Over a quarter of a century ago, as a young police officer and former marine, I asked my pastor, Walt Shepard, how to feel God’s presence and hear his voice on an hour-by-hour, literally minute-by-minute basis. While struggling with the horrors I faced in law enforcement, I confessed to Pastor Walt, that I would go hours at a time, sometimes entire shifts without “seeking Him first.” Pastor Walt reassured me that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would reflect God’s love to others and influence my daily decisions as I carried out His calling on my life. But I wanted Jesus to be my crime-fighting partner. I wanted Him “going through the door” first and with me always. I desired to feel His presence and love every moment of every day. Pastor Walt shared a “tactic” that I found worked, even during and after the stresses involved in the job. Dead children, a murdered mentor, broken, damaged and dead bodies, several personal injuries, family fights. Broken lives and people who need Jesus.
Pastor Walt challenged me to bury scripture in my heart, mind, and soul. God speaks to us through His word. Hebrew 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” He explained that God will speak through His word when we wield that double-edged sword to His glory. He wants us to feel His presence. He wants us to experience His presence. He desires to shield us from harm through hearing his voice and presence from His word.
So, I sought His perfect will in selecting my life verse. A life verse is more than a favorite scripture. It’s a foundation that one falls upon that is unshakeable. The literal bedrock on one’s being.
The Spirit led me to choose my life verse to be Psalm 46:10:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
So, I added my life verse to my equipment list. I carried it daily. I practiced it. I lived it. I wrote that verse on my heart, soul, and in my mind. And He was faithful! He let me be still. And He was exalted.
I can illustrate this best with a cop story. I had the pleasure to serve on our Special Weapons and Tactics Team, a part-time assignment for eight years. We served all the high-risk warrants and caught the serious bad guys. We received special training and equipment to capture the worst of society. To fully understand this, you need to know the difference between a “knock” and a “no-knock” warrant. To serve a search warrant, often issued for the arrest of a suspected criminal, the standard warrant requires the officers to line up outside door, knock (loudly), and demand entry into the house. The law states the suspected criminal must be given the opportunity to open the door and allow the officers to enter.
But in extreme cases, judges issued “no-knock” warrants that allowed us to literally sneak into someone’s home and capture them before they could react violently. One drug dealer was known to carry two handguns on him at all times. He bragged that he’d shoot it out with anyone who ever tried to stop him. We were granted a “no knock,” night service warrant. The entire team made covert entry into the drug dealer’s home. My partner and I snuck into the suspect’s bedroom without waking him. He awoke with my carbine and my partner’s shotgun literally touching his nose. He was sleeping with both his guns on him under his blankets. He complied, and we took him into custody. A win for the good guys, and he lived to face prosecution.
But in a separate case, we were assigned the apprehension of a gang member armorer whose specialty was converting semiautomatic AK-47s into fully automatic machine guns. He certainly had access to serious weapons and was not afraid to use them. The request for a no-knock warrant was denied. Additionally, we were denied “night service” so we had to serve the warrant in daylight. We’d have to knock on the door, wait at least 20-30 seconds for compliance, then force open the door and rush in. This gave the tactical advantage squarely to the criminal. If he chose to shoot it out, he’d get several of us going through the door, particularly with a full-auto AK.
These “raids” were planned out extensively. Floor diagrams were used. Practice runs were conducted, every possible detail was mapped out. Two officers were assigned to every room inside the house so no one entered a room alone. John, my partner, and I were assigned the suspect’s bedroom. We’d go through the door 3rd and 4th. The first two officers in would take the living room immediately inside the front door. The suspect’s bedroom was adjacent to the living room. I’d force the bedroom door first and enter followed by John. It was a textbook plan.
As the plan and preparation developed, the tension and stress built. The guys on SWAT were professionals. They were strong, fit, expertly trained, and deadly but only when necessary. But I saw uncharacteristic stress over this plan that weighed heavily on the Team. I saw real fear on faces as we prepped, loaded, and drove to the scene in the command vehicle. “Be still and know that I am God…” literally flooded my mind. I had a wry smile as I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. As I prepared, my soul was still. I patted a team member on the shoulder, made eye-contact and nodded the “we are OK” look.
