Pastor’s Viewpoints,” The Church and State”

The Church and State
Lou Tiscione, Pastor Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The church in the Old Testament lived under a theocracy. That is, both the church and state were one. God anointed kings. Civil laws and religious laws were one and the same. Today we don’t live in a theocracy. In fact, there is only one society in the world that is considered a theocracy. It is Islam. As you may know, in Islam-controlled countries the civilian population lives under religious law.
In the New Testament, God revealed three spheres of life over which He rules: the family, the church, and the government.
The Apostle Paul wrote of the Christian’s relationship to civil government, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).
A fundamental principle for Christians in relation to civil government is that of submission. “To be subject to” is to live under by submitting oneself to authority. This principle is clear. Yet, what if the governing authority is evil?
Before answering this, it is necessary to understand the historical context under which Paul wrote this letter. The likely date for the writing of Romans is approximately A.D. 57. At that time, the Roman Empire was ruled by Nero. Nero’s rule was between A.D. 54 and 68. One need not do a great deal of research to discover the behavior of Nero.
Tacitus, a Roman Historian who lived during Nero’s reign, wrote of some of Nero’s atrocities. “Before killing the Christian, Nero used them to amuse the people. Some were dressed in furs, to be killed by dogs. Others were crucified. Still others were set on fire early in the night, so that they might illumine it” (Annals 15.44). I include this historic evidence so that we might not think that our time in this country is the worst, most evil of times. We only need look at the state of the Church in the world. Christians are experiencing severe persecution throughout the world.
None of this is a surprise to God! He is sovereign over all the affairs of men. He ordains those who are in authority both good rulers and evil rulers. He ordains everything for His good purpose. But God is never the author of sin. He ordains all things and that includes the evil behavior of second causes. Those second causes are often evil rulers.
The principle outlined in Romans 13:1 is not a sliding scale. That is, it is an absolute standard. Christians are to submit to the governing authorities because God has ordained all authority.
God has revealed His wisdom concerning what believers are to do when forced to submit to a human authority that commands that which is opposed to God’s law. For example, when a ruler commands killing for evil purposes, we who profess Christ are to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). In so doing we must understand that the evil ruler will likely execute his own wrath against us. I immediately think of those who resisted the Nazi mandate to exterminate the Jews. Many were executed by the Nazis for harboring Jews. Now this is an extreme picture. But it serves to remind us of consequences for doing what God requires. Jesus told His disciples not to be surprised when the world expressed hatred for them because it hated Him first (John 15:18).
So then, from God’s word here are several things He has commanded concerning the Christian’s relationship with Civil Government (Church and State):
1. Believers are to submit to the governing authorities.
2. God ordained civil authorities for the good of all.
3. Civil authorities have a granted authority under the Sovereign God.
4. Believers must obey God rather than man when man’s laws conflict God’s Law.
5. Christians are to “pay to all what is owed them” (Romans 13:7).
6. Christians are to live in peace with others to the extent that we are able (Romans 12:18).
We in the church must be aware that we have been set apart by God for God. Our lives are to be lived in accordance with the word of God. Believers live under God’s word. When we are persecuted let us not wander from the truth. May we all have the strength to bear up under persecution for the glory of God, keeping before us the truth that He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Remember Life!”

Remember Life!
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong” (Psalm 125:3 ESV).

The month of January has been chosen by Christians to remember the unborn. We have a great deal to remember; but an even greater need to act. We remember the sixty-two million babies that were not allowed to see the light of day in our country since Roe V Wade. We remember leaders who have covered over evil by calling abortion the right to choose. We remember that God has set human life apart. He sanctified human life. Genesis 2:7, “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Men and women bear the image of God. Men and women have an immortal soul. God has made it very clear that He is for life!

In fact, God ordained capital punishment in Israel for premeditated murder. God revealed that life was so precious in His eyes that the one who unlawfully took it forfeited his life.

However, Christians should not be surprised that those who believe in their hearts that there is no God would have such a self-centered and low view of life that abortion would be referred to as a woman’s right to choose. But I am amazed that some professing Christians would stand idly by in the face of such evil.

