Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Sovereignty of God”

The Sovereignty of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Have you ever asked yourself, “Who’s in charge of _______ (you fill in the blank)?” When the evil of men is observed, this question of authority rises to a higher degree of relevance.

Rather than answer the question, we would often rather fix the blame. We blame everyone from society to God. We blame everyone except the actual perpetrators. Concerning fixing the blame, there are still some who blame America for 9-11. The fact is, evil men flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, murdering thousands.

It is reasonable, even necessary to investigate fully what happened. It is prudent to seek ways for the prevention of such evil in the future. But, placing the blame in the right place or studying prevention still does not answer the question, “Who’s in charge?” Since, I believe the question is so important, I’d like to offer the answer and then explain my basis for it.

God is in charge! By the plain meaning of the word, “God”, He must be in charge or He’s not God. God has absolute authority over all His Creation, even the evil one, Satan, is under God’s authority, CF Job 1,2.

God has revealed His Character, Name, in the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. He has revealed His character by way of declaring His attributes. One of God’s attributes is His sovereignty.

Years ago, a man in a church that I served was concerned about using the word “sovereignty”. He said no one understood that word anymore. My response to him was that we shouldn’t stop using words because people may not understand them. Rather, it would be more edifying if we explained the meaning of important words such as sovereignty. (The organized church has been tasked with building up the body not reducing it to the lowest common denominator, CF Ephesians 4:11-16.) It is this word, sovereignty, which provides the answer to our question. We know God is in charge because He is sovereign. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth” had been given to Him, Matthew 28:18. Jesus’ declaration to His disciples is a statement of absolute authority!

God not only revealed His sovereignty by declarative statements such as Matthew 28:18, but He also revealed it through the historic narratives. One such historical narrative is recorded in Daniel 4:34-37. The human author, Daniel, a faithful worshiper of God, recorded an incident that involved a king who thought he was the be-all and the end-all. The king’s name was Nebuchadnezzar. He was a ruthless man, king of the ancient Babylonian Empire. This king had a very confusing dream about a huge tree that “a holy one from heaven” ordered to be chopped down. God empowered Daniel to interpret the dream. Daniel’s interpretation predicted that the king would be humbled until he acknowledged the one true God. The tree in the king’s dream was him.

After a time, because of the king’s pride, God drove him mad. He made him act and appear like a wild beast. At the time appointed by God, the king’s senses returned to him. Daniel recorded what the king said. Nebuchadnezzar said this about God, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’

This radical statement was spoken by a pagan king. The king was humbled by God and caused by Him to see the truth. He declared that all creatures are under the sovereign authority of God. He rules over every man’s actions and He holds him responsible. This great and mighty ruler who thought he was a god was used by God to declare His absolute authority.

Unfortunately, many churches erroneously teach that God’s sovereignty is somehow qualified by man’s “free” will. Yet, the Bible says God will make even the mighty submit to Him either now or when Jesus returns. God is sovereign whether or not man submits to Him. God’s rule is absolute. God is in charge regardless of whether we think He is or not! Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings, whether we believe it or not. This is our comfort in the face of evil. S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria)

Pastor’s Viewpoints “False Prophets”

“False Prophets”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In our declining western culture, some have been manipulated to think that character doesn’t matter. One of the symptoms of cultural decline concerns the importance of character. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future. As opposed to this, the Christian Faith is a step into the light not a leap into the darkness. We who are Christians don’t possess a blind faith. We trust in what we have “learned, firmly believed and been convinced of” 2Timothy 3:14. Christians trust in the Person and Work of Christ revealed in the Scriptures.

Jesus had much to say concerning character. He provided direction concerning determining character. He taught His disciples how to live as citizens of the Kingdom. The Church under King Jesus is to live by His teaching in His Sermon on the Mount.

