Monday, June 30, 2008

June 30 - Victory over Death

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 15:3-57
"Resurrection Hope"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 15:50-54
50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

Insight:
Resurrection and eternal life are the hope of all Christians. Jesus Christ not only suffered and died for our sake, he was buried, and on the third day rose again. He was the first to conquer death and be raised to eternal life. When he returns, death will be utterly defeated and swallowed up in his victory, as all who have placed their faith in him as Savior, and confessed that he is Lord, will be raised from the dead, and changed, and given immortality.

The life God has intended for me is more than I can comprehend. Through Christ, I have the promise of so much more than the short number of years I think of as a normal life span. The surprising Christian hope is physical resurrection and transformation, eternal life, and a new heaven and earth that will never pass away.

Response and Action:
The hope of resurrection and eternal life gives me hope and purpose that goes beyond the fear or threat of death. Christ has defeated death and promises that one day all death will be swallowed up in his victory. This promise of eternity shapes my perspective of today. I am a resurrection person--part of an eternal kingdom and purpose that will one day be perfected and completed with Christ's return. As I long for his return, I will live and act and work with an eternal perspective. As a citizen of God's eternal kingdom, I will be a source of life, hope, redemption, peace, and renewal in the world today.

O God, thank you for Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. Thank you that he has conquered death and given us eternal life. Help me to live in the power of resurrection and the hope of eternity. Make my life a witness and a channel of your kingdom in this world today, O God. May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Send us your victorious Son, O God, that he might set all things right and establish his perfect kingdom that will have no end. Amen. Maranatha!

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 90:10, 17
10 The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. - - - 17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.
In Context: Psalm 90

Proverb for Today: Prov. 30:15-16
"The leech has two daughters. 'Give! Give!' they cry. There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, 'Enough!': the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, 'Enough!' "

Recommended Reading:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reading Schedule for June 30 - July 5

June 30 - 1Cor. 15:3-57
July 1 - 2Cor. 4:1 – 5:10
July 2 - 2Cor. 5:11 – 7:1
July 3 - 2Cor. 9:6-15
July 4 - 2Cor. 11:16 – 12:10
July 5 - Romans 3:10-31




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, June 28, 2008

June 28 - Nothing without Love

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 12:1 – 13:13
"Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Insight:
Sample equation: (Whatever I can do) - (Love) = 0
Great ability, minus love, equals nothing. Amazing accomplishments, minus love, equals nothing. Self-sacrifice, minus love, equals nothing. Staggering insight and understanding, minus love, equals nothing. Faith and miracles, minus love, equals nothing.

Response and Action:
Love is the defining mark that demonstrates God's transforming grace and power in my life. Since God is the source of love, those who do not love show that they do not know God. I want to put away childish things and grow in love. I want to love and value others. I want to grow into a person who loves others as Christ loves me. I want to be patient, kind, humble, and slow to anger. I desire to rejoice in truth, to protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

O God, thank you for the love you have for me, demonstrated through Christ's death. Thank you for acting to save and redeem me from my sin. Renew and transform me. Make me able to love others with the love of Christ. It's in his loving and life-giving name that I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 145
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. 14 The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
In Context: Psalm 145

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

Recommended Reading:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Friday, June 27, 2008

June 27 - Keep on Speaking

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 18:1-28
"Paul in Corinth"

Focus Verses:
Acts 18:9-11
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Insight:
In Corinth, Paul gave great emphasis to ministry among the Jews. He met some wonderful friends, Priscilla and Aquila, who became partners in ministry with him. Later when they moved to Ephesus, they made a connection with another person, Apollos, who also became powerful ally in ministry and teaching.

Paul had a passion to spread the good news of Jesus to the world around him. He determined where to go and how long to stay by being attentive to the Spirit's leading and alert to the receptivity of his audience. He was also always open and ready to enlist the partnership of others, and trusted them to carry on the ministry while he moved on to new places and people.

