Thursday, November 20, 2014

Let The One Who Has No Sin Cast The First Stone

In my mind I am back on 12th Street and Orleans in Topeka, Kansas, at Westboro Baptist Church, where I grew up.

I am picturing the night I walked out of my childhood home, taking an item or two at a time and placing them in a laundry basket in the trunk of my car until the last item is in the basket. Then I walked out, got in the car and drove away.

My body left but the gripping terror and wretchedness remained.

I had nightmares for years. The theme of the nightmares always centered on the streets around my childhood home which was a part of the church building at Westboro Baptist Church. 12th Street. Orleans. Churchill. Cambridge. In my dream I would be driving on one of these streets and come near to the family church building/house. My father, Fred W. Phelps, Sr., and my family would rush out to grab me and in my frantic frenzy to get away my car would not start or would not drive forward or the engine would die and I would get trapped by my family. Then my father would drag me inside and beat me. The stark terror was horrendous as I woke from each nightmare.

In the years after I left our family home I could not ever imagine having to see this haunting building again or being on the streets near my house. There was no way I could feel safe in that location in Topeka Kansas. I had seen such brutality there. I could not imagine being alone with my father because I knew if I ever was I would not survive. In a rage he would beat me until I was dead.

That was my nightmare . . . my fear. And it felt real. Very real! Because I knew my father wanted me dead! He told me so with his own words.

Then I did years of healing work. The ‘God who heals’ was with me in the healing and He slowly, ever so gradually, over many years, took the fear and turned it to peace.

A few weeks ago I was in Kansas City working on a documentary about my brother Nate and his present work to help others who have been abused by religion. As innocently as could be the producer of the documentary announced we were going to drive to Topeka and do some filming in Topeka. He said he wanted to do some filming in the Potwin area of town and then he wanted to go to the street by Westboro Baptist Church and do some filming.

I had forgotten all my fears and was astonished to realize . . . I was not flooded with anxiety or an adrenaline rush of fear. Being on 12th Street and turning up Orleans next to the church building; parking just beyond the old driveway I had driven into 1000 times; walking down Orleans toward 12th Street. I experienced no terror! In fact, no fear at all! And all the while the church building/home where I spent all my growing up years was right in front of me.

The hateful signs, the beautiful grass that I used to mow with my brother Fred Jr., the trees that have grown tall these past 40 years since I was last there; it was all surreal, but peaceful for me. The streets seem about half as long as I remember and more narrow than I recall. The distance from 12th street to Churchill is much shorter than I recall. All of it was strangely familiar but the strangest, and most wonderful, part of all was the peace I felt and the freedom I had from terror.

It was an amazing thing to be standing as a free person in front of the place where the nightmares had for years gathered their substance. And to realize that power to hurt me, to strangle the life out of me was just…gone…The Lord had truly broken the power “The Place” had to hurt me. There is a verse in Psalm 10 where the writer is crying out for God to help him fight against wicked people. The writer asks God to break the arm of the wicked. Not a fainthearted prayer! At the very end of the psalm the psalmist realizes God is listening to his prayers and responding. He acknowledges that God is doing “justice to the fatherless and the oppressed one that the man of the earth may terrify no more.” I realized that was true for me! God had made it so that my father could terrify me no more! I had been set free.

My God has restored my heart and my soul at the deepest levels possible. Over the years of healing God has gone with me into all the horror, terror, brokenness and anger and He has walked with me through all the child-like feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, despair and sadness and made all things new in my heart.

My focus that day, at 12th Street and Orleans, was on the conversation we enjoyed with the two wonderful people we met at Equality House which is located right across the street from my father’s church. They chose that location as a way to express symbolically their mission of reaching out to and helping individuals who are being brutalized and hurt by the hateful behavior of others. I am so proud to know these individuals and so impressed with their hearts of compassion. I wish you could see their desire to serve and help those who are victims of hate and violence. The victims they have helped, they told me, include some of my nieces and nephews who are experiencing abuse at their schools because of the hatefulness of their family.

The hateful signs displayed this day in the front of the house/church where I grew up proclaim the same hate we lived with on the inside of that house/church all the years we were growing up and that was hard-wired into my brain as a young child. But now, and for years now, the hate and violence and abuse have been turned outward onto society at large, including targeting the innocent and vulnerable.

I was glad when I comprehended even more fully the work my brother Nate is doing to reach out to and try to help these innocent and vulnerable people, and quite pleased to be a little part of his work.