Psalm 125 is called a Song of Ascent. Psalms so designated were used by the people of God in worship. The ascent was the act of going up to worship. As we gather to worship the Living God, we are lifting our eyes to heaven from where our help comes (Psalm 121:1).

Psalm 125:3, quoted above, is a song of worship. The details revealed to us by God include two unconditional promises to His people. Israel, the church of the Old Testament was promised by God to: always have a strong foundation for life and be assured of His protection. Verse 3 contains a conditional promise that God will keep evil from ruling over His people. The caveat is that God expects that His people would not “stretch out their hands to do wrong.”

We no longer live under a theocracy. That is, God has instituted Civil Government for the good and welfare of all people (Romans 13). Yet, believers ought not to take comfort in that this conditional promise of God no longer applies. God is holy. He never winks at sin. Sin is a direct offence against His character. He will never accommodate sin. Abortion is sin. It is first a sin against the holy God. It is also a sin against man and if His people do wrong, there will be consequences.

The Apostle Paul advised the church in Corinth that judgment must be directed inside the church. He declared the truth that God will judge the world. Christians are followers of Jesus. We were made new creatures by God’s grace alone. Believers live under God’s word. Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the church, and His word is her standard.

I in no way indorse those who would take the law into their own hands. Violence against abortionists can never be acceptable in defense of life. Those who would advocate such violence do more harm than any possible good that they may see. Yet I am calling Christians to be who they profess to be.

There are three actions Christians can and should take against the evil of abortion. First, Christians should pray for God’s protection of the unborn and for those who have been deceived to think that abortion is simply an acceptable choice. Second, Christians could support local pregnancy crisis centers financially and/or by volunteering. We have opportunities to do exactly that. Grace House Ministries, the Options Clinic, and Flourishing Tree are blessings to our communities. I give the Lord thanks for their efforts in being used by God to minister to women and their unborn babies. Finally, Christians have been commanded to disciple the nations. We are called to be people of light. We know that the only way by which this evil can be purged from our land is by God’s grace in changing the hearts of men and women.

Remember life and never stretch out your hands to do evil (or support those who do)!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beatitudes, Part 2 of 2”

The Beatitudes, Part 2 of 2
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The verses that declare the final four Beatitudes are Matthew 5:7-12. Notice that the final one has two parts. The second part is directed to those disciples with Jesus and is a confirmation of the 8th Beatitude. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (vss. 7-9). The final blessing is recorded in verses 10-12: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The word “blessed” describes those who are fortunate, happy, and have a deep and profound spiritual well-being. The Beatitudes are declarative statements. Matthew recorded them in the present tense. The present tense is descriptive of ongoing behavior.
The grammar emphasizes that Jesus was describing someone who possessed the characteristics listed. He was describing Himself and those pursuing godliness in Him. The purpose of the Beatitudes, in fact, the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount is to cause those who have been born again to live in reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mercy, the subject of the fifth Beatitude is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. King David appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness (Psalm 51). The Apostle Paul wrote that God has mercy on those whom He chooses (Romans 9, Ephesians 2). The Apostle John wrote that Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1). Mercy is unmerited favor. God extends mercy through Jesus Christ. Those who have received God’s mercy live as people of mercy. Those who have received mercy offer themselves as holy and living sacrifices to God (Romans 12).
To be pure in heart is to be totally free from any selfish desires. One who is pure in heart is fully motivated toward God in love and obedience. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5). Philippians 2:5-11 reveals both the humiliation of Christ and His exaltation. Jesus’ love for the Father was demonstrated by His perfect obedience. Jesus said that no one has seen the Father, except the one who was sent by the Father, namely Himself (John 6). The pure in heart are those who pursue holiness in the power of the Spirit of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification is necessarily connected to God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible. The pure in heart affirm God’s work of grace in making them more and more like Christ.
Biblical peace is right relationship with God. The one who was the supreme peacemaker was Jesus. He reconciled the world to God (2 Corinthians 5). He is the one through whom men have peace with God (Romans 5). Jesus was not describing those who manage to establish treaties between warring factions. He was describing ultimate peace. He alone is ultimate peace. He is the reality of peace and rest (Colossians 2). Children of God are at peace with Him. There are only two kinds of people in the world. Either one is a child of God or a child of Satan (1 John 3:10). One either belongs to God or to the devil. The person and work of Jesus Christ is the only means by which God has extended inheritance of His promise of sonship and heaven (Galatians 3). Believers have been given the ministry of proclaiming God’s reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
When we think of persecution for the sake of righteousness, Jesus’ life and death comes into view. He was truly the only perfect and innocent man executed. Not only was Jesus innocent of the crimes for which He was crucified, but He never sinned in any way. He was the one who was made sin for His people so that they might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Christian Life is shaped by perseverance. May we not be surprised by persecution for the sake of the gospel. Jesus said that the world hated Him first, therefore, disciples should not be surprised that it will hate them too (John 15).
I pray that you see the beauty of Christ through studying the Beatitudes!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Greatest Sermon… an Introduction”

