Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 31 - God is Not Absent

Today's Reading:
Exodus 1:1 – 2:15
"The Israelites and Moses"

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 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.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 31:25
"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 1:3
3Praise 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

Where Is God When It Hurts?
by Philip Yancey

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

October 30 - Bad Turned for Good

Today's Reading:
Gen. 45:1 – 46:4; 47:11; 49:33; 50:14-21
"Jacob and Household Move to Egypt"

Focus Verses: Genesis 44:30-34
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph was able to put the past behind him because he could see how God had redeemed his situation to accomplish good. God's power to save and redeem is so powerful and complete that he can take the evil acts of men and turn them to accomplish good. He can take the very same rain that cancels today's parade and use it to cause tomorrow's garden to flourish.

Response and Action:
Faith in God's power to save and redeem makes it possible to forgive and forget. God is able to save us from our own mistakes and the failures of our past. Trusting God helps us to rise above the wounds and hurts we've experienced. I will trust God to bring me through every twist and turn of life. I will believe God's promise to work all things together for my good. Because God holds my future, I am free to let go of my past and forgive those who have hurt or failed me.

O God, help me to trust you with my whole life. Help me to remember that no mistake or circumstance is greater than you. 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.

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

New Testament for Today: James 1:12
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
In Context: James 1:2-12

Never Beyond Hope: How God Touches & Uses Imperfect People
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Monday, October 29, 2007

October 29 - A Changed Man

Today's Reading:
Gen. 44:1-34
"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."

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.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:23
"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor."

New Testament for Today: 1 John 3:16
16This 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

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

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reading Schedule for Oct. 29 - Nov. 3

Oct. 29 - Gen. 44:1--34
Oct. 30 - Gen. 45:1 – 46:4; 47:11;
49:33; 50:14-21
Oct. 31 - Ex. 1:1 – 2:10
Nov. 1 - Ex. 2:11 – 3:22
Nov. 2 - Ex. 4:1-17
Nov. 3 - Ex. 7:1 – 8:15

You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through key scripture passages from Genesis through Revelation. Click here to download your copy of the Useful Breath Reading Schedule for 2007-08.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

October 27 - Taking the Next Step

Today's Reading:
Gen. 43:1-38
"The Second Trip to Egypt"

Focus Verses: Genesis 43:11-14
11 Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved."

Once again, Israel (Jacob) is at a point where faith in God is his only option. It's clear from the passage that he knew the day was coming when he would have to let his sons return to Egypt, but he had been putting it off as long as possible. His son, Judah, said that in the time Israel had been stalling, they could have gone and returned twice.

When he could wait no longer, Israel gave in and said, "If it must be." He sounds almost fatalistic as he says, "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved." He was struggling, as he had so many times before, with letting go of his control and trusting God to provide. Little did he or his sons know the amazing blessings that were awaiting them once they took this big step of faith.

Response and Action:
It's easy to put off doing things that require faith. Israel procrastinated even though knew he would eventually have to trust God with the whole situation and let his sons go. How am I like that? What step of faith am I putting off? What am I holding on to that I need to entrust to God? What important decision or action would I make today if I really believed in God’s faithfulness to see me through?

O God, only you know what lies ahead in my life, so only you can be trusted to help me face whatever is next. Only you know what blessings I have been delaying by putting off the things I know I must do. Help me to realize that the most important step of faith I need to take is the next step. Help me to trust your will, to discern your guidance, and to obediently follow your leading. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:1
"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."

New Testament for Today: James 4:14
4Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. In Context: James 4:13-17

In His Everlasting Arms: Learning to Trust God in All Circumstances
by Gail MacDonald

Friday, October 26, 2007

October 26 - Is Everything against Me?

Today's Reading:
Gen. 42:27-38
"Jacob and His Sons are Fearful"

Focus Verses: Genesis 42:35-36
35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man's sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!"

What is actually happening to Jacob and his sons, and what they fear is happening are two very different things. They fear they've lost another brother, but they are actually on a path to being reunited with a brother. They fear that the money in their sacks is a trick to trap and hurt them, but they are actually being given free food during a famine. They fear that their hard lives are headed for even harder times, but they are actually headed for some of the most prosperous and happy times they have ever known. They fear that "everything is against them," when in actuality the Almighty God is working to bless them.

