His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Death penalty or a pardon; it’s not up to you

The headline will proclaim that another wacko took a life in the name of God; their belief being that God came to them in a dream and told them to murder. Would it surprise you to hear that there is a Baptist church that believes the US government should be the executioner for God?

I have been on a letter-writing campaign, periodically submitting comments to the web site of the Westboro Baptist Church, the home of Pastor Fred Phelps, a person well-known as a preacher of hate. What follows is a comment I submitted about this topic of prescribing the death penalty in the name of God.

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Dear Mr. Phelps,

In your sermon of August 24th, which I recently listened to on the WBC wet site, you mentioned that God prescribed the death penalty to sodomites. Yes, indeed He did. And you mentioned something about the need for this country to carry out that death penalty, from Washington on down. You said…

“…this nation won’t even approach getting right with God, until they reinstitute the death penalty for sodomy, from Washington on down.”

There are two things about this statement that concern me. First of all, it seems to ignore the fact that for those who believe and repent, Jesus already took the death penalty upon Himself. Even if someone continues to sin (as we all do – there are none without sin), and yet also continues to repent, there is no death penalty awaiting them.

[As a side note, it occurs to me that we may continue to sin out of human nature and habit (not always out of a desire to sin), but we continue to repent out of love, for God and His Son. Another example of why love is the answer, not hate. But this is just my opinion, so take it or leave it.]

The second thing that concerns me about your death penalty statement is this: is it really the nation’s responsibility to enact the death penalty for those who do not believe and who unrepentantly sin against God’s laws? It would be wrong for humans to take on responsibilities that belong exclusively to God. In searching for an answer, I found the following:

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:7-8) The Holy Spirit of God is to judge, not us.

“For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’” (Hebrews 10:30)

As God told Isaiah, “I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” (Isaiah 13:11)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'” (Romans 12:17-20)

This last passage of scripture contains so many messages from God, where I hope and pray that you and all those at Westboro Baptist Church will have the eyes to see. Do not repay evil, for evil. Live peaceably with all men. Leave vengeance and the responsibility for punishment with God. And you will do more for God by feeding your enemy, than hating them.

Dear Mr. Phelps, please open your heart. No matter what your personal feelings are about those who sin, please be an example of the ultimate act of humility; please let go of your feelings and your desires, and embrace what God wants for you. Not your will, but His will be done in your life.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones


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Would Jesus hate?

There are some who believe God hates you and me. I have been on a letter-writing campaign, periodically submitting comments to the web site of the Westboro Baptist Church, the home of Pastor Fred Phelps, a person well-known as a preacher of hate. Hoping that others may gain something by seeing the comments I’ve submitted, I have been periodically posting these comments on this blog. What follows is an oldie but a goodie.

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Dear Mr. Phelps,

Please understand that if I didn’t sincerely care for the collective souls of the Westboro Baptist Church, I would not keep writing to you. By the way, it is not in my nature to care for people who I consider so filled with hate. My natural tendency would be to hate you right back (see, I’m not immune to hypocrisy). So the only explanation I can give you for my compassion is this: as with all good things, it comes from God. God has somehow softened my heart and truly filled me with care and compassion for all of you. That is why I keep writing.

You remain in my thoughts and prayers daily. And it was while praying for you that the idea for this letter came to me. God put it on my heart, and in my mind, to write again to you today. As with all things, His words convey the message that is on my heart, far better than any words I could come up with.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Matthew 19:21

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Forgive others as God forgives us. In all things, do as Jesus did. Speak Gods words, not our own. Jesus being both God and human while He walked the earth, we will do well to speak as Jesus spoke while we still walk the earth. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is how we should act, feel and speak, if we are to truly follow Jesus.

And this brings me to what has been on my heart. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone that He hated them? He chastised people, to be sure. But He never once told someone He hated them. Nor did He tell anyone that God hated them. And neither should we!

