Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31 - Honey

We'll begin the 2009-10 reading schedule on Monday, September 7. The new schedule will soon be available as a downloadable pdf. Look for that this week.

If you were a little behind on the 2008-09 reading plan, you can use this week to catch up. Every day this week, I'll be posting a Bible passage that relates to the importance of spending time in God's Word.

Overview of: Bible FAQs

Today's Reading:

Psalm 119:81 - 104
"Love & Longing for the Word"

Focus Verses:
Psalm 119:97, 103-104
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. - - - 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Bible reading should not be approached as a mere duty or study assignment. The psalmist loved the Scriptures and savored them like honey. When something is sweet and desirable it is approached as a joy and privilege. Those who delight in the richness of the Word gain understanding for life and find every right path.

Response and Action:
I am thankful for the Bible and I read it because I want to! I want to enjoy and delight in the precious gift of God's Word. So often Bible reading is talked about in terms of duty and discipline, but I think about it in terms of love and longing for truth. I cannot think of anything sweeter than finding my way in life and growing in wisdom.

O God, thank you for the sweetness and goodness of your Word. Help me to delight in it each day. Lead me and bless me as I do. 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 Resource:
Zondervan NIV Study Bible

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reading Schedule for Aug. 31 - Sept. 5

On Saturday, August 29, we completed the 2008-09 reading schedule. We'll begin the 2009-10 reading schedule on Monday, September 7. The new schedule will soon be available as a downloadable pdf. Look for that next week.

If you were a little behind in your reading, you can use this week to catch up. Every day this week, I'll also post a Bible passage that relates to the importance of spending time in God's Word.

I hope you will join me and Useful Breath for another year of daily Bible reading.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 29 - Too Much and Too Little

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 28 - 31

Focus Verses: Proverbs 30:7-9
7 "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Both poverty and riches test character and contentment. Each presents unique challenges and temptations. Poverty can lead to theft and dishonesty. Riches can lead to pride and disregard for God. A prayerful humility and awareness of these pitfalls is essential to wise living. Those who are wise desire to serve and honor God regardless of the circumstances of life.

Response and Action:
I want to live with commitment to integrity and a will to honor God. I want to follow Christ and depend upon God's provision and guidance regardless of my circumstances. I will seek God above all else and ask for his protection and provision. I will be on guard against the temptations of both poverty and plenty. I will ask God for the wisdom and character I need to honor him in any circumstance.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Provide for my needs and protect me from discouragement. Help me to be humble and reverent in times of plenty. Help me to be honest and faithful in times of want. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Philippians 4:12-13

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
In Context: Philippians 4:10-20

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

August 28 - Wise toward Folly

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 24 – 27

Focus Verses: Proverbs 26:4-5
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

It does no good to confront foolish behavior with foolish behavior. Foolish behavior, however, cannot be ignored; it must be addressed in appropriate and mature ways. Failure to confront foolishness will result in foolish people assuming that their foolish ways are paying off. Knowing when and how to confront foolishness is something a wise person learns to do well.

Response and Action:
I must be careful to respond appropriately to the foolishness and immaturity I see in others. I must deal with it and confront it in a mature, measured, thoughtful, loving, and godly way. I must guard against knee-jerk reactions that are as wrong-headed and useless as the foolishness I'm confronting. Patience, forbearance, and Christian concern should guide my response toward the foolish choices, words, and deeds of others.

O God, give me the grace and wisdom I need to confront foolishness in others with compassion and care. Give me the courage to speak and act with redemptive love. Give me the integrity and humility to confront the foolishness I see in myself before I confront the sin and frailty of others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Matthew 7:3-5

3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
In Context: Matthew 7:1-6

Recommended Reading:
Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental: Nurturing a Clear Mind and a Generous Heart
by Terry D. Cooper

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27 - Wisdom Cares

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 20-23

Focus Verses:
Proverbs 21:13, 22:9, 16

21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. 22:16 He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

Reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). A humble and attentive attitude toward God is the starting point for the knowledge, discipline, and precepts that lead to wisdom. Wisdom's root is in relationship with God, and wisdom flowers in our relationships toward others. Humility before God results in friendship and redemptive behavior toward others. One of the most important marks of wisdom is a concern and care for the poor and oppressed. Disregard for the hungry, blindness toward injustice, and exploitation of the needy are all indications of a foolish and faithless way of life.

