The day that I almost was shot to death, and what the Lord gave me.

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This is a true story – about 6 years ago.

It was early August – a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, 4:30 pm. Cheryl and I were cleaning peaches for canning. We were at the kitchen sink listening to the Eagles, the Desperado album. I looked out the kitchen window and a rabbit was stirring around one of our garden beds. I immediately dropped my knife in the sink and grabbed my Crossman pellet gun (shoots 1,000 ft. per second; has a scope; total black schematic; looks just like a sniper riffle).

I went out after it to end its days foraging our garden (BTY, We live in a house that the church owns and is on church property and is across from a public school, yet, it’s still private property within city limits). I went around the church on the other side because I spooked it and it took off. I tried to corner it – too far away – I shot and missed, and went back to the sink to finish up the peaches.

About 15 minutes later I saw a police officer coming up the lawn in the back and hunkered down behind one of our pine trees. He had his weapon aimed at the house. Our windows were open and he said, “Mr Truman, come out of the house with your hands in the air.” I went to the largest window in the kitchen, hands out, and said, “Officer, why are you aiming your weapon at me?” He repeated his order. In my mind I knew that this is because of the attempt to kill that rabbit. But what I could not understand is why any of my neighbors would call the police – we’ve all lived here for many years together, are good friends, and they love that I am a hunter that keeps our gardens safe from critters.

I exited the front door to the house with my hands in the air. All I had on was cut off jean shorts, no shirt, no shoes. When I stood on the porch I looked around and quickly and counted about 20 officers with their weapons drawn. I looked over in the school playground across the street and saw two ATF snipers with rifles. On my left flank, two officers were within 20 ft. One of them said, “Mr. Truman, walk to the center of the yard.” I thought to myself, “Ivan, they will kill you if you do not obey perfectly, no sudden movements and keep your mouth shut.” His next order, “Get on your face and spread your arms and legs out.” Next order, “Put your hands behind your back.” I heard the click of handcuffs. I couldn’t believe it – “I’m being cuffed for trying to kill a rabbit with a pellet gun – good grief!”

He then ordered me to stand up. He said, “Mr. Truman, you are not under arrest. You are being detained for your safety.” I knew what that meant. They were there to kill me. Having me cuffed and in the squad car was my life. After about 15 min., and after officers had searched my home (I thought for sure I was going to jail once they find my real weapons), several city, county, state, and ATF squad cars began packing up and taking off silently. I was taken from the car to my front porch, still cuffed. Every one of my neighbors, those driving by, were all looking at me – pastor of Grace Community Church cuffed on his own front porch – aauuugghhh!!!!

That’s when the first officer who ordered me out of my house came up to me holding my pellet gun, and very visibly upset, raised his voice and said, “Is this yours?” Yes. “Look at it – do you see this?” Yes. “Do you not realize what this looks like when you’re seen running around with it?” Yes – it looks like a sniper rifle but I bought that at Dick’s – it’s a pellet gun, I said. He said, “I’m going to write you up for firing a weapon within city limits.” I responded, “That’s not a weapon according to your own definition – and it is not illegal to shoot a pellet gun within city limits. Besides, you can’t prove that I fired it – no one can – it’s a pellet gun and it does not leave any evidence that it was fired.”

Well that did it. Now he was really furious. I can understand – they got some kind of intel that they believed was a very serious threat to the community. He stormed off. The officer who ordered me to get on the ground came up and took the handcuffs off. He said, “Your complete obedience saved your life today.” That really shook me. I responded that none of my neighbors would have called 911 – and then, I looked across the other street, across Rt. 126 and I saw a man who does not like me because I confronted him several years ago for attempting to sell pot to one of the young men in our church. Instinctively, I said to the officer and pointing to that man, “I bet it is ______ who called you – wasn’t it?” Because I so quickly shot off that accusation, the officer did a no no. He shook his head in agreement – and then caught himself, embarrassed that he just ratted out the 911 caller.

Found out days later that my pot-selling neighbor called 911 to just get me in trouble (I have my resources!!). I also found out that the reason why the Police showed up silently in such force is because the day before there was a break-in and weapons were stolen not to far away, and that an eyewitness reported that the thief was holding up in our town. They thought they had him.

