In 2015, Josh Baldwin, his wife, Sheila, and their two children made a major decision to uproot their lives from North Carolina to live in Redding, California where they became a part of Bethel Church. Since being plugged into the ministry, he has written songs and leads worship for Bethel’s services on a regular basis. His musical offerings to the Lord create a jubilant atmosphere which “point to the trustworthy nature of God as Friend and Father.” He aims to get closer to the Father’s heart and usher in His mighty presence. Baldwin’s first project Rivers was released in 2014 under the Bethel Music Collective, and later, his song “Praises” made its way onto Bethel Music’s album Have it All (2016). In May 2017, he released his first solo album, titled The War is Over, under the Bethel Music label. In this album, Baldwin’s lyrics tell the story of the promises found in and through Jesus Christ.
From beginning to end, the songs reveal a shift from death to new life. Just as in a physical war, there is always burning down of the old and refining of the leftover debris. From the death and burning, new life emerges. Everything changed after Jesus freely gave Himself. The war with death and the grave ceased, and He walked away with abundant life, promising humanity that there is hope, victory, and eternity if they surrender to Him and the refinement process.
In “Get Your Hopes Up,” Baldwin encourages listeners to be excited about hope, victory, and eternal life. He exclaims that “the sun is waking up the morning, reviving dreams” which may have been lost or dead. Heads can be held high because He brings His people back to life, giving them promises and garments of praise. You can listen to it in the following video:
Similar ideas continue to echo through “Endlessly,” “You’re My Home,” and “You Deserve it All.” The very first line of “Endlessly” is “It’s already done.” It’s life post-war because God gave His only Son who shed His blood. As a result, there is infinite victory and “forever we are changed…” Baldwin declares, “His love will always be the hope for all eternity,” meaning an endless life of dwelling with Him because of His heart for us. Then, God is recognized as a safe place in “You’re My Home.” After the storm, which Baldwin says has passed, He is the calm. “You Deserve it All” is an anthem that proclaims how worthy God is for all He has done. Jesus is our hope and has broken off chains and released strongholds, “death lost to life,” and He is there through hardship and in the victory. Praise will never cease because of the glory due to Him. All of these lines intertwine to mirror the lyrical promises in “Get Your Hopes Up.”
“The War is Over,” of course, shares the same title as the album and is the pinnacle of the overall project. It encompasses the overarching themes held within the promises of God: we can rest assured that God “is our victory,” “the dead are coming back to life,” and all orphans now have hope as sons and daughters in Him. The line “it is finished, it is done” reflects the song “Endlessly,” and both songs reiterate what Jesus said on the cross in John 19, verse 30.
“Fountains” and “Found in You” coincide with one another as moments of pure reliance on Jesus. These tracks make it clear that nothing else can satisfy the longing in our hearts and souls as He does. In “Fountains,” a promise is made to Baldwin that he will never thirst again when Jesus pulls Him from the darkness. The worshiper tells the Lord, “all that I ever wanted, my heart has found in you.” He describes his experience: “I have tasted life. Nothing satisfies like You do, the Fount that won’t run dry.” His posture toward the Lord remains the same in “Found in You.” Baldwin knows that he is nothing if He is not abiding in Jesus who is an everlasting fountain of life and refuge. “Turn my ashes into beauty” and “take these dry bones from the valley” are a simultaneous resolve that says to Jesus, “I know there’s been a war, but I know You have the power to make something good come out of it like you’ve promised, so restore my life.”
Three of the most relatable songs, three of the last few to appear on the track list, tie a finishing bow on the project. “Abraham,” “Holding On,” and “Peace” paint a realistic and relatable picture of being human. There will be difficult times, but remember that God takes care of His people. Baldwin expresses in “Abraham,” “There is a mountain in between what You have said and what I see.” There will often be moments of immense faith in the Lord when what He promises isn’t seen in the natural.
All of the lyrics that have proclaimed new life and resurrection are now being flipped to offer a sacrifice of that new life. Baldwin realizes that these promises are for him, yes, but not at the cost of glory to God or losing his brothers and sisters to eternal death. With this notion, Baldwin says, “On this altar, on this road, I lay down my flesh and bones.” He sees that it’s his mission to bring people who have yet to be rescued into the promises of salvation: “When ashes and dust are all that remain, will hope for the world still come from my veins?”
“Holding On” speaks of Baldwin’s heart toward his life. No matter what trials, doubts, or fears he will face, he will always hold on to God. In “Peace,” Baldwin circles back and covers the whole process of war again. He knows that even when darkness encroaches his mind or he feels he’s run dry again, peace in Jesus will see him through. He doesn’t have to understand it all, but he does know what jubilation can be found in the promises of hope, victory, and eternal life.
Featured Image by Brunel Johnson