Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Jesus Intentionally Gave His Life

Warning: Please do not read this writing if you are sensitive to or may be upset by graphic descriptions of physical violence.

Please do not allow children to read this writing.

My first experience reading the details of the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross was about 25 years ago. It was during the time of the celebration of Easter in America and I happened upon a book that presented information on the subject. I remember it so clearly because I could not stop reading and pondering the reality of what I was reading.

In some very real ways I found myself relating to some of what I was reading because of the physical abuse I had experienced at the hand of my father. Nothing, of course, like I was reading, but some faint memories of my own abuse stirred in my soul and the feelings that these memories brought to the surface I think God used to help me understand His crucifixion. And maybe understand my own abuse just a little bit better. And certainly understand His love for me a little bit more!

The memories I was tapping into as I read the book on crucifixion were feelings such as shivering in my body when I was awakened in the middle of the night as a small boy, waking to the cold chill of terror as my father was raging. My knees, stomach and chin would shake uncontrollably. Feelings of stark fear when I was facing a physical beating and there was no one or no way to stop my father from beating me. The raw physical pain I still have memories of that was a part of the intense physical beating and battering I experienced at the hand of my father. The despair I felt watching my father beat one of my brothers or my sisters or my mother knowing there was nothing I could do to stop him.

Certainly I have had many questions about God and I have given a lot of thought to the subject of God, who he is and what he is like. I was plunged into all of this “God stuff” from my birth.

In the final analysis I have come back to one overwhelming realization over and over and over again. Whatever I do or do not understand and whatever I believe or do not believe about God, ultimately I have to ask myself, and answer some questions that, for me, go to the core of the issue of who God is and what he is like.

Assuming for a minute that there is the least possibility that this Jesus who is well documented in history might just possibly be the person he says he is, the very Son of God in human flesh, here are my questions:

‘Why would God allow His Son to suffer the way He did?’

‘Why would Jesus have been so willing to go through what He went through?’

‘What could possibly have been the motivation for such a voluntary act on the part of Jesus?’

I would like to describe some of what I have learned over the years regarding what Jesus experienced. There are some variations in what I have read over the years in the accounts of what Jesus experienced but for the most part all the accounts are consistent in their description of the main details. I invite you reading this to do your own study on this subject. Perhaps as you read what I am writing you will have questions similar to the ones I have mentioned above.

I also invite you to use your imagination as you read these descriptions of the crucifixion of Jesus. Imagine you are the mother of Jesus. Or imagine you are a close friend of Jesus. Or imagine yourself in the circumstances in which Jesus found himself and try to comprehend what it may have been like if you were the one experiencing what he experienced and how you may have felt and responded. Personally I have done this many times. I have tried to fathom what it would have been like if I had been the one in the place of Jesus through every moment of what occurred during these final hours of his life on earth.

The night before Jesus was crucified he went to the Garden of Gethsemane and he prayed to his father. He was aware of the suffering he was about to endure over the next several hours and he was already experiencing the weight of it all in his mind and his heart. Jesus was experiencing extreme psychological stress. In fact he was exceeding sorrowful unto death. During this time of enormous emotional strain he began to sweat blood.

Some say this can’t be so or this is an exaggeration. But in reality, though rare, the phenomenon of Hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As the capillaries are compromised the result is a little bleeding into the sweat glands and this mixes blood with sweat.

This Hematidrosis also caused Jesus’ skin to be very fragile so that a few hours later when Jesus was flogged by the Roman solders his skin was hyper-sensitive to pain. Further, Hematidrosis very likely produced marked weakness and shock to his body. I really cannot imagine the amount of emotional stress Jesus my Savior was experiencing while in the garden that night praying to his father.

  The next violence Jesus endured was after his arrest in the middle of the night and Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by the high priest Caiaphas. The palace guards then blind-folded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face.

  This may not sound all that bad until you realize that the strikes to his face were numerous and savage, and they caused the face of Jesus to be marred so that he was no longer recognizable as a human being. The blows were not just mild slaps. The soldiers delivered direct violent forceful blows with their open palms and fists to the bare face of Jesus at point blank range. They also pulled out his beard!

Jesus willingly gave his face to these men and intentionally allowed them to treat him this way. We would not get the picture of what Jesus endured from most artists’ renderings of Jesus on the cross. But this is in fact what took place. No bones were broken in his face but the bruising and contusions and swelling left his face so damaged that his face no longer had the appearance of a human being when the soldiers were done beating Jesus.

Then in the early hours of the morning, after being battered and brutalized, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus was taken before the Roman procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who had final authority concerning the condemnation and execution of Jesus. Though Pilate could find no fault in Jesus he issued the order to have Jesus flogged and then crucified.

Roman floggings usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but often were a lot more than thirty-nine, depending on the state of mind of the soldier applying the lashes. Jesus was prepared for the scourging by being stripped of His clothing and then his arms were tied to a post above His head.

The soldier flogged Jesus with a whip of braided leather thongs with several metal balls woven into them, all the way to the end of each thong. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions in his skin which would break open with further blows.

My brother Nathan, my brother Jonathan, my sister Katherine, my brother Fred Jr. and I; we all experienced something similar to this when we were beaten by our father with the mattock handle. Our father would give us so many blows with the mattock handle that our skin would badly bruise and then, after a few minutes break, he would beat us some more, just as the feeling was beginning to return to the previously beaten parts of our bodies. This repeated beating caused the bruises that had begun to form from the earlier beatings, to break open causing open bleeding and eventually open sores.

Of course what we experienced, though from our perspective it was very painful and traumatic, was minimal compared to what happened to Jesus. I don’t normally think of my brutal abuse in a positive light, but in this one way, in my being able to relate to Jesus even in this small way, I realize I have been able to understand even more what he did for me. And for this understanding I really am grateful.

The leather thongs used on Jesus also contained pieces of bone and glass. The bone and glass would cut the skin severely and imbed in his skin and when the whip was pulled back in preparation for the next lash it would rip the skin on his back and legs. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.

At first the thongs cut through his skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into his subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  Finally the skin of his back was hanging in long quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. His back and legs were so shredded that part of his spine was exposed by the deep, deep cuts. His veins were laid bare and his very muscles, sinews and bowels were open to exposure. The flogging went all the way from his shoulders down to his back, his buttocks, and the back of his legs. It was probably more terrible than anything you could imagine.

History tells us that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. Jesus experienced tremendous pain and he would have gone into hypovolemic shock. This means he suffered the loss of a large amount of blood. Hypovolemic shock is a very serious medical condition. His heart was racing to try to pump blood that was not there. His blood pressure dropped causing him to approach near fainting (in fact he collapsed to the ground as he walked the Via Dolorosa). His kidneys would have stopped producing urine to maintain what volume of fluid that was still left in his body. He became very thirsty as his body craved fluids to replace the lost blood volume.

How would his mother have felt watching these soldiers torturing her innocent son?!

When it was determined by the centurion in charge that Jesus was near death, the beating was finally stopped.  By this time Jesus was already in serious to critical condition. The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, soaked in His own blood. But the physical abuse had scarcely begun.

The Roman soldiers saw great sport in this pathetic figure of a small town Jew claiming to be king. They put a robe around his shoulders and placed a stick in his hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns were plaited into the shape of a crown and this ‘crown’ was pressed into his scalp. Again there was bounteous bleeding because the scalp has so many blood vessels.

After mocking Jesus and striking Him across the face and preparing his crown of thorns, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they got tired of their sadistic sport and the robe was torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds on his back, its removal caused excruciating pain and he began to bleed again almost as profusely as when he had initially been beaten.

Jesus survived all of this brutality and was then required to go forward toward the place of his crucifixion.  The heavy cross section (the patibulum) of the cross was tied across His shoulders, and Jesus was required to proceed with his executioners in his slow journey along the Via Dolorosa to the place of the skull, the place called Golgotha.

Because he was experiencing hypovolemic shock, in spite of His efforts to continue walking, the weight of the heavy wooden beam was too much. Jesus stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of his shoulders. He tried to rise, but his muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance.

  A man named Simon was recruited to carry the heavy cross section (patibulum) the rest of the way to the place where Jesus was to be crucified. When they arrived at the place called Calvary Simon was ordered to place that heavy cross portion on the ground and Jesus was quickly thrown backward with His shoulders and back against the wood. Historical Roman accounts and experimental work have determined it is most likely that the nails were driven into the body of Jesus between the small bones of his wrists (radial and ulna) and not through his palms. The Romans used large iron spikes that were usually seven inches long and tapered to a sharp point. They were 3/8ths of an inch in diameter.

The Roman soldier felt for the depression at the front of Jesus’ wrist. He drove the heavy, square, seven inch wrought-iron spike through the wrist of Jesus and deep into the wood. Quickly, the Roman soldier moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms of my Savior too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement.

The iron spikes were hammered into Jesus through the place where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going out to his hand, and it was crushed by the iron spike that was pounded into his wrist. Each wrist! You know the kind of pain you feel when you bump your elbow and hit your funny bone? This is an example of another large nerve very similar to the median nerve.

So try to visualize this. Visualize taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve on your elbow. Too painful to even try to think about! That gives you a vague idea of what Jesus experienced, in terms of his pain when an iron spike was hammered through each of his wrists. The pain was excruciating! In fact the word excruciating was originally formulated to describe the pain experienced during crucifixion. Look up the origin of the word excruciating on Google.

Imagine if this were happening to you!

After Jesus was nailed by his wrists to the heavy cross section it was then lifted in place at the top of the stipes (the vertical section of the cross which was already secured in the ground) with Jesus hanging from his wrists. The sign reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” was nailed into place at the top of his cross.

