Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 30 - Unseen

Overview of: 2 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

2Cor. 4:1 – 6:18
"Hardship, Hope, and Holiness"

Focus Verses:
2 Cor. 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Paul is honest with the Corinthians about the fatigue and weariness he is experiencing in his life and ministry. He is also clear about the hope he has in Christ. Even though there are hardships and troubles, he does not lose heart. In fact, he can see God using those troubles to accomplish greater things.

Though Paul and his ministry partners are outwardly weary, he says they are inwardly renewed one day at a time. Paul says that they experience this hope and renewal by looking past the momentary troubles to the eternal promises of God. Christians can find strength, purpose, and renewal each day by having an eternal perspective that sees beyond the trouble of the moment; by looking to Jesus for strength; and by believing God can use even the difficulties of life.

Response and Action:
Jesus said that in this world we would see trouble, but even in the face of trouble we should take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). I will place my hope in Jesus and fix my eyes on him. Because my perspective of life includes eternity, I will look at the troubles of today as momentary and temporary. I will trust God to bring me through my problems and look to him for the strength I need for today. I believe God is so redemptive and sovereign that he can use even the hardships of my life to accomplish good things.

O God, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. This world is filled with trouble, in your grace and mercy, sustain me and renew me. Help me to fix my eyes on Jesus and your eternal promises so that I might not lose heart. Make my life a testimony of your faithfulness to uphold and strengthen those who trust in you. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 9:9-10
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10 Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
In Context: Psalm 9

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:
Embracing the Mysterious God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 29 - Reflectors

Overview of: 2 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

2Cor. 1:1 – 3:18
"Comfort and Covenant"

Focus Verses:
2 Cor. 3:17-18
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord gives freedom. Those who place faith in Christ receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who indwells our mortal bodies (Romans 8). We are no longer in bondage to sin (Romans 6), but instead we are freed from it to live a new life in Christ. Freedom in Christ means we have the freedom to change and grow and become. The Spirit of God leads, empowers, transforms, and shapes the lives of all who follow and submit to Christ. This is a process; each passing day, each passing year, we continue to grow, becoming more and more like Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to remember that in Christ, I have the freedom to change and become more like Jesus. I need to hold on to this promise and make every effort to make it a reality. I need to open my heart and focus my mind on the leading of the Spirit of the Lord as I read and apply the scriptures, as I pray, and as I participate in Christian community.

O God, I have so far to go, but I know you love me where I am. Thank you for a love that accepts me where I am and yet calls and lifts me to where I can be. Thank you for your Spirit and the freedom he gives me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Help me to be faithful in prayer, a student of the scriptures, and an active participant in Christian community. Make me sensitive and alert to your leading. Help me to make new strides each day as I follow Jesus with a heart to be like him. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Exodus 34:33-35
33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the LORD's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.
In Context: Exodus 34

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

Recommended Reading:
In His Image: Reflecting Christ in Everyday Life
by Michael Wilkins

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28 - Risen Indeed!

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 14:1 – 16:24
"Worship, Resurrection, and Partnership"

Focus Verses:
1 Corinthians 15:13-20
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

If Jesus Christ did not raise from the grave--if the resurrection story is just a myth or wishful thinking, then Christianity is a sham. Apart from the resurrection, faith and preaching is worthless and the Apostles were misled at best and liars at worst. Without the resurrection, there is no hope for deliverance from sin, and all who have died with faith in Christ are lost. But Christ has been raised from the dead! The testimony of scripture, history, the church, and of changed lives all point to the veracity of Christ's resurrection.

Response and Action:
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus - my faith matters. Because I believe it, the study of scripture and learning as a disciple of Jesus are vital. Because I believe in the resurrection, I have hope of something beyond my mortal life. Because I believe in resurrection power, I have hope of transformation and renewal in my life today. Because I believe in the resurrection, I have hope that the world can change through faith and obedience to Christ. Because I believe in the resurrection, I have hope of salvation. Because I believe and my belief has changed my life, I want to help others find that same hope and salvation.

