Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective

Malankara World Journal
Penta Centum Souvenir Edition
Volume 8 No. 500 October 14, 2018


II. Featured: The Triune God

Who Is God? by Joseph Tkach

The great and central question of Christianity is this: "Who is God?" ...The more clearly we understand who God is, the better will be our understanding of who we are and of our calling to live in communion with Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Who Is Jesus Christ? by Msgr. Charles Pope

Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this savior who has been born for us? .. In the Gospel of John, we learn at least five things about Jesus. We learn that He is prefigured, preexistent, preeminent, powerful, and is the presence of God. Let's look at each one. ...

Why Christ Came? by Dr. Ray Pritchard

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this. ...

The Trinity: Three Persons in One Nature by Frank Sheed

The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery, and that we can know it only by faith. ...

God Doesn't Change by John MacArthur

To Christians, His immutability means comfort. If He loved me in the past, He loves me now and forever. ...

To Teach as Jesus Taught - A Reflection on the Qualities of Jesus as Preacher and Teacher by Msgr. Charles Pope

Despite Jesus' often fiery and provocative stance, Scripture speaks of His renown as a preacher and the eagerness with which many heard Him. ...

Seven Manifestations of The Holy Spirit In The Believer by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Seven Mysteries of the Holy Ghost by Fr. Mark

Trinitarian God - One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

The Trinitarian nature of God is shown in the Bible. Trinity IS the nature of God as we have been given to know. ...

II. Chapter 1: The Triune God

Who Is God?

by Joseph Tkach

Is God a nice old man in the sky? A cranky being who wants to dish out "justice" on you? Is he like a human father or mother?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was England's best-known preacher for most of the second half of the 19th century. In a sermon he gave when he was only 20, Spurgeon declared that the proper study for a Christian is the Godhead. Here is a quote from that sermon - it's one of my favorites:

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with the solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.

As have many other preachers and teachers, Spurgeon reminds us that the great and central question of Christianity is this: "Who is God?"

God's own answer is not a proposition, but a person: the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. As the self-revelation of God, Jesus is the focal point of our knowledge of God's nature. Jesus, who takes us to the Father and sends us the Spirit, teaches us to ask, "Who is God?," then bids us look to him for the definitive answer.

Throughout history, many great thinkers pondered the question, "Who is God?" Unfortunately, they often did not make Jesus the center of their investigations. Working from the central revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity was developed to answer the false reasoning and heretical ideas about God that had infiltrated the church in its first three centuries. Though the Trinity doctrine doesn't answer all questions about God's nature, it helps us focus on who God is without wandering away from sound doctrine.

The early Christians were not unique in developing errors of reasoning as they pondered the nature of God. Theologians and philosophers of every age got it wrong, and our time is no exception. Old ideas have a way or repackaging themselves and worming their way into contemporary thinking. It is important that we are aware of two errors that are prevalent in our day. Both lead to wrong conclusions and a distorted picture of who God is.

The first error is a modern version of pantheism - the idea that God is part of his creation instead of being distinct from it and Lord over it. Though Scripture tells us that creation tells us about God (Romans 1:20), there is an important difference between believing that God is present to everything and believing that everything is God.

Unfortunately, a belief in the divine spirituality of everything (often referred to as "the Universe") is common today. Hungry for spirituality and put off by traditional religion, many people are seeking "enlightenment" in obscure and fringe ideas. Go into any large bookstore and you'll find sections devoted to fantasy fiction and the occult. Video gamers are obsessed with ever more bizarre themes and fantastic creatures wielding supernatural powers. Technology is blurring the line between fantasy and reality, and the spiritual landscape is becoming cluttered with offbeat ideas.

The same thing happened in the early years of the church. People had an appetite for magic and mystery. As a result, many non-apostolic epistles and gospels were in circulation - offering a mix of truth and bizarre ideas about God, reflecting the popular culture of that day. Paul reminds us what happens when people lose their spiritual moorings:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)

A second prevalent error in our day concerning the nature of God is conceiving of God as a spirit force that dwells in everyone individually. From this perspective, God is viewed as a genie that we carry with us, making use of him as the need arises. It's as though God is a cosmic smart-phone with all kinds of useful apps.

Following this line of faulty reasoning, we wrongly conclude that when we travel, we are taking God somewhere that he is not already present. God becomes dependent on us and limited by our limitations. As a result, God can't be more faithful than we are. Though this false idea may boost our sense of self-importance, it is a false idea that negates the grace of God.

The truth of God's nature, revealed in Jesus, is the opposite of this error. As the authors of the New Testament remind us, God remains faithful even when we are faithless. Our true importance is related to our identity as children of the God who not only dwells within us by his Spirit, but far beyond us. Our calling is to join God in what he is doing. We do so with great anticipation knowing that he has been at work long before we arrive on the scene. We are greatly privileged to share in what the Holy Spirit is doing to turn people around and to draw them into a reconciled relationship with the Father and the Son.

The more clearly we understand who God is, the better will be our understanding of who we are and of our calling to live in communion with Christ by the Holy Spirit.

© 2016 Grace Communion International. All rights reserved.  

Who Is Jesus Christ?

by Msgr. Charles Pope

Gospel: John 1:15-34

"Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this savior who has been born for us?"

In John's Gospel, John the Baptist elaborates on this. John's words are brief, but they are packed with Christological teaching. In this Gospel we learn at least five things about Jesus. We learn that He is prefigured, preexistent, preeminent, powerful, and is the presence of God. Let's look at each one.

I. Prefigured

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Unless you know the history of this moment, it seems a little odd.

But for those who know Scripture, it is clear that John is really answering a question that was asked by Isaac some 1800 years prior to this event. Abraham had received from God a strange and terrible command: that he take his son to Mt. Moriah (present day Jerusalem) and there offer him in sacrifice.

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together (Gen 22:6ff).

Do you get it? A promised son had wood laid upon his shoulder and was made to carry it up a hillside, the same hillside where Golgotha would one day be found. There, on the top of that hill he was to be laid on the wood and killed. Sound familiar? Of course Isaac is a prefigurement of Christ. Things were starting to look grim for Isaac, who got nervous and asked his father, "Where is the Lamb?" You know the rest of the story. It is true that God provided a ram caught in the thicket that day, but that ram pointed to Christ.

And so the question "Where is the Lamb?" wafted up on the breeze and was repeated down through the generations. Some five hundred years later, at the end of the period of slavery in Egypt, the blood of the lamb also protected Isaac's descendants from death. Every Passover the question was still asked, "Where is the Lamb?" referring to the Passover lamb. Here, too, the Passover lamb was but a symbol, a prefigurement of Christ.

Now, standing on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist answers Isaac's question, the question repeated down through the centuries: "Where is the Lamb?" John answers, "Behold the Lamb of God." So the first thing we learn of Christ is that He was prefigured, here and in many other places in the Old Testament.

II. Preexistent

He is the one of whom I said, "A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me." Now this, too, is a strange thing for a man to say about his younger cousin. Jesus was born six months after John the Baptist, yet John says that Jesus existed before him. John is clearly teaching us here of Christ's pre-existence. Before assuming a human nature, Jesus existed eternally with the Father.

