Saturday, February 28, 2009

February 28 - Thirsty

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 54:1 - 55:13
"Call to the Thirsty"

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

Insight:
Only God can give true life and true satisfaction. It is such a waste to spend time, money, and effort on things that do not ultimately fulfill or satisfy the deepest longings our hearts. How many things have I chased after because I thought they would make my life better, but instead found them to be yet another empty promise?

Jesus said, "Let everyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. For he who believes in me will have streams of living water flowing from the innermost part of his being." If I listen to God, give attention to his words, and take hold of the life he offers, I will find myself delighted and truly alive in Christ.

Response and Action:
God invites me to find fulfillment and satisfaction in him. Jesus invites me to come to him for life and meaning and salvation. I will respond to God's invitation and take hold of his promises by placing my faith and hope in Christ Jesus. I will follow him, forsaking my own ways and thoughts, and commit my heart and soul to living by faith in Christ.

O God, forgive me for the times I chase after the things that do not give life. Give me the wisdom and will to seek you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Only you can satisfy the desires of my heart. Only you can give my life the meaning and purpose I long for. Only you can meet my deepest needs and fulfill my highest aspirations. Thank you for Jesus and the life he gives to thirsty people like me who come to him and drink. Amen.


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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:26
"He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe."

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

February 27 - Arm of Salvation

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 40:1-31; 52:1 - 53:12
"God's Servant who Saves"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Reading:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 26 - Tempted by Suffering

Overview of: Job

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

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

Insight:
It's easy to see a suffering person's need for comfort and help, but not so easy to see that person's need to be confronted or corrected. Suffering presents unique and intense challenges and temptations. We are tempted to reject God or blame him. We are tempted to think everything is meaningless. Subsequently, we are tempted to live in self-centered, bitter, or careless ways. Suffering can produce its own peculiar kind of arrogance that finds its root in a sense of unjust victimization.

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

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

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

New Testament for Today: Phil. 4:6-7
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In Context: Phil. 4:4-9

Proverb for Today: Prov. 26:12
"Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Recommended Reading:
Disappointment with God & Where is God When it Hurts? (2 books in 1 volume)
by Philip Yancey

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February 25 - Questioning God

Overview of: Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:26
"Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked."

Recommended Reading:
Faith & Doubt
by John Ortberg

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24 - Regardless of Circumstances

Overview of: Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:10
"If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!"

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

February 23 - Holy Servants

Overview of: Malachi

Today's Reading:
Malachi 1:1 – 3:18
"The Righteous and the Wicked"

Focus Verses: Malachi 2:7-8
7 "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the LORD Almighty.

Insight:
The priests of Malachi's time had become corrupt and they caused the people they served to stumble. They had broken the covenant and violated the relationship God had established with them when the priesthood was inaugurated in the time of Moses. Rather than teaching truth, working for peace, and living with integrity, the priests were selfish, shallow, and deceitful.

Response and Action:
The Apostle Peter tells Christians that they are to be a holy priesthood who offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. Our lives are to be a testimony of righteousness. We are to declare the praises of God who has called us out of darkness. Truth, peace, integrity, light, and good deeds should be marks of all who follow Christ Jesus.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. By your power and grace, help me to live with integrity, to be a testimony of your saving love, to be a witness to your love and mercy, to say the words and to do the works that honor you and fulfill your purpose and calling for my life. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:17
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD."

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 2:9-10
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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
In Context: 1 Peter 2:4-11

Recommended Reading:
The Pursuit of Holiness
by Jerry Bridges

Reading Schedule for February 23 - 28

Feb. 23 - Malachi 1:1 – 3:18
Feb. 24 - Job 1:1 – 2:10
Feb. 25 - Job 30:11-31; 38:1-41
Feb. 26 - Job 42:1-17
Feb. 27 - Isaiah 40:1-31; 52:1 - 53:12
Feb. 28 - Isaiah 54:1 - 55:13


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 by clicking the link in the right column.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February 21 - Faithful and Blessed

Overview of: Esther

Today's Reading:
Esther 7:1 – 10:3
"Threats Turned to Blessing"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

February 20 - Such a Time as This

Overview of: Esther

Today's Reading:
Esther 4:1 – 6:14
"Haman, Esther, and Mordecai"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:24
"A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?"