We arrived a street away from the house, exited the command post, lined up in order, and moved quickly to the house. #1 and #2 were in front, John and I were next, the “breacher” was behind us. #1 and #2 posted on opposite sides of the front door and we all stopped. A loud pounding on the door was followed by, “Police department, search warrant, demand entry!” And then a pause to listen. It’s all quiet. If the suspect shoots through the front door, it’s my job to shoot through the front wall while others would evacuate the downed officers at the front door. “Be still and know that I am God.” Time slipped into slow motion…
Another loud knock. The booming voice demanded entry again. Then quiet. “Breach!” And the breacher starts on the door. Repeated strikes were unsuccessful. My heart was still but I know this is taking WAY TOO LONG. “Be still and…”
The door crumbled after perhaps 30 seconds of hammering. #1 and #2 went in quick. I followed with John on my heals. The bedroom door was right where we expected it. “Be still…” but he’s inside and waiting to shoot us through this door. There is NO WAY anyone could have slept through the announcement and extended breaching of the stubborn front door. The bedroom door was unlocked. I opened the door and went in first. The bed was right inside the door. The suspect was in bed on his right side facing away from the door with his hand extended toward his right-side nightstand. Everything nearly stopped. My trip around the foot of the bed seemed to take minutes. There was a Colt .45 pistol on the nightstand, inches from his right hand, hammer back, safety on. My eyes tracked left. There was an AK-47 in the corner propped up, magazine inserted, safety off. The recoverable detail available during these high stress times can be incredible.
I “penetrated” into the room and stepped around the end of the bed toward the nightstand. John stopped on the other side of the bed, his sub-machine gun pointed at the suspect’s back. I had my carbine pointed under the suspect’s jaw so I could see his right hand, his eyes, and the weapons. I was fighting the tunnel vision…
The suspect’s eyes opened wearily to see my black and armor-clad form only inches away.
Stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Remember all the one-liners you’ve heard cops yell during arrests on the street or in the movies. “FREEZE &*^*%%!!!” is most common. The stress of the moment is reflected in a voice three octaves higher than normal from the adrenaline dump stretching the vocal cords to near snapping. John and I had previously joked about the stupid stuff cops say right at that moment. Just a side note. Back to the story…
The suspect’s eyes met mine. His hand was only inches from his pistol. “Be still,” I said. Cool, calm, totally in control.
He froze. John slowly pulled back the covers to reveal the suspect’s empty left hand.
“Don’t shoot” the suspect said.
“Be still,” I replied.
John put him in handcuffs and searched him.
John’s face contorted into a smile and a look of disbelief. “Be still? Where the hell did that come from?”
“I will explain it later.”
John and I later had a long conversation about the preparation, the fear, and the literal time distortions that occurred. We both fully expected a raging gun battle in that bedroom. He said my “Be still” was one of the most incredible things he’d ever heard.
I shared my life verse with him and how I used it. I shared how I could be still and walk into the shadow of death and know He is God. Whatever happens, God will be exalted among the nations, and he will be exalted in the earth. Did the Holy Spirit keep the suspect from awaking? It’s one question I will ask Jesus someday.
John and I went on to other assignments. We’d shared 18 months as partners. We often spoke of faith, but I am unsure if he ever made a commitment to follow Jesus. Overcome by the job, family, substance abuse and his other demons, John committed suicide in 2011. I miss him terribly, but I am still. God will be exalted among the nations, and he will be exalted in the earth. Perhaps writing this helps to exalt Him among the nations and in the earth.
I challenge you today to find your life verse. Write God’s word in your heart and wield it like a two-edged sword. The God of the universe loves you and is faithful.
Bob is an elder at CCCBP current serving as the Vice President of the Church Board. He is active with our prayer ministry and was saved by God's grace in 1986. He is a husband and father of three young adults. He retired from law enforcement in 2014, but currently has three part-time jobs.