The furious officer walked up to the one that took the cuffs off and handed him the citation and then stomped off. I knew that if I’m cited for firing a weapon within city limits that I was going to lose my real weapons, and barred from having a hunting license for life.  I was going to fight this. The officer in front of me read the citation: “Mr. Truman, you are being cited for disorderly conduct.” I gasped – “you’ve got to be kidding.” He gave me the citation and instructions for appearing in court.

28 days later I appeared in a public courtroom along with about 7 other cases to be heard. I did my homework – I was completely within the law – and I was there to defend myself. The city’s attorney called my name and said, “You are cited for disorderly conduct. How do you plead, liable, or not liable?” I responded with a question, “What will happen if I plead, not liable?” He said, “Then this proceeding will be suspended. I will defend City of Yorkville and you will defend yourself.” At that moment, looking into his eyes and his facial expression that only a very confident attorney could give, almost daring me to defend myself, I knew that I was going to lose – and then he will impose the maximum fine. So, I reluctantly swallowed and said, “Liable.”

As soon as I said that I felt sick, angry, disgusted, and dirty. I wanted to punch him for forcing me to admit guilt when I wasn’t. He then said, “Mr. Truman, I know what happened and that you were on private property and broke no laws. Thank you for your plea. See the secretary on your way out – write a check for $25 to “City of Yorkville”. You are dismissed.” I knew what happened: the city that I live in just saved face for nearly killing a man who was innocent. I do not blame the officers – they did their job according to the law and I respect them.

I got in my car and sat there . . . thinking . . . angry . . . disgusted that I was treated this way, and then the Lord gave a gift to me. “Ivan, now you know a little what it was like for me to hang innocently on the cross for you – and offer up my plea for you: Liable for your sins – and it cost a whole lot more than a little embarrassment, inconvenience, governmental overreach, and a $25 fine to be found guilty for your sins – I gave my life on a violent cross so that you could go free.”

To this day, I thank God for the whole experience of nearly being killed. Whenever I think that I’m getting an unjust treatment in this life, I remember that day and look to the cross, and thank my sweet Savior for hanging there, liable for me.

Laughter for the Soul!

On Saturday evenings in the 70’s dad and I would watch this stuff (Hee Haw). . . I never laughed at the jokes – dad did. I was too young to get it. But I did laugh . . . because when I watched and listened to dad laugh, it was so funny to watch his reaction to this comedy that I laughed along with him.

It’s Wednesday morning folks – have a good laugh and get to work, and don’t get too unhinged with the news of the day:)

Identity. KISS. And my dad’s strategy.

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This is a true story.

I was about 15 (1979) when my dad came into my bedroom one evening after school and said, “Son, I’ve invited a missionary to speak at Calvary for 3 evenings. He’ll arrive here next week and he’ll be staying in your bedroom. You will sleep on the couch. Is that ok?” “Sure dad,” I said.

I really did not think about it until a few days before the missionary arrived. You see, my bedroom wall was plastered with classic rock posters: ELO, Eagles, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, Boston, several others, but then there was that one – center stage on the largest bedroom wall: KISS. And that’s when it hit. This missionary would go to sleep with Gene Simmons’ waging tongue looming over his head. I thought to myself, “If you’re going to preach God’s Word you probably should not have that image in your mind.”

So . . . I wrestled with the problem. I actually was flummoxed. My dad never did tell me to take those posters down. He shrewdly left it up to me. I have no idea if dad was bluffing to see if I would do it on my own or not. But at that moment I didn’t care because something happened in my heart (which was rare in those days! and still too rare today): it really bothered me that if I could not take these down at least for one week, then what does that say about my identity – who I am? Is my identity based upon my connection to classic rock – is that who I am? I found myself troubled that I had become what I was worshiping: a wanna-be-classic-rock guitarist. “Surely I can live without these posters for one week,” I courageously said to myself.

So . . . I began taking each poster down, ever-so-gently, folding each one properly to be replaced back on the walls within a week. The week went by without a hitch – missionary gone – got my bedroom back – got the box of posters (and all my 33’s and 45’s) that I hid in the closet out and began to, ‘ahem, rebuild my shrine. Surprise: I felt like a hypocrite. I just sat there thinking and thinking about who am I?.

