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Before Easter

No, we aren’t falling extremely behind in posting these articles. I wanted there to be some time for the fervor of the Easter season to calm itself before diving back into it. And then schedules and work and life happened. It also turned out that God didn’t want me to reflect just on Easter, but there was another experience I needed to have in order to put these thoughts into context. Funny how that happens. But here’s where I am coming from:

As I stood there a few weeks ago, singing worship songs with the rest of the congregation on Easter Sunday, it suddenly felt like we were missing something. Here I was, singing all of these nice songs praising His love and grace, the sacrifice made on my behalf on the cross, and the triumph of the empty tomb on that first Easter those many years ago (all true and worthy things to praise), and I was struck by the lack of songs diving into the three days between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

I don’t know that we will ever have an understanding, this side of Heaven, of exactly what Jesus was up to for those three days. I mean, why three days? If he is the son of the living God, what took Him so long? It does seem these things take time (see Daniel 10 for the story of waiting 3 weeks for an angel to arrive), but why? Especially for the son of God, executing on the ending that had already been written, it feels like this thing could have been wrapped up much more quickly. Scriptural symbolism and prophecy aside, I really want to know what was going on there.

While we might not have Jesus’ minute-by-minute schedule for those three days recorded in Scripture, we do know what he was doing. He was claiming victory over sin, death, and the grave. And here’s where I think we can sometimes miss the point. This isn’t victory sung by soaring vocals and triumphal piano scores, dressed in our {Easter} Sunday best. This is victory won through a battle march.

That was the part that was missing for me. Where were the horns sounding the call to arms? The deep bass rumble of drumming that mirrors the heart and gets the blood pumping? The fierce energy that makes us long to stand next to Jesus as he confronts the enemy and reclaims for us what we had given up so long ago?

As I said, here’s where I needed some additional context to really understand what it was my heart was yearning for. I’ve mentioned previously on the blog and podcast the retreat I was able to participate in a few weeks back. One of the things that makes an experience like that so powerful for me is the chance to worship in a room full of like-minded men. As we started to worship this particular time, there was the common reticence on the part of a number of the men, myself included, to open up and be vulnerable to such a heart-level activity. But as more and more guys brought their hearts to bear, the presence and movement of the Spirit was palpable. And then we sang “Great I Am.” (Check out the link at the bottom for a live version from New Life Worship.) Imagine, if you can, 120 masculine voices defiantly belting out the bridge:

The mountains shake before Him

The demons run and flee

At the mention of the name King of Majesty

There is no power in hell

Or any who can stand

Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM

It was like the warrior poets of Scotland charging the field at Bannockburn at the end of Braveheart to fight for their freedom. Or if you prefer a more current reference, it was like the visceral experience many of us had watching dozens of gateways open up to spill forth the armies of Earth for their last stand against Thanos and the forces of evil. In a word, epic. This is the spirit we are meant to carry with us, to take onto the battlefield of life. Because we are at war. Sure, most of the time it is pretty easy to reason away difficulty and strife as simply our daily struggle and the reality of a life on this Earth. But a larger battle still rages, and we are meant to be a part of it.

A quick survey of Scripture is useful here, for those of us who don’t often think of Jesus the Warrior. Revelation recounts that prior to the events recorded in our Bible, a great war raged in heaven (Rev 12:7) that ends with Satan and a third of the angels being cast out and sent to Earth (our Earth, by the way). In Exodus 15:3 we are told “Yahweh is a warrior, Yahweh is His name.” When the nation of Israel stood with Yahweh in battle, they had great victories (Joshua 11). When they refrained from battle in obedience to Him, they still had great victories (Judges 7). It was when they forged ahead on their own that they knew the taste of defeat (Numbers 15:39-45). It was God who called them to battle, and He went before them into the fray. Too Old Testament-y for you? Back in Revelation, chapter 19, the heavens open and Christ returns on a white horse “and in righteousness he judges and makes war,” and “out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should strike the nations.” Too eschatological? What do you do with 1 Timothy 1:18? 2 Corinthians 10:3-4? Mark 13:7? The Bible is full of the evidence of God and his people doing battle with their enemies.

The drums are beating. The call to arms has sounded. Do you feel it in your heart? Will you redirect your attention, spill your blood, sweat and tears on the battlefield that truly matters? Will you take a stand?

Yibambe, for he is with us.

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