You will find this greatest sermon ever preached recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapters 5 through 7. The entire sermon was a teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples. Matthew set the context on a mountainside. Jesus saw the crowds that were following Him, and He went up on the mountain and then sat down. Matthew 5:2, “And he opened his mouth and taught them (his disciples) …”

This sermon was given by Jesus not as another Law but to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. The purpose of His Sermon is to drive those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon. Nevertheless, the ethic of Jesus’ sermon is not for some future time or supposed age. It is the economy of life for every citizen of the Kingdom now!

The verse concerning a person’s “fruits” is near the close of Jesus’ sermon. He declared that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God and seek to destroy God’s people. Note that this condition is within the visible church.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. But, it is absolutely and universally true for all men. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people regardless of whether or not it is believed. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning the recognition of character and genuineness within the visible church or wherever character must be assessed. An individual’s character is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance, popularity, or charisma. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. In order to discern a man or woman’s character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. A man’s past actions are his “fruits” in accordance with Jesus’ words.

False people have “rotten fruit” produced by their past actions. Sometimes these false people actually say things that might be true. They may be lifted up by those who have ulterior motives. Jesus said look at what they have produced before determining their genuineness.

The Church needs leaders who are genuine. A man of character will necessarily understand his need to live penitently before the Holy God. He will regularly confess his sins to God and trust in His forgiveness in Christ Jesus. It is critical that the church choose men of character to be Elders for the spiritual growth and well-being of her members. What is taught ought to be matched by what is lived.

So then, we have the words of our Savior to direct us in recognizing the sheep and more importantly recognizing the wolves who come to us dressed as sheep. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-16a

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Purpose of the Law”

“The Purpose of the Law”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The law, “was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary,” Galatians 3:19. Paul was referring to the Ten Commandments. He said the law was added because of sin.

The Apostle John wrote that sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God, “question and answer no. 14.

The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The first part concerns man’s relationship to God. The second provides the basis for men to co-exist.

Even in society, the importance of law is reflected. All cultures depend upon what is called the rule of law. Removing law condemns a society to destruction. Therefore, we expect our leaders to submit to the rule of law as a guard to our freedom. A good example of the rule of law is the Constitution of the United States of America. It is the basis for our rule of law. No one is above the law nor is the principle of due process ever suspended.

God’s Law and Civil Law carry blessings and curses, blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. As God created man and woman in His image, we have a moral code in our hearts. All men have a knowledge of right and wrong. The Ten Commandments specify what is right and wrong because they reflect the character of God. At its root, the Law of God expresses His grace and is part of what is called, the Covenant of Grace.

Why do we need the grace of God in the Law? As Paul said, it was given by God because of sin. The sinfulness of man leads to law breaking. No man can keep the Law perfectly. Fundamentally, God gave the Law to demonstrate man’s need for a Savior, who would keep the Law perfectly. The Bible reveals God’s grace through the Law. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons,” Galatians 4:4.

Law provides additional benefits for all mankind. God’s common grace toward all is experienced by the rule of law in providing for relationships, contracts, economic prosperity and in summary the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

The Christian Church since the Reformation has taught that God’s Law has three uses. They are: first, to bound sin, second, to point to Christ and third to provide the guide for the Christian Life.

The Old Testament also reveals two principles regarding the Law. God said blessing results from obedience and curse is the result of disobedience, Deuteronomy 11:26-28. God declared that His way was the better way.

The importance of the Law will also be seen in the end of this world. The sign of the end will be apostasy. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first…” 2Thessalonians 2:3. Paul was straightening out false teaching concerning the end of this world. Rebellion against God will be the first sign of the end. The visible sign of rejecting God is rejecting His Law.

History also records man’s awareness of his need for law. One example is the Code of Hammurabi, the ancient law code of the first Babylonian Dynasty ruled by Hammurabi circa 1728-1686 B.C. Much of his code parallels that of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations likewise depended on the rule of law. As law broke down, those civilizations ceased to exist. They became unable to fight against invaders. Western civilization and especially our United States will also stand or fall as a result of adherence to the rule of law.