Jesus’ arms immediately stretched about six inches beyond their normal length from the weight of hanging by his wrists and both of his shoulders became dislocated and it is very likely that his elbow joints were also dislocated at this time. Jesus’ left foot was then pressed backward against his right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, an iron spike was driven through the arch of each foot, leaving his knees moderately flexed.

Jesus my Savior was now crucified.

As He slowly sagged down with more weight on the iron spikes in his wrists, excruciating pain shot along his fingers and up his arms to explode in his brain -- the iron spikes in his wrists were putting pressure on his median nerves. And the pain was similar in intensity radiating from the iron spike through both of his feet.

As Jesus pushed Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of his feet.  At this point as his arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over his muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push upward. Hanging by his arms, his pectoral muscles were paralyzed and his intercostal muscles were unable to function.

Jesus could draw air into his lungs, but he could not exhale. Jesus fought repeatedly to raise himself in order to exhale and get even one short breath back into his lungs. Spasmodically, he was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. In essence crucifixion involves, in part, an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation.

The stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put his chest into the inhaled position. Basically in order to exhale he had to push up on his feet so the tension on his muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing this the iron spike would tear through his foot eventually locking up against his tarsal bones.

After managing to exhale, Jesus would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he would have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This went on and on until he was completely exhausted. He was no longer able to push up and breathe any more.

After Jesus’ arms had come out of their sockets his chest sagged downwards, stretching out to its full extent. Try this yourself. If you strenuously stretch out your arms above your head spread as widely apart as possible, even while seated, you'll recognize the difficulty. Or with your hands spread as far apart as possible grab a bar high enough off the ground for you to hang on with your feet off the ground and hang from the bar in this hands-spread-far-apart position with all of your weight being held up by your hands. See how you feel after just five minutes. See what happens if you try to push your hang time to ten minutes!

It's easy to inhale with arms fully outstretched, but difficult to exhale again. Your body needs to work its muscles to breathe in and out, and it is used to doing so with little resistance. Once your chest is fully expanded, it is impossible to breathe in anything more than sips of air. Jesus slowly suffocated near the end of his crucifixion because he was unable to get enough oxygen and he was unable to expel the carbon dioxide building up in his body. The one who made the universe couldn’t even get a breath.

Basically Jesus my Savior was forced to alternate between the terror of the very real feeling of suffocating and the excruciating pain when he put pressure on the iron spike in his feet to push up so he could exhale and grab a quick gasp of breath.

I have experienced a faint shadow of what Jesus was going through. With lung disease I often become fatigued in my back and stomach muscles as I work exceedingly hard to get breath. Carbon dioxide gets trapped in my lungs due to the disease I have and the feeling of not being able to get my breath causes me panic at times and extreme discomfort. It often takes me tremendous energy just to breath. However, compared to what Jesus experienced I breathe easy.

Jesus experienced hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, bones out of joint, intermittent partial asphyxiation and searing pain where tissue was torn from His lacerated back as He moved up and down against the rough timber.

Then another agony began -- a terrible crushing pain deep in his chest as the pericardium slowly filled with serum and began to compress his heart.  Any of you with heart disease may relate a little bit to this final torturous experience of Jesus.

All of these details of his crucifixion bring to mind the 14th verse of the 22nd Psalm: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

  As he slowed down his breathing Jesus went into what is called respiratory acidosis. The carbon dioxide in his blood was dissolved as carbonic acid and this caused the acidity of his blood to increase. This eventually led to an irregular heartbeat. His agony was nearing the end. His loss of tissue fluids reached a critical level; his compressed heart struggled to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into his tissue, his tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. His markedly dehydrated tissues were sending a flood of pain stimuli to his brain.

Jesus’ mother was watching everything the soldiers did to her son! How could she stand it!!

In the condition Jesus was in he was still thinking about others. He asked his father to forgive those who were crucifying him. He promised one of those being crucified with him that he would see him that day in paradise because of his faith. And he told his close friend John to take care of his mother after he was gone.

With his heart beating erratically, my Savior, Jesus, knew he was near his moment of death. It was at this point he was able to declare his battle cry of victory “It is finished!” And then shortly thereafter he spoke the words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Jesus then died of cardiac arrest.

One expert in forensic medicine, Frederick Zugibe, actually volunteered to tie himself to a cross to monitor what physically takes place during a crucifixion. He concluded that victims died from "hypovolemic shock." This condition sets in when a body has lost so much blood and fluid that the heart can't continue to function.

Jesus literally died of a broken heart!

Jesus gave his life on purpose.

His actions were intentional!

He was compelled to take each step and endure every agony to the end.

But why?!

Was Jesus insane? Was he deluded? Was he a masochist? Why did he go through all of this horrific agony? The Bible tells us he could have called legions of angels to rescue him. What held him on that cross? It certainly was not the iron spikes! Any of us giving thought to this must wonder what in the world was going on here! Why did Jesus allow himself to be excruciatingly tortured to death?

I try to conceive of the cruelty or foolishness or evil that I would have to attribute to the Father, God, if He allowed His Son to be tortured by His own creatures unless there was some incomprehensibly essential reason for doing so. I ask myself: ‘Would I allow my son or daughter to be treated like this if I had the power to stop it?’ Or I ask myself: ‘For what reason would I be willing to allow my son or daughter to go through such torture?’ Am I kinder or better or more caring than my Creator? I would not allow it! I would do anything I could to stop it! Am I better than God? Well I know better than that!!

Seriously, can any of us honestly propose that this ultimate sacrifice God made of His beloved Son based on His love for all mankind be anything less than the absolute most amazing action ever taken in all the history of all humanity? Can we?!

I believe the Father gave the life of His one and only precious Son intentionally because He loves each single one of us! I believe Jesus gave his life intentionally because of his love for each single one of us! There is no greater show of love than for a person to lay down his life for his friend. Jesus calls us his friend! We are the friends of Jesus. Each of us! Jesus died for his friends.

His actions were more intentional than we could ever realize! He has loved us from before the time we were born and he initiated a plan before time began to rescue us out of our broken condition that He knew we would find ourselves in. He knew before we could ever have a clue, that our souls were in a desperately hopeless condition relative to our relationship with our God.

From the moment man first disobeyed the Father we died spiritually and then we became prisoners to our sin. The justice of God demanded a sacrifice, restoring to Himself His own again. So the lamb, His only Son, was freely offered and atonement for our sin was forever made.

The Father and Jesus hate our sin because it causes us to die, and Calvary is the measure of His hatred. The only way to solve the sin problem and for us to ever be made alive spiritually, ever again, was for our brother to give his life for us. We needed a relative, a kinsman, to give his life to purchase back our souls. We needed someone who was perfect and therefore able to stand in our place before God. Jesus is that kinsman redeemer! Jesus is our brother and he loves us. He hated what was destroying us and He gave his life intentionally so he could destroy that which was destroying us and so that we could live with him forever.

Oh how our hearts cry out for justice in this world. We cry out for fairness. We want ourselves and others to be treated fairly and it goes against the grain of our souls when we witness injustice. Injustice offends us and it offends God. The bad news is we all come up short, we have all been found wanting because none of us are perfect. None of us are perfectly right and just all the time! The good news is Jesus is right and just all the time and Jesus met the requirement of justice for each of us and made it possible for us to all receive forgiveness, mercy and grace. So we receive way better than justice and fairness. We get to be loved no matter what our condition or what we have done! We get to have things made right when nothing seemed to really be right and when there was no hope. Because of Jesus!

The crucifixion of Jesus reminds us not only of the brokenness of the world but it also reminds us that in those times of suffering and pain, we are not alone.  In the person of Jesus we encounter a God who stands with us in the suffering, a God who is not apart from that burden and pain, but one who is in it with us.  He endured blunt force physical and psychological trauma for our sakes! He understands our feelings and our struggles!

Jesus says:

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I am gentle and humble. And you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

Out of his great love for us Jesus died intentionally because he knew he was going to rise from the grave and in so doing he was going to defeat death and defeat the grave. His love being so immense and so far reaching he wanted us to live forever and never have to die ever again.

The intentional actions of Jesus make God’s forgiveness an option. Before Jesus gave his life forgiveness was not available. The intentional actions of Jesus make life after death possible. Before Jesus gave his life there was no life after death. The intentional actions of Jesus defeated the enemy of our soul, defeated death and gave us victory over the grave.

The single overarching problem of all of human kind was the break in our relationship with our Creator, the one who made us and loves us. The intentional actions of Jesus solved this unsolvable problem and restored our relationship with our Creator. Each person who so desires can avail him or herself of this solution and throw themselves into the arms of God and live in his presence forever. And this can start right here on earth, right now, by faith!

But God loves us all too much to force us to love him. So he honors each of us who choose to go our own way! And he will honor that decision after we die! And the consequences are we will live forever without his presence and without his love. So we need to give serious consideration to our decision when it comes to Jesus.

Because Jesus was serious and intentional in his actions, we need to be the same. Each one of us needs to intentionally accept his sacrifice on our behalf and accept his love, or we need to intentionally decide in the cold light of day to deny his gift of life and turn our back on his love. No one can make that decision for us. Not even God!

He knew what was going to result from his dying and his getting up from the grave. He knew that it would give us life forever and his great love compelled him to intentionally endure it all. And he is satisfied with the results of all he had to go through. He is satisfied that we have life instead of death and that we will live forever with him as his brother. Each person who comes to Jesus he will in no way reject! Not ever!!

Jesus loves us and he knew what we needed and he was willing to do what had to be done. There is no greater gift! There is no greater news ever heard on earth! God truly made it possible for there to be peace between Him and each of us because of his good will and his love toward each of us. Someday this reality will be fully manifested for all who avail themselves of his love.

Jesus intentionally gave his life . . . for you . . . because he loves you!

Mark Phelps

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Motivation: Fear or Love?

