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Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Feeling Discouraged?”

Feeling discouraged?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Discouragement is a common life experience. I’ve been discouraged and I know that you have as well. Sometimes the circumstance seems so dark that you think you’ll never be lifted out of it. I know some who suffer with a chronic illness. There seems to be no rational explanation for the suffering. The constant pain and suffering leads one to say, “I give up!”

This sentiment is stated by the Psalmist in Psalms 42 and 43, three times. “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.” In the midst of declaring his deep desire and desperate need for God, the psalmist recorded his state of mind. He was in the depths of discouragement and despair. He could do nothing but ask himself “Why?” I notice that he didn’t give an answer to the “why” of it but rather, he gave the cure.

The “cure” is to have a hope that is certain and there is only one certain hope. The psalmist declared the object of certain hope. It is God. He knew that God alone saves. God alone has promised to be with His people no matter what circumstance in which they find themselves. God has promised to bring His people to glory with Him. Jesus said that He was preparing a place for His followers and that He would take them to His Father’s Mansion in Heaven.

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” God gives life to each one He calls to Himself. “But to all who did receive him, 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

God’s children have certain hope because He has revealed that heaven is their home!

However, while we live in this world, one of the reasons we often get discouraged is unfulfilled or broken promises. We must remind ourselves of the futility in trusting in man. Placing trust in man or man’s systems will result in discouragement. Even the “best” of us may fail to keep our promises. God alone is always faithful. The Bible declares the truth of God’s faithfulness in the midst of man’s unfaithfulness. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” 2Tim. 2:13

Knowing God and what He has said is our only defense against discouragement. For example, even though “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” The Bible declares that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2Cor. 4:16-17

In other words, whatever is causing discouragement God said that it is temporary. If you are in Christ, He is renewing you every day. He is preparing you for glory. God has given His people this certain knowledge so that all of the distortions of this world would not overwhelm them. As a Christian, I know that whatever I am facing will pass; and more, God is using every circumstance good or bad to prepare me for glory. Remember, God is faithful and He will “never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

As a child of God, I didn’t always look at the beginning of my hope. I’m speaking of the gospel. Paul wrote to Christians that “the gospel is the power of God…” Rom. 1:16. The Lord used every manner of adversity in my life to teach me that He revealed the means and certainty of my hope including my rising from discouragement. He revealed to me the gospel. That He saved me by Jesus’ blood and righteousness is not simply a past action, but the truth upon which I live. The gospel is God’s power to save. I am saved. I am being saved and I will be saved. There is no other power to lift me or anyone else out of discouragement. After all, God raised me from death to life. Will He not also raise me out of the pit of discouragement?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do We Have Free Will?”

Do we have free will?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If I was asked to make a list of the ten worst questions to ask in church this would be on that list. It might even be near the top! I really want you all to read my entire article, so I’ll refrain from giving the short answer to the question.

When seeking to answer a question, especially one that concerns the issue of man’s free will, you ought to be clear on the meaning and use of the words. The will of man is the faculty of the mind by which choices or decisions concerning a course of action are made. The word free means unencumbered, not enslaved, or not controlled by obligation.

So if I substitute the meanings of the words, the question can be rephrased in this way, “Do we have an unencumbered mental faculty by which we are able to make choices?” Still every person that answers this question will give a response based upon their own personal opinion.

Therefore, since there may be many opinions expressed, we ought to seek the one opinion that matters. In other words, what has God said, if anything, concerning the issue of man’s will?

You might try to find the instances of the words “free” and “will” in the concordance of your Bible. The place to start is the Garden. After God made Adam, He told him that he was free to eat of every tree of the Garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:16-17.

We know what happened. Adam and the woman, later named Eve, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. At the end of Chapter three of Genesis, we read that God “placed the cherubim (mighty angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God insured that no man would be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever, Genesis 3:22-24.

We next look at God’s destruction of the earth by the universal flood, He surveyed all mankind and declared “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, “Genesis 6:5. Further, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God and said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament. Men have not changed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10

God’s view of man’s will is that it is in bondage; it is not unencumbered. Yes we will do whatever we desire. One of the greatest, possibly the greatest American Theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled, “The Freedom of the Will.” The basic premise of his book is that men do whatever they want to do. The problem is that before God regenerates a man or woman, the only thing that they desire is sin!

The reality revealed by the word of God is, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” Romans 5:8, 10. Man’s will is in bondage to sin! Jesus said that “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

All this may strike you as just some philosophical rambling, but this truth is much more. Understanding our human nature is essential if we are ever to know the depth of God’s grace.