In summary, without law we will perish. Because of God’s Law we are shown our desperate need for a divine Savior. May we commit to stand for the blessing of God’s Law and all law proceeding from it. May submission to the rule of law reflect the desire to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God, Micah 6:8. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A warning to those who call evil good”

“A warning to those who call evil good”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You don’t often see “woe” used in an article. It’s a word that is rarely used in our day. But it’s a word that ought to be understood and taken seriously, especially in light of recent events. Woe is used in Scripture to convey a dire warning. It usually precedes God’s judgment. Isaiah Chapter 5 has led me to reflect on a current issue, namely the Senate “hearings” concerning a man nominated to the Supreme Court.

Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God issued a warning to His people for their abusive and oppressive behavior towards their brothers. More specifically, God directed His “woe” against the leaders of His people.

The book of Isaiah comprehensively covers God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The word “woe” quoted from verse 5 is repeated five additional times in Chapter 5.

God expects His people to know good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. The ultimate source of “the good” is God. He has revealed “the good” in His word. “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a

We also have God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called, Romans 8:28.

The Bible was written to believers, but it applies to all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthans 5:10

We have recently witnessed the character assassination of a nominee to the Supreme Court. I firmly believe that the motivation of his attackers is fear. I further believe that their fear is rooted in the elimination of their unholy sacrament of progressivism, abortion.

Evil behavior often comes dressed in “good intentions.” In this case, the so-called “good” intentions are clothed in a professed desire to protect and honor women, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse. Reasonable people wonder, “Why would such an allegation with no evidence be used against this particular man at this time?” A closer examination reveals that, after all the peripheral issues are pushed aside, only one issue remains. That issue is the sanctity of human life. It is well-known that the primary objection to Judge Kavanaugh by the progressive element in our society is his view of human life. This is a critical time for our culture. I pray that people of honor will recognize what is actually happening and stand against evil and stand for that which is good, right and true!

Because of man’s total depravity, recognizing that which is good, right and true must be determined outside of ourselves. God is the standard of good. He is the author of all life and He has sanctified human life.

With the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and His sanctification of human life the ethics of abortion can be seen clearly. Abortion does not fall in the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good are placing themselves under the “woes” that Isaiah declared.

I read somewhere that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good, and He expects me to stand for that which He has sanctified, namely human life. There is no middle ground when it comes to standing for the sanctity of human life. May we who know the truth, ask God’s blessing on that which is good and speak openly for the sanctity of human life!

May all honorable people speak out against the destruction of a man’s character for the sake of protecting the evil practice of abortion. May the root cause of these attacks against Judge Kavanaugh be unveiled for all to see.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Character… where are the honorable people?”

“Character…where are the honorable people?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Character is the word used to describe the personal qualities of an individual. The qualities in view concern a person’s morals and ethics. The issue of character was recently framed in another way. Justice Clarence Thomas in a recent lecture, asked, “Where are the honorable men?” He was reflecting on our government and our cultural decline.

God revealed the standard measure of character, what we might call “honorable.” The Bible provides the true definition of character. The Old Testament contains the history of men of character. The Bible also contains narratives concerning men of weak and deceptive character.

Joseph and Moses are good examples of men of godly character. As you read their stories, the first thing that should come to mind is that these men are not perfect. The Bible does not fail to describe their faults as well as their virtues.

Genesis 39 is a part of Joseph’s life that reveals his godly character. We are told that Joseph became a successful man. He was put in charge of the household of an officer of the Pharaoh. We read that the LORD was with Joseph. Joseph had an ongoing relationship with the LORD. As a child, Joseph thought he was of special privilege. As you may recall, his superior attitude angered his brothers to such a degree that they plotted to kill him but ended up selling him as a slave.

Years later, Joseph continued to walk with the LORD. He became very successful. His character was tested at this very comfortable point in his life. The beautiful wife of the officer who entrusted his household to Joseph sought to seduce him. Joseph resisted. Moses recorded what he said. “… “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge… How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”’ Genesis 39:8ff

Even this strong statement did not dissuade the officer’s wife. She persisted and the Bible records Joseph’s action as fleeing from her presence leaving his garment that she grabbed in her hand. The officer’s wife wrongly accused Joseph and her testimony was believed. Her husband put Joseph, the innocent one, in the king’s prison.