When everything seemed to be against Joseph, he chose to live by faith. Instead of seeing his situation through fear, he chose to believe that God was with him. He kept trusting that God had a plan and that God would be faithful regardless of how things appeared.

When fear dominates our hearts and minds, we say, "Everything is against us." When faith in God dominates our hearts and minds, we say, "We will not be afraid, because God is with us."

Response and Action:
I choose to look at the events and circumstances of my life with eyes of faith instead of eyes of fear. When it looks like things are against me, I will remember that God is with me.

O God, 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. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus, to walk in your way and seek your will. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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."

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:2
2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-13

In His Everlasting Arms: Learning to Trust God in All Circumstances
by Gail MacDonald

Thursday, October 25, 2007

October 25 - My Winding Walk with God

Today's Reading:
Gen. 42:1-26
"Joseph's Brothers Go to Egypt"

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.

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.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

October 24 - Waiting for God's Timing

Today's Reading:
Genesis 41:1-57
"Pharaoh and Joseph"

Focus Verses: Genesis 41:9-14
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged." 14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

Though he had been released and restored as Joseph had foretold, Pharaoh's cupbearer had forgotten to help or say anything about Joseph. Now that Pharaoh was troubled by dreams, the cupbearer remembered his own encounter with Joseph.

I'm struck with how God used the forgetfulness of the cupbearer for good. If he had mentioned Joseph right away, what would have happened? Would Joseph have been at the right place at the right time? The mistake of the cupbearer resulted in Joseph being remembered and found at just the moment Pharaoh would need him, at just the moment he would be willing to elevate Joseph to a position of power, at just the moment Jacob and his family were experiencing famine and would need to go to Egypt to buy food.

God uses even the mistakes and hardship in our lives to accomplish greater purposes and greater good.

Response and Action:
I will trust God to accomplish his purposes in his time and his way. I take heart in knowing that human mistakes and injustices do not stop God from working toward good for his people. I am encouraged to know that God can turn things meant for evil and work them for good. When I face hardship and failure, I will strive to be faithful and trust God to redeem my difficult circumstances for his good purposes in his good time.

O God, help me to live one day at a time in the confidence that you know my needs and you know my future. Help me to be faithful to you in the belief that you will be faithful to me. Help me to look to you and to wait on you in the hope that you are using everything I entrust to you to accomplish your good will. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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."

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:28
28And 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

Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

October 23 - Seeing past Circumstances

Today's Reading:
Gen. 40:1-23
"Joseph Interprets Two Dreams"

Focus Verses: Genesis 40:14-15
14 "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon."

The king of Egypt had thrown his cupbearer and baker into prison suspecting them of wrongdoing. These men were far more than kitchen help; their close proximity to the king made their jobs very high positions. Since the king ate food from their hands, these men needed to be absolutely trustworthy. Either one of them could have posed a threat to the king's life.

Joseph's interpretation of the dreams made it clear that the cupbearer was innocent, and would soon be restored to his high position. The baker, however, would be found guilty of treason and be publicly executed for his crime.

Joseph interpreted these dreams with God's help (v.8). His life had been difficult and he had been put in jail under false charges, but still his trust and devotion toward God were as strong as ever. It must have encouraged Joseph to see that the cupbearer (an accused man who had been wrongly imprisoned) would be released and restored to a place of trust and responsibility.

Response and Action:
My faith in God and my devotion to him must be strong regardless of my circumstances. Even if I am enduring hardship or injustice, I will put my trust in God. Living by faith will shape the way I see the world. A strong faith in God and a commitment to his word will help me have a clearer view of the world, and give me insights about the meaning of my circumstances. Rather than allowing my life circumstances to shape the way I view my relationship with God, I will cultivate my relationship with God so that it shapes the way I view my circumstances.