This experience confirms for me, again, the light and hope that comes from love in contrast to the despair that comes from hate. I am reminded again how the Bible says God is love and all love originates from God. God is the restorer of broken hearts; He binds up the wounds and heals the hearts of all who turn to Him in faith. Hate is the work of Satan and healing is the work of God. Those who say they know God, and then act with hatred toward others, don’t really know God, because God is love. It is easy to read over the statement that God is love and miss its meaning in our lives. Said another way, it means if you are doing the work of God you will show love . . . because that is God’s character and His essence. If you are showing hate, to anybody, you are de facto NOT doing the work of God.

It is a miracle to me that I can now be at peace while standing next to the place on earth I once feared with all of my being. The healing hand of the Lord has done this work in my heart. This place and the fear I had living here had a gut-wrenching power over me. But the power of God broke that fear and its power over my heart and replaced the fear with peace and strength.

As I walked on Orleans toward 12th Street, with the house and church where I spent the first 19 ½ years of my life right beside me; when I saw their signs and flashing lights heaping hate and filth onto all who see; several questions began to stir in my heart. These questions have remained and I have been reflecting on them since my visit.

What all had God actually set me free from in my life?

What do I have in my life that is good that I haven’t been given as a gift?

What have I been set free to do in my life?

Who am I to judge another human being?

How am I to treat others, as a follower of Christ?

If Christ commanded me to love my enemies how can I justify hating anyone?

Can my response to God’s love be anything less toward others than the love God has shown me?

How does a person who has lost their way find their way back to God?

If I am not to judge others; how do I accomplish that and show others love instead?

Since Christ has commanded us to love our enemies and to do good to those who spitefully use us, we have no license from God to hate any human being. No matter what our personal views or feelings may be about the behavior or actions of another. We are free to love them because of the love and power of God in our hearts. But we have no right or permission to hate or condemn another human being. Not when we have been given eternal life when we deserved a death sentence.

Our privilege and responsibility; our response to the great love God has shown to us; is to testify about that love and the sacrifice He made when He gave His only Son to die in our place to pay for all of our sin and mistakes. We are witnesses to His great love and the work He did to save us. Because of that we are compelled to tell others so they can see and hear and understand the hope and the life that is in our God. He is light and life. This is our privilege – to testify to the greatest love the world has never known.

The terror and death put into my heart by my father controlled and consumed me for years. It took an awesome power and strength to change this in me. It took enormous strength and tenderness and kindness and love to enter into my heart and mind to undo the lies and the horrific terror. That’s the work the Lord has done in my life. Truly it has been an amazing work in my life and I am the recipient of it every day I am alive. God replaced all the poison and deadness that were buried deep in me with the fragrant beauty of his love and the luscious fruit of his Spirit, in the deepest part of my being. The fruit of hatred and evil is a poison to our souls – the fruit of our God is a delight; it is joy and peace. How can we not offer that joy and peace to others?! How can we not tell others of His great love and power and ability to heal and restore our lives?!

This is some of what I have learned about my God: God never calls it quits on His creation, ever, not on any of us! He is patient, kind, merciful, good, lowly and humble, gentle, always at peace, ready to help and to respond to our cries. He waits for us continually. He is not willing that any of us perish but that we all come to a true understanding of Him. I am so thankful my God did not quit on me before I had a chance to get to know Him, truly know Him.

As a child living in Westboro Baptist Church on 12th Street and Orleans, I lived out the hatred and meanness I learned from my father. I looked for opportunities to judge people and speak of a hateful, vindictive, mean god who was arbitrary and capricious and pernicious. Many people would respond and react negatively to this hateful, stinking poison that poured forth from my mouth and my life. But their responses did not change me. I expected their hate and anger! In fact I used the hateful angry responses to confirm I was on the right track. That is how I had been taught by my father. My father gave me a grading scale for Christians that said if you offend and mock people and they respond negatively, then you have succeeded with high marks.

It was not until the day when, instead of mocking and ridiculing and attacking (which I expected and was used to) a young lady in my junior English class told me ‘You don’t know the first thing about the God of love!’ That response stunned me and stopped me cold in my tracks. Then a few months later I met a young lady who knew this God of love and demonstrated this love to me. That was the beginning of God’s work in my life to change me. Thank God! Though it was many years later before the in-depth changes took place these experiences started me on the road to new life.