There never was a time when Jesus the Son was not. He is eternally begotten by the Father; He existed before all ages. Scripture says the following of Him:

For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1).

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad. The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:56).

III. Preeminent

I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel. In effect, John is saying, "I exist for Him. My purpose is to reveal Him." He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30). Jesus is greater than John or any prophet or world leader. Jesus is the Groom; John is but the best man.

IV. Powerful

John testified further, saying, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'"

The baptism of John could only announce repentance and call for it. It could not truly wash away sins; the Baptism of Jesus can.

Even more, not only does Jesus' Baptism take away sins; it confers the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, we are given a whole new life. Sin is taken away and in its place grace upon grace is given: grace to restore us, renew us, and refashion us; grace that equips, empowers, and enables us; grace that sanctifies, gives sonship, and seals us with the Holy Spirit.

All this is in fulfillment of this passage from Ezekeiel:

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
(Ezekiel 36:25ff).

Scripture also says, But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God (Jn 1:12).

V. Presence of God

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God. Jesus would say elsewhere, To see me is to have seen the Father; the Father and I are one (John 14:9). As the Son of God, He manifests the Father; He is the presence of God in this world. He shares fully in the one divine essence and as Son, shows us the Father. He is the presence of God among us.

So a brief passage from the Gospel of John contains five important teachings about Jesus Christ. He has existed forever. He was prefigured in the Old Testament. He has priority above and beyond anyone we know or think important. He has the power not only to save us from sin but to give us the very life of God. And as Son of God, He is God, and thus is God's very presence among us. Jesus is not just the man from Galilee; He is very God from Heaven.


Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

Why Christ Came

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Gospel: Luke 19:10

There is no more pressing question today than this: Why did Christ come to the earth? It is not enough to know who Jesus is. By and large the world knows what Christians believe about Jesus. But what the world wants to know is this: Why did he come and what difference does it make?

Many answers have been given to that question. Some argue that Jesus came to give us an example of God's love. Others say that he came to be the Perfect Man, the one shining example that can lift the rest of us up. Many people consider him the greatest teacher of all time. Still others believe he came to establish a new religion. Some scholars say that he was a reformist rabbi who wanted to start a movement to purify Israel.

Against all the theories of men we have the clear words of our Lord himself found in a familiar verse in Luke's gospel. It is a verse known to every Sunday School child. Most of us know it by heart. In one simple sentence we have the sublimest statement of the mission of Christ. It is utterly reliable for it was spoken by Jesus on the occasion of encountering Zaccheus up a tree. Here are the words of our Lord:

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

Almost thirty years ago this verse fixed itself in my mind as I read a book by Joseph Parker, the famous London preacher of the late 1800s. In a chapter of sermon outlines, he included one on this verse. The book is long gone from my mind, but the outline has stayed with me. What follows is my meditation on the outline Joseph Parker proposed.

What do we have in this simple statement?

First, we have the most magnificent historical fact.

"The Son of Man came."

Jesus has come to earth, the Almighty has entered our world, the infinite has become finite, the eternal has invaded time. Theologians call it the Incarnation–God in human flesh. The Bible calls him Immanuel–God with us.

His birth differs from every other birth that he voluntarily came in obedience to the Father's will. That could not be said of you or me. We were born but we had no choice in the matter. I was born in Memphis, Tennessee to Tyrus and Zelma Pritchard, but I had no say in it. I am here by the choices made my parents. But Jesus "came" according to the plan of God. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son" (Galatians 4:4). Every detail was minutely planned in the courts of heaven. Nothing happened by chance.

He came from the light into the darkness.
He came from splendor into squalor.
He came from purity into a world of sin.

But still he came!

And not just any man has come–the Son of Man has come. Not an angel or some sort of extraterrestrial being. The term "Son of Man" emphasizes Jesus' humanity. God himself entered the human race in the form of a tiny baby. He is the Son of Man because he was first the Son of God. "And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us" (John 1:14 AMP). A generation ago C. S. Lewis put this doctrine in its proper perspective:

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.

He is entirely right about that. Sometimes we focus on peripheral questions (how did Jesus turn water into wine?) that distract us from the core issues. We believe God became a man. This is the central truth of our faith, and it is the point at which we part company with Islam and Judaism. Both of those religions categorically reject the notion that God has a Son and that God could somehow become one of us. To Christians it is impossible to speak about God without speaking about Jesus because God became a man 2000 years ago. As Lewis says, every other miracle leads to the Incarnation or results from it.

At the heart of our faith is this certain truth: God has come down to us in the person of Jesus. Now we know what God is like for the Son of Man has made him plain to us.

Second, we have the most spiritually significant mission.

"The Son of Man came to seek and to save."

Jesus came looking for something, or rather I should say Jesus came looking for someone. What is our Lord like? He is like the woman who lost a coin and searched her house until she found it. He is like the man who lost one sheep and went out into the wilderness to find it. He is the like the Father who welcomed his Prodigal Son home again.

He came seeking sinners up a tree, at midnight, and by Jacob's Well. Jesus came seeking those caught in adultery, blind beggars, lepers, and wild men living in the tombs. He even came seeking self-righteous Pharisees who thought they didn't need him. He came seeking fishermen, politicians, radicals, physicians, tax collectors, rich men at the top of the heap, and poor folks no one else would touch. He sought the prostitutes and drunkards, and they loved him for it. And when he was dying, he came seeking one hanging on a cross beside him.

Jesus came as the seeking Savior. We will never understand him unless we see this clearly.

Third, we have the most perfect description of the state of humanity.

"What was lost."

The word "lost" has almost gone out of style in Christian circles. We talk of being estranged from God, of being confused about our purpose in life, about needing a new beginning. All of that is true, but it is hard to improve on the simple Bible word "lost."

Search the pages of God's book from cover to cover. Read everything from Adam's great sin in Genesis to the final great battle in Revelation. Then pick up the morning newspaper and see if you don't agree with Jesus.

Men are lost with God.

What does it mean to be lost? When our boys were very young, we often took them to visit the local shopping mall. Inevitably we would be in the aisles of some great department store when josh or Mark or Nick would suddenly decide to go exploring. A few seconds would pass and then would come the cry from the next aisle, "Mom. . . Dad . . . Where are you?" We are all like that. Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that "we have all strayed like sheep. Each one of us has turned to go his own way" (GWT). We all by nature go our own way. No one has to teach us to run from God.

We were born running!
We all want to do our own thing!
We all go our own way!

Dumb sheep have nothing on us. We don't even know we are lost until someone comes from heaven seeking us out. There is an important principle for us to consider. If Christ did not come to us, we would never come to him. If we say, "Seek the Lord!" let us also recall that by nature no one truly "seeks" the Lord (Romans 3:11). Harry Ironside liked to tell about a newly-converted brother who gave his testimony at a Wednesday night meeting. The new convert gave great glory to God for his salvation. After the meeting, an older and supposedly wiser brother took the young man aside and said, "That was an excellent testimony, but you left out one thing." "What was that?" "You left out your part in salvation."

The new convert thought for a moment and then replied, "My part in salvation was to run from God as fast as I could. And the Lord's part was to run after me, find me, and save me." That is indeed the testimony of every child of God. We were lost until Jesus found us. Sometimes we encourage sinners to "come to Christ," which is entirely biblical. But if Jesus did not come to us first, we would never come to him at all.