O God, give me eyes to see you at work in my life and in my circumstances. Help me to remember that your ways and your thoughts are higher than mine. You know my coming and my going. Before a word is on my lips, you know it. You know all that is behind me and all that is before me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. Give me a living and growing faith that looks beyond present circumstances to the future hope you give to all who seek you. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:17-19
"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. Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path."

New Testament for Today: Philippians 1:12
12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
In Context: Philippians 1

Never Beyond Hope: How God Touches & Uses Imperfect People
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Monday, October 22, 2007

October 22 - Watching My Step

Today's Reading:
Gen. 39:1-23
"Joseph in Potiphar's House"

Focus Verses: Genesis 39:19-23
19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is how your slave treated me," he burned with anger. 20 Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Joseph is learning a lot about human nature and suffering at the hands of others. First, his brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. Then, as a servant in Egypt, his master was good him, but his master's wife wanted Joseph to engage in an illicit affair with her behind husband's back.

The harsh realities of life were knocking Joseph's naiveté out of him. Through it all, Joseph looked to God in faith, and God was faithful to look out for Joseph and give him success.

Response and Action:
God's goodness is greater than the wrongs others can do to me, greater than my inexperience, greater than my mistakes, and greater than my circumstances. If I look to God in faith, God will faithfully look after me. I will be on guard for traps and temptations. I will look to God for wisdom, protection, strength, and ways of escape.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Give me wisdom to discern traps and pitfalls around me. Help me to walk in your ways and to grow, live with integrity, and follow you in faith. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:3
"A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 10:13
13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
In Context: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Beneath the Surface: Steering Clear of the Dangers That Could Leave You Shipwrecked
by Bob Reccord

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reading Schedule for October 22 - 27

Oct. 22 - Gen. 39:1-23
Oct. 23 - Gen. 40:1-23
Oct. 24 - Genesis 41:1-57
Oct. 25 - Gen. 42:1-26
Oct. 26 - Gen. 42:27-38
Oct. 27 - Gen. 43:1-2, 8-31

You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through key scripture passages from Genesis through Revelation. Click here to download your copy of the Useful Breath Reading Schedule for 2007-08.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October 20 - Open to Possibilities

Today's Reading:
Gen. 37:1-36
"Joseph Dreams"

Focus Verses: Genesis 37:9-11
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

When Joseph told his family about his dreams, his brothers took it as an offense. They all knew Joseph was his daddy's favorite and they were jealous of him. They just assumed his dreams were the crazy ideas of a spoiled kid with an inflated sense of importance.

Even Jacob rebuked Joseph, but he must have wondered what the dreams were about. He himself had had some important dreams as a young man, so he "kept the matter in mind." Was there something to these dreams? What could they mean? Was God up to something new? Did God have some special plan in mind for Joseph?

Response and Action:
Life is full of mysteries and God's work and purpose for our lives isn't always clear to us
. I need to be careful to not dismiss the possibilities of big things and important opportunities in my life or the lives of others close to me. God is at work in my life and the lives of my family and friends in ways I cannot begin to know or imagine. I will be open to to possibilities, have an open mind, and keep my eyes open to the ways God is leading and moving.

O God, open my eyes to the ways you are leading me. Help me to recognize the ways you are at work in my life. Guide me by your written word, by your Holy Spirit, and by the godly counsel of others who are listening and responding to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 1:11
11In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will...
In Context: Ephesians 1:3-12

Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Friday, October 19, 2007

October 19 - New Clothes

Today's Reading:
Gen. 35:1-15
"Jacob Returns to Bethel"

Focus Verses: Genesis 35:1-3
1 Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."

Jacob took his family to Bethel to settle there. When he fled his home as a young man, this was the place he first discovered God was with him, reaching down, and ready to bless and lead. This new home for his family would be centered around worshiping the true God. They would be living in "Bethel" -- the "house of God."

In preparation for their new lives, they cast aside the idols and earrings of their past, and buried them in Shechem. Before setting out for Bethel, they put on new clothes as a symbol of their new commitment to a new way of life. They approached their new start in their new home with a new attitude. They would even have a new name. Instead of being the children of Jacob, they would now be the children of Israel.

