Friday, November 30, 2007

November 30 - Secret Sins

Today's Reading:
Joshua 7:1-26
"Achan's Sin"

Focus Verses: Joshua 7:19-21
19 Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me." 20 Achan replied, "It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath."

The story of Achan is sad and tragic. It's sad that Achan valued possessions more than he valued obedience to God. It's sad that he somehow thought he could hide his sin from God and from others. It's tragic that his sin resulted in others losing their lives. It's tragic how his self-indulgence turned out to be self-destruction.

Response and Action:
My secret sins are no secret to God. Still, I have secret sins and it's easy for me to identify with Achan. I don't want secret sins to destroy me or to hurt others. How many times have we all seen that!

I am thankful for the grace and forgiveness God has extended to me through Christ Jesus. I want to live a life that is fully devoted to him. I will not bury sins under the “tent floor” of my life. I will strive to be honest with God and with others. With the guidance of God’s word, and the transforming strength of the Holy Spirit, I can escape the snares and temptations of selfish desires.

O God, help me to walk with integrity. Do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. Strengthen me to stand and provide ways of escape. Transform and shape my heart so that I desire what you desire. Help me to remember that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. Help me to live a life of devotion to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.30:8
"Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread."

New Testament for Today: 1 John 1:8-9
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
In Context: 1 John 1:1-10

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 29 - Seventh Day Shout

Today's Reading:
Joshua 5:10 – 6:27
"The Fall of Jericho"

Focus Verses: Joshua 6:15-16
15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!

Jericho was the first city to fall as the Israelites entered the Promised Land and began to divide and conquer it. Rather than simply attacking the city, they followed God's command to march around the city for seven days in a solemn procession. The people were to march in silence while at the center of the procession seven priests walked before the Ark of the Covenant blowing on seven trumpets made of rams' horns. They marched around the city seven times on the seventh day, and then, at Joshua's command, they gave a loud shout and the walls of Jericho fell down.

This ritualistic approach to Jericho served to teach and remind the Israelites of several important things: 1. God was giving them the victory; 2. Worship and obedience were central to their success; 3. The God of Abraham was keeping his covenant promises; 4. The God of Abraham was their provider ("ram's horns" - Gen. 22); 5. Their victory was not the result of their own strength or power.

Response and Action:
In order to take hold of God's promises for my life, I will have to face and conquer some imposing challenges. Some of these challenges are like fortified cities that I will not be able to bring down in my own strength. Before attacking these challenges and problems by myself, I will take time to march around them--worshiping, trusting, and waiting on God. The battle belongs to the Lord! I will look to him for the provision, the power, and guidance I need to face the demands of my relationships and responsibilities.

O God, give me the faith, obedience, and strength I need to enter into the promises you have made. Give me an awareness of your presence. Guide me with your Word. Help me to worship you in stillness, and to wait upon you, believing that you are my Provider. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.29:15
"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe."

New Testament for Today: 1 John 5:3-4
3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
In Context: 1 John 5:1-12

The Fight: A Practical Handbook to Christian Living
by John White

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November 28 - Everyday Milestones

Today's Reading:
Joshua 3:1 - 4:24
"Crossing the Jordan River"

Focus Verses: Joshua 4:20-22,24
20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' 22 tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' - - - 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."

As the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they took common rocks from the middle of the river and turned them into a memorial witness of their uncommon God. Every time someone saw that pile of twelve stones, it reminded them of the powerful way God showed himself to be their provider. The same God who had brought them out of Egypt, safely through the Red Sea, and safely through the wilderness, now brought them safely across the Jordan into the Land of Promise. Ordinary stones from the river became milestones of their journey--a memorial of God's faithfulness to them.

Response and Action:
Common things can serve as wonderful faith souvenirs that remind me of God's goodness and provision. In communion, common bread and wine become a witness of God's grace and deliverance in Christ's death and resurrection. In baptism, common water becomes a witness of the new life God offers to all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What is God bringing me through today? What common thing could I pick up today and turn it into a witness and reminder of God's faithfulness to me?

In August, I transitioned to a new ministry with a church after fifteen years of ministry at the U of M. This new leg of my journey presents new challenges and new possibilities. God has been faithful each step of the way and I want to remember his goodness. I think I’ll take a common everyday cardboard moving box and give it a place of honor in my office today. Instead of being just a box; it can be a reminder to me.