Response and Action:
I must be humble and reverent before God if I want to mature in Christ and grow in wisdom. True wisdom will manifest itself in generosity, love, and justice. I must open my eyes to the needs of the poor. I must oppose injustice. I must share with those who are hungry. I must guard against the exploitation and dehumanization of those who are in need. This has to be more than a personal belief or philosophical perspective; I have to live it out in practical and tangible ways. I will look for ways to connect and share and serve. I will work to help my church develop strategies for meeting needs in our community and world.

O God, I want my love and reverence for you to result in care and blessing for others. I want to be an instrument of your grace and loving care. Deliver me from selfishness and indifference. Open my eyes to needs. Please help me find meaningful and practical ways to help and share with others. Please give me a generous spirit and open hands. Make your truth and wisdom flower in my life and bear the Jesus-shaped fruit of kindness and compassion. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 John 3:16-18

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
In Context: 1 John 3

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26 - Owning Up

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 15 - 19

Focus Verses: Proverbs 19:2-3
2 It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. 3 A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.

Proverbs is a book about wisdom. It's also a book about foolishness. It explains the way of the wise, and it also describes the way of fools. In today's reading alone, the way of becoming a fool is exposed as: spurning discipline, failing to listen, dishonoring parents, hating correction, telling lies, manipulating others, starting fights, loving quarrels, gushing careless words, being arrogant, despising the poor, condemning the innocent, acquitting the guilty, being lazy and selfish, disregarding instruction, losing your temper, and failing to seek God's counsel.

To miss the way of wisdom and to become a fool is easy if we have zeal without knowledge. It is foolish to be so excited about our own ideas and ambitions that we fail to seek God's counsel and guidance. We ruin our lives when we follow our own selfish desires and make our own stupid mistakes. And then, we increase our folly if we blame God for the mess we're in.

Wise people take ownership of their mistakes and learn from them. Fools blame others and God. Wise people see the ways they have brought trouble upon themselves. Fools whine in denial and shake their fists at God.

Response and Action:
I do not want to be a fool or to be blind to my own sin and stupidity. I will take responsibility for my mistakes. Instead of blaming God for my problems, I will ask God to show me the error of my ways. I will humble myself, listen, accept correction, follow instruction, honor those who are older and wiser, avoid laziness and selfishness, tell the truth, be gracious toward others, love integrity more than comfort, and seek to honor God in word, thought, and deed.

O God, forgive me for the times I blame you for my problems. Forgive me for the ways I rationalize my sin and show disregard for your counsel. Forgive me for the ways I seek comfort and possessions instead of seeking truth and righteousness. Give me the wisdom and the will to love truth, to walk in your ways, and to live with integrity. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me the courage and honesty to recognize my own ignorance and weakness. Give me the desire and wisdom to take hold of your perfect knowledge and strength. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Romans 1:29-32

29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
In Context: Romans 1:18 - 2:16

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 25 - Nourishing Words

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 10 - 14

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

Understanding the importance and power of the things we say is essential to wise living. There are many verses in Proverbs that address the motives, the attitudes, the care, the restraint, and the choice of our words. Lies and slander destroy. Instead of talking something to death, it sometimes makes more sense to just keep silent. A few carefully chosen words are more precious than silver, but careless words that spring from a wicked attitude are worthless. It's deadly to speak without exercising good judgment, but wise words from a righteous perspective are nourishing and life-giving for all who hear them.

Response and Action:
I want to be careful about the way I use my mouth. Failure to exercise care and restraint can be very damaging to others and to myself. Thoughtfully choosing my words can be helpful and enriching to others. I will judge what to say, how to say it, and when to say it by the righteous example of Christ and the sound counsel of Scripture. I will seek wisdom and exercise care in the things I say, understanding that my mouth has the power to cause great harm or great good.