The first thing Jacob did when they arrived was to set up an altar and offer worship to the one true God who had been with him every step of the way. He understood that obedience, purification, and worship were the foundation stones of his family's new life.

Response and Action:
God has given me the opportunity to live a new life through Christ. Just as Jacob's family had to get rid of false gods and attachments to their pagan past, I need to cast off and leave behind my sinful habits and desires. Worship and devotion to God are central to living a new life.
I will commit myself to a new life. I will examine my ways and my choices in the light of God's word. I will turn away from sin. I will seek God's guidance through prayer. I will be faithful to worship God in my daily life, and faithful to gather with other Christians for worship every week.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways. Make me a new creation and teach me to live a new life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:16
"He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die."

New Testament for Today: Colossians 3:12
12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
In Context: Colossians 3:1-17

Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Thursday, October 18, 2007

October 18 - Faith to Move Forward

Today's Reading:
Gen. 33:1-20
"Jacob Faces Esau"

Focus Verses: Genesis 33:1-20
18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

Jacob determined to move forward and took God at his word. His confidence in God was greater than his fear of Esau. He determined to hold on to the hope of his God-promised future, and let go of the fears of his self-muddled past.

The encounter and conversation Jacob and Esau have is multi-layered and complex. You can feel the deeper issues looming beneath the polite and cordial surface conversation. Esau appears to have the same failings he had as a young man: short-sighted, impulsive, and easily bribed. Jacob, however, seems changed. He pays Esau off, but he is no longer the arrogant, self-assured manipulator. Now his words and actions seem to come from a humble reliance upon God.

He had survived the encounter with Esau. He had arrived safely in Canaan. So he bought a piece of land where he could pitch his tent. The first thing he did was to set up an altar to worship God. He called it the altar "El Elohe" which means "Mighty is the God of the one who struggles with Him."

Response and Action:
I want to move forward into the life God has promised for me. I need to move beyond the failures and habits of my past. It is a struggle to live by faith--to keep believing that there is a better land ahead and a future hope. Every step forward in obedience is a testimony of faith. What habits and patterns of my past is God asking me to confront today? If I truly have faith in God, what obedient steps should I take today?

O God, help me to trust you more than I fear my past. Give me a faith in your strength that is greater than the fears of my weaknesses. Help me, by faith in your grace and power, to confront the failed habits and patterns I have developed through the years. I am a struggler God. I struggle with who I am, who you are, and the possibility of who I can be in you. By the power 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.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:19
"An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel."

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:1b
1b...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-12

Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October 17 - Honest about Who I Am

Today's Reading:
Gen. 32:22-32
"Jacob Wrestles with God"

Focus Verses: Genesis 32:24-28
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

Jacob was afraid to face his brother, Esau, because he had stolen his blessing by deceiving their father, Isaac. Many years earlier, when Jacob gone to his father to steal the blessing, Isaac asked, "Who is it?" Jacob lied to his father and said, "It's your son, Esau." That lie and the bitterness it caused made it necessary for Jacob to run for his life. Esau wanted to kill him.

In today's reading, an older and wiser Jacob returns to his homeland and prepares himself to face Esau. He spends a sleepless night wrestling with God--a struggle to submit to God and to trust God's promise to bless him.

As Jacob wrestled with the man (some sort of vision or representation of God), he said, "I won't let go unless you bless me." The man said, "What is your name?" Years ago when his aged father had asked the same question, he lied. This time he answered, "Jacob." He admitted that he was a "schemer," a "heel grabber" who had pushed and pulled with God and men his whole life.

God knocked Jacob's hip out of joint and gave him a new name, Israel, which means "one who struggles with God." This is the great struggle we all face--faith in God vs. faith in self. Jacob discovered that walking with a limp actually made it easier for him to walk by faith.

Response and Action:
I need to be honest about who I am. What are the ways I struggle with God? What am I trying to do in my own strength and my own wisdom? How is that struggle keeping me from truly living by faith in God? What strengths are getting in the way of trust? I need to earnestly seek and believe he rewards those who seek him. I need to recognize my need for God and surrender my life to his care and guidance.