O God, you are worthy of my praise and thanks. You guide and provide for your people as they follow you in faith. Open my eyes to all the common things around me that can serve as reminders of your uncommon power and goodness to me. Give me the creativity and discipline to gather small souvenirs along my life's journey to serve as witnesses of your love and mercy to me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Luke 22:19
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In Context: Luke 22:7-30

Unceasing Worship
by Harold Best

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27 - Courage and Strength

Today's Reading:
Joshua 1:1 - 2:24
"New Steps with a New Leader"

Focus Verses: Joshua 1:7-9
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

The torch of leadership was passed on from Moses to Joshua. God admonished Joshua to be strong and courageous and to be careful to follow the commands he received through Moses. Though they would face frightening opposition and discouraging circumstances, God promised Joshua that he would be with him wherever he went, giving him strength and success.

Response and Action:
I'm no Joshua, but my life's journey requires strength and courage. As a follower of Jesus, I take heart in knowing that God will not forsake me. Like Joshua, I will commit myself to knowing and meditating upon God's written word. When I face difficult and discouraging circumstances, I will look to God for the energy and confidence I need to keep pressing forward.

O God, thank you for the promise to be with your people. Give me an awareness of your presence with me today. Grant me the strength and the faith I need to face the challenges and circumstances of my life. When I am frightened, guard my heart and mind with the peace of Christ Jesus. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me, by your Holy Spirit, through your Word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: John 14:27
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
In Context: John 14:15-31

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
by Gordon D. Fee

Monday, November 26, 2007

November 26 - A Heart for God

Today's Reading:
Deut. 6:4-12; 8:1-20
"Love, Thanks, and Remembrance"

Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 6:4-8
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

God loves and calls people to love him. The love God has for us is beyond comprehension. He desires that we love him with our all-- all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. Hiding God's word and treasuring his commands is vital to living out our love for God. If I truly want to love God with all I am, I must know God's word, desire to walk in his ways, and allow his commands to shape and form my very being and character.

This is something I want to impress upon my family and friends as well. I want to talk about it, pray about it, sing about it, and think about it every day with them. Even my house and workplace should be filled with reminders of God's love and calling for me.

Response and Action:
I will commit myself to reading the Bible each day and give prayerful thought to how the verses I have read can help me to love God and live in obedience to his will. I will talk with my family and friends about my faith, my desire to follow God, and the ways I am being challenged, shaped, and directed by the Spirit and the Word.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. By the truth of your Holy Word and the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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: John 14:23-24
23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. In Context: John 14:15-31

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
by Gordon D. Fee

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reading Schedule for Nov. 26 - Dec. 1

Nov. 26 - Dt. 6:4-12; 8:1-20
Nov. 27 - Josh. 1:1 - 2:24
Nov. 28 - Josh. 3:1 – 4:24
Nov. 29 - Josh. 5:13 – 6:23
Nov. 30 - Josh. 7:1-26
Dec. 1 - Josh. 24:1-29

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, November 24, 2007

November 24 - Looking Back, Moving Forward

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 1:1-3, 4:1-49
"Moses Speaks of the Past and Future"

Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 4:9, 39-40
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. - - - 39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. 40 Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.

The Israelites had nearly completed their forty year sojourn through the wilderness from Mt. Sinai to the Promised Land. Moses was old and God had told him that it wouldn't be much longer until he died. At this critical milestone in their historic journey, Moses delivered a great and solemn proclamation. He spoke to them of their deliverance, Mt. Sinai, God's provision, their failures and successes, his own failures and successes, the Law God had given, and even the hopes and dangers they would see in future days.

Now, as they entered the Land of Promise, he urged the people to be careful and wise by:
1. Remembering all the things they had seen and learned in their wilderness experiences; 2. teaching their history to their children and grandchildren; 3. Acknowledging there is only one God in heaven and earth--the LORD, the God of Abraham; 4. Being diligent to honor and obey God by keeping his commands; and 5. Remembering that blessing and obedience go hand in hand.

Response and Action:
Today is a new day with new possibilities. As I look back over the years of my life's journey what have I learned, what should I remember, what should I take to heart, and what should I do in the days ahead? Like the Israelites, I must: 1. Recognize there is one true God; 2. Love, value, and obey the instruction and commands he has given me through his revealed word; 3. Learn from my mistakes and commit myself to knowing and honoring God; 4. Realize that every blessing is from God.

O God, help me to follow you and to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me the wisdom to look back over the years of my life and to learn from my past experiences. Help me to learn from my mistakes, to seek the guidance of your Spirit and your Word, and to obediently and expectantly keep moving toward the promise and future you have for me. You alone are God. Help me to honor and follow you all the days of my life, and help me to teach my children and their children to do the same. 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: Hebrews 12:1-2a
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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. 2a Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-12

Knowing God's Will: Finding Guidance for Personal Decisions
by M. Blaine Smith

Friday, November 23, 2007

November 23 - Making God Look Bad

Today's Reading:
Numbers 20:1 - 21:9
"The Travails of Wilderness Travels"

Focus Verses: Numbers 20:12
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."

