Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 31 - Words of Warning to the Wealthy

Overview of: Amos

Today's Reading:
Amos 1:1; 3:12 - 4:13
"Amos Warns of Judgment"

Focus Verses: Amos 3:15 - 4:1
3:15 I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished," declares the LORD. 4:1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, "Bring us some drinks!"

At the time when Amos' prophesied, Israel was politically secure and spiritually careless. Gone were the days of drought and famine the previous generation had suffered during the time of Elisha. They took it for granted that they were in God's good graces. They interpreted their prosperity as a sign of God's blessing, but sadly, they were allowing that wealth and comfort to corrupt their morals and compromise their faithfulness to God. Amos was sent to tell them that God's patience had run out and they would soon face his judgment.

Response and Action:
Prosperity and comfort are not necessarily signs of God's blessing. In fact, wealth and security can be dangerous distractions from obedience and faithfulness to God. I need to be careful to not assume success and prosperity equals blessing from God. Are there ways my possessions are distracting me from obedience to God? Am I allowing security and comfort to make me spiritually lazy or careless?

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I thank you for every blessing and success you give, but I ask you to make me wise so that blessings do not become distractions. Do not let comfort lead to moral compromise. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given to me. Teach me to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Whether living in plenty or in need, help me to honor you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 31:30
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

New Testament for Today: 1 Timothy 6:17-18
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
In Context: 1 Timothy 6:3-19

Recommended Reading:
Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
by Craig L. Blomberg

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30 - What if I Don't Like Them?

Overview of: Jonah

Today's Reading:
Jonah 3:1 – 4:11
"Jonah's Complaint"

Focus Verses: Jonah 3:10 - 4:4
3:10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. 4:1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." 4 But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

It's bad enough that Jonah ran from God's call to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah, but even worse is the reason why he ran. In chapter four, we read that he ran because he knew that God was "gracious and compassionate, slow anger, and abounding in love." Jonah didn't want God to forgive the people of Ninevah! His reason for disobeying was rooted in his antipathy toward the people of Ninevah.

Response and Action:
Is my slowness to serve others ever rooted in my dislike for them? Do I fail to do things God has asked me to do because I don't care about the people it would benefit? Are there people I don't serve because deep inside I don't want God to help them?

O God, save me from misanthropy. You know, O Lord, that I find it hard to care about some people. I realize that it's only by your transforming grace that I will be able to care for them and serve them. Thank you for the unmerited love and care you have given to me. Give me a humble heart that delights in seeing your love and forgiveness extended to everyone. Make me a willing instrument of your love and grace to the lovely and the unlovely. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 30:11-14
11 "There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; 12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; 13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; 14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth, the needy from among mankind.

New Testament for Today: Matthew 25:40
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
In Context: Matthew 25:31-46

Recommended Reading:
Kissing the Leper: Seeing Jesus in the Least of These
by Brad Jersak (Author), Eugene H. Peterson (Foreword), Andy MacPherson (Introduction)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January 29 - Running Away

Overview of: Jonah

Today's Reading:
Jonah 1:1 – 2:10
"Jonah Flees"

Focus Verses: Jonah 1:1-3
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

The story of Jonah could not start in a more straightforward way. God clearly told Jonah what to do, but Jonah turned and ran away. Jonah had a clear calling from God, but he rejected God's direction and purpose. Jonah's problem was not that he didn't know what God wanted him to do, but rather the complete opposite--he knew exactly what God wanted him to do.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful to do the things I know God has called me to do. Am I running away from things I should be doing? Am I turning my back on clear direction from God? I will give careful thought to this and examine my ways. Sometimes the things I know God wants me to do seem difficult and I'm tempted to give up on them. Instead of giving up or looking for a way out, I must trust God to strengthen and sustain me.

O God, forgive me for the times I run away from your will and guidance for my life. Help me to trust you with all my heart and accept your call. Give me a heart that is ready and willing to follow you wherever you lead. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:18
"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law."

New Testament for Today: 2 Timothy 4:2
2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
In Context: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

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

Monday, January 28, 2008

January 28 - Turning for the Better

Overview of: Joel

Today's Reading:
Joel 2:1-2, 10-19
"Repentance, and Restoration"

Focus Verses: Joel 2:19
19 The LORD will reply to them: "I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.