The concept of how to motivate people in business and in life is something Americans care a lot about. What I’m writing about today is the way my father, Fred W. Phelps Sr. chose to motivate his children. And later how he tried to motivate his church and ultimately his community.

I think when my father started out as a pastor he was honestly telling people what he believed to be true. And initially I think he thought what he was saying was for the benefit of his listeners. But what my father did that hurt him and a whole lot of other people in the process was he started to isolate himself and would not allow anyone to give him feedback. About his thinking. About his preaching. And ultimately about the way he lived his life. And a man out of the loop of feedback from his peers is a man who can go astray. And to say my father went astray is truly an understatement.

What my father did was find what he thought were the most important rules from the bible for how to live properly and then he pounded those into the minds of his listeners. Over and over and over again! Those of us who later got out of my father’s cult found out that my father cherry picked things from the Bible that mirrored his growing hatred of himself and other people. So he truly chose over time to preach hate. The hate was actually in his own heart but he picked concepts out of the Bible that he thought might support his views and then ever so subtly he twisted them. And to do that he pretty much had to throw the true God and His Son out. My father especially disliked Jesus. Who he understood was loving and forgiving and because of that had to either ignore or malign.

When I first came to understand that Jesus had died for my sin and actually was a loving, caring Savior my life was at a very different place than it is today. I had no concept of the fact that the Father and the Son meant for me to live in relationship with them first and foremost. And ONLY after that they would empower me to live my life out in a loving way, with their love actually flowing through me. I had no idea about this kind of relationship when I was a young man in my father’s church. My father never explained how a person was to live up to his rigid rules. He just beat the rules into us. There was so much information spewed forth at us with rigid harsh expectations for how we were to live our lives but there was no instruction given on how that was to be accomplished. Truly your nightmare leadership style to be sure!

We did not understand anything about the power and the hope that was available to us for living the new life Christ wanted for us. Well for that matter most of us didn’t even understand that Christ had a new life he wanted for us! At least this understanding wasn’t coming from my father’s preaching. What we did understand was fear! What we got was my father’s endless teaching, mostly of his own making with little connection to the heart of God and the Bible’s plain meaning and packed with plenty of don’ts, with boat loads of fear mongering and deception, but honestly very few dos, certainly no instruction on how, and no hint of love!

What I have learned over the years is that people who are in a life giving relationship with the Father and the Son rarely have time to do anything negative or judgmental because they are so filled up with the love of God. The people who tend to bash, in my experience, are the ones far, far from God. And because they have no relationship with God they resort to rules.

I struggled to live up to the standards apparently required by God (remember, this was according to my father) and the meeting of this standard was imposed with brutality by my father, the preacher. I know now that it is possible to be aware of the facts of Jesus and his death for your sake without knowing what his death and resurrection truly means. I actually think this happens to a lot more of us than we realize if we aren’t truly given the teaching we need to understand this amazing life Christ wants to give us. That was my experience.

I had a fair amount of the “head knowledge” of the Bible and the facts of Jesus’ amazing death and resurrection from the dead. What I didn’t have was an understanding that that historic event had real power connected with it to allow a young man in Topeka, Kansas to be able to live a very different kind of life. Eventually when the head knowledge became heart knowledge, and of a practical sort, my life changed. So I can honestly say to you that I am no longer living the life I used to live.

Here’s why. The Bible says some things happened when I became a follower of Christ . . . a change occurred that was as simple as the flipping of a light switch and as life altering as a baby getting born.

One part of the flipping of the switch was me having, for the first time in my life, help and power from God to live the life He wanted me to live. And the help would come from Him! In the Bible it says “It was through reading the Scripture that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ. ‘I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Wrapped up in the gift of responding to God’s love and becoming a child of His was this amazing truth that God would live in me and with me and that because of that amazing fact, my life would never be the same. Because of God’s love for me and the fact He was now actually living His life in and through mine I could live my life in a completely different manner.

Okay, so what was the point about all of us trying to obey God’s law on our own? Do we motivate ourselves by our fear of God so we won’t misbehave? Do we honestly think it is because God’s desire is to keep us in constant fear and that He is going to crush us like bugs if we don’t toe the line? No! Then what is the point of us using fear, on our self and others, as a motivator for good behavior?

Remember the definition of “the law” in the Old Testament was simple and written requirements God set out for the Jewish people that would allow them to stay in the right relationship with Him. God created the Ten Commandments FOR His people. They were there for people’s protection just like guard rails on a curvy mountainous highway. But a cursory reading of the Ten Commandments brings us to the conclusion that no one has ever kept the law. All of us in the human race have broken those commandments. We have lied and coveted and not honored our parents and a whole lot more. The New Testament says something huge. It says “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”

Wow. That’s a high standard. What’s that about? Who could even think about obeying all the laws of God all the time? When God made the universe He set it up as a moral universe. What that really means is it’s the kind of universe where the things you do matter. Your deeds have consequences. If you hit somebody you break their nose. And you actually break more than bones. You end up doing harm to the relationship you have with that person. God understands this cause and effect relationship. He set it up that way. What we reap we sow. Our actions matter. God expected people to live good, moral lives where they would show compassion and kindness and fight injustice. He would call the people He made to be of the highest moral fiber. But any thinking person realizes that God also gave people the ability to break His laws when He gave them free will. And people do break His laws with great regularity as we see each night on the news and as we walk down the streets of our villages, towns and cities.

Well that’s fine, but what was God really up to when He told us if we couldn’t obey all His laws it’s like we are guilty of breaking them all? When you read the Bible from cover to cover you see that God never lets up on the high standard He sets. In fact, He says things so beyond our comprehension they almost make us laugh. Like when He says “Be holy as I am holy.” Seriously?!

Well actually, yes. He was serious. This whole issue of God’s law itself and whether anyone had a prayer of keeping it completely was worked out by Jesus as He preached the Sermon on the Mount. On that mountain Jesus explained that the standard God set for Old Testament Jews He still wanted us to uphold but that Jesus was refining it to help us realize the standard was to be made even higher. But Jesus also explains in the Sermon on the Mount that this high standard has great and wonderful rewards. Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God.” So His high standard, while high indeed, has a wonderful outcome. Jesus shows these high standards partly to encourage people how they could live happy, holy, and productive and caring lives. But he had another purpose.

Wait till you read the Sermon on the Mount again. You will see that the standard is truly Godlike. A standard so high it can’t be lived up to by we who are mortal! And you find out, as you wrestle with this thought, there was a reason why God did this. And that by showing the standard as insurmountably high must have been God’s point! Why else would you raise a bar even higher for a people who had never lived up to it in the first place! He wanted to make it really clear we couldn’t do it on our own and that without His Spirit living in us it was NEVER going to happen!

Um . . . does it have this odd feeling like we are being set up for failure? By God?

No, actually. It’s more like a master builder, who after asking his students to build a building as high as the heavens, tells them that not for one minute are they going to have to build this building alone. And that He will be with them each step of the way. When Jesus preached the truths of the Sermon on the Mount He built in the promises or the gifts we’d receive in each high standard he set out. When He says blessed are the merciful, He follows immediately with “they shall receive mercy.” So, yes, He is asking us to show mercy on people that it is sometimes hard to show mercy, too, but He reminds us those people will be shown mercy in unique ways. He is such an encouraging God! When He gets to the part where He says those who are persecuted for His sake are blessed He says “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in Heaven is great.” So when Jesus was setting this high standard He was promising us those actions would bring blessing to us, even if it would be in ways we couldn’t imagine. So these high, really impossible standards had promises built right in to them. And the reality is we are hard-wired by God for a desire to live these moral, honorable lives.

In most every place on the planet people want to live this exact kind of life with high moral standards. A truly well lived life! We can see this by the constitutions and legal systems of countries and municipalities but also in the rules we make for our own families. We really do care. And we want to live up to the standards of our own countries’ laws but also to a higher law. We are drawn to God’s law whether we understand it’s His or not. We want to be people of honesty and integrity who are able to show compassion and love towards other people. We really do! We see evidence of this desire in our response to what we read in the newspapers because we are embarrassed and saddened when we ourselves or others are not living up to high standards, ours or someone else’s. We are created in God’s image and there is a real desire in each of us to do what we understand to be right.

Can our desire for goodness and honesty and kindness ever be perverted? Actually made into the exact opposite? Well, yes. Little children in any culture have strong needs for belonging and acceptance and we see children following the adults around them, the good ones and the evil ones. Children and even adults can be taught to do wrong and essentially change their bent if there is enough incentive, coercion or fear involved.

If you look at the news today you see individuals being drawn into and indoctrinated in the evils of terrorism who as young children would never have dreamed of doing these things. And when I look at my family I see my nephews and nieces behaving the same way my brothers and sisters were trained to behave by my father. And what the masters of evil in any culture count on initially in their recruitment tactics is the human need to belong. If that doesn’t work, the teachers of evil move on to scare tactics and violence. But if we look at each person’s past, no matter how far back we have to look I believe we can see evidence of a desire to do what’s right and good and life giving in each of us, because each of us is made in the image of God. What I also see is with the folks in my family who have been able to leave the fold sometimes it’s the simplest things that let them know they must go. For some of them it is finding out that there truly are good and compassionate people on the “outside” even though they had always been told the opposite. Isn’t it interesting that love truly can ultimately prevail over fear?

I was many years into my life before Jesus’ love for me became the motivation for my actions instead of fear. I was taught to fear by my father. And my father did not just see to it that I was terrified of him, but that I was terrified of God. Somehow my father believed the only way to get “good behavior” out of us children was to terrify us. He must not have believed how much children are wired to want to please their parents. If my father had given me the slightest encouragement to be a good son and had understood my desire to please him and see a smile on his face or a “well done, son” that would have been so motivating. I had no idea that goodness or honesty or kindness or love could be the motivation for anything! I only knew fear as a motivator. And sadly for a while I motivated myself and even others by fear. It was what I had been taught and it was really my mother tongue. God rescued me from my family but I had a whole lot of unlearning of fear to do to get where I am today.

