The Pope's Christmas Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world, and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

A light will shine on us this day, the Lord is born for us.

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon "us", the same "us" for whom the Child of Bethlehem "is born". This "us" is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that "us" was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light "that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the "sign" of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the "us" of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an "us" which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: "Let us go to Bethlehem" (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The "us" of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The "us" of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the "little flock" of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The "us" of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the "us" of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the "us" of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, "God with us", came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!


Goodbye to the "Living Google"


Savant who inspired Rain Man dies
CBC News

The disabled savant who inspired the title character in the film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman, has died.

Kim Peek, known for his remarkable memory, died of a heart attack Saturday morning in Salt Lake City, according to his father, Fran Peek. He was 58.

Screenwriter Barry Morrow had met Peek at a convention in the early 1980s and based the Rain Man character on him.

Peek was a megasavant who was a genius on 15 subjects ranging from history and geography to numbers and music. Megasavant is a term used for mentally disabled people who show genius-level abilities in several areas.

Yet he was painfully shy, his social skills developing very slowly. He walked with a sidewise gait and lacked basic motor skills — he could not dress himself or comb his own hair.

"It was just unbelievable, all the things that he knew," Fran Peek said Monday. "He travelled 5,500 miles short of three million air miles and talked to nearly 60 million people — half have been students."

The character Morrow created in Rain Man was a socially backward savant with several endearing characteristics, including regular rants about People's Court and refusing to fly with any airline but Qantas.

Rain Man won four Oscars, including best picture and best actor for Hoffman. Morrow shared a best screenwriting award with co-writer Ronald Bass.

'Share him with the world'

Hoffman met Kim Peek while playing the role of Rain Man and was impressed by his ability to remember everything that was said to him.

Hoffman advised Fran Peek, then his son's sole caregiver, not to hide his son away.

"Dustin Hoffman said to me, you have to promise me one thing about this guy, share him with the world," Fran Peek recalled.

Kim Peek eventually went on tour, demonstrating his abilities to dispel misconceptions about mental disability.

He was born in 1951 in Salt Lake City and doctors diagnosed him as severely mentally retarded and advised his parents to place him in an institution.

Yet he learned to read and could read eight books a day, committing large sections of text to memory. He could read two pages simultaneously, his left eye reading the left page and his right eye reading the right page.

In his later years, NASA studied his brain patterns in an attempt to understand his mental capabilities.

Peek's parents divorced in 1975 and his father took care of him his entire life.

The year 2009 is a year of good harvest. And so will 2010 be.

In the context of eternity, life on earth is but a morning dew.
What do you live for?


Without Truth, There's No Inner Light

Turn Lonely Holidays into Feasting Holy Days

By Julie Ferwerda

It happens every year. Seas of lonely singles and hurting people find that the holidays only magnify their pain and feelings of isolation, like tearing the scab off an unhealed wound. While families and couples gather in plain view for festive togetherness and merry-making memories, the ache for many left out in the cold is vast and raw. If you are one of the hurting masses, what can possibly soothe the pain of the dreaded holidays?

Let me begin by letting you know that for the past few years, I could easily fit into the lonely, hurting group over the holidays. First of all, due primarily to divorce circumstances, I've had despairingly inadequate time with my two girls during the coveted holidays in recent years. Add to that, my only sister and her husband suddenly cut themselves off from the family nine years ago, along with their five children. That left a huge and lonely gap in family gatherings since, reducing our get-togethers to just my family and my parents (my husband's family all live either in other states or overseas). And then for the past six holiday seasons, my beloved mom struggled through various stages and treatments for cancer. Last year we spent Christmas and New Year's a thousand miles away at Mayo Clinic while she got more treatment. She finally succumbed to the battle this past summer, so this is my first holiday season without her.

I've had many people ask me, "I'll bet the holidays are going to be really hard for you this year, huh?" You know, even though I have lots of reasons why they could be depressing and downright devastating, this year I have a new attitude—a new hope. Things are going to be different. That's because over the last year I've discovered a secret long forgotten: God-established Holy Days.

You see, long ago and far away, God established special Holy Days called "Feasts." They were at least partly about taking out time to fast from the world and feast on God. They hinged on personal cleansing, intimate worship, and extreme celebration of His greatness. They also foretold about future events—some fulfilled already, some not yet—events that would shape the course of His-story. In a nutshell, these events were completely and totally about acknowledging and honoring our Amazing Creator while getting our eyes off the fallen creation.

But then came holidays. Many of the current holidays we observe are presented to be and even seem like they are about celebrating God, but really at the core, they are not. If they were really solely about God, they would not be disappointing in the least. These man-made holidays focus on people and things—get-togethers, gift exchanging, decorations, greeting cards, romance—and that is why they have the capacity to leave us wanting, empty, disappointed, and lonely. They are designed to be about us—our parties, our traditions, our families, our memories, even our own ideas about worship. But our best efforts at trying to successfully remake Holy Days into holidays, have fallen short.

I'm not saying for a moment that it is wrong to embrace traditions, or to gather as families, or to celebrate life and loved ones. But if we truly want to find fulfillment, celebration, joy, and peace, we must return throughout the year to God's way of making the Holy Days about Him, and not about us. When we get our eyes off the flesh, and focus upon the Holy, there becomes no room for emptiness, loneliness, disappointment, or despair. On the contrary, those days become a Feast for the heart and soul!

In our times, God does not want us to observe His Feast days as just another religious ritual. In the quietness of our hearts, or perhaps behind closed doors either alone or with our families, we can once again learn about the true prophetic meanings and then observe His Holy Days, keeping our celebration purely and simply about Him. It is one great way to begin healing a lonely heart for every day of the year.

God's love made manifest in human hearts. This is the greatest miracle ever known to mankind. This is what Christmas is all about. All the festivities that go with it is supposed to be merely an outward manifestation of the inner joy of the heart.

But nowadays, people are blinded by the material world. New and young generations are oblivious and ignorant of the truth about Christmas and this is why the reverse process is what is happening in them. The "joy" they experience is not genuine and is so shallow and very temporary and is very much dependent on the outward experiences that the season brings.

Failing to see the truth about Christmas, there will be no internalization of it inside the heart, and there will be no genuine light from within that will project outwardly to light the perceived gloominess of these days.

[Matthew 6:22-23] The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

How about you, can your eyes see the truth of Christmas beyond the distortion of the world's materialism? What kind of light is it that is inside of you?


The World Needs Leaders Who Can Empower Rather Than Control

Open Source Activists

By J.R. Kerr
Leadership Journal - Christianity Today

A shift is occurring among the new generation of church leaders. We are thinking and leading differently than the generation that preceded us, but I didn't recognize the extent of this shift until a worship service one Sunday morning a few years ago.