The rest of the story confirms the depth of Joseph’s character. He spent his life trusting in the Lord and pursuing godliness. Joseph’s life was a foreshadowing of Christ’s perfect life which is the standard of perfect character. Jesus said of Himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

In order to express the kind of character that Joseph did, one must be humble. Humility is a virtue which enables the one who has it to rightly assess himself before God. Jesus said that He was gentle and lowly in heart. The word from which both gentle and lowly are derived can also be translated as humble.

The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus’ humility in Philippians 2:6. “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus set aside His glory. His humility extended to obeying the Father even to death upon the cross.

The human author of the story of Joseph was himself a humble man. Moses wrote, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 The Spirit of God inspired Moses to write these words about himself when his leadership was challenged by two people who were the closest to him.

Like Joseph, Moses’ life demonstrated his trust in the LORD. When Moses sinned and God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, he endured the consequence of his sin and continued to obey God.

Character is the measure of a man or a woman. Behavior reveals character and it matters profoundly. Men and women of character are humble and can be trusted. Their character is seen over time. These are the honorable people!

Through viewing a person’s character whether it is good or evil, future actions can be anticipated. We are all sinners in the sight of God. Yet we must make decisions concerning those whom we choose to entrust with various roles in life. Choose wisely. Choose men and women of character. Choose honorable people.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Grace”

“Grace”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Apostle John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 (ESV) John referred to the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and to the truth which is reality revealed in the person of Jesus. But, what is the meaning of grace? For years Sunday school teachers have taught our children that grace means unmerited favor. Grace is to receive what is not deserved. Mercy is another expression of grace. The opposite of grace and mercy is justice. The law of God given through Moses is a revelation of the absolute perfection of God. The law He gave to men is the absolute standard of perfection. The Jews sought to make the law fool-proof. The leaders of the Jews came up with more than 600 nuances of the basic commandments of God as a means of addressing every aspect of life and how men should behave in order to keep the law. Yet, Jesus repeatedly said that they had missed the spirit of the law. The truth is that no one can keep the law. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the law was to bound sin and lead men to their need for a Savior, Galatians 3:19-29.

May I offer you a fundamental principle of life from the word of God? God requires absolute perfection. Jesus said perfect righteousness is required to enter the kingdom of heaven.

God doesn’t grade righteousness on a scale. I remember taking Quantum Physics in Engineering College years ago. If the professor didn’t grade our tests on a scale no one would have gotten a passing grade in his course. He took the lowest grade and the highest grade and developed an acceptable score. God doesn’t do that. If you think that God will compare you to others at the end of your life, you won’t have a “passing grade.”

Are you willing to be honest with yourself? If you are, the undeniable conclusion is that you’re not perfect. No one is. This is the need for grace. Since no one is perfect no one will go to heaven unless God extends His grace.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may have a “passing grade.” But God’s grace is not simply winking at our failure to be perfect. God’s grace is extended as a result of merit, perfect merit. God’s grace is extended only because of the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. What all men fail to do, He did. The grace of God is His favor extended to His people as a result of the merit of Jesus on their behalf. This grace is called saving grace. It is given by God to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world. His choice is not based on anything we will do or have done. His choice is unconditional, Ephesians 1, 2.

You may be thinking that this choice of God to extend saving grace as He wills is unfair and God is not unfair. I agree. God is not unfair. But grace is not about fairness. God is perfectly fair. We call His fairness divine justice. He has said that at the end of this world there will be a final judgment. Two books will be opened by God. One book is the record of everyone’s deeds. The other is called the book of life. The judgment of God is that anyone’s name that does not appear in the book of life is thrown into the “lake of fire.” Those two books represent the difference between justice and grace. Those who live thinking that God winks at their sin and will somehow extend grace to them at the end are those who will experience perfect justice. On the other hand those who live their lives relying upon the perfect life of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice will experience the fullness of God’s grace in eternal bliss.

