Friday, October 31, 2008

October 31 - Freedom in Surrender

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 21:1 – 22:31
"Social Laws"

Focus Verses: Exodus 21:5-6
5 "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,' 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

Insight:
The people of Israel were on their way toward becoming the nation of Israel. In Egypt, they were defined by slavery--a captive community governed by their captors. Now they were defined by the deliverance and promise of God--a free community governed by the God who set them free. The laws God instructed Moses to give the people were not just about faith and religion and theology; they were social laws given to govern the practical affairs of living in community.

One very interesting law related to cases where bond-servants (slaves) did not wish to be freed because they were so happy with their master. Such servants came before the leaders of Israel to have their ears pierced in a solemn ceremony, thereby declaring their decision to remain slaves to the master they loved.

Response and Action:
The image of a bond-servant, who has given up his freedom in order to remain under the authority and provision of the master he loves, is a good metaphor for what it means to be a Christian. I have surrendered my life to my master, Jesus Christ, because "I love him and do not want to be free." My baptism was a solemn declaration that I have chosen the authority and blessing of Christ over the freedom of self-reliance. I believe that life with Jesus as my master is better than any other life I could imagine or desire.

O God, thank you for your son, Jesus, who although he existed in the very form of God emptied himself and became a servant. Help me to follow in his footsteps, to live as a servant, and to have in me the same mind and heart for your will and your ways. Thank you for the rich and satisfying life you give to those who serve you. Thank you for the joy of serving you which surpasses any "freedom" I could possibly imagine apart from you. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Philippians 2:5-7
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.
In Context: Philippians 2

Proverb for Today: Prov. 31:9
"Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Resources:
Surrending to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality
by David G. Benner

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 30 - From Sinai to Zion

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 19:1 – 20:26
"Moses on Mount Sinai"

Focus Verses: Exodus 19:16-19
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19 and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

Insight:
God had saved the nation of Israel and called them to a holy purpose: "You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (v.6). God's holiness is so absolute that he warned the people of Israel to not even touch the mountain because doing so would result in death. The mountain itself rumbled and shook as if the earth itself could barely abide God's awesome and holy presence. Then God spoke and gave Moses commands that would guide his people toward holy lives.

Response and Action:
Sin separates humanity from God who is absolutely holy (Is. 59:2). Just like the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, I need to recognize God's holiness and my sinfulness. Thankfully, God is working to guide, forgive, redeem, and transform those who will follow him in faith. More than just a list of laws, God has also sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to cleanse me from sin, to remove the barriers that separate me from God, and to transform my heart by the power of his Spirit. I will pursue holiness, look to Christ for forgiveness and transformation, and offer myself to God to serve his holy purpose for me.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. 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.

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:14,18, 22-23
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. --- 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; --- 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.
In Context: Hebrews 12:14-29

Proverb for Today: Prov.30:5
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

Resources:
The Pursuit of Holiness
by Jerry Bridges

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 29 - Leadership

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 18:1-27
"Good Advice from Jethro"

Focus Verses: Exodus 18:17-18,21,23
17 Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. --- 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. --- 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."

Insight:
Moses received some very wise and godly advice about leadership from his father-in-law, Jethro. The advice was very clear and thoughtful, and was given with a spirit of concern and humility.

Some Bible scholars suggest that the number of people Moses was leading was as many as three million. If these people were to be led well, there would have to be a strategy and structure for leadership. Moses would be doing well just to lead the leaders!

Wise leadership in any community (whether it be church, organization, city, state, or nation), must have a strategy for and commitment to developing levels of leadership. The best leaders are always training, equipping, and nurturing a larger network of leaders who can deliver satisfying care and service to the greater community. Failure to do this results in stressed out leaders and frustrated followers.

Response and Action:
I want to encourage wise leaders and followers in my church community. It is vital for leaders to share the load. It is important for followers to support leaders and not expect too much from any one person. I want to give prayerful consideration to my role as a leader. I want to help and empower others to lead, and I want to be a supportive follower of others who are serving and leading.

