Instrument of War – The Sword

Sword

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12, NET

As a kid, I was not allowed to watch the cartoon He-Man due to its pagan elements. But I have to confess, my brother and I snuck around and watched some episodes when my parents were not at home. As ridiculous as the show is, I love that magical moment when He-man lifts his sword and summons a great transformational power. I am drawn to those moments in movies where the hero grasps a weapon of great power (ex: Arthur draws out Excalibur; Aragorn takes the sword Anduril; Harry is given his wand by Olivander; Peter unsheathes the sword given by Father Christmas).

Consider the magic of the moment, when transformation power is presented to an otherwise ordinary individual. We have a weapon like that. The atonement is our transforming sword (2Co 3:18) that purchased our glorious sonship (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:14-17). It has made us holy soldiers (2Ti 2:3-4), granting us the power of the Spirit to love and bring our flesh into submission (2Ti 1:7-8), and to be enlightened in our understanding and sight (Eph 3:16-20), bold in our testimony (Acts 1:8), and sacrificial in our love (Eph 5:1-2). For we are promised the victory (1Co 15:57) as conquerors (1Jo 4:4).

Draw it out and gaze upon its majestic gleam. Recite its inscription until it is etched on your heart. Hold it aloft and feel it transforming you into something greater.

“I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.” –2 Peter 1:3-4, NET

Billy Neal

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Christmas

CHRISTMAS

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. — Galatians 4:4-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s LOVE has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. — Romans 5:1-5, ESV

“Does anyone really know what Christmas is all about?”
— Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas

I think we’d all agree that the last couple of Christmases have been different. For all of the hope, peace, joy and love that the season brings there has been much in the way of despair, strife, sadness and hate. For Kathy and I, it has been different, too. Yesterday I went to a funeral of one my former parishioners and it was the anniversary of the homegoing of one of Kathy’s clients (who happened to be the wife of a good friend).

Yesterday was a mixture of feelings; it was a beautiful day and the drive through the Georgia countryside to get to the church was peaceful. Traveled some new roads and some roads I had not been on in a while. Lots of memories came rushing in – some happy, some sad. Getting to the church, I was pleased to see some familar faces and especially in seeing a young man that I had mentored years ago and receiving a warm hug. I was saddened to see those mourning the passing of a loved one and I was angered that death causes so much pain. The funeral sermon was one of the best I have heard and its theme was “focus on the important – faith and family”. I found myself nodding in agreement.

As I have grown older, I have spent more time pondering Christmas and its meaning. One of my favorite things is to wake up early Christmas morning, turn on the tree lights and music and sit with a cup of coffee (or tea) and just enjoy the stillness – I have long been the first one up in the house; the reason is the major change. One of the problems for me is that Christmas doesn’t last long enough; sure we have a lot of build-up but the actual event is rather anti-climatic.

But that is far different from that first Christmas; yes, there was a lot of buildup (and 400 years of “silence”) but the event itself was anything but anti-climatic! It is the event that splits history, it is the event that happened in the “fullness of time” and it is the event that signaled our redemption and adoption. The redemption of the cross starts at the manger.

I have included the Romans passage in each of these Advent devotions. I see it as a Christmas scripture since it speaks of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. All of this come in and through Jesus. Despite our sufferings, despite our despair, despite strife, sadness and hate, we have Jesus, whom God sent forth and of whom angels and shepherds sing. This is the good news – this is what Christmas is all about. Focus on the important, take it to heart and go tell it on the mountains: Jesus Christ, our Hope, our Peace, our Joy and our Love, is born!

Merry Christmas,
Steve Pierce

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Advent: Love

Advent: Love

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
— Psalm 136:1-3, ESV

He brought me to the banqueting house,and his banner over me was love. — Song of Solomon 2:4, ESV

But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23, ESV

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:8

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
— 1 John 4:18a, ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in
hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering
produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not
put us to shame, because God’s LOVE has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has
been given to us.
— Romans 5:1-5, ESV

What is love? I love my wife. I love my family and friends. I love Mexican food. I love Jesus. Same word, lot of difference in what it means (and yes, I love Jesus and Kathy way more than Mexican food!) Unfortunately, English doesn’t have several different words that give us the nuances we need.

John gives a good definition: God is Love. There is the Christmas song, “Love Came Down at Christmas”. Jesus, the embodiment – the incarnation – of God’s love, came to us; we don’t find Him, He finds us! His love for us is steadfast and enduring and He prepares a table for us and calls us to safety under His banner. The first fruit of the Spirit is love and indeed, John also tells us that if we do not love, we do not know God – thus we don’t know what Love is!

Love and fear do not mix. Perfect love casts out fear – ALL fear. A few years ago, I had a vision of seeing this verse “enacted”: I have put my fear on a pedestal; it controled me. But then Jesus came along with a baseball bat marked “Perfect Love” and He knocked fear “out of the park” – He also destroyed that pedestal and stood in its place.

