Renamed by God — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 28.4-6
4 “Yet the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5 Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6 He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.

Reflection: Renamed by God — Hope of Advent

By John Tillman

Naming, in ancient cultures, was greatly important. Names were intended to remind children of who they were and to place them within the story of their family. Their names followed familial patterns and repeated names from the past.

Scripture usually calls Solomon by the name his father David gave him but God gave Solomon another name. God named him Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12.25) God renamed Solomon because God claimed Solomon as his son and promised to be his father. 

Like Solomon, we have a mixed history. Our family patterns may include violence, lust, destruction, suffering, slavery, exile, or many other damaging and hurtful things. Names today are more often chosen simply by sound or for uniqueness with little meaning behind them. Modern legal names don’t tend to reflect our histories but those aren’t our only names, are they? 

We have other names that we have been called or that we call ourselves. Many of these names come from dark places or express our worst feelings and fears. Failure. Foolish. Ugly. Fat. Unworthy. Unloveable. Hopeless. These are haunting names all of us have heard at one time or another.

Our history or pain can “name” us. Naomi let bitterness change her name to “Mara.” Nebuchadnezzar forced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to accept names reflecting Babylonian religion and culture. Rachel attached her own pain to her second son, naming him Ben-Oni or “son of my trouble.”

Those gathered after the birth of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child did not take Elizabeth’s word that he would be called “John” because it didn’t fit the pattern of their history. When Zechariah confirmed it by writing, his tongue was loosed to prophesy. (Luke 1.59-66)

We don’t have to continue in life with the haunting names that fit our histories. Like Solomon, God has a new name for us. Our new identity is hidden in Christ and given to us as we are adopted by God. (Isaiah 56.5; Revelation 2.17)

New names bring us new hope. Christ’s name is to be called, “Wonderful counselor, the mighty God.” Like the shepherds who sought for him, we must seek him to live in the authority and power of our new name and our adoption as God’s children. Our new names will remind us of whose we are and where our place is within God’s story.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 28 (Listen – 4:45)
2 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:52)

Read more about Supporting our Work
We produce over 100,000 words a year to build up Christ’s body in the Word of God. Donations support this effort.

Read more about Lovingly Named
Christ takes great pleasure in his Beloved and he calls us by a new name.

God In the Dark — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 1.19
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Genesis 1.2-3
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Reflection: God In the Dark — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

The darkness is a place of hope. Why? God seems to be attracted to darkness.

The first picture of God that the writers of scripture give to us is not on a lofty throne, set in shining heavens. On the very first page of scripture, two things are “over” the surface of the deep waters: darkness and the Spirit of God. God hovers over dark, chaotic waters. God enters creation’s darkness and sparks light and life.

God is often found in darkness. 

God shows up in slavery (Genesis 37.28), in deserts (Exodus 3.1-4), in winepresses (Judges 6.1-14), in cisterns (Jeremiah 38.6-13), in caves (1 Kings 19.3-9), in hiding (1 Samuel 24), in terrifying dreams (Daniel 4.4-5), in madness (Daniel 4.34), in the belly of a beast (Jonah 2), in the lions’ den (Daniel 6.19-23), in sickness (Matthew 9.27-33), in demonic attack (Luke 8.1-3), on death beds (Acts 9.40-42), in tombs (John 11.38-44), and even in the depths of hell (Psalm 139.7-12).

In the darkness of Ur, God called Abram out to look up at the stars and number the shining lights to know the number of his children. In the darkness of Saul’s fading kingdom, God promised David a son who would establish an eternal kingdom of light. 

In the darkness of Israel’s suffering under Rome, God set a star in the heavens announcing a son of David who would fulfill both the promise to Abraham and to David. But more than that, Jesus was the fulfillment of promises of light made to every human being from Eve to Mary. The birth of Jesus was God’s ultimate entrance into darkness.