The Greatest Sermon… an introduction
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Matthew chapters 5-7 record the greatest sermon ever preached. Most people are familiar with the beginning verses which contain the Beatitudes. There have been several views suggested for Jesus’ sermon. Dr. James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount described past understandings of Jesus’ purpose in this sermon.
For example, the social gospel movement used the Sermon as the basis to focus the church on social justice. The leaders of the movement saw the Sermon as the impetus to bring an end to oppression and injustice in the culture. Over the years, politicians have adopted this view in promoting their agendas by appealing to Jesus’ words of the Sermon on the Mount.
In addition to the social gospel view there are three other misunderstandings of Jesus’ purpose in delivering the Sermon on the Mount. First, the sermon is seen as another delivery of commands from on high. As Moses received the 10 Commandments, so Jesus gave an expanded version of the commands of God.
Second, the Sermon on the Mount is seen as impossible commands. Since Jesus’ commands are impossible to keep, this view understood Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon to be not applicable to Christians.
Third, early Dispensationalism understood the sermon to be the foundation upon which the Messianic Kingdom would be established. They suggest that the teachings of Jesus given in the Sermon are for a future age.
In contrast to the views above, I believe that there are four direct applications for the church. First, the Sermon on the Mount reveals the absolute necessity of the “new birth” otherwise known as being born again or more accurately regeneration. Second, as is the case for all Scripture, the Sermon on the Mount points us to Jesus. Third, the Sermon reveals the way of blessing. Fourth and finally, the teachings given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tell Christians how they might please the Father.
In summary, the Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s ethic. It details how He lived. As you read the sermon know that Jesus fulfilled every aspect of His teaching in it. Therefore, the main purpose of Jesus’ teaching is to drive every Christian to his knees in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:” (Matthew 5:1-2).
The beginning of Matthew 5 records the setting. The setting reveals the source, significance, and intended recipients of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus saw the crowds gathering and went up on the mountain. The crowds were gathering because of Jesus’ teaching and healing, as stated at the end of chapter 4. The press of the crowds led Jesus to go up on a mountainside. Matthew didn’t identify the specific mountain. The main point was to show Jesus’ sovereign authority. He was sent from and by the Father, therefore, He taught as one who had authority!
The following five observations help us to understand Jesus’ teaching in its revealed context:
1. Jesus saw the crowds.
2. He went up on the mountain.
3. He sat down.
4. His disciples came to Him.
5. Jesus taught His disciples.
The mountain may have been in the region of Chorazin. Matthew didn’t specify which mountain. The significance is not in the exact mountain, but that Jesus went up on it. The idea of a mountain was significant to the Jews. God delivered the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. So, this description gives the distinct impression that God was delivering His word from on high. This word from God was directed to the followers of Jesus.
As I think of mountains, I immediately think of majesty. The Lord of Majesty, Jesus, sat down in a setting appropriate to His sovereign Lordship. Sitting down was the posture of a master teacher in the ancient world. Therefore, the Master of all sat down to teach from on high.
The first three observations concern where Jesus spoke and the significance of His posture. The final two observations concern Jesus’ intended recipients of His teaching.
His disciples came to Him and He taught them. In another place, Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, and they listen (John 10:1-18). The Sermon on the Mount had as its primary audience Jesus’ disciples. By implication, all that is contained is for followers of Jesus. Jesus taught disciples how to live in the Kingdom of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God is Love.”