But now goodness and honesty and kindness and love all are motivations in my relationship with God. Now I know my God. I mean I know Him at a personal level. Or I am getting to know Him. If you love a person, your love goes beyond the facts of that person, goes beyond the intellectual knowledge you have about that person, but it is rooted in the facts about that person. For example, I love my wife because she is attractive to me, she is kind, she is sweet and she is nice and she is a great friend. All these things are facts about my wife, and therefore I love her. But my love goes beyond these facts. I could know all of these facts about my wife and not be in love with her and put my trust in her, but I do. My decision to love my wife goes beyond the evidence and facts of who she is, to the point of connecting with her essence, her soul and heart. We have shared thousands of special personal experiences that have deepened our mutual love, respect and submission. My wife and I are two souls who know one another intimately and deeply and will love one another forever.

It is the same with my love of God! My relationship with Jesus Christ goes beyond just knowing the historical facts about him, yet it is rooted in those exact historical facts. I believe in Jesus on the basis of the historical evidence, but my relationship with Jesus goes way beyond the evidence. I put my trust in Him and walk with Him on a daily basis. So my relationship with Jesus is no longer based just on my head knowledge and the information I have about Him. And it is not based any longer on fear. It is based on a daily, vital living loving relationship with Him. Very much like my relationship with my wife. He is living and real and a part of my minute by minute living! And he can be that for you if you want this!

Even with all of this, fear still creeps into my motivations for things at times, when stress is high or when I have failed. But I have had enough years now of knowing God’s love and goodness that the fear evaporates within seconds or within minutes now and I remember that God is my friend and a present help in trouble, not my adversary.

If you have been motivated by fear instead of love because of past abuse or mistreatment, know this is a process to being set free from it. But, oh, is it worth it! Love is such a beautiful basis for a relationship. And it will allow you to finally “be” you. With God and with others!

Mark Phelps

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Black Hole

People who have been abused as kids develop a whole lot of coping mechanisms to just keep going in our lives. Part of the reason we do this is because we have to. If we dealt with all our pain all of the time we might just explode! So we develop ways of getting a little respite, of getting a little peace, and of almost completely disengaging sometimes as a method of staying sane.

But for those of us who carry our abuse into our adult lives, without healing, we now carry the terror and abuse of our childhoods into our work lives, our marriages, our parenting, and our everyday worlds. If I could have my wish it would be for every person on the planet to have the healing I have had from my abuse. Because it has changed my life. But part of why I write this blog is the hope that some of my healing process will give you the courage to fight for your healing process. Because you matter. God wants to unshackle you from the bondage of what abuse has done to your heart and your psyche.

Perhaps if you victims or family members or therapists or physicians or anyone reading this can relate to what I am writing in this particular blog, it will allow you to help someone take steps into their own healing journey.

This is a short writing describing some of my feelings and thoughts during my healing work. It’s my attempt to describe the dark place I would go into, a place of despair, at the worst times in my suffering from what abuse had done to me. The place I continued to fall into I called ‘The Black Hole.’ I seldom have any of these feelings in my present life but these feelings and thoughts permeated my heart before, during and for several years following the formal healing work I completed.

As you read this I invite you to imagine two things.

1.Imagine what it might have been like for my wife who lived with me all through the years I had these feelings and its impact on her.

2.Imagine the power at work, by my Creator and God that must have been at work to heal and restore the heart of the person I was, with these feelings being very real and dominant in my life.

Here is a little window into what it felt like to be in ‘The Black Hole’:

As a little tiny baby boy I was brutalized physically and psychologically by my father and abandoned emotionally and physically by my mother. This is the black hole.

I am broken on the inside. My heart is broken.

As an adult I have learned to function in the world but don’t ask me to trust you. DO NOT ASK ME TO TRUST YOU! Don’t ask me to depend on you. Don’t expect me to relax or rest peacefully . . . EVER! Don’t expect me to accept what you tell me as the truth. I know better.

What I know is you will lie to me. You will leave me. At the point when I most need you, you will be too weak or too busy or completely absent and I will be alone again with this monster, my father.

I don’t want to hear about your faith or your God. I know more than I ever wanted to know about your God . . . way more! I do not want to hear your words! If knowing your God makes you act the way you do toward me, why would I EVER want to know him?

I easily see your hypocrisy. I see your lies. I see your manipulation of circumstances to make them fit your blind prejudices. I see your deceit. I watch you and see where you don’t measure up. I know better than to ever believe what you tell me.

I know that things will never be different. You have made that clear to me. I have come to accept the fact that I will always be alone deep inside to face this frantic desperation all by myself.

Don’t ask me to have faith. I’m not that stupid. You hide all your hate and prejudice and evil and viciousness behind some belief in some invisible entity then you use this invisible entity to destroy me, your son. Are you kidding? Have faith in someone who gets people to hurt their children?

So now I want lots of facts that I can touch and verify on my own. So I can protect myself. So I am able to see and to know you are not lying to me, whoever you are. It doesn’t matter WHO you are. I’m too smart to fall for your blind faith. Show me the facts, sir. Show me the facts, ma’am. If I can’t see it, it’s not real. If I can’t control it I want nothing to do with it. If I can’t prove it with cold hard facts I will reject it. You will never be able to prove to me that there is a God who loves me so DON’T EVEN TRY! I have been terrified for years by your God . . . keep your God away from me!!

I may look like I am alive, but I’m really dead. You may see my body in the room, but you will never see my heart. That is still mine, however stomped on. I will appear to be kind to you and compassionate when I am able to because I know what it feels like to be treated with cold cruelty and I would never want you to feel what I have felt. But don’t expect me to show you my heart. Don’t expect me to give you my heart! Don’t expect me to be vulnerable with my feelings. Nobody will ever know how I really feel. And if you leave me it won’t hurt me because I won’t have really connected with you or attached to you from my heart. You will probably learn it would have been better if you had never met me!

I have become a master at living without living. I am a cynic. I am a doubter. I live in despair. My hope was taken from me within the first few days of my life. I will go through the motions of living but I am not truly alive.

The rage stored up in my heart from my abuse now gets used in destroying myself. It is too terrifying to show my rage to anyone because it feels like I might cease to exist. Can you normal people understand this? So I will try to keep my rage within but in doing that I am destroying my own body. I know my rage leaks out at times in little ways but there is nothing I can do about that. You will just have to live with it, sorry! I lived my father’s rage for years and now it is my default mode. So it will inevitably leak out on some of you.

Oh and don’t bother caring about me because it really won’t make any difference. There is nothing you can do. I learned in the first few days of my life not to trust you and I learned this lesson extremely well and have never forgotten it. Trust leads to others hurting you and then the inevitable betrayal and pain and I know I will always be alone in my pain. So I learned not to trust and I learned not to feel any hope.

Please don’t tell me God loves me because I know you are lying to me. If my father and mother don’t love me why would you expect me to believe that your invisible entity loves me! Can’t you see how ugly and worthless I am? What’s wrong with you!?

Once upon a time a little hope stirred somewhere deep inside me, and I think I may have seen just a little glimpse of light. But it was gone before I knew it. Darkness returned and darkness and anger and anguish remain deep in my soul. I will never trust what I can’t prove and what I can’t control. The pain is too overwhelming. The pain burns in my body and I do everything I can to avoid more pain and I stuff this pain down as far into my subconscious as possible because I can barely live with the pain I feel now.

Now let’s fast forward to the next phase of my life, after I left my family’s cult.

After I left my father and the sick things he taught me about how worthless and unlovable I was I still had to figure out the human race. I had no choice but to figure out how to get along with people. What a difficult world to figure out! I remember what an odd feeling it was when I first met a few kind hearted people who actually did not try to hurt me or destroy. How on earth was I to navigate that mine field?

It is an odd feeling to have the walls of my heart 10 feet tall and 10 feet thick and yet meet the occasional person who stirred something in my heart. In spite of those well-constructed walls I was allowed to see into some of the goodness of mankind. And what did I see in this process? Well, little glimmers. Of kindness. Of thoughtfulness. Of reasonableness. Of the spirit of an occasional person who seemed not to want anything from me but to say hello and ask what I wanted on my burger…Oh, how very strange to begin to realize there are some people who really are loving and caring people. How could I have been prepared for these folks with what I was taught in my hate-filled home!

When you are making a massive paradigm shift in your life it feels like you are in free fall. I was moving forward very slowly in my life from a world that had been defined by hate. What I was given a daily fare of in my home was God’s hatred toward his helpless creatures, my parent’s hatred of society and yes, even hated of their own children, and that society was evil at its core. But we in my family’s church were all the “good” folks, the only “okay” people regardless of how we behaved. So, yes, I began to gain some new data points from interacting with the world and learning there were some seemingly nice people, but my little kid core self kept arguing back and saying “Don’t trust this person! He could turn out to be like your father!”

Remember I asked you to imagine what my wife had to go through living with me during this process? Well sometimes she saw me taking a baby step forward in my trust of people, but she also got to witness me falling back into the black hole and believing that no one was trustworthy. And on some days it probably felt to her like I didn’t even trust her. One of the truly good people I had ever known. And whose love for me was profound and had been borne out in her daily patience and love that I still marvel to understand.

I also asked you to imagine the power of my Creator and God to help me heal and to restore my heart. Even when it was permeated by the poison of hate.

The Bible says “God is love.” And if true, that means God can only do what is loving. Ever! The chasm I had to cross was from a home filled with hate and the fruits of hate to trust the best, most trustworthy being in the universe. This was going to take a God who was a master at understanding the human heart and how to remove the poison of hate from it.

