Pastor’s Viewpoints, Psalm 23, “I Shall Not Want”

Psalm 23, “I shall not want!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
(All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.)

“The LORD is my shepherd.” David wrote Psalm 23 and declared that Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD was his Shepherd. He harkened back to Exodus 3:14. The Great “I Am” appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Moses asked God for His name. God told Moses that He is who He is. In other words, God declared that He is the eternal being. There is more to God’s name. LORD is descriptive of God’s covenantal faithfulness. The Hebrews held God’s personal name in such regard that they did not speak His name. God gave His name in the Hebrew verb “to be”. All being, all existence proceeds from the only one who has being, existence in Himself.

I recall one Bible teacher saying that we are misnamed as human beings. We should be called human becomings, since we are always changing from one thing to another. From the time we are born we age. As we age we are maturing. God, however, never changes. He is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever”, Hebrews 13:8.

So, when David made the declaration that “The LORD is my shepherd” he was stating that He was cared for and guided by the One who alone has eternal being. His declaration was made to the absolute highest and greatest being. More, King David addressed the eternal One as his Shepherd. As such he was declaring intimacy with the Father.

King David knew the LORD. He wrote that the one who led him, cared for him and provided for his needs was the Great “I Am”. As we look at this psalm, we who know the LORD can also state with David the care and providence of God for us. The Gospel of John recorded the “I Am “sayings of Jesus. John 10:11 in particular recorded who this Great “I Am” was and is. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words about Jesus who is the Great “I Am”. “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, Colossians 1:15-19. The fullness of God was revealed in Jesus who is eternally begotten (not born but proceeding) from the Father.

David wrote Psalm 23 more than 3,000 years ago. Yet for those who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead have the Great “I Am” as their Shepherd as David did. King David looked forward to the person and work of Christ. We who trust in Jesus look back at Him.

God’s faithfulness revealed in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is for all who call upon the name of the LORD. We say with King David” The LORD is my Shepherd. Therefore, I trust that the LORD will meet my needs. Because He is my Shepherd, “I shall not want.”

Jesus said do not worry about the needs of life. He said the Father knows my needs and will provide what I truly need.

Confidence in God’s providence is not exclusive to me but applies to everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus! Those who call upon the name of Jesus are those who rely upon and trust in the person and work of Christ.

The object of saving faith is the Jesus revealed in the Bible. He is the God-Man. He is God in the flesh. He is not a created being. He is not the Jesus of another testament, book or philosophy. He is not just a prophet. He is fully God and fully Man. This is the Jesus who promised God’s providence because He is God!

There are two aspects of life in Christ to which David pointed in Psalm 23:1. They are guidance and provision. The Good Shepherd, Jesus guides and provides for His people. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus said that He knows His sheep and He calls them by name, John 10:3-14.

You who hear Jesus through His word follow Him. No one can harm you. You belong to Him. He will provide your needs. You shall not want!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How can this be?”

“How can this be?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Many have asked the question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Prosperity is seen as proof of doing what is good. Those who are seen as prosperous are idolized and followed. Moral integrity does not seem to matter. Evil behavior does not seem to be included in the discernment process.

One thing for certain is that following and idolizing the prosperous simply because of their prosperity is not new. The psalmist wrote, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:3 Asaph acknowledged his sin of envy. He saw the wicked prospering. The prosperity of the wicked has always been a stumbling block for those who desire justice, believing that moral integrity is important.

Asaph defined the wicked as those who lived apart from God. The wicked surround us. We look at the prosperity of the arrogant and proud and see injustice. We live in a culture where some leaders believe that the rule of law is for others. Yet these people continue to prosper and draw followers.

In the same Psalm, 73: 10a, the psalmist stated the effect that these wicked people had on others. “Therefore, his people turn back to them…” People will follow the wicked in the hope that they may be included in their prosperity because their critical thinking is replaced with the desire for prosperity above all else.

God did not answer the psalmist. He didn’t answer “why the wicked prosper?” God simply inspired the psalmist to state the fact. Evil men (used in a generic sense to describe men and women) prosper and people follow them.