O God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart bring honor to you. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart and to control my tongue. Give me the heart and the discernment to speak life in a dying world. Help me to bless, and not curse. Help me to nourish, and not injure. Help me to speak truth and encouragement, and not slander. Help me to speak words of life from a Jesus-shaped heart as I seek him and his righteousness. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 4:29

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
In Context: Ephesians 4:17-5:21

Recommended Reading:
How to Read Proverbs
by Tremper Longman

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24 - Wisdom and Folly

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 7 - 9

Focus Verses: Proverbs 7:21-23
21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

Wisdom is personified as a virtuous woman who offers instruction, truth, and knowledge. Folly is also personified as a woman, but in contrast to wisdom she is a lying temptress who persuades with empty promises of pleasure and instant gratification. Wisdom calls out, "Let all who are feeble minded come in here and find understanding. Leave your foolish ways behind and live!" Folly calls out, "Stolen water is sweet. Let's have a good time. If it feels good, do it." Wisdom offers life. Folly offers death.

No one has to try to be foolish. It doesn't take any effort at all. In fact, the best way to become a fool is to just put aside the whole idea of effort and intention. Just go with your feelings. Just do whatever is easy and within reach.

Becoming wise, however, requires effort. It is necessary to heed warnings and seek out truth. It requires discipline, intention, the drive to shake off laziness, and the ability to rise above feelings. Most of all, it requires the grace and truth of God. Without God's help and guidance, wisdom is beyond our reach. Thankfully, God is reaching out to us and has made wisdom available to us through the Scriptures, his Son, his Spirit, and his people--the Church.

Response and Action:
I am thankful that Wisdom is calling out to me. I am thankful that God in his grace and mercy has revealed himself through Christ Jesus. I want to be responsive to the gift of wisdom and truth God has extended to me. I will listen to his Word, and I will heed the warnings he gives. I will cling to the promises he has made, and I will walk in the ways he has instructed me to go. I will be on guard against temptations and lies--within and without--that would turn me away from wisdom.

O God, help me to live for you and through you. 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. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, to feed my spirit, to stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Be faithful to me and do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, and when I am tempted, give me strength to stand and show me the ways of escape. Help me to leave my foolish ways and to walk in the truth. Amen.

New Testament for Today: 1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
In Context: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Recommended Reading:
How to Read Proverbs
by Tremper Longman

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reading Schedule for August 24 - 29

August 24 - Prov. 7 – 9
August 25 - Prov. 10 – 14
August 26 - Prov. 15 – 19
August 27 - Prov. 20 – 23
August 28 - Prov. 24 – 27
August 29 - Prov. 28 - 31

You're invited to read through the Bible with the Useful Breath Blog. 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, August 22, 2009

August 22 - Ever Brighter

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 4 – 6

Focus Verses: Proverbs 4:18-19
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

The more a person walks in the light of God's wisdom, the more he is able to see. As the light increases, the clearer things become. As the sun of wisdom rises higher into the sky of a person's life, the right paths to walk become easier to find and follow. On the other hand, darkness leads to darkness. The longer the sun of truth sinks below the horizon, the darker the night becomes, and the harder it becomes to see anything at all. The tighter a person closes his eyes, the more hopeless and futile his journey becomes.

Response and Action:
I am encouraged by the idea that knowledge leads to more knowledge. I'm inspired by the promise that living in the light of wisdom results in greater light and greater wisdom. I want to grow in truth and understanding every day. I will seek God's wisdom through study, knowing that as I learn and grow, I will get even more out of the things I am studying. I will think about things that stretch my mind and I will seek out meaningful conversations with others, trusting that deep questions and discussions will lead me to deeper understanding. I will humble myself before God through prayer, worship, and obedience, trusting that the more I see the light of Christ, the more clearly I will see everything else by that light.