The circumstances of drought and a locust infestation provide the imagery and occasion for the prophet Joel to warn the people of Israel about God's day of judgment. He called them to repentance and held out the hope of renewal and restoration for all who would return to the Lord with all their heart.

Response and Action:
What problems and hardships in my life can serve as warnings and reminders to me of my need to return to God? How can I humble myself before God and take hold of his promises for me?

O God, I want to follow Christ. Help me to turn away from what is wrong, and do what is right. Give me the humility and honesty to see and confess my sins. Thank you for the hope you offer through Christ. Thank you for the promise that if I confess my sins, you are faithful and just, and will forgive me of my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness (John 1:9). Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:13
"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

New Testament for Today: 2 Corinthians 7:10
10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
In Context: 2 Corinthians 7:2-16

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

Reading Schedule for Jan. 27 - Feb. 2

Jan. 28 - Joel 2:1-2, 10-19
Jan. 29 - Jonah 1:1 – 2:10
Jan. 30 - Jonah 3:1 – 4:11
Jan. 31 - Amos 1:1; 3:12 - 4:13
Feb. 1 - Hosea 1:1 – 3:5
Feb. 2 - Hosea 11:1-11

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, January 26, 2008

January 26 - Opening My Eyes

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2Kgs. 6:8-23
"The Blinded and the Sighted"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 6:17-18
17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

When Elisha's servant saw that the army of Aram had surrounded them, he was afraid. Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened to see God's mighty power to defend and deliver. Next, he prayed that the eyes of his enemies would be closed so their plan of attack would be given up in blind confusion.

God has the power to help us see, and the power to strike us blind. He opens the eyes of those who seek and serve him, helping them to see his provision and power to save. He blinds and confuses the way of those who reject him and oppose his will.

Response and Action:
I will seek God with my whole heart, and ask him to open my eyes. I will open my eyes to the truth of Scripture. I will open my eyes to the work of the Spirit. I will open my eyes to the counsel and fellowship of the Church. I will open my eyes to the needs of the world. I will open my eyes to the possibilities God has for those who follow Jesus.

O God, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you, your power, and your salvation. Light my way, show me your will, and save me from the blindness of sin. Thank you for the resurrection power you promise to all who believe in Jesus. 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: Ephesians 1:18-20
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms...
In Context: Ephesians 1:3-23

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

Friday, January 25, 2008

January 25 - Stumbling Forward

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2Kgs. 5:1-27
"Naaman is Healed"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 5:13-14
13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Naaman did not know the God of Abraham, but his hope for a cure led him to Elisha. After being healed, he decided to never again worship any god other than the God of Israel. He didn't fully understand who that God was, but his heart was turned and headed in the right direction.

Gehazi did know the God of Abraham, and had seen his power displayed in powerful ways through Elisha's ministry. However, in his actions toward Naaman, and deceit toward Elisha, he demonstrated that his heart was turning away from God and headed in the wrong direction.

Naaman turned toward God and found healing. Gehazi turned away from God and became diseased. Carelessly turning away from God in selfish sin leads to death and sickness. Turning toward God in faith and submission leads to life and restoration.

Response and Action:
Am I, like Naaman, seeking truth and drawing nearer to God? Am I growing in my understanding and my wholeheartedness toward Christ? Or am I, like Gehazi, taking God for granted, and getting careless about my actions? I do not want my profession of faith to be contradicted by actions that are selfish and deceptive.

Both Naaman and Gehazi were confused in their understanding about God, but Naaman was stumbling toward God, and Gehazi was stumbling away from God. I have a long way to go in my understanding of God, my knowledge of Scripture, and my spiritual growth, so I will keep eyes on Jesus, turn my heart toward him, and pursue righteousness. When I stumble, I want to stumble toward God.

O God, I want to know you more. Thank you, that though I have so far to go, you love me where I am. Draw me closer to you. Grant me the wisdom and the will to seek you with my whole heart and to walk in your ways. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:25-26
"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked."