I was sitting in the front row with the senior pastor. He was increasingly uncomfortable with the sound mix in the room and the way the worship was being led. He got out of his seat and walked to the back of the room to adjust everything from the lights and sound to the length of the songs. At one point he actually signaled the worship leaders on the platform that it was time to end a set. He then asked me to go back to the sound booth to make another adjustment.

I froze. I just could not do it.

The founding pastor's expectation that I be involved in everything—even acoustics—was part of a leadership paradigm that had left me weary. It assumed I was supposed to have some degree of control over every part of the church, supposed to have the answer to whatever problem arose. One day, I had a string of meetings that kept me from my office most of the day. Upon my return I met five people whose jobs had come to a halt because they needed me. They all had the information and the skills necessary to do their work, but they lacked the authority—the necessary space—to lead.

This kind of organizational environment expects leaders to know and control virtually everything in the life of the community. Of course we included volunteers in our work. We gathered them into "task forces" focused on a particular issue. We wanted them to feel ownership for the ministry, but we also wanted the task force to meet with a pastor or elder to get a clear picture of the vision and then execute the plan as instructed.

As the source of vision and the leader of task forces, I was increasingly the center of attention and I was increasingly uncomfortable with who I was becoming. This highly centralized and hierarchical view of leadership also left me exhausted. I was tired of trying to convince people to care about stuff, tired of cajoling leaders to give one more night out, one more dollar, or one more skill to the church and its vision.

So when the senior pastor asked me to adjust the sound in the worship service I literally stopped in my tracks. I thought to myself, I cannot keep doing this. So I quit. I quit trying to convince people to do what I wanted. I quit pretending to have all the answers. I quit the "task force" leadership model I had been taught.

From force to source

Over the last few decades, a generation of significant pastors and leaders has encouraged us to raise the bar of leadership within the church. They have drawn heavily from corporate and secular models, and they have elevated the values of excellence and efficiency. But my generation has grown skeptical of these values and the leadership principles that produced them. They are increasingly seen as too corporate, too controlling, and the source of too much consumerism within the church.

My generation is hungry for something more than the 15 principles for building a better team or the 21 reasons why you should be a servant leader. They are not content filling a role on a task force for church growth. They are hungry for more. They want a voice. They want influence. They are a generation that isn't content receiving a vision; they want to be part of shaping and creating the vision. My generation believes in open source influence.

Open source is everywhere and it is changing the world. Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat documents the way open source is changing how software is developed and how news is reported. Past generations went to a trusted authority, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, to find answers to their questions. The new generation logs on to Wikipedia, an open source web encyclopedia that doesn't just provide answers but allows users to contribute their knowledge as well. And the Apple iPhone now has thousands of user-created applications available as a result of becoming an open source platform. The younger generation expects to participate in the creation and formation of products and organizations in a way earlier generations simply did not.

A ministry friend relayed a story that captures the generational shift we are experiencing. He was out to lunch with a volunteer leader from his church to discuss the next layer of the vision for the ministry. After listening for a while, the supporter said to my friend, "You know I am a huge fan of your ministry and I will always support you, but we only hear about your ideas and dreams. We have ideas and dreams too. We have thoughts about how to carry the kingdom of God forward. When do our visions, dreams, and ambitions for ministry get heard?"

My friend retold the story with tears in his eyes, but I felt sick to my stomach. I realized that I have been that kind of leader. I have been the pastor who creates just enough space for people to feel part of the team, but not enough to actually give them authority to shape the direction and look of our ministries. That is the difference between leading via task force and leading via open source. Task forces see people as a way to implement leaders' ministry ideas. Open source sees people as the source of ministry ideas. One model requires leaders to control; the other model requires leaders to empower.

A call to create

I joined the staff at Park Community Church in Chicago with a desire to implement this new way of leading. We were first inspired to actually try an open source approach by Not For Sale, an abolitionist movement working to end slavery in the modern world, and the film Call + Response, which focuses on the same issue. Both the organization and film advocate a decentralized, open source structure to empower a generation of activists.

We decided to host a showing of Call + Response, but because of the film's open source philosophy, we approached the organization of the event differently. In fact we decided not to advertise or market the event apart from mentioning the issue in my sermon just days beforehand. This violated everything I had been taught about executing successful church events. We created no event requests, no video announcements, no flashy marketing or event management tools. Everything was word of mouth through social networking websites.

I had no idea what to expect when the night of the event came. To my surprise over 300 people attended. But our experimentation with open source didn't end there. We also designed the event itself with an opportunity for participants to lead. The gathering concluded with a different kind of invitation: "If the reality that there are 27 million slaves in the world bothers you, then we invite you to help us create a response as a church." This was more than a call to respond—it was a call to create.

What happened next was remarkable. People responded in a way that redefined my understanding of what leadership in the church can look like. Within weeks after the event, volunteers created a new organization called Traffick Free and began to plan a week of awareness events in Chicago. The original gathering of 300 from one church has now become a network of thousands from multiple churches committed to making our city slave free by 2020. This has all happened without the church staff in control.

After one Traffick Free event at a local bar, a member of the Chicago Police Department's human trafficking unit pulled me aside. "How did you do this?" she asked. "How did you get over 200 people to come together to talk about this issue?"

"I didn't," I said. "All I did was focus on empowering a few key individuals. They did everything."

That is the heart of open source leadership. If it had been my responsibility to launch and manage a human trafficking awareness ministry, it would have been squeezed into my schedule between preaching and other pastoral responsibilities. But these open source influencers not only gave the issue more time and passion, they were also able to open doors in our community—like utilizing bars for meeting spaces and developing partnerships with legal offices and speakers—that I never would have been able to as a pastor.

The Traffick Free leadership team is now getting internship requests from high school and college students. They are even receiving letters from senators committing their support. Right now the Traffick Free team is meeting to determine what's next for the ministry. The best part is I'm not in the meeting with them, and I don't need to be. They are able to dream bigger and think more innovatively without me.

From off limits to no limits

Learning to release control and share influence with others may be one of the most sensitive and difficult changes to make in your leadership style—at least it has been for me. In the past I have started a church task force with a very clear goal in mind. The task was decided upon before the group was ever convened, and their efforts were largely limited to that task. Again, this pastor-centered, controlled vision approach to leadership is what I had been taught. But inevitably the group would stray beyond the boundaries established for the task force. They would see an obstacle that needed to be removed or a related issue that should be addressed, and they would be told, "Sorry, that is off limits."

