Jesus – the best Chess Player in the World!

Timeless Chess Set - Chess Set - Chess-House

Ever since 7th grade I have loved playing chess, and for many reasons. Here is one: I would rather stalemate than lose. But not Jesus: he purposely lost the game so that we would both win. Let me explain, if I can:

In the game of Chess,  a stalemate occurs when one player gets the others’ king in a position where everywhere the king tries to move he puts himself in check,  or, “line of fire” and that’s illegal.  If this happens it is because there are no other pieces for the player with the stalled king to move – they’re all taken or blocked and it’s his turn to move but he can’t.  And since the attacking opponent cannot move until his opponent does – which he can’t,  the game is stalemate.  Why?  Because neither party has the authority or power to move.  Neither party,  by rules of the game,  can overcome the stalemate.

Jesus lamented over the Jews saying,  “O Jerusalem,  Jerusalem,  the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together,  as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,  but you were not willing.  See!  Your house is left to you desolate”  (Matthew 23:37-38).  Israel is unwilling to make a move toward her Messiah and Jesus can’t move toward her to rescue her because she is unwilling.  Jesus wants to save her but he can’t because she does not want to be saved – thus, there is a stalemate!  Neither party can do anything.   Neither party is getting what they want.  Israel is not getting what she wants,  her Messiah,  because she is not willing to come to Jesus,  the only Messiah for Israel;  and Jesus is not getting what he wants,  his Jewish Remnant,  because he is not willing to do anything more than to wait and hope.   If Israel is to be saved,  someone must be willing and have the authority to break out of the stalemate.

A student of Matthew’s gospel may object to the sincerity of Jesus’ desire to save Israel since Jesus was the one who hid the truth from them by speaking in parables,  insuring that judgment would fall upon them as Isaiah foretold (Matthew 13:10-15;  Luke 8:10).  But God’s Divine initiative to judge his people with spiritual blindness because of their sin does not invalidate His desire to save them.  God can be both severe and desirous at the same time.  But this is no game!  We are not simply gazing at carved inanimate objects on a board;  we are staring with sorrow at generations of Jews,  millions and millions of them who have come under a severe blindness from God.  Our humble comfort is that it was not total and that it was not without a good purpose! (Romans 11:25).

More broadly speaking, if Jesus only offers himself and does nothing more for our unwilling hearts then everyone loses.  Someone has to be unwilling to suffer the stalemate any longer,  and this someone has to have the power and authority to break position.  The question is:  Who is this someone?  The answer is Jesus! “. . . For not all (physical) Israel belong to (spiritual) Israel”, and, “And in this way all Israel will be saved”, that is, both Jew and Gentile who have been chosen by God (Romans 9:6ff; 11:26-27).  It is true,  no one will see Jesus as the Messiah unless the Father causes you to see who Jesus is (Matthew 11:27; 16:17).  In order for anyone to see Jesus as her Messiah he must be made to see with new eyes.  This is where the stalemate ends – and it ends with God who refuses to be resisted any longer (Romans 9:19-24).  For everyone, both Jew and Gentile, our only hope is God’s sovereign initiative to give us a willing heart,  without which,  no one has any ability or desire to do what they need to do (Deut. 30:6;  Jer. 31:33-34; 33:19-26; John 6:37ff).

I said earlier that Jesus can’t do anything but hope and wait.  That would be true if Jesus was not sovereign and merciful.  It would be perfectly just of Jesus to only offer himself to people who are unwilling – but that’s the problem,  sinners will always be unwilling.  But it would be merciful if he would “break position”  and “pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication;  then they will look on Me whom they pierced.  Yes,  they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son,  and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).  The Stalemate Is Canceled By Sovereign Grace!  It is gracious indeed for God to offer salvation to unwilling sinners (Romans 10:21).  But it is Sovereign Grace that goes beyond the mere offer (Romans 11:27) that makes unwilling sinners willing (John 6:37ff; 10:16, 26-30; 17:1-10)!

I’m so thankful that Jesus cleverly overcame a stalemate that would have cost me my eternal soul . . . he out-maneuvered my rebellion against him and graciously won the game on my behalf by losing his life so that I could live. It’s a win-win!

Can you smell the color 9?

 

I have never audibly heard the voice of God.

I have never been given a vision.

I have never spoken in tongues.

I have never seen anyone healed immediately from a crippling disease or anything else for that matter.

I have never seen any visible sign that was clearly from the Lord. (However, I absolutely believe that God sent an angel to keep me safe at a particular point in my life – Heb. 13:2; I should tell you this story in an upcoming post.)

Point: I have lived my entire walk with Jesus, up to this moment (from age 11 to now), with only the witness of those who did receive public, in full view, verifiable proof of God’s amazing displays that Jesus is the Son of God, whispered throughout the Old Testament, and visibly lived out in what the world has come to know as the Life of Christ (the reason for the creation of the Anno Domini, A.D/ B.C Calendar)! BTY, read the gospel of John). 

I came across Chris Rice many years ago and have purchased most of his music – he’s solid to the core, an exceptional pianist, and is a reliable musician that will lead you to worship the living Lord Jesus Christ.

This song in particular that is posted was one that truly ministered to me many years ago because of the above intro: When I murmur and question,  “Is God Real? . . . Is Jesus, God’s Son – Real? . . . Am I Real? . . . Is this Gospel of Jesus Christ explained out by the apostles – Real? . . . “O God, sometimes finding you, is like trying to smell the color 9?”

But that is the way it is for some of us who love Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is why John recorded in his gospel, 21:26-29:

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Later on, all of those disciples paid with their very lives that Jesus was raised from the dead . . .

I cannot deny what the Spirit is saying, “Jesus is the real thing . . . Believe and Follow!”