O God, thank you for your church and for those who you have called to serve your the church as leaders. Help them to look to you for guidance and wisdom, and to love you with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to find my place and my roles of service in this community of believers. In the ways you have called me to lead, help me lead effectively. In the ways you have called me to follow, help me to follow supportively. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 5:1-3
1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
In Context: 1 Peter 5:1-11

Proverb for Today: Prov.13:10
"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice."

Resources:
Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions And Leadership in the Bible
by Timothy S. Laniak

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October 28 - Enough for Today

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 16:1 - 17:16
"God's Power & Provision"

Focus Verses: Exodus 16:16-18
16 This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.' " 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.

Insight:
Escaping from Egypt is one thing. Becoming a free nation that follows and trusts God is another. Once the Israelites had been released from the hardships of slavery, they had to learn how to face the challenges and fears of freedom.

They worried and grumbled about food, and God provided for their needs. When they were attacked, God defended them. Their needs came one day at a time, and that's exactly how God provided for them--one day at a time. When it seemed to them they would not be able to face another day, God provided for that day. God wanted them to depend on him one day at a time. He told them to rest on the seventh day and trust him to meet their needs.

Moses took some manna and put it in a jar as an ongoing reminder of God's provision. When they were saved from the attack of the Amalekites, Moses wrote on a scroll to preserve an account of what had happened.

Response and Action:
I need to trust God one day at a time. I need to be faithful to follow him and trust that he will be faithful to care for me. When I find myself grumbling or stressed out, I want to examine my heart and ask God to strengthen my faith. I want to be careful to notice and remember the many ways God has brought me this far. I can take time for rest and for worship because I trust God to provide for my needs.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to trust you for my needs one day at a time. Give me a heart and mind that are at peace. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Matthew 6:11
11 Give us today our daily bread.
In Context: Matthew 6:9-34

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

Resources:
Exodus: Learning to Trust God
by James Reapsome

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27 - Quick to Sing

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 15:1-27
"Songs and Complaints"

Focus Verses: Exodus 15:1-2
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD : "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. 2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.

Insight:
The people of Israel had cried out in fear when Pharaoh's army pursued them and they were trapped along the Red Sea, but God was faithful to deliver them. They were filled with joy because of God's mighty salvation. They burst into song and dance because God had saved them. It wasn't long, however, before they faced another challenge--a shortage of water, and the people were quick to grumble against Moses.

Response and Action:
I want to grow in my faith and confidence in God. I want to be quicker to give thanks than I am to grumble. I want to be quicker to remember God's blessing and provision than I am to worry about the next challenge or hardship. I want to be a singer of praise instead of a grumbler about problems.

O God, forgive me for the times I am so quick to grumble and complain. Help me to remember the many ways you have provided for me. Help me to recount the blessing you have poured out on my life. Thank you for the guidance and salvation you have given. Give me a hopeful heart that is devoted to you, a thankful mouth that gives you praise, and a clear mind that is set on following Christ. It's in his name that I pray all this. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 5:19-20
19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Context: Ephesians 5:1-20

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:12
"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

Resources:
Exodus: Learning to Trust God
by James Reapsome

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reading Schedule for Oct. 27 - Nov. 1

Oct. 27 - Ex. 15:1-27
Oct. 28 - Ex. 16:1 - 17:16
Oct. 29 - Ex. 18:1-27
Oct. 30 - Ex. 19:1 – 20:26
Oct. 31 - Ex. 21:1 – 22:31
Nov. 1 - Ex. 23:1 – 24:18

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, October 25, 2008

October 25 - Help when I'm Afraid

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 13:1 – 14:31
"Consecration & Crossing"

Focus Verses: Exodus 14:13-14
13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Insight:
With Pharaoh's army pursuing them from behind and the Red Sea before them blocking any way of escape, the Israelites were terrified. They thought they would be killed in a massacre.