So then, Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor based upon the merit of His only Son, Jesus. There are only two alternatives for mankind. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. In either case the standard is perfection. The truth is Jesus is the only One who was perfect.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Gospel of the Kingdom”

“The Gospel of the Kingdom”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God came to earth. Entrance into the Kingdom is only through King Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

The gospel is the Christian’s focus because Christ is the gospel! The gospel must be central in every church that professes Christ as her head! The Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it.

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus’ two commands are preceded by a twofold propositional truth. 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 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!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in 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.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It 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! That is relying 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.

Therefore, 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

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Substance of Hope”

“The Substance of Hope”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
204 S. Main St. Weatherford
The psalmist asked himself a question that many have asked. He received God’s answer. His question was, “Why am I depressed?” God’s answer was because he had no hope! Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” ESV

What is this thing called hope? And, why is it so important for men and women? Hope can be defined as an eager expectation of fulfillment of a future blessing. When people hope they are expressing trust in or reliance upon the one whom they believe will bring fulfillment. The definition of hope expresses our need to have it. Without hope, we wander aimlessly in life and are tossed around by every one of its circumstances. When we see no future, we naturally get depressed.

There are many kinds of hope. For example, I have an ongoing hope that my fellow citizens will realize that hope placed in a person always leads to disappointment. No long ago, the man who promised “hope and change” brought disaster in the form of a change that none of us wanted.

Likewise, there is an endless array of temporal hopes. My hope of an observant electorate may not come to pass. Yet, knowing that this hope is temporal, for the immediate future, my life will remain positive because I have a much different hope, an eternal hope, one that has substance and certainty.

What is eternal hope or more correctly stated ultimate hope? Thinking men and women know that there is more to life than what we see. This is not all there is, answering an old ballad. And as there is more to life than this world, there is a greater hope than our political, economic, or personal relationships can offer. It transcends this world and is far above and apart from it.

Ultimate hope is transcendent. No man can give it. In fact, we can’t even give it to ourselves. Only the transcendent being, God can give ultimate hope. The transcendent God, the one who spoke and created everything out of nothing said that ultimate hope is eternal glory. The Apostle Paul writing God’s words said “the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed to His saints” is ultimate hope. He wrote this clear description. Ultimate hope is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

It follows that God’s revelation of hope raises at least two questions. The first is easy to understand. Who gives ultimate hope? Clearly, God gives ultimate hope. The second is perhaps easy to see but strikes at the heart of man’s ability. To whom does God give ultimate hope? The former passage declares that ultimate hope is given by God to “His saints.” Now, we are led to understand what God meant by the word “saints”. Who are saints?

At this point, clarity is essential. Saints are not those who have departed this life and have been determined by some religious body to be holy people. Saints are those who have been set apart by God. Saints in the Bible are those whom God has chosen to be His.

A plain reading of Scripture allows us to see that God chose: a man, Genesis 12; a nation, Deuteronomy 7; and both Jews and Gentiles, Galatians 3. The fact of God’s choosing individuals to be His saints is declared by Apostles Paul and Peter, Romans 9-11 and 1Peter 2.

I’ve often asked myself why something so clear can be so confusing to some. The only answer that I can reasonably offer is that we don’t like to think that God must choose us. We like to think that He needs our help in selecting the “right” people. In this, though, it is only critical for us to know what God thinks and has told us.

The Bible’s clarity on this issue of ultimate hope and its recipients is the greatest comfort and assurance any man or woman can have. Since God gives it no man can take it from you. Much more needs to be said concerning God’s gift of eternal hope and will be said in future articles. But for this article I want to leave all who read it with this: God gives ultimate hope, which is eternal glory, to those whom He chose in Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Confrontation”

“Confrontation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Over the years, I’ve met some people who thrive on confrontation. Normally, most of us would rather avoid confrontation. Confrontation challenges us. It may cause great distress. We might even find ourselves being manipulated by the one confronting us. Regardless, whether you thrive on confrontation or try to avoid it, it is part of living in this world.