Our early childhood teaching is very hard to overcome. It comes in in the most formative years of our lives where the basis of all we are happens. And the core of what I was taught and understood was the core principle of life was hatred. How on earth was God going to help me extract that poison out of my system, my head and my heart? And how was I to maintain my relationship with my very tenderhearted wife and those who were around me in those years?

That journey is the journey this blog has tried to unfold. To say I marvel at the process of God’s mercy and help to me in this journey would be an understatement. But as I worked through to the other side of that process it has brought tremendous freedom . . . to love people, to love God, to love myself, my wife, and my girls . . . to love even the unloving. God has graciously modeled all of that for me and He has walked with me in each step.

The single thing that stunned me the most, and took my breath away, was when I realized that God desires for me to love Him from my heart, on my own, without Him forcing me to love Him. God desires a relationship with me. With me! He gave the life of His precious Son for me because He loves me. And He wants me to love Him from my heart. He wants me to love Him! This is the amazing truth that broke into my darkness, took away my fear and changed my life forever.

Thank you, God. Thank you, amazing therapists. Thank you, my darling wife. Thank you my brother Nathan. You all are the best. Without you I would not be the man I am today. Thank you!

Mark Phelps

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Evidence For Faith

There is only one person in history whose life was accurately written about in explicit detail before he was ever born. The details of this man’s life included information about the circumstances in which he would be born, things that would be accomplished in his life, the type of death he would die and the fact that he would be brought back to life after he died. In fact he is the only person who has ever been raised from the dead and remained alive, leaving an empty tomb which remains empty to this day. This same person also had much detail written about his life after he was born in the form of biographies written by those who knew him.

The details about this man’s singular life that were written before he was born are included in the prophecies of the Old Testament, the sacred book that was given by God to the Jews. The details about his life starting with his birth and following are documented in the New Testament. The Old Testament was written between 400 and 1500 years before his birth by multiple writers, many of whom were not contemporaries of each other, and these writings were widely distributed centuries BEFORE his birth. The details about this person’s life in the New Testament fit the details that were written ahead of time with astonishing precision. We know of nothing that has ever rivaled this level of precise prophecy that was later fulfilled in the details of one man’s life in the history of the world.

By now you may have concluded that I am speaking about Jesus Christ of Nazareth, unique among men. Can you imagine, just for a moment, how absurd you would think it was if I talked this way about any other well-known historical figure? Who could have accurately written the precise details of the life of Einstein, Aristotle, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander the Great, Thomas Jefferson, Henry VIII, Joseph Stalin, Mozart, Plato, you, your neighbor or any other character 500 or 800 or 1000 or 1500 years ahead of their lives? Nowhere in any of the literature on earth, secular or religious, is this duplicated. Not even close. The fact that Christ would be accurately written about in the Old Testament and the subsequent biography of Christ in the New Testament is nothing short of astounding!

We have historical evidence that the Old Testament was written well in advance of the New Testament. And because of this reality we can begin to think clearly about what it means that events were written about in a history book BEFORE they ever happened. Your mind might try to come up with feasible ways to explain how writings of this level of specificity could be written in advance of someone’s life, but one valid explanation is that this happened in a supernatural way. By supernatural I am meaning that God himself stepped into history and worked through the lives of writers to make sure that the details of Jesus Christ’s life would be in books written centuries before he was born.

The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was written about 443 B.C. The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, was written about 40 A.D. leaving approximately a 500-year gap between the Old and New Testament books. We know with certainty the Old Testament existed hundreds of years before the beginning of the New Testament because of the existence of the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek about 200 B.C. This translation was begun during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus about 280 B.C. and was completed not long after. This confirms the fact that the Old Testament is much older than the New Testament.

God has chosen to show that the Bible is His communication to every man and every woman in a very unique way but he has backed his writings up in an amazing way by making sure we would know they are true. That way is through the giving of specific, detailed prophecy and the fulfillment, hundreds of years later, of this specific detailed prophecy. Prophecy is God’s own method of proving His truth.

If God wanted people to know he was a trustworthy person to listen to, what better way than to do something no one else in history could do? And that was to predict things hundreds of years in advance that he knew were all going to come true. The teachings of the Bible are so unique and different from all other religions, and so very important to the human beings God created. Events predicted centuries in advance confirm the Bible to be a heavenly decree, the absolute and final Word of God and that its message is fully authorized by the Almighty. It has His divine seal, letting all people know He has spoken.

This type of authentication for the truth of God’s writings can never be counterfeited by other writers because only God has foreknowledge of the actions of free and intelligent agents, men and women. It is the unique ability of the Almighty, the all-knowing God, to be aware of new things, new people and new events before they ever even exist or take place. The true God alone foreknows and foretells the future. And He has chosen to confine his foretelling to the pages of Scripture. Sensing the tremendous force of this fact, the philosopher and apologist Justin Martyr said, “To declare a thing shall come to pass long before it is in being, and to bring it to pass, this or nothing is the work of God.”

In the entire history of man’s existence, except for the prophecies of Scripture, there is not a single instance of a prediction, being expressed in unequivocal language, which included objective measurable detail, which boasts the slightest claim to fulfillment.

Suppose there were only 50 prophecies in the Old Testament (instead of the known 333) concerning the first coming of Christ, giving details of the coming Messiah and which all come together in the life of Jesus. The probability of chance fulfillment as calculated by mathematicians according to the theory of probabilities is less than one in 1,125,000,000,000,000. Now add only two more elements to these 50 prophecies, and precisely pre-state the TIME and the PLACE at which they would happen and the immense improbability that they will take place by chance exceeds all the power of numbers to express or the human mind of man to grasp.

The divine perfections of foreknowledge and fulfillment can best be seen in the realm of prophecies concerning Messiah, more than any other sphere. The Messiah was the person the Jews were waiting for who was coming to save their people from their sins. It is easy to see, if enough characteristic details are given, identification can be clear and precise when it comes to prophecy. So many details of Messiah are given in prophecy hundreds of years ahead of time and each one is exactly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, so identification is positive.

Christ’s coming is the central theme of the Bible. The coming of Christ promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament; His birth, character, work, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection; are the overarching and central themes of the Bible. Christ is the bond that ties the two Testaments together. The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, the New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed.

Here is a brief summary of the prophecies concerning Messiah, assuring His identity:

- The work of the redeeming of mankind was to be accomplished by one person, the promised Messiah

- As the “Seed of the woman” He was to bruise Satan’s head

- As the “Seed of Abraham” and the ‘Seed of David” He was to come from the tribe of Judah

- This Messiah must come at a specified time

- He was to be born of a virgin

- He was to be born at Bethlehem of Judea

- Great persons were to visit and adore Him

- He was to be called out of Egypt

- He was to be raised in Nazareth

- He was to be preceded by a person who was a forerunner/foreteller of him before beginning His public ministry

- He was to be a prophet like Moses

- He was to have a special anointing of the Holy Spirit

- He was to be a priest after the order of Melchizedeck

- As the “Servant of the Lord” He was to be a faithful and patient Redeemer for the Gentiles

- As the “Servant of the Lord” He was to be a faithful and patient Redeemer for the Jews

- His ministry was to begin in Galilee

- Later He was to enter Jerusalem to bring salvation (the saving of people from the penalty of their sins)

- He was to enter the temple

- His manner of teaching was to be by parables

- His ministry was to be characterized by miracles

- He was to be a ‘Stone of stumbling” to the Jews, and a ‘Rock of offense’ (he was going to offend people by what he said!)

- He was to be hated without a cause

- He was to be rejected by the rulers

- He was to be betrayed by a friend

- He was to be forsaken by His disciples

- He was to be sold for 30 pieces of silver

- His price was to be given for the potter’s field

- He was to be hit on the cheek

- He was to be mocked

- He was to be beaten

- His garments were to be parted four ways and lots were to be cast for his clothing

- He was to die by crucifixion

- His death was to pay for the sins of all people who ever would commit sin

- His hands and His feet were to be pierced

- Not a bone of His body was to be broken

- He was to suffer thirst

- He was to be given vinegar to drink

- He was to be “numbered with the transgressors”

- His body was to be buried with the rich in His death

- His body was not to see decay

- He was to be raised from the dead on the third day after he was buried

- He was to ascend to the right hand of God

- He was to make intercession before God on behalf of all who trust Him for the rescuing of them from the penalty of their sins.

Remember, there are actually 333 specific predictions concerning the coming Messiah in the Old Testament! These I’ve listed are just highlights. Here indeed is Jesus, God’s Rock of Ages, faith’s unshakable standing place!

You are invited, you individually, you the reader, to research these facts on your own regarding their prediction in writing in the Old Testament by multiple writers who lived at least 400 years before their occurrence; up to 1500 years before their occurrence; and the detailed writing of their fulfilment in the New Testament, especially the four gospel writings. For example, take the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 and compare it to the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

http://www.bibleprobe.com/365messianicprophecies.htm

It is mathematically impossible for even a fraction of these clearly stated prophecies to be fulfilled by chance by any single person. Instead of chance happenings, what you have before you is an explosive, mathematical impossibility. And evidence for your faith.

But wait? Evidence for my faith? Why does any of my faith get exercised when God tells the truth about something hundreds of years in advance just by predicting it? I may even think it’s amazing that God has this power and knowledge but what does that have to do with me? Today?

Try to step for just a minute into God’s shoes. He knew He needed to communicate who he was to the people he made. But he had more to communicate than that. He had to communicate how to avoid some very serious land mines that would come up in every single human being’s life. And in the writing of this book that had such a critical message to life on the planet he had to do it in a form people could understand and relate to. People across all of history! And he had to write it in such a way that it would speak across language barriers and across all cultures. Tall order, right? And from God’s perspective this was the most important book in the world to the most important people in the world. We his amazing creation!

