

O God, give me a heart to do what is right, and to do it for you. It is your glory and your approval that I desire, not the notice or applause of others. Help me, by faith, to do the good things you have prepared in advance for me to do. Help me to be faithful, fruitful, and effective as your servant: as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, pastor, and colleague. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 29:13
13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
In Context: Isaiah 29:1-24

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:27

"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered."

Recommended Reading:
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture
by John Stott

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April 16 - Wanting what God Wants

Overview of: Matthew

Today's Reading:
Matt. 5:1-48
"Sermon on the Mount"

Focus Verses: Matt. 5:17-18, 20
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. - - - 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is the fulfillment of everything the Law and Prophets pointed to. Through faith Christ, we are able to become more than rule-keepers. By the power and grace of God we are able to experience transformation of the heart. More than just obeying external laws, the Spirit of God changes the hearts and renews the minds of those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Response and Action:
My faith is in Jesus. I am looking to him for the renewal and transformation of my heart. I want to be more than a rule-keeper; I want my heart and my desires to be shaped by God. I want to want what God wants.

More than merely modifying or restraining my behavior, I want to live out the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus. I want to love and live righteousness in a way that makes commands unnecessary. I want to be renovated by the Spirit and grace of God. I will surrender my will and my heart to Jesus, and yield myself to God's transforming power.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Change my heart and place righteous desires within me. Lead, shape, transform, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Through Christ, my Lord and Savior, Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
In Context: Ezekiel 36

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:23

"A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction."

Recommended Reading:
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture
by John Stott

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15 - Kingdom Power

Overview of: Mark

Today's Reading:
Mark 5:1-43
"Power over Demons, Disease, and Death"

Focus Verses: Mark 5:17-20
17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

In the first chapter of Mark's gospel, he records that Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming, "The time has come, the kingdom of God is near." Jesus not only proclaimed the news of the kingdom, he demonstrated the power of the kingdom. In today's reading, Jesus gave powerful signs of the kingdom's power over demons, disease, and even death.

After being delivered, the man who had been possessed by demons wanted to go with Jesus. He was directed by Jesus, instead, to go home to his family and tell them how God had been merciful and how much God had done for him.

Response and Action:
God's mercy and power are greater than the circumstances and problems I face--both spiritual and physical. God's mercy and power are available to me through Christ Jesus. I will look to Jesus for the strength, mercy, and deliverance I need to face life's challenges and afflictions. I will be faithful to tell others about God's mercy and goodness to me.

O God, thank you for Jesus who has brought the good news and power of your kingdom to me. By your power and mercy, help me through the difficulties and heartaches of life in this fallen world. Make me ready and quick to tell others of the many ways you mercifully bless and save. Bring your kingdom to earth, O Lord. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 103:2-5
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
In Context: Psalm 103

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:11

"Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD—how much more the hearts of men!"

Recommended Reading:
by C. S. Lewis

Monday, April 14, 2008

April 14 - Ready for the Word

Overview of: Mark

Today's Reading:
Mark 4:1-41
"Parables and Power"

Focus Verses: Mark 4:18-20
18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

God's word can bear fruit in the lives of people. The readiness of people to hear, and their softness of heart to receive the word, produces positive results in our lives. The pressures, worries, and deceits of life all diminish or destroy the results of the word in our lives.

Response and Action:
I want to cultivate receptivity to God's word. I will seek the truth and open my heart to the teachings of Christ and the truth of the scriptures. I will strive to put Christ first, and do my best to put aside the distractions, worries, and lies that hamper or prevent God's word from taking root and bearing fruit in my life.

O God, how can I keep my way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Give me a soft heart and a willing spirit to receive your truth and to walk in your ways. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Hosea 10:12
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
In Context: Hosea 10

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:23

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."

Recommended Reading:
Interpreting the Parables
by Craig Blomberg

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reading Schedule for April 13 - 18

April 14 - Mark 4:1-41
April 15 - Mark 5:1-43
April 16 - Matt. 5:1-48
April 17 - Matt. 6:1-34
April 18 -Matt. 7:1-29
April 19 - Matt. 11:1-30

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, April 12, 2008

April 12 - Brother Jesus

Overview of: Mark

Today's Reading:
Mark 3:1-35
"Seekers, Doubters, and Believers"

Focus Verses: Mark 3:31-35
31 Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." 33 "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus was a controversial figure. Crowds pursued him, Pharisees plotted against him, his own family questioned his mental stability, and the teachers of the Law accused him of being satanic. Some, however, believed and followed him, desiring to do God's will. Jesus called them his brothers and sisters.

Response and Action:
Jesus remains a controversial figure today. He still elicits strong reactions. There are those who oppose him, dismiss him, ignore him, and despise him. But I love and him and trust him. I will follow him and be a part of the family who desire to do God's will.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to follow Jesus--to listen and to follow where he leads. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to delight in his will and walk in his ways to the glory of his name. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 1:1
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
In Context: Psalm 1

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:17

"A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies."

Recommended Reading:
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
by N. T. Wright