One week later the posters were burnt . . . and I began to sell off each album in the school cafeteria – some albums still in their plastic wrap. To this day I would say, not because I thought/think that listening to classic rock is sinful (I still listen to it from time to time), but because I did not and do not like my identity being stolen from me: in the most elementary way in those days, I knew that I was “in Christ” and that nothing in this life is to take that place; I did not want anything other than Christ to so own my identity. Not that I lived valiantly for Christ (I did not), but I did know that classic rock is not to be who I am. I’m much more than that.

To this day, I fear the power of Idolatry upon my life. I don’t want even the good things, the blessings of this life to have such a grip upon my affections, choices, ambitions, so as to rule my life. Jesus is the only Master and Lord that will truly keep my life in balance with the world that I live in.

Thanks dad, very clever of you!

Why did the Big Bang Theory Irritate Einstein?

I friend of mine recently let me borrow a book that is now out of print: “God And The Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow, an agnostic astronomer (someone who believes that there may be a God but can never know that for sure, and if said God does exist, you can never know him), who came to realize his own dilemma as a result of science proving that the universe had a beginning and is expanding. Listen to how Dr. Jastrow put it himself:

In his book (first edition, 1978), he cites why Einstein was troubled by the discovery that the universe had a beginning and was expanding (pgs. 23-29). In a letter to a fellow scientist, Willem de Sitter, Einstein said, “This circumstance [of an expanding universe] irritates me . . . to admit such possibilities seems senseless.” For some time Einstein resisted the discoveries. Here’s why:

  1. Einstein’s “static universe” theory was now inconsistent with science.
  2. An expanding universe implies a beginning.
  3. A universe that had a beginning implies some other force outside of it.
  4. If not God, then what? If the “What?”, then the evidence blew up in the Big Bang.
  5. If all we now have is the result of the Big Bang, then that’s all we have – residual, left-over evidence.
  6. If what we have is better explained by an intelligent designer, than random collision, then . . .
  7. And there you have it.

In another clip, Dr. Jastrow said this:

 

I just had a thought: the means of posting this, writing these words, thinking, reading, using my HP laptop with WiFi connection, pulling these video clips from YouTube, all of this and more, was not by chance. It would take more faith to believe in chance than to believe that intelligent, intentional, purposeful persons created all the hardware to produce this post (leave me out of that equation:). There is not a chance in 100 million trillion years that I could be writing these words in a digital format and sent to you through digital coding apart from Intelligent People who created the mapping of digital communication and images. Therefore, I don’t just choose to believe in a Creator by default, rather, there is a necessity upon my conscience that is irresistibly true:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made . . . and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” – John 1:1-3, 14.

 

“All At Once”

 

From one of my most favorite musicians of the Christian Faith, Phil Keaggy does his album cover song, All At Once. 

Here are the lyrics with my explanation in italics. May this song cause you to either turn to Christ for salvation, or if you already have, let these words remind you of the great hope that you already have.

when you took away the burden (of sin and its horrible consequences)

to a place that we could never go (the cross)

and when you see the pain and hurting (in the body of Jesus that was absorbed for you)

that we will never have to know (Christ has become my substitute)

how do you look at that (what will you do with the crucified Son of God?)

chorus 

all at once it breaks the heart (The Spirit opens the eyes of the heart to see your need of the Savior)

puts in back together stronger than it was (raised to walk a new life in Christ)

yea it does what it does (the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes)

all at once (to be made right with God is instant life from the dead)

 

it interrupts our situation (the gospel is a great truth to be reckoned with)

invades your point of view (the gospel crushes your hope and pride in good works)

what to do with the information (how will you respond to the gospel that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures)

oh what is happening to you (it’s the Spirit of Christ raising you up from being dead in sin)

how do you deal with that (what will you do with the Crucified Son of God?)     

chorus

 

look upon the body broken (look at your Salvation hanging on the cross)

see the healing in yourself (Christ was broken so that your soul could find rest)

when at once the words are spoken (by faith in the finished work of Christ, “you’re forgiven of all your sins”)

you know you’ve been made well (like the leper, the prostitute, and the beggar)

what do you take from that (what will you do with the Crucified Son of God?)       

chorus

When People Are BIG and God is small

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It was 1997 when Ed Welch published his book, of which the post is titled after. Of all the books that Ed has written, this is by far one of my favorites.