O God, thank you for raising Christ Jesus from the dead. Thank you that resurrection power is available to me today as I surrender to you (Romans 8). Help me to take hold of that power that I might be changed into the likeness Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Thank you for your promise to raise me on the final day, that I might spend eternity with you and all those who have believed in Jesus. Help me to be a witness and a blessing to everyone around me that others might come to salvation and be raised into a new life and a new hope. I look for the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Old Testament for Today:
Psalm 116:7-9
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. 8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
In Context: Psalm 116

Proverb for Today: Prov. 28:26
"Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe."

Recommended Resource:
by N.T. Wright

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 27 - Life Math

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 11:1 – 13:13
"Worship and Community"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Here is a simple equation for life: (Whatever I can do) - (Love) = 0. Great ability, minus love, equals nothing. Amazing accomplishments, minus love, equals nothing. Self-sacrifice, minus love, equals nothing. Staggering insight and understanding, minus love, equals nothing. Amazing accomplishments, minus love, equals nothing. Faith and miracles, minus love, equals nothing. Life – Love = Nothing.

Response and Action:
Love is the defining mark that demonstrates God's transforming grace and power in my life. Since God is the source of love, those who do not love show that they do not know God. I want to put away childish things and grow in love. I want to love and value others. I want to grow into a person who loves others as Christ loves me. I want to be patient, kind, humble, and slow to anger. I desire to rejoice in truth, to protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

O God, thank you for the love you have for me, demonstrated through Christ's death. Thank you for acting to save and redeem me from my sin. Renew and transform me. Make me able to love others with the love of Christ. Help me to live it out in practical and meaningful ways. Make the love of Christ visible and tangible through me. It's in Jesus' loving and life-giving name that I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 145
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. 14 The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
In Context: Psalm 145

Proverb for Today: Prov. 2:19
"As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart."

Recommended Reading:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Reading Schedule for April 27 - May 2

April 27 - 1Cor. 11:1 – 13:13
April 28 - 1Cor. 14:1 – 16:24
April 29 - 2Cor. 1:1 – 3:18
April 30 - 2Cor. 4:1 – 6:18
May 1 - 2Cor. 7:1 – 8:24
May 2 - 2Cor. 9:1 – 10:18

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 by clicking the link in the right column.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 25 - Good Conscience

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 8:1 – 10:33
"Choices and the Good of Others"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 8:1-2; 9-12
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. ---- 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

What a person knows, understands, and believes has a direct relationship with what that person can or cannot do with a clear conscience. Some Christians, with a clearer knowledge and understanding of truth, may have freedoms that others do not. They must, however, exercise those freedoms with sensitivity and care toward others--Christian or not--who do not share them. Knowledge that results in carelessness toward others is not wise or Christ-like. Real and mature knowledge is always more concerned with the interests of others than with the exercise of personal freedoms.

Response and Action:
I need to pursue truth and wisdom. The more I know the truth, the more the truth will set me free. My freedoms must always be lived out with reverence for Christ and concern for others. I must guard against knowledge that is blind to the interests of others. I must avoid pride and live with humility. I will not sin by exercising freedoms in ways that are hurtful or destructive toward others.

Lord God, Help me to grow in knowledge and understanding. I want to live in the freedom that comes from a knowledge and understanding of truth. At the same time, Lord, I want to live the truth in love. Give me a sensitivity and awareness of the needs and views of others who may not fully understand what is true or may not have the same freedoms. Give me a love and concern for others that tempers and guides my actions. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Ezekiel 34:15-16
15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
In Context: Ezekiel 34

Proverb for Today:
Proverbs 25:28
"Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control."