It was a book about him but it was also a book about us. God looked into our existence and knew there was something that was going to damage and hurt us and something that was bad enough that the only answer was something his own son would have to do for us. So while the Bible, Old and New Testaments combined, was written for people who would live in any age, God had to write it in such a way that people would actually pick it up! I have wondered if one of the reasons he put such extensive prophecy in his book is because he knew it would be a draw. To the mathematician and scholar who would KNOW that his prophecies could not be coincidence . . . and had to be orchestrated by a phenomenal mind . . . but more . . . by a God with a phenomenal purpose.

So while God used irrefutable factual evidence of the kind he intended you to have so you might have a faith based on information . . . and based on the facts that God Himself tells ahead of time, he also had a deeper work he was doing. He needed all of us to understand that a disease entered the human system that was going to take us down. All of us! And that disease was sin and the impact sin would have on us. Not just sin we would commit that would harm us who share this planet, but even bring harm to our relationship and ability to communicate with God. He also needed all of us to understand things he would describe in great detail that would show exactly what He had planned in the way of salvation for us; a Messiah; because of His indescribable and immeasurable love for each of us!

If only you could know His love for you, you would run to Him and never leave His side!

This is my hope for you, that you would know this love of Christ and by knowing His love be changed for good, forever!

What if you were to go do some digging and find out this truth for yourself? Or what if maybe you wrote to me and allowed me to connect you with resources and books that have these prophecies and their fulfillment laid out for you. This couldn’t be more important! This could not be more important for you . . . today, and for you for all of your tomorrows.

God spent a lot of time getting these prophecies written just to reach out to you, reader, in 2015 in the circumstances you find yourself in. Let His love pour over you through all this amazing truth!

Mark Phelps

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Forgiveness

What happens if you forgive someone? A whole lot of wonderful things happen. In your spirit, in your soul, in your body. And in your future.

But before we talk about what happens if you forgive, maybe we should talk about what happens when you don’t forgive. Because there are big consequences in our lives for not forgiving people.

Many of us are being hindered from our destiny because we are being held hostage by a leash around our souls called unforgiveness. And that leash keeps jerking us back. The tricky thing about unforgiveness is it has a kind of logic to our hearts. We think it makes sense to hold on to our pain and agony because of what happened to us. All the way from a simple, but undeniable slight by a coworker at a meeting to the most profound abuse, there are a multitude of things that keep us tethered to that leash.

Whatever it is though unforgiveness is holding you hostage! Are you still seeking revenge? Do this person’s actions against you occupy far too much of your daily thoughts? Even though unforgiveness may “feel” right to your psyche, your heart will be destroyed without forgiveness. Today I would love to see you set free from this pain and anguish.

Nothing will hinder you arriving at God’s destiny for you like unforgiveness will. You may be ready to say “Great, I don’t want my destiny trashed by my holding onto the things that are already torturing me anyway. What is forgiveness exactly?”

Well, first of all forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. You can forgive someone and not “feel” like it. It is an act of the will. And since we are the ones doing the forgiving it doesn’t require any action on the offender’s part. When we forgive we can be released from our painful bitterness, resentment and all-consuming thoughts by releasing the offender through our forgiveness. We do not need to wait for them to apologize.

What happens when we forgive is we give up our claim or rights over the person who has hurt us. Does it sound strange that you may be walking through life having a “claim” on someone who hurt you? Well yes. You may be living your life as if the offender’s wrongdoing allows you the freedom of certain thoughts and behaviors. And these thoughts may seem perfectly allowed and justified as far as your heart is concerned. So exactly what rights might you be giving up if you forgave someone who hurt you?

Well for starters the right to hate this person. Or the right to go after him and hurt him as much as he hurt you. You might be giving up your right to badmouth this person. Or giving up your right to nurse a grudge over her actions whenever you think about the offense.

But let’s be clear. Forgiveness is not forgetting. You still have a working memory after you choose to forgive and situations may come up that will naturally bring up the offense to your mind. But as we give the undeserved gift of forgiveness to our offender, we start to remember the offense differently. The offense no longer wounds us. We never forget, but the memories no longer damage us. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the wrongdoing. And it doesn’t say you ignore it. It just deposits the offense in a different part of your psyche and your soul. And allows you to move on in a way you just can’t imagine possible if you haven’t forgiven.

But let’s talk a little bit about the idea that forgiveness is a decision. It is. It’s the first step. But forgiveness is not usually a one-time action. It is more of a process. Because a huge part about being human is having emotions and feelings that go along with the living of life. We have tremendous feelings of good during certain times of our life, but certain things like abuse often leave us in a mountain of pain. Forgiveness may indeed be an act of the will, but to work through the emotional aftermath of the pain from the hurt takes integrity. Forgiveness is the writing of the check, but choosing to do the work of healing and continuing to choose to forgive is like having the funds in the bank to cover the check. In my case the ongoing process of healing and forgiving in the midst of that healing took about 20 years. Lest I leave you with the feeling that forgiveness happens instantly.

I am reminded of the families in the Charleston shooting that occurred several months ago. These were amazing loving souls who dug deep and began the act of forgiveness in a courtroom setting by telling the killer face to face. These folks’ love and forgiveness could almost take your breath away. But not for one minute do I believe that initial decision to forgive isn’t going to be revisited in their hearts and minds and spirits over and over again in the next years. Because it will! We must do the emotional work of feeling the pain that comes from those who hurt us in order to let go. Yes, it starts with a decision, but it is a whole lot more.

My perspective as one who has been cruelly abused myself is that the ability to forgive is really a gift from God. Honestly we are hardwired to care about injustice and care about it deeply. It is no wonder that wrongs done to us and others we care about bothers us and makes us cry out in agony and despair. It seems SO wrong to see evildoers hurt people and yet seem to have no consequences for their actions.

You may be given the opportunity one day to seek reconciliation for certain offenses done to you. You may have the courage to go to your coworker who spoke poorly of you in a public meeting to challenge that action and to find out what is behind it. Perhaps you offended them and they are retaliating. That is certainly an important part of reconciliation. To learn that often we played a part in the conflict. And reconciliation between two people is a wonderful thing. Over events big or small. But in some instances the perpetrator of the wrong has no understanding he even did something that caused hurt, or worse, does not care and likely will never ask you for forgiveness. It is in those times that the forgiving will seem very one sided. And that is because it is! The power, the energy, the willingness to forgive may all have to come from you!

If that is the case, remember the ability to forgive is really a gift from God. Ask for the gift from Him. He is the great forgiver of all the wrong we have done (and others have done) and He is in the business of forgiving us. So He knows a whole lot about this. He created the human heart and He knows everything about healing it. There is a verse in the Bible that says “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Isn’t that fascinating that we get to see our own forgiveness of others in the greater context of God forgiving us?

God forgives us for everything we have EVER done wrong. He chooses to hold nothing against us, ever, for what we have done. No matter what it was! When He asks us to forgive, He is asking us to forgive a specific person for a specific thing done to us. Not for everything the person has ever done wrong, but THIS thing that has been done. It is not some blanket forgiveness. It is one person and one situation at a time.

God is not surprised by your anger at wrongdoing. He made you to care very deeply about wrongs. Just like He does. He has given all of us the command to right as many wrongs as we can in this life. We are to fight against injustice and to help people. Often we need to get clarity from God or wise compassionate people to even understand a wrong has been done to us and to even call it a wrong. (This can be especially true for people who were abused as children.) But when that clarity comes we are given the freedom to call that pain by its real name. And to not minimize abuse or pain caused by others. Acknowledging pain is an important first step in healing. So while God honors our need to see our pain named and acknowledged He does ask us to forgive as He forgave us. And He forgives us completely and totally.

It is a tall order. Honestly for some offenses it sounds plain impossible. Because in our brains forgiveness sounds like letting someone off the hook. So we are incredibly reluctant to do it. It seems to be a terrible betrayal to our own hearts. But forgiveness is never synonymous with forgetting what a perpetrator did. Or worse, not being allowed to care about the devastating consequences that may have come into your life. Forgiveness is neither of these things. There are often significant legal, societal, family or other relational consequences to a person’s actions against another. But forgiveness is not tasked with fixing or punishing the person for what they did wrong. That is someone else’s job actually!

What God was doing when He gave us forgiveness was giving us a gift. And this is a gift designed to free the human heart from the bondage of bitterness, despair, revenge, depression, and all the long list of things that happen to us when we hold on to the pain and the suffocating bondage of what others have done to it. I believe God invented forgiveness FOR us. God loves and cares about the victims’ heart. He knew how debilitating it would be to our hearts not to be able to forgive. So He gave us both a command to forgive but plenty of reassurances that He was in the forgiveness business and would step with us along the pathway through the pain. God is fully able to be with us on this journey, however long it takes, and be there on the other side when we are set free of what is dragging us down. God is the great Physician and Healer and longs to be able to give us these gifts.

One person described forgiveness as being symbolized by a rope that both you and the perpetrator hold. The rope ends up being able to tie you forever to him/her as long as you are unable to forgive the person’s actions. So to follow this word picture, to forgive is simply to let go of your end of the rope. Just let it go. The wrongdoer still has the other end of the rope. And perhaps this rope symbolizes that until the offender seeks forgiveness from you or from God the actions he did are going to destroy his soul too. But that is not necessarily your problem! (We might talk about restorative justice in a future blog.) One thing you do by letting go of your end of the rope is you cease to be judge and jury of the person. You give that job back to society and ultimately to God.

For me forgiving began with the knowledge that forgiving was what God wanted me to do. Because I experienced ongoing abuse over a long period of time the work of forgiving required working over a long period of time. And I needed others to help me. As I worked through main themes of abuse, over time I was able to reconnect to the experiences of abuse and the hurt. I was able to see the damage in my heart as a result of the abuse and was able to resolve the hurt emotions that had kept me so “stuck” and unable to go forward with my life.

