Friday, February 29, 2008

February 29 - Mercy for the Mysteries

Overview of: Daniel

Today's Reading:
Daniel 2:1-23
"The King's Dream
and Daniel's Prayer"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 29:13
"The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both."

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

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

February 28 - Daily Discipline

Overview of: Daniel

Today's Reading:
Daniel 1:1-21
"Daniel's Resolve"

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

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

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

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given to me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to live a disciplined life with a heart aimed toward honoring and enjoying you. Though Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

February 27 - Coming to Life

Overview of: Ezekiel

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 37:1-28
"The Vision of the Dry Bones"

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

God has the power to restore life. He can raise the dead. Those who are dead in their transgressions are not beyond God's resurrection power.

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

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 27:20
"Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man."

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

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February 26 - More than Words

Overview of: Ezekiel

Today's Reading:
Ez. 4:1-17
"Ezekiel Acts Out His Message"

Focus Verses: Ezekiel 4:1-3
1 "Now, son of man, take a clay tablet, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. 2 Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. 3 Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel.

Ezekiel used dramatic and visual methods to deliver his prophetic message. Instead of just words, he would use theatrical symbols to make his point. This made him very interesting and hard to ignore. His message was very similar to the other prophets--warning, judgment, hope of restoration--but his artistic and symbolic approach to delivering his message makes him unique.

Response and Action:
I want to give voice to my faith and love for Jesus to the world around me. This can be done to some extent with words, but it might be even more effective to think of creative ways to act it out. I want to express my hope in Christ through every means possible. I want every aspect of my life to point others to Jesus.

O God, help me to honor you in thought, word, and deed. Give me the creativity to lift up Jesus in every aspect of my life. Give me words, songs, pictures, stories, and more, that I might give witness to truth. May Christ shine through me in ten thousand ways. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 26:7
"Like a lame man's legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool."

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 2:12
12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
In Context: 1 Peter 2:4-12

Recommended Reading:
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology
by Eugene H. Peterson

Monday, February 25, 2008

February 25 - A Taste for Truth

Overview of: Ezekiel

Today's Reading:
Ez. 2:1-9; 3:3-27
"Ezekiel Sent with God's Words"

Focus Verses: Ezekiel 3:3-7
3 Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. 4 He then said to me: "Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel- 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.

Even if no one listens, God speaks. Israel did not miss God's word to them because it was too obscure or difficult to understand. They missed it because they were not willing to listen. They were hard-hearted and obstinate. God told Ezekiel to devour his word, to take in the sweet truth, and to be ready to speak it.

Response and Action:
Am I acting like God's truth is beyond me, when the reality is that I am just to stubborn or lazy to take hold of it? Is God's word so available to me that I take it for granted and fail to make any effort to take it in? I want to be ready to listen and ready to live by God's word. I will apply myself to the reading, study, and application of Scripture.

God's word is sweet to those who are ready and willing to take it in. A disregard for God's word is indicative of a hard heart. A hunger and love for God's word is indicative of a humble and receptive heart. God uses those who seek and receive his word to serve as his witnesses in the world--to be voices of his redemptive love and grace.

O God, I seek you with all my heart, do not let me stray from your word. I delight in your word, help me to take it in to my heart and live it out in thought, word, and deed. Wisdom is sweet to my soul. Your word gives me light for today and hope for tomorrow. I will meditate on your words, O Lord. Give me the readiness and the words to express your truth to those who are listening and willing to receive it. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 25:11
"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."

New Testament for Today: Romans 10:14
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
In Context: Romans 10:5-15

Recommended Reading:
Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading
by Eugene H. Peterson

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reading Schedule for Feb. 25 - Mar. 1

Feb. 25 - Ez. 2:1-9; 3:3-27
Feb. 26 - Ez. 4:1-17
Feb. 27 - Ez. 37:1-28
Feb. 28 - Daniel 1:1-21
Feb. 29 - Daniel 2:1-23
Mar. 1 - Daniel 2:24-49

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, February 23, 2008

February 23 - God Is Still on His Throne

Overview of: Ezekiel

Today's Reading:
Ez. 1:1-28
"Ezekiel's Calling and First Vision"

Focus Verses: Ezekiel 1:26-28
26 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel was among the first Jews driven away from Judah and taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 b.c. He was from a priestly family, and during his early days in exile he received a prophetic calling. His received his first vision and calling among the exiles by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.

