Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 31 - Past the Pain

Overview of: Jeremiah

Today's Reading:
Jer. 15:1-21; 31:12-34
"Pain and Promise"

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.

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.
Proverb for Today: Prov. 31:9
"Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Recommended Reading:
Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian

by Gary A. Haugen

Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30 - Straying from God

Overview of: Jeremiah

Today's Reading:
Jer. 1:1 - 2:27
"Israel Forsakes God"

Focus Verses: Jeremiah 2:5,13
5 This is what the LORD says: "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 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 laments Israel's unfaithfulness to God. He uses the bitter language and graphic imagery of adultery to get his point across. Though God had been faithful, his people turned from him to worthless things, and became as worthless as the things they pursued. Though God was like a spring of fresh and life-giving water to them, they instead put their trust in the stale and leaking cisterns they had built for themselves. The result was a people with stale and empty hearts.

Response and Action:
The things I turn to in life are the things that will shape me. God is faithful. In seeking God, I will become faithful. God is life and truth. In pursuing God, I will find truth and life. I will turn away from worthless things and set my heart on things above. I will have experience meaning, purpose, and fullness in my life if I honor God and hold fast to him in faith.

O Lord, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to turn away from all that is worthless, to seek all that is true, and to do what is good. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Teach me faithfulness and draw me to the living water that only you can give. Amen.

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.

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

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 29 - Lost Bible

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2Kgs. 22:1 – 23:3
"God's Book is Found"

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 written 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 reading and applying 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.

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

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 28 - Singing with God

Overview of: Zephaniah

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

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 was about the 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 proclaimed 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 commit myself to being a faithful follower. I will not fear judgment because I have found grace and forgiveness and guidance through Jesus. I look forward to the day of the Lord, knowing that all who are in Christ will sing songs of joy and thanksgiving to God, our Savior. God, himself, will sing and rejoice our 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.

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In Context: Hebrews 10

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:1
"The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 27 - True Repentance

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 Assyria 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.

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

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

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

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26 - Greater Power

Overview of: 2 Chronicles

Today's Reading:
2 Chr. 32:1-31
"Jerusalem is Saved"

Focus Verses: 2 Chr. 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.

New Testament for Today: Romans 8:38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Context: Romans 8:28-39

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:
Be Not Afraid
by David Ivaska

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reading Schedule for January 26 - 31

Jan. 26 - 2Chr. 32:1-31
Jan. 27 - Nahum 1:1-15
Jan. 28 - Zeph. 1:1; 3:1-20
Jan. 29 - 2Kgs. 22:1 – 23:3
Jan. 30 - Jer. 1:1 - 2:27
Jan. 31 - Jer. 15:1-21; 31:12-34

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, January 24, 2009

January 24 - Ready to Hear

Overview of: Isaiah

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 1:1; 6:1-13; 25:1 – 26:6
"Isaiah is Sent"

Focus Verses: Isaiah 6:8-9
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" 9 He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' "

Isaiah was overcome by a vision of God's power and holiness. He realized how sinful he was, how sinful the people of Israel had become, and how desperately they needed God's forgiveness and restoration.

God sent him to preach repentance and judgment to his people, even though God knew the people would not listen to Isaiah. They would hear, but not understand; they would see, but not perceive. Because the people would ignore Isaiah, his preaching would, in fact, harden their hearts and dull their understanding.

Isaiah asked, "How long should I preach?" God said, essentially, "Until there is no one left to preach to." Even when people fail to listen or respond, God is faithful to reach out to them and give them opportunity to wake up and turn back. Their destruction was self-imposed. They were without excuse.

Response and Action:
I want to live with a sense of God's beauty, holiness, and majesty. I will grow in my reverence for God as I humble myself in worship, prayer, and the reading of Scripture. I will acknowledge my sin and the sins of my people (my family, my church, my nation), asking God for forgiveness and restoration. I will be faithful to speak and live the truth of God even if no one listens or responds. I want to be sensitive to God's leading and have a willingness to answer his call--to do what he calls me to do, to say what he calls me to say, and to be what he calls me to be.

O God, have mercy on me. I am a person of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. You have shown your glory to us through Jesus, your Son. Help me--help us all--to find forgiveness, restoration, renewal, and purpose in Him. It's in His Name, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 1:18-19a
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.
In Context: Ephesians 1:1-23

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:11
"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter."

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

Friday, January 23, 2009

January 23 - Come and Worship

Overview of: 2 Chronicles

Today's Reading:
2 Chr. 30:1-27
"Hezekiah's Passover"

Focus Verses: 2 Chronicles 30:8-9
8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the LORD. Come to the sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the LORD your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him."