So I know the hate. I know the meanness. I know the desperate wretchedness that soaks deep into the fabric of the heart, and colors everything a horrible, ugly color. I know how it feels inside to believe and speak forth such hatefulness. I know the desperate despair and the need to conceal this despair with haughty arrogance! And how lost a person can get; swallowed up with the hate and meanness, and unable to escape. These were the memories that flashed through my mind as I walked on Orleans toward 12th Street. And I was taken back to what it had been like to be a part of my family and a part of their hate.

See, I remember needing to hate in order to stay safe from my father. Because to hate meant a child in my family could stay off of my father’s radar a bit. (Those of you who have read previous posts know this is precisely why my brother Nate was always in so much trouble with our father. Nate questioned the hate! Then and now!) And I remember how natural hating became for me, even if I did it out of self-preservation. It soon became my own hatefulness and meanness; it became who I was! And I remember how stuck I was in all of the hate and vicious treatment of others. As if my knowing the truth about God’s great salvation somehow gave me license to hate and condemn others. What a perversion. What deceitfulness.

Isn’t that whole lifestyle my family espoused pretty counter intuitive? Wouldn’t you expect people who supposedly feel immensely blessed by God to pass that beautiful blessing on to others? Instead of telling others about God’s great love and great salvation, I used this knowledge to be hateful and condemning of others! Can you imagine?! This really makes no sense if you haven’t experienced the power of hate from within, but it becomes a disease that consumes the person who is doing the hating. The destruction happens on the inside and moves outward.

Who better than those who have seen and tasted and known the love of God to spontaneously tell others of His love? How can someone who even knows the words of truth (even if it is not in their heart) twist that truth and speak such hate and lies?! But that’s how it was and that’s how it still is for my family who are lost in it. Apparently believing they are doing good and doing right. It shows how far lies and deceit can go when stark terror and darkness engulf a human heart; when your own father perverts the truth of God and turns His truths into lies.

I want to say, thankfully, that I am no longer compelled to hate as I once was. Now I am compelled to love others, no matter what. I can no longer justify hating any other person. I believe anyone who knows the truth and knows the living God will learn, if they have not already learned, they cannot hate another human being.

And please don’t tell me that condemning others by telling them they are not living up to the law of God is really showing them love. That won’t work with me; not anymore! Why? Because I know it is God’s kindness that changed me. And I know it is God’s kindness that leads me still, to change and turn towards him even more. It is God’s kindness and gentleness and compassion, experienced in very real ways that change any person’s heart and helps any person turn toward God. Not hatefulness! Not cruel condemnation! Not rancid displays of self-righteousness! It is God’s kindness and love that softens and changes our hearts and opens our mind toward the truth and the hope . . . and the love of God. Hatred shuts down a human heart. Love opens it up.

It is the work and power of the Holy Spirit that saves and rescues people from their propensity to choose sin over love and kindness. It is us telling others of God’s love and our need for His Son - THIS is the power of God that draws people to believe in Him and His goodness and kindness! Any other legalistic tripe only serves to harden the heart and push people away. And it should! You who know God and His love, you know well that it was and is God’s love that drew you and compels you to follow Christ. Not the law. Not meanness. Not judgmental attitudes. Not self-righteousness. Ever!

Christ said He was the end of the law. Following the law, i.e. following rules, was likened in the Bible to a school master helping children grow up. And the Bible says the following of the law helps to bring us to Christ. I know that is not an intuitively obvious thought! Reading the laws in the Old Testament and trying to live up to these laws; and failing; tends to bring despair. So how was bringing people to despair supposed to be a good thing? Legalism at its core is dumping a bunch of rules on people without giving them the power to obey those rules. And any of us who have been on the planet for long know that to love unloving people takes immense power. I would suggest it takes the power of God!

We don’t need the letter of the law. We need the Spirit! For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. There is a new law now: The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death.

Rules tend to make you feel bad, because invariably, no matter how hard you try, you cannot live up to them. And you can feel after a while like not even trying. So how on earth does this bring you to Christ? Well because when you realize you can’t live up to the rules, and that Christ came to pour love into your heart to give you the strength to do good things it hits you. That the following of rules tends to squeeze the life out of people . . . eventually. But having God’s love poured into your heart and living in the amazing freedom of being a son or a daughter of God is completely different!

