A Sword for the Lord
August 7th-10th, 2002
Overflow crowds jammed into the sanctuary of North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills, Minnesota for the 31st annual Holy Spirit Conference, only to find that it was not a conference.
The worship, led by the music team from Brooklyn Park Lutheran, was impassioned. The teaching, both from local pastors and international ministry leaders, imparted vision and inspired hope. The personal ministry time, where God’s people experienced the Father’s touch, brought healing and peace.
Even so, in the end, this was not a conference.
It was not a seminar, nor a series of workshops.
It was an encounter with the One whose love is rich in transforming power. It was a cleansing and a call to God-honoring holiness in our lives. It was a confirmation of kingdom destiny for each saint of God, where our imaginations were tantalized with the question, “What would happen if we started running with His strength?”
Encounter: Knowing God, Having His Heart
The theme of the four-day gathering was taken from the story of Gideon in the book of Judges: “A Sword for the Lord.” While a sword-crafting it, possessing it, wielding it-brings to mind images of brigands, battle, and bloodshed, author and pastor Francis Frangipane reminded pastors that David, when fleeing Saul, forgot his sword but remembered his harp. This serves as a reminder to us that though we are thrust into a cosmic conflict where the stakes of each sword stroke are eternal, the preparation of the Lord’s army begins with praise and worship.
There is no substitute for being in the presence of God and magnifying Him with praise and worship flowing from the depth of our being. This is so, explained Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries, because personal relationship with the Alpha and Omega is key for understanding His purposes and possessing His heart. He told us that the best way to know someone is by their voice and face; this is true for friendships on earth, and it is especially true for our friendship with God. We must be with Him, spend time with Him daily, in order to hear the quiet whisper of His voice.
Accordingly, Joyner issued a warning against pursuing God because of what He can do for us or what He can give us. “You never know someone by their hand,” Joyner remarked, “so why does the body of Christ try to know the Lord simply by His hand?”
Cleansing: a Call to Personal Holiness
A Sword for the Lord embraced this divine demand on our lives by directing the gathered congregation to the life-giving waters of repentance and forgiveness. Dr. Mark Herringshaw, Vision of Glory Lutheran Church (Plymouth, MN), sounded the trumpet to demolish the idols in our own backyards.
Gideon serves as our example. When called by God to a destiny greater than he could imagine, his first assignment is to destroy his father’s altar and to construct a holy altar to God (Judges 6:25-26). Like Gideon, we who would be used by God have to tear down what opposes God in our own hearts, minds, and lives. For the King of Kings to have full access to us we must do this with uncompromising tenacity. “We must become violent,” counseled Mark, “against the idols that would kill our passion for God.”
Spiritual cleansing, rather being a joyless exercise laced with guilt and shame, offers believers a chance to lean into the favor of God. In our times of repentance during A Sword for the Lord, this emphasis led us to the unsurpassed goodness of God, who is quick to forgive and to revitalize us with His own life. For it is God’s very life within us that unleashes the power of the destiny we’ve been given, so that we can move naturally to the rhythms of grace and easily into the fullness of what God has called us to.
As Frangipane noted, “Nothing pleases the Father more than to see Christ breaking forth from us, His church. Awaken the Father’s pleasure and it will release His power.” Little we do will touch the Father’s heart like repentance, the cry of the human heart that says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!” And little we do will spark an outpouring of God’s power through our lives like the humility of being conformed to the image of Christ.
Of course, we have a say in the matter.
We can agree with God. We can also dispute with God, drag our feet, try to hide, and run the other way. Lutheran Renewal’s Director, Paul Anderson, noted that the latter was Israel’s approach during the period of the judges, endemically finding herself in a rhythm of disobedience, discipline, and deliverance. “Because God loves us,” Anderson said, “God loves us with discipline.” Just as God loved Israel too much to let her get away with her disobedience, so God loves His Son’s friends too much to leave us to our own sinful devices.
Confirmation: Every Christian has a Kingdom Destiny
For all who worry that their personal shortcomings and disobedience have disqualified them from a part in God’s grand kingdom adventure, A Sword for the Lord gave great encouragement and cast a vision for each believer’s vital role in the unfolding of God’s purposes.
Todd Wallace, Pastor of Brooklyn Park Lutheran Church, urged us in this matter to consider Gideon. “When God’s call came to him,” said Todd, “Gideon wasn’t praying or reading his Bible; he was enmeshed in the darkness of his culture. ” Gideon had not done anything to merit God’s choosing of him, nor qualified at some super-high spiritual level that few people in history ever reach. He was just a lucky joe who found himself the object of God’s prevailing, mysterious favor.
Totally random from our point of view, perfectly sensible from God’s.