New Testament for Today: James 3:14-15
14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.
In Context: James 3:13-18

Recommended Reading:
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
by N.T. Wright
Ch. 8 - "The Mind Renewed" is a wonderful sermon based on 2 Kings 5.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

January 24 - What Miracles Mean

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2 Kgs. 4:1-44
"Elisha Performs Miracles"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 4:3-5
3 Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."
5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.

Elisha performed many miracles. Because the power of God was displayed in these miracles, they served to reinforce the authority of Elisha's prophetic words. The benevolent, providential, and restorative focus of these miracles gave witness to God’s redemptive character. Similarly, the miracles of Jesus demonstrated his authority and testified to God’s saving power.

The miracle of the widow's oil illustrates the importance of faith. Her willingness to gather many jars demonstrated that she believed the prophet's promise. The way the oil stopped when the last jar was filled seems to indicate that the amount of the provision was somehow proportionate to her faith and obedience.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize the way so many miracles in the Bible point to God's goodness and goodwill. If I believe in God's power and his redemptive will, I need to respond in obedience and put my faith into action. I do not want to limit God's blessing and provision; so as the widow gathered many jars, I will seek out every opportunity I can for God to fulfill my need and bless my life.

O God, thank you for your resurrection power, your loving provision, your readiness to save, and your ability to satisfy needs. Thank you for Jesus who has demonstrated your great love and redemptive heart. Give me the wisdom to follow him and to submit to his authority. 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: John 14:10-11
10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
In Context: John 14

Recommended Reading:
Miracles: A Preliminary Study
by C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January 23 - My Turn to Serve

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2 Kgs. 2:1-18
"Elijah Departs & Elisha Begins"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 2:11-14
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.

13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Elijah passed on his prophetic role to his servant Elisha. He had already anointed Elisha as his successor, but on the day of his departure, he acted out several important truths (in typical prophetic fashion). First, he made Elisha follow him closely wherever he went (a prophet goes wherever God leads). Secondly, he made Elisha demonstrate and declare his commitment and desire to do follow God (a prophet must be committed and wholehearted). Third, he made it clear to Elisha that the prophetic role and power was not his to give, but God's (a prophet can only be and do what God ordains).

Response and Action:
Like Elijah, I want to be faithful to serve God in the ways he has called me to serve. I want to train and encourage others to take up that service when I am no longer able to do it. Like Elisha, I want to follow in the footsteps of others who have faithfully served. I want to learn from them, recognize the ways God has used and empowered them, and, as God wills and empowers, take up and continue their work.

O God, help me to follow in the footsteps of others who have served you faithfully. Help me to learn from their example. Give me a desire to be like them. Grant me the same wisdom and power you granted to them. Raise up others who will be faithful to take up the work I am doing when the day comes that I can do it no longer. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:12
"Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge."

New Testament for Today: 2 Timothy 2:1-2
1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
In Context: 2 Timothy 1:3-2:7

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January 22 - I'm Not Alone

Overview of: 1 Kings

Today's Reading:
1Kgs. 19:1-18
"Elijah and God"

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 19:14, 18
14 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

- - - 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

Elijah felt like giving up on Israel. He thought that he was the only one left in Israel who had not turned away from God to worship Baal. God told Elijah that he was mistaken; there were still many others who remained faithful. There were some who would rise up as new leaders, a prophet who would follow in his footsteps, and seven-thousand others in Israel who were still true to God.

Response and Action:
There may be times faithfulness to God seems like a lonely enterprise. It can be tempting to feel overwhelmed by the world and be tempted to just give up. Years ago, my dad wrote a wonderful gospel song based on this text. I grew up hearing that song many times. The lyrics of that song still serve as a good reminder to me.

Everybody's not doing it, brother.
Don't give into the world!
You can overcome old Satan's power.
Although you may seem to be all alone,
Remember God is on your side;
And don't give into the world,
Stay true to the Lord.