God is Love.
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle John wrote, “God is love” late in the 1st Century (1 John 4:8). He wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was declaring God’s self-revelation. 1 John 4:19 served to confirm the basis for Christian love. It’s not that Christians are especially lovable people or people with loving hearts. The reason that Christians love one another is that God loved them first.
In declaring this truth, John revealed one of God’s attributes. God is faithful. God is sovereign. God is good. God is truth. God is love, etc. Each of God’s attributes fall under a very significant one. God is holy (Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8). The holiness of God is significant in that His attribute of holiness informs every other attribute.
When we study God’s attributes, we understand that each one describes 100% of God’s character. In other words, God is always faithful, sovereign, truthful, and loving. As we apply God’s holiness to each attribute, we see that God is uniquely faithful, sovereign, truthful, and loving.
As you are aware, the only attribute of God that is repeated three times in succession is His holiness. The Hebrews used repetition to emphasize a point. Strong emphasis was expressed by repeating a word twice. When holy was repeated three times, God was declaring with extreme emphasis that He is unique, perfect, self-sufficient, and transcendent.
This brief discussion of God’s attributes as impacted by His holiness is necessary when seeking to understand His love. God is love has become one of the central determining factors used by Christians and used against Christians. On one extreme, some suggest that everything is acceptable because God is love. These proponents say, “My God is a God of love. Therefore, He wouldn’t be angry or punish anyone.”
Yet because God is holy, we know that He indeed punishes evil-doers and He expresses His anger, even wrath against sin. A holy God would not “wink” at evil. Our holy God judges perfectly.
Therefore, John defined divine love. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
Jesus told the world the source and blessing of divine love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The Father initiated love for the world. Jesus said that the “rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The fact that anyone exists is a testimony to the Father’s love. God chose to extend common grace to mankind even though all deserve death (Genesis 2:16-17). Jesus went further in revealing God’s saving grace which proceeds out of His love. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus focused God’s intense love on those who believe in Jesus. He declared that God doesn’t love everyone the same. Some will perish. But those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life.
One of the most poignant verses of Scripture is Romans 5:8. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we hear and read that God is love, may we understand the depth of His love in contrast to the blackness of our hearts. May this understanding be made personal and intimate by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle John called those who have been loved by God in this saving way to respond by being people of love. He called believers to love one another and obey God.
Be aware of the false teaching that states: Because He loved you so much you can then live for yourself. God’s love must be understood from our vertical relationship with Him first before we can seek to live it out horizontally with others. Those who have been loved by God are continually loved by Him. We know it because God continues to change us from the inside out. Every day He makes His people more and more like Christ. The believers’ position before God and his intimacy with Him is all because of the Father’s initiating love.
May you know the saving love of God and respond in worship this Christmas Season and beyond.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What did Jesus do?: Asking the Right Question”

