Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31 - Sin's Aftermath

Overview of: 2 Samuel

Today's Reading:
2 Sam. 11:1 - 12:25
"David's Sin with Bathsheba"

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 12:9-11a
9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' 11a "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you.

God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba. Nathan's rebuke to David reminds me of two important principles.

First, it is easier to see the faults of others than to acknowledge your own. David's blindness and denial about his own sin is clearly seen in the self-righteous response he makes to Nathan's story about a man who stole a lamb. How could David have been so quick to pronounce judgment on someone else's sin and so slow to see his own?

Second, sin leaves destruction in its wake. Consequences remain even if a person confesses, repents, and receives forgiveness. Nathan told David that because of his sin a child would die, his family would suffer more violence, and that there would be repercussions of David's sin in his family's future.

Response and Action:
I want to live an examined life and be mindful of the consequences of sin. God offers me forgiveness and redemption if I will acknowledge and confess my sins. That gracious promise, however, does not mean that all the effects of my sin will be erased. My sins make an impact on my world and affect others in ways that my repentance and sorrow may not or cannot change.

Even God's forgiveness of sin and restoration does not mean I will escape all the consequences of that sin. That is why, more than forgiveness for sin, I want to be changed and transformed by God, that I might turn away from sin and do what is right!

O God, give me the eyes to see my own sin. Grant me the humility to acknowledge and confess my sin, to repent, and to turn away from sin. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me that I might turn away from sin and, instead, offer myself to you as an instrument of righteousness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 John 1:8
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
In Context: 1 John 1:5-10

Proverb for Today: Prov. 3:7-8
"Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones."

Recommended Reading:
When Godly People Do Ungodly Things: Arming Yourself in the Age of Seduction
by Beth Moore

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30 - Remember Every Blessing

Overview of: Psalms

Today's Reading:
Ps. 103:1-22
"Psalm of Thanks"

Focus Verses: Psalm 103:1-2a
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..."

Praising God goes hand in hand with remembering all the blessings he gives. Counting and naming these blessings helped David to be thankful, and moved him to wholehearted worship. The benefits David enumerated in this song include: forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion, righteousness, justice, and understanding.

Response and Action:
I want to praise God with all my being. I will follow David's example and count my blessings, naming them one by one. How has God helped, encouraged, forgiven, restored, healed, sustained, led, transformed, blessed, and saved me in recent days? I should think about this and offer up my thanks and praise.

O God, you are so good to me. Help me to remember your grace and blessing to me, and grant me a heart that is quick to give you praise. Yours is the kingdom, the power, and glory forever. Praise the Lord, O my soul! Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 1:16
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
In Context: John 1:1-18

Proverb for Today: Prov. 30:32-33
"If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife."

Recommended Reading:
Learning to Pray Through the Psalms
by James Sire

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29 - Thanks & Worship

Overview of: 1 Chronicles

Today's Reading:
1 Chr. 16:1 – 17:27
"Psalm of Thanks"

Focus Verses: 1 Chr. 16:8-10
8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

David was quick to praise God for what God had promised, for what God had done, and for what God was doing. Now that the nation of Israel was beginning to be united under his leadership, he wanted to make sure that the praise and worship of God was central to his reign.

He brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem from the house of Abinadab where it had sat, largely ignored, during the years of Saul's reign. He envisioned building a Temple as a place of worship for God's people. It would serve as a testimony to the nations of God's faithfulness to Israel and be a place for the Ark of God to reside.

Response and Action:
David saw his life in the long context of the history of Israel and God's promises to Abraham and God's plan to redeem the world. He understood that it was necessary for worship, thanksgiving, and faith to be at the very heart of his life and his nation. I want to see and understand my life in the greater context of God's plan and promises. I want to make faith, worship, and thankfulness the foundation of all I do.