Moses told them to be still, to stand firm, and to not be afraid. He said God would fight for them and bring them deliverance. Those who were threatening their lives would never threaten them again.

Response and Action:
When I am facing challenges and threatening circumstances, I need to remember that I am not alone. God will help me, so I will stand firm. God is able to deliver me, so I will not be afraid. God is able to save, so I will be still and trust in him.

O God, when I am afraid, help me to be still and put my trust in you. When I feel like running in the face of challenges and obstacles, give me the courage to stand firm. Be my help, my shelter, and my deliverer. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 6:10-11
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
In Context: Ephesians 6:10-20

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

Resources:
Exodus: Learning to Trust God
by James Reapsome

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24 - Crying

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 11:1 – 12:51
"Death and Deliverance"

Focus Verses: Exodus 12:29-30
29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Insight:
In obeying Moses' instruction to them regarding the Passover, the Israelites were graciously saved from the plague of death. They sacrificed lambs, made unleavened bread, marked the doorposts of their homes with blood, and stayed inside all night long and worshiped God. They took hold of God's salvation by faith in reverent obedience.

The Egyptians, due to Pharaoh's stubborn defiance, were subject to the consequences of rebellion. Their failure to acknowledge God resulted in sorrow and death. How different the story of Egypt might have been if Pharaoh had only humbled himself and put his faith in the one true God!

Response and Action:
I will put my faith in God. I want to take hold of God's gracious offer of life and salvation through Christ. I will reverently enter into the Passover story through faith in Christ Jesus. I believe that the Passover of Exodus is a foreshadowing of the ultimate Passover made possible through Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. I will hide myself in him.

O God, save me from the destruction and death that result from sin. Thank you for the salvation you have graciously extended to me through Christ Jesus. May his cross be the blood mark on the door of my heart. May his church be the house I stay within, a place of fellowship, and a refuge from judgment. May each day of my life be an act of worship and thanksgiving. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Context: Romans 6:15-23

Proverb for Today: Prov.24:14
"Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Resources:
Cries of The Heart
by Ravi Zacharias

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 23 - Hard Times for Hard Hearts

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 9:13 – 10:29
"More Plagues"

Focus Verses: Exodus 9:13-17
13 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go.

Insight:
The more Pharaoh resisted God, the harder his heart became. Every opportunity God gave Pharaoh to respond was also an opportunity to reject. Every choice given to Pharaoh was a choice to soften or harden his heart. So God was hardening Pharaoh's heart by giving him more chances to respond and surrender.

Rejecting God's sovereignty is rebellion. Rejecting God's grace is hardheartedness. Rejecting the truth for a lie is self-destructive.

Response and Action:
God is continually extending opportunities for me to acknowledge him and respond to him. I can soften my heart and surrender to God, or harden my heart and resist God’s grace. Because I believe that God is God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God has offered life and salvation, I want to be as responsive to God as possible.

O God, give me the eyes to see and believe in you. Give me a heart that is soft and responsive to your grace. Give me a mind that delights in your will. Give me a desire to walk in your ways. Give me a life that honors you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 1:20
20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
In Context: Romans 1:18-32

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:19
"Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path."

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 22 - Today

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 7:25 – 9:12
"Plagues"

Focus Verses: Exodus 8:8-10
8
Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD."
9
Moses said to Pharaoh, "I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile." 10 "Tomorrow," Pharaoh said. Moses replied, "It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God.

Insight:
Pharaoh was unyielding and hardhearted. He refused Moses' request to let his people go. Every time he denied Moses, God gave Pharaoh a miraculous sign to show that Moses was truly sent by God.

The second miraculous sign God gave to Pharaoh was a plague of frogs. The entire land suffered from a terrible infestation, even in their houses. The stench and misery was so awful that Pharaoh called for Moses and asked him to pray for the frogs to be taken away.

