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What a Name!
If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (1 Peter 4:16). Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-19 Song: “There’s Something About That Name” With pen in hand, Peter remembers. He recalls the mountaintop where Jesus glowed white in glorious rapture and talked with spiritual giants. He recollects the small room tucked away in the family house where a young girl returned to life and got her future back. He remembers an after-breakfast walk along the rock-strewn beach of a familiar lake . . . and the softly spoken words of hope and trust. As Peter calls to mind the highlights of his days with Jesus, he puts pen to scroll and urges those who read his letter to remember. They must not forget the name by which they are known. Remembering that name, God raises them above their troubles. Jesus saves them, as His name promises He will do. We have no portraits of our Lord, but we have His name. The name of one who rises up in the pages of history more formidably than any Gibraltar up out of the sea. Great men and women come and go, but Jesus came and stayed. He is the centerpiece of the masterpiece.
Jesus, with Your name I am blessed, and by Your name I am called. It is in Your name I am sent, and it is for Your name I go. Praise to You! Amen.
September 27–30. Phillip Barnhart is a retired minister living in Florida who occasionally serves as an interim. He has written several books and many articles.
Sep tem ber
What a God!
Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker . . . Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” Does your work say, “He has no hands”? (Isaiah 45:9). Scripture: Isaiah 45:9-13 Song: “All Praise Be to God” As Uzziah’s reign drew to a close, a tranquil interlude for the nation ended. Isaiah understood the potential political turmoil and urged the country to stand on firm theological principle. The people must affirm the sovereignty and supremacy of God. They must know God is in charge. Before the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon said to his staff, “We will place the infantry here, the cavalry here, and the artillery here.” A member of his staff spoke up, “Shouldn’t we pray about this, sir?” Napoleon stood to his full stature and responded, “It is Napoleon who proposes and disposes.” From that moment on, the battle of Waterloo was lost. The rain came in torrents and bogged down infantry, cavalry, and artillery. While attempting to explain the role of president of the United States to her 4-year-old son, a mother said the president was the boss of the country. Using his newly acquired Sunday school wisdom, the little guy exclaimed, “No, Mommy, that’s not true. God is the boss.”
Dear God, my past, present, and future are in Your hands. All the tenses of my life are under Your sovereignty. You know where I am, and You know who I am. So, please, direct my steps today. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Se pte mbe r
What a Praise!
Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name (1 Chronicles 29:13). Scripture: 1 Chronicles 29:10-16 Song: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” The people have given, and the offering plates are full. The building project is adequately financed, and a proper residence for God can be built. It is fitting that the king kneels and gives praise to God. “David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly” (v.10). David takes time to give thanks. It is always time to give thanks. As someone has said, we should always be praising God, because God is always blessing us. A minister had just started his Sunday sermon when it began storming outside. With thunder and lightening, rain poured down in wild torrents. “God is wonderful!” the minister told the congregation. “While we’re sitting here dry and comfortable, God’s out there in the parking lot washing our cars for us!” God’s blessings do rain down on us every day, in every way. We only have to hold the hand of one we love, or watch a child at play on the sidewalk, or lift a juicy apple to our lips to know that. We only have to take a breath to know it is time to give thanks.
Father, You so are good to me. You are generous beyond measure, so I cannot count high enough to itemize my blessings. I sit at Your table and eat my fill—then You offer even more. Thank You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sep tem ber
What a Beginning!
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, Revised Standard Version). Scripture: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 Song: “The Year Is Swiftly Waning” The book of Ecclesiastes relates Solomon’s futile attempt to produce meaning in life. He’s cynical about the human situation, and his writing hardly fosters hope. Failing to find the meaning of life in science, philosophy, or pleasure, the king concludes that nothing makes much sense. Ecclesiastes is an autobiography of someone out of fellowship with God; it shows us the emptiness that it brings. However, give Solomon credit: he knows his condition and wants others to avoid it. He encourages people to remember God when they are young. Ecclesiastes, interestingly enough, closes by calling young people to faith. I was blessed with immediate exposure to the Christian faith. Born on Wednesday and taken to church the following Sunday, I have been there ever since. All through my childhood, faith was nurtured in me. Precepts and principles flowed into me, and my relationship with God guided the steps I took in life. For over 70 years I have stood firm on that foundation.
O God, Creator of Heaven and earth, thank You for being with me in all stages and ages of life. May I encourage young people to find You early, talk to You often, and love You always. In Christ’s holy name I pray. Amen.
Oc tobe r
What a Blessing!
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:9). Scripture: Psalm 145:8-13 Song: “Count Your Blessings” Three-year-old Bridgett went forward to the altar with her grandmother when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. The minister placed his hands on Bridgett’s head as she knelt there. Returning to her seat, she asked, “Grandma, why did the minister put his hand on my head?” Bridgett’s grandmother responded, “To bless you, dear.” “Why?” Bridgett replied, “I didn’t sneeze.” But God blesses us all the time—when we sneeze and when we don’t. King David, the psalmist, must have known he was blessed that way. He surely knew God’s bounty, counted and recounted His benefits. He knew God gave him great favor all the time. A young novice, eating the best bread he’d ever tasted, asked one of the brothers at the monastery, “Did we make this bread, or was it given to us?” The brother smiled and answered, “Yes.”
Sometimes I am embarrassed by my riches, Father. The fatted calf and best robe, for me? Unspeakable joy and peace that exceeds understanding, for me? I live in the promised land every day, and I am so thankful for every blessing that comes from Your hand. In the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, amen.
October 1–3. Phillip Barnhart is a retired minister living in Florida who occasionally serves as an interim. He has written several books and many articles.
What a Responsibility!
God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31 Song: “All Creatures of Our God and King” Appoint me creator of the world, and I’d come up with a better maintenance plan. Place angels and archangels in charge. Devise an automatically renewable ecological system. A lot of divine intervention, not much human participation. But that’s not the way God wants it. He wants us to be in charge . . . for now. He will reign from Heaven, but He wants us to rule on earth until Christ returns. So, working for clean air and clear water is simply creation care, and the best ecology is a good theology. In this vein, writer Thomas Merton urges us to have an “unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things.” And why not? What God makes, He makes good. Therefore, we ought to appreciate it to its fullest. Creation is God’s first act of grace, a wonderful gift to us, but packaged with great responsibility. Little Donna wrote a letter: “Dear God, in school we read that Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said You did it. I bet he stole your idea.” It is God’s idea of creation for which we are responsible.
Father, I see Your glorious handwriting everywhere; You’ve put Your signature on everything. What a good giver You are! Through Christ, amen.
Oc tobe r
One of a Kind
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3, 4). Scripture: Psalm 8 Song: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Michelangelo explained his theology of art to a friend. “Why do you think I’ve given my life to creating a race of glorious creatures in marble and paint? Because I see human beauty as God’s most divine attribute.” As great as God’s work is in sun, moon, and stars, it is greater still in the creation of human life. We top the list of what God makes. Answering the psalmist’s question: that is why God is mindful of us. We are handcrafted, not mass produced. We are not churned out on an assembly line where each looks like all the others. An acquaintance of mine wrote a musical play in which is the song, “There Are No Cookie Cutters in Heaven.” God makes only originals, no copies. When God made you, He had His mind on His business. When God made your friend, He was having a good day. When God made me, He knew what He was doing. When we were made, God stamped “one of a kind” on each of us.
Creator God, thank You that I am carefully and wonderfully made. And since nobody has my DNA, You honor me with a marvelous uniqueness. May I live today worthy of creaturehood. In the name of Christ. Amen.