Response and Action:
I will follow Paul's example. I want to have a zeal for sharing Christ Jesus with others. I need to ask God to give me guidance and opportunities for sharing. I want to be alert to open doors for sharing, sensitive to the receptivity of others, and careful to know when it is appropriate and helpful to speak. I want to encourage others to join me in spreading the good news of Jesus. I want to grow in my effectiveness in reaching others, and help my Christian friends become more ready and able to share their faith.

O God, thank you that someone told someone about Jesus, who told another, who told yet another, until finally someone told me. Thank you for the hope and truth I have received through Christ. Help me to live a life that is truly rooted in Jesus and, therefore, bears the fruit of his Spirit. May all the words of my mouth, the works of my hands, and the attitudes of my heart be a testimony of your saving grace. Give me the opportunities and the boldness to share my faith in Jesus. Make me a wise and winsome witness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 96:2-3
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
In Context: Psalm 96

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:17
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Recommended Reading:
Going Public With the Gospel: Reviving Evangelistic Proclamation
by Lon Allison & Mark Anderson

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 26 - Encouraging Others

Overview of: 2 Thessalonians

Today's Reading:

2Thes. 2:1 – 3:13
"Paul's Second Letter
to the Thessalonians"


Focus Verses:
1 Thes. 3:2-5
15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Insight:
Paul's teaching and admonitions for the Thessalonian believers was the overflow of God's grace, encouragement, and hope in his own life. He urged the Thessalonians to stand firm and to hold on to the teachings he had passed on to them. He prayed that their hearts would be strengthened and encouraged for doing and saying all God had called them to through Christ.

Response and Action:
If I am going to teach or encourage others, it must flow out of a deep relationship with Christ Jesus. The grace of God, the encouragement of the Spirit, and my hope in Christ are the basis of every good deed and word I have to offer. I will hold to the teachings of Scripture, seek to live by the transforming grace and power of the Holy Spirit, and do all I can to encourage others in their walk with Christ.

O God, 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 I love myself. By your grace and mercy, encourage me and strengthen me for every good work. Make me an encourager and give me the grace to spur others on to a deeper walk with you. By the transforming power of your Holy Spirit, help me to stand firm in my faith, to delight in your will, and to walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 63
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
In Context: Psalm 63

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:
Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For
by Gerald L. Sittser

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25 - Strong in My Faith

Overview of: 1 Thessalonians

Today's Reading:

1Thes. 2:17 – 4:12
"Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians"

Focus Verses:
1 Thes. 3:2-5
2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

Insight:
Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica because of the persecution and opposition provoked by his preaching. Some of the Thessalonians had accepted his message and put their faith in Jesus, but Paul was concerned that the persecution and opposition they were bound to face might prove to be more than they could bear. Paul sent Timothy back to see how they were doing, and was overjoyed to hear that they were standing firm. He sent them a letter commending their faith and encouraging them to lead holy and quiet lives.

Response and Action:
I want to stand firm in my faith. I have not experienced anything remotely like the persecution Paul and the Thessalonian Christians faced, but I am committed to being ready to face hardships by growing in my faith and being firmly rooted in Christ. I will pursue a holy life and make it my ambition to lead a quiet and disciplined life. As Paul was concerned about the Thessalonians, I want to demonstrate love, concern, and encouragement for Christians I know who may be in difficult and discouraging situations.

O God, make my love increase and overflow for my Christian family and for everyone else, just as your love has abounded to me. Strengthen my heart so that I will be blameless and holy in your presence, O Father, when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. It is in his saving 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. 20 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
In Context: Psalm 68

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 25:28
"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."