To make it clear that God was in control, Moses let Pharaoh choose the time for the frogs to be taken away. For some strange reason, Pharaoh said, "Tomorrow."

Response and Action:
Why would Pharaoh say, tomorrow instead of today? Why wouldn't he want relief and deliverance as soon as possible? More importantly, why do I say tomorrow instead of today?
What is God offering to help me with today, but I am choosing tomorrow? What blessings am I missing out on today because I am putting them off until tomorrow? What burdens am I needlessly enduring because I am not looking to God for freedom today?

I need to choose today. I will hold up my life and my situations to God and ask him to give guidance and bring relief today.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Give me the wisdom to take hold of your salvation today. Help me to be responsive to you and to take hold of your promises today. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 3:13
13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
In Context: Hebrews 3:7-19

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:19
"So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you."

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21 - Why All This Trouble?

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 5:22 – 7:24
"Slow Start for Freedom"

Focus Verses: Exodus 5:22-23
22 Moses returned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all."

Insight:
Moses did exactly what God had told him to do, and the result was trouble. His response to all this trouble seems reasonable. He asked, "Why God? Is this why you sent me? Is this your idea of rescue?"

God, of course, had a longer and more complex perspective. He said, "You'll see. I will deliver you. I will bring you to the land I have promised to Abraham. I am the Lord."

While it was impossible to understand, the trouble Moses and his people were experiencing on that day was somehow part of God's plan to deliver them. What looked like things were getting worse, was actually the beginning of things getting better. It was a slow start, but freedom was in the making.

Response and Action:
God is bigger than my troubles. I need to trust and obey God, even if doing what God commands me to do results in trouble. If I am following God, the troubles of my present are part of God's plan to give me the blessed future he has promised. When I cry out, "Why?," I need to hear and believe God's response, "You'll see. I'll keep my promises. I am the Lord."

O God, help me trust you in every troubling detail of my life. Help me to discern the difference between the troubles that result from disobedience and the troubles that result from obedience. Give me the wisdom and the will to follow Jesus and to walk in obedience to you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, and strength. Help me to trust in your sovereign will, even during times of trouble. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
In Context: 1 Peter 4:12-19

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:30
"There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD."

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20 - What's in Your Hand?

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 4:1 – 5:21
"Moses Returns to Egypt"

Focus Verses: Exodus 4:2-5
2 Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied.
3
The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you."

Insight:
Moses felt insufficient and was reluctant to accept God's call to go to Egypt. He asked God, "What if no one believes me? What if I don't know what to say or how to say it?"

God asked Moses, "What's that in your hand?" And then God demonstrated what could happen with his help and power. God asked him, "Who made your mouth?" After all, if God could make Moses' mouth, surely he could help Moses speak!

Moses still felt inadequate to the task and said, "Please send someone else!" But God was determined to use Moses. God was not pleased with Moses' slowness to accept his calling, but God continued to do whatever needed to be done to give Moses more confidence.

Response and Action:
What am I holding in my hand? How can God use that for his purpose and glory? What am I holding back, or slow to do, because I lack confidence? I need to trust in God and trust that he has the power to use whatever I have, however small or weak it may seem to me. God made me, and God can use me for his good purpose.

O God, help me to remember that you can use me to do things I could never do on my own. Help me to trust in you and look to you for the strength and guidance I need for life. Give me a strong faith in you, and a readiness to serve you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 2:10
10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In Context: Ephesians 2:1-10

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:12
"Ears that hear and eyes that see—the LORD has made them both.

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

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reading Schedule for October 20 - 25

Oct. 20 - Ex. 4:1 – 5:21
Oct. 21 - Ex. 5:22 – 7:24
Oct. 22 - Ex. 7:25 – 9:12
Oct. 23 - Ex. 9:13 – 10:29
Oct. 24 - Ex. 11:1 – 12:51
Oct. 25 - Ex. 13:1 – 14:31

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, October 18, 2008

October 18 - Here I Am

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Exodus 2:11 - 3:22
"Moses Escapes and God Calls"

Focus Verses: Exodus 3:1-4
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."