Below is an outline that we’ll use this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, to begin this bible study for our church family. If you’ve never read anything by him, this would be a first great read. Follow this link for a bio of him:

https://www.ccef.org/about/people/ed-welch

“The opposite of love for others is an inordinate love for self; ‘love for self’ is simply fear of man. The reason why we are incapable of loving others as we ought is because we fear them, that is, we have an unhealthy reverence for them more than God.

  • Are you over-committed? Do you find that it is hard to say no even when wisdom indicates that you should? You are a “people-pleaser,” another euphemism for the fear of man.
  • Do you “need” something from your spouse? Do you “need” your spouse to listen to you, love you, respect you? Think carefully here. Certainly God is pleased when there is good communication and a mutual honor between spouses. But for many people, the desire for these things has roots in something that is far from God’s design for his image-bearers. Unless you understand the biblical parameters of marital commitment, your spouse will become the one you fear. Your spouse will control you. Your spouse will quietly take the place of God in your life.
  • Is self-esteem a critical concern for you? This, at least in the United States, is the most popular way that the fear of other people is expressed. If self-esteem is a recurring theme for you, chances are that your life revolves around what others think. You reverence or fear their opinion. You need them to buttress your sense of well-being and identity. You need them to fill you up.

Are you always second-guessing decisions because of what other people might think? Are you afraid of making mistakes that will make you look bad in other people’s eyes?

  • Do you feel empty or meaningless? Do you experience “love hunger”? Here again, if you need others to fill you, you are controlled by them.
  • Do you ever lie, especially the little white lies? What about cover-ups where you are not technically lying with your mouth? Lying and other forms of living in the dark are usually ways to make ourselves look better before other people. They also serve to cover our shame before them.
  • Are you jealous of other people? You are controlled by them and their possessions.
  • Do you avoid people? If so, even though you might not say that you need people, you are still controlled by them. Isn’t a hermit dominated by the fear of man?
  • Do you fear that others may disagree with you or not admire you? Do you intimidate others into agreeing with you? The endless jockeying of egos in the corporate board room is an aggressive version of fear of man.
  • Have you ever been too timid to share your faith in Christ because others might think you are an irrational fool?

Fear of man is such a part of our [fallen] human fabric that we should check for a pulse if someone denies it . . . God can fill you with his love, so you don’t have to be filled by other people.”

I’m looking forward to this study because I want to love God more and fear man less. Ed will pastorally walk you through scripture, showing you how to do this.

 

Starting 2019 like this . . .

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Almost always mildly satisfied with my prayer life, I often turn to someone for encouragement. Tim Keller wrote his book, “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” (published in 2014), and this is my first book to read this year because I want to do better at praying and having a devotion with Cheryl. For our devotions this year, we’ll use the Keller’s, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs.”  

Do not admire me for what appears to be a strong spiritual walk with God. Hardly! I struggle with the same ups-and-downs as any believer does with prayer and devotion with a spouse. But if this post encourages you to do better, then mission accomplished.

Might I give you a quote to help you as it did me; Tim begins his book on prayer like this:

“In the second half of my adult life, I discovered prayer. I had to. In the fall of 1999, I taught a Bible study course on the Psalms. It became clear to me that I was barely scratching the surface of what the Bible commanded and promised regarding prayer. Then came the dark weeks in New York after 9/11, when our whole city sank into a kind of corporate clinical depression, even as it rallied. For my family the shadow was intensified as my wife, Kathy, struggled with the effects of Crohn’s disease. Finally, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. At one point during all this, my wife urged me to do something with her we had never been able to muster the self-discipline to do regularly. She asked me to pray with her every night. Every night. She used an illustration that crystallized her feelings very well. As we remember it, she said something like this:

Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine – a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No – it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”

Tim then says,

“Maybe it was the power of the illustration, maybe it was just the right moment, maybe it was the Spirit of God. Or, most likely of all, it was the Spirit of God using the moment and the clarity of the metaphor. For both of us the penny dropped; we realized the seriousness of the issue, and we admitted that anything that was truly a nonnegotiable necessity was something we could do. That was more than twelve years ago, and Kathy and I can’t remember missing a single evening of praying together, at least by phone, even when we’ve been apart in different hemispheres. Kathy’s jolting challenge, along with my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer, led me into a search. I wanted a far better personal life. I began to read widely and experiment in prayer. As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone” (pgs. 9-10).

And neither are you. May the Lord be your joyful pursuit this New Year!