Recommended Reading:
Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places
by L. L. Barkat

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 24 - Thoughtfully Engaged

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 17:1-34
"Thessolonica, Berea, and Athens"

Focus Verses:
Acts 16:29-34
29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

Insight:
Paul taught how Jesus was the Christ, explained how his suffering was necessary, and how he had risen from the dead. He preached in the synagogues, the marketplace, and the Areopagus, reasoning with Jews, believers, philosophers, and idol worshipers. He preached Jesus as the image of the invisible God--the one appointed by God to judge the world with justice. He told them that Jesus' resurrection from the dead was proof of these claims.

When telling others about Jesus, Paul gave careful consideration to the beliefs and perspectives of his audience. He looked for ways their own beliefs, backgrounds, questions, and ideas pointed to the truth of Jesus. He used their Scriptures, their poets, their questions, and even the inscriptions on their idols as a starting point for a discussion about Jesus.

Response and Action:
I want to share Jesus with others. To do this, I need to be a disciple of Jesus and a student of the Scriptures. I also need to know and understand the people around me. I need to be a student of my world--it's cultures, beliefs, questions, religions, philosophies, literature, and arts. True faith in Jesus, coupled with a commitment to study, think, and learn, makes it possible to engage the world in the marketplace of ideas. I want a vibrant faith the does not retreat from the world, but, rather, interacts with it in thoughtful and challenging ways.

O God, thank you for Jesus, the Christ, who came into the world and suffered for my sake. Thank you for his resurrection and victory over death--the validation of his claims and promises. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to grow in my understanding and experience of the salvation and hope Christ brings. Give me the wisdom and the skill to share and communicate my faith with others in thoughtful and meaningful ways. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Proverbs 25:11-13
11 A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear. 13 Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.
In Context: Proverbs 25

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:7
"Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say."

Recommended Reading:
Speaking of Jesus: How to Tell Your Friends the Best News They Will Ever Hear
by J. Mack Stiles

Monday, June 23, 2008

June 23 - Thinking His Way

Overview of: Philippians

Today's Reading:

Philippians 2:1-30
"Paul's Letter to the Philippians"

Focus Verses:
Phil. 2:3-8
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Insight:
Selfishness, pride, and self-serving ambition are contrary to following Christ. Jesus demonstrated true humility, selfless concern, and a willingness to sacrifice for the needs of others. Though he existed in the very nature of God, he emptied himself for our sake and for God's glory. He was humble and obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Response and Action:
As a follower of Jesus, my attitude and my actions should be like his. With God's guidance, and by his grace, I must cultivate a genuine concern for the needs of others. I must become self-giving and humble. I must let go of any selfish agenda and any attitude that runs contrary to the pattern of Christ. I must seek God's will and strive to honor him in all my ways.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, shape me and help me to have the mind of Christ. Teach me through your word and give me the readiness and willingness to obey. Help me to serve you and honor you even if it means sacrifice and hardship for me. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ Jesus my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 53:12
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... In Context: Isaiah 53

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:17-18
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Recommended Reading:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene H. Peterson

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reading Schedule for June 23 - 28

June 23 - Philippians 2:1-30
June 24 - Acts 17:1-34
June 25 - 1Thes. 2:17 – 4:12
June 26 - 2Thes. 2:1 – 3:13
June 27 - Acts 18:1-28
June 28 - 1Cor. 12:1 – 13:13



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, June 21, 2008

June 21 - From Fear to Joy

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 16:6-40
"Paul in Philippi"

Focus Verses:
Acts 16:29-34
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

Insight:
The Philippian jailer had, in one night, gone from despairing for his life to being filled with joy. In the fear and chaos of the earthquake, he had considered taking his life. Instead, in the message of salvation he received from Paul and Silas, he found hope for himself and his family. It's amazing how quickly and profoundly life can be changed by faith in Christ.

Response and Action:
The hope and purpose I need for life is found in Christ. When the problems and circumstances of any moment cause me to despair or fear, I will find my joy and hope in the good news of Jesus. When I see family, friends, or neighbors in despair, I will call out to them, "Wait! There is hope in Jesus." I want to live in the joy and peace of Christ and be ready to share that joy and peace with others. Salvation, hope, and joy are within reach and may be found at any moment—sometimes at the darkest and most unexpected moments.

