Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 30 - Tricks or Trust

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 27:1-46
"Jacob Deceives Isaac"

Focus Verses: Genesis 27:18-19
18 He went to his father and said, "My father." "Yes, my son," he answered. "Who is it?" 19 Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing."

Insight:
The name, Jacob, could be translated "heel grabber." It's an appropriate name for him because he (like his mother) was a schemer and a scrambler. He wanted to be blessed by God, but seems to have thought he needed to scrape and trick his way into blessing. He couldn't just be who he was; he needed to pretend to be something he wasn't.

It seems like most people need to wrestle with this problem. It's hard to learn that cheating, manipulation, and pretense are absolutely inferior to trusting God and being honest about ourselves. Fraud and faith are opposed to each other.

Response and Action:
Who am I? Am I honest about who I am before God and others? Am I someone who humbles myself before God, who trusts God to lead and bless, or someone who thinks I need to scheme and scratch my way to get ahead. I want to live a life of integrity and humility. I want to be honest and humble before God and before others. I want to know God and to trust him for direction and blessing. Then I will be able to be honest with myself and with others.

O God, you are my God. I will seek you earnestly. I want to know you and trust you with all my heart. Help me to look to you for blessing and provision, instead of looking to myself. Help me to turn away from cheating and pretense, and instead live with faith and honesty. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 4:22-25
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
In Context: Ephesians 4:17-32

Proverb for Today: Prov. 30:33

"For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife."

Resources:
Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?
by David C. Needham

Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29 - Promise & Potential

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 25:1 – 26:35
"Jacob and Esau"

Focus Verses: Genesis 26:23
23 The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."

Insight:
God promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation. God didn't choose a nation, he chose to make a nation. He started with an old man, Abraham, and his old barren wife, Sarah. Eventually they had a son, Isaac, who's wife, Rebekah, was also unable to have children. It's as if God were making it absolutely clear that the promised nation would only exist by his provision.

God answered Isaac's prayers, and Rebekah became pregnant with twin sons. With the birth of Esau and Jacob, the story then turns to the push and pull of which son would become the heir to God's promise Abraham. Jacob was a scrambler and a schemer who wanted more than his birthright. Esau was a outdoorsman who didn't really care or value his birthright.

The story of God's promise and God's people begins in the story of two little boys who become two very different men with very different futures. Who they become and what results in their lives is very much rooted in the attitudes they have toward God, toward God's promises, and toward each other.

Response and Action:
The future of a nation began in the nursery of twin brothers. I need the wisdom to see how my future is rooted in the small things in my life today. How will my attitudes and actions today impact the future of God's promise and plan for me? How will the beliefs and choices I have right now going to impact my family, my church, my community, and my world. A faith and awareness of God's promises, and a commitment to pursue and value those promises, will make all the difference.

O Lord, help me to see the potential and promise you have for me. Help me to value and treasure the birthright you have given to me in Christ. Help me to trust you and follow you with all my heart. Give me a strong faith and grant me the wisdom to choose and act in accordance with my faith. Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 1:12-13
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
In Context: John 1:1-18

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:20

"Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Resources:
Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?
by David C. Needham

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading Schedule for Sept. 29 - Oct. 4

Sept. 29 - Gen. 25:1 – 26:35
Sept. 30 - Gen. 27:1-46
Oct. 1 - Gen. 28:1 - 29:35
Oct. 2 - Gen. 30:1-43
Oct. 3 - Gen. 31:1-55
Oct. 4 - Gen. 32:1 – 33:20




You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through the entire New Testament and key passages of the Old Testament. The 2008-09 Useful Breath reading can be downloaded for printing by clicking the link in the right column.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September 27 - Serving Faithfully

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 24:1-67
"A Wife for Isaac"

Focus Verses: Genesis 24:26-27
26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, 27 saying, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives."

Insight:
When the time came for Isaac to have a wife, Abraham sent his most trusted servant to find a wife from among the kinsmen Abraham had left behind. The servant was extremely faithful to Abraham. On his journey, he displayed responsibility, focus, honesty, and faith, and he was continually in prayer. God blessed his way and gave him success.

Response and Action:
I want to be a faithful servant--faithful to God and to others. I want to approach the tasks and responsibilities God has given me with a whole heart. I need to avoid distractions, pray continually, and be faithful and honest. I want to approach my days, my tasks, and my challenges with a prayerful attitude and with eyes ready to see how God is providing.

O Lord, 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, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do. To be fruitful, faithful, and effective as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, pastor and colleague. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Matthew 25:23
23 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
In Context: Matthew 25:14-30

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:18

"He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored."

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26 - The God Who Gives

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 22:1 – 23:20
"Abraham's Faith is Tested"

Focus Verses: Genesis 22:13-14
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

Insight:
Abraham and Isaac believed that the God they followed and worshiped was the only true God. The devotion they had for their God was no less than the devotion the pagans around them had for their false Gods. If those worshiping pagan deities were willing to sacrifice their children to demonstrate complete devotion, Abraham was willing to do the same.