Though God's people were scattered and captive, and Jerusalem was under siege, and the Temple was destroyed, God was still powerful and glorious upon his heavenly throne. The destruction of Jerusalem had not destroyed God!

God had allowed exile and destruction to purify his people and save them from the idolatry and paganism Jerusalem had become. God would dismantle everything and start over, if that's what it would take to turn the hearts of his people back to him and make them holy.

Response and Action:
Human traditions, practices, institutions, and power structures are vulnerable to corruption. Temples erected for worshiping God can become places of idolatry. Kings called to serve God can become tyrants who oppose and usurp him. Systems and traditions, intended to help people understand and follow God, can become burdensome rules and empty ritual that become barriers to knowing God.

When these things fall apart and tumble down, God does not fall or tumble with them. When churches, traditions, and leaders fail, those who know and serve the One True God soon discover that God is still alive and well. God is faithful to reveal himself to those who seek him. Even in times of exile and destruction, God calls and gives purpose to those faithful to him.

O God, no matter where I am at, no matter what my circumstance, show yourself to me and give me a sense of calling and purpose. Give me a priestly heart that moves me to lift up the needs of others to you in prayer. Give me a prophetic spirit that causes me to speak your truth to my family, church, and neighbors. Help me to remember that though kingdoms rise and fall, your throne is forever. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:17-18
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 2:9
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
In Context: 1 Peter 2:4-12

Recommended Reading:
The Message of Ezekiel: A New Heart and a New Spirit (The Bible Speaks Today)
by Christopher J.H. Wright

Friday, February 22, 2008

February 22 - Weeping for the Wicked

Overview of: Obadiah

Today's Reading:
Obadiah 1:1-18
"Edom Judged for Gloating"

Focus Verses: Obadiah 1:12-13
12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 13 You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.

Obadiah prophesied against the people of Edom, who were the descendants of Esau (Ge 27:41–45; 32:1–21; 33; 36), and therefore relatives of Israel. Instead of grieving over the destruction of Jerusalem, the Edomites had gloated with delight. They saw Israel's demise as an opportunity to ridicule and plunder them. Obadiah declared that Edom would face punishment from God for their open hostility and arrogance toward Israel in their time of need.

Response and Action:
It is not good to gloat over the demise of others. It is arrogant and obnoxious to delight in the suffering, punishment, and judgment of others. God will judge those who consider the misfortunes and failures of others to be opportunities for personal gain and smug self-satisfaction.

I will be careful to not delight in the troubles or pain of others. Even when others are experiencing the consequences of their own wickedness and moral failures, I will look on them with compassion and sorrow. If God does not take delight in the destruction of the wicked (Ez. 18:23), how much less should I! When others experience judgment for sin, I will humble myself, knowing that it is only by the grace of God that I am not experiencing the same.

O God, give me a humble and gracious heart. When others experience hardship at the hands of others, give me compassion and move me to action. When those who are wicked experience painful consequences for their wickedness, give me the humility to empathize with them, and the grace to help them. You have shown mercy to me, O God. Give me the attitude of Christ Jesus that I might be a testimony and instrument of that mercy to everyone around me. I pray in the name of Jesus, my merciful Savior. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:22-23
"Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them."

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:14-17a
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Recommended Reading:
Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World
by Gary A. Haugen

Thursday, February 21, 2008

February 21 - New Mercies for a New Day

Overview of: Lamentations

Today's Reading:
Lamentations 3:1-40
"Sorrow and Hope"

Focus Verses: Lam. 3:17-24
17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." 19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

The book of Lamentations is typically attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. It is a song of lament over the destruction of Jerusalem. It is also a song of hope, as the prophet expresses his faith in God's great love and faithfulness.

Though the splendor and prosperity of Jerusalem were gone, the prophet believed in the possibility of a new morning because he believed in the compassion and goodness of God. While the prophet was downcast, and lamented the affliction and bitterness of Israel's condition, he also trusted God and waited on God to heal and restore.

Response and Action:
If the circumstances of today are difficult and disheartening, I will still put my trust in God. I believe in God's great faithfulness and compassion. Because I believe in God's mercy, I have hope for my future. Because of God's unfailing love, every new morning brings the possibility of new opportunity and blessing. I will wait upon the Lord.