O God, thank you for the hope and joy that are greater than my circumstances. Help me, like Paul and Silas, to be able to sing songs of faith and hope even when I am experiencing hardship. Make me a voice of hope in a dark world where others are ready to give up on life. Make me ready and able to share the saving message of Jesus. O God, save those who are lost and dying through the saving grace of your Son. Take away their fear and despair and, instead, give them your joy. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 65:2-3, 8
2 O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. 3 When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. - - - 8 Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.
In Context: Psalm 65

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

Recommended Reading:
Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible's Central Story
by Christopher J. H. Wright

Friday, June 20, 2008

June 20 - Seeing My Need for Grace

Overview of: Galatians

Today's Reading:

Galatians 3:1 – 4:7
"Faith or Law"

Focus Verses:
Galatians 3:21-24
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Insight:
The hope of salvation is through faith, not in keeping laws. This has always been true. Abraham was not made right with God on the basis of his works, but rather on the basis of his faith in God, and his appeal to God's grace. The law received through Moses was never able to save people, but instead made the sinfulness of mankind even more obvious. In showing us our weakness and bondage to sin, the law underscores our need for a savior and points us to Christ. Placing our faith in Christ and trusting him for salvation is what the law should move us to do. God's grace is our only hope for salvation, and faith in Christ Jesus is the way we take hold of God's grace.

Response and Action:
I must remember that salvation is not earned by human effort, but rather by faith in Christ Jesus. In order to live a righteous life, I need to be transformed by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. With my faith firmly rooted in Christ, I can then make every effort to pursue righteousness as I am led and empowered by the Spirit. God's grace in my life is the power of salvation. By grace, the Holy Spirit in me is the source of strength for leading a righteous life, serving Jesus, and honoring God.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Provide for my needs today. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. 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. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Genesis 15:6
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
In Context: Genesis 15

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 20:9
"Who can say, 'I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin'?"

Recommended Reading:
Galatians: Experiencing the Grace of Christ
by John Stott

Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 19 - Unexpected Answers

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 12:1-19
"Peter's Escape from Jail"

Focus Verses:
Acts 9:26-27
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" 15 "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

Insight:
I'm always encouraged, in a backwards sort of way, by how surprised the believers praying for Peter were when he showed up at their door. When the servant girl went to answer the door during the prayer time and returned with news that Peter was standing at the door, they practically told her to stop bothering them. They were too busy praying for Peter to expect an answer to their prayers. They told her, “You’re crazy.” They told her she had probably seen an angel. It’s almost funny to see a group of people praying so fervently, and yet not expecting God to answer that prayer by releasing Peter.

Response and Action:
The amount of my faith is not as important as the object of my faith. It's good for me to pray for all my concerns, even though I may not be able to grasp or expect the way God will answer my prayers. God can and may do more than I am able to ask or imagine. Prayers are not dependent upon the mind of those praying, but rather upon the will of the God to whom they pray. I will lift up my requests and petitions to God, knowing that he may answer my prayers in ways I am not expecting.

O God, thank you for your power to answer prayer. Give me the faith and boldness to come to you with every need and concern. Thank you that your answers to my prayers are not dependent upon my ability to anticipate what they will be. Give me eyes that are ready to recognize your answers to my prayers, and give me a mouth that is ready to give you praise for them. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 17:6-7
6 I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. 7 Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
In Context: Psalm 17

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:21
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

Recommended Reading:
The God Who Hears
by W. Bingham Hunter

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 18 - Ready and Waiting

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 10:1-48
"Peter at Cornelius' House"

Focus Verses:
Acts 10:30-33
30 Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."