O God, help me to see how my life is connected to the lives of all the faithful believers and seekers who have gone before me. Help me to find my purpose and life in you. Grant me the wisdom and readiness to obey, serve, worship, and honor you. May my thoughts, words, and actions flow out of my relationship with you and your people. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:1-2
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In Context: Romans 12

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

Recommended Reading:
Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts
by Harold Best

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reading Schedule for Dec. 29 - Jan. 3

Dec. 29 - 1Chr. 16:1 – 17:27
Dec. 30 - Ps. 103:1-22
Dec. 31 - 2Sam. 11:1 - 12:25
Jan. 1 - Ps. 51:1-17; 139:1-24
Jan. 2 - 1Kgs. 1:1 – 3:28
Jan. 3 - 1Kgs. 6:1 - 8:34

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27 - Careful and Reverent

Overview of: 2 Samuel

Today's Reading:
2 Sam. 5:1 – 6:23
"Battles and the Ark "

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 6:9-11
9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?" 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.

Back in 1 Samuel 4 we read about the Ark of the Covenant being captured by the Philistines. They did not understand what the Ark was, and it became a source of affliction or them. Their response to this affliction was to return the Ark to Israel in the most reverent way they could think of. They placed it on a new cart, specially built for the occasion, pulled by new oxen that had never been used for pulling anything else. They handled the Ark and transported it in ways that did not conform with the instructions God had given Moses, but God did not hold them accountable for what they could not know. Instead, God seems to have blessed their efforts to be reverent.

It's a completely different story when King David decides to move the Ark of the Covenant in ways that were contrary to the Law of Moses. God holds the Israelites accountable to what they should know. David, according to the instructions God had given for the Kings of Israel (they were to have a copy of the Law in their own handwriting), had no excuse for not knowing the precise way the Ark was to be carried. Uzzah died as a result of King David's carelessness toward the Law.

While the Ark was at Obed-Edom's house (and was a source of blessing to them), David seems to have reviewed the Mosaic Law. The next time he comes to move the Ark to Jerusalem, he has the priests carry it accordingly.

Response and Action:
I need to take God's commands seriously. As a person who has access to the Scriptures, I expect to be held to a higher standard than those who do not have the Word. I want to commit myself to being a faithful servant who does my best to live according to the teachings of Christ and the instruction of God's Word. I want to be a good steward of the truth and guidance God has given to me in the Bible. I need to be careful that others do not suffer from my failure to walk in the ways God has instructed me to walk.

O God, how can I keep my way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you, Lord, with all my heart. Don't let me stray from your commands. Help me to hide your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Forgive me for careless times where I disregard your word and others suffer for it. Guide me in your truth, and teach me, for my hope is in you! Amen.

New Testament for Today: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In Context: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:5
"Better is open rebuke than hidden love."

Recommended Reading:
The Making of a Leader
by J. Robert Clinton

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26 - Grace and Humility

Overview of: 2 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1Sam. 31:1 - 2Sam. 2:32
"Saul Dies, David Anointed"

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 1:24-27
24 "O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold. 25 How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. 26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. 27 How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!"

The nation of Israel was in disarray by the time of Saul's death. There were divided loyalties and sharp political differences. The divisions were so intense that it would become necessary for David to conquer the capital city in order to establish his reign.

Some of his followers may have expected David to rejoice at Saul's demise, but instead he grieved. David was so different from Saul in that he understood that the Lord had established him as king over Israel. He recognized that he had been placed in the position of king, not for his own glory or because of his own merit, but rather for the sake of the people of Israel.

Response and Action:
How do I react to news of the trouble or demise an enemy has suffered? Do I gloat or do I receive the message with humility and grace toward those who have fallen? How do I think about my successes and accomplishments? Do I pat myself on the back, or do I see that it is the Lord who is blessing and granting success? I want to be humble and gracious toward those who oppose me. I want to recognize that any opportunity or blessing I have is from God.

O God, give me eyes that see your blessing, guidance, and support in every success. Grant me the wisdom to see every victory and strength as a gift from you that I might serve your people and to accomplish your purposes. I ask for a humble heart and a willing spirit. Make me quick to give you thanks and ready to live my life to the praise of your glorious grace. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:3
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
In Context: Romans 12:1-8

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

Recommended Reading:
The Making of a Leader
by J. Robert Clinton

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25 - Wisdom in Restraint

Merry Christmas!