So what are we to make of the question? Do we have free will? Even in a purely physical sense, we are limited. No one can honestly claim that he can do whatever he wants. All of us have certain restrictions placed upon us. Next time, may God forbid, that you’re pulled over for driving above the speed limit, try telling the officer that you are free to do whatever you want, because the speed limit doesn’t apply to you.

Apply that same logic to life in Christ. Tell God that you’re free to choose Him or not. Tell Him that you did not inherit Adam’s sin. Tell him that your will is not in bondage to sin that you are able to take and eat of the tree of life and thereby you can choose to live forever!

So, what’s your answer to the question?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eternal Decrees of God”

The Eternal Decrees of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Don’t you wonder who is in charge especially when bad things happen? There is a powerful statement made by the great prophet Jeremiah. He is often referred to as the weeping prophet. He wrote two books of the Old Testament. One is called by his name and the other is called Lamentations. Jeremiah was weeping, lamenting over the state of the once great city of Jerusalem. God used the Babylonian Empire to crush Judah. Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were sent into captivity. Jeremiah wept over what had happened knowing that God had exercised judgment against His people for their idolatry. He gave us the answer to who it is that controls all things. “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?” Lamentations 3:37-38

Jeremiah’s answer is clear. God is in charge of everything that happens. There is nothing, good or bad that occurs outside of His sovereign authority.

Likewise, answers to this question and others were sought from Scripture during the Sixteenth Century Protestant Reformation. By the Seventeenth Century England’s Parliament commissioned many pastors and theologians to give biblical clarity concerning the true religion, their description of man’s expression of biblical faith in Jesus Christ. They produced a document called a confession of faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith is still used as an expression of sound biblical doctrine. This Confession is part of the constitution of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). We began in 1973 as a Presbyterian Denomination committed to: biblical faithfulness, reformed doctrine and obedience to the Great Commission.

Chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, paragraph 1 reads in part: “God from all eternity did ordain whatsoever comes to pass… “. In ordaining everything, they re-stated what the Bible declares: God is not the author of sin. God does not offer violence to the will of His creatures.

Reasonable people know that if God is not in charge, we live at the whim of someone or something else that has different intentions than the God who is always good! The fact that we often don’t understand events does not nullify the sovereign authority of the God who ordained them.

This truth reflects the character of God. If He’s not in charge, He’s not God! If God has not ordained everything that happens, then all creation is at the mercy of some indeterminate entity or force. The Bible is clear and even man’s fallen reason testifies to the truth that a sovereign God ordains everything.

What then are we, believers in the truth to make of this? Jeremiah wrote in the same book, Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is in charge and He has a good plan because He is good. Jesus said to the rich ruler, “… No one is good except God alone,” Luke 18:19.

Notice that, I asked, “What are believers to make of the truth that God is in charge?” God promised that all things work together for good for those who love Him. The one’s who love Him are those whom He called. Therefore, there is comfort for believers, the called ones, because God ordains everything that comes to pass. In other words, God has a wonderful plan for those who have placed their trust in Him. Those who place their trust in Him are those whom He calls.

So, when things look bad, they often are. But, if you believe in the Risen Lord Jesus know that God will work those bad things together for your good. Trust in a good God. Don’t place your trust in circumstances or in some human savior who promises to change your circumstances.

Remember that everything that happens has been ordained by God. In the midst of life, even the bad things, God has promised the ultimate good for His people and He never goes back on a promise!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Mission of the Church”

“The Mission of the church”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The purpose of the church is holiness. The church has been set apart by God for God. He said because “I am holy you are to be holy.” A purpose is a reason for being or existence. On the other hand, when we speak of mission in the church, we are looking to do something. The difference between purpose and mission is the difference between being and doing.

The church’s mission was prophesied by Isaiah. The Suffering Servant, Jesus, would come and be a “light for the nations”, Isaiah 42:6. God also said it is “too small a thing” to only save “Jacob” but that He would call all peoples to Himself through the gospel, Isaiah 49:6. The Church of God was on mission, His. God set the mission and He does it, Isaiah 55:10-11!

One of the most familiar passages in the Bible declares God’s global mission for the church, Matthew 28:18-20. All Christian Churches know this passage to be our marching orders given directly by the Risen Lord Jesus. We refer to this as the Great Commission! The weight of this mission is supreme because of the weight of the one who gave it. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him. This is an inclusive statement. That is, regardless of whether or not men submit to Him, Jesus is the one who has all authority. We all would do well to think of Jesus’ ultimate authority when faced with other authorities in life that make clams upon us. Men have a granted authority. For example, we are called to submit to governmental authority because God has ordained their limited authority for the good and welfare of all men, Romans 13. The same Apostle wrote that a sign of the culture in the “last days” is that there will be a lack of submission to authority, 2Timothy 3. He was writing of the culture in the church. The church stands under the word of God and therefore, we receive His commands concerning purpose and mission and submit to Him.

