The Trustworthy Prince of Peace — Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Psalm 146.3
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save. 

Reflection: The Trustworthy Prince of Peace — Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

“Princes” in scripture is not limited to genetic heirs to a political throne. It often refers to powerful and wealthy leaders in a community. Having too much trust in human princes has bad results.

Some abandon the principles of God to follow “princes” claiming to be “God’s man” or “God’s woman.” If a corrupt, abusive, or fallen leader faces consequences that might threaten or embarrass the institution, they choose to back the leader. They let the bus run over the bodies of abuse survivors, whistleblowers, and truth-tellers rather than fire the bus driver.

Some abandon faith in God because of an unfaithful “prince.” They fail to separate their faith from the identity of the leader, the institution, and its supporters. When they rightly leave the leader’s influence, they also leave behind their beliefs.

Those unwilling to admit a leader they follow is corrupt and those unwilling to follow God despite leaders who profane his name both put too much faith in “princes.” We are giving them too much power. Don’t allow wicked human “princes” to ruin your faith either by making you defend their wickedness or by assuming their wickedness is a true picture of God.

Psalm 146 tells us not to trust princes but also gives a description of God’s trustworthiness. This description is fulfilled in the life of Jesus. The only trustworthy prince is Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

Using a reworded section of Psalm 146, let us pray, inserting Jesus’ name as the trustworthy one.

The Trustworthy Prince of Peace
God, send us princes conformed to the image of Jesus the Prince of Peace.

Jesus, Prince of Peace, Maker of heaven and earth, you remain faithful forever. 
Jesus, you uphold the cause of the oppressed 
and give food to the hungry. 
Christ the Lord, you set prisoners free and give sight to the blind.
Jesus, you stoop to lift those who are bowed down and show love to the righteous. 
Jesus who fled to Egypt, you watch over the foreigner.
You sustain the fatherless and the widow.
Jesus who cleansed the Temple, frustrate the ways of the wicked today!
Christ the Lord reign forever!
You are the perfect picture of God for all generations.

Do not let us trust human princes. Let us keep our hope only in Christ.
Regardless of what prince rules our land, let the Prince of Peace rule in our hearts.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your Name forever and ever. — Psalm 145.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 34 (Listen 6:23)
Psalms 146-147 (Listen 3:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 35 (Listen 5.25Psalms 148 (Listen 3:09)
2 Chronicles 36 (Listen 4.26Psalms 149-150 (Listen 1:36)

Monday’s Readings
Job 1 (Listen 3.38John 1 (Listen 6:18)

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One Who Can Reach

Scripture Focus: Psalm 145.13-14
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Isaiah 59.1
1 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.

Reflection: One Who Can Reach
By John Tillman

As the “Arm of the Lord” is superior to the “arm of flesh” (2 Chronicles 32.8), the Kingdom of God is superior to human kingdoms. However, as the arm of flesh is puffed up and proud, the arm of the Lord reaches down to the lowly and lifts them up.

In his commentary on Psalm 145, Federico Villanueva reflects on the difficulty those raised up have in reaching down and lifting up the lowly.

“The common expression in Filipino, hindi na ma-reach (“can no longer be reached”), conveys how the higher one goes, the harder it is to reach those who are down below. But this is not the case for our God, who dwells in the highest place, and yet stoops down to help those who fall.”

Powerful humans lose touch with powerlessness and seem unable to resist abuses of power. Those who rise forget where they came from and despise those of low beginnings. Those on top ignore that others cleared a path for them, and they pull up the ladder behind them, preventing others’ success.

Some descriptions of God sacrifice his love and care for us to emphasize his glory and majesty. Some descriptions of God sacrifice his glory and majesty in an attempt to convey his intimate care for and presence with us. We need to hold these seemingly contradictory qualities of God together in tension.

Our God is not like a powerful human. Our God is never “out of touch.” He longs to welcome us as his children. God is powerful yet cares for the powerless. God does not forget where we come from, yet he does not despise us for our past. God is all-powerful and mighty, yet he uses his power for our good. He is one who can reach.

God’s glory is all the more glorious because he reaches down to the lowest of the fallen. The messiness of God’s presence in the incarnation makes his presence before creation and the end of time even more majestic and incomprehensible. God’s goodness and faithfulness to those who are neither faithful nor good is even more praiseworthy than if we were even marginally deserving.