The Israelites faced many trials and dangers as they traveled through the wilderness. Water and food shortages, hostility from regional powers and people groups living in the lands they were passing through, pestilence and an infestation of poisonous snakes. They were also experiencing the deaths of the elderly people among them. This included Moses' sister, Miriam, and his brother Aaron (who was serving as the high priest).

Not surprisingly, these trials exposed the weaknesses in the general population and in their leaders. When the people cried out in complaint because they needed water, God told Moses and Aaron to take a staff, gather the people, and speak to the rock so that water would pour out of it. Instead, Moses, tired and frustrated by his people, struck the rock twice and spoke harshly to the people, calling them rebels.

Later, God rebuked Moses and Aaron for "not honoring him as holy" in the sight of the people. This misrepresentation of God was so serious that God told them they would not lead the people into the land of promise.

Response and Action:
As a Christian, the things I say and do reflect upon God. It is important keep this in mind as a parent, friend, neighbor, and church leader. It is dishonoring to God to present one's own frustration, anger, or annoyance as though it were God's. I want to be a humble witness of God's holiness and a faithful representative of his grace. I need to be especially careful about this at times when I am tired, irritable, hurt, or easily provoked.

O God, help me to be mindful of how my actions reflect upon you. Give me the wisdom I need to treat others in a righteous way and to keep a tight reign on my attitude and my mouth. Forgive me for the times something I have said or done has given someone else a wrong impression of you. By your grace and mercy, shape me and transform me into a faithful ambassador of your truth and your goodness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: 2 Corinthians 5:20
20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
In Context: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Character Witness
by Christine Wood

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 22 - A Different Spirit

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today's Reading:
Numbers 14:1-44
"Fear, Faithlessness, and Failure"

Focus Verses: Numbers 14:20-24
20 The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times- 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

Moses sent spies into Canaan to explore the land and to evaluate the strength of the cities and the military readiness of the inhabitants. All of the spies agreed that the land was very good and filled with bounty. They all agreed that the cities were well-built, the inhabitants were strong, and that it would be a formidable challenge to invade and conquer them.

The spies were divided, however, when it came to the most important consideration of all -- faith in God. Only Caleb and Joshua (Hoshea) were confident that the land God had promised them could be taken with God's help and power. The fears and doubts of the other ten spies spread among the entire Israelite community and resulted in division among the people, rejection of leadership, and contempt for God.

Moses interceded for the people and God forgave their sin. But because of their spirit of unfaithfulness, God declared that none of the grumblers over twenty years old would ever set foot in the promised land.

Joshua and Caleb had a different spirit -- they had complete confidence in God's power and promise. God rewarded their faith and they were the only two men of their generation to enter the promised land.

Response and Action:
It's one thing to hear God's promises, and quite another to trust in God's power to keep those promises. It's possible to appreciate the promises and feel excitement about the possibilities those promises hold, yet at the same time lose faith in the promise-giver and be overcome by fear. More than just knowing or liking God's promises, I want to have a spirit of confidence and trust that helps me to dive in, take hold, and live out God's promises.

O Faithful and Mighty God, give me the spirit and heart to trust you completely. You have made very great and precious promises to me. Give me the faith to follow and obey you into the full experience and possession of all you have promised. Strengthen me to walk in your promises with full confidence in your power to keep them. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.22:4
"Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life."

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:15a
15a For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.
In Context: Romans 8:1-17

Be Not Afraid
by David Ivaska

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21 - How I See Myself

Today's Reading:
Numbers 13:1-33
"Moses Sends Spies into Canaan"

Focus Verses: Numbers 13:31-33
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

All of the spies Moses had sent to scout out Canaan agreed that the land was good -- flowing with milk and honey. All of the spies saw that the inhabitants of the land were powerful and that conquering them would be very difficult.

Because Caleb and Joshua saw themselves in the light of God's promises and power, they believed the land could be taken. The other ten could only see their own weaknesses and fears and therefore became "like grasshoppers" in their own eyes.

Response and Action:
Life is filled with challenges and opportunities that I am unable to face in my own strength. If I fail to remember God's promises and strength, I become a grasshopper in my own eyes.

To forget God is to diminish my life and to miss great opportunity and blessing. I must hold every possibility, choice, and potential up to the light of God's promise and call for my life. With God, all things are possible.