Therefore, the Risen Lord Jesus directs the church on her mission. The church has been given a granted authority by the one who has supreme authority to do what He commands. So, we ought to be clear on the Savior’s command. Concerning mission, His command is to disciple. Those who are following Him are to go and make disciples. The word “disciple” is the main verb of Matthew 28:19-20. In order to translate Jesus’ command in English, the word make has been inserted. Further, the command is in the Aorist tense. It is an emphatic command to be obeyed by the church until Jesus returns. Since this is so critical, the means of making disciples was further described by two participles, baptizing and teaching.

The first means of making disciples is baptizing which concerns identity. Discipling requires that the one discipled be identified by the One he is following, the Triune God. Followers of Jesus are identified with Him. This text is also the source of the church’s receiving of the sacrament of Baptism, the sign and seal of the New Covenant.

The second means of discipling is teaching. In the process of discipling, the disciple is taught “everything that Jesus commanded,” namely, the whole of Scripture. A disciple is a learner and follower of Jesus throughout his entire life. Christians are disciples of Jesus. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26

Discipleship requires teaching the whole truth. Paul spoke to the elders in Ephesus, Acts 20:26, and told them that he was innocent of their blood because he did not “shrink from declaring… the whole counsel of God.” The content of discipleship is the Bible, the word of God written.

There is a revealed priority in what is taught. The first thing taught is the gospel. When Jesus began His public ministry, He preached that the Kingdom was near, therefore, He said, “repent and believe in the gospel”, that is the good news of the Kingdom, Mark 1:15. Paul wrote that the gospel was “of first importance” 1Corinthians 15:3. The Apostle referred to the Person and Work of Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Jesus.

Finally, as God’s purpose for the church is clear; be holy because He is holy; the mission is likewise clear. The Mission of the church is to make disciples “of all nations.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Devotion and Duty”

Devotion and Duty
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Duty proceeds from obligation and devotion from desire. They are separately defined but connected. Both duty and devotion are considered to be virtues. I suggest that their connection is critical for those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that the relationship between the two is God’s design for His people. Jesus didn’t come to save His people and place them in another form of bondage. He came to set His people free. God sets His people free from the bondage of sin to be free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. I believe that the connection between duty and devotion is made clear by the Bible’s description of one who belongs to God. The psalmist wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” Psalm 73:25. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Church, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8.

God’s command to those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him cannot be ignored. God requires obedience, which is our duty, but mere obedience is not enough. Therefore, God changes the heart of a sinner to make him a saint. He gives the sinner a desire for Him.

Growth in the Christian Life is manifested by moving from the duty to obey God to a profound desire for Him which motivates our obedience.

Jesus was asked to define the “great commandment in the Law,” Matthew 22:37. He referred to Deuteronomy 6:5. The command is to “love” God! In His command, we come face to face with the connection between duty and devotion. We are obligated to love God. However, Love is a choice. Before the Christian’s obligation can be met, there must be a desire to carry out that duty.

The Bible says that men are not born with a desire to love God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the natural man is an enemy of God. God must change a sinner and give him a desire to love Him.

The words that God caused the human authors to use for love are critical for understanding. The New Testament word in Matthew 22:37 has at its heart the idea of sacrifice. It is referred to as sacrificial love. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the word for love conveys the meaning of total devotion. God’ command written by Moses called God’s people to a total devotion, to submit to Him and to demonstrate their devotion by a holy life.

Duty is not enough to satisfy God’s command. There must be a desire to fulfill this duty. God gives that desire. Jesus said that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3. As regeneration precedes faith; so too desire precedes duty. God changes the heart and gives the desire to obey Him. This desire motivates the believer to obedience as an act of devotion to God.

All Man’s actions are dictated by desire. The same is true for Christians. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is God’s grace in changing our desires when He makes us new creations. We as Christians have a desire to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength because He gave it to us. When we don’t desire God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to confess our sins to Him. God promised believers, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1John 1:9. God is always faithful to His promise to forgive because of the atonement of Christ.

To summarize, Jesus said knowing the truth sets one free, John 8:32. Knowing Jesus is freedom. God has set His people free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. We have been freed from sin and given a desire for God.