O God, guide my steps in the light of your truth. Help me to walk in the light as Christ is in the light. Make your wisdom to shine brighter and brighter each day I live. Help me to see the light and to see by the light. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Be thou my best Thought, by day or by night--waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. Amen.

New Testament for Today: Luke 8:16-18

16 "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."
In Context: Luke 8:1-21

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

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21 - Eyes of the WIse

Overview of: Proverbs

Today's Reading:
Proverbs 1 – 3

Focus Verses: Proverbs 3:3-7
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

Attaining wisdom requires a reverence for God, a humble attitude, a readiness to listen, a desire to learn, an urgency to seek, and a faith in God. Those who want to find the best path for their lives--the path that is stable, straight, and true--must acknowledge God. They must recognize and lean on God's knowledge and understanding rather than trusting in their own.

Response and Action:
I recognize that the world is too complex for me to figure out on my own. I know that I need more than my own knowledge and understanding to navigate my way through life. In every area of life--in all my ways--I will acknowledge my need for direction and insight from God. I will pray. I will read the Bible. I will give careful consideration to the choices, directions, and actions I take, and hold them up to the counsel of Scripture. Because I desire to be wise and discerning, I will cultivate my reverence for God, I will humble myself, I will make every effort to seek wisdom and truth, and I will live in community with others who love God and seek wisdom.

O God, fill me with the knowledge of your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding in order that I might live a life worthy of Jesus and please him in every way. Help me to bear fruit in every good work, to grow in the knowledge of the Christ, and to be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might. By his power and glory, give me great endurance and patience. And help me to joyfully give thanks to you, O Father, as you have qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. You have rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of the Son you love--the Son in whom I have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.
(Based on Colossians 1:9-14)

New Testament for Today: James 3:17-18

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
In Context: James 3:13-18

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20 - Stars and Sorrows

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 147 – 150

Focus Verses: Psalm 147:3-5
3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. 5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

The God, who has created the universe and knows every star by name, created me and knows my every need. There is no limit to his understanding. He cares for me and he brings healing when I am hurt and when my heart is broken. He is able to renew my life.

Response and Action:
In a world of hurt and injury, I trust God to heal and renew me. I believe God knows my name and understands my needs. He is greater than the things that wear me out and break my heart. His strength is greater than my weakness. I will trust in his faithfulness to renew and sustain me. I will praise him for the restoration and healing he has already provided me so many times in the past. I will continue to hope in his promises for my future.

O God, your understanding reaches from the farthest star to my deepest sorrow. You know the secrets of how the universe was formed, and you know the secret things that break my heart. You are the creator of all things, and you are able to renew and restore and redeem all who look to you in faith. Forgive me for the ways I have contributed to the brokenness of the world and the brokenness of my own life. Renovate my heart and renew my mind. Save and heal me. Make me an instrument of your care and redemptive love in this weary and wounded world. I pray all this in the healing and saving name of Jesus. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: 2 Corinthians 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.
In Context: 2 Corinthians 4

Recommended Reading:
The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
by Brennan Manning

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19 - Telling My Story

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 144 – 146

Focus Verses: Psalm 145:2-6
2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. 4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. 5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.

The ideas, beliefs, and hopes of every generation are shaped and informed by those who have gone before them. If God is good and faithful, there ought to be some stories and testimonies to inspire. If God has done mighty and wonderful things, there ought to be some songs and souvenirs to show for it. If God's greatness is more than anyone can fathom, surely there will be a storehouse of letters, speeches, poems, prayers, and books written by those who have tried to communicate the blessing and wonder they have experienced in their lives.

Response and Action:
I am thankful for the testimony of those who have experienced God's grace and glory. I am grateful for the stories of God's power and presence that have been handed down to me through the Scriptures and the pages of church history. I am especially thankful for the family and friends and teachers in my life who have given personal witness to God's work and blessing in their lives.

I need to tell my story and share my faith with my children and grandchildren. I need to speak of God's blessing and kindness to me. My life, my attitude, my actions, and my words may be more important and meaningful to others than I realize. Recounting God's faithfulness to me, and giving him praise, may be the most important ways for me to give witness to his goodness. My story may be vital to the faith and hope of someone following in my footsteps.