What did Jesus do?: Asking the Right Question
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We can be misled when the wrong question is asked. Over the recent years, the Church has been inundated with the question, “What would Jesus do?” It seems to be a profound, even necessary question to ask in making decisions. You can even buy WWJD bracelets. The motivation for asking the question is genuine. Those who ask it are seeking direction. After all, what better direction could there be then to ask the Lord what He would do in situations that we face in life!
However, I suggest that the question causes more confusion than clarity. There is a desire for every Christian to do what God requires. Every Christian confesses that Jesus is Lord. Our confession of the Lordship of Christ is a declaration that we will live under His commands. We affirm that Jesus’ commands are the word of God written, the Bible.
So then, what’s wrong with asking, “What would Jesus do?” The question indicates that there is some thought being given to know God’s will. Yet, I believe that there is a fundamental problem revealed by the desire to know what Jesus would do.
The problem with the question is with the use of the word, “would”. The truth is no one need wonder about what Jesus would do because the Bible reveals what He did. In fact, the most significant absence of truth in our churches is that many believers of all ages do not know what Jesus did while He walked among us. The most notable deficiency in the church is knowledge of the person and work of Christ. We don’t want to spend the time and effort to study the person and work of Christ. It is much more attractive to seek simple answers to the questions of life. Many in the church are attracted to participate in programmatic studies that promise to give biblical answers to every decision in life. For example, programs are designed to answer what Jesus would do in this (fill-in your own blank) circumstance.
Observers of the current Christian culture have noted that the church will continue to be challenged because of the general lack of teaching and application of the person and work of Christ.
The entirety of the Bible is the revelation from God concerning His plan of redemption centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, in short, what DID Jesus do? First, He knew that He accomplished something. The very last words He spoke from the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus proclaimed from the cross that He had completed the work that the Father sent Him to do. He had completed God’s plan of redemption!
Secondly, the Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus obeyed the Father “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). So then, the mystery is solved. What did Jesus do? He obeyed the Father by completing God’s plan of redemption which He set in eternity.
Thirdly, Jesus’ work bears upon the life of every Christian. Jesus became our sin offering so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Notice that Christians are called upon to become the righteousness of God in Christ. When we are seeking to understand a direction to take in life or when we are considering options before us, we are to seek the direction or the option that is holy. The Bible teaches that God’s will for every Christian is to be holy. We have committed to live under the Lordship of Christ. We live our lives under the word of God.
The Apostle Paul said that since he was crucified with Christ, as all true Christians are, he no longer lived but Christ lived in him and his life was lived by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he phrased the Christian Life with different words. He said, “We walk by faith, not by sight.… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:7, 17).
To live in Christ is to live in response to what Jesus did. It is to walk by faith understanding what God the Holy Spirit has done in making us new creations. We must know what we believe and why. Simply put, believers desire to learn and the church is accountable to teach who Jesus is and what He did!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why Celebrate? The Reason for the Season”

Why Celebrate? The Reason for the Season
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
December 25th fast approaches. Each year it seems that we reach Christmas Day faster and faster. But my perception of the ever-increasing speed at which time passes is another story. I’m not sure, but I think that the speed at which time passes might have something to do with growing older.
Regardless of your view of the passing of time, Christians throughout the Western world will be celebrating the birth of the Savior on December 25th once again. It is Christmas Day. It’s not just any holiday. I suppose that it would be more politically correct to wish everyone a Happy Holiday. But denying the reality of the Incarnation does not make it so. December 25th is a day for celebrating the birth of the Christ!
The popular story is that the church borrowed December 25th from pagan practices. Yet a more accurate study of history reveals that the early church celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25th at least as far back as the 2nd Century A.D. And by the 4th Century, the entire Western church had set December 25th as the date upon which Jesus’ birth took place and was to be celebrated annually.
In the early church, the significance of Jesus’ birth was not the highest priority. More was written about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church Fathers were more concerned to keep the historic and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ before believers. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). At the same time, Jesus’ birth narratives were never questioned. It was assumed that every believer accepted the reality of Jesus’ birth as well as His bodily resurrection.
As important as the date for Christmas is, there is a more important question that faces all of us. The more important question is not when to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but why do we celebrate His birth?
But when we look at the basis of our faith resting upon the historic fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, it becomes obvious that without His physical birth, His bodily resurrection would not have occurred. The earliest prophecy of the Incarnation was revealed in Genesis 3:15. God declared that the “seed of the woman” would crush Satan’s head. God made it clear that a man would be born out of the natural course and defeat Satan. Isaiah prophesied the birth of Immanuel, God with us. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew recorded that Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit was to “fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]” (Matthew 1:22).
We celebrate Christmas because God’s only Son, Jesus was born as He promised. The gospel of Matthew states, “Mary… will bear a son, and you [Joseph] shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Apostle Paul wrote this, “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” (Galatians 4:4).
The incarnation was necessary for God to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There was a time in the history of the world during which God walked the earth. His name is Jesus, and He is the second person of the Trinity, very God and very Man. This Jesus born of a virgin is the only appeasement of the wrath of God against sin (1 John 2:2). He is the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He is the only Savior of mankind. He is Lord of lords and King of kings!
Jesus is the reason for the season! Amid giving gifts, decorating Christmas trees, and enjoying family gatherings, remember that God demonstrated His love by giving His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Celebrate this Christmas Season knowing Jesus, the reason for this season! Remember it was Jesus who said that eternal life was knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3).
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What Are We Waiting For?”