Insight:
God was at work in Cornelius' life long before the Apostle Peter was introduced to him after being prepared for the meeting by a dream. Cornelius was a God fearing man who prayed and demonstrated his faith through acts of benevolence to the poor. One day while praying he had a vision of “a man in shining clothes” telling him to send for Simon Peter.

Too often, Christians forget that God is at work in the world around them. Many people are looking for truth and desiring to know God. They may be ready and waiting before they ever read a Bible, hear the gospel, or meet a Christian. The Holy Spirit is at work in the world, convicting people of their need for salvation, and drawing them to God, and helping them to hear the good news of Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to be open and ready to share the good news of Jesus with others. I need to remember that God is at work in the hearts of men and women who are seeking truth, praying, and longing to hear the good news. I want to keep my eyes open to such people. I want to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading and ready to seek out those who are seeking God. I want to live in the grace of Christ and the truth of Scripture, and be able to share that grace and truth with others.

O God, move in the lives of people. Reveal the truth of Christ to all people in every possible way. Show yourself through your creation, through your church, through the Scriptures, and through me. Lead me to those who are seeking you, who are already ready and waiting, and those I am most able to help. Make me a ready and willing witness of your grace and salvation, which you freely give to all who put their trust in Christ. It's in his saving and redeeming name that I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 42:6
6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles..."
In Context: Isaiah 42:1-9

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 18:15
"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out."

Recommended Reading:
Get the Word Out: How God Shapes and Sends His Witnesses
by John Teter

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17 - Spiritual Friendship

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 9:1-31
"Saul's Conversion"

Focus Verses:
Acts 9:26-27
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Insight:
It's difficult for people to change. Saul's encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was a traumatic point of change. He was confronted with the truth of Christ and was radically turned from a zealous opponent to fearless believer. This change was not easy for others to deal with.

Those who wanted Saul to persecute the church now saw him as a threat that needed to be eliminated. Those who had experienced persecution now found it difficult to believe that Saul had truly become a follower of Christ. Barnabas accepted Saul, supportively came alongside him, and helped the Christian community recognize the huge change Saul was experiencing.

Response and Action:
I need to remember how hard it is for people to change. People who put their faith in Christ often experience pressure and animosity from people who don't want them to change. Sadly, they may also feel a lack of support or acceptance from Christians who are skeptical about them. I want to be a Barnabas.

I want to be welcoming, accepting, and supportive of new believers. I want to come alongside them, encourage them in their faith, help them form relationships with other believers, and help them overcome the pressures and threats they feel from those who do not want them to follow Christ.

O God, thank you for the men and women who have supported me and helped me follow Christ. Thank you for the changes you have brought to my life. Thank you for the transformation and renewal I am experiencing by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit. Help me to be an encouragement and friend to new believers as they begin their new life in Christ. Help my church to be a welcoming community that believes in your power to change and renew lives. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 32:5
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
In Context: Psalm 32

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:17
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

Recommended Reading:
Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction
by David G. Benner

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 16 - The Whole Story

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 8:26-40
"Philip and the Ethiopian"

Focus Verses:
Acts 8:30-31,
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. - - - 34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Insight:
The Ethiopian was searching for truth. He had traveled to Jerusalem and had his own copy of some Scripture, which included at least portions of the book of Isaiah. He was reading and trying to understand the words of Isaiah when the Spirit moved Philip to go near to him. Philip engaged the Ethiopian in conversation, and explained to him how the words of the prophet pointed to Jesus. In the same way that Jesus pointed his disciples to the Scriptures, now the early Christians pointed to the Scriptures as they preached the good news of Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to be a person of the Word. I will commit myself to reading, studying, memorizing, and applying the Scriptures. I want to grow deeper and deeper in my understanding of God's Word and be able to help others understand it too. I will keep my eyes open for people who are seeking to know and understand the Bible. I will come alongside them to study, discuss, and apply the truth of the written Word.