How many times have those two words, "off limits," impeded the work of the kingdom through God's people? What if nothing was off limits? What if people were allowed to speak honestly and directly about the opportunities and challenges they see? And what if we gave away some of our control, trusting God's people to develop their own vision and not just execute ours?

After our positive experience with the Call + Response event, we tried to make a shift toward open source leadership with our singles ministry. The group had been gathering on the first Thursday of the month at our facility for a primarily social purpose. In recent years efforts were made to change the core focus of this ministry to be more external and missional. These changes were attempted by a pastor who was responsible for overseeing the singles ministry. Nothing worked. So we decided to try an open source strategy.

We gave a group of ten singles the freedom to do whatever they wanted with the ministry. This was a huge shift, and I had to repeatedly convince them it was okay to make decisions without my input or permission. But once they really felt empowered, the group changed the meager social gathering of singles into a cultural gathering called Elements that is having an influence all over the city of Chicago. Every month they meet in bars, coffee shops, designer boutiques, and anywhere else they can find available space to discuss issues that matter to our city and Jesus. Elements is drawing together believers and non-believers and developing greater trust and understanding between the two groups. The team has even invited speakers from around the country (who are willing to travel on their own dime) to lead the conversations.

The singles ministry is now having an amazing influence in Chicago, but it's not because of me or any other pastor at Park Community Church. The credit goes to Mike, Lisa, Audra, Andrew, Natalie, Meghan, Dave, Carole and a host of others who have given vision and leadership to this project and others like it. They have built a city-wide ministry with no real budget and very little publicity. All we gave them was permission.

Leaders like the ones I've mentioned are evidence that the world is changing. This new generation sees themselves and their potential differently. They don't require titles and positions to influence the culture. This is a generation of social activists, artists, and leaders who intend to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God. Our responsibility is to make space for them, and that requires thinking differently about how we lead.

J.R. Kerr is the singles/teaching pastor at Park Community Church in Chicago, Illinois, and founder of the Aitreni Group for Social Change.

A leadership that empowers is like the wind. As it blows, it awakens idle windmills, sways the branches and leaves of trees, and it makes windchimes sing too.


Human Cruelty Against Nature

Source: Circulated Email

Denmark is a big shame. The sea is stained in red and in the mean while its not because of the climate effects of nature. It's because of the cruelty that the human beings (civilized human) kill hundreds of the famous and intelligent Calderon dolphins.

This happens every year in Feroe island in Denmark. In this slaughter the main participants are young teens. Why? To show that they are adults and mature.

In this big celebration, nothing is missing for the fun. Everyone is participating in one way or the other, killing or looking at the cruelty “supporting like a spectator”.

Is it necessary to mention that the dolphin calderon, like all the other species of dolphins, it is near extinction and they love to get near humans to play and interact in a way of pure friendship.

In this killing spree, they dolphins don’t die instantly; they are cut 1, 2 or 3 times with thick hocks. And at that time the dolphins produce a grim which is extremely compatible with the cry of a new born child. They suffer gruesomely and there’s no compassion till these sweet beings slowly die in their own blood.

Its enough! Let us all circulate this message around the world until this arrives in every association with the heart willing to defend the poor animals. We won’t only read -- that would make us accomplice viewers.

Let us take care of the world, it is our only home!


While You Were Sleeping


By Casting Crowns

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you’re lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had come
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we’re lying in the dark
There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night...


World Condemns Maguindanao Massacre


For its brazenness and sheer brutality, the United Nations led several other countries in condemning the mass slaughter of 46 people – including women and journalists – in a poll-related massacre in Maguindanao last Monday.

In a statement issued through his spokesman, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "saddened" over the brutal killing, even as he condemned the "heinous crime."

"The Secretary-General is saddened by the reports of the brutal killing of more than 40 civilians in the Maguindanao province, Southern Philippines. He condemns this heinous crime committed in the context of a local election campaign," the statement read.

Ban also extended his "condolences" to the families of the victims and hopes that "no effort will be spared to bring justice and to hold the perpetrators accountable."

Likewise, ambassadors to the Philippines have made known their condemnation and abhorrence of the November 23 massacre.

British Ambassador Stephen Lillie issued on Wednesday a statement of condemnation, with the hope that "authorities in the Philippines will take urgent action to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent further escalation of violence in the run-up to next year's elections here."

According to Lillie, "effective action" by the Philippine government is crucial for the British government to maintain confidence in the country.

In an interview with GMANews.TV, US Embassy deputy spokesperson Woosie Mazengia said: "We condemn such acts of violence in the strongest possible terms."

Mazengia also said that the US government is extending its condolences to the families of those killed.

Visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. Marty Natalegawa said their government feels for the Philippines’ tragedy and hopes the perpetrators will be brought to justice as soon as possible.

“As a decent human being one cannot help but feel a sense of abhorrence," Natalegawa told reporters at a press briefing in Manila.

“Any senseless killing, any senseless violence we condemn in the strongest possible term," he added.

In 1996, Indonesia facilitated the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Mindanao. Natalegawa was, however, mum over questions whether such agreement could be facilitated by Indonesia for clan wars.

Meanwhile, Shigehiro Matsuda, third secretary from the Japanese embassy, said Japan is quite concerned with the security over Mindanao.

Matsuda said the Japan International Cooperation Agency and several non-governmental organizations in Janpa have projects in Mindanao.

"Japan is really sorry for the incident, but we hope the incident does not affect projects in Mindanao," Matsuda told GMANews.TV.

The massacre took place a few hours after around 50 gunmen allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay (a municipality in Maguindanao province), and a police officer later identified as Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay seized members of a large convoy of supporters of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, an Ampatuan clan opponent who wants to run for governor.

The convoy of Mangudadatu supporters, accompanied by journalists, was on its way to an electoral bureau headquarters to file documents related to his candidacy, which the gunmen wanted to prevent.

The fatalities included Mangudadatu’s wife, sister and other relatives.

Following the tragic killing of at least 12 journalists in Maguindanao, the Philippines has now dislodged Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists in the world, the International Federation of Journalists said.

Mass Murder of Innocents Cries Out For Justice!

Capital Punishment
Outline by Gary Henry

What is the biblical support for the death penalty?


A. Text: Rom. 13:1-4.

Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil.

B. Paul said, “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Ac. 25:11).

1. Paul did not question the right of Rome to put criminals to death.

2. Nor did he suggest that the possible execution of an innocent man like himself was reason for all executions to be stopped.