Recommended Reading:

Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 24 - Sexual

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 6:1 – 7:40
"Conflict, Sex, and Marriage"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 6:13b-20
13b The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Sexual immorality is a product of fallen humanity. The human body is not meant for immorality. The body is intended for glorifying God. God raised Jesus from the dead and by that same power he can raise us from our fallen condition. Sexuality is a very deep part of the human self. That makes it a very dangerous form of sin. Once it takes root in our bodies it is very difficult to root it out, and its impact upon our whole person can be devastating. We need to think of our bodies as a temple--a holy place for the Holy Spirit to live. We bring honor to God by caring for our bodies and making sure they are used for holy purposes.

Response and Action:
I must avoid sexual immorality. I must recognize the danger sexual immorality poses to my whole self. I need to honor God with my heart, mind, and body. I need to draw upon the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to rise above my vulnerability and the sexual sinfulness of my fallen world, recognizing that God's power and grace can raise me up. God is the creator of sexuality, and so it follows that if it is to be a blessing to me, and an honor to God, I must acknowledge and heed God's boundaries and purposes for sexuality.

O God, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Create in me a clean heart. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Give me the wisdom and the will and the strength to do what is right. Help me to honor you with my heart, my mind, and my body.

Old Testament for Today: Proverbs 7:4-5
4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and to insight, "You are my relative." 5 They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.
In Context: Proverbs 7

Proverb for Today: Prov. 24:14
"Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Recommended Reading:

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity
by Lauren F. Winner

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23 - Motives

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 4:1 – 5:13
"Authority and Arrogance"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 4:1-5
1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people's hearts. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

The motives of our hearts are open before God. He knows them and he can expose them and bring them to light. Those who are humble and serious about sin look to God for the understanding, guidance, and strength they need to confront sin in their own lives. This same humility and seriousness should extend to the life of their Christian community.

Response and Action:
I want to please God. Only God can truly understand my actions and the motivation for those actions. When I seek God with all my heart, I gain a deeper and truer understanding of who I am. I want God to show me who I am, and how I need to change in order to be the person he has made me to be. I will seek to draw near to God and be sensitive to the leading of his Spirit through the Scriptures, through prayer, and through my Christian community. Honoring God and bringing him praise should be the deepest motivation for all that I do.

O God, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. You have blessed me in many ways; help me to live faithfully for you. Do not let me be tempted or influenced by a need to receive the praise of people, but instead, give me a heart that is motivated by a desire to receive your commendation. Help me to be honest and humble about weaknesses and failings in my life, and give me the courage and the strength of your Spirit to turn away from sin. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 51:17
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
In Context: Psalm 51

Proverb for Today: Prov. 23:17-18
"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."

Recommended Reading:

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22 - Only Servants

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 3:1-23
"Leaders and Followers"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 3:5-8
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.

Christians can be too preoccupied with loyalties to a certain teacher, tradition, or denomination. "I am of Apollos" and "I am of Paul" sound very similar to “I am a protestant," "I am a Calvinist," or "I am an evangelical."

God is the one who makes the seed of faith grow, not your favorite pastor, theologian, or author. Teachers, traditions, and denominations can help plant, water, and nurture the seed of faith, but they do not deserve the credit for what only God can do.

Our highest loyalty and identity should be placed in Christ Jesus. Christians wear the name of Christ, not the name of his servants. Let's be thankful for those who help us to mature in our faith and devotion to Christ, but let's not let them become a source of division and quarrels. No Christian teacher worth following wants that!

Response and Action:
While I value specific individuals, writers, teachers, groups, ministries, and denominations, I must not allow this appreciation to turn into something divisive. My loyalty is to Christ Jesus, and I embrace his church in its entirety. Those who plant and water the seeds of faith in my life deserve my thanks and love, but they would be dishonored if my loyalty to them overshadowed my loyalty for Christ and my desire to see all who follow him to be united in testimony and fellowship.