O God, remind me that I am never alone in following Jesus and being faithful to you. Thank you for the many brothers and sister I have in your church. Surround me with many Christian friends who will support, encourage, teach, prod, and inspire me to be faithful to you. Through Christ, I pray. 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: Hebrews 10:24
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
In Context: Hebrews 10:19-25

Recommended Reading:
Shaking the System: What I Learned from the Great American Reform Movements
by Tim Stafford

Monday, January 21, 2008

January 21 - True or False

Overview of: 1 Kings

Today's Reading:
1Kgs. 18:1-45
"Elijah Confronts the Prophets of Baal"

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 18:36-39
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"

King Ahab was so wrongheaded in his religious beliefs that he blamed Elijah for his problems. Elijah was uncompromisingly faithful to the God of Abraham, but King Ahab saw this as stubborn and narrow-minded. He was religiously pluralistic and thought it made more sense to embrace more gods in more ways. Elijah's condemnation of Baal worship and his insistence that there was only one God ran in direct confrontation with Ahab's pantheism.

The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel was the collision of conflicting worldviews. Faith in the one true God, the God of Abraham, won the day.

Response and Action:
Truth is exclusive. Conflicting claims to truth cannot stand unchallenged and untested. I need to give careful consideration to all truth claims. I need to give careful thought to why I believe what I believe and why I consider one claim to be true and others to be false. Both reason and experience factor into this process. I need to consider who is making the claim, why are they making it, what reasons are there for doubting or believing it, and how these claims resonate with real life experience (in my own life, the lives of others, and in history).

O God, help me to recognize what is true and what is false. Confirm my faith in you through your Word, through your people, through my life experiences, through the testimony of others, and through sound reasoning. Protect me from deception and doubt. Increase my faith and show yourself to be powerful and true in all things. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Acts 26:25-26
25 "I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.
In Context: Acts 26

Recommended Reading:
Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?
by James W. Sire

Upcoming Event:
Student Apologetics Training Conference (Feb. 1-2)
MacLaurin Institute at the University of Minnesota

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reading Schedule for January 21 - 26

Jan. 21 - 1Kgs. 18:15-40
Jan. 22 -
1Kgs. 19:1-18
Jan. 23 -
2Kgs. 2:1-18
Jan. 24 -
2Kgs. 4:1-44
Jan. 25 -
2Kgs. 5:1-27
Jan. 26 - 2Kgs. 6:8-23

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, January 19, 2008

January 19 - Faith First

Overview of:
1 Kings

Today's Reading:
1Kgs. 17:1-24
"Elijah and a Widow"

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 17:13-14
13 Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.' "

By the time the prophet Elijah entered the story of Israel, the northern ten tribes had allowed their faith in the one true God to be compromised, corrupted, and blended with other forms of pagan worship and false gods. Because of their unfaithfulness, God allowed them to be subjected to drought, famine, and political oppression.

It was so bad that streams dried up and crops failed. Elijah asked a widow in Zarephath to provide him with some food. He promised her that if she did, God would provide for her needs. She believed him and gave him the little bit she had. She had thought it would be the last meal she and her son would have before they died, but even so, she served the prophet first. Her faith resulted in God's blessing and provision.

Response and Action:
Even when times are hard and resources are few, I will put my faith in God's promises, and put God first. When finances are tight, I will still give. When days are busy, I will still make time to seek and serve God. I will approach every circumstance with faith in Christ, believing that through him, and by his strength, I can face any and every situation.

O God, help me to put you above all else. Give me a strong faith and the courage to live with complete confidence in your promises. Save me from half-heartedness toward you. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:17
"He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done."

New Testament for Today: Phil. 4:12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
In Context: Phil. 4:10-13

Recommended Reading:
Is God Really in Control?: Trusting God in a World of Hurt
by Jerry Bridges

Friday, January 18, 2008

January 18 - Devotion or Demise

Overview of:
1 Kings

Today's Reading:
1Kgs. 11:28 – 12:24
"Solomon's End and Israel's Division"

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 11:31-33
31 Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. 32 But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. 33 I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon's father, did.

Solomon's glorious reign as King over a united and prosperous Israel collapsed into unfaithfulness and division. Israel struggled as a divided nation until eventually, at the hands of neighboring kingdoms, the northern ten tribes were scattered, and the southern two tribes were exiled into captivity.

Unfaithfulness to God leads to ruin. Pride and the delusion of self-sufficiency are always self-destructive. God withdraws his blessing and provision from those who do not walk in his ways and do what is right.