One analogy the Bible uses to describe what happens when a person responds to God’s gift of eternal life is like going from a hired hand to a beloved son or daughter. A son or a daughter who is well loved lives their life from that security and love. Not from the fear of breaking a rule. THAT is what happens to people who come to Christ. They realize they can’t follow the rules, that they are always going to mess up, and they just ask Christ to pour life into them. With His life and love in you, you are free to love. It is an amazing feeling to have God’s love for someone when you previously have only had judgment for that person. It is SO freeing and SO good!

So the gift Christ gave us when he came to earth was that he lived sin-free, died on our behalf and was raised from the dead. When he accomplished that the law and its requirements were completed. Christ did what no one else could do. It brought people who wanted to back into a son/daughter relationships with God. Let’s tell people about this great salvation! Let us stop judging and condemning others. Let’s let God be God and let’s love people as we have been commanded to do.

When Christ comes into your life you are given a new identity. You become a beloved son or daughter. You have a new identity. And as you start living out that new identity you are going to think differently, act differently, and you are going to start loving people. You will! It is so fantastic to have God’s love pouring through you. You will be able to love people who were your former enemies. You will be able to act kindly toward them and do them good. And nobody will be more blown away by that than you!

You and I are not equipped to judge another person because we do not know their heart. We have no way of knowing the invisible magnificence of how God may be working in any other person’s life. God knows this. We don’t! We need to learn this lesson. He commands us to take the good news to the world. Not the law. Speak of the good news and stop judging people.

God is drawing people to Himself continually, gently, beautifully; and no other person can see this work of God from the outside until it blooms in the person’s heart. Let us love people as we have been commanded to do, all of us who know Christ personally. Let us stop judging and condemning and this very God of love and kindness and compassion may allow our love of somebody to be a part of His work as He draws the person to Himself. Reflect just for a moment, on how God drew you to Himself. Almost all of us remember people who reached out to us in the middle of whatever mess we had made of our lives and loved us. THAT is what drew us. Not their judgments.

I have spent years debating these matters in my own heart and mind. As a child I learned to hate; to use God and God’s word to hate others. My father taught me how to hate people! The very ones God made to be in relationship with him! My family still hates people on behalf of God to this very day. But now I know better. I have been given truth in place of the fear. I have been set free from the lies of my father by the truth my God has put in my heart. I no longer debate the question whether hatefulness is right or appropriate or condoned by the God of love. I know my God has left no room for hatred in my heart. His love has set me free to love others. I pray this for you too. It is so freeing to be set free from your own judgments of others! That is such a burden to bear and one you were never meant to carry.

The peace in my heart is palpable evidence of the healing work of my God! Being on 12th Street a few weeks ago and knowing I am loved by God and by people is a huge miracle in my life! And this God who healed my heart and put His peace in my heart . . . He is worthy of my honor and praise and glory toward Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!

The haunted house of my youth no longer haunts my soul. It no longer harms my heart. The power of God’s love has set me free to praise Him and to love others. And this change in my heart is something the Bible says will happen to us. One place it says “Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come!” When it happens to you, you really will feel like a new person on the inside.

The way God made me; I am unable to be at peace if my heart knows something is not true, because my brain won't work that way. So I know the peace I have in my heart comes from knowing the truth of God’s word, not just from working through hurt feelings that came out of my years in counseling. Working through my feelings of wretchedness was a gift to be sure. But the profound peace I now feel? That was the work of God. I now have an intimate relationship with the living Lord and that is what brings peace - and I know His heart – and His heart is love - and that brings peace deep within.

Christ said ‘If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples and you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free’. I have held to Christ’s teaching, which is at its core to love people! That makes me his disciple. And that truth has really set me free. It is God’s word that has set me free and God’s healing hand on my life. And he has set me free for freedom’s sake. I am now free to love others.

So I say:

Love people. Love your neighbor as yourself! You know Jesus loves every single person as much as He does me and you. Instead of harboring hate for others we need to love every person and faithfully pray that every person will come to know Jesus!

Let us take another look at Christ and how he treated people. Christ went out of his way to love people who society said were unlovable. He sought out people who found themselves on the wrong side of the tracks, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of what the judgmental folks thought. And he seemed to relish doing this! Reaching out to the people others wouldn’t give the time of day to. As his children we need him. All of us need him. Our children need Him. And we need to love every person we meet, seek out the ones our society has decided to shun or condemn and when possible, testify to them about our Savior.

If we use the Old Testament law and its stiff requirements as a weapon against someone we believe is living in sin, perhaps we are forgetting the death and resurrection of Christ, and the power of His resurrection. Instead of using the law against someone we believe is living in sin, let’s tell them about our Savior. Forgetting to tell sinners about Christ is like forgetting to tell the drowning person there is a lifeboat. It just makes no sense not to tell others about the great work Christ did to save people.