What are we waiting for?
(Advent, a Season of Preparation)
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

God’s declaration through the prophet Isaiah is a promise for believers. The verse is in contrast to those who appear strong like youths and those who are powerful. Those who are strong in worldly terms will all grow tired and weary. But those who wait for the LORD will not only survive but will run because they won’t get tired.

God promised to deliver His people and the prophet Isaiah began Chapter 40 with God’s word of “comfort”. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” This Chapter of Isaiah is the beginning of the “Suffering Servant” passages. The “Servant” is revealed to be Jesus! He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant, Luke 4:18-21. The Servant of God, Jesus, is the one who brings comfort. The comfort He brings is the assurance of deliverance which leads to glory in heaven.

Isaiah often wrote in the Prophetic Past Tense. That is, he saw future events as completed. When he wrote of judgment, he saw the total destruction of the wicked. He saw their final end. He used expressions such as, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:7

The end is certain. On the one hand God will establish perfect righteousness and on the other He will judge all ungodliness. There will be no escape for the ungodly. But He will also lift the curse of original sin and usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth, Revelation 21.

For His people God has promised comfort, peace, and glory. This is what believers are waiting for! We know that God never fails to keep His word. His word declares He has claimed His people as His possessions, Isaiah 43:1. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28

God’s people wait upon Him with eager expectation of the fulfillment of His promises. The promise now is comfort. We eagerly await His promise of final deliverance. These promises are for all those who belong to the LORD. Those who belong to the Lord wait upon Him. The word translated wait means trusting God now by obeying Him while waiting for His final deliverance.

Waiting upon the LORD is how Christians are called to live. It is an ongoing process. This principle is especially important during times of evil. We have heard and seen reports of recent evil behavior of lawless people in many of our major cities. We continue to hear of those who support the killing of babies because of their misapplication of personal choice. Our governmental leaders continue imposing demands and taking more of our freedoms. More and more cultural leaders call good evil and evil good under the guise of a self-centered sense of equity.

Evil behavior and disasters will be with us until Christ returns. The evil in the world done by men is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. Disasters, natural or otherwise, will be absent from the perfection that God has promised when Christ returns. But for now, God has promised comfort. His comfort is the certainty of knowing that evil and distortions and disasters will come to an end. Further, God’s comfort is in knowing that He is walking through these evil circumstances with us. Those who believe that Jesus is who He said He is and rely upon Him have the assurance that nothing will ever separate them from God, Romans 8:35-39.

The comfort is in knowing that His word is always true. He promised never to leave us or forsake us, Hebrews 13:5. By God’s grace, the experience of Christ’s work in our lives causes us to know that He holds us in the palm of His hand.

We are waiting for perfection. We are waiting for justice, peace, and glory. We wait for them with eager expectation and assurance that God will bring them all to pass. While we wait, we have the comfort of the Lord by His promise to be with us, Immanuel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Giving Thanks”

Giving Thanks
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Every day I thank the Lord for the blessings of this life. I know that everything that I enjoy is from His hand. We all enjoy the blessings of our sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote the reality of God’s sovereign actions in the midst of his suffering. Jeremiah said, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” God has called His people to “give Him thanks in all circumstances,” 1Thessalonians 5:18

We are blessed in our country to have a day set aside for giving God thanks. You may know that George Washington set one day apart to thank God for His providence. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day an annual observance.

Thank you is so easy to say, yet so often neglected by so many.

Our tendency is to look at those things that are not of our liking and complain about them. It seems distasteful to thank God for even those bad things. But that’s exactly what God’s will is for us. He said to give thanks in all circumstances, 1Thessalonians 5:18.

One of the greatest celebrations in the Bible was a thanksgiving service. 1Chronicles 16 records King David preparing and implementing a celebration of giving thanks to God. The actual event that motivated David was the reminder of God’s covenantal promise made visible in the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chronicles 16:4

God designed the Ark of the Covenant, and it contained the stone tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments. There was also with the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the golden urn containing the manna from heaven and the budded staff of Aaron.