Insight:
It's interesting that God did not save the Israelites by giving Moses favor in the eyes of Pharaoh as he had done with Joseph many years before. I wonder why he didn’t. The Pharaoh's daughter had taken him into her care when he was just a small child. Why not make Moses a great leader in Egypt, like Joseph had been?

Instead, God used the disfavor of Pharaoh to get Moses out of Egypt. As an exile in the land of Midian, Moses became a shepherd, started a family, and gained perspective about who he was. Eventually he was called by God to go back to Egypt to save his people from their oppression.

God got Moses' attention with the strange sight of a burning bush. God's presence filled the bush with flames but the bush was not consumed, it just kept burning and burning. In a way, God was calling Moses to become like that bush--completely aflame with God's presence and used for God's purpose. Moses must have thought that such a calling would utterly consume him. But in surrendering his life to God's call, rather than being consumed, Moses was lifted to the most glorious, meaningful, and productive days of his life.

Response and Action:
The ways God plans to use me may not be the ways I would expect to be used. I want to fulfill God's calling and purpose for my life. I will keep my heart and mind open to his leading. When the direction God is leading seems to be to big and overwhelming for me, I will remember Moses and the burning bush. Just as the bush was not consumed, but rather was transformed into a glorious testimony of God's presence and purpose, my life will not be consumed or burned up, but instead be transformed with the light and purpose of Christ.

O God, thank you for saving and reaching out to me. Thank you for being a God of deliverance. Help me to embrace the calling I have in Christ and to find my purpose and fulfillment in him. Help me, like Moses, to say, "Here I am." Give me the faith to find my life by losing it. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 2:9
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
In Context: 1 Peter 2:4-12

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


Friday, October 17, 2008

October 17 - A Difficult Season

Overview of: Exodus

Today's Reading:
Ex. 1:1 – 2:10
"Israel Enslaved"

Focus Verses: Exodus 1:8-10
8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country."

Insight:
The children of Israel had done very well in Egypt. They had done so well and become so numerous that eventually the Pharaoh perceived them to be a threat to his sovereignty. The good Joseph had done and the reason the Israelites had come to Egypt was long forgotten.

Now, instead of just Joseph enduring prison and hardship in Egypt, now his entire family, the Israelites, found themselves in bondage. God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would make them into a nation, but how would God work to bring them freedom and lead them back to the land he had promised them?

The story of the birth of Moses reminds us that God was not absent from their situation, but was actively involved. Even in their bondage, God was helping them to prosper. Even under oppression, God was on the move with a plan to lead them out of Egypt.

Response and Action:
Life has its seasons. There are good times and bad times. God is not absent in the bad times. His promises are still true. Faith holds on to hope in God even during difficult seasons of hardship. I will trust that God is at work and able to sustain me during difficult times. I will also trust God to bring me through those times and fulfill his promises to me.

O God, thank you for the hope and promise you have extended to me. Help me to trust you in difficult times. Give me eyes to see the ways you are present and at work in my life--even during seasons of hardship. You are my salvation and deliverance, O Lord. My hope is in you. Help me to persevere. Strengthen and sustain me by your Spirit, your word, your promises, your people, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 1:3
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...
In Context: 1 Peter 1:3-12

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:26
"It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity."

Resources:
Where Is God When It Hurts?
by Philip Yancey

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October 16 - Seeing Past Death

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 49:29 - 50:26
"Deaths of Jacob and Joseph"

Focus Verses: Genesis 50:24-25
24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place."

Insight:
When Jacob died, he asked that he be buried back in the land God had promised to Abraham. Similarly, when he was about to die, Joseph reminded his family, as they gathered around him, of God's promise. He said, "God will one day lead all of you back to the land he promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Then Joseph told them that when they left Egypt they must not leave his bones behind. Instead, they must take them along so that he too might be buried in the land of promise.