Let us continue to celebrate the Advent of Christ, who is exalted because he made himself nothing and glorious because of the suffering of the cross. (Philippians 2.6-11)

The lower Jesus stoops, the more praiseworthy he is.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. — Psalm 144.5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33  (Listen 4:01)
Psalms 145 (Listen 2:19)

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He strips himself.
He lays aside
His Heaven
His throne
His clothes
His life

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The Arm of Flesh versus the Prince of Peace

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 32.7-8
7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

Isaiah 52.10
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm 
in the sight of all the nations, 
and all the ends of the earth will see 
the salvation of our God.

Reflection: The Arm of Flesh versus the Prince of Peace
By John Tillman

A popular Advent verse is Isaiah’s description of the Arm of the Lord being bared, showing the nations God’s salvation. It is a messianic prophecy fulfilled by Christ. The true “Arm of the Lord” is Jesus.

In his encouragement to the people, Hezekiah implies that the arm of the Lord is with them, but with Assyria is “only the arm of flesh.” (2 Chronicles 32.8)

Assyria’s “arm of flesh” went beyond military might. Assyria wielded the weapon of propaganda. Andrew Bowling writes that Sennacherib had “officers in charge of psychological warfare” who reinterpreted Hezekiah’s actions to claim God was on their side, not his. Hezekiah and the people had recently removed not only altars to false gods but altars to Yahweh that were against the regulations of the law. Assyria’s clever propagandists twisted this fact, claiming that Hezekiah had dishonored God and that God sent them to punish him. (Isaiah 36.7, 10

Did Sennacherib truthfully believe this, or was it just a deceptive tactic? His boasts about the supremacy of his own god and military seem to indicate he did not truly follow Yahweh or care about anything he said.

Many say, “God is on our side.” Both spiritual and political leaders claim to be “God’s man” or “God’s woman.” They say, “We are faithful; they are heretics. We follow Jesus; they follow demons.” Like Sennacherib’s propagandists, these leaders often wield scripture. (2 Kings 18.31-32; 1 Kings 4.25; Micah 4.4)

It shouldn’t shock us for scripture to be misused. Satan tempted both Eve and Jesus by misinterpreting God’s word. Peter admitted that Paul’s complex writings were abused and twisted contrary to what Paul intended. (Genesis 3.1; Matthew 4.6; 2 Peter 3.16)

We may often find ourselves opposed by those who use interpretations of scripture against us. Some may truthfully believe what they say. Some are just engaging in psychological manipulation. How can we tell the difference between Sennacherib’s propaganda and Hezekiah’s true faith? 

I don’t have a perfect answer. But I do have a guideline. Leaders who sound like Sennacherib are like him. Leaders who sound like Jesus are like him.

The arm of flesh uses the language of would-be emperors. It flexes, insults, boasts, and makes arm-twisting threats. The Arm of the Lord uses the language of the Prince of Peace. It works salvation and preaches repentance, truth, grace, mercy, and love.

May we be encouraged by the presence of the Arm of the Lord and serve the Prince of Peace.

Music: Isaiah 52.10, by Rich Mullins

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. — Psalm 118.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32  (Listen 5:58)
Psalms 144 (Listen 1:56)

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After Advent?

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 30.18-19
18 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone 19 who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

2 Chronicles 31.1
1 When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin and in Ephraim and Manasseh. After they had destroyed all of them, the Israelites returned to their own towns and to their own property. 

Mark 1.14b-15
14b Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Matthew 21.31b-32
31b Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Reflection: After Advent?
By John Tillman

2 Chronicles 30 describes a Passover celebration like none since the days of Solomon and David. But not everyone was ready for Hezekiah’s revival.

Whether by ignorance or haste, some failed to come to the feast consecrated, violating the commandments Hezekiah was reinstating. Yet, there was mercy.

Hezekiah prayed that God would not look at their outward adherence to ceremonial rules of cleanness but at the determination of their hearts to seek after God. When God had mercy, the celebration was so joyous that Hezekiah extended the Passover festival for a week.

Many popular songs wish for a continuation of the Christmas season and the “spirit” of Christmas. Can you imagine a Christmas so peaceful or joyous you’d want it to keep going?

Truthfully, Christmas does keep going. Christmastide continues on the church calendar, ending with Epiphany on January 6th. Additionally, Advent’s message of the gospel never expires. We can and should share it all year round. But what comes after Advent? What should follow in our lives after experiencing hope, love, joy, and peace in Christ?