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1 Sam. 24:1 - 25:42
"David's Restraint & Wisdom"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 24:18-20
18 You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.

Saul was hunting David with the intent to kill him. Rather than recognizing that the loss of his kingship was due to his own failure and sin, Saul convinced himself that David was the problem.

The events described in today's reading illustrate how David could have easily taken Saul's life, but he would not do it. This made the situation so clear that even Saul was forced to admit that David was not stealing the kingdom away from him. God was taking the kingdom from Saul and giving it to David.

Response and Action:
Like David, I want to have the wisdom to wait on God to accomplish his purposes, especially when I am facing resistance or when there is controversy about what is the right thing to do. This kind of waiting on God is very important, not only for me, but for others around me.

Pushing too hard or moving too quickly in times of conflict may make it more difficult for me and for others to discern God's will from personal opinions or feelings. Like David, I want God's leading and blessing to be recognized by all concerned--even those who like Saul may be standing in opposition to what God is doing.

O God, help me by faith to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do. Give me the wisdom and patience to do them in ways that are clearly blessed and guided by you. Help me to be measured and righteous in times of conflict and controversy. Give me a heart that depends on you and trusts you to accomplish your purposes. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
In Context: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:15
"Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone."

Recommended Reading:
Leadership Essentials
by Greg Ogden & Daniel Meyer

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 24 - Loyal Friendship

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1 Sam. 20:1 - 23:29
"Saul Fears David"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 20:16-17
16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Jonathan's affection and loyalty for David are a beautiful example of what friendship can be for those who humble themselves before God and walk with integrity. Jonathan could have easily seen David as a threat to his future, his standing, his prospects and his birthright. Instead, Jonathan accepted that David was God's choice to be the next king of Israel. Because Jonathan and David were both committed to God and trusted in him, they were able to pledge their trust and loyalty to each other.

Response and Action:
I want to be a good friend. By seeking God with my whole heart and living according to his word, I will find the wisdom, integrity, and humility I need to be a good friend. I am thankful for the many good friends God has brought into my life. I will pledge myself to being a blessing to them.

O God, I thank you for the friendship Christ Jesus has extended to me. Help me to know him, follow him, and trust him so completely that I am able to be a Christlike friend to others. Teach me to love others as Christ has loved me. I pray through Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 John 4:11-12
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
In Context: 1 John 4:7-21

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:15-16
"Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man's house, do not raid his dwelling place; for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity."

Recommended Reading:
Spiritual Friendship
by Mindy Caliguire

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23 - The Battle Is the Lord's

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1Sam. 17:1 - 19:24
"David and King Saul"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 17:45-47
45 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

The young David did not have the size, strength, or military experience of a soldier, but he had reverence for God and faith in God's power. He spoke defiantly against Goliath with great boldness, believing as he did that the battle was not something to won by might, but by the Lord.

Response and Action:
The challenges and problems I face in life must be faced by faith in God. My well-being and victory over troubles is something that only God can provide. When I trust in God's power to save and deliver, I can face hardship and challenge with great boldness.

O God, give me the faith to face giants. When the problems and hardships of life are more than I can bear, grant me a heart that trusts in you so completely I am able to stand firm. Help me to remember that victory is not by might or power, but by your Spirit. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
In Context: 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

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

Recommended Reading:
David: Developing a Heart for God (12 Studies for Individuals or Groups)
by Jack Kuhatschek

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22 - He Leads Me

Overview of: Psalms

Today's Reading:
Ps. 23; 27:1-14
"Psalms of David"

Focus Verses: Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

What a blessing it is to be shepherded by the Lord! He provides for my needs - "I shall not be in want." He leads me to places that are good and pleasant - "green pastures" and "quiet waters." He saves and keeps me - "he restores my soul." He shows me what is best - "he guides me in paths of righteousness." He stakes his reputation on how well he provides and cares for me - "for his name's sake."

Response and Action:
I will look to the Lord to provide for my needs. I will trust him to lead me to what is best for me. When I fall or when I am lost, I will count on him to save and restore. I will follow his lead and pursue righteousness. I will strive to honor the Lord and bring glory to his name.