With the northern tribes scattered and overrun by Assyria, and the southern Kingdom of Judah on its last leg, King Hezekiah led a campaign to turn Israel back to the Lord. Over the years, as the people of Israel had turned away from God, the observance of their religious festivals and holy days had drifted away. Hezekiah determined to rally people back to God by reinstituting the observance of Passover.

The people answered Hezekiah's call and experienced the largest Passover celebration ever seen since the days of Solomon and David. Though the people did not observe all the practices and traditions of Passover in exact accordance with the Law of Moses, God saw their hearts were turned toward him and so heard their prayers and graciously blessed them with healing and forgiveness.

Response and Action:
Worship is central to turning my heart toward God. Keeping worship a priority in my life will prevent me from turning away from God. Worship is key to spiritual health and spiritual renewal. I will worship to remember, to repent, to rejoice, to make requests, and to give thanks. I will make worship an every day thing; it will center me, remind me, renew me, restore me, refresh me, direct me, and sustain me.

O God, you are great and worthy to be praised. No one can fathom your wonderful ways. One generation will tell to the next the works of the Lord and mighty acts! Every day, every way, I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 12:1
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.
In Context: Romans 12

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

Recommended Reading:
Worship & Celebration
by Janet L. Johnson

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22 - Walking Wisely

Overview of: Micah

Today's Reading:
Micah1:1; 6:1-16
"Justice, Mercy, and Humility"

Focus Verses: Micah 6:8
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 9 Listen! The LORD is calling to the city—and to fear your name is wisdom— "Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.

Micah prophesied during the final days of Israel. The northern kingdom had turned away from God and would soon be overrun and destroyed by Assyria. The southern kingdom would not last much longer either. Micah predicted the fall of the northern kingdom's capital, Samaria (1:5–7), and also foretold the coming desolation of Judah (1:9–16).

If only the people of Israel and Judah would have walked humbly with God, acting justly and loving mercy, they could have survived as a nation. Micah's prophecy called the people to open their eyes and recognize that the troubles they were facing were the result of spiritual and moral failure. He urged them to open their ears and listen to what God was saying to them through the troubles they were now experiencing.

Response and Action:
I want to avoid the hardships and troubles of life that are caused by indifference toward God. I want the wisdom to see the connection between sin and the consequences of sin. If I face hardship, I want it to be for doing the right thing. I want to act with justice--to treat others with goodwill and integrity. I want to love mercy--to be gracious, patient, and forgiving when others act wrongly toward me. I want to walk humbly with my God--to trust him to protect and provide, and to honor and obey him.

O God, thank you for your grace and mercy. Give me a heart and mind that delight in your will. Help me to walk in your ways with a humble spirit. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, teach me to act justly and to love mercy. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Peter 2:20
20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
In Context: 1 Peter 2:4-25

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

Recommended Reading:
Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
by Gary Haugen

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 21 - Divided Hearts

Overview of:
2 Kings
and 2 Chronicles

Today's Reading:
2Kgs. 17:1-41; 2Chr. 20:1-30
"Hoshea and Jehoshaphat"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 17:40-41
40 They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.

In today's reading we see the historic account of the unfaithfulness Hosea and Amos preached against. Israel fell because of its half-heartedness toward God. They allowed their worship of God to be compromised and corrupted by serving foreign gods and idols. This spiritual adultery began with the first king to rule over the north after Solomon's death, Jeroboam, and persisted even after the fall of Israel.

Response and Action:
God calls us to undivided devotion to him. We are to worship him, and him only. Half-heartedness toward God is self-destructive. God calls us to worship him in spirit and truth. I will seek God with wholehearted devotion. I will honor God by put him first in my life. I will follow Jesus and look to him for the guidance and strength I need to draw near to God.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Teach me to recognize those things that threaten to diminish or corrupt my walk with you. Help me to worship you in spirit and in truth. Show me your ways and give me an undivided heart that is quick to worship and serve you alone. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: John 4:21-24
21 Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.
In Context: John 4:1-42

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:6
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?"

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20 - Love that Saves

Overview of: Hosea

Today's Reading:
Hosea 1:1 – 3:5; 11:1-11
"Hosea Demonstrates God's Love"

Focus Verses: Hosea 3:1-2
1 The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley."

God instructed the prophet Hosea to illustrate God's great love and faithfulness to his people by taking a wife who would be unfaithful to him. Hosea's actions and responses to his wife's unfaithfulness would be a graphic real-life demonstration of God's actions and responses to the nation of Israel.

Hosea's wife was unfaithful to him, she prostituted herself, had children by other men, and eventually left Hosea for someone else. After all that, Hosea one day found her abandoned, destitute, and being sold as a slave. God told him, "Show your love to her again." Hosea paid the price to buy her back--he saved and redeemed her. He didn't just save her; that was just the beginning. Astonishingly, Hosea brought her home to be his wife! He restored his relationship with her and said, "You are to live with me in faithfulness, and I will live with you."