And if we feel like we have very little going for us, it turns out that this makes us ideal candidates for God’s favor, just like Gideon. Todd pointed out that Gideon lived in a fallen nation, was from an insignificant tribe, belonged to an insignificant clan, and was one of the lowliest members of his own family. Moreover, when God came to confirm Gideon in his prophetic destiny, he found him in a stupid place, as Todd put it. Gideon was hiding in a glorified hole in the ground, a submerged winepress, but this does not seem to have bothered God. Far from it; this is foolishness fodder, exactly the stuff God loves to shape for His eternal pleasure.
As A Sword for the Lord drew to a close, we were left to answer one final question: how are we to move forward in our kingdom destiny?
Greg Boyd, author and pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, delivered the answer in a single word: love. Jesus trusted the wisdom of God and used love to outwit and conquer evil. This is to be our plan of attack as well. “This is a different kind of strategy,” Boyd declared, “using a weapon that Satan cannot resist because he cannot understand it.”
Love is incomprehensible to the enemy of our souls, and it is the custom-crafted sword we’ve been given. This is the weapon that brings down strongholds. “There’s a constant pull from the world to fight like the world fights, a flesh and blood battle,” Boyd said, adding emphatically, “No! We are to overcome evil with good. It is a mistake to give flesh and blood expression to our warfare convictions.”
This, then, is the nature of people who have had an encounter with God and who, as a result of His spiritual cleansing are becoming more like Christ: we win the spiritual battle and walk out our destiny through outrageous, sacrificial love.
Encounter, Cleansing, Confirmation: Why They Matter
Encounter expresses the Father’s desire for fiery intimacy, where the flames of His presence and glory stoke the furnace of our love for God. Cleansing speaks to the reality of our sinfulness and our radical need for the grace of forgiveness. Confirmation authenticates God’s plan to advance His kingdom through His people, as flawed and inadequate as we may be, so that His strength may be displayed through our frailty and His love flow from our submission to Him.
These three things-encounter, cleansing, confirmation-are God’s trademarks. They certainly are not ours. We’d rather run from God than to Him, wallow in sin, and do our own thing instead of live out a kingdom destiny.
How marvelous it is, then, in this recounting of A Sword for the Lord, that we are able to say with Joel (2:21), “Be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!”
Graeme Sellers is the Senior Pastor at Nativity Lutheran in Gilbert, AZ. He is also on the Leadership Team of the Alliance of Renewal Churches (ARC).
A War, A Lord, and An Outrageous Army
by Dr. Greg Boyd
Three or four nights ago I was watching 60 Minutes and they interviewed a man who had been captain of a platoon during the Vietnam War. He had led his platoon into a village where some atrocities had been committed: women and children had been killed. The interviewer asked him, “What were the terms or rules of your engagement?” If you step outside of the terms of engagement, you commit a war crime.
What are the terms of our engagement in the war we’re in? What are the proper justified means of attaining the end that God wants us to attain? To know the terms of our engagement, we need to look at our Captain who specifies these terms. What were the terms of engagement of Jesus, our Captain? He trusted the wisdom of God, and used love to conquer evil. All that He was about was manifesting the love of God. He used that love to conquer evil, trusting that God, in His wisdom, was able to do it. Our job, as soldiers, is to follow our captain.
The Jews during Jesus’ time were under Roman oppression. They hated the Romans, hated what they stood for, and hated their culture. They thought it was a slam on God that the Jews, who knew God, were in service to pagans who didn’t know the first thing about God. Their rulers were in orgies all the time, they were unjust, oppressive and sometimes martyred people just for the fun of it. The Jews were sick of this! They wanted a Messiah who would deliver them from this political oppression. Jesus had power. He could heal the sick and raise the dead. But what could He do to the Romans? They wanted a Messiah who could kick some Roman behind and glorify God by winning this war-this flesh and blood war, right here and right now.
Throughout the Gospels they tried to get Jesus involved in political issues and the issues of the age. He consistently refused. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand that He was about a different kingdom and was waging a different type of war. When they went to a town that wouldn’t accept them, they wanted some Old Testament type stuff – call down some fire right now, let’s get even! That’s a flesh and blood type of war. Jesus said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. The pagans rule over one another but it’s not to be like that with you. You are to serve one another.” This is a different type of kingdom with a different kind of leadership where the last shall be first, and those who are least shall be greatest. It’s a different kind of war, a different type of tactic, a different strategy altogether.
Pilate said, “So you’re the king of the Jews? Where’s your army? Where are your people? Where are your warriors?” Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If I wanted to, I could call legions of angels right now. You would be a gonner and your army would be a gonner. Your kingdom is nothing compared to this. But I’m not gonna do it. I know the rules of my warfare and we don’t fight it that way.”