O God, on my bed I remember you. I think of you in the watches of night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you. Your right hand upholds me. Great is your faithfulness, O God, my Father. You never change and your compassion never fails. Give me strength for today, and hope for tomorrow. 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 10:23
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Recommended Reading:
The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
by Brennan Manning

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February 20 - Asking God Why

Overview of: Habakkuk

Today's Reading:
Hab. 1:1-17; 3:16-19
"Habakkuk's Complaint"

Focus Verses: Hab. 1:12b-13
12b O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. 13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

Like Jeremiah, Habakkuk prophesied during the final years of Judah, before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 597 B.C. While Habakkuk recognized the Israelites' unfaithfulness to God, he complained and questioned how God could use the Babylonians to deliver judgment when they were more wicked than Israel.

God revealed to Habakkuk that though he was using the Babylonians as an instrument of judgment, their bloodshed and pride would come crashing back upon them. They too would experience judgment.

Habakkuk ended his prophecy with an expression of his faith in God's justice and promise of restoration. He said, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (3:17-18).

Response and Action:
Being used by God and being blessed by God are two different things. Though God may be using something to accomplish his purpose, I should not assume that God loves or approves of that something. God's power to accomplish his purposes is so great, he can use things people have intended for evil, and turn them to accomplish good. I will put my trust in God. I will trust him to be working for good, even when circumstances seem hard to understand.

O God, you are the God of my salvation. Give me a heart that trusts in your unfailing love and rejoices in the hope of your deliverance. Strengthen my heart with the confidence that you will eventually put all things to right. Remind me that righteousness will ultimately win the day, though present trials and circumstances make this hard to believe. I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 4:12
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Recommended Reading:
Evil And the Justice of God
by N.T. Wright

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 19 - Tough Truth

Overview of: Jeremiah

Today's Reading:
Jer. 38:1-28
"Jeremiah's Troubling Message"

Focus Verses: Jer. 38:1-4
1 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 "This is what the LORD says: 'Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. He will escape with his life; he will live.' 3 And this is what the LORD says: 'This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.' " 4 Then the officials said to the king, "This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin."

The destruction of Jerusalem was inevitable. That being the case, Jeremiah told the people that they should just go along with the Babyonians instead of fighting in resistance. Though he was speaking the truth, some people thought he was just being demoralizing and pessimistic. It's difficult to be the bearer of bad news, and Jeremiah suffered for telling the truth.

Response and Action:
When the truth is bad news, nobody wants to hear it. I should not be surprised when telling the truth results in bad feelings toward me. I should be careful to speak the truth in love, and to live with integrity. I should be faithful to speak the truth even if it is unpopular and results in mistreatment.

O God, show me the truth. Help me to know and understand the truth. By the transforming power of your Spirit, enable me to live the truth. Give me the courage to face the truth. And by your grace and mercy, help me to stand in the truth of Jesus. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:5
"A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free."

New Testament for Today: 2 Timothy 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Recommended Reading:
The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate
by Philip E. Johnson

Monday, February 18, 2008

February 18 - Written on My Heart and Mind

Overview of: Jeremiah

Today's Reading:
Jer. 31:12-15, 23-34
"Restoration and a Better Covenant"

Focus Verses: Jer. 31:33-34
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Though the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent, God promised that there would eventually be a day of restoration. The people had broken their covenant with God, but God promised that he would ultimately establish a better covenant. Instead of a written law, God would work within the hearts and minds of his people. Through Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Instead of mere external rules, God's people now have the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead indwelling their mortal bodies (Rom. 8:9-11).

Response and Action:
I want my heart and mind to be shaped and guided by the Spirit of God. More than being restrained by rules and regulations, I want the desires of my heart and the attitudes of my mind to be consistent with what God wants. By God's transforming power, my wants and actions can be so aligned with God's will, that rules and regulations are not necessary.

O God, write your law on my heart and mind. Shape my will into conformity with yours. 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. 18:15
"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out."

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 10:15-22
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." 17 Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Recommended Reading:
Desiring God's Will: Aligning Our Hearts With The Heart Of God
by David G. Benner

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reading Schedule for Feb. 18 - 23

Feb. 18 - Jer. 31:12-15, 23-34
Feb. 19 - Jer. 38:1-28
Feb. 20 - Hab. 1:1-17; 3:16-19
Feb. 21 - Lamentations 3:1-40
Feb. 22 - Obadiah 1:1-18
Feb. 23 - Ez. 1:1-28

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, February 16, 2008

February 16 - In Trouble for Truth

Overview of: Jeremiah

Today's Reading:
Jer. 15:1-6, 15-21
"Judah's Sin and Jeremiah's Pain"

Focus Verses: Jer. 15:18-19, 21
18 Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? 19 Therefore this is what the LORD says: "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. - - 21 "I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel."