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 19 - (God)Incidents

Overview of: Esther

Today's Reading:
Esther 1:1 – 3:15
"Vashti and Esther"

Focus Verses: Esther 3:7
7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the pur (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.

Insight:
While God is never explicitly mentioned in the book, God's hand of providence and intervention is clearly implied in all the events and details of the story. As the details unfold, it becomes clear that God has been at work behind the scenes all along. Events and situations, which appear at first to be unrelated and circumstantial, turn out to be threads in God's hand that he is weaving into a tapestry of redemption for his people. What seemed to be coincidence was actually a series of God-incidents.

Response and Action:
I will trust that God is at work for my future and for his good purposes. It's hard to know how the events of today will be woven into my future. Some things that seem important may end up forgotten. Some things may be crucial to my unfolding story. Will something that happens today be important to me in years to come? Who knows? God knows, so I will live for God today--seeking his will, living by his word, putting him first, giving Him honor--trusting that my future is in his hands.

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

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
In Context: Romans 8:28-39

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

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18 - The Book

Overview of: Nehemiah

Today's Reading:
Neh. 7:73 – 8:18
"Ezra Reads Scripture"

Focus Verses: Nehemiah 8:5-6
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Insight:
Reading and understanding the Scriptures were central to the rebuilding of Israel. The remnant of Jews who had returned from exile needed to understand the word of the Lord if they were to reestablish their worship, life, and traditions. For days, the people listened to Ezra reading the book of the Law. Teachers helped to translate and explain what Ezra was reading. The people wept because they were so moved and convicted by what they heard.

Response and Action:
Reading and understanding God's word is central to my life. If I am to build a life that is strong and true, I must build on the firm foundation of God's word. Just as the Ezra and the people of Israel gave special effort and time to give attention to Scripture, I will set aside time and make a special effort to attend to Bible reading. Just as those who heard the Scriptures were moved to tears, I will be soft-hearted toward God's word. Just as those who had trouble understanding what they were hearing, I will seek out help and instruction to gain understanding.

O God, thank you for the Bible. Thank you for the testimony and guidance of Scripture. Help me to understand and apply the truth of your Word in my daily life. Give me the wisdom and the will to make time for reading and meditating upon your Word. By the breath of your Holy Spirit, make your word living and active in my heart. Use it to teach me, rebuke me, correct me, and train me in righteousness, that I might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Matthew 7:24
24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
In Context: Matt. 7:13-29

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

Recommended Reading:
Excellence in Leadership: Reaching Goals with Prayer, Courage, and Determination
by John White

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17 - Doing My Part

Overview of: Nehemiah

Today's Reading:
Neh. 1:1-11; 2:1-20
"Nehemiah Rebuilds"

Focus Verses: Nehemiah 2:17-18
17 Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace." 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding." So they began this good work.

Insight:
Though Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, his heart and prayers were with the remnant of Israel that had returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Persia. Upon hearing news that the rebuilding of the temple and the city were being hindered because of the disrepair of the city walls and gates, he prayed and fasted and took up the challenge to do something about it.

God provided the materials, time, and security Nehemiah needed to take on the task. Nehemiah's ability to plan, pray, and push served the cause well. Under his leadership, the wall, which had been in ruins ever since the exiles had returned, would soon be completed.

Response and Action:
I want to have a heart for God's people and the cause of Christ. As Nehemiah was concerned for the advancement and restoration of Jerusalem, I want to be seriously engaged in the mission, the stability, and the body life of my church.

I will fast and pray for the advancement of God's kingdom in our community. I will contribute my skills and efforts to help my church family become stronger, deeper, and more effective. My faith in God compels me to have a passion for the greater Christian community and the cause of Christ. I will do my part and enlist others to join me in Kingdom service and mission.

O God, thank you for your Church. Thank you for the community of Christ-followers in my city. Help me, as a member of that community, to do my part to strengthen and advance the ministry and mission of Jesus. Bless and provide for all those who are committing their lives and their efforts to proclaim the Good News. Uphold and guide all those who are serving and blessing the world in the spirit and way of Jesus. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 4:15-16
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
In Context: Eph. 4:1-32

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:2
"A wise servant will rule over a disgraceful son, and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers."