C. Capital punishment = the infliction of the death penalty by civil authority.

1. It is an act carried out by civil government, not by private citizens.

2. It is motivated by justice, not by malice or hatred.

D. Capital punishment is a controversial topic that is frequently in the news.

E. We need to understand the death penalty from a biblical perspective.


A. From the start, the Bible grants validity to the idea of punishment for lawbreaking.

1. God said to Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10).

2. The murder of Abel cried out for restitution.

B. The Bible assumes that criminal acts deserve to be punished.

1. When justice has been violated, there is a principal that what has been lost by the victim should be reinstated or compensated for.

2. There is a moral obligation of the lawbreaker: a debt is incurred in which restitution must be made or a proportionate penalty must be paid.

3. This penalty is for punishment, not rehabilitation.

4. Justice calls for the penalty — it is right.


A. The central question is: are there some crimes so serious that the only just penalty is the death of the offender?

1. The Bible has always said so. Some acts are “worthy of death” (Deut. 21:22; etc.).

2. Up until our day, human civilizations have always said so.

B. By certain acts a person disqualifi es himself from the right to continue living — he forfeits the right to live.

C. This is refl ected in the Old Testament.

1. “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground”

2. “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:5,6).

3. The expression “innocent blood” (Deut. 21:8,9; etc.) presumes that there is blood that should be shed.

4. In the Law, the carrying out of the death penalty was justly regulated.

a. “Whoever is worthy of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses, but he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil person from among you” (Deut. 17:6,7).

* This shows that the death penalty was not just to deter others from committing the same crime.

* It was to put away the evil influence of that person from society!

b. “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deut. 19:15).

5. “Your eye shall not pity; but life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deut. 19:21).

a. This did not mean that malicious vengeance could be taken by any individual for any slight he suffered. Cf. Mt. 5:38,39.

b. It meant that the punishment infl icted by the civil authority was to be in fair proportion to the crime — the punishment was to fi t the crime.

c. It was a safeguard against unduly harsh punishment — but it clearly indicated that some crimes justly called for the death of the offender!

6. The Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exo. 20:13 KJV), was not a prohibition any “killing,” including capital punishment — it was a prohibition against murder, the slaying of an innocent person by a private individual.

D. It is also reflected in the New Testament.

1. “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Ac. 25:11).

2. “Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).

E. Our conclusion is this: for all societies of people since the beginning of time, there has been a principle of justice that some crimes are so serious they can be properly punished only by death.

F. The execution of the death sentence is a part of the rightful function of civil government as ordained by God.


A. In general, law itself exists to curb the conduct of those who are not inclined to curb their own conduct.

“The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate” (1 Tim. 1:9).

B. The primary purpose of civil authority is to restrain injustice and crime, so that people can live without fear. Cf. Rom. 13:1-7.

1. “Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and the power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin’” (Jn. 19:10,11).

2. “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4).

3. “Therefore I exhort fi rst of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:1,2).

C. Carrying out the death penalty is a part of what God ordained government to do.

1. It is not the prerogative of private citizens to exact their own justice.

2. “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4).

D. It is emotionally difficult for a compassionate people to execute criminals — but the consequences of not doing so are even more difficult in the long run.


A. Contrary to modern thinking, capital punishment does deter crime — at least it would if it were carried out consistently and in a timely fashion.

1. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). Cf. Psa. 10:3-7; esp. v.6.

2. Virtually all human behavior is motivated by the impulse to move away from certain things and to move toward others. (In fact, we defi ne character primarily in terms of what a person usually moves toward and away from.)

B. When, as a society, we do not set up capital consequences for capital crimes, we can expect a growth of cynicism, mockery of the law, and violent lawlessness.

C. What we do about crime and punishment says much about our national character.

1. “That which makes a people ‘civilized’ is very much a result of its laws and its respect for people’s dignity and worth” (David Hocking).

2. “We should understand punishment as a kind of mirror image of praise. If praise expresses gratitude and approbation, punishment expresses resentment and reprobation. If praise expresses what the political community admires and what unites it, punishment expresses what the community condemns and what threatens it. Punishment, like praise, publicly expresses our determination of what people deserve” (Stanley Brubaker).

3. “What a society thinks about life, death, and questions in between shows up in the rewards and penalties it extends. That is what laws are — marks of social value” (William Murchison).

D. We need to start being more careful about our “marks of social value.”

1. It is wrong to bestow honor on those who are dishonorable.

2. The man who walks uprightly is a man “in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord” (Psa. 15:4).

E. Many of the emotional arguments against the death penalty are based on pity.

1. But pity is not always the proper response when someone justly stands under the sentence of death.

2. Aaron was not even allowed to mourn for his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, after the Lord had rightfully stricken them dead - Lev. 10:6,7.

3. Concerning execution of the death penalty in the Old Testament, God said, “Your eye shall not pity; but life shall be for life” (Deut. 19:21). Cf. Deut. 13:8,9; 19:13; Ezek. 9:5,6; etc.

F. Yes, we must always be compassionate — but we must never let compassion keep us from doing what is right.


A. God has ordained civil government to restrain lawlessness — and he has given it the responsibility of putting to death those who commit crimes worthy of death.

B. “Contemporary efforts to abolish capital punishment proceed on a non-Christian view of man, a secular theory of criminal law, and a low estimate of the value of life” (Gordon Clark).

C. We need to be reminded:

1. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:5,6).

2. “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4).


Uncovering Hidden Treasure

By Marlene Buffa

My mother-in-law sat on the beach in Aruba and reached for her cold beverage nestled in the sand by her chair. She miscalculated her grasp and instead, her hand dove into the sand and she pulled out a glorious 14K solid gold rope necklace. Teams of salvage hunters spend millions of dollars, countless years and untold hours searching for lost treasure, more often finding it elusive. How is it then, some people find treasure when not seeking it, and others hunt and never find anything even when using elaborate calculations? The dichotomy of old sayings, “It’ll show up when you least expect it,” versus “Persistence pays,” provides Spirit an opportunity to intrigue us in our journey and increase the value of things we desire but cannot yet manifest.

Hidden vs. Missing

When something is missing, it means it once existed in our life and it's no longer there. When something is hidden, that means it's still there, but we can no longer see it. In life, how do we distinguish between the two qualities of perceived lack? In both instances, we experience a void - we can't touch or feel what we want. From misplaced car keys to hidden clues, we struggle with filling the void with what we already know - that which once existed - instead of moving towards something better.

The qualities of things hidden range from stifled emotions to disguised authenticity and integrity; to secrets about ourselves we don’t want the world to see. Missing things usually represent what we need to learn. If life repeats the lesson over and over for us, then we clearly missed the point of the lesson. Missing means a gap, a space, an emptiness for something which once served as a part of us, or for something we need to learn to complete the circle.