The people of Judah were not only unfaithful to God, they were also very cruel to his messengers. Jeremiah suffered persecution and reproach at the hands of those who did not want to hear the message God had sent him to deliver.

Jeremiah cried out to God for help. He was depending on God to save him and bring him through the pain and trouble he was experiencing for his obedience to speak out. God promised to deliver and redeem Jeremiah from their hands if he would be faithful to speak truth and not turn to the ways of the wicked.

Response and Action:
Those who obey and speak out for God may suffer for doing so. God is able to save and sustain his faithful servants. If I experience hardship or persecution for obeying God, I will trust God to deliver me. If there are consequences for speaking the truth and following Jesus, I will put my faith in God's promise to strengthen and save me.

O God, preserve and protect your people. When those who serve and follow you experience hardship for the sake of Christ, sustain them and strengthen them. Help me to be a faithful servant. Give me the courage to do what is right, and to speak the truth in love. Give me a boldness to obey and honor you, no matter what the consequence. Whether by life or by death, may Christ be exalted in me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:19
"Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud."

New Testament for Today: Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Recommended Reading:
Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution
by Kay Marshall Strom

Friday, February 15, 2008

February 15 - Living Water

Overview of: Jeremiah

Today's Reading:
Jer. 1:1-3; 2:2-27
"Jerusalem is Exiled"

Focus Verses: Jeremiah 2:11-13
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD. 13 "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jeremiah prophesied during the days of the righteous King Josiah, and lamented his death. He continued his prophetic ministry through the final collapse of Judah (under King Zedekiah), and witnessed the exile of it's people and the destruction of Jerusalem.

The nation of Israel had exchanged the Glory of the true God for worthless idols, which were "not gods at all." God’s people turned away from the living water of His truth and provision, and instead "dug their own reservoirs," depending on their own failing strength and resources.

Response and Action:
I do not want to turn away from God in exchange for something less. I do not want to exchange truth for a lie. I don't want to depend on myself to supply what only God can give. I need to seek and worship God with all my heart and soul. I need to make time for worship, prayer, scripture, study, service, and reflection. The Glory of God as revealed in Christ Jesus must be at the center of my hopes, desires, plans, decisions, goals, and actions.

O God, my hope is in you. My faith is in Jesus, your Son, who has made you known to me and saved me by his blood. Give me the heart and the wisdom to seek first his Kingdom, and his righteousness. Help me to turn to you for the springs of living water only you can provide. Forgive me for the times I settle for less than you. Save me from the sin of self-reliance. Help me to grow in faith and live by faith in you and you alone. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:33
"The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor."

New Testament for Today: Romans 1:5
5 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 14 - Where's My Bible?

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2Kgs. 22:1 – 23:3
"Josiah and the Book"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 23:1-3
1 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD -to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

In the declining years of Judah, the Temple's ruin and disrepair had become a metaphor for the nation's spiritual condition. The nation had become so careless in their spiritual apathy that they had lost the Book of the Law of Moses in the mess and clutter of the Temple.

When King Josiah ordered that efforts be made to restore the Temple and make worship a priority, they found the Book of Law. As Josiah heard what it had to say, he was thunderstruck by how far his people had wandered from the truth of God. He understood that a knowledge of God's word would be essential to any spiritual renewal he hoped to bring to Israel, so he made sure everyone had an opportunity to hear it.

Response and Action:
Losing God's word is a sure way to lose my spiritual health. I must guard against the deterioration of my spiritual health. I must not let the truth of scripture get loss in the messy distractions and clutter of life. Like Josiah, I want to be responsive to God's word and be ready to live by it. I must direct my efforts to know and understand the Bible. I will commit myself to read and apply God's word.

O God, how can I keep my way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I will hide your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:15
"A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps."