That's what it means to be truly lost.

Lost without God.
Lost without hope.
Lost in a tangled web of sin.

Lost and trapped forever.

What, then, is our hope if we are so hopelessly lost? We find the answer in the words of Jesus who came to "to seek and to save what was lost."

He did not come as a tourist or a casual visitor or an educator or an itinerant philosopher. Jesus came as a Savior seeking to save the lost.

What It Means for Us

What are the implications of this great statement of the mission of Christ? Here are three for us to consider.

1. If Christ came, man's responsibility is increased.

In the spiritual realm the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility. Sometimes we say "ignorance of the law is no excuse," but we rarely act that way. If a man deliberately breaks the law, we treat him more harshly than the man who unwittingly breaks the law. So it is with God. If Christ did come, then our responsibility is increased. Jesus said, "To whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48 NKJV).

If Jesus had never come to the earth, we would all go to hell condemned by our own guilty conscience. If God did nothing, the whole human race would perish because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

But that is not the situation. Jesus has come to the earth and made God plain to us. He left heaven to make his home among us, to reveal God to us, to show us the true nature of the Father.

In him we see God's love.
In him we see God's mercy.
In him we see God's kindness.
In him we see God's justice.
In him we see God's holiness.

He came to us full of grace and truth, and what did we do to him?

We heard his words, saw his miracles, listened to his voice, considered his offer, and then we put him to death. We crucified the Lord of Glory!

We know about Jesus. We've heard his story over and over again. What will happen to us if we know about Jesus and still refuse him? What will be our end if having heard the truth, we yet neglect it?

I give you the scriptural answer. If we neglect Jesus after we know the truth, we will be condemned to hell forever. Here is a frightening fact. The same gospel that saves a man also condemns him. Consider the sun in the sky. To one plant it brings life; to another it brings death. If a branch has been cut off, the sun causes it to wither and die. As with the sun in the sky, so it is with the Son of Man from heaven. If a man will not come to Jesus to be saved, then Jesus will come to him for utter destruction.

2. If Christ came to save, then the sinner is without excuse.

What excuse could you give that would satisfy God? How would you explain your rejection of Jesus? What sufficient reason would you have for saying "no" to God's own Son? Think how clearly John 3:16 puts it:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

That wonderful truth is followed two verses later by this solemn warning:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18).

"Condemned already." That's the state of the whole human race apart from Jesus Christ. It is "condemned already." Recently I read about a pastor who lost his faith in hell and then found it again. When asked how a loving God could send amazingly good people to hell, he had a simple answer: "I don't know any amazingly good people." He added this for emphasis:

We are all fundamentally flawed at the core and it is only in our own hubris where we want to lift ourselves up. . . . I reject the idea that there are amazingly good people out there.

He's exactly right. All those "amazingly good people" who somehow end up in hell turn out not to be so amazing after all. The best among us are just wretches in need of God's grace, and as for the rest of us, we're like wretches squared, if such a thing were possible.

How bad is the problem? Here is the bottom line. Sin has infected your mind, your emotions, your will, your intellect, your moral reasoning, your decision making, your words and your deeds. No part of your life is exempt from the debilitating effects of sin. As someone has said, "If sin were blue, we'd be blue all over." Part would be dark blue, part would be sky blue, part would be light blue, but every part would be blue in one shade or another.

What sinners a need is salvation, not reformation. They need forgiveness, not lectures on morality. They need a new life, not a new leaf.

What sinners need, Jesus came to provide. When God gave his only Son to hang on a tree like a common criminal, he gave the very best he had.

But that means I am without excuse. Nothing will avail but Jesus. As the old song says,

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

3. If Christ came to save the lost, then the worst may be saved.

We all have a thousand skeletons rattling around in the closet. I sat with a group of men who had been badly shaken by the news that a friend of theirs had been arrested for a terrible crime. They were shaken because no one saw it coming. That man was in church not long ago singing with the congregation. Today his mug shot can be found on the Internet. In talking it over with the men, I told them to consider this. None of us has the full answer to the question, "Why did this happen?" But here's what we do know. Going to church in and of itself is not enough to keep a man from heinous sin. I do not say that to heap additional pain on anyone, but simply to remind us all that you never know what sin you might or might not commit.

"If we are not terrified by this," I said, "we ought to be."

That's what I mean by having a thousand skeletons in the closet. Thing are rarely what they seem to be. You can't really tell by looking on the outside what is happening in the heart. I am reminded of the British novelist who remarked there is no man who, if all his thoughts were made public, would not deserve hanging twelve times a day. To which I respond, "Only twelve times?"

So let us repeat the solemn, joyful news of the gospel that Christ came to save sinners. Luke 19:10 puts no limits on the grace of God. As Corrie Ten Boom liked to say, "There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still." It has been said that today's Christians no longer believe in instantaneous conversion. We tend to talk about salvation as a process and a spiritual journey. We're much more comfortable with salvation coming a little at a time. Our spiritual ancestors had no problem with the concept of instantaneous conversion. They believed that a life could be radically changed in a moment. Certainly the Bible presents many examples of people whose lives were changed immediately. Perhaps in our reaction against certain emotional excesses, we have gone too far. While it's true that long-held patterns of behavior may not change overnight, and while we all need time for spiritual growth, it's also true that your sins can be forgiven immediately. I like to tell people, "You may have come to church without Jesus, but you don't have to leave here without him. You may have come guilty, but you can go home forgiven. You may have come dirty, but you can go home clean." That's the true power of the gospel to create a miracle of conversion inside the human heart.

God has more grace in his heart than you have sin in your life. Jesus is a better Savior than you are a sinner. You don't have to be a prisoner of your past. In Christ you can rise above your past to live a life that brings great glory to God. The gospel song To God Be the Glory contains this encouraging line:

The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

All I have been trying to say is wrapped up in that sentence. If we understand our sin as an offense against Almighty God, then we are all equally qualified as "the vilest offender." When we believe in Jesus, that very moment (instantaneous conversion!) our sins are pardoned.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that.

I have had thoughts that I would rather die than have spoken out loud. There are deeds I have done that I would never mention in public. But I am not alone in that. Who among us would be the first to say, "Play back the unedited transcript of my life"? No, there are things better left unsaid and thoughts better left unspoken.

We are all adrift in the same boat, and apart from the grace of God, that boat is going down. But I have some Good News that did not originate with me. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost! He said so himself. If that is true, then the worst among us can be saved. And that includes you and me. We all labor under a terrible sense of sins committed this very week. Of duties left undone. Of careless, cutting words we wish we could take back. Of deliberate greed. Of foolish choices made in haste.

But it is the glory of the gospel that no matter how bad your sins may be, you can be saved right now. Your past does not determine your future when Jesus enters the picture.

If you qualify as lost, then you are an excellent candidate for salvation.
If you are a sinner, Christ came seeking you.

When Charles Spurgeon preached on this text, he quaintly imagined a sinner longing for salvation, waiting for the Lord to find him:

Do not give up in despair because Jesus seems so long in coming to find you. He has a piercing eye to see you, and a swift foot to leap o'er mountains after you, and a ready hand to grasp you, and strong shoulders on which to bear his wandering sheep home to the fold above.

