Something is missing in Christianity today.
For years I’ve tried to put my finger on it. And then when I finally caught it beneath my finger, I spent another few years just trying to articulate precisely what it was that I had caught.
Sometimes I want to call it “The Ancient Grit”—then other times it seems more appropriate to call it “The Manly Stuff” or “The Rack of Glory”—my wife, Leslie, refers to it as “The Old-Fashioned Authority”—whereas I often just term it, “The Oomph.” But, with all these wonderful descriptors, there are moments when just the word “Majesty” says it all. So, that’s where I’m landing.
Hey folks! We are missing “The Majesty.”
Living in Colorado I’ve got “majesty” right out my back window. It beckons my daily respect and admiration in the form of mountains nearly three miles high. But, if you remove the Rocky Mountains from Colorado you’ve suddenly got Kansas. Sure, there is nothing wrong with Kansas, but no one is booking a trip to Kansas to find some “purple mountain majesty.” Modern Christianity is like Colorado minus the mountains. It’s lacking something very important. And it is that very “majestic something” that I’m aching to see return to the Colorado, er, I mean the Christian plains. For we have a dying world that is booking trips to “Christianity” in order to take a glimpse at these legendary peaks as touted in the Bible, but when they drive through this state they just aren’t seeing it.
When I read the Bible I hear a Voice. It’s a booming Voice—like the sound of a Niagran waterfall—like the sound of a thousand peals of simultaneous thunder proclaiming, “I am your God, bend the knee!”
In this sacred Text I see this God’s power, I witness His awesome faithfulness, and I behold the rescuing and renovating strength of His Almighty Right Hand. I stand in awe at the foot of the Cross and peering inside the empty tomb I fall to my knees in stunned wonder. And I ask myself a question . . .
“What is the proper response to such a God as this?”
For some reason, my honest answer to that significant question sounds strange within the corridors of the modern Church system. For it would seem to me that this Almighty God deserves our everything—our every moment.; our every talent; our every penny; our every decision; our every thought; our every affection; and our every bit of trust.
"When I read the Bible I hear a Voice. It’s a booming Voice—like the sound of a Niagran waterfall—like the sound of a thousand peals of simultaneous thunder proclaiming, 'I am your God, bend the knee!'"
And yet, the version of Christianity that most of us are familiar with doesn’t demand our everything. Instead of offering our everything it offers up to God our excuses, as if our excuses could somehow satisfy Him. Instead of offering our every moment, we give God the excuse that we are just too busy. Instead of offering our every talent, we give God the excuse that unfortunately our talents are already in use, leveraged to prosper our own personal reputations. Instead of offering every penny, we give God the line about God already having all He needs, so why would He need my pittance? And the excuses continue until we all “really love God and really appreciate His sacrificial work upon the Cross,” however, our everything still belongs to us.
Simply put, we are missing “The Majesty”—or for the sake of creating a segue into the real meat of this article, I’ll say it this way . . .
We are missing “the bowman’s bulging left bicep.”
In the 14th century England there was a strange phenomenon throughout the land. You could call it “The Bowman’s Bulging Left Bicep” phenomenon. At the time, England boasted a nearly impregnable and unstoppable military force and this was due primarily to the strength of its bowmen. The secret weapon of the English in those days was known as the English Longbow and it was the desire of the King of England that every single man in the entire English realm give his life to the mastery of this ancient instrument of war.
The professionally-crafted, war-ready Longbow stood over six feet in height and to bend such a bow in order to send forth its deadly arrow would demand nearly superhuman strength. A hunter’s bow today demands a pull strength of nearly 50 to 60 pounds. And only those of a more stout physical bearing can usually muster that. But the Longbow of the 14th century was something altogether different than today’s bow. The common English Longbow would demand a pull strength of 180 to 200 pounds and some, even upward of 250 pounds. And only a man who was trained from his youth to bend such a bow could actually pull off this startling athletic feat.
But though the Longbow demanded a nearly superhuman pull, its power in battle was likewise of near supernatural effect. For the three foot arrow that shot from this human cannon issued forth with such force that it could fly with rocket-like speeds and with bullet-like accuracy for distances of over three football fields, with some arrows actually traveling with pin-point accuracy upwards of 800 yards.
England’s enemies sought to design armor to withstand these arrows, but the force behind these arrows could often pierce even the stoutest knight’s armor. One record actually states that the arrow of an English Longbow pierced through a four-finger thick wooden door of a castle and killed the guard standing on the other side.
England had something in the Longbow that simply could not be easily mimicked by other nations. The reason was because Longbow training was an intimate part of English life. If the men of a nation had not grown up pulling the Longbow then, there was no possible way that they could just start doing it effectively in battle overnight. They may esteem the power of the Longbow, but they couldn’t imitate it in real battle without decades of practice and preparations.
The English culture fostered the formation of mighty bowmen. Every young boy was given a baby longbow by his father to begin learning the art form of archery. And throughout his life, he was trained on the difficult pull. When the boy mastered the two-foot longbow, he would move to the three-foot bow, and the necessary pull strength would be even greater. And when he mastered the three-foot bow, it was time for the four-foot. This matriculating process continued throughout his maturing years. And with every subsequent longbow height arrived a greater test, a harder pull, a more sizable challenge. But please don’t even think of feeling sorry for these young boys and the challenges they were encountering in their Longbow training. Certainly this was hard work. It was daily, and it was difficult. Repetition after repetition. Difficult pull after difficult pull. And yet these boys were not sorrowful in their training, but privileged. For these young English boys were seeking to enter the service of their beloved King. And in light of that prospect, this passing pain was actually deemed a pleasure.
And out of this Bow-centered culture arose the strange phenomenon that I mentioned earlier. For there was an identifying characteristic to every true bowman in England. And it could be seen in his left bicep. Just above his left elbow swelled a vast deformity, an unusually large lump of strength. To every surrounding nation, unfamiliar with the significance of the bowman’s importance, this bulging mass would undoubtedly be deemed disturbing, odd, even ugly. But in England, this deformity was the symbol of its might.
So, how does all this Longbow legend effect our discussion on today’s version of Christianity?
Modern Christianity is caught in the midst of a great war, but it would seem that we are missing our historic weaponry and strength. We are not ready for this battle. We have not grown up in a culture that fostered the formation of the bowman’s bulging left bicep. And therefore, we find ourselves esteeming the strength and power of the Longbow, but without a clue as to how to pull the ancient bowstring.
Many of us mean well. We spend our entire life satisfying the cravings of our flesh and then we hear the battle sound. We grab our six-foot tall longbow from our Scriptural coat closet and rush into the tempest with all the zeal of an ignorant toddler running headlong into the belly of a poised and positioned Sumo champion. We are felled to the mat in a matter of seconds. We have not been trained in how to wield our ancient weaponry.
If we really are going to see the tide of battle turn, then I suggest we begin to once again pursue the return of this heavenly majesty. Let’s start familiarizing ourselves once again with the ancient Longbow described in the Scriptures. We may need our Father in Heaven to start us on little baby Longbows, but I yearn to see the Church once again pull the impossible bowstring and shoot the unstoppable arrows at the Kingdom of Darkness.
As it says in the Bible, the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.
So, may the bowmen’s left biceps once again bulge with supernatural fervor and readiness.