When we find ourselves in dark places of the world or facing darkness within ourselves, we can remember that God enters the dark. No matter how dark our times,  our circumstances, or our mood we can trust that God will send his light.

God still raises our eyes to the heavens to ponder the Abrahamic promise.
God still causes light to dawn on lands in deep darkness.
God still says “let there be light” and causes the Morningstar to rise in our hearts.

Beyond the dark horizon
Out where the people are dying
The son of man will be rising
The glory of the lord will be shining

Shatter the dark horizon
Out where the people are crying
A Morningstar will be rising
Rising to show us the way

Music: “Morningstar” by Whiteheart.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path. — Psalm 119.105

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 26-27 (Listen – 7:01)
1 Peter 5 (Listen – 5:39)

Read more about Supporting our Work
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Read more about The Gift of Hope
At the year’s darkest point, humanity waits until the light returns, like a second Easter.

Deo Gratias

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 3.17-18
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

From John: After celebrating Thanksgiving yesterday in the United States, we continue to focus on giving thanks over this weekend by looking back at this post from 2019 offering praise and thankfulness to our God.

Reflection: Deo Gratias
By William Cooper (fl. 1653)

St. Augustine inaugurated that ancient custom among Christians, in whose mouths you should always hear these words: Deo Gratias, “Thanks be to God!” When they met and saluted one another, Deo Gratias, “God be thanked.” When they heard any tidings of persecution or protection, favor or frown, gain or loss, cross or comfort — still Deo Gratias.

“What,” said Augustine, “shall brothers in Christ not give God thanks when they see one another? What better thing can we speak, or think, or write, than this? God be thanked! Nothing can be more compendiously spoken, nor more gladly heard, nor more solemnly understood, nor more profitably acted, than this; God be thanked!”

Such a frame of heart had holy Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And such a one was in the sweet singer of Israel: “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Notable is that of Chrysostom: “There is nothing, nothing we can study, more pleasing to God than to be thankful — not only in good days but also when things fall cross. This is the best sacrifice and oblation we offer God.”

This made Jerome say, “It is peculiar to Christians to give thanks in adversity. To praise God for benefits, this [anyone] can do. To give God thanks in dangers according to the apostle’s sense, and in miseries — to always to say, ‘Blessed be God’ — this is the highest pitch of virtue. Here is your Christian; such a one takes up his cross, and follows his Savior: no loss or cross can dishearten him.”

To give God thanks for crosses and afflictions is to be numbered among those singular things which Christians are bound to excel in. We ought excel beyond [those who do not believe] in loving our enemies and blessing those that curse — which our Savior exhorts and commands.

We must thank the Lord for afflicting us, and for laying the cross upon us, because it is so far below what we deserve at his hands. To drink as He drank it we cannot — we need not. Thank God, then, that you have such a little share of it — when all was your portion by right and justice. This is worthy of our thanks.

Text excerpted from How Must We In All Things Give Thanks? 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Oh God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 22 (Listen – 3:25)
1 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:30)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chronicles 23 (Listen – 4:20), 1 Peter 4 (Listen – 2:50)
1 Chronicles 24-25 (Listen – 7:01), 1 Peter 5 (Listen – 2:11)

Read more about A Thanksgiving
Deny me wealth, fear, far remove
The love of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in the world’s shame.

Read more about Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
If we could only see the heart of the Father, we would be drawn into praise and thanksgiving more often. — Richard Foster

When Skepticism meets Kindness

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 19.3
“…the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” 

Reflection: When Skepticism meets Kindness
By Erin Newton

Last week, I looked through the neighborhood Facebook page. Big mistake. Each post was an attack of one neighbor against another rooted mostly in suspicions. It makes you wonder, “Can we trust anyone to be good anymore?”

The account of David sending an envoy of peace and sympathy to the Ammonites as depicted in 1 Chronicles 19 is retold in the same manner as 2 Samuel 10. In both accounts, Hanun the Ammonite king scoffed at the gesture of sympathy and returned kindness with humiliation. David’s motives were scrutinized. Hanun repaid hate to the men who had come in the name of peace.