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

February 16 - Time for First Things

Overview of:
Haggai

Zechariah

Today's Reading:
Haggai 1:1 – 2:5; Zech. 8:1-23
"Calling & Promise"

Focus Verses: Haggai 1:2-6
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' " 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

Insight:
When Israel returned from exile and captivity, their first priority seems to have been to rebuild their own homes and lives. Evidently, they got very use to thinking about rebuilding the Temple as something they would get around to someday. Haggai confronted them with their self-centered procrastination. He warned them that it was time to put God first. They could no longer put their own comfort and gain before worship and reverence for God, and expect God to bless them.

Response and Action:
I need to put first things first. I need to be sure worship and service for God are a higher priority to me than personal gain and comfort. What am I not giving to God because I am spending it on myself? What am I not able to do for God because I am too busy doing things for me? How can I expect to be blessed by God if I put worship and service for him behind what I do for myself?

O God, help me to seek you and serve you with true reverence and devotion. Forgive me for the times I am guided by my own selfish ambition rather than selfless worship for you. Help me to seek your kingdom and your righteousness above all else. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Matthew 6:33-34
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In Context: Matt. 6:25-34

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:20
"Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD."

Recommended Reading:
Freedom from Tyranny of the Urgent
by Charles E. Hummel

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reading Schedule for February 16 - 21

Feb. 16 - Haggai 1:1 – 2:5; Zech. 8:1-23
Feb. 17 - Neh. 1:1-11; 2:1-20
Feb. 18 - Neh. 7:73 – 8:18
Feb. 19 - Esther 1:1 – 3:15
Feb. 20 - Esther 4:1 – 6:14
Feb. 21 - Esther 7:1 – 10:3

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, February 14, 2009

February 14 - Renewal

Overview of: Ezra

Today's Reading:
Ezra 1:1-7; 3:1 - 4:5
"Return to Jerusalem"

Focus Verses: Ezra 1:1-3
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.' "

Insight:
God had used foreign powers to humble, discipline, and purify his people. Seventy years later, just as he had promised through the prophet Jeremiah, he used the King of Persia to restore the Israelites to their homeland. During their years of exile, God had used prophets and leaders like Ezekiel and Daniel to preserve a remnant of Israel. These faithful Jews were now given the chance to return to their homeland.

The first thing those who returned to Jerusalem did was to build an altar to the Lord. They reestablished a priesthood, and restored the practices of worship, feast days, and sacrifices. Zerubbabel led the effort to rebuild the Temple.

Response and Action:
God is able to accomplish his purpose in my life. The very things that challenge, humble, and refine me today, God can use to restore and renew me tomorrow. The most important thing I can do is to seek and love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I will not need God's hand of discipline to turn me toward him. If I seek him with my whole heart, he will sustain me through times of challenge and hardship. When I experience times of favor and success, I will be careful to make worship my first priority and concern.

O God, you are sovereign. You are able to accomplish your purposes in the world and in my life. Give me the wisdom to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and my heart turned toward you. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, trusting that everything else I need will be provided. Thank you for your great faithfulness and the hope of restoration you have given me in Christ. It's in his redeeming name that I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Jude 1:24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
In Context: Jude 1:17-25

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:11
"The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish."

Recommended Reading:
Renewing The City: Reflections On Community Development And Urban Renewal
by Robert D. Lupton

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13 - Vindicated

Overview of: Daniel

Today's Reading:
Daniel 5:1 – 6:28
"Daniel Prospers"

Focus Verses: Daniel 6:25-28
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: "May you prosper greatly! 26 "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. "For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions." 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Insight:
Daniel was a Jewish captive living in exile. He experienced hardship and endured persecution for his faith. Ultimately, his faithfulness to God resulted in prosperity and blessing. Even King Darius was moved to offer praise and worship to "the God of Daniel," because he had witnessed God's mighty power to sustain and help Daniel.

Response and Action:
My faithfulness to God through thick and thin will result in blessing to me and others. I want to live with faithfulness and boldness like Daniel. I pray that my life would be a testimony of God's power to protect, sustain, and bless.