O God, give me the eyes to see your faithfulness to me. Give me a heart and mind that are ready to praise and worship you for your mighty deeds. Give me a tongue that is filled with stories of your goodness. Help me to declare your truth and your goodness to my children and their children. Help them to trust in you because they see, in my life, a testimony of your trustworthiness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 19:8
"He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers."

New Testament for Today: Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
In Context: Ephesians 3

Recommended Reading:
Character Witness: How Our Lives Can Make a Difference in Evangelism
by Christine Wood

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18 - A Critical Kindness

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 140 – 143

Focus Verses: Psalm 141:3-5a
3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. 5a Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.

The wisdom to accept correction and criticism demonstrates maturity and teachability. David was certainly not without sin, but he had a genuine desire to turn away from sin and a readiness to recognize his own failures. He understood that the "delicacies" of falling in with the wicked were a temptation and snare. He understood that the life he desired would require help from God, personal resolve, and the support/accountability of righteous friends. Because he had a heart to live a righteous life, he was able to see rebuke as a blessing and corrective discipline as a kindness.

Response and Action:
I want to live a righteous life that brings honor to God, blessing to others, and deep fulfillment to me. I will need to seek God's help and guidance. I will need to be on guard against the false, but tempting "pleasures" that could draw me toward evil. I will need to live with resolve and exert personal effort. I must humbly acknowledge my failings and weaknesses. I must be teachable and willing to receive rebuke and correction as I read the Scriptures and as I interact with others who are pursuing righteousness.

O God, lead me away from what is wrong and help me to do what is right. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart. Help me to recognize the fraudulent emptiness of the temptations toward evil. Give me the humility to learn, to receive rebuke, to accept correction, and to be trained in righteousness. Make me ready to do every good thing you have in mind for me to do. Bring godly and genuine friends into my life that we might be a strength and help for each other as together we seek you with our whole hearts. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

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

Recommended Reading:
Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17 - Search Me

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 137 – 139

Focus Verses: Psalm 139:23-24
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful song that we hear quoted frequently. The phrases "I'm fearfully and wonderfully made" and "Where can I go from your Spirit" and "Before a word is on my tongue" and "Search me, O God" get mentioned quite often. I never, however, hear anybody quote verses 19-22. We read the phrases, "If only you would slay the wicked" or "I have nothing but hate for them" and wonder what we should do with them.

Response and Action:
I suggest that we do the same thing David did with them. We should be honest about our anger and hate, we should give them up and place them in God's hands, and then humbly consider his wisdom and grace.

David begins this song (vv. 1-18) with awe and wonder at the knowledge of God. God knows everything. God’s knowledge is before and after all things. God is our maker and he knows us better than we know ourselves. God's thoughts are amazing and precious.

Then David is honest about his own thoughts--thoughts like "God, why do you tolerate evil?" or "God, why don't you just get rid of everyone who opposes you?" (vv. 19-22). When we, like David, find ourselves thinking in those ways, we might just want to take a step back and consider where we’d be if God thought like us.

Then, like David (vv. 23-24), we should ask God to search our hearts and show us the ways our thoughts and attitudes are hurtful, or shortsighted, or motivated by fear and anxiety. We can then ask God to lead our hearts and thoughts into better and everlasting ways.

O God, your thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and your ways are higher than my ways. Help me to think more like you think. Make my heart more like yours. Replace my hate and frustration with grace and hope. Help me extend to others the same love, forgiveness, and redemption you have shown to me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 17:27
"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered."

New Testament for Today: Matthew 5:43-45a
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
In Context: Matthew 5:38-48

Recommended Reading:
A Heart for God: Learning From David Through the Tough Choices of Life
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reading Schedule for August 17 - 22

August 17 - Psalms 137 – 139
August 18 - Psalms 140 – 143
August 19 - Psalms 144 – 146
August 20 - Psalms 147 – 150
August 21 - Prov. 1 – 3
August 22 - Prov. 4 – 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 by clicking the link in the right column.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August 15 - Song of the Throng

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 131 - 136

Focus Verses: Psalm 133:1-3
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.


