Take up the Sword
"...and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." -Ephesians 6:17b
The letter in the Bible, called Ephesians, ends with a charge to the reader to "put on the full armor of God." The goal is to stand firm in the calling to serve God and follow Jesus, and describes what this "spiritual armor" looks like: the belt of truth, the body armor (breastplate) of righteousness, shoes of peace that comes from the Good News (the message of Jesus), the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. Every piece of this armor is essential, but notice what comes last - "and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Why is it listed last? Certainly, it's not least important. It's simply a matter of reality: a warrior/soldier/knight would get fully dressed, and then pick up the sword. Taking up the sword was symbolic that, "OK, now I have put on every piece of armor so I will be able to resist the enemy. Now, I'm ready to stand my ground." In other words, without the sword, the armor, and the one wearing it, is incomplete.
Without the word of God, we are incomplete.
Yesterday, I was honored greatly by LakePointe Church in Hot Springs, AR, when Pastor Greg Bearss presented this sword to me. LakePointe regularly brings on staff soon-to-be-church-planters for a season, then sends them off with a commissioning and a sword... a real... legit... sword. It's a heavy reminder to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And this amazing congregation chose me - not one of "their own (meaning a different denomination)" - to celebrate our impending church plant, Awaken Church, in Natchitoches, LA! The real highlight of this was the prayer of commissioning, and the covenant to continue as prayer partners. The sword was a bonus.
OK, the sword was a stinkin' awesome bonus!
Why would a congregation choose to celebrate a new church plant that they seemingly have nothing to do with?
That's it. As Pastor Greg said, we've known each other these past 8 years, but it's more than "pastors who know each other," we've truly become brothers. Honestly, the moment was only half-way about the new church plant. It was also in recognition of 8 years of participating and leading in cross-denominational ministry efforts, and attempting to lead congregations to see that we are one body - one church - and to behave that way... to serve the community that way. Greg and I have literally gotten hands dirty, side-by-side, serving this community. Something I pray happens more and more!
In reality I've just been living out what the Church of God tribe says we're about: unity. To quote one of our heritage hymns, "We reach our hands in fellowship to every Blood-washed one." My prayer is that becomes much more than a line in a beloved song, but reality. Because one church - one body, with one Lord and God, who is Jesus Messiah - THIS is the word of God, and it's time to take it up!