Almighty God, I am painfully aware of my weaknesses and limitations. Make me even more aware of your strength and boundless grace. Help me to lean on you in every circumstance and believe in your power to sustain and support me. Guide me and give me courage to do whatever is necessary to follow your leading. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:31b-32
31b If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
In Context: Romans 8:28-39

Strength for the Journey: Day-by-Day with Jesus
by Joseph Stowell

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20 - Follow the Leader

Today's Reading:
Numbers 12:1-16
"Grumbling Siblings"

Focus Verses: Numbers 12:1-2
1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this.

Being a leader is tough. Not only did Moses have to deal with the complaints and discontent of the greater community, he also had to deal with conflicts in his inner circle--even with his own brother and sister. Aaron and Miriam were evidently having problems with two things: first, they had personal issues with Moses' wife; and second, they were jealous of Moses and felt he should share more authority with them.

God was very displeased with them and made two things very clear: first, Moses was his chosen leader and deserved their respect and support; second, God would not tolerate their prideful divisiveness.

Moses appealed to God on their behalf and the incident was put behind them. Miriam and Aaron took the rebuke to heart and never questioned Moses' leadership again.

Response and Action:
I want to give leaders the support and respect they deserve. It isn't easy to be a leader, so I will be careful to not undermine the service of those who lead, especially on the grounds of jealousy or personal issues unrelated to their leadership. Moses was a humble leader who was clearly doing his best to follow, obey, and honor God. I want to help and follow and stand behind leaders who clearly love, obey, serve, and honor God. I want to seek and love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, in order to be ready to serve and lead as God calls.

O God, thank you for the many men and women who have done so much to lead and serve others. Raise up leaders for your people today. Give us leaders who seek you and shepherd your people. Strengthen them in the times when they do not have the respect, cooperation, and support they deserve. Help me to recognize godly leadership when I see it. Help me to love and follow you so that I might honor you in the ways you call me to serve and lead. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.20:28
"Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure."

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 13:7,17
7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. - - - 17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
In Context: Hebrews 13

Community & Submission
by Janey L. Johnson

Monday, November 19, 2007

November 19 - Thanksliving

Today's Reading:
Numbers 11:1-35
"Quail and Complaints"

Focus Verses: Numbers 11:21-23
21 But Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?" 23 The LORD answered Moses, "Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."

After all God had brought them through, it's difficult to see how the Israelites could complain about their diet. When they were slaves in Egypt, surely any of them would have gladly given up meat from their diet in exchange for freedom. But now, even though they were free, they had the audacity to talk about Egypt like they missed it.

Instead of being thankful for what they had and for all God had done to bless them, they whined about what they didn't have and what they wanted God to do. God proved, once again, that he was more than able to provide for them. So able, in fact, that he brought them enough quail to feed them for a month.

Response and Action:
I don't want to be a complainer. I want to be much quicker to thank God for what I have than I am to complain to him about what I don't have. I want to be a grateful person who is continually giving praise to God for what he has done and is doing in my life. I will trust God to provide for my needs.

O God, thank you for your goodness and your generous provision to me. Give me a heart of thanksgiving and eyes to see the many ways you have blessed me. Help me to trust in you for all my needs. Forgive me for the times I whine and complain. Help me to mature and grow so strong in you that I am able to be content in any and every circumstance. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.19:4
"A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD."

New Testament for Today: Philippians 4:14-15
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe...
In Context: Philippians 2:14-16, 4:12-13

Following Jesus
by N.T. Wright

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reading Schedule for November 19 - 24

Nov. 19 - Num. 11:1-35
Nov. 20 - Num. 12:1-16
Nov. 21 - Num. 13:1-33
Nov. 22 - Num. 14:1-44
Nov. 23 - Num. 20:1 - 21:9
Nov. 24 - Deut. 1:1-3, 4:1-49

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, November 17, 2007

November 17 - Keeping My Head in the Cloud

Today's Reading:
Numbers 9:15-23
"Following the Cloud "

Focus Verses: Numbers 9:22-23
22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23 At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

After receiving guidance from God on Mt. Sinai, Moses and the Israelites took steps to prepare and organize themselves for their trip to the land God had promised to them. They built the Tabernacle (a portable worship center), they established a priesthood, they took a census, and they established an orderly way to set up camp and travel. It was a huge endeavor and their entourage must have been an impressive sight to see.

Even more impressive was the dramatic way God made his presence and leading visible among them. A cloud covered the Tabernacle and towered above it by day. At night the cloud appeared as fire. When the cloud lifted and began to move, the Israelites would break up camp and prepare to travel. The direction and timing of their travels was absolutely determined by the cloud.

Response and Action:
Just as Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive guidance from God, I want to seek God's guidance for my life's journey. The ways I organize my goals, schedule, priorities, and strategies must be informed by the instruction of Scripture and direction by the Holy Spirit.