There is hope for every person reading my words for Christ has come to seek and save the lost.

He has the power to save you.
He seeks you this very moment.

As preachers like to say during the invitation time, "Won't you come? Won't you come to Jesus?"

I pray that you will. When you come to Jesus, you will find that he has already come for you.

Source: Keep Believing Ministries

The Trinity: Three Persons in One Nature

by Frank Sheed

The notion is unfortunately widespread that the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery of mathematics, that is to say, of how one can equal three. The plain Christian accepts the doctrine of the Trinity; the "advanced" Christian rejects it; but too often what is being accepted by the one and rejected by the other is that one equals three. The believer argues that God has said it, therefore it must be true; the rejecter argues it cannot be true, therefore God has not said it. A learned non-Catholic divine, being asked if he believed in the Trinity, answered, "I must confess that the arithmetical aspect of the Deity does not greatly interest me"; and if the learned can think that there is some question of arithmetic involved, the ordinary person can hardly be expected to know any better.

(i) Importance of the doctrine of the Trinity

Consider what happens when a believer in the doctrine is suddenly called upon to explain it — and note that unless he is forced to, he will not talk about it at all: there is no likelihood of his being so much in love with the principal doctrine of his Faith that he will want to tell people about it. Anyhow, here he is: he has been challenged, and must say something. The dialogue runs something like this:

Believer: "Well, you see, there are three persons in one nature."

Questioner: "Tell me more."

Believer: "Well, there is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit."

Questioner: "Ah, I see, three gods."

Believer (shocked): "Oh, no! Only one God."

Questioner: "But you said three: you called the Father God, which is one; and you called the Son God, which makes two; and you called the Holy Spirit God, which makes three."

Here the dialogue form breaks down. From the believer's mouth there emerges what can only be called a soup of words, sentences that begin and do not end, words that change into something else halfway. This goes on for a longer or shorter time. But finally there comes something like: "Thus, you see, three is one and one is three." The questioner not unnaturally retorts that three is not one nor one three. Then comes the believer's great moment. With his eyes fairly gleaming he cries: "Ah, that is the mystery. You have to have faith."

Now it is true that the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery, and that we can know it only by faith. But what we have just been hearing is not the mystery of the Trinity; it is not the mystery of anything, it is wretched nonsense. It may be heroic faith to believe it, like the man who

Wished there were four of 'em

That he might believe more of 'em

or it may be total intellectual unconcern - God has revealed certain things about Himself, we accept the fact that He has done so, but find in ourselves no particular inclination to follow it up. God has told us that He is three persons in one Divine nature, and we say "Quite so", and proceed to think of other matters - last week's Retreat or next week's Confession or Lent or Lourdes or the Church's social teaching or foreign missions. All these are vital things, but compared with God Himself, they are as nothing: and the Trinity is God Himself. These other things must be thought about, but to think about them exclusively and about the Trinity not at all is plain folly. And not only folly, but a kind of insensitiveness, almost a callousness, to the love of God. For the doctrine of the Trinity is the inner, the innermost, life of God, His profoundest secret. He did not have to reveal it to us. We could have been saved without knowing that ultimate truth. In the strictest sense it is His business, not ours. He revealed it to us because He loves men and so wants not only to be served by them but truly known. The revelation of the Trinity was in one sense an even more certain proof than Calvary that God loves mankind. To accept it politely and think no more of it is an insensitiveness beyond comprehension in those who quite certainly love God: as many certainly do who could give no better statement of the doctrine than the believer in the dialogue we have just been considering.

How did we reach this curious travesty of the supreme truth about God? The short statement of the doctrine is, as we have heard all our lives, that there are three persons in one nature. But if we attach no meaning to the word person, and no meaning to the word nature, then both the nouns have dropped out of our definition, and we are left only with the numbers three and one, and get along as best we can with these. Let us agree that there may be more in the mind of the believer than he manages to get said: but the things that do get said give a pretty strong impression that his notion of the Trinity is simply a travesty. It does him no positive harm provided he does not look at it too closely; but it sheds no light in his own soul: and his statement of it, when he is driven to make a statement, might very well extinguish such flickering as there may be in others. The Catholic whose faith is wavering might well have it blown out altogether by such an explanation of the Trinity as some fellow Catholic of stronger faith might feel moved to give: and no one coming fresh to the study of God would be much encouraged.

(ii) "Person" and "Nature"

Let us come now to a consideration of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity to see what light there is in it for us, being utterly confident that had there been no light for us, God would not have revealed it to us. There would be a rather horrible note of mockery in telling us something of which we can make nothing. The doctrine may be set out in four statements:

In the one divine Nature, there are three Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the Father: no one of the Persons is either of the others.

The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.

There are not three Gods but one God.

We have seen that the imagination cannot help here. Comparisons drawn from the material universe are a hindrance and no help. Once one has taken hold of this doctrine, it is natural enough to want to utter it in simile and metaphor - like the lovely lumen de lumine, light from light, with which the Nicene Creed phrases the relation of the Son to the Father. But this is for afterward, poetical statement of a truth known, not the way to its knowledge. For that, the intellect must go on alone. And for the intellect, the way into the mystery lies, as we have already suggested, in the meaning of the words "person" and "nature". There is no question of arithmetic involved. We are not saying three persons in one person, or three natures in one nature; we are saying three persons in one nature. There is not even the appearance of an arithmetical problem. It is for us to see what person is and what nature is, and then to consider what meaning there can be in a nature totally possessed by three distinct persons.

The newcomer to this sort of thinking must be prepared to work hard here. It is a decisive stage of our advance into theology to get some grasp of the meaning of nature and the meaning of person. Fortunately the first stage of our search goes easily enough. We begin with ourselves. Such a phrase as "my nature" suggests that there is a person, I, who possesses a nature. The person could not exist without his nature, but there is some distinction all the same; for it is the person who possesses the nature and not the other way round.

One distinction we see instantly. Nature answers the question what we are; person answers the question who we are. Every being has a nature; of every being we may properly ask, What is it? But not every being is a person: only rational beings are persons. We could not properly ask of a stone or a potato or an oyster, Who is it?

By our nature, then, we are what we are. It follows that by our nature we do what we do: for every being acts according to what it is. Applying this to ourselves, we come upon another distinction between person and nature. We find that there are many things, countless things, we can do. We can laugh and cry and walk and talk and sleep and think and love. All these and other things we can do because as human beings we have a nature which makes them possible. A snake could do only one of them - sleep. A stone could do none of them. Nature, then, is to be seen not only as what we are but as the source of what we can do.

But although my nature is the source of all my actions, although my nature decides what kind of operations are possible for me, it is not my nature that does them: I do them, I the person. Thus both person and nature may be considered sources of action, but in a different sense. The person is that which does the actions, the nature is that by virtue of which the actions are done, or, better, that from which the actions are drawn. We can express the distinction in all sorts of ways. We can say that it is our nature to do certain things, but that we do them. We can say that we operate in or according to our nature. In this light we see why the philosophers speak of a person as the center of attribution in a rational nature: whatever is done in a rational nature or suffered in a rational nature or any way experienced in a rational nature is done or suffered or experienced by the person whose nature it is.