First I had to work through the fear and terror my father had infused into my heart. Then I was able to work through the anger and resulting hurt and bitterness. At that point in the healing/forgiveness process I began to connect with little boy feelings of needing a father and not having his love and care. These emotions were softer with quiet crying and weeping. Eventually I had to mourn the losses of what never was and never would be. Feeling these losses brought on deep body crying with writhing because of the overwhelming anguish and grief and this often took all the physical strength my body could give.

As I slowly resolved all these many hurt feelings and was able to express them, many insights came to me I had not been able to see before. I began to realize the brokenness in my father, my abuser, and I began to get a sense of what his brokenness must have been like for him. With that understanding at last I was able to forgive my abuser deep within my heart. I had to be open to forgiving initially or I would never have been able to do the work required to deal with the emotional pain I had in my soul from my abuse. And dealing with my pain allowed me to understand my father. And it was at this point of understanding that I was able to fully forgive my father.

I remember the specific thoughts I had during this part of my healing work. I realized if my father were to ever have the willingness to face what he had done, honestly face it, he would very likely fall to the ground and never be able to get up again. When I experienced the wrenching agony in my body as I worked through the abuse I lived with at the hand of my father, it became clear to my heart that I had taken into my heart and my body what my father had been unwilling or unable to face within his own heart. He had buried his hurt and fear so deeply beneath his rage that it turned to rancid hatred. This hatred came out in his life and poisoned his soul and those in his life. When I began to understand this, I was able to have pity on my own father and was able to forgive him.

God understands us completely and is continually and immediately ready and willing to forgive us. He took all our mistakes into His own body in the person of Jesus Christ. But we must open our hearts to Him. To forgive another person we must open our hearts to ourselves (and God), admit our anger, resentment and bitterness, perhaps even hate, for the person who hurt us. When we take this first step, God does the healing work we need and enables our willing hearts to forgive our abuser. It starts with a mental decision and can eventually become full heart forgiveness. The abuser may never know anything about the work we have done but the work frees us to love again. We are free to love ourselves, the abuser and others in our lives. If you have a wife and children this becomes of priceless value! Yes! Because with a freed up heart you are able to give more of yourself to the ones you love and be more present in their lives.

If you allow God into your life and into your world then when you let go of the rope you have a loving God who can overrule the effects and damage of whatever happened to you. This is hard to understand but in amazing ways that only God can, He will work good in your life in spite of what happened to you. And in fact God will use what happened to you to bring good from it in a way you may never even dream possible. And God does this kind of thing every day. It seems like a miracle when it happens to you, but it is part of God’s continuing work in our lives.

If you have read my blog you know the process of forgiveness is not an easy one for those of us who were abused over a long period of time and in a particularly cruel way. But it most assuredly can be done. With God’s help I have become a truly free person. I am free to no longer hate my perpetrator. That is an amazing place to get to. Because I am now free to live my life without the baggage of all that pain and hatred. I wish I could describe to you the difference between the person I was when I was still holding on to that rope and the person I am now.

When you have a view of God that allows you to understand that He can even use the mess that messed you over, you will step into new territory in your relationship with God. You’ll come to understand He can make you into someone new and in many ways stronger and more compassionate as a person than you ever imagined. What happens when you forgive others is it can amount to a paradigm shift in your life. Most of our lives when we are victimized by people we just feel like victims. When we realize God can give us a new sense of freedom and self-worth and dignity as we choose to forgive we realize it allows us to step into our destiny in a new way.

When you are set free from the burden of the pain connected with unforgiveness you are able to handle the person who hurt you very differently. When you let go of the rope from a spouse or a co-worker or a son or daughter or friend you might just free them up to move on and do what they need to do in their lives. Others you choose to forgive may not be safe people in your life and just because you forgive them does not mean you have to have face to face contact with them.

God has some amazing promises in the Bible. One of them says “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” That doesn’t say God sees the evil that happened to us as good. It doesn’t. It says God is able to bring good and work good out of any situation. Sometimes it takes faith to believe that initially but after you see God at work in hopeless situations in your life long enough you begin to trust Him. I believe this also happens to people all over the world who don’t know God but who God knows are going to come to know Him. Perhaps from God’s perspective this happens in nearly every person’s life. Who knows.

I forgive so that I can move on. That sounds a bit self-serving. Shouldn’t I want what is best for my daughter who I had a big fight with and not just “release” her by dropping the rope because I get to move on? Well, yes, by all means, be aware that your letting go of your judgments and anger and asking God to help you forgive may well bring her tremendous good, but sometimes do it just because you know God gave you this great gift of human relations. And He gave it to you for your good, so you could move on, And of course there are huge benefits for the doers of wrong down the road. Maybe! But honestly that is not ours to wrap our brains around. We have enough trouble living out a life of integrity and doing what is right. It just so happens that forgiveness is the right thing to do and the BEST thing to do for us . . . and for our futures.

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the handcuffs of hatred and is the antidote to resentment. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. What liberation when you can forgive! Love is an act of endless forgiveness. It is wiser to forgive than to hate. If you look closely you will find that each human heart is fragile and in need of understanding and forgiveness.

Let the forgiveness begin…

Mark Phelps

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Second Radio Interview - Part 3

Daniel: Our guest today is Mark Phelps. He is the son of the late pastor Fred W. Phelps, Sr. Fred Phelps was the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for their thousands of picket protests against the US Military and the homosexual agenda. Mark Phelps has come forward to testify about what it was like to be inside of the church the process of healing he had to go through in order to overcome the negative impact his father had on him and his family.

Folks, it is possible to know Jesus Christ in an intimate way. And this is what He wants! He wants for us to identify with His heart and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to be transformed! Folks, we are talking about it.

We are having an incredible discussion with our special guest, Mark Phelps, who is the son of the late pastor Fred W. Phelps, Sr., founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church known for their thousands of picket protests against the US Military and the homosexual agenda.

Mark has been telling us about recovering from years of abuse. Mark, I want to get into, now, some of the elements of what recovery meant for you. And you said it meant relearning terminology. In other words, that love meant something else other than evil and that was a change in your definition. You had to face your fears. What about forgiveness?

Mark: Forgiveness is so central to the process and I want to be careful to define my understanding or what I have experienced as opposed to some other kind of forgiveness. All of the effects of behavior and treatment is gone from my soul. I have no animosity, no hate. I have love for my father and I was able to pray for him while he was alive, not knowing his condition, not knowing his state.

Forgiveness is about working with the Lord to remove any effects from what you have experienced, whoever it is who has hurt you or mistreated you. It is not that the person has come and said; and I know there are people that disagree with this; if you wait for someone to change their behavior, to say they are sorry, or to come to you and apologize, in many cases I’m sorry to say you are going to be waiting until you die. But you can work the effects of the hurt through your soul; through your mind and your heart; you can work it out of your being; the very core of your being. You can work out all of the hurt and the effects of the damage of it until it is no longer there.

The Lord is the one who enables you, the one who equips that. The Lord provides the power and the strength for that work and for you to be able to forgive. That’s how forgiveness happens. But you have to give it to Him and you have to participate with Him in it. That is how you can heal and forgiveness is so central to that process. You can’t hold that hurt; you must not hold that hurt; whatever that is that you are holding against the person who hurt you. You cannot hold onto it and expect to be whole.

Daniel: You said something intriguing; you said ‘you have to participate with Him in it’. What does it mean to participate with God in forgiveness?

Mark: The practical aspect of this, to me, is (I’m saying this in prayer to the Lord) ‘Lord I’m hurt! I’m overwhelmed by this. I can’t see up from down. I can’t see clearly at all, it’s like I’m in a fog. And I want to forgive this person. I want to resolve. I no longer want this to be the condition of my heart as it relates to this person who has hurt me, and to this situation. But I need your help!

You have to start. You have to feel the pain. You have to work on, for example, hurt is masked by anger. Usually when there is anger it is because there has been hurt. I mean there is a whole process of understanding but it is not apart from; I just don’t believe it is apart from the Lord. You have to verbally and viscerally, by your volition; by your will; the process starts with our will. The heart catches up folks. But the starting point is the will. It’s the mind saying ‘that’s what I want to do because Lord, that’s what you have asked me to do’. And the Lord knows what I need! And you have to start with the willingness and the readiness to do it. And you will get to the emotion. And when that emotion resolves, eventually forgiveness can come in the heart.

Daniel: Wow, that’s so powerful. Now some people would say ‘now listen, yeah sure, I get it, I know I need to forgive, but I just don’t feel like I’m going to mean it when I say it so why should I say it at all? Why should I say it at all if I know I’m not going to genuinely mean it from my heart?’

Mark: Where else can you start? I mean you have to start where you are. The Lord starts with us where we are and we have to start where we are. Corrie Ten Boom is a wonderful example; I mean for those who are seeking and desiring and they still don’t feel it; and there are all different personalities I know and we all work differently but in essence, that’s what this is, it’s a starting point where you are. And if you want to see and read about others that have been hurt who are available publicly to read and know about, maybe that can help. But the Lord will give us the willingness too. But you have to start where you are, I think.

Daniel: Now, all though you were the subject of extremely unfair abuse, did you also find that you had to forgive yourself, at any point?

Mark: Yes! At all points, yes, because I participated! I was there in the room watching my father beating my sister with the oak mattock handle until she has an open sore on her rear end for a year; hitting her about the face, twisting her arm behind her back. And seeing him beat my brother. I saw my father have his private detective hold a gun to my brother’s knee. I am with my father on the mission to go kidnap my older brother back home after my father has given my older brother permission to leave home and live with his private detective. My father has his private detective come out to the car after we have kidnapped him back out of the private detectives home, come out to the car, and I’m looking from the back seat into the front seat on the right side and I see the gun. And I see the gun being held against my brother’s knee. And I hear the detective threaten my brother that he will shoot him in the knee if he ever tries to leave home again. And I just sit there! And I am watching all of this and I am a part of all this. And after my father has severely, savagely beaten my brother Nate, then a week later my father is mad again and he asks me to beat Nate, and his bruises have not even healed yet from the last beating. And so I beat him! Because if I don’t, I’m going to get beat!