O God, pour out your mercy and blessing on me. Give me a heart that is faithful toward you, grant me the strength to persevere through any circumstance, and give me the wisdom and will to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Phil. 3:13-14
13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
In Context: Philippians 3

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:14
"The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

Recommended Reading:
Following After God: What Difference Does God Make
by Daniel Hill

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 12 - Puzzled

Overview of: Daniel

Today's Reading:
Daniel 2:24 - 3:29
"Prayers for Wisdom"

Focus Verses: Daniel 2:17-20
17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.

Insight:
The "magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers" who served King Nebuchadnezzar claimed to have special gifts of interpretation and secret knowledge. The King challenged the credibility of these claims by essentially saying, "Anybody can make up an interpretation to a dream. If you're so smart, tell me the dream. If you can't tell me the dream, why should I believe your interpretation."

Daniel, on the other hand, claimed no special gift or secret knowledge. Instead he simply professed his faith in the God who knew all things. Daniel's ability to reveal and interpret the king's dream would not be something Daniel would do on his own, but something God might do if Daniel called out to him. When God answered his prayer, Daniel's immediate response was thanks, praise, and testimony.

Response and Action:
The world is filled with needs I cannot meet, questions I cannot answer, and problems I cannot solve. While many claim to have all the answers, their solutions usually fail. That is not a mistake I ever want to make.

Instead, like Daniel, I simply want to put my faith and confidence in God’s power to meet needs, provide answers, and solve problems. I will cry out to God for the insight and wisdom I need to serve and bless others. I will give God praise and thanks for any good thing he helps me do in his name.

O God, by the grace of your Holy Spirit, transform and empower me to be your servant. By following in the footsteps of Jesus, teach me to live out grace and truth that blesses others. By the instruction, rebuke, and correction of your Holy Scriptures, train me in righteousness and make me thoroughly equipped for every good work. I ask all this in Jesus' name, with a readiness to give thanks and praise to you for every mercy you grant. Amen.

New Testament for Today: James 1:5-6
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
In Context: James 1

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:8
"A man is praised according to his wisdom, but men with warped minds are despised."

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 11 - Mindset

Overview of: Daniel

Today's Reading:
Daniel 1:1 - 2:23
"Daniel's Resolve"

Focus Verses: Daniel 1:8,11-12,15-16
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. - - - 11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. - - - 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

Insight:
Daniel, like Ezekiel, prophesied during the time of Israel's exile and captivity. From lands he had conquered, the King of Babylon selected bright young promising men with the intention of preparing them to serve his purposes and his kingdom. Daniel, however, never forgot that his life and his purpose belonged to the God of Israel. He made up his mind to honor God in the details of his daily life, trusting that God would bless his devotion. God’s blessing was so apparent, even the kings Daniel served came to realize that Daniel's god truly was God.

Response and Action:
My mindset and desires of my heart are important. I want to honor God and put him first in the daily details and routines of my life. I want to live out my faith and commitment to God in my schedule, my diet, my study, my habits, and my work. The evidence of a consistent life well lived is a stronger testimony for God than words can ever be. People cannot argue with a life of faith that proves itself in peace, integrity, balance, strength, and wellness.

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. 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 live a disciplined life with a heart aimed toward honoring and enjoying you. Though Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 5:15-18
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
In Context: Ephesians 4:17 - 5:20

Proverb for Today: Prov. 11:3
"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."

Recommended Reading:
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
by Richard Foster

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 10 - Life and Breath

Overview of: Ezekiel

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 37:1-28
"Bones Coming to Life"

Focus Verses: Ezekiel 37:3-6
3 He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "

Insight:
God has the power to restore life. He can raise the dead. Those who are dead in their transgressions are not beyond God's resurrection power. The messed up and broken world is not beyond God's power to revive and restore. God can take a dead end and turn it into a new life. By the power and grace of God's Spirit, death gives way to breath.

Response and Action:
I need to look to God for life and restoration. Can God raise these bones and give them life? Yes. I must not give up on life or on the possibilities of change and transformation. In situations where things seem as hopeless as a pile of dry bones, I must remember that God can raise even dry bones into a mighty army to serve his purposes.

O God, give me faith in your power to save and restore. Help me to remember that you are able to conquer death with life. My hope is in you. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who lives in me, the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 11:25-26
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
In Context: John 11:17-43

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

Recommended Reading:
Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in an Everyday Life
by Eugene Peterson