Thus there is a reality in us by which we are what we are: and there is a reality in us by which we are who we are. But as to whether these are two really distinct realities, or two levels of one reality, or related in some other way, we cannot see deep enough into ourselves to know with any sureness. There is an obvious difference between beings of whom you can say only what they are and the higher beings of whom you can say who they are as well. But in these latter - even in ourselves, of whom we have a great deal of experience - we see only darkly as to the distinction between the what and the who. Of our nature in its root reality we have only a shadowy notion, and of our self a notion more shadowy still. If someone - for want of something better to say - says: "Tell me about yourself", we can tell her the qualities we have or the things we have done; but of the self that has the qualities and has done the things, we cannot tell her anything. We cannot bring it under her gaze. Indeed we cannot easily or continuously bring it under our own. As we turn our mind inward to look at the thing we call "I", we know that there is something there, but we cannot get it into any focus: it does not submit to being looked at very closely. Both as to the nature that we ourselves have and the person that we ourselves are, we are more in darkness than in light. But at least we have certain things clear: nature says what we are, person says who we are. Nature is the source of our operations, person does them.

Now at first sight it might seem that this examination of the meaning of person and nature has not got us far toward an understanding of the Blessed Trinity. For although we have been led to see a distinction between person and nature in us, it seems clearer than ever that one nature can be possessed and operated in only by one person. By a tremendous stretch, we can just barely glimpse the possibility of one person having more than one nature, opening up to him more than one field of operation. But the intellect feels baffled at the reverse concept of one nature being totally "wielded", much less totally possessed, by more than one person. Now to admit ourselves baffled by the notion of three persons in the one nature of God is an entirely honorable admission of our own limitation; but to argue that because in man the relation of one nature to one person is invariable, therefore the same must be the relation in God, is a defect in our thinking. It is indeed an example of that anthropomorphism, the tendency to make God in the image of man, which we have already seen hurled in accusation at the Christian belief in God.

Let us look more closely at this idea. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore it is certain that man resembles God. Yet we can never argue with certainty from an image to the original of the image: we can never be sure that because the image is thus and so, therefore the original must be thus and so. A statue may be an extremely good statue of a man. But we could not argue that the man must be a very rigidman, because the statue is very rigid. The statue is rigid, not because the man is rigid, but because stone is rigid. So also with any quality you may observe in an image: the question arises whether that quality is there because the original was like that or because the material of which the image is made is like that. So with man and God. When we learn anything about man, the question always arises whether man is like that because God is like that, or because that is the best that can be done in reproducing the likeness of God in a being created of nothing. Put quite simply, we have always to allow for the necessary scaling down of the infinite in its finite likeness.

Apply this to the question of one person and one nature, which we find in man. Is this relation of one-to-one the result of something in the nature of being, or simply of something in the nature of finite being? With all the light we can get on the meaning of person and of nature even in ourselves, we have seen that there is still much that is dark to us: both concepts plunge away to a depth where the eye cannot follow them. Even of our own finite natures, it would be rash to affirm that the only possible relation is one person to one nature. But of an infinite nature, we have no experience at all. If God tells us that His own infinite nature is totally possessed by three persons, we can have no grounds for doubting the statement, although we may find it almost immeasurably difficult to make any meaning of it. There is no difficulty in accepting it as true, given our own inexperience of what it is to have an infinite nature and God's statement on the subject; there is not difficulty, I say, in accepting it as true; the difficulty lies in seeing what it means. Yet short of seeing some meaning in it, there is no point in having it revealed to us; indeed, a revelation that is only darkness is a kind of contradiction in terms.

(iii) Three Persons - One God

Let us then see what meaning, - that is to say, what light, - we can get from what has been said so far. The one infinite nature is totally possessed by three distinct persons. Here we must be quite accurate: the three persons are distinct, but not separate; and they do not share the divine nature, but each possesses it totally.

At this first beginning of our exploration of the supreme truth about God, it is worth pausing a moment to consider the virtue of accuracy. There is a feeling that it is a very suitable virtue for mathematicians and scientists, but cramping if applied to operations more specifically human. The young tend to despise it as a kind of tidiness, a virtue proper only to the poor-spirited. And everybody feels that it limits the free soul. It is in particular disrepute as applied to religion, where it is seen as a sort of anxious weighing and measuring that is fatal to the impetuous rush of the spirit. But in fact, accuracy is in every field the key to beauty: beauty has no greater enemy than rough approximation. Had Cleopatra's nose been shorter, says Pascal, the face of the Roman Empire and so of the world would have been changed: an eighth of an inch is not a lot: a lover, you would think, would not bother with such close calculation; but her nose was for her lovers the precise length for beauty: a slight inaccuracy would have spoiled everything. It is so in music, it is so in everything: beauty and accuracy run together, and where accuracy does not run, beauty limps.

Returning to the point at which this digression started: we must not say three separate persons, but three distinct persons, because although they are distinct - that is to say, no one of them is either of the others - yet they cannot be separated, for each is what he is by the total possession of the one same nature: apart from that one same nature, no one of the three persons could exist at all. And we must not use any phrase which suggests that the three persons share the Divine Nature. For we have seen that in the Infinite there is utter simplicity, there are no parts, therefore no possibility of sharing. The infinite Divine Nature can be possessed only in its totality. In the words of the Fourth Council of the Lateran, "There are three persons indeed, but one utterly simple substance, essence, or nature."

Summarizing thus far, we may state the doctrine in this way: the Father possesses the whole nature of God as His Own, the Son possesses the whole nature of God as His Own, the Holy Spirit possesses the whole nature of God as His Own. Thus, since the nature of any being decides what the being is, each person is God, wholly and therefore equally with the others. Further, the nature decides what the person can do: therefore, each of the three persons who thus totally possess the Divine Nature can do all the things that go with being God.

All this we find in the Preface for the Mass on the Feast of the Holy Trinity: "Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, ... we joyfully proclaim our faith in the mystery of your Godhead ...: three Persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored in your everlasting glory."

To complete this first stage of our inquiry, let us return to the question which, in our model dialogue above, produced so much incoherence from the believer - if each of the three persons is wholly God, why not three Gods? The reason why we cannot say three Gods becomes clear if we consider what is meant by the parallel phrase, "three men". That would mean three distinct persons, each possessing a human nature. But note that, although their natures would be similar, each would have his own. The first man could not think with the second man's intellect, but only with his own; the second man could not love with the third's will, but only with his own. The phrase "three men" would mean three distinct persons, each with his own separate human nature, his own separate equipment as man; the phrase "three gods" would mean three distinct persons, each with his own separate Divine Nature, his own separate equipment as God. But in the Blessed Trinity, that is not so. The three Persons are God, not by the possession of equal and similar natures, but by the possession of one single nature; they do in fact, what our three men could not do, know with the same intellect and love with the same will. They are three Persons, but they are not three Gods; they are One God.

Source: Insight Scoop

God Doesn't Change

by John MacArthur

"'Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end'"
(Psalm 102:27).

God never changes, so He can be trusted to do what He says.