And while we are at it, let’s remind ourselves that we were once sinners ourselves, by nature, and if I am not mistaken most of us have sinned by lunchtime. If we are willing to have all this compassion for ourselves we must have it for others or we are hypocrites. Jesus had more to say about hypocrites than most of his warnings. Christ had immense compassion for people who found their lives in shambles. That was not the problem. What he did not put up with are people who acted as if they were better than the ones who admitted they needed help. We dare not fall into that trap. What we should choose to tell others (and ourselves!) is that this good news is the power of God to bring the gift of salvation to everyone who believes! Sin can be conquered but it gets conquered by God!

Perhaps we have misunderstood Jesus’ purpose in coming to this world – this power of God to forgive us for our sin and set us free from its consequences. Perhaps we have misunderstood what Christ actually did on the cross and how powerful its impact was on human beings. Oh I realize, we tend not to misunderstand what Christ did when he saved us. We are very willing to apply God’s great salvation generously to ourselves! We love God’s grace! We love his mercy! But perhaps we choose not to see this great saving work going on in another person’s life.

Or maybe if we’re honest we don’t really think the person who has just irritated or hurt us really deserves the second chance we were given by God. Have we considered the idea it is just barely possible that Christ has died for the exact person we are condemning?! Have we considered the possibility that we may be misapplying God’s word toward the person we believe is living in sin? Perhaps we would do better to concentrate on the 2 x 4 in our own eye and stop worrying about the splinter in the other person’s eye.

Even if we consider the person who is living in sin to be our enemy (for whatever reason, real or imagined), Christ leaves no room for hating, even room for hating our enemies. He did not leave that option on the table. We are to be like our Father in heaven here on the earth. Yes, we are to show others the love God shows us. Our Father in heaven makes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike! Therefore we are to love our enemies and do good to those who spitefully use us. Yes! Our marching orders while we are on this planet!

Perhaps we are offended by what we perceive as another person’s life of sin. Well I would like to say, we are no more offended than their creator! And what is their creator’s response to their sin? He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For He did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. People . . . need the Lord! Before God’s final righteous judgment . . . People need the Lord!

The Bible has a warning about our judgments of others. One verse says “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Do any of us really think this verse through? Do we realize any time we judge others for something we have done we are judging ourselves? We should be telling people about this gift of eternal life Christ came to offer us.

Those who do not know this salvation, and don’t know their identity as a son or daughter of God, may have cause for treating people hatefully. But surely those who know about this great gift God wants to give us do NOT have cause for treating people hatefully! Each of us has the potential to lose our perspective and become judgmental when we forget the great salvation with which we have been saved. Because it is a gift none of us deserves based on our actions! Have you noticed that after we get the gift of new life from Christ we start to think we deserve it? And think we’re somehow better than others who haven’t heard Christ’s truth? It seems absurd, I know, but there is this wretched tendency to think we deserve the gift!

When I use the word salvation I am meaning the gift of eternal life Christ gives to anybody who believes in Him. And once we accept this gift it doesn’t just mean we have an amazing life with him after our death, although that is certainly true. It also means God will begin work in our lives immediately to make us into new people on the inside. We will become people who love, who reach out to others, who help others, who don’t condemn others. The Bible says we will become new people. And it is true. I am a completely different person now than I was before I knew Christ. And it will be the same for you. You only need to respond to his gift of eternal life. No matter how messed up you think your life is. You just say yes to him.

Ephesians 2 makes it clear where we ALL come from. It says we are all spiritually dead. And need help to be revived spiritually. Christ provides the healing balm for all of us! Let’s not act as if Christ has never saved us. Let’s not act like this great salvation was our own idea or that we somehow deserved it, okay?! Let’s not act like our own sins were never forgiven and are not still having to be forgiven! Salvation belongs to the Lord. What this means is that God understood we were in a spiritually dead condition that only he could revive us from. It’s like a person who has just “coded” in the hospital taking credit for what the doctors and nurses did to revive him. And bragging about it! Let’s remember this great way God saved us was truly a gift and keep it forefront in our minds so we are able to love the people of this world! May we never misrepresent our Savior to others who need him!!