Sometimes we look at kindness and assume there is a scheme of self-promotion or self-preservation behind it all. We treat the servants of mercy as spies. We’ve created a world in which we are trained to “read the fine print” and always be on the lookout for some catch. We see something and immediately suspect nefarious activity behind it all.

Being on the receiving end of kindness can be awkward and uncomfortable. Honestly, there is little reason to be suspicious, but we are sorely out of practice. Five years ago, I had premature twins with severe medical conditions and had to quickly learn how to be served without the nagging feeling that I would have to repay that kindness. We learn all about serving others but being served is a lost art.

More than anything, we doubt the sincerity of God’s gift of mercy. The Man who came in peace was treated like a criminal, humiliated and mocked. Jesus came in peace but was received with skepticism. The seed of sin taunts his free gift, “Did he really say that?” Just as the first sin entered the world, we struggle against doubting the motive of mercy.

Out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). We struggle to humbly receive God’s grace because we cannot fathom being so gracious to others. We return kindness with ingratitude because we assume we have been placed in someone’s debt. We try to do something in return because our pride wants to even the score.

We are entering into a season marked by giving. The King’s envoy of peace has come. Let us sit under the weight of God’s mercy, utterly helpless to repay anything, and be at peace.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 19-20 (Listen – 5:02)
1 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:53)

Thanksgiving Day Readings
1 Chronicles 21 (Listen – 5:03)
1 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:48)

Read more about Praying Priestly Blessings
As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Loving our former enemies should not be conditional. We must do whatever we can to love our neighbors.

Missing the Son of David

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 18.14
14 David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. 

Reflection: Missing the Son of David
By John Tillman

David is described as doing what is “just and right for all his people.” This does not mean that the author is in denial about David’s errors and human mistakes. The writer is speaking in generalities but is also speaking of David as a model of a ruler to come. 

Soon, we will enter the season of Advent, in which we await the coming reign of the Son of David. Jesus is this ruler we are looking for. He will bring a kingdom with justice and righteousness for all his people.

We have written before about justice and righteousness. Justice, or mishpat, is the law being upheld. Righteousness, or sedeq, implies the actions that uphold it. At times, sedeq is even translated as “justice.” The accomplishment of justice is righteousness and righteousness accomplishes justice. To advocate for one and deny the other is like claiming fire is cold or ice is hot.

Many looked and longed for justice and righteousness that they believed would come with the Son of David. Many of those same people missed Jesus when he came. They were looking for something else.

They looked for wealth and status. They missed him because he was poor. They looked for political empowerment and military might. They missed him because he eschewed power. They looked for violent overthrow. They missed him because he chose non-violence.

As we read the gospels, we need to examine the descriptions Jesus gives of his kingdom. We have the benefit of hindsight. We can see what the religious leaders should have seen. As we notice their blind spots, we should think about our own.

What type of righteousness and justice are we looking for from the Son of David? Are we looking for the right things? Could we miss him because we are focusing on the wrong qualities?

Like the two blind men, and the foreign demoniac’s mother, let us call out to the Son of David to save us using this prayer based on our reading from James 5.1-6:

Make us generous so that no worker would cry against us…
And our lives would not be fattened with luxuries…
Make us a shield that covers the innocent…
Make us a sword that cuts free the oppressed…
Lord, clothe us in your righteousness…
May our footprints leave justice behind us.
May we be true Sons and Daughters of David.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.
He will keep safe all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. — Psalm 34.15-20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 18 (Listen – 2:36)
James 5 (Listen – 3:01)

Read more about Justice to Wormwood
Justice is very much the business of people of faith and when people ignore it or frustrate it…God notices.

Read more about God’s Sufficient Justice
Being righteous before other humans is easy. We just have to be slightly less evil at heart than the next guy.