O God, help me to be honest with you and with myself. Help me to trust you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. If my strengths get in the way of my faith, O God, by your grace and mercy I ask you to turn them to weakness. Better still, give me the humility to see every strength as a gift from you to be used for your purposes and for your glory. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:24
“A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:11-12
11No 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. 12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-12

Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October 16 - Praying the Promises

Today's Reading:
Genesis 32:1-21
"Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau"

Focus Verses: Genesis 32:9-12
9 Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,' 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.' "

Jacob had fled his father's house because he feared for his life. Now, many years later, the thought of facing his estranged brother, Esau, still put fear into his heart. Jacob began thinking of anything he could do to prevent or survive an attack by Esau. More importantly, he cried out to God for help.

Jacob believed God had called him to return to Canaan, and that God had promised to protect and prosper him if he obeyed. Now, as he approached Edom, with the very real threat of Esau's revenge, he was afraid for his life and the lives of his family members. He had come to the point where he was absolutely dependent upon God's faithfulness. He reminded himself of all God had promised, and he recounted those promises in his prayer.

Response and Action:
I need to believe in God and obey him in order to experience his faithfulness to me. Living by faith will likely put me in situations where I am understandably afraid and unsure about what lies ahead. In those times, I will cry out to God and recount God's promises to me.

O God, help me to walk with you in the light of your word. Shine the light of your truth on my way. Where you send, I will go. What you say, I will do. Even if I am fearful, I will trust and obey. Give me the peace of Christ to guard my heart and mind. Every step of my life's journey, remind me of your promises, you faithfulness, and your love. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:9
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:2,3
2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-12

Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Monday, October 15, 2007

October 15 - Trusting God through Change

Today's Reading:
Gen. 31:22-55
"Laban Pursues Jacob"

Focus Verses: Genesis 31:45-49
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, "Gather some stones." So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."

It's difficult to navigate through the changes in life. Laban and Jacob had both cheated and benefited each other. They needed each other, but they both wanted to be free from each other too. Now they were at a decisive point of separation.

Neither one of them fully trusted each other (with good reason), but they promised each other, before God, that neither of them would harm the other. Jacob would take care of Laban's daughters and grandchildren. Laban would release, pursue them no further, and do them no wrong. As a sign and a reminder of their promises to each other, Jacob and Laban made a pile of stones.

Response and Action:
Our lives are bound up and interwoven with the lives of others, but there are times when we must face and accept changes in those relationships. Our children grow up and leave home and start making their own choices and living by their own values. Our friendships go through changes because our life circumstances change (jobs, health, location, responsibilities).

Ultimately, we have to live our own lives before God. We all need to commit ourselves to be good to each other and trust God to keep watch over us. I need to yield myself to God and trust him with the changes in my life instead of trying to control things beyond my control. Rather than letting life changes destroy relationships, I want to accept changes, to trust others, and to trust God. When I reach decisive milestones in my relationships with others, it might be helpful for me to do something special to mark those changes and help me remember them before God.

O God, teach me to trust you with every change in life. Give me a heart that desires what is best for others. Stop me from taking any action or saying any word that would destroy a friendship or hurt a relationship. Help me to treat others with the same grace and freedom I would want them to treat me. Remind me of your faithfulness and increase my faith. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:3
"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good."

New Testament for Today: Matthew 7:12
12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
In Context: Matthew 7

Down-To-Earth Spirituality: Encountering God in the Ordinary, Boring Stuff of Life
by R. Paul Stevens

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reading Schedule for October 15 - 20

Oct. 15 - Gen. 31:22-55
Oct. 16 - Gen. 32:1-21
Oct. 17 - Gen. 32:22-32
Oct. 18 - Gen. 33:1-20
Oct. 19 - Gen. 35:1-15
Oct. 20 - Gen. 37:1-36

You're invited to read through the Bible with Dave Burkum. Six readings each week will take you through key scripture passages from Genesis through Revelation. Click here to download your copy of the Useful Breath Reading Schedule for 2007-08.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 13 - Recognizing God's Provision

Today's Reading:
Gen. 31:1-21
"Jacob Flees from Laban"

Focus Verses: Genesis 31:13
13 'I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.'