God alone is unchanging (or as the theologians say, immutable). The psalmist says, "Even [the heavens and earth] will perish, but Thou dost endure. . . . Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end" (Ps. 102:26-27). Though Israel deserved destruction for its sin, God was faithful to His covenant with Abraham, saying, "I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed" (Mal. 3:6). James calls God "the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow" (1:17).

What about those verses that say God changed His mind (e.g., Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:10)? Let's look at an example. Jonah warned the wicked city of Nineveh of impending judgment. The city immediately repented, and "when God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it" (3:10). Who changed? The people of Nineveh! God's nature to punish evil and reward good remained the same, but the object changed.

You can't blame the sun for melting the wax and hardening the clay. The problem is in the substance of the wax and clay, not in the sun. In a similar way, our standing before God determines how God acts toward us.

What does God's unchanging character mean? To unbelievers, it means judgment. When God says, "The person who sins will die" (Ezek. 18:20) and "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), He means it. When He says Hell is eternal (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:10, 13-15), then it is.

To Christians, His immutability means comfort. If He loved me in the past, He loves me now and forever. If He forgave and saved me, He did so forever. If He promised me anything, His promise stands forever. If the Bible says, "My God shall supply all your needs" (Phil. 4:19), we know the power that supplied Paul's needs is the same power that will supply ours. God told Israel, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3), and His love for us is the same.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His immutability, and thank Him for the comfort that brings you.

For Further Study

Find some promises God makes to His children in Scripture, and ask for faith to believe them, even when belief is difficult.

Source: Grace to

To Teach as Jesus Taught - A Reflection on the Qualities of Jesus as Preacher and Teacher

by Msgr. Charles Pope

As a priest, I am called to preach and teach. As such, I must look to Jesus Christ as my model. In this, I refer to the real Jesus of Scripture. Too many people today have refashioned Jesus into a sort of "harmless hippie," an affable affirmer, a pleasant sort of fellow who healed the sick, blessed the poor, and talked about love, but in a very fuzzy, "anything goes" manner. But absent from this image is the prophetic Jesus, who accepted no compromise and called out the hypocrisy in many of His day.

Thus I must look to the real Jesus of Scripture. The real Jesus clearly loved God's people, but on account of that love could not suffer some limited notion of salvation and healing for them. Rather, He zealously insisted that they receive the whole counsel of God. He insisted that dignity for them was nothing less than the perfection of God Himself (cf Mat 5:41).

As a teacher, Jesus often operated in the mode of the prophets. Prophets have a way of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Truth be told, each of us is in both categories. We must be able to accept the Jesus who one moment says, "Blessed are you," and the next adds, "Woe to you." Jesus the teacher and prophet will affirm whatever truth there is in us, but, like any good teacher, He will put a large red "X" beside our wrongful answers and thoughts.

Yet despite Jesus' often fiery and provocative stance, Scripture speaks of His renown as a preacher and the eagerness with which many heard Him.

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (Mat 7:28).

Sent to arrest him the temple guard returned empty handed saying: No one ever spoke like that man (Jn 7:46).

And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth (Luke 4:22).

And the common people heard him gladly (Mark 12:37).

But even Jesus could have a bad day in the pulpit. In Nazareth, they tried to throw Him off a cliff for suggesting that Gentiles might have a place in the Kingdom (Lk 4:29). In Capernaum, many left Him and would not follow Him any longer because of His teaching on the Eucharist (Jn 6:66). In Jerusalem, the crowd said that He had a demon because He called Himself "I AM" (Jn 8:48). And thus Jesus warns all who would teach and preach: Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets (Lk 6:26).

And thus Jesus was a complex preacher and teacher. He was no mere affirmer. He often unsettled and troubled people, even though He consoled and comforted them at other times.

Let's consider some of the qualities of Jesus as a teacher and ponder the sort of balance that He manifests. It is a balance between His love for us, His students, and His zeal to tolerate no lasting imperfection or error in the pupils whom He loves too much to deceive. I present these qualities of Jesus as a teacher in no particular order. Some are "positive" in the sense that they are aspects of His kindness and patience; others are "negative" in the sense that they illustrate His refusal to accept anything less than final perfection in us.

I. His authority

The Scriptures often speak of the "authority" with which Jesus taught. For example, Scripture says of Jesus, he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law (Mat 7:29). For indeed the teachers of Jesus' time played it safe, quoting only reputable authorities in a wooden sort of way; but Jesus taught with authority.

The Greek word translated as "authority" is exousia, meaning to teach out of (one's own) substance, to speak to the substance of what is taught. Jesus would often say, "You have heard that is was said … But I say to you" (cf Mat 5 inter al). And so Jesus spoke from His experience of knowing His Father and of knowing and cherishing the Law and its truth in His own life. He brought a personal weight to what He said. He "knew" of what He spoke; He did not merely know "about" it.

This personal authority was compelling. Even today, those with this gift stand apart from those who merely preach and teach the "safe" maxims of others without adding their own experience to the truth that they proclaim. Jesus personally bore witness in His own life to the truth He proclaimed; and people noticed the difference.

How about you? Each of us is called to speak out of the experience of the Lord in our own life and to be able to say with authority, "I can verify that everything declared by the Lord and His Body, the Church, is true because in the laboratory of my own life I have tested it and come to experience it as true and transformative!"

II. His witness

A witness is one who recounts what he has seen and heard with his own eyes and ears, what he himself knows and has experienced. Jesus could say to the Jews of his time, If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word (Jn 8:55). He thus attests to what he personally knows. He is not just reciting facts that others have said.

In a courtroom, a witness must attest to what he has seen and heard for himself; if he merely recounts what others have said it is called "hearsay." A witness can raise his right hand and say, "It is true, and I will swear to it. I have seen it for myself."

Jesus could witness to what He had heard and seen, of His Father and of us.

We cannot witness immediately to all that Jesus could, for He had lived with the Father from all eternity, but we can speak to what the Lord has done in our life and how we have come to know Him in conformity with His revealed Word.

III. His respect for others

The Latin root of the word "respect" gives it the meaning "look again" (re (again) + spectare (to look)). Frequently in Scripture, especially in Mark's Gospel, there appears the phrase, "Jesus looked at them and said …"

In other words, Jesus was not merely issuing dictates to an unknown, faceless crowd; He looked at them. And He looks at you and me as well. It is a personal look, a look that seeks to engage you and me in a very personal way. He is speaking to you, to me. His teaching is not just for the ancient crowd; it is for you and for me. He looks to you, and He looks again. Are you looking? Are you listening?

Do you look with respect to those whom you are called to teach, or to the children you are called to raise? Do you engage them by your look of respect and love?

IV. His love and patience for sinners

Jesus could be very tough, even exhibiting impatience. But in the end, He is willing to stay with us in a long conversation. One text says, When Jesus went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them at great length (Mk 6:34). Yes, He teaches us at great length; He stays in long conversations with us. He knows that we are dull of mind and hard of heart, so He persistently and consistently teaches.

Do we do that? Or do we quickly write people off? Jesus had a long conversation with a Samaritan woman who, frankly, was quite rude to Him at first (John 4). He had a long conversation with Nicodemus, who also was at times resistant and argumentative (Jn 3). He had a long conversation with His Apostles, who were slow and inept.