And what about my mother?! I stood and watched while he beat her. I know I’m just a child, but this is about the emotion and about the heart! I should have been screaming bloody murder from the time I was five years old. But you see I was terrified!! I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. And when you get to that point in the healing process and you start to understand it and realize what you have done, every step along the way you have to forgive yourself.

Daniel: But you are telling me and you are telling our audience that with Jesus it was possible to forgive your dad.

Mark: It is possible! It’s probable! The Lord is so good. The Lord said ‘with a mustard seed of faith’. With the least bit of faith and moving towards the forgiveness, who responds? He does! Who is good? He is! Who is right? He is! That’s who our Lord is! I mean I can quote you a verse: ‘He who gave up His own Son for us all, how shall He not also freely give us all things!’ What is all things? It’s not more money! It might be in a certain circumstance, but it is our souls and our hearts. We are souls with bodies and the Lord made us. And He is magnificent! He understands us! And He understands every detail of our hurt. I was reading again last night about what He went through for our sake. He has endured everything that He endured and He is ready to respond to our need. We bring it to Him, even the first step, and He is already responding. He is way out ahead of us! He is ready to heal us! He is going to make us whole!

Daniel: Now something that I have noticed, personally working with people, is that sometimes it helps significantly when a person stops and, as awkward as this sounds, forgives God. I’ve actually seen it where this is a huge breakthrough for people who, while they don’t necessarily want to believe it was God’s fault and they know theologically maybe it doesn’t make sense, but inside of them they are blaming God! And it’s holding them back and it’s keeping them in bondage and acknowledging that often times allows significant breakthrough. Did you find that at any point this was part of your journey?

Mark: Oh Dan, it’s unbelievable! All of a sudden I would find myself and wham! I would be feeling: ‘I didn’t have anything to do with this. HOW! Oh how did this happen to me?! How could I find myself in this situation?! God, how could you allow this?! How could you allow this to be this way?! How could you allow this to go on year after year after year? And I learned God is not going to be broken by us being honest with Him! And He is not going to punish you for expressing your feelings to Him! But you have got to believe that all of that abuse at some point, and at many points along the way, it will occur to your heart: God, why didn’t you do something?! Why did you allow this to happen?!

I don’t have an answer for why He leaves us here on the earth after we are saved except for what we are talking about here. He knows, we don’t; He knows how things work, we don’t Dan! He came to seek and save the lost. And somehow it has to happen the way it is happening, for now, until eternity. And God knows what He is doing. I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it. But I know He came to seek and save the lost and He is close to the broken hearted it is the truth. His word speaks truth! And that’s who He is and even though we are going to be angry at Him, if we are in touch with reality, because this is a harsh world we live in. This is a very painful world we live in. But God is good and the pain we experience here is nothing compared to what the glory is going to be. And God is also with us in our pain and He is never going to leave us.

Daniel: That’s a powerful statement that you just made, that God is with us in the pain. This is a break through that people have told me about. That God has come to them and given them a revelation that, no, I wasn’t standing off watching you get, you know, something terrible in your life, and just folding my arms. People have had a revelation that Jesus has actually suffered through it WITH them. And that is the compassion of God. Compassion means to suffer with. And then what happens is, God, if we let Him, He turns around, and the Bible says He will work all things to the good of those that love Him and that are called according to His purpose. And here you are. Now your testimony is going to go out to thousands of people that are hurting, that are bruised, that are broken, that are abused, that don’t see a light at the end of the dark tunnel, that don’t know there is hope for them, that hear your testimony, and they are going to realize that will name Jesus Christ that is the solution that they have been waiting for, the healing that they have been hoping for, and it is real because, you know what, there is a real testimony behind the message.

Daniel: Today we have been talking all program long with Mark Phelps, son of the late pastor Fred W. Phelps, Sr. of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. They are known for their thousands of picket protests against the US Military and the homosexual agenda. And you know, when we left off, we were talking about the central point of his testimony which is forgiveness. And Mark was talking about forgiving his dad, forgiving himself and forgiving God. Mark, why is forgiveness so powerful?

Mark: To not forgive keeps you, I believe, keeps you no less, to me, than imprisoned. To not forgive keeps you stuck, keeps you rotating over the same hurt, the same emotion, the same rage (whatever your emotion might be) and it actually affects you physically. But I think most importantly it affects other parts of your life. It affects your relationships and it affects your ability to function. I believe to not forgive takes your strength.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to forgive because part of your soul is imprisoned when you don’t forgive. And the Lord emphasized it by saying if you don’t forgive in effect you won’t experience my forgiveness of you. I’ve forgiven you but you are not going to experience my forgiveness if you are unable to forgive those who have hurt you. It is an incredible experience to work through hurt and to forgive and then to realize at that same moment that the Lord has forgiven you. It makes that realization of His forgiveness very real. I want to emphasize the importance of forgiveness particularly to those who have been spiritually abused, since we have been talking about forgiving God, where God’s word has been used to abuse or pastors have done the abusing. It is so important to me to emphasize that the Lord did not abuse you.

I played the piano from the time I was five years old for my father’s ‘church’. I had played all those old Christian hymns and for the longest time I was unable to play these hymns. But I want to tell you, I am able to play them now and I am peaceful and at rest to hear the wonderful words of the old hymns. But they were used in the midst of my abuse. The Lord can heal the spiritual abuse even when His word was used to abuse you. You just have to blindly hand it over to the Lord. It is so important to me right now to express how strongly I feel. There is no hope on the earth like the hope of Christ and I don’t want people to turn away from the Lord our Savior because of what a human being has done with His word or how a human being who was supposed to be a shepherd and a pastor has hurt them. It just breaks my heart to think of it. And I know people that have been hurt by God’s word and they are so hurt by it, they are so lost in it, and there is a way to recover from that and I am hoping that people can recover from it. That’s why I want to write a book and communicate about that.

Daniel: And this is a real problem! And there are people in our listening audience who have been significantly wounded by figures in the church. I mean I’ve talked to people. As a matter of fact you are talking with one of them right now! And I had to go through my own healing. I didn’t go through physical abuse and different things like that, or sexual abuse from church leaders. But you know the things that I did go through were extremely disappointing and after God healed me I wrote a book called ‘Wounded by Leadership’. This book was to address the problem because it is a real problem folks. And if you have been abused by leadership in the church you are not the only one and God, He will heal you from that. He will be your salvation from that. He was with you in what you went through. And you will find out that God wasn’t really the motivating factor behind your leadership. You know what He was with you through the suffering in the midst of those things.

Mark, before I ask you a couple more questions just at this point I want you to pray for our listening audience for those people who are suffering, for those people who need to forgive that have been through the abuse. Because there has been an anointing on this program and I want to give you an opportunity to pray for these people.

Mark: Father we thank you for your grace and your love and we know that people are hurt and are hurting. And it’s serious Lord. It is not insignificant. The pain is central and core to their lives and they are going to atheism or they are going to psychics or they are going to drugs, they are going wherever, I don’t know where all, but they are going away from the Lord, away from you! And Father I am asking you now in Jesus name to have mercy and to be gracious and by the work of your Holy Spirit help them to see that Christ is what you have done for us and religion is what man has done to mess it up! Help them to see that you are not the one that has betrayed them, you are not that one who has turned your back on them, and you are not the one who has hurt them. And it is serious business for you Father and I am asking you Father, in Jesus name, to work by your great power to reach these people who are hurting and draw them back to yourself through the Lord Jesus. Help them feel your mercy and your compassion and your love Father. I pray in Jesus name.

Daniel: Amen. That was really good. Folks if you are out there and this has touched your life, receive that. Receive that and give Jesus a chance to prove Himself in your life. Listen Mark, I want to ask you a couple more questions in wrapping up this interview. 1. How did your journey to heal from all of this impact your marriage?

Mark: It changed my marriage for good. My wife has always been there but my healing and recovery work made our marriage a marriage! It made our marriage a marriage. And my wife would tell you now; if you asked her, she’s not here right now where I am; but if you were to ask her, if someone were to ask her, she would tell you that I love her and that she knows she is loved and she knows now that she has a husband. It made all the difference in our marriage. She endured it. It was never physical abuse, but certainly emotional abuse. But she got through that and she knows the difference.

Daniel: What about your family; your sisters, your brothers? How do you relate to them now and what has become of their lives?

Mark: The only person I have real contact with is my brother Nate. I have contact with him every week or more often and I tell him I love him on a regular basis. He is working on his life doing some important work to help heal people who have been hurt by religion. He has gone to atheism and he is doing a lot of work to try to help the people who are a part of the LGBT community to know that they are human beings whom God loves.

I have not had any contact with my sister Katherine at all for 40 years. I just pray for her life. I have a little contact with my younger sister and a couple of my nieces.

My family is on my heart every day and I pray for them and I am not sure I’m the one . . . God is amazing and I may be the one He uses to minister to and reach my family. But as far as my family is concerned I am the enemy. I left and immediately became the enemy and I have most likely still remained as the enemy because I was so mean and so hurtful to them. I was like my father to them. The only thing I know to do right now, until I have meaningful contact with one of them if they want to communicate, the only thing I can think to do is pray for them. And the Lord is able. I’m not.

Daniel: Mark I want to thank you so much for coming on the program today.

Mark: Thank you too Dan. I really appreciate it. I hope the Lord is able to help some folks because I know He has helped me a lot.

End of Second Radio Interview