Hidden Meanings

Buried deep between the lines of written or spoken words, we get a glimpse of interpretation that our life experiences brought to our present moments. We attach many translations to subtle nuances that stem from our belief about who we are and what we need to discover. Forgetting to surrender to the Infinite and let go of judgment, we ascribe a meaning often all-too familiar with our repeated patterns instead of allowing new ideas and opportunities for growth to emerge.

The true meaning of any dusky perceptions lies not within our immediate accumulation of experience to shine the light on the unknown. Instead, our piercing beam of insight and willingness to progress forward emerges as authentic understanding in all of life’s foggy depths of confusion. No mystical forces at work, simply accepting situations and circumstances at face value, without prejudice brings about the highest interpretations possible.

Hidden Blessings

The saying, “Be careful what you ask for, for you shall surely get it,” cautions loudly in our minds when we dare to ask for something others deem as greedy or ill-guided. While Spirit focuses equally on our declarations of what we do and do not want in our lives, it also understands that a lesson presents more profound if the prayer goes unanswered.

Many times we look back at our requests of God and wonder why they never materialized. Later, after life unfolds, we realize if our exact petitions appeared, things would turn out much differently than we intended and we rationalize that the unanswered prayer represented a hidden blessing. In situations, which on the surface appear negative, we find precious rewards in the little blessings carefully protecting us from what we believed we wanted.

What Are You Hiding?

Inside each of us, burn the embers of understanding and coals of smoldering wisdom. With humility, many of us deny the truth about these gifts from life and bury our talents beneath our smoky exterior. We mistakenly think that if we disguise our true selves, we hide our strengths and weaknesses from the world thereby protecting ourselves from the harm of exposure. Additionally, we grow to expect the worst from the revelation of who we are, instead of allowing the possibility that more good enter our lives if we simply take the risk.

Spirit invites us to reveal the treasure of our authentic selves and uncover greatness! Day by day, we are shown scenarios that portray greater abundance and prosperity if we only took the risk of digging up and displaying the hidden treasures of our glorious self to the world. When we clutch tightly to a gold coin, it never transforms. It’s stuck as a gold coin. If we open our hand and use it to bring more good into our lives, then all are enhanced by the transaction.

Today, take a moment to consider the elements hidden or missing in your life. Fill in the gaps with whatever you need to feel complete with Life and search for those parts of yourself that you scurried away out of your present awareness. When you look for hidden meanings, be prepared for answered and unanswered prayers to equally educate you in that lesson and others. Frequently lessons overlap and the jewels we glean from one learning experience blend perfectly with others.

Remember the most precious treasure of all already lives within you. If you willingly identify and acknowledge your self-worth, the treasure chest of life awaits you!


Do You Know Your Father?

Fathers, Don't Exasperate Your Children

By David B. Curtis
Preached on August 22, 2004

As we look at this very practical section of the book of Colossians, I think it is clear that Paul was not laying down an order for society in general. He addresses the Christian community specifically on how husbands and wives and children and parents are to live in relationship to each other as visible expressions of true Christianity. He points out how Christians are to uniquely live under Christ's Lordship in the most intimate relationships of life. The simplicity of Paul's instructions offers clear guidance for family relationships. Paul really addresses each member of the family with a one word command that if followed will make a profound impact in our family, our church and our culture.

To the wives he says, "Submit". To the husbands he says, "Love". To the children he says, "Obey". And this morning we will look at the divine directives for fathers, "Don't exasperate".

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart." (Colossians 3:21)

Our text this morning is straightforward and simple. It divides naturally into three parts: First there is the address, "Fathers." Second, there is the command, "Do not exasperate your children." Third, there is the purpose of the command, "That they may not lose heart." We will look at these three parts of the text this morning.

The address: Fathers

There is a question as to whether Paul is speaking only to "fathers" or whether he is using this in a more generic sense to refer to "parents." The Greek word translated here as "fathers" is the word pater. I think that it's significant that this Greek word could be translated as "parents" as it is in:

Hebrews 11:23 (NASB) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents [pater], because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

The plural of pater can be used to denote the mother and father. However, why Paul should change to this word when he's used goneus in the previous verse for "parents" seems strange. If Paul wanted this translated "parents," it seems to me that he would use the same word he did in verse 20.

Verse 20 said, "Children, obey your parents." This clearly teaches that mothers as well as fathers are to be obeyed. Mothers and fathers have a shared authority over the children. But in verse 21, it's better to accept the translation as "fathers," therefore, and to take Paul's words as relating directly to the heads of the families who were present in the Colossian fellowship, and who were responsible for the welfare and upbringing of children.

Why does he address only the fathers? Is it because mothers don't ever exasperate their children? No! Paul knows that mothers are as guilty of this as fathers. I believe that this verse is applicable to dads and moms. But Paul gives this command to the father, because he is the head of the home, and so he should provide leadership in the parenting of the children. This does not eliminate the responsibility of the mother.

The common practice of the Roman empire of Paul's day was for fathers to be considered Patria Potestes, i.e., "the power of the Father." Mothers did not have the same authority. By this Roman law, a father had complete power over his children to do with them as he desired. He could expose them at birth so that they died, or sell them into slavery, or even take their lives. Fathers often left the rearing of children to the work of his slaves. So, this would no doubt get the attention of the fathers.

Paul is telling the fathers that they play a very important role in the raising of the children. This would have been a shock to those of the Roman culture, and it seems to be just as shocking to those in our culture. Do you understand the importance a father plays in the upbringing of children?

Do you remember when Vice President Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown, the lead character of a CBS sitcom of the same name, for choosing to bear and raise a child without a father in the home? The sum of his critique was simple: It may be cool, chic, and a symbol of feminism's triumph for women to raise children without a father in the home, but it isn't good for kids, and it isn't good for our society. The response from the liberal cultural elite in this country was swift and savage. Quayle was heckled as a right-wing Neanderthal who wanted nothing more than to keep women bound in the stifling and servile drudgeries of wife and mother. Less than a year later, interestingly enough, a sociologist, named Barbara Defoe Whitehead, authored and published a 37-page article revealing the numbers, trends, and consequences on children of fatherless families for The Atlantic Monthly magazine. The title of the article was "Dan Quayle Was Right."

Listen to these numbers. Today, almost 1 out of 2 American children go to bed each night without a biological father in the home. And fifty-percent of our children today will spend at least some time before age 18 with only 1 parent. The poverty rate for children born to mothers who finished high school, got married, and waited until they were 20 to have their first child is 8%. The poverty rate for those who don't do those things is 79%. The average poverty rate for children of single mothers is currently 47%; it is 65% for black children. 60% of America's rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of long term prison inmates grew up without fathers. Do the math. What conclusion do you draw?