The Bible declares why people follow evil rather than good. Genesis 6:5, records God’s view of mankind. God said that, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We have bought Satan’s lie since the Garden. The natural man believes that knowing good and evil is better than only knowing good. Even Christians often act more like non-Christians by following their own passions rather than thirsting after righteousness.

We all must face and acknowledge the reality of evil. We know that evil is not an entity. Evil has no being in itself. Evil is the privation or lack of good according to the writing of Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century. Evil is behavior that is morally wrong. I know that God is not the author of evil, yet He uses evil for His good purposes.

The prosperity of the wicked and evil men will be with us until the return of Christ. Their ongoing existence is part of the bad news. People motivated by selfish desires will continue to follow evil men. Evil behavior will persist until the end of this world. Satan will continue to deceive men and women even though he is on a chain. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we know the rest of the story. Satan has already been defeated. (He’s a slow learner.) There will come a time of perfect justice. The Lord Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. No one will escape. The wicked who are prospering now will receive justice. In the new heaven and the new earth, evil will be no more.

The psalmist’s struggle with the prosperity of the wicked is the same as our own. He found the answer for living in a world filled with evil and injustice. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:16

I would encourage you who know the fear of the Lord especially as you worship Him on the Lord’s Day. Learn His holy sovereignty. Know that He is holy and will execute perfect justice. The prosperity of the wicked is temporary. Their judgment is eternal.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more… Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 21:1, 22:14

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Avoid Past Mistakes!”

“Avoid Past Mistakes!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Each of these men reflected on the course of history and the need to know it. History is His, God’s, story. That is history belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself throughout history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history.

I regularly ask our Sunday Adult Class, “Why should we study Church History?” I usually receive an immediate response from a man in the class, “So that we don’t make the same mistakes.” We all enjoy a great laugh. But, the fact is some Christians think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. Yet, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham, some would say to “Adam”. The word “church” means those called out by God. This is what God did: He called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel. Therefore, we would do well to study the whole of the Church’s History.

The church has a long history, thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of those same men and women making the same mistakes over and over again. In the words of Albert Einstein, they could be defined as insane. Part of the reason for the insanity is a failure to remember or even know the past.

For example, it can be said that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and His bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many.

Likewise, culture is not immune to the effects of the ignorance of history. Ancient civilizations have died as a result of ignoring certain moral behaviors even in the face of historical evidence of past collapses. In addition, civil leaders have also tried to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more recent failures than perhaps any other social/economic construct and yet, there is a never-ending list of politicians advocating it under different names and slightly different methods. I expect that they may think that the failures of the past were due to not having the “right” people in charge!

My concern is for the evangelical church. I remember a sermon delivered by one of my heroes, James Montgomery Boice, as he reflected on what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yield Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. We can fill churches by meeting needs or offering programs and fail at teaching what it means to repent and believe in the gospel. Read Exodus 32 to see an ancient prototype of the Church pleasing men.

Leaders think that if the message is softened so as not to offend the “seeker”, then when they come they’ll be taught the whole truth. However, I believe that this “seeker” approach is based on two errors. The first is that there are no seekers after God according to the Bible, Romans 3:11. Second, Jesus commanded the church to make disciples by baptizing (identifying) them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and by teaching the whole counsel of God. As the church makes learners and followers of Jesus, He has promised to be present with her, Matthew 28:19-20. This is God’s method and it will yield God’s results. The “seeker” approach is tried over and over again. It yields large churches filled with members who live just like the world.

The history of the church reveals a different approach. It is to teach the truth. May we learn from the giants of our faith and avoid the errors they toiled to correct and remain faithful in using God’s methods by their example, expecting God’s results!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Praising God”

“Praising God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The definition of praise is to declare the works and character of God. But my purpose in this article is not about defining praise. It is that personal investment in a local church and praise are connected. In fact, in order to offer biblical praise to God, one must engage Him in a local congregation.

First, examine how the object of praise, God, has revealed Himself. Isaiah 6:1, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord (Adoni) sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” The one whom Isaiah saw was full of majesty. He was declared to be “holy, holy, holy” by the Seraphim. He revealed Himself to be totally self-sufficient. He doesn’t need anything from His creatures. He commands all creation to worship and praise Him.