Even on his deathbed, Joseph looked to the possibilities of restoration and blessing that were still ahead. By faith, he was able to look beyond his own circumstances and death to a future hope for his children and his nation.

Response and Action:
I need to know and hold on to God's promises. My faith and perseverance today are part of God's promise and provision for tomorrow. I want to grow into a faith that helps me look beyond my present circumstances with confidence for the future. God has promised to sustain and deliver his people. He has promised a day of restoration and rest for those who trust and follow him.

O God, when my days are weary and my circumstances difficult, give me the faith to cling to your promises. Help me to remember that my faithfulness today is a vital part in my hope for tomorrow. Help me to remind my children and their children of God's promises. And one day, when the future hope you have promised has become the glorious reality of the present, raise my bones and bring me into that place of eternal life and rest, that I might enjoy it forever with you and with them. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 4:9-11a

9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11a Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest...
In Context: Hebrews 4:1-13

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:26
"The laborer's appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on."

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15 - Backwards Blessings

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 48:1 – 49:28
"Jacob Blesses"

Focus Verses: Genesis 48:13-14
13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel's left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel's right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

Insight:
Jacob who was younger than his brother, Esau, had schemed and tricked his father, Isaac, into blessing him. Through his long and dramatic life he learned that blessing was something that came from God. When all was said and done, blessing was something only God could give, not the automatic right of birth order, and not the laying on of hands by a father or grandfather.

So when Joseph brought his sons, Ephraim and Mannaseh to Jacob for a blessing, Jacob crossed his arms and place his right hand (the hand of the greater blessing) on the younger, and his left (the hand of lesser blessing) on the first-born. Jacob seems to be giving testimony the truth he had found so difficult to learn. God's blessing is not just for the first, the best, the strongest, or the greatest. God's blessing reaches to the lowest, and God is able to bless and use anyone.

Response and Action:
I will seek God with all my heart because I believe he is able to bless and sustain me. I am not too low or weak for God to use and bless. No matter where I stand in terms of the world's opinion, God is able to bless and provide for me.

Instead of scraping and scratching for status and success from a human and worldly point of view, I will commit my effort and energy toward knowing and honoring God. I will give myself fully to following Christ and trusting him to bless and guide my life. I will also endeavor to see others through the eyes of Jesus. I will not look at others from a worldly point of view, but rather look to bless and serve the lowly, humble, and weak people around me.

O God, help me to trust your promise that the first shall be last. Help me to humble myself before you, believing that you will lift me up in the right ways at the right time. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Help me to be a blessing to my family, friends, and neighbors. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
In Context: 1 Cor. 1:18-31

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:32
"The LORD tears down the proud man's house but he keeps the widow's boundaries intact."

Resources:
Wrestling with God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14 - Unexpected Blessing

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 46:1 - 47:31
"Israel's Family in Egypt"

Focus Verses: Genesis 47:5-6, 27
5 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6 and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock. - - - 27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number."

Insight:

Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery with evil intentions, but God unexpectedly took the wrong that had been done to Joseph and turned it into good. He took care of Joseph and helped him prosper to a place where he would one day be able to save his family from famine.

When Jacob's family went down into Egypt, they were marginalized because of their occupation and ethnicity. The Egyptians considered nomadic shepherds to be detestable and did not want to associate with them. Joseph had told his family to describe themselves as life-long shepherds, knowing full well that his relatives would be sent to settle in the land of Goshen.

What looked like marginalization actually turned into blessing. Here the family of Israel was able to live undisturbed as a people group. Though it was a time of famine and foreclosure for the Egyptians, the children of Israel were able to acquire land, raise crops and flocks, and prosper. Though they began as a clan of seventy, they grew in number and would one day be a nation of millions.