 

That was a first for me . . .

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Today was a first for me. I had the great privilege to marry a middle-age couple on Sunday morning, in the worship service – that last last part was the “first for me.” Never once in over 23 years of pastoral ministry have we had a wedding on Sunday morning, part of the worship service. And I loved it. I’ve always imagined it but never thought that it would ever happen. Below is a portion of what I said, with a few annotated remarks.

“A Sure Foundation for Marriage”

Ephesians 2:19-22; 5:21-33

Evolution cannot explain why a man and a woman would get married . . . mate? – yes! But not marriage. If Charles Darwin was right, no man would voluntarily submit himself to live with one woman and provide for her, serve her, love her alone, and stick around to care for the children. (I interjected here 2 Cor. 5:15 that we are inescapably selfish and desire only to live for ourselves, of which, Christ came to free us). If Charles Darwin was right no woman would voluntarily submit herself to live with one man who still can’t find the laundry basket and put his dishes away. Left to ourselves, mankind would    never have invented marriage.

But being made in the image of God we instinctively know that marriage, that making a covenant to love one another and no one else till death parts us is not a cultural tradition – it’s grounded in the historic death, burial, and resurrection of Christ which was planned before the world began. God the Father created human marriage to display Christ and the Church whether or not mankind realizes that he is actually participating in a divine and sacred institution.

The mystery is that human marriage is a living drama of Christ and his bride – the church.  We learn from Christ and the church what are the roles of husband and wives.  Paul’s point is that the roles between husband and wife and not arbitrarily assigned and they are not reversible without obscuring God’s purpose for marriage.  The roles of husband and wife are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church.  God means to say something about his Son and his Church by the way husbands and wives relate to each other.

Which means, this wedding today is not founded on a perfect past, or even the hopes of compatibility. (here again I interjected that no one is truly compatible and that compatiblism is a false foundation for marriage; sooner or later, what you find in common will run its course and you will be at odds with each other – then what?). This wedding is founded on the historic fact that Christ died for our sins – a sinless Savior voluntarily submitted himself to the cross so that a sinful bride, true lovers of Jesus Christ, would be made whole.

The mutual submission to one another in vs 21 does not rule out a husbands special responsibility to lead and a wife’s special responsibility to support that leadership with her gifts.

Christ submitted himself to the church in one way: with a servant-leadership that cost him his life.  And the church submits herself to Christ in another way: by honoring his leadership and following him.

So Mutual submission in 5:21 does not rule out distinction in the rest of the chapter:  I submit to Cheryl and she submits to me – but not in the same way.  I submit to lead her with Christ-like leadership and she submits to follow me with church-like submission.  And the foundation for such a union is based upon what Christ did for sinners who have been forgiven of their sins.

(as in all weddings that I preside over, I speak directly to the couple, and back and forth with the congregation, beginning now . . . )

  1. Know yourself and know your spouse as one that Christ died for.                     Long before Paul addressed husbands and wives in particular (5:22ff), he addressed you in chapter one and two as one who was chosen for salvation before the world began, blessed you with every spiritual blessing, that you would be holy and blameless in Christ, predestined you for adoption, redeemed you in Christ before you were born, made you alive in Christ before you were born, gave his Spirit to you, a guarantee for your future inheritance, and saved you by his grace.

Here is why this is so important: if your identity is grounded in anything else you will struggle to not only to be honest with your sins but you will struggle to love one another when you have failed, feeling that you’re unworthy to love and be loved. Truth is: you already are unworthy to love and be loved (Luke 17:7-10). Knowing who you are in Christ frees you from fearing rejection and frees you from having to be the Savior of your marriage – Christ is the Savior of your marriage.

Headship then takes the lead in reconciliation.  This does not mean that wives should never say they are sorry.  But in the relationship between Christ and his Church, who took the initiative to make all things new?  Who left the comfort and security of his throne to come to Calvary? Who came back to the apostle Peter after three denials? And who has returned to you again and again? – (great is his faithfulness – it is new every morning!) Husbands your headship means – take the lead. It does not matter if it is her fault. That never stopped Christ. Who is going to break the cold silence? – You!

Many times we won’t try unless we have a full proof plan – we don’t like it when we fail – or when we look inept – or weak.  Too often this pride prevents us from starting over again. This means: Wives because you also know yourself as one that Christ died for, and not only you but your husband as well, when he fails, permit your husband to start all over again.  If a husbands’ sin is indifference, apathy, and controlling anger, a wife’s sin is shaming her husband when he fails. When a wife graciously submits to her husbands’ role of leading and serving even though he failed, she is saying in effect,  “I want you to lead me, please don’t ever stop trying.” That is all he will need to try again even at the risk of failure.

  1. Believe that you have been blessed in Christ for this Marriage.

Read Ephesians 1:1-14

Here is where I focused on: “unite all things in him” “works all things according to the counsel of his will” – because of the particular broken promises of previous marriages, I believe these passages (Matt. 19 and 1 Cor. 7), give this couple freedom to “remarry in the Lord”.) 

Every broken promise that broke your heart and every dismissive resignation that          left you empty, will not slip away from the ultimate goal – to the praise of the glory of his grace. And this is how I know: because the lies, the deception, and the murder of Jesus Christ is to the praise of the glory of his grace.

And if what was done to Jesus is the means by which God the Father will fill the universe with joy, then you can count on it: your sins and the sins that have been committed against you will not cancel out the Lord’s plan to give you joy in the beauty and display of God’s grace in your lives. You don’t deserve the joy that you are about to enter – and that’s the point: God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love. If he gave his son how will he not also freely give you all things for your enjoyment of him, not only in this life but especially in the one to come (Rom. 8).

 

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:)