You may not have thought of the beginning of the Bible in terms of confrontation. But, “In the beginning God…” represents the greatest confrontation of our lives. I’m not using exaggeration. These first words of Scripture turned my world upside down. They reveal the truth or, if you prefer, reality. Reality is unavoidable. Reality is not what you make it or believe it to be. Reality (truth) is absolute.

Genesis 1:1 declares that there was a time nothing existed except God; therefore, we are confronted with the reality that God made everything out of nothing! He spoke and by the word of His command heaven and earth were created. This God changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life, to think that I was “in charge.” Neither I nor you are the center of life. God is!

As God’s new creation, He gave me new desires, specifically a new desire, a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being from Whom all things exist. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh, “I Am”, in Greek (I’m paraphrasing). It is Jesus.” (read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel).

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature (me) could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28. The claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable, beyond any man’s ability.

Let me re-phrase God’s revealed truth. Before there was anything there was God. He chose a time to make everything out of nothing. Opposed to this is the view of eternal matter. A renowned philosopher of the 21st Century said, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” His point was that the Universe is eternal. Acceptance of this view requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1. Creation had a beginning and will have an end in re-creation, Revelation 21. The biblical world view is centered in the only Eternal One who is the Triune God! He confronts all of us with this reality.

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s desire for an autonomous control over his life, the question must be asked. “How do you or have you responded to the reality that you’re not in control?”

The critic might say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” This supremely points to Jesus Christ but is significant for the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality but not without consequences. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthians 5:10

I pray that you meet God’s confrontation head-on. May the realization that we are creatures made by a God who is holy, sovereign and just cause you to see that you are accountable to Him. He requires perfection. Our only hope is to trust in the Son of God, the God-Man Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life and He offered the only perfect sacrifice for sins. Jesus said His followers know the truth and are set free, CF: John 8:31-32.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why go to church? (A need for self-examination)

Why go to church?
(A need for self-examination)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
It’s been six years since I wrote an article exploring the common answers to “Why go to church?” Of course, this question is directed to all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The answers I’ve heard are: I go to church because: God commands it; or, I want to worship with the people of God; or, I want to be fed. Another answer offered is, “I go to church because it is makes me feel good and there are programs for my children in which they can socialize with their friends.”

We know that God has made us for worship and that when He makes a Christian, He gives a desire to worship Him.

This question is directed to those who claim to be in Christ, those who are saved so that we all might be aided in self-examination. A review of salvation is necessary. God has revealed His order of salvation.

God Effectually Calls a dead person to life. The effect of His call is Regeneration. All men are born dead in sin. God must raise a sinner from death to life. This is what Jesus meant by being born again, John 3. The result of regeneration is Conversion. God converts a sinner into a saint. In doing so, He gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second is the gift of repentance. Both are exercised by those who receive them. The result of turning from sin and turning to Jesus is Justification. Justification is a legal term. God declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. This is called double imputation. After justification, God Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Following adoption, God begins His work of Sanctification. Literally, as Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s action of making the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. The end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to see us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. I would encourage you to read Romans 8:30 and notice that all of the verbs are in the past tense, even glorified.

Returning to the question, a Christian is one whom God has saved. God’s order of salvation revealed in Scripture, detailed above, is: God’s Effectual Call, Regeneration, Conversion, Justification, Adoption, Sanctification and Glorification. Each step along the way is by God’s action. In other words, a Christian is one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Christians, those made “new creations”, don’t go to church. Christians are the church with Christ as the Head. The visible church, the one we see, is defined as those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and their children. A more accurate question is “why should I attend corporate worship?”

Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. God made everyone for worship. Men and woman will worship someone or something. To worship is to bow down to and serve the object of worship. The object of our worship is God.

The worship manual of the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church, the book of Psalms gives the answer to my question. Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ God places in each believer a desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

God has commanded worship. A believer understands that corporate worship is a duty that grows into a desire! Has God filled your heart with a desire to worship Him with other believers because of who God is and what He has done? Is worshiping Him your highest priority?