Response and Action:

I need to trust God to be working for my good even when times seem bad. I need to remember that God can take things intended for evil and turn them for good. God can take the things that look like limitations and turn them into strengths. If I am pushed aside or marginalized, God can turn that into an opportunity for growth and blessing. I need to entrust my life and my hopes to God. I need to remember that God is the master of taking what seems weak and worthless and turning it into unexpected blessing.


O God, give me the faith to expect blessing in the hard places and difficult circumstances that only you can bless. Give me a trust that sees beyond the struggles of today. Give me a joy and a hope that runs deeper than my circumstances. Help me to recognize the way you have blessed me in my past, and encourage me to trust and follow you into my future. I pray this in the name of Jesus, who by your power and grace turned the tragedy of the cross into blessing and life for all who will believe. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:11

11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-13

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:32
"When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge."

Resources:
The Fight: A Practical Handbook for Christian Living
by John White

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13 - Changed

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 44:1 – 45:28
"Joseph Tests His Brothers"

Focus Verses: Genesis 44:30-34
30 "So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy's life, 31 sees that the boy isn't there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy's safety to my father. I said, 'If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!'

33
"Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father."

Insight:

It was Judah's idea to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (Gen. 37). Joseph must have been amazed at the change he now saw in his brother Judah as he pleaded for Benjamin's release and offered to stay as a slave in his place.

As a young man, Judah had been reckless and uncaring in his treatment of Joseph. Now, as an older man, Judah displayed maturity, selflessness, and true concern for someone else. He had pledged to keep Benjamin safe and he was standing by that commitment.

Response and Action:

I want to mature and change. I want to put the foolish and impulsive mistakes of my youth behind me. I want to grow in character and become a generous, caring person who is genuinely concerned with the wellbeing of others.


O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit help me to grow in character and walk with integrity. 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.

New Testament for Today: 1 John 3:16
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
In Context: 1 John 3:11-24

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:14

"The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

Resources:
The Transformation of a Man's Heart
by Stephen W. Smith

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reading Schedule for October 13 - 18

Oct. 13 - Gen. 44:1 – 45:28
Oct. 14 - Gen. 46:1 - 47:31
Oct. 15 - Gen. 48:1 – 49:28
Oct. 16 - Gen. 49:29 - 50:26
Oct. 17 - Ex. 1:1 – 2:10
Oct. 18 - Ex. 2:11 – 3:22

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, October 11, 2008

October 11 - Past Meets Present

Overview of: Genesis

Today's Reading:
Gen. 42:1 - 43:38
"Joseph's Brothers"

Focus Verses: Genesis 42:18-20
18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die." This they proceeded to do.

Insight:
What a surprise it must have been for Joseph when his brothers showed up in Egypt to buy grain. They appeared before him and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. He remembered the dreams he had as a young boy, and now here he was seeing their fulfillment. But wait! In his dreams there were eleven stars bowing down to him, yet here were only ten of his brothers.

What if they weren't telling the truth about his brother Benjamin? What if they were lying and had done something to him along the way. Joseph knew first-hand what they were capable of doing.

Joseph was moved by the remorse they seemed to have, and he showed them kindness by giving them the grain they needed and returning their money. Joseph was also determined to teach them a lesson and to make sure his youngest brother was alive and secure.

What a strange thrill it must have been for Joseph to realize God had been moving in the story of his life. Every step along his winding way, God was weaving and working to save Joseph's family from famine and death.

Response and Action:
I will put my trust in God. Because I believe God knows my future and is at work for good, I will seek him with my whole heart. I will read and meditate upon the Scriptures. I will pray for strength and guidance. I will strive to live with integrity. I will pursue righteousness. I will persevere in the confidence that God is present and active and faithful.

O God, teach me to walk with you in faith. Help me to seek you and love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me peace and assurance in my heart and mind as I entrust my life to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 2 Timothy 1:12b
12b I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
In Context: 2 Timothy 1:3-14

Proverb for Today: Prov. 11:6
"The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires."

Resources:
Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians
by James C. Petty