O God, I believe in one, holy, and universal church. I thank you for the men and women who have planted and watered the seeds of faith in me. Thank you for their examples, teachings, and writings. Help me to demonstrate true appreciation for them by placing my faith and commitment in Christ, rather than in them. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 133:1
1 "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!"
In Context: Psalm 133

Proverb for Today: Prov. 22:4
"Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life."

Recommended Reading:

Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 21 - Revealed

Overview of: 1 Corinthians

Today's Reading:

1Cor. 1:1 – 2:16
"Division, Power, & Revelation"

Focus Verses:
1 Cor. 1:20-24
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. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The power and wisdom of God are revealed in Christ Jesus. Philosophy and academics are useful, but they cannot, in and of themselves, give life. The wise man, the scholar, and the philosopher of this age need the truth of God to inform their wisdom, scholarship, and philosophy. God has revealed his truth and wisdom through Jesus.

Response and Action:
God's ways are higher than mine. I am reasonable enough to understand the limits of reason. Ultimate truth and wisdom are beyond my intelligence or comprehension. Apart from God's revelation and guidance, I am stuck with the frustration of my own limitations. Real wisdom is found in Jesus Christ. His words, actions, teachings, relationships, prayers, and stories all reveal the truth of God. I will examine all my studies, ideas, and beliefs in the light of what Jesus has said and done, because he is the wisdom of the God.

O God, thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, your son. Thank you for the capacity to think and study and reason and grow. Help me to mature in wisdom and truth as I follow closely after Jesus. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 55:8-9
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In Context: Isaiah 55

Proverb for Today: Prov. 20:5
"The purposes of the human heart are deep waters, but those who have insight draw them out."

Recommended Reading:

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
Dallas Willard

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 20 - Church

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:
Romans 15:1 – 16:27
"Final Instructions & Greetings"

Focus Verses: Romans 15:1-6

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acceptance of others is essential to unity within the Christian community. The strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak. The weak should be thankful for the guidance and help of those who are strong. We should work to build up our neighbors and do what is pleasing for their good. We should seek to grow in Christ and be receptive to the ways others are helping us to mature in our faith and become more Christ-like in our living. True community produces true disciples who glorify God in both word and deed.

Response and Action:
I want to experience healthy Christian community marked by unity and acceptance. I must bear with the weaknesses of others and do my best to help them grow in their faith. I must acknowledge my own weaknesses and be responsive to the patience and counsel of Christian brothers and sisters who are doing what they can to help me grow. I will look to God for the grace, encouragement, and strength I need to help my church family to experience unity and maturity. I want my church family to be a strength for each other, a blessing and witness to the world around us, and a praise to God.

O God, give me a love for others. Help me to accept those who are weak and commit myself to helping them grow strong. When I am weak, move others to come around to encourage and help me. By the power of your Spirit and the guidance of your written word, help your people to become servants to each other. Help us to follow Jesus with all our hearts and to bring honor and glory to you, dear Father. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 133:1
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
In Context: Psalm 133

Proverb for Today:
Prov. 20:6-7
"Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them."

Recommended Reading:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reading Schedule for April 20 - 25

April 20 - Romans 15:1 – 16:27
April 21 - 1Cor. 1:1 – 2:16
April 22 - 1Cor. 3:1-23
April 23 - 1Cor. 4:1 – 5:13
April 24 - 1Cor. 6:1 – 7:40
April 25 - 1Cor. 8:1 – 10:33

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 by clicking the link in the right column.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18 - Offered

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:

Romans 12:1 – 14:23
"Life Together as Christians"

Focus Verses:
Romans 12:1-5
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

The NIV (New International Version) translation of Romans 12:1-2 says: "offer your bodies as living sacrifices." The TNIV (Today's New International Version) has been revised to read: "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice." This revision is consistent with the NAS (New American Standard) translation of the same verses: "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice."