O God, be my Shepherd. Lead me by the truth of your written word. Guide me in the steps of your Son, Jesus. Save me by the gracious gift of the cross of Christ. Restore and renew me by the resurrection power of the Spirit. Equip me for every good work through the useful breath of Scripture. Teach me to sing your praise. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 10:14-15
14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
In Context: John 10:1-18

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

Recommended Reading:
Learning to Pray Through the Psalms
by James Sire

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reading Schedule for December 22 - 27

Dec. 22 - Ps. 23; 27:1-14
Dec. 23 - 1Sam. 17:1 - 19:24
Dec. 24 - 1Sam. 20:1 - 23:29
Dec. 25 - 1Sam. 24:1 - 25:42
Dec. 26 - 1Sam. 31:1 - 2Sam. 2:32
Dec. 27 - 2Sam. 5:1 – 6:23

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

December 20 - Headed for a Fall

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1 Sam. 15:1 - 16:23
"Saul's Downfall"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 15:10-12
10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night. 12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, "Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal."

Saul was anointed and empowered by God to serve Israel as their king. At first, Saul was humble and reluctant to enter into this role. He understood that he was utterly dependent upon God. But once Saul became king, experienced military successes, and surrounded himself with strong and brave men, he began to trust in himself. He stopped listening to Samuel. He erected monuments for his own glory. Instead of honoring God through acts of worship, he began using religious rituals as a way to bolster his own authority and importance. Saul's failure to seek God with his whole heart resulted in his failure as king.

Response and Action:
I must be devoted to God and remember that the strength and guidance I need come from him. My calling and purpose in life come from God; it is, therefore, essential that I draw near to God, be attentive to his leading, and love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Instead of trying to succeed by pushing my own agenda, promoting myself, polishing my image, and manipulating situations for my own gain, I will trust in God and seek him first.

O God, be my strength and my guide. Save me from the deception of self-reliance. Help me seek you with all my heart, to walk in your ways, and to trust in your power to provide, protect, and bless. Make me quick to obey and ready to praise you. Help me to stand on the solid ground of faith in you instead of building on the shifting sand of me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 1:28-31
28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
In Context: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:27
"The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being."

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19 - Folly in Getting My Way

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1Sam 10:9 – 11:14
"Saul Is Made King"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 10:17-19, 25
17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah 18 and said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, 'No, set a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans." - - - 25 Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home.

Rather than seeking God or listening to Samuel, the people were sure they needed a king. They thought that would make them like other nations and fix everything. They imagined a king who would fight their battles and solve their problems. They were unwilling to heed any warning of how a king could actually make their life worse. And since they would not listen, God gave them what they wanted (see also 1 Samuel 8:19-22).

Response and Action:
How many times do I look to something other than God to solve my problems? It is so easy to look at the world around me and think that if I did things the way they do them, my life would be better, easier, or safer. Rejecting God and his ways is never the way to go--even if God is willing to let me go that way. Getting my own way may not be what is best, what I need, or what I want. I will be careful to seek God with my whole heart, listen, and always turn to him first for the direction I need.

O God, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to not envy the wicked or put my faith in the ways of man. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Colossians 3:2
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
In Context: Colossians 3:1-17

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:2
"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way."

The Prayer God Longs For
by James Emery White

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 18 - Anointed Purpose

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1Sam. 8:1 – 10:8
"Israel's First King"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 9:25 - 10:1
9:25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. 26 They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, "Get ready, and I will send you on your way." When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. 27 As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us"-and the servant did so-"but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God." 10:1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?

Saul was chosen by God to accomplish a specific purpose. Seemingly mundane events in Saul's life were used by God in order to get Saul to the right place at the right time. As a witness to Saul that he was God's choice, Samuel anointed him with oil. Then, in order to confirm his words and actions to Saul, Samuel prophesied to him about specific things he would soon encounter and experience.

Response and Action:
I want to discover God's purpose and plan for me. I believe that the simple everyday actions of my life can be used by God to lead me to the place he wants me to be at the time he wants me to be there in order to to things he wants me to do. I will trust God to show me his will and to help me to do it by the power and grace of his Holy Spirit.