It is impossible to deny. Despite the messages of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, having a biological father in the home to help protect, provide for, and raise the children is an essential element of societal health and happy, well-adjusted kids.

Let me share a story with you that emphasizes the impact a fatherless household can have on a child. He began his life with all the classic handicaps and disadvantages. His mother was a powerfully built, dominating woman who found it difficult to love anyone. She had been married three times, and her second husband divorced her, because she beat him up regularly. The father of the child I'm describing was her third husband; he died of a heart attack a few months before the child's birth. As a consequence, the mother had to work long hours from his earliest childhood. James Dobson writes:

She gave him no affection, no love, no discipline, and no training during those early years. She even forbade him to call her at work. Other children had little to do with him, so he was alone most of the time. He was absolutely rejected from his earliest childhood. When he was thirteen years old, a school psychologist commented that he probably didn't even know the meaning of the word love. During adolescence, the girls would have nothing to do with him, and he fought with the boys.

Despite a high IQ, he failed academically, and finally dropped out during his third year of high school. He thought he might find acceptance in the Marine Corps; they reportedly built men, and he wanted to be one. But his problems went with him. The other Marines laughed at him and ridiculed him. He fought back, resisted authority, and was court-martialed and thrown out of the Marines with an undesirable discharge. So there he was­­ a young man in his early twenties, absolutely friendless. He was small and scrawny in stature. He had an adolescent squeak in his voice. He was balding. He had no talent, no skill, no sense of worthiness.

Once again he thought he could run from his problems, so he went to live in a foreign country. But he was rejected there also. While there he married a girl who had been an illegitimate child and brought her back to America with him. Soon she began to develop the same contempt for him that everyone else displayed. She bore him two children, but he never enjoyed the status and respect a father should have. His marriage continued to crumble. His wife demanded more and more things that he could not provide. Instead of being his ally against the bitter world, as he hoped, she became his most vicious opponent. She could outfight him, and she learned to bully him. On one occasion she locked him in the bathroom as punishment. Finally she forced him to leave.

He tried to make it on his own, but he was terribly lonely. After days of solitude, he went home and literally begged her to take him back. He surrendered all pride. Despite his meager salary, he brought her $78.00 as a gift, asking her to take it and spend it any way she wished. But she belittled his feeble attempt to supply the family's needs. She ridiculed his failure. At one point he fell on his knees and wept bitterly as the darkness of his private nightmare enveloped him.

Finally, in silence he pleaded no more. No one wanted him. No one had ever wanted him.

The next day he was a strangely different man. He arose, went to the garage, and took down a rifle he had hidden there. He carried it with him to his newly acquired job at a book storage building. And from a window on the third-floor of that building, shortly after noon, November 22, 1963, he sent two shells crashing into the head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Lee Harvey Oswald, the rejected, unlovable failure, killed a man who, more than any other man on earth, embodied all the success, beauty, wealth, and family affection which he lacked. In firing that rifle, he utilized the one skill he had learned in his entire, miserable lifetime. [James Dobson, Hide or Seek(Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1974), pp. 9, 11; as cited in R. Kent Hughes, Colossians and Philemon (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), pp. 121-122]

Relationships with our children are more important than we think. In the home we lay a foundation for all of life. We need to lay a good foundation that will serve our children well throughout their whole lives.

There is a peculiar role that the Scripture gives to husbands and fathers. Fathers bear a special responsibility for the moral life of the family. So I urge you to take that responsibility, fathers, and that you be involved in the lives of your children.

Let's talk for a minute about the Fatherhood of God. The Bible teaches us that God is a Father to believers. Jesus taught His disciples to call God their Father:

Matthew 6:8-9 (NASB) "Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. 9 "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.

Over and over in Matthew, God is called a "heavenly Father." Paul repeatedly calls God a "Father":

Romans 8:15 (NASB) For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

I believe all human fatherhood should be patterned on the divine fatherhood. The overarching guide for every father should be to live in such a way that his children can see what God the Father is like. They ought to see in their human father a reflection - an imperfect one of course - of the heavenly Father in his strength and tenderness, in his wrath and mercy, in his exaltation and condescension, in his surpassing wisdom and patient guidance. The task of every human father is to be for his children an image of the Father in heaven.

God purposely designed human fatherhood to be an illustration of his relationship to us. The whole reason that God even created something called "fathers" was so that we could better understand who He is. In other words, it wasn't as if God looked around at all the different kinds of human relationships He had created - father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin - and finally settled on this one as being the most similar to His relationship with His people. No, it goes back farther than that. In the very beginning, God fashioned the family, and the role of the father in the family, to serve as a living picture of who He is. Therefore, when He refers to Himself as our "father," it is not arbitrary or unimportant; it is highly intentional. It has great significance. And by the way, that's why contemporary assaults on the Biblical view of the family are so destructive. Not just because they harm the people involved, who usually find that alternative forms of family structure don't work very well, but also because they obscure the picture of God that human fatherhood was intended to reveal. They make it harder for people to understand what God is like.

Dads, we are to live set apart lives that give our family a model of God. We are to be able to look at them and say, "Follow me as I follow Christ." We are to be an example of godliness for our families to follow.

As a Christian, what is one thing about your heavenly father that you know for sure? Your answer should be, "I know God loves me."

Romans 5:8 (NASB) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The "us" in this verse is believers. All you have to do is look to Calvary, and there you see a message of love written in blood. God's love is absolutely unconditional and irrevocable to his children.

So if God's love for us is certain, and it is, it should also be true of a parent/child relationship. Children should know for certain that the parent loves them - unconditionally. As a godly father, our kids should know that we love them.

One of my favorite pictures of God in the scripture is found in the parable of the Prodigal son. This parable vividly portrays God's willingness to forgive His children. If we are going to be like our Heavenly Father, we, too, must be always willing to forgive our repentant children.

You know the story: The son goes off into a far country and squanders all his money. And when he runs out of money, he runs out of friends and ends up with the hogs, eating from the slop that is fed to the pigs. This is the most humiliating place a Jewish boy could possibly be.

As he sits there, the Bible says, "He came to himself." And he starts thinking, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare? And here I am, starving to death. I will go back to my father."

Now notice something important. He felt that he could go back to his father. The relationship might never be the same. But he knew the door was open to him. How did he know that? Most likely because all through the time of raising his son the father had communicated his love. It is a vital thing to communicate love to our children.

So he said, "I will say to my father, 'I have sinned against heaven and against you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired men.'" I think this was a speech he practiced every step of his way back home. He had it down pat. But before he could blurt it out, his father had run to him and thrown his arms around him and kissed him:

Luke 15:20-24 (NASB) "And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. 21 "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry.