Isaiah saw the Lord. The English transliteration of the Hebrew word is Adoni which means Master. He saw the sovereign master of all Creation. It matters not what you may or may not believe. Specifically, Isaiah saw the Pre-Incarnate Christ in glory. God, the Lord is the Master of everything and everyone. That includes me and you!

God has revealed who He is. The word He chose to reveal His sovereign majesty is Lord. In other words, God has revealed Himself as the only object of praise and worship. He is the God of sovereign majesty.

Every year, I experience the joy of celebrating the Incarnation with my church family and visitors to our church. I was drawn to think about God’s blessing of being part of a church committed to worshiping Him!

When someone decides to become a member of our church, he or she is required to fill out our membership application. Our application for membership has three parts. The first concerns personal background information. The second is focused on one’s conversion story. The third is called the “Five Covenantal Questions.”

The first three Covenantal questions refer to one’s repentance, faith and trust in Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel. The final two questions concern commitments a member makes to our church. One is to support the church in its worship and work. Another one is to submit to the discipline and government of our church while praying for its purity and peace.

In my observation, there are some Christians who do not recognize God’s blessing afforded through investing in a local congregation. In order to justify keeping a “safe distance” from their fellow worshipers, they say that there isn’t a biblical mandate for church membership. In light of the truth of Scripture, they wrongly use the fact that every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit to avoid church membership.

I believe that both members of churches and those who bypass a commitment to church membership are sincere. Polls and surveys consider both groups to represent American Christianity. I am not suggesting that one can’t be a Christian unless he or she is a member of a local congregation. I am suggesting that the Bible is silent on singular Christians. Our rugged individualism has led us to ignore the magnitude of God’s blessing through praising Him as part of a local church to which we have made a public commitment. Staying aloof from membership in a Bible-believing church is symptomatic of our individualism.

Since God commands His people to praise Him, it is important to consider what He has said about the place of praise and membership in the body. God chooses the place of worship, Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Psalm 49:1, and God adopts those whom He chooses, Galatians 4:4-5. God’s spiritual adoption is worked out through the local congregation, Ephesians 4:11-16.

God’s people, those who are part of His adopted family in Christ, also have the privilege of praising Him wherever they are, Psalm 34:1; 119:164, but supremely as part of a church family through which God grows them up in Christ!

The most important part of genuine praise is what follows it. That is, are we living in the light of the God whom we praise? We might say, “Praise is not only an act or event it forms a lifestyle.” It is a lifestyle that is learned as one invests himself in a local, Bible-believing congregation which affirms that God is the object of praise and worship.

May you be blessed by our sovereign God in praise and worship of Him!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Where are the Leaders?”

“Where are the Leaders?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Leadership has always been fundamentally important in the Church and in the world. Specifically, Church History testifies to the need for godly leadership. Likewise, the Church in the Old Testament experienced the disasters associated with ungodly leadership. Surveys of the so-called Evangelical Church lead this observer to conclude, a timeless truth. The Church is not to model her leaders after the world to please men but in accordance with the word of God to please Him.

The Bible has much to say concerning leadership. Both testaments reveal God’s principles for godly leadership. The Apostle Paul gave instructions to both Timothy and Titus concerning the critical nature of selecting men to lead local churches.

Perhaps the most striking example of God’s revealed principles for leaders is Exodus 18:21. “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”

God revealed these principles through Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro observed Moses’ leadership of the people of Israel and told him that what he was doing would wear him out. Jethro recommended that Moses find men who would be able to lead the people with him.

Jethro gave four characteristics of the kind of men Moses should select. These are the four characteristics: able, God-fearers, trustworthy and those who hate bribery. Each of these characteristics requires further explanation.

First, he should choose men from among the people. That is, those chosen should be recognized by the people as men who have a history of accomplishing assigned tasks. We can understand this as men who had resumes of accomplishments that demonstrated their abilities. Note that they should be chosen from among the people. That is, Jethro intended that their resumes could be verified as genuine. These men were known to the people whom they served.