O God, lead me, teach me, transform, shape and strengthen me that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name. Confirm your calling and purpose for my life as seek you and prayerfully apply your word each day. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:1,2
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In Context: Romans 12:1-8

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:12
"Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor."

Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God's Will
by Gordon T. Smith

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 17 - Losing Sight of God

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1Sam. 4:1 – 6:21
"The Ark is Captured and Returned"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 4:2-3
2 The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, "Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD's covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies."

After suffering defeat at the hands of the Philistines, the elders of Israel asked a good question: "Why did the Lord bring this upon us today?" The answer they came up with was not so good: "Maybe we should get the Ark of the covenant so that it may go with us and save us."

Instead of considering their own corruption and faithlessness, they assumed they had made some error in their method or ritual. Instead of directing their question to God and looking for an answer from him, they just asked each other and came up with their own ideas. Instead of trusting in God, they trusted in an object. They turned an object intended to help them worship God, into an idol that took the place of God.

Response and Action:
My hope is in the Lord. When facing difficulties and defeats, I will look to God for the guidance and strength I need. I do not want the things intended to point me to God to become things that take his place. Religion, spiritual disciplines, church gatherings, Christian service, Scripture, and Christian community are wonderful things that can help me know and honor God, BUT they can never take the place of God himself. I will make every effort to seek, know, and follow Jesus. I will put my hope in him alone.

O God, you are my God. I earnestly seek you. My soul yearns for you and my body longs for you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lead me away from temptation, deliver me from evil, and provide for my needs today. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 5:6,7
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
In Context: 1 Peter 5:1-11

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:3
"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart."

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16 - He Cares and He's Able

Overview of: 1 Samuel

Today's Reading:
1 Sam. 1:1 – 3:21
"Samuel's Birth and Calling"

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 2:7-8
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world.

Hannah was downhearted about being childless and prayed that God would bless her with a son. When her prayer was answered, she raised her voice in a song of praise. Her experience was a clear testimony of God's ability to raise up the poor and to lift up the needy. Her son, Samuel, would become the last and greatest of the Israelite judges. He functioned as a leader, priest, and prophet and he ushered in the era of Israel's kings.

Response and Action:
God is able to bring about great things and great leaders from humble, weak, and unexpected places. I must always remember that God can bless and use me. I will be careful to ask for God's blessings, be faithful to use those blessings to serve God, and be quick to praise God for them.

O God, bless me in ways that help me to serve and honor you. Remind me of your power and provision. Give me the courage to ask for the things I long for. Give me a heart that longs for your will. Teach me to walk in your ways and to give you thanks in all things. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 5:6,7
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
In Context: 1 Peter 5:1-11

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:22
"Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools."

Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15 - A Son Is Born

Overview of: Ruth

Today's Reading:
Ruth 3:1 – 4:22
"Boaz and Ruth to David"

Focus Verses: Ruth 4:13-17
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth."16 Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Though Naomi and Ruth were without husbands and without the means to provide for themselves, they were not without hope. They found redemption through their kinsman, Boaz. He paid their debts, restored their family property in Israel, married Ruth, and gave her a son (a grandson for Naomi). This little son, Obed, would one day have a son named Jesse, who would have a son named David, who would become the great psalmist, warrior, and king of Israel.

A thousand years later, another baby named Jesus was born in the line of David. He became the kinsman-redeemer of the world. He is able to redeem us from our hopeless situation. He pays our debt, gives us a place among God's people, and makes us children of God.

Response and Action:
I will look to Jesus for redemption and restoration. My situation and needs may seem hopeless, but my Redeemer is able to save and help me. If I humble myself and ask him to cover me with his grace, he will bless me by making me his own and giving me hope for the future.

O God, thank you for sending Christ Jesus into the world to share humanity with me as a kinsman. Thank you that he is able to redeem and restore all who come to him. Thank you for making me your child, for giving me purpose, for forgiving my sin, and for freeing me from bondage to sin. Through Christ, I pray. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 1:18-19
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
In Context: 1 Peter 1:13-25

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:25
"The LORD tears down the proud man's house but he keeps the widow's boundaries intact."