You know, the beautiful part is that our Father in Heaven is always ready to forgive His sinning children when they come back to Him. Do you see any reluctance in the father to forgive? The father saw him coming, but he didn't just stand there and wait for him, he ran to him and embraced him and kissed him. That is incredible! And as dads, we need imitate our heavenly Father in this area of love and forgiveness. We need to teach our kids, no matter how deep their sin, no matter how much they hurt us, "You can always come home." And there'll be a father waiting to throw his arms around you, and to assure you of his abiding love.

The Command - "Do not exasperate your children."

The word he uses for "exasperate" means: "to provoke or to irritate, or to excite in a negative fashion, or to embitter." It is used one other time in the New Testament in a good sense of exciting others to great zeal (2 Cor. 9:2), but here the usage is definitely negative. Weymouth translates it: "Do not fret and harass your children." Phillips offers the translation: "Don't overcorrect." The word "exasperate" is in the continuous tense in the Greek: "Do not keep on exasperating your children."

Just what this "exasperation" might be seems obvious to many commentators. But the fact that Paul's words are particularly vague should warn us against being too specific, and we should allow the application of the instruction to be given us as we walk in dependence upon God.

That Ephesians 6:4 adds the phrase "to anger" may give us a hint at the sorts of attitudes of the father which may stimulate such a response, but we should rest with the interpretation that what Paul is urging upon all fathers is that they refrain from abusing their power and authority over their children. This seems to be the reason for his instructions; in order that the exhortation recorded for the children might not be taken as an absolute that the parents press home to their own advantage.

Let me share with you some ways in which a parent can exasperate a child. This list is by no means exhaustive, I'm sure you could think of some others. Fathers and mothers exasperate their children by:

Over protection - over protective parents never allow their children any liberty. They have strict rules about everything. No matter what their children do, over protective parents do not trust them. Because nothing they do earns their parents' trust, children begin to despair and may believe that how they behave is irrelevant. That can lead to rebellion. Parents are to provide rules and guidelines for their children, but those rules should not become a noose that strangles them. Above all, parents must communicate to their children that they trust them.

By lack of standards - this is the flip side of over protection. When parents fail to discipline, or discipline inconsistently, children are left on their own. They cannot handle that kind of freedom and begin to feel insecure and unloved.

By depreciating their worth - many children have been convinced that what they do and feel are not important. That is communicating to children that they are not significant. Many parents depreciate their children's worth by refusing to listen to them. Children who are not listened to may give up trying to communicate and become discouraged, shy, and withdrawn.

By failing to show affection - Parents need to communicate love to their children both verbally and physically. Failing to do so will discourage and alienate a child.

By setting unrealistic goals - parents can do that by never rewarding them, or never letting them feel they have succeeded. Nothing is enough, so the children never get full approval. Such parents are often trying to make their children into something they themselves were not. The results can be tragic. Some children become so frustrated that they commit suicide.

By neglect - a father who has no time for his child soon creates in him a deep-seated resentment. The child may not know how to articulate or explain the problem, but he feels unimportant and worthless. The classic biblical example is Absalom. David was indifferent to him, and the result was rebellion, civil war, and Absalom's death. Parents need to be involved in their children's lives.

By showing favoritism - parents exasperate their children by showing favoritism. That is often done unwittingly by comparing a child unfavorably to siblings or classmates. By making a child feel like the black sheep of the family, parents can create a terrible sense of frustration. We see the result of this is Joseph's brothers.

By criticism - Haim Ginott wrote: "A child learns what he lives. If he lives with criticism, he does not learn responsibility. He learns to condemn himself and to find fault with others. He learns to doubt his own judgment, to disparage his own ability, and to distrust the intentions of others. And above all, he learns to live with continual expectation of impending doom" (Between Parent and Child [New York: MacMillan, 1965], p. 72). Parents should seek to create in the home a positive, constructive environment.

By excessive discipline - this is the parent who abuses his children, either verbally, emotionally, or physically. Parents often say things to their children that they would never say to anyone else. They should never discipline their children in anger. Rather, parents should lovingly correct their children, just as their heavenly Father does them.

Indulging them - giving them everything they want. That soon will make them restless and dissatisfied. Children long for guidance and direction; for intimacy, not for superficial indulgence. Such indulgence will frequently create a deep-seated, sometimes lifelong feeling of resentment.

To the command not to provoke one's children, Ephesians also adds, "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

Ephesians 6:4 (NASB) And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is discipline? It means: "to teach." It is the same root word as "disciple." It has the flavor of pointing out what is wrong and correcting the action. Discipline must start at an early age. Why discipline?

Hebrews 12:11 (NASB) All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.]

We're not only told to discipline our children, but that we should give them instruction of the Lord. What is meant by instruction is both verbal information and verbal warning. The word literally means: "to place before the mind." Instruction contains the idea of teaching and also the element of confrontation. We must share with our children both the blessings of serving Jesus and the hazards of failing to do so.

We must spend time with children in teaching them and encouraging them; and instructing them, both verbally and by example, in the way of the Lord, pointing them positively to Christ; telling them that they have done well, and not only telling them when they have not done well; telling them that they have pleased you and pleased the Lord, and not only when they have displeased the Lord. Paul is calling fathers to rear their children in such a way that they will not feel only the rebuke of God, but they will also feel His approval.

One final point needs noting and bringing home to the Church of our present day society. Paul is clearly making it the responsibility of the father (and I believe that the mother should also be included in this) to both instruct and discipline their children and not leave it to any third party.

Purpose of the command - "That they may not lose heart."

"Lose heart" is from the Greek word athumeo, from a = without + thumos = passions, desire, spirit. It means: "to become disheartened to the point of losing motivation, to be dispirited or to be broken in spirit." This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Lightfoot translates it as; "to go about their task in a listless, moody, sullen frame of mind" [Linguistic Key, 582]. We might think of it as throwing water upon the flame for life. It implies that a parent is so cold, stern, harsh, and rigid that a child's strength is sapped, his drive for positive achievements gone, and his hope for the future shattered. He exists, and that is about it. His one goal in life is to get out from under such tyranny. Often, those who come out of such a setting become the most rebellious and wretched men and women imaginable.

God wants us to encourage our children. He wants us to praise them for what they do right. Constant criticism will discourage them. They may become disheartened in their attempts to please their parents.

The negative form of verse 21 really implies a positive command as well. It says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart." But it means not only avoid one kind of fatherhood; it also means pursue another kind, namely, the kind of fatherhood which gives hope instead of discouragement.

