Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
Life is warfare. If not, we are losing. Right up to the end Paul urges “Fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12), and signs off from this poor world with “I have fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7). How vexed he would be if we thought this pretty poetry.
A journalist wrote: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow, what a ride!’” (Hunter S. Thompson). The apostle could have better written that, to say nothing of Jesus, who resisted sin unto the shedding of His blood, and bids us do the same (Hebrews 12:4).
On one occasion the disciples fail to cast a demon from a mute boy. They ask Jesus privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He answers, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer [some manuscripts add ‘and fasting’]” (Mark 9:28-29). This is where we learn, to our amazement, there are different “kinds” of demons, needing all at our disposal to evict. This also is not poetry.
For we are up against “the schemes of the devil … against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). These are as real, in the unseen dimension, as the person in the other room from where you’re reading this.
The combo of prayer and a breastplate of righteousness is formidable.
What “schemes” have demons employed to keep you stuck? Anger? Unforgiveness? Addiction? Will you let them hagride you into 2019 as in years before? Each article of armor is to “put on” (Ephesians 6:11), not admire in the armory.
Long ago a housewife listening to her radio hears Elisabeth Elliot say, “Is your husband your enemy?” The woman stops dead in her dish bubbles: Yes, her husband feels like her enemy. Elliot continues: “So what does God say to do to our enemies?” No! reacts the woman. That’s too hard! This marriage is dead as a doornail!
Then the woman thinks, well maybe she can manage one kind act per week toward her husband. She knows he likes Jewish apple cake, so she makes one and serves it. Hmm, he seems pleased. Next week, another small act of kindness, another positive reaction.
The weeks roll by, and the woman’s conscience smites her: How could she have been so hardhearted to dispense her kindnesses so sparingly? Had she used prayer alone, and only said, “Lord, help me not to be nasty to my husband,” and been done with it, she’d still be in defeat. But she puts on righteous deeds (v. 14). The fuller armor proves unbeatable. Acts of kindness have the unexpected effect of changing, not just her husband’s heart, but her own.
“Put on the whole armor of God” (v. 11), not à la carte or willy-nilly. Prayer, yes. But the combo of prayer and a breastplate of righteousness, deploying Jewish apple cakes if necessary, is formidable. No more chinks in the armor now, no places of vulnerability for the devil to wedge in. It’s weird only to pray, “Lord, help me not to be nasty to my husband.” We also have to not be nasty to our husbands.
This year let us skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke: girding our waist with Scripture truth to fend off stinking thinking (v. 14); doing righteous deeds that are the wedding raiment of the saints (v. 14); being at all times prepared to speak good news of peace with God (v. 15); holding up our shield of faith against demonic bluffs (v. 16); taking up the sword of verbal declarations of God’s Word that never comes back empty (v. 17); praying without ceasing (v. 18).
The demons (whatsoever kind they be) will not sleep in 2019. Above the door of God’s arsenal we read: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might … able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (vv. 10-11).
Conspicuously absent on the list of body armor is a cover for the back. The future isn’t for the faint of heart. It never was.