You are not following Jesus! Please heed His warning:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Please Mr. Phelps! Honor your savior. I beg you to open your heart and see the truth behind your actions. But don’t listen to me; listen to Jesus, and follow Jesus.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones


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To those who claim God hates sinners – follow Jesus

There are many loud voices in the news who declare that God hates you, and me, and all kinds of other people. To them I say come, follow Jesus.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Matthew 19:21

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Forgive others as God forgives us. In all things, do as Jesus did. Speak Gods words, not our own. Jesus being both God and human while He walked the earth; we will do well to speak as Jesus spoke while we still walk the earth. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is how we should act, feel and speak, if we are to truly follow Jesus.

And this brings me to what has been on my heart. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone that He hated them? He chastised people, to be sure. But He never once told someone He hated them. Nor did He tell anyone that God hated them. And neither should we!

To those who choose to proclaim that God hates sinners, please heed His warning:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

To all at the Westboro Baptist Church and to everyone else who believes in a God of hate, please honor your savior. I beg you to open your hearts and see the truth behind your actions. But don’t listen to me; listen to Jesus, and follow Jesus.


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The price has been paid

Two of the fundamental truths about the Old Testament are these: it contains God’s laws, and it clearly defines the punishments for breaking those laws. The Lord is a God of justice, and therefore there must be penalties for breaking His laws, and those penalties MUST be carried out, or there is no justice. This may be obvious to you, but I just want to establish this as the foundation for what comes next, so please bear with me as I continue to follow a particular train of thought.

Chapter 20 of Leviticus is one such declaration of God’s punishments. These punishments seem harsh to many modern-day “believers”, and many have difficulty accepting them because of that. Some find it hard to accept death as the penalty for so many acts that are unfortunately commonplace within our society. But this does not make these punishments un-real or not true, or any less mandatory. These punishments are real and true and must be carried out, in all cases, or there is no justice. There is no sin that has been or will be committed, where the prescribed punishment of God will be reprieved.

Yet, sometimes there appear to be pardons of sorts, within God’s own words. For example: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah, 44:22)

But through Isaiah, God later clarifies that He’s not talking about a true pardon; rather the penalty has been transferred to someone else…

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

“…because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

God was talking about His only begotten son, who we know as Jesus Christ.

Yet many misunderstand what Jesus taught and the meaning of His sacrifice. It seems like some people think Jesus came to negate the law and prescribed punishments, and replace it with some milk-toast type of religion. Yet as He Himself stated:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:17) As Jesus stated, the law must be fulfilled, as it is written in the Old Testament.

Now look how perfect God’s plan is: God knows there are none without sin and all deserve death, yet God promised Noah He would not repeat that punishment of old. So how could God’s law be fulfilled, yet in a way that holds to God’s promise to Noah? As you may know, Jesus brought the answer…

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47)

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'” “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36)

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

God’s laws and punishments recorded in the Old Testament would be fulfilled and carried out, in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, for those who believe and who have asked forgiveness from God for their sins, the punishments have been lifted from their shoulders and loaded upon Jesus. Jesus bore upon Himself every death penalty, for every sin where God had prescribed death. Check out Leviticus chapter 20; that amounts to a lot of death penalties.

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Now that I’ve presented the facts according to God, I will proceed to the main reason I am writing today. There are many who choose to loudly condemn sinners, such as those at the Westboro Baptist Church, of whom I have written about before.

Their rampant condemnation of sinners appears to be a blatant disregard of Jesus Christ and an apparent refusal to accept and believe in His sacrifice. Condemning a sinner who may have repented is like telling Jesus He died for nothing.

But another alarming reality is this: those who attack and condemn sinners, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, seem to assume that a particular sinner has not repented; yet how would they know that? True repentance can only be between that person and God, and it is God alone who can judge whether or not the repentance is sincere and from the heart. By taking that responsibility for judgment upon themselves, those who condemn are trying to be God!!!

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

Those who condemn sinners have sat themselves in the judges seat, yet we are called to be witnesses, not judges. As Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I fear for the souls of those at the Westboro Baptist Church, and others who share their hate. They appear to set themselves up as judges, against the will of their savior Jesus Christ. On top of that, they appear to ignore the cross; the fact that Jesus has already taken upon Himself the prescribed punishment for every sin, for every sinner who believes and who has repented. They appear to ignore the reality of Jesus Christ Himself!


