Word Up!

"Every word of God is tested. He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." Prov. 30:5

For eight years I pastored in a community on the edge of "The Hood." It was a war zone, and earned its rep as one of the highest crime areas of the city for more years than I care to remember. Running battles between The Crips, The Bloods and The Latin Kings shifted the boundaries of their turf every day. One of my more exhilarating moments of ministry was a drive by shooting. It resulted in two men crashing their car into a telephone pole near the front steps of the worship center. Did I mention that this was on a Saturday morning right after I had conducted a wedding? You just have to admire that kind of initiative. While other gang members slept in, they were on the job. This event provided alot of excitement for the out-of-town wedding guests. Locals pretty much knew the drill. I walked outside to meet with the police and to assess the damage. One of our visitors from Oklahoma kindly warned me that it could be dangerous out there. I responded with, "Welcome to my world."

Ministry there was a baptism of fire in more ways than one. I was constantly introduced to new vocabulary words. Many of the young people in this area came to know Christ as a result of some great student ministers who invested their lives in them. Mike Kinser, Ben Bush, and Rusty Wirt come to my mind. I learned a great deal from these "young guns." Today one of them is a respected Christian counselor and the two others are seasoned pastors. Challenging work no doubt, but easier than what they dealt with on "The Hill."

I would sometimes ask these student ministers to take me to school on the urban lingo I was encountering. One of my favorite expressions was, "Word up!" I was unclear on what this meant when these new believers said it to me. I learned it was at times meant for, "Yeah, that's right." It could also mean acknowledgement, approval, or an indication of enthusiasm. My favorite, erudite explanation was, "I comprehend what you are saying and I verify that your statement is true, my brother." In other words, "word up" was a good thing to hear someone say. They were in agreement with what they had just heard you say. Kind of an urban, inner-city "Amen."

Proverbs 30: 5 takes us to school to learn God is not a remote Creator. He is a speaking God who delivers protection to His people. His powerful Word is trustworthy. He can be trusted to be present to provide refuge and to supply courage to those dealing with an intimidating enemy.

One of my favorite Bible stories, David and Goliath, has all the great themes. Good versus evil. Small man battles huge giant. The crown of victory snatched from the claws of defeat. You can't make this stuff up. This is great drama delivering even greater truth. From my "Beamer" status "back in the day" in Miss Bennett's Sunbeam Class to my present status as a "Baptist Boomer," this story has inspired me. Little is much when God is in it.

Don't overlook David's statement made when trying on King Saul's armor: " 'I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.' And David took them off." (1 Samuel 17:39) After David took off the borrowed armor, he picked up his shepherd's staff and bagged five smooth stones. Goliath approached and began to intimidate him with ridicule and disdain. David responded with the Hebrew equivalent of , "Bring it on!" Boldly, he took refuge in God. "I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel...This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands...that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by the sword or by the spear; for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands." (1 Sam. 17:45-47)

The story line turns on these words, "Then it happened...". David appealed to God and revealed his strategy. He ran towards the enemy. He took the offensive, and attacked with the unexpected. The giant had seen the stick in his hand, but didn't know the bag on his shoulder held the secret weapons. Before his shield bearer could provide Goliath any cover, David released a small, smooth stone from a leather sling and killed a great, big giant. (I Sam. 17:48-49)

The summarizing verse is a classic understatement, "Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone." (1 Sam. 17:50) No brag. Just Fact. Nothing brassy, just classy. One giant. One stone. For Texans, this reminds me of the legendary words, "One riot. One Ranger."

You can't convince me David never sat down and shared this story with his sons. Solomon was the wisest of them all, and he compiled what he learned in the Proverbs. His goal was to equip his sons to study and apply this wisdom literature when they became princes and judges of the realm. It was one of the first leadership seminars. Although Prov. 30:5 was apparently contributed by a little known oracle named Agur. The truth is no less powerful. provides God's wisdom for us today.

The New Testament echoes this Old Testament truth with a resounding "Word up!." "In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16) The earth and the Christ followers of your local assembly still need to know that the battle is the Lord's. This is a battle we can win through prayerfully taking our refuge behind God's protective shield. Security is not found by hiding in the tall grass. It comes from trusting God's Word, taking up our personal shield of faith and taking out the enemy. Don't run from the fight. Pray in it! Run to it. Face forward! Shields up!

Word Up!