Solomon's great success, wisdom, and splendor were not matched by a great faithfulness to God. His distinction as King was not matched by his devotion to God.

Response and Action:
I do not want success, comfort, education, or prosperity to diminish my faithfulness to God. Everyday, I will remind myself to seek God above all else. I will humble myself before God in prayer and in the study of Scripture. I will value and nurture my personal relationships with others who desire to love and obey God. I will give thought to my steps, and try to be sensitive to the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

O God, help me to live for you and through you this day in thought, word, and deed. 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. Guide me by your Word and your Spirit. Save me from any blessing or success that would turn me away from you. Deliver me from any temptation or burden that is too great for me to bear. Give me a devoted heart that seeks you and draws near to you in every circumstance of life. I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:3
'When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes disgrace."

New Testament for Today: Luke 12:48b
48b From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
In Context: Luke 12:13-53

Recommended Reading:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Thursday, January 17, 2008

January 17 - Faith Conclusion

Overview of:

Today's Reading:
Ecc. 1:12-18; 3:1-17; 12:9-14
"God's Judgment and Man's Wisdom"

Focus Verses: Ecc. 12:12b-14
12b Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

The "Teacher" of Ecclesiastes (Solomon, perhaps?) does his best to assess and illuminate the human experience. He honestly and humbly acknowledges that from his human point of view he is only able to study within the observable limitations of what is "under the sun" and what happens between birth and death.

No matter how hard he tries to make sense of life, and reduce it to simple and predictable equations, he cannot. Ultimately, the only wise conclusion he can reach is: the meaning of life is beyond human understanding. He concludes that living within God's commands, with reverence and humility before God, is the only wise course for life. Purpose, hope, and meaning are not to be found in human activity or analysis, but rather through faith in God.

Response and Action:
The meaning and purpose of life are beyond my understanding. I will fail in any attempts to find an explanation of life small enough to fit within the limits of my own knowledge and experience. I will put my faith in God. My faith and humility for God will guide me and sustain me as I ask questions, seek wisdom, work hard, and do my best to enjoy life. My limited understanding of life does not diminish my faith in God; it reinforces my need for God.

O God, help me to trust in you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways--in every aspect of my life--teach me to acknowledge you. Direct my path and make my way straight. Cause my faith to grow stronger each day that I might enjoy the life you have given me, and live with contentment, purpose, and hope. Through Christ, who has become my wisdom, 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: 1 Cor. 1:20-21
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
In Context: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Recommended Reading:
Encountering Ecclesiastes: A Book for Our Time
by James Limburg
Can Man Live without God?
by Ravi Zacharias

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

January 16 - Hearing My Heart

Overview of:

Today's Reading:
Prov. 10:1-32
"Solomon's Proverbs"

Focus Verses: Prov. 10:18-21
18 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. 21 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.

Wisdom begins with a heart that is humble and reverent before God. Wisdom begins its work in the heart. Words and actions flow out of the heart. As fruit indicates the type of tree that produces it, our words indicate the type of heart that produces them. My mouth is a window to my heart.

Response and Action:
I need to listen to myself and consider what my words and my tone of voice says about my heart. Do my words demonstrate a love for God? Do they come from a humble spirit? Are they helpful and respectful toward others? Are they guided by truth? Do I say them in love? Are they motivated by righteousness?

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, transform and shape my heart. Let my heart for you guide my mouth. Help me to say words that encourage and edify others. Teach me to speak the truth in love. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. I ask all this in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:23
"A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction."

New Testament for Today: Luke 6:45
45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
In Context: Luke 6:37-49

Recommended Reading:
The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God's Love Through You
by Jerry Bridges

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

January 15 - Bright Path, Living Water

Overview of:

Today's Reading:
Prov. 4:1-27
"A Father's Instruction"

Focus Verses: Prov. 4:18-24
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. 20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Life's path becomes clearer for those who walk in wisdom and righteousness. The longer they walk, the more they can see by the bright light of truth and understanding.

Life's path becomes darker and more confusing for those who turn away from wisdom, and walk in sin. They constantly stumble in the dark, and can't even figure out what they are tripping over.