How about us? Are we willing to experience the opposition of sinners, the resistance of the fleshly and worldly? Do we have love and patience for those whom we teach? I have met some great Catholics who were once enemies of the Faith. Someone stayed in a conversation with them. What about us?

V. His capacity to afflict and console

Jesus said, "Blessed are you," but just as often He said, "Woe to you." Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. Each of us falls into both categories. We need comfort but are often too comfortable in our sins. A true prophet fears no man and speaks to the truth of God.

Thus for a true prophet (like Jesus) there are no permanent allies to please and no permanent enemies to oppose. The determination of every moment is based on conformity or lack of conformity to the truth of God. Jesus said to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah" (Mat 16:17), and He gave him the keys to the Kingdom and the power to bind and loose. But in the very next passage, Jesus says to him, "Get behind me, Satan!" (Mat 16:23)

No true prophet or teacher can say, "Correct," or "Blessed are you" every moment, because we all fall short of the glory of God. Jesus had absolute integrity when it came to assessing everything by the standard of God's truth and Word. Do we?

VI. His parables

Stories are an important way to teach. A story that registers with us will rarely be forgotten. It is said that Jesus used more than 45 parables; some are full stories while others are just brief images. He used parables to link His sometimes-complex teaching to everyday life and to plant a seed of truth for our further reflection.

What stories and examples do you use? Teachings that consistently fail to make use of these risk being seen as merely abstract and can easily be forgotten.

That said, parables are somewhat like "riddles." They admit of various understandings and interpretations. A good parable leaves its listener wanting more, seeking a definitive interpretation.

For example, a movie will sometimes have an ambiguous ending, stirring up hope for a sequel that will provide more information. Some stories and parables are compact and definitive; others are open-ended and ambiguous, almost begging for an ending.

Consider that the parable of the Prodigal Son is not really finished. It ends with the Father pleading for the second son to enter the feast. Does the son enter or does he refuse to do so? This detail is not supplied, because you are the son and you have to supply the answer. Will you enter or will you stay outside sulking that if the kingdom of Heaven includes people you don't like then you'd just as soon stay outside?

Parables are powerful, but for different reasons. Learn stories and learn to share them!

VII. His questions

Jesus asked well over a hundred questions in the Gospels. Here are just a few: "What did you go out to the dessert to see?", "Why do you trouble the woman?", "How many loaves do you have?", "Do you say this of me on your own, or have others told you of me?".

Good teachers ask questions and do not rush supply the answer to every question. A question is pregnant with meaning; it invites a search. The "Socratic method" uses questions to get to the truth, especially on a personal level: "Why do you ask that?", "What do you mean by this?", "Do you think there are any distinctions needed in your claim?".

This method makes a person look inward to his attitudes, prejudices, and presumptions. Good teachers ask their students a lot of questions; questions make people think.

Here is a list of one hundred questions that Jesus asked: 100 Questions Jesus Asked. Read them; they will make you think - a lot!

VIII. His use of "focal instances"

Jesus does not propose to cover every moral situation a person might encounter or teach every doctrinal truth in a single afternoon.

For example, many today say that Jesus never mentioned homosexual acts and from His silence conclude that He must therefore approve of them. Really? He also never mentioned rape. Do you suppose that He approves of rape? Further, He did speak of homosexual acts, through His appointed spokesmen (the Apostles) who condemned them.

No teacher can cover every possibility, every sin, or every scenario. So Jesus uses "focal instances," in which He illustrates a principle.

This is most obvious in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) where, to illustrate the principle that we are to fulfill the law and not merely keep its minimal requirements, He uses six examples or "focal instances." Jesus speaks to anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, love of enemies, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And in Mathew 25:31ff, the Lord uses the corporal works of mercy to illustrate the whole of the Law.

These are not an exhaustive treatments of the moral life. Through the use of illustrations, the Lord asks us to learn the principle of fulfillment and then apply it to other instances.

Good teachers teach principles, since they cannot possibly envision every scenario or situation. Having instructed their students in first principles, they can trust that their students will make solid decisions in many diverse situations.

Good teachers teach students to think for themselves, not in isolation, but in ongoing communion with the principles learned, and through dialogue with authorities when necessary for assistance and accountability.

IX. His use of hyperbole

Jesus uses a lot of hyperbole. It is easier, He tells us, for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven (Mk 10:25). If your eye scandalizes you, gouge it out (Mat 5:29). There was a man who owed ten thousand talents (the equivalent of a trillion dollars today) (Mat 18:24). It would be better for you to be cast into the sea with a great millstone about your neck than to scandalize one of my little ones (Mat 18:6).

Hyperbole has memorable effect. Who of us can forget Jesus' parable about a man with a 2×4 coming out of his eye who rebukes his neighbor for the splinter in his? I often tell my congregation, "Go to church or go to Hell," which is my way of saying that missing Mass is a mortal sin.

Once, one of my seminary professors signaled me that I was giving an incorrect and heretical answer to a complex theological issue by saying, "Charles, you are on the edge of an abyss." His response made me stop immediately and give the correct and orthodox answer!

Good teachers use hyperbole at the right moments.

X. His use of servile fear

Jesus made frequent use of "fear-based arguments." He warned of Hell, of unquenchable fire, and of the worm that does not die. His parables feature many summary judgements in which people are found unprepared, are excluded from Heaven, or are cast into darkness. One parable ends with a king burning the town of those who failed to accept his invitation to his son's wedding banquet (Mat 22:7). Another has a king summoning those who rejected him so that they could be slain before his eyes (Lk 19:27). Jesus warns of the wailing and grinding of teeth. He also warns of a permanent abyss between Heaven and Hell that no one will be able to cross.

Many people today are dismissive of fear-based arguments, but Jesus used them - He used them a lot. So Jesus never got the memo that this is a poor way to teach. While the spiritually mature can respond to loving arguments, many are not that mature, and thus a healthy dose of fear and the threat of unending regret is often necessary.

We ought not to exclude, as many do, the myriad verses in which Jesus warns in vivid language of the consequences of repeated, un-repented sin. He is not playing games; He is speaking the truth.

To teach as Jesus did is to include warnings of judgment and of Hell.

XI. His anger and zeal

Jesus does not hesitate to express His anger and grief at the hardness and stubbornness of many. One day He said, You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? (Matt 17:17) And in Mark's Gospel we read, And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was furious and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them" (Mk 10: 13-14). Another day, in the synagogue, Jesus expressed anger at their unbelief: After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored (Mk 3:5).

Yes, Jesus memorably cleansed the temple and drove out iniquity there. He engaged in heated debates with the Jewish leaders and with unbelievers. He did not hesitate to call them hypocrites, vipers, liars, and the sons of those who murdered the prophets.

This is another teaching moment that renders what is taught memorable and meaningful. Parents who never react with anger risk misleading their children into making light of or not being serious enough about wrongdoing, disrespect, or stubborn unrepentance.

We must be careful of our anger. We do not have the kind of sovereignty over it that Jesus did; neither are we as able to see into people's hearts as He was.

But there is a place for anger. Jesus uses it - a lot, actually. Anger signals an important teaching and rebukes a lighthearted response.

