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Warfare in the Coffee Shop

January 11, 2014

by Timothy Paul Jones

Cosmic combat occurs every Friday morning at a coffee shop a few blocks from my home. If you happened to be ordering your mocha latte during this episode of intergalactic warfare, you might not even notice. Neither arms nor armor can be seen at the epicenter of this celestial struggle. No light-sabers are visible, and no voices are raised. At the nexus of the battle, there is only a man of not-quite-average height in one chair, a bubbly and beautiful middle-school girl in another, with a Bible and a couple of ceramic mugs on the table between them.

Do not let such mundane appearances misguide your appraisal of the situation, though: This is cosmic combat. When I sit at that table with my daughter, I am at war. I am building on a week of family devotions and studies that she and her mom have shared to guide our child to conform more closely to the character of Jesus Christ. This is not war with my daughter; it is war for my child’s soul.

This process is war because, even as I train Hannah to take up her cross and to root her identity in Jesus Christ, the surrounding culture calls her to celebrate immaturity, to smirk at sin, and to center her passions on pleasures that will slip away. This is war because the same serpentine dragon who—in that celestial conflict that John glimpsed on Patmos—longed to consume the fruit of Mary’s womb also wants to devour my children (Rev. 12:1-9). His weapons in this conflict are neither the priests of Molech nor the soldiers of Herod (Jer. 32:35-36; Matt. 2:16). The Enemy’s weapons in my child’s life are slickly-promoted celebrities and clothing and commercials that subtly but surely corrode her soul. What we wrestle against in this battle is not “flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

Some of these influences, I am able to remove from Hannah’s life for now—but I cannot and should not shield her from them forever. What I can do is to engage in a process of guiding her to love what is good and beautiful and true. I can train her in the fear and reverence of God. I can constantly call her attention to the Gospel. And that’s precisely what I work to do—not only week-by-week in the café on Dutchman’s Lane but also moment-by-moment in conversations about everything from the latest superhero film to the implications of Daniel’s prophecies.  These may look like meetings for hazelnut coffee and whole-grain bagels, but what happens here is nothing less than the preparation and execution of a cosmic battle plan. Every week, every day, this is war.

This post originally appeared in The Family Ministry Field Guide. It is reprinted here with permission.

Timothy Paul Jones serves as professor of leadership and associate vice president for online learning at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to Southern Seminary, Dr. Jones led churches in Missouri and Oklahoma as a pastor and an associate pastor.

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