Despite his Uncle Laban's attempts to keep him in servitude, Jacob had prospered. He had done so well, in fact, that Laban developed a bad attitude toward him.

Jacob remembered the promise God had made to him at Bethel--to take care of him and bring him back to the land promised to Abraham. Jacob acknowledged God's provision as the reason for his success, and now believed God was telling him to make the big move and leave Laban.

In a sense, it was time for him to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Abraham. He felt the pressure to get away from Laban, but he must have also felt the pull of stepping out in faith to claim God's promise.

Response and Action:
I want to recognize the many ways God provides for me. I want to be ready to step out in faith to claim God's promises for me.

O God, help me to recognize your hand in every blessing of my life. Give me the courage to step out in faith, believing you will keep your promises to me. Help me to trust in your faithfulness. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:11
"Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow."

New Testament for Today: Philippians 4:19
19And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
In Context: Philippians 4:6-20

Down-To-Earth Spirituality: Encountering God in the Ordinary, Boring Stuff of Life
by R. Paul Stevens

Friday, October 12, 2007

October 12 - God's Design in the Details

Today's Reading:
Gen. 29:31 – 30:24
"Jacob's Children"

Focus Verses: Genesis 29:31-32
31 When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now."

The interpersonal dynamics of living in Jacob's house were, shall we say, a bit complex. Today's scripture reading doesn't present a pretty picture. The lives of Jacob and his family were strained and clouded by the competition for love, the need to be valued, the desire to have children, the struggle for dominance, and the fatigue of just trying to get along with each other.

It's amazing to realize that beneath all of their domestic strife and dysfunction, God was building a nation. This messy story of a polygamous family is the beginnings of the twelve tribes of Israel. While Jacob, his wives, and his children were consumed with their own daily needs and affairs (not one of them says anything that indicates they were thinking about God's covenant or ultimate purposes for them), God was working to build a nation through whom he would bring the Messiah, through whom he would bring salvation to the world.

Response and Action:
I need to remember that God is at work in the messy details of my daily life. I want to be more aware of the God's bigger purposes for my life in the world. I don't want to be so preoccupied with the details of my life that they become trivialities. I want to see God's design in the details. I want to cultivate a daily awareness of God's bigger purpose and plan for me.

O God, you have given me life and you have a plan for my life. Help me to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. Give me eyes that see past the temporary affairs of today to eternal things. Help me to put first the things that last. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:15
"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice."

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:28
28And 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

Down-To-Earth Spirituality: Encountering God in the Ordinary, Boring Stuff of Life
by R. Paul Stevens

Thursday, October 11, 2007

October 11 - The Schemer Gets Outschemed

Today's Reading:Gen. 29:1-30
"Jacob, Laban, Rachel and Leah"
Focus Verses: Genesis 27:18-19
22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" 26 Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work."

The story of Jacob's arrival in Paddan Aram is very reminiscent of the trip Abraham's servant made to get a wife for Isaac (Jacob's mother). It doesn't take long to see that Jacob had met his match in Uncle Laban. No wonder Abraham was against his son, Isaac, going back to Haran, and forbade his servant from taking him there.

Abraham's wise servant managed to accomplish his mission and return home. Jacob, however, impulsively signed up for seven years of service and got hoodwinked into fourteen years. As I read the story, I find it almost comical to hear Jacob say to Laban, "What have you done? Why have you deceived me?"

The deceiver was outdeceived by Laban. Will Jacob's dealings with his conniving uncle teach him anything about trusting God? Will he learn to rely on God more than his own wits?

Response and Action:
I want to rely on God for my life and my direction in life. I need more than my wits, I need his wisdom. I want to integrity more than ingenuity. I want to delight and walk in God's ways so I don't have to learn everything the hard way.
O God, show me you ways. Guide me in your truth and lead me. Help me to trust in you with all my heart, and not depend on my own strength and understanding. I want to acknowledge you, and my need for you, in every day and every way. Amen.
Proverb for Today: Prov. 11:3
"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 3:19-20
18Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise.19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"; 20and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile."
In Context: 1 Corinthians 3