XII. His refusal to compromise

There was in Jesus very little compromise about the serious teachings of doctrine or those issues related to our salvation. He said that either we would believe in Him or we would die in our sins (Jn 8). Jesus also said that He was the only way to the Father and that no one would come to the Father except through Him. He declared that no one who set his hand to the plow and looked back was fit for the reign of God. Jesus said that no one who would not deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him was worthy of Him. We are told to count the cost and decide now, and we are warned that delay may be deadly.

Much of this is countercultural today, a time of uncertainty in which there is an inappropriate sort of pluralism that thinks that there are many ways to God. Many insist on a "softer" Christianity, in which we can love the world and also love God. Sorry, no can do. A friend of the world is an enemy to God.

Jesus teaches His fundamental truths in an uncompromising way because they are truths for our salvation. Following these truths vaguely or inconsistently will not win the day. Some disciplines need to be followed precisely.

To teach as Jesus did involves insisting that the fundamental doctrines of our faith be accepted fully and wholeheartedly.

XIII. His forgiveness

Forgiveness may not at first seem to be an obvious way of teaching, but consider that teachers often have to accept that students don't get everything right the first time. Teaching requires a patient persistence as students first acquire skills and then master them.

A good teacher does not compromise the right method or the correct answer; He assists students who fall short rather than immediately excluding them. In an atmosphere where there is no room for error, very little learning can take place.

Forgiveness does not deny that which is correct; it continues to teach what is correct. Forgiveness facilitates an environment in which learning can thrive and perfection can at last be attained.

Jesus, while setting high standards, offers forgiveness, not as a way of denying perfection but as a way to facilitate our advancement by grace and trust.

XIV. His equipping and authorizing of others

Good teachers train new teachers. Jesus trained the Twelve and, by extension, other disciples as well. He led and inspired them. He also prepared them for a day when He would hand on the role of teacher to them. We who would teach need to train our successors and inspire new and greater insights.

Teach me, Lord, by your example, to teach as you taught and to preach as you would have me preach.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

Seven Manifestations of The Holy Spirit In The Believer

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

1. The Spirit Produces Christian Character.

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such
there is no law.”

2. The Spirit Produces Christian Service.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

3. The Spirit Teaches.

John 16:12-15 “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them
now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all
truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that
shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he
shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father
hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it
unto you.”

4. The Spirit Produces Worship and Thanks Given.

Ephesians 5:18-20 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled
with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for
all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

5. The Spirit Guides.

Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of

6. The Spirit Beareths Witness With Our spirit.

Romans 8:16 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the
children of God”

7. The Spirit Intercedes For Us.

Romans 8:26-27 "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know
not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh
intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that
searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh
intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

Source: Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh,'DAY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT" 1989
Submitted by: Rev. Fr. Dr. Mathew C. Chacko, New Jersey

Seven Mysteries of the Holy Ghost

by Fr. Mark

1. The Annunciation, the "Proto-Pentecost" in which the Virgin is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). Ask for the Gift of Wisdom.

2. The Visitation in which Elizabeth, "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:42), greets the Mother of her Lord. Ask for the Gift of Understanding.

3. The Baptism of Jesus, at which the Holy Ghost descended upon him "in bodily form, as a dove" (Lk 3:22). Ask for the Gift of Counsel.

4. The Wedding Feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11) at which, in response to the intervention of his Mother, Jesus provides wine in abundance prefiguring the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Ask for the Gift of Fortitude.

5. The Death of Jesus Crucified who, "bowing his head, handed over his spirit" (Jn 19:30). Ask for the Gift of Knowledge.

6. The Resurrection of Jesus who, appearing to the disciples "on the evening of that day, the first day of the week" (Jn 20:19), "breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (Jn 20:22). Ask for the Gift of Piety.

7. The Descent of the Holy Ghost "when the day of Pentecost had come" (Ac 2:1). Ask for the Gift of Holy Fear.

Source: vultus christi - Fr. Mark

Trinitarian God - One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism
The three aspects of One God are found throughout the Tanakh and the New Testament.

One Lord
One Faith
One Baptism

The One God evidences Himself in the work He is doing

The following will be 'a way' to understand the notion of the Trinitarian nature of the Deity, not a strictly Biblical explanation, but one which is applicable to the teaching of the Bible. Here goes:

God The Father Almighty is greater than His creation, thus greater than dimension time and dimension space, thus we may think of The Father Almighty as beyond time and space but not prevented from touching and indeed penetrating His creation.

The universe of space and time is likened to a bubble: what is inside the bubble is in time and space. But the nature of what is inside the bubble is only partially understood in modern Physics.

The Bible relates scenes which defy the simplistic notions we use. God The Father Almighty is as comfortable outside the bubble as He is inside the bubble. He is the Alpha and Omega, the limits of all that is or ever will be. God IS before any dimension like time or space existed. When the universe expands to a cold dead state in 10120 billion years, God will Still be As I AM. When God rolls up the universe like a scroll and blows it into none existence, I AM will still be. Even the spirits exist in some sort of spatio-temporal realm. But John's Gospel tells us that in the beginning was the Word and The Word was with God and the Word was God.

Modern Physics has discovered that the balance of forces and tensions sustaining the universe necessary for human life to arise within the universe is extremely delicate, on the order of a mathematical improbability, represented as a 'one in less than' fraction so tiny that a one over a one followed by more than one-hundred zeros (1/ 10100) defines the probability that the whole thing remains in balance! Such a delicate balancing act is but one of the continuing 'works' of the Holy Spirit of God. It is by the Spirit of God, The Word, that the universe came into existence and it is said in the Bible that by His Spirit the whole is maintained.

But the Bible also states that The Word was with God in the beginning and was God. In John's gospel we find Jesus is The Word made flesh Who dwelt among us. So, inside the bubble Created by The Father Almighty, sustained by God The Holy Spirit, is the Word, God made flesh Who dwelt among us. The Creator does not stop being greater than His creation bubble, nor does His Spirit cease to sustain it all in balance, when Jesus comes in the flesh to dwell among us.

As God The Father Almighty creates any 'other' where/when, His Holy Spirit maintains its balance and separateness from our where/when, and Jesus has moved in and out of other where/whens: as shown when He resurrected from the tomb without rolling away the stone, just passing out of the tomb where/when, into 'another' where/when; then back into our where/when as He spoke to the women come to the sepulchre; and when He appeared in a locked and shuttered room with the disciples present; or when He appeared suddenly with the disciples walking on a road and broke bread with them then left our where/when to go to the 'other' where/when.

The trinitarian nature of God is shown in the Bible, even in the Tanakh. Trinity IS the nature of God as we have been given to know. God may have even more than the three aspects, but we cannot in our present state know more than the three because God din't make us that way ... yet. Even in the Old Testament/Tanakh, we do have instruction on the Three nature of God as Creator, Sustainer, and Deliverer. God Is manifested as three yet one, seen identified by 'the work He is doing'.

With each manifestation, we are given to realize His presence simultaneously as Creator--because we exist in the realm He created, as Sustainer--because the balance is too delicate to stand alone without His sustaining the separation and interdependence, and as God with us in the person of Jesus our Lord and Savior. 


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