So, is Paul's exhortation in these verses for individuals or for the church? I think the answer is, "Yes." We are to offer our bodies (plural) as a sacrifice (singular). The church (the body of Christ) is made up of individuals, and so we should think of Romans 12:1-2 in both ways. This becomes clear when we read the verses in the context of the chapter, but can be lost as we hear the verses quoted in isolation from their context (especially in the NIV and The Message).

Response and Action:
As an individual, I am to offer myself as a living sacrifice. As a church, we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. The sacrifice and worship I offer to God must be in both my personal walk with Christ and my corporate walk with Christ. Both personal devotion and Christian community are essential to understanding God's good, pleasing, and perfect will.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as I love myself. Give me a heart that is devoted to you, and a life that is devoted to Christian community. Help me/us to be shaped by you and to honor you. Help me/us to experience and share your grace with each other. Make me/us a testimony of your goodness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 116:17
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
In Context: Psalm 116

Proverb for Today: Prov. 18:
"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Recommended Reading:
The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends
by Richard Lamb

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 17 - Choice

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:
Romans 7:1 – 8:39
"Israel and Salvation"

Focus Verses:
Romans 9:14-16; 30-33
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33 As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

This chapter of Romans can be very misunderstood unless it is read in context with the entire book of Romans. Who is chosen by God to receive his mercy (9:14)? The one who pursues righteousness by faith (9:30-31) in Christ (9:33). God's sovereign choice ("compassion on whom I have compassion") is not some willy-nilly arbitrary groundless whim. The sovereign God has made a way to life and salvation. That way is Jesus. Pursuing righteousness through faith in Christ is to obtain salvation by God's sovereign choice.

Read all of Romans and notice how God holds people accountable for rejecting Christ. Notice that those who do not receive mercy are obstinate toward God's mercy (10:21) even though God has been extending his open arms of love to them. They exchange the truth of God for a lie (1:25).

Response and Action:
I surrender to God and embrace the salvation and forgiveness he extends to me through faith in Christ Jesus. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus.

O God, thank you for extending your compassion and mercy to mankind. Help me to know your compassion and mercy in deeper and fuller ways with each new day. O Lord, I pray that you would soften hearts and open eyes so that more and more people would come to know the hope of Christ and the joy of salvation. Help me to be a witness of your mercy and a testimony of your compassion. Thank you for your promise to save all who put their faith in Christ. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 52:7
7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
In Context: Isaiah 52

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:3

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart."

Recommended Reading:
Chosen But Free
by Norman Geisler

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April 16 - Rescue

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:
Romans 7:1 – 8:39
"Sin, Salvation, and the Spirit"

Focus Verses:
Romans 7:21-24a
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The Law of Moses was very good at articulating what was right and wrong, but it was powerless to change people. It defined sin and served as an external restraint, but it could not transform sinners into saints. The Law even inspired people to acknowledge and desire what was right, but it could not renovate their hearts and minds, enabling them to do it.

Through Christ we now have access to the transforming grace of God. Instead of the unredemptive Law, we now have the saving and renewing power of the Holy Spirit who indwells the mortal bodies of those who have placed their faith in Christ (Romans 8).

Response and Action:
I recognize that I need more than rules, and more than an understanding of right and wrong. I need to be saved and renewed by Christ. I need the saving grace of God and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I see a contradiction between the things I want to do and things I find myself doing, I will look to God, take hold of the gracious strength he offers through Christ, and seek to do what is right by the power of his Spirit.

O God, thank you for the freedom from sin you make available to me through your grace in Christ. Thank you for the saving and transforming power of your Holy Spirit. Renovate my heart and mind. Help me to want what you want. Make me a person who delights in your will, and walks in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
In Context: Ezekiel 36

Proverb for Today: Prov. 16:6

"Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil."

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15 - Pain Gain

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:

Romans 5:1 – 6:23
"Peace, Life, and Righteousness"

Focus Verses:
Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

By grace, Jesus' death and resurrection make it possible for us to have peace with God. We take hold of this possibility through faith in Christ Jesus. The hope we have, though faith in Christ, gives a joy and hope. Not only hope for some distant future, but hope for today. Faith in Jesus makes it possible to rejoice, even in the face of suffering. Suffering can produce perseverance, character, and hope. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God's love is in our hearts.