We all know what it's like to experience high traffic and increased delays on trips to very popular destinations or public events. In the same way, the Israelites making their feast day pilgrimage must have dealt with busier roads and larger crowds the closer they got to Jerusalem. By singing Psalm 133, they were reminded that the long lines and crowded conditions (which I assume were at least as challenging and wearisome for them as they are for us) were actually reasons for thanks and celebration.

Why? Because these crowds were the result of God's people coming together in obedience and reverence for God. The gathering throngs of Israelites were giving witness to their need and love for God. They were declaring God to be the center of their lives, the basis of their community, and the center of their national identity.

Unity was a joy and a blessing from God. It was being poured out upon them--just as the oil of blessing had been poured upon Aaron so abundantly that it flowed down to the edge of his robes. Unity was a life-giving gift, just as the streams melting from Mount Hermon's snowcapped peaks flowed down to bless and enrich the green valleys below.

Response and Action:
I want to know the joy of living in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to look past the hassles and demands of community life, and celebrate the blessing God has intended it to be. I want to recognize that the shared relationships, activities, and responsibilities I experience in my church are a gift from God, a blessing to my life, and a testimony to the world. Today, I'm especially thankful for the wonderful time I had with twenty-five men from my church community last night! I want to be a community builder in my church family. I want to sing out the joys and the goodness of God's people living together in unity.

O God, you have made me for community. You have said that it is not good for me to be alone, and you have given me so many ways to experience the blessing of togetherness. I thank you for my wife, for my children, for my parents and siblings, for my church, for my friends, for my colleagues, and my neighbors. Help me to be a faithful source of blessing to others. Give me a readiness to serve, a heart to forebear, a word to cheer, a discipline to pray, and a maturity to enrich others, through Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior, in whose name 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: Colossians 3:12-15
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
In Context: Colossians 3:1-17

Recommended Reading:
Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14 - Building Song

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 126 – 130

Focus Verses: Psalm 127:1-2
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.


As the Israelites climbed the road to Jerusalem for feast days and sang these songs, they remembered what it must have been like for the first generation who returned to Jerusalem after the exile (Ps. 126). They thought of how joyous and unbelievable it must have been for the children of those who had seen Jerusalem destroyed to one day return and rebuild it.

The returning exiles knew the consequences of turning away from God. They had seen their houses destroyed, and understood the futility of the things accomplished in their own strength. Psalm 127 was perfect song to sing after Psalm 126. Those who know the futility and destruction of turning away from God can wisely declare: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

Response and Action:
I want to begin today with a Psalm 126 perspective--to look back at the foolish ambitions and efforts of my past, and to rejoice in the ways God faithfully continues to lead me out of those failures into a joyful and hopeful future.

I will give careful consideration to the things I work on today. Am I building something that honors God? Am I giving myself to the work and purpose and direction God is leading me to do? Am I depending upon his guidance, strength, and provision, or am I wearing myself out by doing things for my own reasons, in my own way, and in my own strength?

I want my life to be a house that God is building. I want to find rest and peace and satisfaction in God's will and purpose. God is the builder of the life I want to live.

O God, help me to live for you and THROUGH you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong, and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, build, provide, and sustain my life. Help me to delight in your will, and to walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Luke 14:28-30
28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
In Context: Luke 14:25-35

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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 13 - Surrounded

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 120 – 125

Focus Verses:
Psalm 125:
1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. 3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.


The fifteen psalms called the "Psalms of Ascent" (Psalms 120 - 134) were to be sung when the children of Israel traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem (Mount Zion) three times a year to worship and celebrate the feast days prescribed in the Law of Moses. Christians have long considered these ancient pilgrimages to be a useful metaphor of their own spiritual journey and maturity (ascent) as followers of Christ.

As the people climbed the road to Jerusalem, and saw how it was surrounded by rugged and unshakable mountains, they sang praise to their God who surrounded them with his unshakable love and provision. They rejoiced in God's steadfast care, and put their hope in his promises.