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Ego earwax – some just don’t like to hear the truth

I’ve posted 10 separate comments on the Westboro Baptist Church web site. The instructions for submitting a comment state:

“Remember, personal responses are not guaranteed. If we find you to be asking foolish and unlearned questions, making comments not worth response, or being generally profane, we will not respond.”

Please check out this example of one of my comments, and see if you think it warrants a cold shoulder:

Hello Mr. Phelps,

This morning, as I was reading the first of three letters from the apostle John, I again thought of you and the Westboro Baptist Church.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:7-21)

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.

Please reconsider the origins of your message of hate. Does it come from God, or from you?

May your hate be overpowered by the true love of God.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones

I’ve never heard a peep out of em. Playing the odds, I would think that out of 10 comments, I would have heard something. They’re ignoring me for a reason. I like to think it’s because they see the truth in my comments, and the truth makes them feel ashamed about their behavior (if even only subconsciously). Of course there could be another reason, maybe even a technical glitch.

Yet it’s difficult to hear someone tell you that you’re wrong, especially when they’re right. Our ego resists the truth in these circumstances. I myself especially have a tough time being corrected. My family or co-workers will tell you that.

Ego stops up our ears. And maybe it’s ego that’s stopping up the ears of those at Westboro Baptist Church. It takes humility to have ears to hear, and eyes to see. It takes humility to accept the truth of Jesus. Humility will show you the truth; the truth will set you free; therefore humility will set you free.

Finding freedom in humility; what a concept.


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How do you read the Bible?

It’s so hard to be objective. As much as I try to look at something without a preconceived notion, I still end up having some kind of bias. It works like this: we first get an idea or belief in our heads, and then look for evidence to prove our belief is correct.

This is not the scientific method of objectivity. In science the method is to first come up with a theory and then by way of experiments and research, objectively look at the evidence to see what it tells you about your theory; finally drawing conclusions from the evidence, not from the original theory itself. The objective scientific method is NOT coming up with a theory and then looking for specific evidence that proves your theory; that would be coming to a conclusion before looking at the evidence.

Yet we all do this – it’s not unique to scientists. For example, I have a friend at work who is a vegetarian. He told me that he was in the process of searching through the Bible, looking for passages that support his theory that God calls us all to be vegetarians. An apparently harmless example, yet it illustrates a dangerous approach to reading the Bible.

I’m not immune. I recently went on a similar quest of my own. It pains me to believe that many people who I dearly love are doomed to eternity in hell, because of their lack of faith. So I came up with a theory, which goes like this: what if hell is not the end? What if hell is more of a refining process, where impurities are finally and totally burned off? Then once clean, the formerly lost soul can come to heaven? Yet as much as I loved the idea, I could not find supporting evidence in the Bible. But I looked… long and hard. Fortunately for me, I was objective enough to admit that the evidence I longed for was not to be found. I reluctantly accepted the truth.

Not everyone is able to be so objective. For example, consider the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who believe and loudly preach that God hates America, and “fags”, and all kinds of other people who they do not even know. And they believe that the Bible supports them.

In trying to be objective myself, and realizing that I can definitely be wrong in my thinking, I went on a search of my own, looking for the evidence that is claimed by those at the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). This is why I haven’t written in this blog for a while; I’ve been busy pouring through my Bible.

Well, as you may already know, I could not find the evidence – I guess I just don’t read the Bible like those at the WBC. However I found something other than evidence; I found some understanding. I feel I clearly understand why people come to their own conclusions about what God has to say, and about whom God may hate, without objectively looking at the evidence. In reading the Bible, many people do so not with their eyes and ears open, but with a mind closed by ego, arrogance, pride.

Out of their arrogance and pride, people tend to want to make God into their image. Hate-filled people will want to make a hate-filled God. People who believe homosexuality is not a sin, will want to make a God who believes as they do. Some are more blatant than others, but we are all susceptible to this temptation of effectively placing ourselves above God.

What might Jesus say about succumbing to this temptation? As Paul told the Corinthians: “Do not go beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) And as Jesus said to Peter, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)