Jesus let the people mock him, spit on him, pierce him with a sword, put a crown of thorns on his head, and pound nails into his hands and ankles. The sovereign God, the Almighty God, the creator of the universe Who holds every molecule in existence, came down to earth and died this way because He loved every one of us when we were sinners. When we wanted nothing to do with him, He died this way. That’s outrageous! That’s ridiculous! That is, in the natural mind, absurd. But that’s what Jesus expressed and that’s how He won the war. What we need to understand is this: we are called to wage war the exact same way. We are called to overcome evil with good, not overcome evil with evil. We serve a radically different kind of Captain. He is an outrageous kind of Captain, so we have to be an outrageous kind of army.
That’s why Paul says in II Corinthians 10 that we do not wage war like the world wages war. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We’re not talking about bullets or politics. It’s not carnal; they’re spiritual to the tearing down of strongholds. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our battle is against powers and rulers and authorities in dark places. Our job is to be obedient to our Captain who sets the terms of our warfare. There’s a constant pull on the part of the world for us to fight war the way the world fights war, to compromise and buy into the wisdom of the world. When we hear “warfare”, there’s a part of us that wants to get rowdy, to get angry, to get even. There’s a place for that because we’re fighting principalities and powers.
But the problem is, if we’re not careful, it becomes a flesh and blood sort of battle. There’s a part of us that wants to control, to dominate, and to have victory the way the world does. That’s appropriate when we’re talking about powers and principalities, but when we’re talking about flesh and blood our job is to overcome evil with good, to overcome evil with love. It’s so important that we keep these things different.
When we begin to buy into the wisdom of the world and try to fight the warfare according to the terms of engagement that operate in worldly wars, we end up giving flesh and blood principles to our convictions. We end up thinking that the enemy is what we can see. We end up getting mad at the world, at society, at abortionists, at evolutionists, at homosexuals, at liberals, and in some churches, at Democrats. Sometimes we just get mad and we end up shooting the people that we’re supposed to be winning. Everything that we see around us is flesh and blood, and that’s not what we struggle against. What we struggle against are the principalities and powers. It is not the liberals or the abortionists that are our enemies; it’s the principalities and powers that use them.
The way we win the spiritual war is the way that Jesus won-by outrageous, self-sacrificial, unconditional, unwavering love. The central command throughout the New Testament is to love. Love, the Bible defines, is Jesus Christ, specifically Jesus Christ dying on a cross. Hereby we know what love is. John says in 1 John that Jesus Christ loved us. He gave His life for us so we should love and give our lives for one another. That’s what love is. It’s defined by the cross. We are commanded to love, to replicate that.
The terms of our engagement are found in the Scripture. Ephesians 5:2 says, “Live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This isn’t something we’re supposed to occasionally do, or something we’re supposed to be involved in once in a while. It’s not something we do when it’s convenient, and decide not to do when it’s not convenient. It’s not something we do when we like the person, and not do when we don’t like the person. We are to live in love! This is the armor of the spiritual warrior.
In Colossians 3:14 we read, “Above all clothe yourself with love.” Put this on! This is the garment you’re supposed to wear. There may be other things that you do and then you stop doing it. But you wear this all the time. You walk in Christ-like love to people in every situation.
Paul tells us in I Corinthians 16:4: “Let all that you do be done in love.” The motivation from the beginning to the middle to the end, for all that we think, for all that we say, for all that we do, for persons inside the church and outside the church… let it all be done in love. What kind of love? Christ’s kind of love-self-sacrificial love. Jesus says to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you. He was talking to people who were going to watch their kids get fed to lions here in a couple of years. These words have teeth to them. We have trouble sometimes getting along with our in-laws. What would you do with the Roman guards who are letting the lions free on your kids? Jesus says to love your enemies. Why? Because that’s how this war will be won.
If evil could conquer evil, if retaliation would win the game, if that kind of war would settle anything, do you think there would still be problems in the Middle East? We’ve tried that for a couple of millennia now and it hasn’t really solved anything. The kind of kingdom Jesus came to bring and the kind of warfare that Jesus advances is radically different. It’s foolish by the world’s standards. Let all that you do be done in love. Love your enemies. Why? Because it is the one hope that you might change your enemies. Touch their heart. Get through the pattern of this world’s wisdom that caused them to be different. You might have to die in the process, but in the wisdom of God that is counted as a good deal.
This article was transcribed in part from the message that Dr. Greg Boyd, of Woodland Hills Church, gave on Saturday night at our Conference. We feel that his message communicates what we sense God wants to do in the Church during this next season. He wants us to learn how to relate to one another and how to relate to those outside the Church.