O God, thank you for the Bible. Thank you for the freedom I have to read, and the ready availability of Scripture in my own language. Thank you for the many resources you have provided to help me grow in my understanding and application of Scriptures. Show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. I seek you with all my heart. I am hiding your word in my heart that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 19:7-8
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
In Context: Psalm 19

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:16
"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!"

Recommended Reading:
The Story of Scripture: The Unfolding Drama of the Bible
by Robbie F. Castleman

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reading Schedule for June 16 - 21

June 16 - Acts 8:26-40
June 17 - Acts 9:1-31
June 18 - Acts 10:1-48
June 19 - Acts 12:1-19
June 20 - Galatians 3:1 – 4:7
June 21 - Acts 16:6-40


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, June 14, 2008

June 14 - Impacted by Faith

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 6:8 – 7:5; 7:51 – 8:3
"The Stoning of Stephen"

Focus Verses:
Acts 7:59 - 8:3
7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

Insight:
Though the early church enjoyed good favor and high regard from the general population (Acts 2:47, 5:13), the tension and conflict with the Jewish religious leaders was quickly coming to a boiling point (Acts 4:1-2; 5:17-18; 6:9-13). The incident with Stephen became a starting point for a season of persecution that would cause the believers to scatter. Saul, one of the Pharisees who witnessed Stephen’s death, was a champion for the opposition to Christianity. He led in the campaign to persecute believers, but eventually put his faith in Jesus and became a great champion for the cause of Christ.

I wonder just how much impact the power and testimony of Stephen had on Saul. I would guess it made quite an impression. It's doubtful that anyone, on the day of Stephen's death, could have imagined that the young Pharisee looking on the scene with approval would one day become a powerful witness and ambassador of the gospel.

Response and Action:
Stephen's faithfulness produced results beyond his ability to understand or predict. The same is true for me; I cannot know what action, what words, what attitudes in me will make a positive impact in the lives of others. I will commit myself to faithfully following Christ, allowing his Spirit to shape me, and being bold to share the gospel and express my faith. I will trust that God can use my faithfulness in ways I cannot predict or understand.

O God, help me to know Christ and to live for him. Lead me and transform me by the power and grace of your Spirit. Help me to live a life that is a bold witness of your power. Give me the courage to tell others about Jesus, regardless of the consequences. Give me confidence in your power to use every faithful word and deed to accomplish your will. Help me to live a faithful life that honors you and blesses others. Amen.


Old Testament for Today: Psalm 112:6-7
6 Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. 7 He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
In Context: Psalm 112

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:30
"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

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

Friday, June 13, 2008

June 13 - Awesome Power

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 5:1-42
"Incredible and Puzzling Events"

Focus Verses:
Acts 5:38-39
38 "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Insight:
While the miracles and healings the Apostles performed by the power of the Holy Spirit were a source of great joy and hope for all who experienced them, the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira put fear into the hearts of people both inside and outside the church. Clearly, the Holy Spirit who was moving and blessing the ministry of the early church was the selfsame Spirit of the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant. God's Holy Spirit, while a source of great blessing and power for those who believed and responded with humility and reverence, was a source of fearful consequence for those who were careless, presumptuous, or blasphemous (Lev. 10:1-3; 2 Sam. 6:6-7; 2 Chron. 26:16-20).

Gamaliel, a Pharisee, was one of the greatest teachers of Israel at that time (the Apostle Paul was one of his students). When he observed all that was happening through and around the early believers, he urged caution to those who opposed them. He wisely suggested a wait and see approach because, if the amazing stories and events were truly the work of God, it would be most foolish to oppose the believers. And if God were not with them, their movement would fail on its own, just as other movements making similar claims had failed in the past.

Response and Action:
I think Gamaliel was right. I believe that the very existence and ongoing movement of the Church suggests that God is in it. I believe that the Holy Spirit really is at work in the life and work of the church today. I believe that the Holy Spirit is blessing, empowering, saving, purifying, and transforming the lives of believers today. I will study the Scriptures for the Spirit's guidance. I will humble myself before the Holy Spirit and offer my worship and obedience. I will ask the Holy Spirit for transformation and new life. I will commit myself to keeping in step with the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and being part of the ongoing work of the Church in the world today.