The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reading Schedule for December 15 - 20

Dec. 15 - Ruth 3:1 – 4:22
Dec. 16 - 1Sam. 1:1 – 3:21
Dec. 17 - 1Sam. 4:1 – 6:21
Dec. 18 - 1Sam. 8:1 – 10:8
Dec. 19 - 1Sam 10:9 – 11:14
Dec. 20 - 1Sam. 15:1 - 16:23

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13 - Determined to Go

Overview of: Ruth

Today's Reading:
Ruth 1:1-2:23
"Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz"

Focus Verses: Ruth 1:16-18
16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Ruth was not an Israelite, and yet she embraced the God of Israel and his people with unselfish and wholehearted devotion. She was determined to stay with and care for her desolate mother-in-law, Naomi. God was faithful to them both, providing for their needs and blessing their future. Ruth is listed in the ancestry of King David and is therefore also in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Response and Action:
God is faithful to all who turn to him in faith. Ruth turned embraced the true God and was willing to leave everything behind. I want to follow after God and be willing to leave anything that would hinder me from doing so.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to walk in your ways and to delight in your will. Thank you for accepting me as your child. Please provide for my needs and bless me as I seek you first. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Eph. 2:19
19 " are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household..."
In Context: Ephesians 2:1-22

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:12
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

Cries of The Heart
by Ravi Zacharias

Friday, December 12, 2008

December 12 - Power Failure

Overview of: Judges

Today's Reading:
Judges 15:1 - 16:30
"Samson's Life and Death"

Focus Verses: Judges 16:20
20 Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

Samson's life seems to be way off track and his thinking about the source of his strength seems to have been lost too. His strength wasn't in his hair; it was in the Lord. His strength was gone because the Lord had left him. The cutting of his hair and his careless living were symptomatic of his unfaithfulness to God. It appears that he had become more confident in himself than in God. He learned the hard way that he was nothing without God.

Response and Action:
I need to have a constant awareness of God's presence and power in my life. I need to remember that every strength and success is from the Lord. I want to guard against the careless mistakes of self-reliance and self-indulgence.

O God, help me to live for you and look to you for the strength I need to do so. Forgive me for the times I rely on my own strength or take credit for the things you are doing in and through me. Help me to seek you with all my heart and to draw near to you. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given to me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: James 4:7-8
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
In Context: James 4:1-12

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:26
"A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray."

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11 - Being More than Useful

Overview of: Judges

Today's Reading:
Judges 13:1 - 14:20
"Samson's Birth & Marriage"

Focus Verses: Judges 14:3-4
3 His father and mother replied, "Isn't there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me. She's the right one for me." 4 (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)

Samson is not very likable or honorable. In just the few verses of this chapter, he seems brash, selfish, impulsive, violent, spoiled, disrespectful, deceptive, quarrelsome, and self-absorbed. Instead of driving out the Philistines, the Israelites were living among them and were dominated by them. Nonetheless, to the dismay of his parents, Samson decided (and demanded) to marry a Philistine woman. He is a stunning reminder that not every person used by God is a good example of how to follow God.

God, nonetheless, intended to accomplish his will through Samson (and his Samson-sized flaws). The redemptive power of God is so great that he can use even our failings to accomplish good. God can hit a home run with a broken bat.

The fact that God can redeem our failures, however, does not mean that God wants or needs us to sin. Samson learns the hard way that it is possible to be used by God and still lose sight of God. How much better it would have been for Samson, had he loved the Lord God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Response and Action:
I want to know God, not just be used by God. I want to set my heart on things above, to love God with everything I have, to know His will and to walk in His ways. I want my doing to flow out of my being. I want my service to God to flow out of my love for God. I will commit myself to living a righteous and pure life for God's glory, for my own joy and fulfillment, and that I might be used for noble purposes.

O God, draw me to you. Give me a pure and devoted heart. Strengthen me to love, obey, honor, and serve you. Help me to flee the evil desires of youth, and to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. And then, O Lord, use me to accomplish your purposes and your will. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 2 Timothy 2:20-21
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
In Context: 2 Timothy 2:1-26

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

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