We Are At War

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I have stories: oh my, do I have stories!

Standing at the pharmacy counter waiting for my prescription to be filled, I felt a sharp pain in my back. Turning around, I realized a man was holding a gun against my back and threatening, “This is a holdup; go behind the counter and get on your knees.” Clearly, this was not a time for a discussion so I obediently followed his instructions and knelt down. He bound my wrists together behind my back and must have been kidding as he remarked, “This must be your first time being tied up and held at gunpoint.” I was not amused! My only thought was, “I am going to heaven now, but this will ruin Donna’s Christmas.” After what seemed like hours, the thieves finally left and I was untied; police reports were filed; and I returned home, realizing it was too late to go out with missionary friends who were visiting. As I opened our door, Donna asked, “Why are you so late?” “My reply, “I guess you can say I was held up.”

A candidate vetting process preceded our ministry at Bethany Baptist Church in Montclair, CA. Meanwhile, our daughter, Corrie, was staying with Donna’s parents. As this was such a very important event in our lives, the added stress over our daughter’s trials during our absence was most unwelcome! First, she fell off a wagon and experienced a concussion. Then, the afternoon following my first sermon, I was notified during a church meeting that Corrie had been riding her tricycle and caught her hand between the handlebar and the bottom of the hot BBQ, which resulted in severe burns.

I was conducting a funeral for a man who had been divorced; but his ex-wife was there and I could tell that she was really agitated. To put this in context I should explain that before a pastor ministers at a funeral you get a little card that lists the people who are survivors of the deceased; ex-wives are not included on that list. The following Saturday night, I got a call asking the time of the Sunday service. I wondered, “Is this the lady from that funeral service?” because somehow I had a check in my spirit that there was going to be a problem the next day. At the end of the Sunday morning service, I saw a woman step into the sanctuary and sit down on the back pew; and yes, it was the ex-wife who was unhappy with me for not mentioning her name. I received word from an usher that she wanted to talk to me, so I called out to the congregation asking for several “strong and tall men” to come to the front.  I instructed them to surround me as I walked to the back of the sanctuary and stood before her saying, “Ok, I’ll talk to you.” She became violently angry and started throwing things all over the place. The men grabbed me and whisked me back down the aisle and into to my office; Donna and the kids were bought there too. We were told to not go home, but to go instead to a friend’s house while the police were summoned. I found out later that after I left she hit a young girl and the father confronted the lady, which resulted in heightened drama. Then, the ex-wife had driven up and down the aisles of the parking lot, shouting curses and contemptuous words against me out of her window, letting the world know what a terrible person I was.

A few months later, I received a call during a deacon’s meeting that all of the police in Montclair were at our house. A person who had murdered someone in a neighboring town had gained access into the new addition we were adding.  I was told to remain calm because a police officer was guarding my family in our hallway while the rest of the police were trying to get this man out of our addition. I left the deacon’s meeting and arrived home, only to find a police blockade that I was not allowed to cross because it was considered an active crime scene. I watched as the police pursued a man out of our side yard and down the street; police dogs chased him until he was driven up a tree.

A few more months passed before I received a call from someone who said, “Do you know that the police have received a message saying that a man is coming after you with a gun?”  My response was, “Well that’s nice.” I went to bed; but Donna remained up on the counter in the bathroom, watching out the window while I am slept.

Another time, a lady, a member who lived across the street from our church, had been very kind to us. We had enjoyed a meal at her house, but somehow found her very strange. One day when the Santa Ana winds were blowing, she came pounding on the church’s office doors demanding, “Where is Paul Cox? I went to sleep, and it wasn’t windy but now it’s windy! Where is this supposed man of God?”  She continued pounding and shouting, “Where is this man of God?” But because there was a preschool and elementary school at the church, lockdown procedures were followed and she was unable to find me at the church. Then she decided to walk to my home but was not sure where I lived, so she knocked on several doors along our street while shouting, “Where is this man of God?” Finally, she arrived at our door. We locked it, got everyone into the hallway again, and called the police. They captured her, and she was handcuffed and taken away under Code 5150[1].  After her release, she continued to call our house dozens of times an hour, day after day after day.