People who fail to seek wisdom and do not guard their hearts end up with lives that are unhealthy. The well of their lives becomes corrupted or runs dry. Those who seek wisdom find Jesus, and those who place their faith in him find living water that never runs dry. Streams of truth, wisdom, light, and peace flow within them, and overflow into the world around them.

Response and Action:
I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. I will seek Jesus with my whole heart, believing that he is the way, the truth, and the life. I will guard my heart from the things that corrupt and distract and deceive. I will surrender my heart to Jesus who heals, leads, transforms, and empowers me by the power and grace of his Holy Spirit.

O God, help me to walk in wisdom and righteousness. Make the path of my life brighter each day I follow Jesus. Satisfy my thirst with the living water of your grace and truth. May I be so filled that a river of life flows out of me to bless my family and friends, my church, my neighborhood, and the world around me. 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: John 7:37-38
37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
In Context: John 7:25-43

Recommended Reading:
The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God's Love Through You
by Jerry Bridges

Monday, January 14, 2008

January 14 - Love for a Lifetime

Overview of:

Today's Reading:
Song 3:7 – 4:16
"The Wedding Day"

Focus Verses: Song 3:11 - 4:1
3:11 "Go forth, O daughters of Zion, and gaze on King Solomon with the crown with which his mother has crowned him on the day of his wedding, and on the day of his gladness of heart."
4:1"How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves behind your veil; your hair is like a flock of goats that have descended from Mount Gilead."

There's nothing quite like a wedding to remind us all of just how beautiful and special a loving relationship can be. The bride and groom look their best, and spirits are high. The vows, the music, the scripture readings, and the fun of the reception all express our best hopes for the wedding couple.

I think it's even more beautiful to see a bride and groom still in love and still thrilled to be together ten, twenty-five, or fifty years into their marriage. The beauty of a wedding day, as wonderful as it is, pales in comparison to the beauty of long marriage where two lives really have become one.

Response and Action:
I will do all I can to nurture and sustain my marriage. I want the beauty of my marriage to outshine the beauty of any wedding day, even Solomon's! I will pray the same for all my married friends and relatives. I will do my best to bless, support, and encourage others in their marriages.

O God, help me to be a blessing to my wife. Thank you for the thirty years we've been married. Help our marriage to be a joy and thrill to each other, a testimony of your grace, and a praise to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:1
"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 5:25
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
In Context: Ephesians 5:21-33

Recommended Reading:
The Mystery of Marriage
by Mike Mason

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reading Schedule for January 14 -19

Jan. 14 - Song 3:7 – 4:16
Jan. 15 - Prov. 4:1-27
Jan. 16 - Prov. 10:1-32
Jan. 17 - Ecc. 1:12-18; 3:1-17; 12:9-14
Jan. 18 - 1Kgs. 11:28 – 12:24
Jan. 19 - 1Kgs. 17:1-24

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, January 12, 2008

January 12 - Protecting Love's Bloom

Overview of: SONG OF SONGS

Today's Reading:
Song 2:1-17
"A Lover and His Beloved"

Focus Verses: Song 2:14-15
14 My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. 15 Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Songs, a love poem, is one of the wisdom books attributed to Solomon. The song describes the love of a man and woman in all it's complexity, passion, and mystery. It portrays this love as gift from God to be enjoyed. It is also a gift to be guarded. In verse 15, "the lover" expresses his concern about the little things that can ruin a relationship.

Response and Action:
I am thankful for the loving relationship I have with my wife. I will do all I can to not let little things destroy or diminish the joy of our marriage. I will try to identify and "catch" these little foxes and get rid of them. I want us to enjoy a joyful and rich marriage for the rest of our lives. By putting the Lord first in our lives, we will grow closer together in love. The source of our love for each other will flow out of the love we receive from God.

O God, thank you for love. Thank you for the blessing of marriage. Grant me the wisdom to seek you and love you first, and may the love I find in you bless and multiply the love and joy I share with my wife. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:4a
"A wife of noble character is her husband's crown..."

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 5:31
31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
In Context: Ephesians 5:21-33

Recommended Reading:
The Mystery of Marriage
by Mike Mason