New Testament for Today: 2 Peter 1:19
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Recommended Reading:
The IVP Introduction to the Bible
by Philip S. Johnston

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February 13 - Songs of Salvation

Overview of: Zephaniah

Today's Reading:
Zeph. 1:1; 3:1-20
"Future Judgment and Restoration"

Focus Verses: Zephaniah 3:14-17
14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. 16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, "Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Zephaniah’s main message is impending "the day of the Lord" (Isa 2:11,17,20; Joel 1:15; 2:2; Am 5:18; 8:9). On that day, Judah and the surrounding nations would all be punished for their cruelty to mankind and their disregard toward God.

Like the other prophets of his time, he also proclaims the hope of renewal. God would bless and care for the faithful remnant of Israel and bring restoration. One day there would be singing and rejoicing by those who would be saved (v. 14) and by the God who would save them (v.17).

Response and Action:
God has the power to save. I will put my hope in God, believing in his will and his power to save. He can take away my fears. He can give me peace. I will sing songs of joy and thanksgiving to God, my Savior. God, himself, will sing and rejoice in my salvation.

O God, show me your ways. Help me to overcome the sins and struggles of today. Bring me safely into a future of joy and restoration. Delight in me, and give me the heart and the will to delight in you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:18
He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored."

New Testament for Today: Luke 15:7
7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
In Context: Luke 15:1-7

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

February 12 - I Won't Turn Back

Overview of: Nahum

Today's Reading:
Nahum 1:1-15
"God's Judgment Against Ninevah"

Focus Verses: Nahum 1:3,14
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. -- 14 The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh : "You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the carved images and cast idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile."

When Jonah went to Ninevah and announced God's judgment, the people of Ninevah repented and were spared. Their repentance was short-lived, however. King Sennacherib made Ninevah the capital city of Assyrian around 700 b.c., and so Nahum's prophecy against Ninevah can be seen as a message against the Assyrian empire which was infamous for its military brutality and political pride.

By the time of Nahum, Assyria had destroyed and scattered the ten tribes Israel's northern kingdom. King Sennacherib had threatened Jerusalem and the southern kingdom during the time of Hezekiah, but God had saved them. Now Nahum declared God's judgment against Ninevah/Assryia. Though God had been slow to anger in the past, he would hold back no longer. Their destruction was sure and complete.

Response and Action:
The Lord is slow to anger. God extends mercy and grace to all who will humble themselves and turn to him. True repentance, however, is a change of life. It is demonstrated in a lifetime, not just a day. Real humility is demonstrated through an ongoing obedience and surrender to God, not just a short-term adjustment to avoid punishment. Those who truly turn away from sin are those who seek the Lord with all their hearts. A true change of heart produces a changed life. I have turned to God and I will not turn back.

O God, thank you for your grace and mercy, for being slow to anger, and for being ready to save those who repent and humbly turn to you. Help me to live out my repentance every day. Teach me to walk in your ways. Give me a heart that delights in your will. Make me ready to follow Jesus and to demonstrate my love through obedience. Give me the wisdom to understand salvation as a way of life. 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: Hebrews 10:26-27
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
In Context: Hebrews 10

Recommended Reading:
Why Sin Matters: The Surprising Relationship between Our Sin and God's Grace
by Mark R. McMinn

Monday, February 11, 2008

February 11 - God is Greater

Overview of: 2 Chronicles

Today's Reading:
2 Chr. 32:1-31
"God Saves Jerusalem"

Focus Verses: 2 Chron. 32:7-8
7 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles." And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

When Jerusalem was threatened by King Sennacherib, Hezekiah turned to God and reminded his people that though Assyria was a mighty power, God was mightier still. Sennacherib was prideful and made the mistake of defaming the God of Israel. Hezekiah was humble and put his faith in the God of Israel. Isaiah the prophet cried out in prayer to God for deliverance, and God came to their rescue.

Response and Action:
God is greater than the things that threaten to destroy me. If I will humble myself before God, and cry out to him in prayer, God is able to deliver. The challenges in life are often too big for me, but they are not too big for God. I will put my faith in God and turn to him for help.

O God, help me to trust in you. When I feel weak and overwhelmed, help me to cling to you in faith. Give me the courage that comes from the belief that you are greater than anything that threatens me. Be my refuge, my strength, my rock, and my salvation. Through Christ Jesus, who is my Savior, my comfort, and my hope, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 10:24
"What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted."

New Testament for Today: 2 Corinthians 1:10-11
10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
In Context: 2 Cor. 1:3-10

Recommended Reading:
Be Not Afraid
by David Ivaska