“Able”, is translated from the root word that means a rampart or fortress. In other words, the able man is a man of strong character in whom people trust to provide protection.

A God-fearer is a genuine believer. A man who fears God is a humble man. Fearing God includes trembling, awe and worship. A man who fears God knows both intellectually and intimately that God is holy, sovereign and the one who is full of majesty. This man has a right assessment of himself before God, which is the definition of humility.

Thirdly, trustworthy men are men who love the truth. These are men of integrity and faithfulness. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

It is surely obvious that for one to love the truth, one must acknowledge that there is absolute truth. A man who loves the truth is not a relativist who changes his mind because of peer pressure or one who lacks the principles by which a lover of truth lives his life.

Fourthly, a leader is a man who does not covet. He hates bribery. Not only will he not be bribed, he will not attempt to bribe anyone else to get what he selfishly wants. This is a leader who stands against those who constantly covet what others have. This leader finds his satisfaction in God, enjoying what God has provided to him.

These are the kind of men God calls to lead His church. Those who exemplify the above characteristics are the kind of men and women we look to for leadership in our communities, in military service and wherever groups of people are called to move in unity to accomplish anything.

Where are the leaders? Perhaps, a better question would be, “Who are Leaders?” They are in our midst. They are able, God-fearing, trustworthy and honest.

All things are from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 Biblical leadership is not excluded from this principle. God has provided the church with capable men, God-fearing men, trustworthy men and those who hate bribery. May we recognize them and follow them for the glory of God. May our Sovereign Lord continue to build His Church using those whom He has called and gifted to lead God’s people in faithfulness.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “My Story”

“My Story”
By the Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” 2Corinthians 5:17
So, what’s new? God gives everyone He raises from death to life new desires, desires for Him!

My new desires began on January 29, 1986. On that day, God snatched me from the pit of hell. It was a normal day. But, on my way to my office that day, I was broad sided by a semi-truck. The paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I awoke four days later in a hospital in Gainesville, FL with one desire and many broken bones. My one desire was for Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The God of truth and grace opened my eyes to see the beauty of Christ. My only thought was to run to Him. I testify that God did not drag me into His Kingdom. No, the thought of running from Jesus never entered my mind. My desire was and continues for Him! The words of Jesus burned into my heart. “UNLESS one is born again he CANNOT see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (ESV)

Before that day, I had no such desire for Jesus. Oh, I thought that I was a good person, most people do. I believed, as long as I was better than most, surely, God would welcome me. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? (1John 4:8) Yes, but the Bible also says that God is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3. I never thought about the justice of God. He never sets aside His justice. He only extends mercy on the basis of the merit of Jesus Christ, His perfect life and perfect sacrifice.

Before my “accident,” I never knew the one true God. I was dead in my sin. Before God’s act of free grace, I thought all this “born again” stuff was for the weak minded. God pierced my heart with the truth that spiritually dead men live for themselves. After the accident, I was unconscious. I couldn’t have saved myself. I couldn’t even get out of my hospital bed. Before God’s action, I didn’t know I was lost and headed to hell. God had to act. He did and I look back in amazement that He chose me! Yes, I responded to Him. But I was only responding to His action.

Beware, there is a persistent false teaching that if one believes he will be born again. How foolish! Worse, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. God alone acted and saved me!

As I look back through the lens of God’s word on His action in saving me, I realize every aspect of my life is a part of God’s sovereign plan. Even when I didn’t know God, He was directing my path in accordance with His will. I thought that I was making choices. And I was, but my choices had already been planned by the Sovereign God. Think about this when you are wondering how you got to where you are: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV) The words of Jesus, John 6:44, make perfect sense as I look at my life in Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (ESV)

May I suggest a principle for life that may bring you comfort and assurance? I have been saved by God from God for God.