But the one true God proved himself to be nothing like the false Gods of the pagans. Those false God's were takers who demanded satisfaction, but the true God, the God of Abraham and Isaac, was and is a provider. He doesn't hurt and take away; he gives and protects.

God demands my all and asks me to lay down my life, but it is actually God who has given his Son, Jesus, to save me and give me life. Even as I surrender my all, God provides more than I have to give.

Response and Action:
Like Abraham, I want to be willing to give up anything for God. I want to demonstrate that my devotion to God is as whole-hearted as anyone else's devotion to anything else. I want to seek God above all else. I do not want anything or anyone to be a rival for my commitment to God. I am grateful that God is a giver. I rejoice that God is a giver and a provider, not a taker who diminishes me. Instead, as I offer him my all, he provides and blesses me and makes me more than I could ever be on my own.

O Lord, you are good and gracious to me. Thank you for Jesus who emptied himself for me and for all humanity. Help me to become like him in my attitudes and actions toward others. Help me to give grace more than I seek it; to love others more than I seek to be loved; to forgive others more than I ask for forgiveness; to understand others more than I seek to be understood. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 John 4:9-10
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
In Context: 1 John 4:7-21

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."

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25 - Joy and Conflict

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 20:1 - 21:34
"The Birth of Isaac"

Focus Verses: Genesis 21:1-2
1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

Insight:
The goodness and grace of God is what strikes me most about this passage. The joy and miracle of Isaac's birth is sadly marred by the bitterness and strife in Abraham's house. Hagar mocks Sarah. Sarah is bitter toward Hagar and determined to get rid of her and Ishmael. Abraham is happy about the birth of Isaac but worried sick about Ishmael. Only God is good, gracious, and faithful to everyone involved.

God is gracious to Sarah and faithful to keep his promise to her. He is good to Hagar and Ishmael and is faithful to keep his promise to them. God is reassuring and comforting to Abraham and is faithful to both of his sons.

Conflict among people is a sad fact of life. We have trouble getting along and often fail to look out for the best interests of others. God is above our differences and our conflicts. He doesn't take sides but instead works graciously for the good of everyone. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God's love and grace for everyone.

Response and Action:
I am thankful for God's grace and goodness to me. I need God's help and guidance to navigate through conflicts and differences with others. I want to draw near to God and learn to rise above selfishness and disputes. I want to put aside selfishness, be less concerned about my own interests, and more concerned about the good of others.

O Lord, you are good and gracious to me. Thank you for Jesus who emptied himself for me and for all humanity. Help me to become like him in my attitudes and actions toward others. Help me to give grace more than I seek it; to love others more than I seek to be loved; to forgive others more than I ask for forgiveness; to understand others more than I seek to be understood. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Philippians 2:14-15a
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe...
In Context: Philippians 2:1-18

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:9-10
"If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man's confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 24 - Praying for Mercy

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 18:16 - 19:38
"Pleading and Judgment"

Focus Verses: Genesis 18:25-26
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" 26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."

Insight:
God is both just and righteous. He does not punish the wicked at the expense of the righteous. In fact, he is willing to withhold judgment against the wicked for the sake of the righteous. Abraham interceded for the righteous and trusted God to do what is right.

Response and Action:
Only God is able to be "the Judge of all the earth." Only God can understand the complexities of good and evil, sort out the victims from the perpetrators, and administer justice with righteousness. I need to live with a commitment to righteousness and justice. I need to pray for those who are suffering at the hands of evil. I will appeal to God to set things right. I will trust God to act and intervene in human affairs with justice and compassion.

O Lord, help me to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you. Thank you for your mercy and compassion. I trust you, O God, to work in my world to bring about justice and to set things right, and to do it with righteousness. Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 3:17
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
In Context: John 3:16-21

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:21-22
"Fear the LORD and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?"

Resources:
Daring to Draw Near: People in Prayer
by John White

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 23 - Beyond Imagination

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 17:1 – 18:15
"The Promise of Descendants"

Focus Verses: Genesis 18:10-14
10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

Insight:
Though Abraham and Sarah were very old and long past the age of having children. God promised them that Sarah would give birth to a son within the year. The thought was so outrageous to Sarah that she laughed out loud at the thought of it. From her limited human point of view, God's promise seemed laughable, but from God's point of view, nothing is too hard.

Response and Action:
I will trust God to keep his promises no matter how unimaginable they seem to be from my limited point of view. God can do more than I ask or imagine. I will put my complete trust in him.

O Lord, help me to believe your promises. Give me a heart that fully trusts in you. Strengthen me with power through your Spirit in me. Help me to trust you with all my heart and to not lean on my own understanding. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
In Context: Ephesians 3:14-21

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."

Resources:
The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative
by Christopher J. H. Wright

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22 - Questions and Faith

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 15:1 - 16:16
"God's Covenant with Abram"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:4
"Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life."