Christ had an interesting response to Peter when Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers taking Christ away to beat him and crucify him. When Peter took out his sword and cut his ear off Christ picked the man’s ear up and put it back on his head. What did Christ tell Peter then? He told him that people who live by the sword will die by the sword. He had to tell his disciples that fighting other people was never his way. And he certainly modeled the power of healing in the midst of a person’s crisis! We want to fight people and tell them off and make war with them. We are fighters. Christ teaches us to be healers and peacemakers and do the hard work of helping people who were once our enemies. Who could do this kind of work without him!?

It occurs to me that God is serious in His word when He tells his followers we are to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. I know this does not come naturally to us. But the way I see it is, we are not of this world and our commission is to be ambassadors for Christ, standing in His place and saying to anyone we meet, both by our behavior and our words when necessary: ‘Be reconciled to God’.

The Bible says we are called to live our lives with humility. That we must continually realize that anything good we have we have received . . . from God! And we stand continually in need of God’s love and grace and mercy and kindness. Sometimes Christians act like we have forgotten we were saved and have forgotten our own need; the need we have and still have for Christ. Sometimes Christians act like we don’t know Christ at all! If we Christians are doing okay it is only because of our Savior. It is not because of our doing a bunch of good things that we have been saved, or keep ourselves saved!

2 Peter 1:5-9

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

This is God’s plan to protect us as Christians from becoming nearsighted and blind! He expects us to grow in beautiful traits of goodness, and affection and love. And if we don’t grow in those things he tells us it can get to the point where we are almost blind in our understanding and it’s as if we had never been saved.

When we condemn a sinner, or pronounce judgment on a sinner we are no different than the Pharisees who were ready to stone the woman taken in the very act of adultery. God has given all of us a second chance. We are happy to receive our second chance aren’t we?! And God is faithful and just to provide for cleansing from unrighteousness when we sin after we have been saved, if we confess our sin. Have we not each been blessed by this incredible gift of grace, at least once or twice since we were first saved from our sin?

Why, then, are we so reluctant to allow this same grace and mercy for others?! Christian brother or sister, let’s examine ourselves honestly and see if this is something we have allowed in our thinking. The next time (today or tomorrow at the latest) we find ourselves struggling with some sin, let’s remember how God responds to us when we sin, even after we are born again. Let’s not presume we are righteous by our own might and power. Let’s remember the same power by which we were drawn to our Savior and rescued from death . . . this same power is available for the sinner we are condemning.

Let’s faithfully offer that salvation, that free gift, and cease from condemnation and judgment! The Lord must continually change us to be more like him. Others who we may perceive as dirty sinners need the same salvation we have received and will need the same cleansing work we find ourselves in need of.

Let the one who has no sin cast the first stone of hateful, incriminating, rejecting, crushing, shaming, accusing, indicting, shunning, terrifying, lethal condemnation, contempt and judgment! It only hurts when you are on the receiving end of a big jagged stone. Think twice before casting such stones at others.

So great a love my heavenly Father has lavished upon me that I should be called His child; His son. Such an amazing gift compels me to love others without exception and without reservation. I keep in the forefront of my mind the great love my heavenly father has for me, and all he has brought me through. God demonstrated his own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. God’s love changes everything!

By keeping God’s love in mind, and remembering how gracious and loving He has been toward me, I try to never forget his great love and his great offer of salvation for others. When I remember what my heavenly father has saved me from and reflect on how much he loves me, I cannot hate or condemn another human being. I must not! I must REMAIN unable to condemn another human being in the very face of the love my God has shown me.

When I went back to my childhood home a few weeks ago I realized how many stones had been cast at me when I lived there. My father had cast the first stone of hatred and brutality toward me and just kept casting them for all of my 19 ½ years until I was one day able to walk away. I had never once been shown love by my father. And he kept preaching that hate from the pulpit hoping to draw me back into the fold of hate, but his plan failed. God gave me the power to walk away from the grip of "The Place".

I realized as I stood there I had had a 40 year break from home. And in that break God had turned my life upside down. Cleaned out lethal poison from my soul and replaced it with His kind of love. And the love He has given me is that one that wants to reach out to anybody I meet. And I hope when I do, I am able to say, to anyone I have the opportunity: “I ask you to come to God, in Jesus name, for he loves you more than you will ever know.”

Mark Phelps


  1. Reading this, I break down crying. Not only in sorrow for the abuse you, Nate, and your siblings, had to endure under the brutal dictatorship of Pastor Fred Phelps, but also in joy, that you managed to escape and to survive to talk about it.

    1. Thank you Jason! For your comment! For your compassion!