There was another trial with our daughter, Corrie. She became sick with mononucleosis in the sixth grade and suffered for almost two years. During that time, our phone apparently started dialing 911 all on its own; the police would respond, and we would assure them that no one had called. After many such episodes, the police began warning us that we would be in serious trouble if these false calls did not stop. It was only after several weeks that a problem was discovered with the 911 system and it was revealed that we were not responsible for all of those false alarms.

After I had resigned from the church, we were watching TV in our home and heard a very loud explosion that was definitely not a part of the program.  We headed outside and were startled to find that a bomb had gone off and damaged one of our cars. Again, the police were called and the bomb squad soon arrived. An investigation determined that a small group of teenagers that had been a part of the church had constructed a homemade bomb out of a liter bottle and explosive ingredients.

How was it possible for so many bizarre things to happen to us? I was very close to other pastors, and none of their lives were filled with so much drama; I was not prepared for this! Why was this happening? Then I had a thought, “Perhaps the enemy has anticipated what we are going to do, and all these things that are happening to us are attempts to block us from pursuing God’s call on our life.”  Then the realization came: We are at war!

This really was a new concept for me. In the realm of the pastors and churches that I knew, I did not hear much about any spiritual battle because many Christians hold to the view that since the cross the battle is over; Jesus has won, therefore we have won; end of story. Unfortunately, this is not a biblical view. Yes, Jesus definitely has secured the final victory at the cross, but we are to engage in confronting the enemy and are instructed to take back regions that were given away at the fall.

This is the nature of our life! It is a war, and we are to engage with our Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ, to confront evil in our lives, our family’s lives and in co-operation with others in ministry to the world around us. Regrettably, non-Christians, and many Christians alike, do not comprehend the reality of the Christian walk. How many actually view life like Dustin Hoffman’s father did?

Hoffman shares a birthday with his father, and recently spoke about a conversation they had when he was 50 and his father 80. “We were walking on the beach,” said Hoffman.” “And I said, ‘Dad, you’re 80 today. And I’m 50. Do you have any words you can give me?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s all bulls***.’ And he turned around and walked away.” [2]

Tragic! Life is to be lived for Jesus Christ in order to see His Kingdom established on the earth; we are to struggle to see our lives become conformed to the image of Christ. The process is a battle that must be fought from His place of rest, in a life that is filled with His joy and peace. We live for Him, and we battle for and with Him.

Many years ago, I came across a book called God at War by Gregory Boyd, who is a Princeton graduate and the pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota. When he examined the Bible he came to the same conclusion that we are at war:

The Bible as well as the early post apostolic Church assumes that the creation is caught up in the crossfire of an age-old cosmic battle between good and evil. As in other warfare worldviews, the Bible assumes that the course of this warfare greatly affects life on earth.[3]


Hostile, evil, cosmic forces that are seeking to destroy God’s beneficent plan for the cosmos have, in fact, seized God’s good creation.  God wages war against these forces, however, and through the person of Jesus Christ has now secured the overthrow of this evil cosmic army.  The Church as the Body of Christ has been called to be a decisive means by which this final overthrow is to be carried out.[4]


Thus, the Christian life is for Paul a life of spiritual military service.  It is about being a good soldier (2 Tim 2:4), about “fighting the good fight” (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12), about “waging war” (2 Cor 10:3), and about “struggling” with a cosmic enemy (Eph. 6:12).  Given his view of the ever-present reality of Satan and his kingdom, and given his understanding of what Christ was about and what the church is supposed to be about, it is hard to see how [Paul] could have viewed the Christian life differently.[5]


Despite Christ’s victory, the New Testament continues to define the Christian life in warfare terms.  The outcome of the war is settled, but there are still important battles to be fought.  Fighting them is what the Christian life is all about…The confidence and hope of the believer in all of this is that Christ has once and for all time vanquished the enemy, and that someday this victory over Satan and the cessation of all the evil that flows from him shall be perfectly manifested.[6]

The Bible says we are at war; life confirms that we are at war. So what is our response? We follow our Commander in Chief into the battle, putting on the full armor of God,[7] waging war against the generational issues that have pushed against us, walking in the blessings and freedom that we need to rule and reign with our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1]  California law code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness.

[2] https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/dustin-hoffman-interview

[3] Boyd, Gregory.  God at War. p. 18

[4] Ibid. p. 19.

[5] Ibid. p. 282

[6] Ibid. p. 290-291

[7] Ephesians 6:10-20

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