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading Schedule for September 22 - 27

Sept. 22 - Gen. 15:1 - 16:16
Sept. 23 - Gen. 17:1 – 18:15
Sept. 24 - Gen. 18:16 - 19:38
Sept. 25 - Gen. 20:1 - 21:34
Sept. 26 - Gen. 22:1 – 23:20
Sept. 27 - Gen. 24:1-67



You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through the entire New Testament and key passages of the Old Testament. The 2008-09 Useful Breath reading can be downloaded for printing by clicking the link in the right column.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

September 20 - Lift Up Your Eyes

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 13:1 – 14:24
"Abraham and Lot"

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

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

When their families and possessions became too large to manage together, Abram offered Lot the first choice of where he would like to go. Lot seems to have grabbed for himself what he thought would be the best and most promising option. Abram trusted God to provide for him, and God did not disappoint.

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

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

New Testament for Today: Philippians 4:6,7
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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: Philippians 4:2-9

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:21
"An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end."

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

September 19 - Faith Walk

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 11:1 - 12:20
"Babel and Abraham"

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 18 - Thanks and Promise

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:

Gen. 8:1 - 9:29
"God's Covenant with Noah"

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:10
"The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:1
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship.
In Context: Romans 12:1-3

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September 17 - Flood of Regret

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:

Gen. 6:1 – 7:24
"The Flood"

Focus Verses: Gen. 6:5-8
5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:20
"One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble."

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 3:18
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
In Context: 1 Peter 3:12-22

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 16 - Falling Down

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:

Gen. 3:1 - 4:26
"The Fall and Sin"

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

Insight:
Today's reading is absolutely packed with important things to think about. How did sin begin? What are the consequences of sin? What is the nature of temptation? What is the hope of redemption?

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:18
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 15 - Made to Care

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:

Genesis 1:1 - 2:25
"The Beginning"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:14
"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly."

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

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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reading Schedule for September 15 - 20

The new 2008-09 Useful Breath Reading plan begins this week!

Sept. 15 -
Gen. 1:1 – 2:25
Sept. 16 - Gen. 3:1 - 4:26
Sept. 17 - Gen. 6:1 – 7:24
Sept. 18 - Gen. 8:1 - 9:29
Sept. 19 - Gen. 11:1 - 12:20
Sept. 20 - Gen. 13:1 – 14:24

You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through the entire New Testament and key passages of the Old Testament. The 2008-09 Useful Breath reading plan will be available for download soon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 12 - Encouragement

The new Sept. 2008 - August 2009 schedule will be available for you to download soon. The first day of the new reading schedule is September 15th. Invite others to read with you this year!

Overview of: Bible FAQs

Today's Reading:

Romans 15
"Paul Ends His Letter"

Focus Verses: Romans 15:1-6

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Insight:
Not all Christians will see all issues in the same way. There will be a wide variety of redemptive behavior. Some matters are disputable. People have very different perspectives, backgrounds, and predispositions, which inevitably lead to differences in meaning, understanding, and application. Each of us stands before God on our own two feet, and so we must stop condemning others or passing judgment in matters of personal opinion and honest disagreement.

What is most important is that we live in peace, and do all we can to encourage and edify each other. The Scriptures should be the basis for unity, not a tool of division. The Bible is a vital source encouragement and hope for us as we pursue unity with a heart to honor God.

Response and Action:
I will not condemn or judge others in matters of opinion. I will strive to live in peace with those who disagree with me. I will do all I can to promote peace, give encouragement, and demonstrate love. I will do my part to build honest, patient, loving, and respectful Christian community. I will look to the Scriptures for the guidance, encouragement, and hope I need to do this.

O God, make me an instrument of your peace. Let me be love in the midst of hated. Help me promote unity where there is discord. Help me to extend forgiveness when wronged. Help me to bolster faith where there is doubt. Help me to be encouraging when there is despair. Help me to be light where there is darkness. Thank you for your Word that leads and encourages your people toward unity. Through Christ, I pray. Amen

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 12:18
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 - Speaking of Jesus

The new Sept. 2008 - August 2009 schedule will be available for you to download soon. The first day of the new reading schedule is September 15th. Invite others to read with you this year!

Overview of: Bible FAQs

Today's Reading:

Acts 17
"Paul Preaches"

Focus Verses:
Acts 17:1-2, 16-18
1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures... ----16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

Insight:
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.

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 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.

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 11:30
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise."

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September 10 - Do You Understand?

The new Sept. 2008 - August 2009 schedule will be available for you to download soon. The first day of the new reading schedule is September 15th. Invite others to read with you this year!

Overview of: Bible FAQs

Today's Reading:

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

Focus Verses:
Acts 8:30-31, 34-35
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. Lead me to opportunities where I can help others find you. Help me to recognize those who are seeking for the truth. Help me to know and remember scripture and give me the ability to explain how it points to Jesus. Amen.

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 10:17
"He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray."

Recommended Reading:
How to Lead a Seeker Bible Discussion
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

September 9 - Life, Jesus, and Scripture

The new Sept. 2008 - August 2009 schedule will be available for you to download soon. The first day of the new reading schedule is September 15th. Invite others to read with you this year!

Overview of: Bible FAQs

Today's Reading:

John 5
"The Son and the Scriptures"

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." - - - 39 "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

Insight:
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. 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.

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 9:9
"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning."

Recommended Reading:

Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels
by Darrell L. Bock