Response and Action:
God loves, redeems, and restores his people. God wants to save me from unfaithfulness. He desires to restore me to a right relationship with him. I need to turn away from sin and turn to God. I need to recognize the ways I am unfaithful to God and, by God's grace, put those things aside. I want to be responsive to God's love and receive the restoration and renewal he offers. I want to honor him with my life, and to learn how to "live with him in faithfulness."

O God, thank you for your love. Look upon me in mercy and redeem me from my unfaithfulness. Thank you for Jesus, who has purchased me in by laying down his life, and for your Spirit who is renewing and restoring me. 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. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Luke 15:17-18
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
In Context: Luke 15:11-32

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:6
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?"

Recommended Reading:
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
by Timothy Keller

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 19 - Greed and Need

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 God's goodness for granted. 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.

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:7
"A poor man is shunned by all his relatives—how much more do his friends avoid him! Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found."

Recommended Reading:
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity

by Ronald J. Sider

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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reading Schedule for January 19 - 24

Jan. 19 - Amos 1:1; 3:12 - 4:13
Jan. 20 - Hosea 1:1 – 3:5; 11:1-11
Jan. 21 - 2Kgs. 17:1-41; 2Chr. 20:1-30
Jan. 22 - Micah1:1; 6:1-16
Jan. 23 - 2Chr. 30:1-27
Jan. 24 - Isaiah 1:1; 6:1-13; 25:1 – 26:6

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, January 17, 2009

January 17 - Living Grace

Overview of: Jonah

Today's Reading:
Jonah 1:1 – 4:11
"The Story of Jonah"

Focus Verses: Jonah 2:8
8 "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."

This insight came to Jonah as he prayed inside the great fish God sent to swallow him. Sadly, he had been running from God's call to go and preach that grace to the people of Ninevah. Jonah wanted God's grace, but he didn't want God's to be gracious and merciful toward the Ninevites.

Jonah realized the truth of grace, but he was not eager to see God’s grace given to his enemies. God, on the other hand, had such great grace for Ninevah that he even expresses a concern for their cattle (4:11).

Response and Action:
I need God's grace and mercy for life. I should want to see that grace given to everyone, including my enemies. I should be faithful and ready to share God's grace with all people.

O God, forgive me for the times I am selfish with your goodness. Give me a heart that rejoices in seeing your grace extended toward all people. Help me to be a faithful witness and channel of that grace to everyone around me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Thes. 1:9b-10
9b turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
In Context: 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

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

Recommended Reading:
What's So Amazing about Grace
by Philip Yancey

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 16 - Spirit & Salvation

Overview of: Joel

Today's Reading:
Joel 1:1 – 2:32
"Judgment and Hope"

Focus Verses: Joel 2:28, 32
28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. - - - 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

The prophet Joel compared the destructive invasion of Israel by its enemies to a devouring plague of locusts. They would utterly consume and destroy everything in their path as judgment for rejecting their God.

Joel also had a message of hope and restoration for the remnant of repentant people who were steadfast in their faith in God. They were promised restoration of their land and their lives. They were also promised a new outpouring of God's Spirit and salvation on the final day of judgment.

Jesus' disciples appropriated the promises of Joel's prophecy. They saw the Day of Pentecost as the beginning of fulfillment of his promise to all who would "call on the name of the Lord." They believed they were seeing the long-awaited outpouring of the Holy Spirit and salvation given to all who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to experience salvation and to live in the hope and power of the Holy Spirit. I will call on the name of the Lord. I will hold on to faith through every circumstance, believing that God will sustain and save me.

O God, protect me from the things that threaten to consume and destroy me. Help me to look to you in faith in all circumstances. Thank you for Jesus, my Lord, who for my sake and my salvation came down from heaven. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who has spoken through the prophets. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Acts 2:21-23
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' 22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
In Context: Acts 2:1-41

Proverb for Today: Prov. 15:24
"The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave."

Recommended Reading:
Hope Has Its Reasons
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 15 - The Right Direction

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2 Kgs. 5:1 - 6:23
"Elisha Heals and Helps"

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.

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:21
"He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 14 - God's Blessing

Overview of: 2 Kings

Today's Reading:
2 Kgs. 2:1 - 4:44
"Elisha Succeeds Elijah"

Focus Verses: 2 Kings 4:3-6
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 and readiness to bless. 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 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.

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:21
"He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13 - Confronting Lies

Overview of: 1 Kings

Today's Reading:
1 Kgs. 18:1 - 19:21
"The Prophet Elijah"

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.

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

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:14
"The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

Recommended Reading:
What's So Great about Christianity

by Dinesh D'Souza