In writing this, I am declaring my total reliance upon God. I believe the God who saved me has spoken and continues to speak in His word. I believe His word is without error and absolutely reliable because He is. I believe that His word is clear because He desires to be known. I believe that His word is sufficient for all faith and practice. God’s word revealed how He saves His people; how He continues to save His people; and that He has promised that He will bring His people to glory!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Speak for our Children”

“Speak for our Children”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
January has been designated as “Sanctity of Human Life Month”. I believe it is necessary to hold the fact that God has sanctified human life before us. It is especially necessary for the Church that calls herself “Christian” to speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves! These unborn babies present an opportunity for the Church to declare the truth of the sovereignty of God over human life. He has authority to give life and to take it away.

Politicians regularly cry to protect children to demonstrate their compassion. They frequently use the term “gun violence” when an atrocity occurs, and children are involved. Yet, they conveniently make no mention of the largest loss of children’s lives. The staggering fact is that since 1973, more than 62 million babies have been killed through abortion in our Nation and 1.7 billion world-wide. In this day of so-called scientific enlightenment, denying that the life of a human being begins at conception would seem to any reasonable person to be unbelievable.

In the interest of our children, I stand with those who say, “Let’s stop the violence.” Indeed, let’s stop the violence right now and stand for the sanctity of human life. Christians are accountable to the God of life to speak out against the evil of abortion.

Why do so many Christians speak strongly for the sanctity of human life? The reason is that God is for life. The truth is, He sanctified human life.

Since, the mid Seventies, the “Progressives” have given government the authority to remove the right to life given by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1981, “The dignity of human life is not some peripheral issue,” The Christian Manifesto.

The protection of human life is not something upon which we can agree to disagree. The dignity of human life is an absolute! The right to live is given by God who is the source of life. He breathed into Man the breath of life, Genesis 2:7. Human life is sacred because the Creator God made it so.

Secular Humanism has clouded the mind of our culture. In a culture where there are no absolutes, men make decisions based upon personal preference. Our culture is governed by moral relativism. Everything is considered relative. There are no absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Yet, the dignity of human life is an absolute.
Our very own Declaration of Independence stated clearly both the source of life and its inherent value. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founders of our country declared that the source of life was God and that life is an undeniable right given by Him, therefore an absolute.
Further, when God gave the Law through Moses to His people, He included a commandment against murder, Exodus 20:13. The word translated kill or murder in the 6th Commandment is understood to mean the unlawful taking of life. Only God can authorize the taking of life. God’s highest consequence for the taking of life is the life of the one who took it.

The 6th Commandment is not only a prohibition for Man, but it reveals the character of God, as do all the Commandments. That is, God is for life not death. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, Matthew 22:32. Jesus also said that He is the life, John 14:6.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. My concern is that so-called Liberal Christianity has joined the culture and allowed the discussion to be based upon the spurious issue of “Reproductive Rights” or a woman’s right to choose rather than the fundamental issue of human life. Whether you are a Christian or not I urge you to speak for those who have no one to speak for them. The statistics demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is in the womb!

Abortion not only sacrifices our children but scars our Nation and harms physically and emotionally every woman it touches. Yet the God whom we worship is merciful. There is forgiveness and healing in Jesus Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Power of God”

The Power of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

When Jesus began His public ministry He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

The Apostle Paul in writing to believers declared that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, Romans 1:16. He also told the believers in Corinth that those who were being saved stood in the gospel, 1Corinthians 15:1.

Those who profess Christ are called by God to preach the gospel to themselves on a regular basis. Christians know that all life is in Christ through repentance and faith in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation is not only God’s guarantee of heaven. Salvation is deliverance. God’s people are saved by God from God. When God breaks into a man’s life, He frees him from the bondage of sin. Those in Christ are set free to love God! Salvation begins when God declares a sinner right with Him. It continues throughout life and is consummated in glory. All of what God has done for us is in and through the gospel. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the revealed power of God!

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command in Mark 1:15. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem , “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith in the gospel, the power of God!

Jesus’ command was very specific. It centered on God’s rule and the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b. The gospel is the only means God has given for men and women to know Christ and have eternal life.

The word “gospel” means good news. The good news is: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! God’s power revealed in the gospel causes men and women to rely upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen. The gospel is God’s power to save!