O God, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who proceeds from you and your son, Jesus, and has spoken through the prophets and apostles. I worship and glorify the Spirit with you and your son. 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. I pray in the name of Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Old Testament for Today: Zechariah 7:12
12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry."
In Context: Zechariah 7

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:3
"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin."

Recommended Reading:
Acts: Seeing the Spirit at Work
by John Stott

Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12 - Faith and Friends

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37
"Early Christian Community"

Focus Verses:
Acts 2:42-45
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Insight:
The two short passages in today's reading are long on challenging things to think about. The community described sounds so intense and radical, just the way I would expect the beginning of something as amazing and explosive as Christianity to be. But what of these experiences of the early church should be a part of my church experience today?

The experience of a wedding day is not the same as living out a marriage over years and decades. Similarly, the experience of the church's birth is not the same as living out Christian community over many centuries and across many cultures. And yet, in the same way that attending a wedding service today (the songs, the vows, the scriptures, the promises, the faces of a young bride and groom) helps me think about my marriage thirty years after my wedding day, reading Luke's description of the first days of the church helps me think about being part of the church two thousand years later.

Response and Action:
I can and need to be devoted to the apostles teaching. By reading and studying the New Testament scriptures, I can follow the instruction and the example of the apostles. I can follow the patterns and precedents of the early Christians. I can and need to be devoted to fellowship. By faithful and self-giving involvement in Christian community, I can help, support, and encourage others. I can and need to look back to the early days of the church with awe and wonder. And today, I can still expect God to be at work in my life and my church in miraculous ways that inspire and amaze.

O God, thank you for your church. Help me to seek you with all my heart, to share my life with others in generous, authentic, and meaningful ways, and to serve others in the power and grace of Jesus. Thank you for the church. Help the church of today be a shining testimony of your truth and grace. Help me to be a devoted and giving member of the Christian communities I'm a part of. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.


Old Testament for Today: Psalm 133:1
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
In Context: Psalm 133

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:26
“A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 11 - Ordinary Me

Overview of: Acts

Today's Reading:

Acts 4:1-31
"Peter and John Confronted"

Focus Verses:
Acts 4:13-14
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.

Insight:
The religious leaders who seized and jailed Peter and John were astonished. How could such unschooled and ordinary men perform a miracle, preach with such clarity and conviction, and be so unintimidated when confronted?

Three things in the text explain the extraordinary effectiveness of such ordinary people. Peter and John had been with Jesus. The miracle they had performed in the name and power of Jesus was undeniable (the healed man was standing right there with them). The growing community of believers was faithful in prayer for them.

Response and Action:
I'm an ordinary person, but my devotion and fellowship with Christ Jesus can produce extraordinary results in my life. I will seek him first. I will commit myself to daily time in the scriptures and in prayer. I will set my heart and mind to follow him. I will cultivate an awareness of his presence and sensitivity to his Spirit. I will be open about my faith in Christ. I will give Jesus the honor for every good thing I am able to do by his power and grace. I will not be afraid of those who do question or oppose the cause of Christ. I will live in Christian community, depending on my Christian friends for prayer, encouragement, and help.

O God, thank you for your love and mercy for all people. Thank you for Jesus who came to seek and save all who come to him in faith and humility. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen your people for effective service in your kingdom. May the weakness and ordinariness of our lives be an astonishing reminder and testimony to all that the good we say and do is the result of your presence and power within us. Amen.


Old Testament for Today: Zechariah 4:6b
6b 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.
In Context: Zechariah 4

Proverb for Today: Prov. 11:2
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

Recommended Reading:
Courage & Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential
by Gordon T. Smith