A good father will ponder: "How can I be like my own heavenly Father?" We are taught in Scripture to imitate our heavenly Father. We are told to be holy as He IS holy (l Peter l:l6). We are told to be merciful as He IS merciful (Luke 6:36). To be a good child is to copy daddy. It honors a father to be imitated, and we are commanded to honor our fathers. And so the most important question a father can ask himself is not, "What shall I teach my children; But rather, who am I before the living God and before my children?"

It is important that we regularly evaluate ourselves as parents in how we are treating our children. A child might walk straight as an arrow due to fear of a parent, but if he has no spirit left in him, then the parent has failed to prepare the child for the future. Our goal must be much more than to get a child through high school and keep him out of jail! We must seek to "train him up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

Parents, children, since you have died with Christ, and been raised to newness of life in Him, live like it! Children, obey your parents in all things--in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, YOUR FATHER, through Him. And parents, do not provoke your children, but teach them about their heavenly Father, through your words and deeds, shepherding their hearts even as Christ, the Good Shepherd, leads you both.

Please remember the necessity of grace as we seek to be Christians in the home. We could not do these things were it not for grace. Husbands and wives are sinners. Parents and children are sinners. We need the grace of God to establish this type of a life. This is not something for a human being to attempt on their own. Only the grace of God can help us here. Here, perhaps more then anywhere else, we are shown the depth of our sin. And though that's a discouraging thing, it's the first step towards encouragement; because when we realize that we can't do it on our own, we are precisely at the point where God wants us. We can reach out to Him and ask Him to help us to live the lives He has called us to live in the home. Living with each other in the family demands that we look to Christ to shape our lives and to enable us to treat one another with Christian love.

Exasperating your kids
By Chris & Michelle Groff

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

This verse is packed with parenting instruction. It immediately follows the passage instructing children to honor and obey their parents (Eph 6:1-2), and it helps us see how to make it easier for our children to obey us. The key is to avoid exasperating them.

The Greek word translated "exasperate" means to provoke to anger or to enrage. And, the fastest way to exasperate a child is to micromanage every move, correct each misstep, and point out all the areas he needs to improve. Kids who are nagged and lectured soon become frustrated and often respond by rebelling, withdrawing, or "losing heart." We are so inclined to over-correct, we often end up fighting about small things that aren't important. We may win the argument, but lose the war as we find our kids disconnecting from us.

Instead, try walking beside your kids as you lovingly allow them to experience the consequences of their choices. This is a far better way to create an environment in which a child can understand and embrace God's design for his life.

Pick your battles and avoid exasperating your kids.

While so many sons and daughters have exasperating fathers, many others are even fatherless. Do they know who their fathers really are?

What about you, do you really know your father?


Faith And Reason Are Not Enemies

When Atheists Believe

The confounding attraction of the Christian worldview.
By Chuck Colson with Catherine Larson
Christianity Today

"While we can't reason our way to God, I've long believed that Christianity is the most rational explanation of reality."

In recent years Great Britain's chief export to the U.S. has been a payload of books by atheist authors such as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and literary critic Christopher Hitchens. They contend that faith is irrational in the face of modern science. Other prominent British atheists seem to be having second thoughts. Is there some revival sweeping England? No; they are examining the rationality of Christianity, the very beliefs Dawkins and others are so profitably engaging, but are coming to opposite conclusions.

Well-known scholar Antony Flew was the first, saying he had to go "where the evidence [led]." Evolutionary theory, he concluded, has no reasonable explanation for the origin of life. When I met with Flew in Oxford, he told me that while he had not come to believe in the biblical God, he had concluded that atheism is not logically sustainable.

More recently, A. N. Wilson, once thought to be the next C. S. Lewis who then renounced his faith and spent years mocking Christianity, returned to faith. The reason, he said in an interview with New Statesman, was that atheists "are missing out on some very basic experiences of life." Listening to Bach and reading the works of religious authors, he realized that their worldview or "perception of life was deeper, wiser, and more rounded than my own."

He noticed that the people who insist we are "simply anthropoid apes" cannot account for things as basic as language, love, and music. That, along with the "even stronger argument" of how the "Christian faith transforms individual lives," convinced Wilson that "the religion of the incarnation … is simply true."

Likewise, Matthew Parris, another well-known British atheist, made the mistake of visiting Christian aid workers in Malawi, where he saw the power of the gospel transforming them and others. Concerned with what he saw, he wrote that it "confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my worldview, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God." While Parris is unwilling to follow where his observations lead, he is obviously wrestling with how Christianity makes better sense of the world than other worldviews.

Could this signal a trend? Well, not yet. But it does illustrate something I have been teaching for years: Faith and reason are not enemies. We are given reason as a gift. And while we can't reason our way to God (only the power of God can transform fallen men—I've seen that in prisons for over 32 years), I have long believed that Christianity is the most rational explanation of reality. And that fact, winsomely explained, can powerfully influence thinking people to consider Christ's claims.

A strong empirical case can be made to show that Christianity is the only rational explanation of life. For the past six years, I've been teaching students in the Centurions Program to draw a grid listing the four basic questions that most people ask about life: Where did I come from? What's my purpose? Why is there sin and suffering? Is redemption possible? Then, on the other side of the matrix, we list the various philosophies and prominent world religions. By examining how each view answers the four questions, we can determine which worldviews conform to the way things really are. This is the correspondence theory of truth—a thoroughly rational test.

Students quickly see that only Christianity teaches that humans are created in the image of God, thus protecting their dignity. It's no coincidence that Christians have waged most of the great human rights campaigns.

Or take the question of sin. If people are good, as French political philosopher Rousseau argued, problems can be solved by creating a utopian state. Yet all of history's utopian schemes have ended in tyranny. Meanwhile, Eastern religions see life as an endless cycle of suffering. There's no way for sin to be forgiven. And grace is an unknown concept in Islam.

This is nothing particularly novel. A long history of prominent atheists, interestingly concentrated in Britain, have traveled back to faith. These doubters began to examine the rationality of Christianity's claims. Whether in the Victorian era, with Thomas Cooper, George Sexton, and Joseph Barker, or in the 20th century, with T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, and C. S. Lewis, all of them concluded that the Bible speaks most accurately to the human condition—the very definition of a rational choice. It is rational to choose the worldview that provides the best choice for living, consistent with the way life works.

What does this tell us? People today have a caricatured view of Christians, seeing us as followers, often hypocritical and judgmental, of an outdated book of mere illusions. But if we can explain why Christianity is so reasonable, our faith becomes a very winsome proposition, which will at least open the mind, if not the heart, of many a doubter.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord... (Isaiah 1:18)