Therefore, may he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 Those who hear and believe know and live in the power of God revealed in the gospel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Resolutions”

“Resolutions”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
This is the time of the year when I look back over the past year. I’m a “list person” so I make a list of all those blessings that the Lord has poured out on me, my family and our church. As I write my list of blessings, I acknowledge that I’ve forgotten more than I can remember. However, the greatest blessing that one can ever experience and never forget is the blessing of knowing God through His only Son, Jesus Christ. The blessing of salvation is the only one that sustains the one who has received it in the midst of all of life’s circumstances. I know that God did for me that which I was unable to do. He saved me by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and my response is to worship Him!

As a “list person”, I also make a list of things that I would like to do for the New Year. This list contains my resolutions. When I look at my list, it often contains many of the same ones I made the previous year. Rather than look at unmet resolutions, I prefer to look forward making a new commitment to do them.

One resolution that is on my list every year is to be holy, always pursuing holiness.

This resolution is not unique to me. It is God’s will for everyone who is in Christ. Two things require explanation. The first is the meaning of being in Christ. The second is the meaning of holiness. Both the first and second are rooted in God. Those who are in Christ have been brought there by God and holiness is God’s work of free grace that progressively makes the one in Christ more and more like Him.

The Bible declares that those who are in Christ are chosen by God. “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.

So then, those who are in Christ are there solely by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation doesn’t end there. The resolution that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. The Bible makes this statement, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

In addition, God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone and He causes me to pursue holiness. I have the assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God has said that He confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my Spirit, Romans 8:14.

It is a tremendous joy to know that you belong to God. He accepts us as we are and loves us so much that He will not let us stay that way. He will cause His children to both make the resolution to pursue holiness and keep it. The Bible teaches that we will not be perfect this side of heaven. But, when we leave this life and enter the next we will be absolutely pure, perfect and our holiness will be brought to completion. May you make the resolution to pursue holiness this year and all those that follow knowing that God is working in you!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Divine Manifestation”

The Divine Manifestation
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Matthew recorded the visit of the “wise men”, Matthew 2. Tradition suggests that there were three wise men. Scholars are not certain of the number. It is suggested that there were more than three. The original word from which English translations of the Bible translate “wise men” is the word magi (magoi in Greek). The number three is likely assumed because three royal gifts were listed as being given to the Christ Child and Mary. “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

This narrative creates a great scene. It is usually part of depictions of the Christmas Story. Much has been written on the three gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus. Yet the main point of this episode in the life of Jesus is God’s will to manifest the Savior to gentiles. It is a foreshadowing of the universal call of the gospel to all men not only those of Israel.

These wise men traveled from the east. They were possibly from ancient Babylon or even further east. They may have been court advisers to kings who “read” the stars. God led these men to the exact location of Jesus’ birth. Pictures often show the wise men kneeling before the baby Jesus. But, it was more likely that they arrived during the time that Jesus was a toddler. Herod set out to destroy Jesus by killing all the male children up to two years old. He based his assumption on the timing of the visit of the magi.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord and they were far from the reach of Herod. This is one of many revelations from God that His plan of redemption cannot be thwarted by man.

The visit of these men holds an important place in God’s plan of redemption as it demonstrates what Isaiah prophesied under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. In addition, Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:16

The visit of the wise men has been viewed in the church as so significant that a special feast day was established. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the church every January 6th. The word “epiphany” means manifestation. All who are in Christ know that God is not a respecter of nationality or social status. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Why is this divine manifestation so important? It is important because of who was manifested! Jesus Christ is the only Savior. He is the God-Man. He lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. God made Him known.

John’s Gospel says that the One who made all things came into the world and the world did not know Him, John 1:10.

After all the presents have been opened and family dinners have been enjoyed, receiving the truth of Jesus Christ is crucial. John wrote, “to all who received him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

The grace and mercy of God are so great that He chose to make known the truth to those whom He calls. None of us is capable of seeing the truth of Jesus on our own. We all depend upon God’s grace.

My prayer is that the word of Christ will pierce your heart and you may know the one who has the words of eternal life even Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.