So what are you afraid of? Do you have fear on a pedestal? Fear not delta or omicron, come under the banner of the Alpha and Omega. Fear nothing for His steadfast love endures forever. Let Love be poured into your heart to overflowing; bear much of this Spirit fruit. Share Love this season.

Steve Pierce

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Advent: Joy

Advent: JoyAnd do not be grieved, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10b

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23, ESV

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2, ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we REJOICE in
hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we REJOICE in our sufferings, knowing that suffering
produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not
put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has
been given to us.
— Romans 5:1-5, ESV

What is joy? I hope you will agree that is more than happiness in our circumstances. The radio station I listen to in my truck has a tagline, “Helping your find joy”. How do we find joy?

As you will probably guess, especially if you have read the previous two Advent posts, joy is not a thing, or something we can manufacture or produce within ourselves but it something that comes from God and I would argue is is found in the Person, Jesus, who is our Joy. The fruit of the Spirit are all aspects of Jesus and if we have this fruit, it is because the Spirit resides in us. I find it interesting that Paul and the writer of Hebrews both mention joy and suffering in the same breath; this is not something that comes easy to us as we do anything to avoid suffering but it is the JOY OF THE LORD that is our strength and this is where we find joy in ALL circumstances. Ask our persecuted brothers and sisters about this!

This Christmas let us not be grieved due to circumstances. I am not making light of anyone’s situation; I am preaching to myself on this one! The second fruit of the Spirit mentioned is joy and it is a much needed gift this season. Find and share Joy this season.

Steve Pierce

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Advent – Peace

Advent: Peace

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
— Psalm 119:165, ESV

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
— Psalm 83:1, ESV

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
— John 16:33, ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. — Romans 5:1-5, ESV

What is peace? It is something that we all long for but do we really know what it is?

Absence of war? Yes, but that’s an incomplete definition.

Stillness and silence? “Speak now or forever hold your peace”. Yes, but it is still incomplete.

Tranquility and favor? More of the meaning of peace but still not complete in itself.

The Hebrew word translated as peace is shalom. It embodies the concept of wholeness and completeness, stillness and silence, tranquility and favor  as does the New Testament Greek work is eirene How are we made complete?

Psalm 119:165 gives us an answer; we obtain great peace when we love God’s law. In loving God’s law and placing ourselves in His care, we long for Him to speak into our lives; like the psalmist, we ask Him not to keep His peace Deafness was associated with being mute, so if God doesn’t speak to us, by association, He also does not hear our cries.

In this season, probably more than ever, we need peace. But like our view of hope, we need to shift from an object to a person – the Prince of Peace. Jesus is our Peace and makes us complete by re-establishing our relationship with God the Father by the grace granted us in His death and resurrection. He speaks on our behalf before Father God and our cries are heard. Through good times and bad, we can trust that we may have Peace because He overcame. Let us like the angels at His birth sing, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men”. Worship Him and share Peace this season.

Steve Pierce

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Advent: Hope

Advent: Hope

Against all HOPE, Abraham in HOPE believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
— Romans 4:18, NIV

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have HOPE: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will HOPE in him.”
— Lamentations 3:21, ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in HOPE of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces HOPE, and HOPE does not
put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
— Romans 5:1-5, ESV

What is hope? We say things like “I hope it will (or won’t) rain”, “I hope the Dawgs win on Saturday”, or “I hope things get back to normal soon”. Is there much difference between our hoping and our wishful thinking?

Statistics show that suicides have taken an uptick during the pandemic. Why? Simple: a lack of hope (the people perish for lack of vision or hope). Sadly, there are many in the church who seem to have lost their hope or placed it in something less than the real Hope of the World.

For the believer, hope has a definite aim and is so different from the worldly concept of hope. To the world, our hope is foolishness. But the world doesn’t see that we don’t hope in or for something; no, we hope IN someone! Like Abraham, when all human hope says it is impossible, we believe in Hope, embodied in the person Jesus and trust His word. Like Jeremiah, we can bring to mind His goodness and have Hope because His mercies are new every morning. And even in our suffering, a hope that does not put us to shame is produced as the Spirit is given to us and resides within us.

The believer’s hope has a backward looking component as well as a forward seeking component. We look back and see where we had no hope or our hope was placed incorrectly until we receive Jesus’ offer to follow Him; we placed our hope and trust in Jesus and He has proven Himself in our many past mercies. We look forward, seeking those times that He will prove the promises that He has given us as individuals and as a people, resting in His steadfast love.

And just as His birth long ago in Bethlehem forever marked time, Jesus still stands at the crossroads of our lives seeking to separate us from our hopeless past to a hopeful, hope-FULL future with Him. That is the gift of Christmas, past, present and future. Receive Him and share Hope this season.

Steve Pierce

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