Response and Action:
Do I rejoice in the face of suffering and hardship? I should rejoice because of what Christ Jesus has done to give me strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. If I keep my eyes on Jesus, trouble and hardship will only serve to make me a deeper, stronger, and more committed follower of Christ. I must learn to persevere and grow in Christ-like character. Suffering can be a refining and maturing tool in God's hand.

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to persevere through the sufferings and hardships of life. Grant me the strength to persevere and the hope to press on through the difficulties and burdens of life. Use them to refine me and bring me to maturity in Christ. I ask this in the name of Jesus, the One and Only, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and evermore. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Psalm 44:22-23
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. 23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
In Context: Psalm 44

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 14 - But Now!

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:

Romans 3:1 – 4:25
"Sinners and Grace"

Focus Verses:
Romans 3:21-24
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Every human being has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, except for Jesus. Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, but did not sin. Though Jesus suffered the pain and hardship of sin in the world, he did not contribute to it in any way. He suffered the injustice and pain of sin, but did not perpetrate it. That is why God's righteous judgment has given Jesus the sole authority to redeem sinners and give new life.

Through his sinless death, Jesus has subverted the downward spiral of sin that held all humanity in its grip. All who put faith in Christ Jesus are justified freely by his grace. He has been given all authority for life and redemption, and offers it freely to all who believe.

Response and Action:
I understand that I am a sinner. The more I understand God's righteous law, the more I understand my need to be saved. My faith is in Christ Jesus; my redemption is made possible by his grace.

Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner. Thank you for the hope of redemption that is mine through Christ. Help me to grow in my salvation -- to be transformed and more obedient to your will each day. Amen.

Old Testament for Today: Isaiah 59:16
16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
In Context: Isaiah 59

Proverb for Today: Prov. 14:27

"The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 13 - Mutually Encouraged

Overview of: Romans

Today's Reading:

Romans 1:1 – 2:29
"Judgment and Law"

Focus Verses:
Romans 1:8-12
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.

The first chapter of Romans is so loaded with important statements and profound theological concepts that we might overlook Paul's relationship with the people he is addressing. He had a deep pastoral affection for them, he thanked God for them, he constantly remembered them in prayer, and he longed to be encouraged by them. He was eager for an opportunity to see them face-to-face and to spend time with them. He wanted to encourage them in their faith and impart a spiritual blessing to them.

Response and Action:
I want to have meaningful and precious relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters. I will cultivate my Christian friendships by following Paul's example. I will thank God for my Christian friends and be intentional about praying for them. I will seize opportunities to spend time with them. When we are together, I will consciously look for ways to be a spiritual blessing to them. I will make an effort to encourage them in their walk with Christ and look to them for encouragement. I will also communicate my affection for them in my words and actions.

Thank you, loving God, for the Christian people you have placed in my life. Bless them and help them to grow stronger in you with each passing day. Help me to be a true friend and blessing to them. Help me to encourage them and make the most of every opportunity I have to spend time with them. May our life in you and our walk with Christ Jesus be enriched by our times spent together. Amen.

Old Testament for Today:
Psalm 80:17-19
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. 18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. 19 Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
In Context: Psalm 80

Proverb for Today: Prov. 13:20
"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

Recommended Reading:
Making Friends & Making Them Count
by D. Mason Rutledge

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reading Schedule for April 13 - 18

Happy Easter!

April 12
- Romans 1:1 – 2:29
April 13 - Romans 3:1 – 4:25
April 14 - Romans 5:1 – 6:23
April 15 - Romans 7:1 – 8:39
April 16 - Romans 9:1 – 11:36
April 17 - Romans 12:1 – 14:23

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