King David knew that the people of God needed a visible reminder of His providence. They saw the Ark of the Covenant as a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. The people of God were reminded that He provided their food in the desert. Jesus said that the Father knows what we need, and He will provide it. God’s people in the wilderness were as fickle as are we. God gave them a sign that He was leading them through Moses and Aaron. When rebellion broke out against Moses and Aaron, God caused Aaron’s staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It was a reminder to the people that God was leading them and would protect them.

Consider what God has given to us! We have been given God’s word written. We hear Him every time we read His word. Every Christian has been given the Holy Spirit who works in concert with the Word to change us and speak to our hearts. God has said that believers can approach His throne of grace with confidence because Jesus has given them access through His shed blood. As we come to the Father in our quiet moments, He has promised to hear us and to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we ask or think.

The above gives abundant reasons for giving thanks. But God is good beyond all measure. He has given us families, friends, provisions and above all the freedom to worship Him.

In addition, Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit who internally testifies that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers now have a clearer revelation of God’s working then did the church of the Old Testament. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God.

We have been given this opportunity to offer thanks and to take time for reflection upon the providence of God. Enjoy time with families and friends. Acknowledge the one who has so graciously provided all that we enjoy.

My prayer is that as you remember and give thanks you will be filled with the knowledge and love of God. He is the source of all that we have. “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 Thank the Lord God from whom all blessings flow!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Great Provider”

The Great Provider
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). These are the words of God spoken by Moses to the people of God in the wilderness.
The uncertainty and deep anxiety of many because of our economic situation, our federal government’s demonstrated incompetence, and our culture’s moral decay have led me to think of man’s most basic need and the only one who provides it. Man’s most basic need is life and the only one who provides it is God.
Jesus, who is the Incarnate Word, the only Son of God, quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4). Satan sought to tempt Jesus by drawing His attention to His physical needs. As you may recall, Jesus fasted for 40 days before meeting Satan. Satan challenged the fact of Jesus’ divinity. The challenge, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3) was met with Jesus’ reminder to Satan that there is something much more basic than physical needs. Jesus told Satan and reminded all of us that man’s very existence depends upon the word of God.
A few basic observations may especially help Christians put a right perspective on adversity, considering the current uncertainties of the state of our nation and culture.
God’s word in Deuteronomy was designed by Him to comfort and teach His people. God humbled His people so that they would know an important fact. That fact is the universal truth that all mankind exists by God’s word. There is no life possible apart from the word of God. The plain truth is that because God is, we are! All life proceeds from Him. The Apostle Paul told the philosophers in Athens that all mankind lives and moves and have being (existence) in Jesus. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “All things were created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17).
Many of us think we are the center of the world. Much of our current civil leadership uses this erroneous thinking to manipulate the public. Even those who profess Christ live as though they are the center of everything and fall prey to this manipulation. Many look to the government to provide their needs. When men fail and they will, the result is depression, anger, and despair. Unscrupulous leaders design systems purposed in making men dependent upon them. These leaders make promises that they have no intention of keeping. Yet they depend upon those who are already trusting in them to believe the promises and continue to keep them in power.
The current state of our nation and culture didn’t happen overnight. It took decades in our nation for our leaders to convince many citizens that they are dependent upon government. It will likely take much time to reverse this trend.
In the meantime, know that God ordained our current situation. At a minimum He is teaching all of us that He is the center of the world. He is the one who ordains the steps of men. It is His word by which we live and move and exist. He is the one who provides the needs of His people.
Whether you are directly affected by our government’s incompetence or simply one of many who don’t know from where your next meal will come, know this: Your life depends upon God. Jesus told His disciples that their heavenly Father knew what they needed and would provide it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that our current situation may not change. Yet, please know that amid your difficulty, God is with you. If you belong to Him, He has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
I pray that by God’s grace our nation will be lifted out of decline. Yet, I’m certain that we will continue to face many challenges to our faith. I’m likewise certain that some of our leaders will continue to usurp the place of the Great Provider. I urge you to know the truth. God has revealed the basic fact of man’s existence so that we might submit ourselves to Him and acknowledge Him, for He is the Great Provider.

Pastor of Weatherford PCA, Articles on various topics