2 Chronicles 30 is followed by 31. Mercy, worship, adoration, and joy bring change. After the festival, the people smashed sacred stones and cut down Asherah poles. They dismantled the infrastructure of false worship, tearing down altars and destroying high places. They acted in faith to turn away from idols they had been devoted to.

Thank God that we can seek him as we are. When we come to him, God will judge us not by our outward adherence to rules but by the determination of our hearts to seek after him. We do not need to perfect ourselves, cover our wounds, or shine ourselves up. Like the unwashed shepherds or the pagan Magi, we can rejoice, knowing we are accepted.

Seeking God’s mercy, however, doesn’t mean continuing in sins. Jesus ate with sinners and preached repentance. Prostitutes didn’t stay prostitutes. Crooked tax collectors became honest. The demonically influenced were set free. Violence-prone fishermen became disciples of love. 

Jesus’ advent will not leave us the same. Mercy does not maintain the status quo. Pardon is not perpetual permission. Healing is not the enablement of re-harming ourselves or others.

Continue Christmas by seeking what change Jesus initiates in you. May we act in faith, turning away from what we have been devoted to, smashing our sacred stones and tearing down our altars.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips; let not my heart incline to any evil thing.
Let me not be occupied in wickedness with evildoers, nor eat of their choice foods.
Let the righteous smite me in friendly rebuke; let not the oil of the unrighteous anoint my head. — Psalm 141.3-5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 31  (Listen 4:20)
Psalms 142-143 (Listen 2:35)

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Silent Night — Carols of Advent Joy

Scripture Focus: Psalm 136:23-26
23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

Matthew 1:22-23
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Reflection: Silent Night — Carols of Advent Joy
By Jon Polk

Silent Night holds the distinction of being the world’s most recorded Christmas song. There are over 137,000 known recorded versions of the carol!

There are classics like Bing Crosby’s version or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition. There are also gospel, rap and heavy metal versions! The song has universal appeal and speaks to our longing for peace and hope in a dark world.

During the famous “Christmas Truce” of 1914, when British and German troops in World War I voluntarily ceased fighting on Christmas Day, one of the carols that they sang together was Silent Night.

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.

The song was born out of a period of insecurity and instability. Following the Napoleonic Wars, a young Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr arrived at the parish in the village of Oberndorf, Austria. He composed the text of the song for performance on Christmas Eve in 1818.

Mohr gave the lyrics to Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher and organist, asking him to compose a melody. As the story goes, the organ at the church in Oberndorf had been damaged by a recent flood and was out of commission at the time, leading Gruber to compose the music on guitar.

Karl Mauracher, who serviced the organ at the church, was apparently so taken by the song that he took the carol back with him to his village. Folk singers from Mauracher’s hometown included the song in their performances. One group, the Rainers, ultimately introduced the song to the U.S. on a tour in 1839.

Since then, the carol has become popular in all corners of the world. In 2011, UNESCO declared the song an intangible cultural heritage, stating

The song addresses the human desire for all-encompassing peace, conveys a feeling of fellowship, and promotes interpersonal exchange and mutual understanding.

Worldwide, the song is embraced as a call to peace for our world. We Christians know that peace comes from the Prince of Peace, the baby born on that night.

Ironically, the night itself was likely anything but silent – a newborn infant, surrounded by animals, in a barn, in a crowded city. But as we sing it, the song reminds us, for a few moments at least, of the need for peace in our own chaotic world. 

May the words not be merely hopes and dreams but may we each work towards bringing Christ’s peace to our respective corners of the world.

Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing
“Alleluia” to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.”

Listen: Silent Night by Sandra McCracken 
Read: Lyrics from

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds; they will recognize his works. — Psalm 64.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 26  (Listen 4:00)
Psalms 135-136 (Listen 4:23)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 27-28  (Listen 6:27), Psalms 137-138 (Listen 2:42)
2 Chronicles 29  (Listen 6:49), Psalms 139 (Listen 2:26)
2 Chronicles 30  (Listen 4:56), Psalms 140-141 (Listen 2:44)

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Listen to the 1st full episode of our new podcast, Pause to Read, out today. Please subscribe, share the episodes, and give a rating/review to help others find the show.

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