Just as the Tabernacle was one of the first priorities of the Israelites and at the center of their encampment, I will put worship and spiritual formation first and center in my life. Just as the Israelites were sensitive to God's leading, whether that meant pulling up and moving or staying in place and waiting, I want to be sensitive to God's leading in my life. Just as they followed the cloud, I will follow Jesus and listen to him.

O God, help me to trust in you with all my heart and not depend solely on my own understanding. In all my ways, I want to acknowledge your presence, trusting you to lead me in the best path. Be my cloud by day, shielding me from the draining heat of sun. Be my fire by night, protecting me from the chill of the darkness. 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: Matthew 17:5
5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
In Context: Matthew 17:1-12

Following Jesus
by N.T. Wright

Friday, November 16, 2007

November 16 - Walking toward Blessing

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 26:3-46
"Rewards and Punishments"

Focus Verses: Lev. 26:3-4,14-16
3 "If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. --- 14 But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it."

After the tragic Golden Calf incident, Moses went back up on Mount Sinai for another forty days and renewed the commitment of the Israelites to follow and obey God. While he was on Sinai he received much more than the Ten Commandments. God revealed the design for the Tabernacle (the portable precursor of the Temple), instructions about special feasts and worship observances, and the sacrifice and offering rituals.

After God gave all these to Moses, he gave solemn promises and warnings. They can be summed up like this: "If you do what I say, you will be blessed. If you turn away from me and disregard my guidance and commands, you will suffer the consequences."

Response and Action:
God is my maker. Therefore, his instruction and commands for are best for me. To walk in his ways is to walk toward blessing. To turn away from his ways is to walk toward disaster and destruction. It is not enough to know his ways, I need God's help to walk in them. I have failed to follow God's commands, but Jesus' sacrifice on the cross has atoned for my sin and made forgiveness and restoration possible. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God is purifying my heart and transforming my will to turn away from sin and to delight in his ways.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. Only you can save me from sin; my hope is in you all day long. Thank you for Jesus who loved me gave himself for me as a sacrifice to atone for my sin. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who is changing my heart, drawing me closer to you, and helping me to live a life that honors you. Help me to walk in your ways that I might enjoy the blessing and reward you have promised me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.16:6
"Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil."

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:3-4
3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
In Context: Romans 8:1-11

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November 15 - So Close, Yet So Far

Today's Reading:
Exodus 32:1-35
"The Golden Calf"

Focus Verses: Ex. 32:7-9, 31-32
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' 9 "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. - - - 31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."

The Golden Calf was not some new invention of the Israelites. During the time of the Exodus, the image of "The Bull" was an object of worship in Egypt. It was also widely worshiped among their neighboring nations in the Ancient Near East.

Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights. That was long enough for the people of Israel to jump to the conclusion that something had happened to him. In his absence, they reverted to pagan idolatry and turned back to a god-image they had learned in Egypt. Not only did they make a calf, they celebrated the deity it represented with pagan practices of ritualistic gluttony and sexual immorality.

This whole event is a stark and shocking reminder of just how far the people of Israel were from understanding or knowing the true God who had delivered them from slavery. Moses was angry with the people, but he begged God to forgive them.

Response and Action:
The people of Israel were so close to God, and yet so far away from him. Moses was in the very presence of God on Mt. Sinai, receiving God's promises and commands, but the people of Israel were distant, disobedient, and confused in the dark valley of their ignorance. They needed the commands and guidance God was giving them through Moses. They needed the truth God was revealing and to turn from their false ideas about God.

I need to draw near to God. The truth revealed to me in the Bible will help me to leave the darkness of my ignorance and help me to recognize the One True God and not confuse him with my own ideas or the false concepts of God so prevalent in the world around me.

O God, thank you for your Holy Word. I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Save me from my own ignorance and the false ideas of the world that surround me. Thank you for Jesus who has made you known to me. Help me to follow in his way and to build my life upon the solid ground of his words. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Colossians 1:13-14
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In Context: Colossians 1:1-23

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 14 - The Voice from the Mountain

Today's Reading:
Exodus 19:1 - 20:26
"Sinai and the Commandments"

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

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

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

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov.14:27
"The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

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

The Pursuit of Holiness
by Jerry Bridges

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November 13 - Wise Leadership

Today's Reading:
Exodus 18:1-27
"Jethro Visits Moses"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 12 - One Day at a Time

Today's Reading:
Exodus 16:1 - 17:16
"Manna, Quail, Water, and War"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov.12:3
"A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted."

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

Exodus: Learning to Trust God
by James Reapsome