Response and Action:
Though my Christian journey has been an uphill climb, I am trusting in God's enduring love. I believe he will keep his promises to those who worship him and seek his righteousness. I am surrounded by the unshakable love and care of my God who never sleeps or slumbers (Ps. 121). He watches over my life--my coming and my going--now and forever. I will celebrate and worship him today. I will live in hope, believing his promises to be faithful and true.

O God, I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of a child look to his mother, as the eyes of a captive look to his deliverer, as the eyes of the hungry look to their provider, and the eyes of a sinner look to the one who forgives, as the eyes of the broken look to the one who restores, as the eyes of the sick look to the one who heals, so my eyes look to Jesus Christ, my Lord and merciful Savior who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

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

New Testament for Today: Hebrews 12:1-3
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In Context: Hebrews 12:1-12

Recommended Reading:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson
A wonderful book of meditations based on the Psalms of Ascent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August 12 - When I Stray

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalm 119

Focus Verses: Psalm 119:174-176
174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. 175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. 176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.


Even those who delight in God's law can stray from it. Getting lost doesn't mean that you've forgotten God's commands. The psalmist asks God to seek him out when he strays, and to bring him back to the truth.

Response and Action:
As a person who calls out to God for help, I must be ready to obey the direction of God's Word. Knowing God's word helps me know how to live and what choices to make. It also helps me know when I have strayed or lost my way. I will seek God with all my heart, but I will also ask God to seek and save me!

O God, teach me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. When I stray, O Lord, please seek me and bring me back to the green pastures and still waters of your truth and blessing. Thank you for Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 12:15
"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice."

New Testament for Today: John 10:14-16
14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
In Context: John 10:1-21

Recommended Reading:
Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind
by Tremper Longman

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11 - The Day

Overview of: PSALMS

Today's Reading:
Psalms 115 – 118

Focus Verses:
Psalm 118:
13-14; 22-24
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. - - - 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.


I've heard people in church gatherings quote Psalm 118's "this is the day the Lord has made" many times, but rarely with the meaning or intention of the psalmist. Most frequently it seems to be quoted as if it meant, "Wow, what a nice day! The sun is shining, the birds are singing; it's good to be together on this lovely day that God has given us." Is that what the Psalmist meant? Nope.

It's true the day the psalmist is talking about is a good one, but just what good day is he talking about? The day of salvation--the day we are set free by our faithful and good God whose love endures forever (vv. 105). The psalmist was rejoicing in God's deliverance from a national perspective (v. 1), from a faith perspective (vv. 2-3), and a personal perspective (vv. 5-6).

The psalmist also understood the need for deliverance and forgiveness from sin in order to have peace and fellowship with God (v. 27). The Apostle Peter picked up on that theme and saw Jesus as God’s ultimate deliverer. The greatest day of deliverance is the day of salvation God gives us through Christ, who laid down his life for us, and conquered death in order that we might have eternal life, peace, and fellowship with God.

Response and Action:
I will give God thanks for the many ways he delivers and saves me. I look to Christ Jesus as the supreme expression of God's faithfulness to save. I will seek to be an instrument of God's faithfulness and grace in the lives of others around me.

O God, thank you for the ways you save and deliver me. Thank you for bringing me through trials and hardships. Thank you for saving me from the ignorance and foolishness of human reasoning that lacks your counsel and your Word. Thank you for rescuing me from an empty life without meaning or purpose. Thank you for liberating me from the fear of death. Thank you for saving me and granting me eternal life through Jesus. Thank you for reclaiming my life and renovating my spirit through the indwelling of your Holy Spirit. I rejoice in every day of deliverance you have made! I will rejoice and be glad as I place my complete trust and confidence to keep and save me to the end! Amen.

Proverb for Today: Prov. 11:2
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

New Testament for Today: Acts 4:8-12
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
In Context: Acts 4:1-22

Recommended Reading:
How to Read the Psalms
by Tremper Longman