Many Christians are in bondage by legalism or moralism. Remember God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives is freedom. Growing in the knowledge and love of Christ moves one from duty to devotion. The greatest evidence that God has given the desire for Him is the priority one places upon worship of Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The King of Glory”

“The King of Glory”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1

The God who spoke and all things came into being is the King and Ruler of all Creation. He rules all things and owns all things. God ordains all things that come to pass. He provides all things for the enjoyment of His people.

David wrote Psalm 24 roughly 3,000 yrs. ago. We sometimes think that man in our time knows more than David did. We think that we’ve grown in wisdom, strength and knowledge since king David’s time. In many ways, however, we have actually regressed.

David was king in Israel by God’s anointing. He ruled Israel under the authority of God. David knew that God was the sovereign Creator of all things. David was also confronted in his sins of adultery and murder. David acknowledged his sin and appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness. David’s sin was forgiven but his household experienced the consequences of his sin during his lifetime.

A comparison of our society with King David’s reveals that little growth has taken place. Paul predicted our current culture accurately in 2Timothy 3:1ff. We’ve become lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant and abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, etc. Even some of our leaders think that they are above God’s law. They govern to suit their own self-interest. They have a thirst for power forgetting that they are God’s ministers for the good and welfare of all people. But, there will come a day when they will have to give an account to the only King of Glory.

In light of this there is a celebration approaching. The Christian Church will celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day on which the church remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, 2,000 yrs. ago.

The people cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9. The leaders read Psalm 24 in the Temple and were blind to the King of Glory in their midst.

At the same time the people begged God to save them and do it now the leaders read “Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors that the King of glory may come in.” Psalm 24:9 Both were blind to the meaning of their words.

Evidence of their blindness was revealed less than one week later. The cry of “Let him be crucified” was heard in the city. Matthew 27:23. In less than one week Jesus’ position before the people changed from the object of praise to the object of hatred. Had I been there I would have joined the crowd. But God broke into my man-centered life causing me to see the truth.

A celebration of the King of Glory is what we all need. We must remind ourselves that we would have been right there with the crowd crying “Crucify him”. But, by the sovereign grace of the King we see the truth.

The time-tested hymns of the church convey sound doctrine. One such hymn, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” is traditionally sung on Palm Sunday. The first verse declares the truth of God’s plan of redemption. ”All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring! Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal Son, who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!”

I can picture worshipers processing around the sanctuary while waving palm branches. All who affirm the truth of the King of Glory who is Jesus have been given eyes to see Him as their Lord and Savior. At one point in your life you may have been counted with those who cried crucify Him. But, now, I pray that you have embraced the truth revealed in God’s word. May you have a joyous celebration of the coming of the King of Glory. May you with the rest of God’s people wait with eager expectation for the King to return. Place your hope in Him!

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What You Need to Know”

“What you need to know”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

If there is anything you need to know it is this: you absolutely need to know the truth! “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’ Jesus also said that He is the truth, John 14:6. As He prayed on the night of His passion, Jesus said that God’s word is truth, John 17:17.

So then, if you want to be free and have an intimate relationship with God, it is imperative that you know the truth.

It is comforting to know that there really is objective truth. Every time that I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth. The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 The Bible is inerrant and infallible. God never lies and He is always reliable.

Knowing that there is objective truth, it is often frustrating to turn on the TV and watch the latest news. Instead of news, we often get the latest spin on the news. Newspapers are no different, this one being the exception that proves the rule. Our culture appears to value commentary on events rather than the facts surrounding events. Even politicians speak around the truth. The truth is used rather than told.

Yet, ultimate truth can be known. God has revealed Himself by what He has made, His creation and He has condescended to reveal Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The terms general and special revelation refer to this knowledge respectively. General revelation is God’s revelation of Himself in Creation, Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20. Special revelation is the Bible, 2Timothy 3:16; 2Peter 3:16. Finally, the full revelation of God is His only begotten Son, Jesus, Hebrews 1:1-2. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.” There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is not received on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers.

Luke recorded Peter and John’s appearance before the ruling council in Jerusalem because of what they were teaching concerning Jesus Christ. Peter stood before that council of very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “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

With the courage of his convictions and the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth leads to acting upon it. Knowing this truth is eternal life.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Holiness”

“Holiness”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We say something is perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day”. Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).

There’s always something wrong with what we describe as perfect. The response of some to these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect”. The truth is: God alone is perfect. Jesus said that God alone is good. But both perfect and good are part of God’s self-revelation. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself more comprehensively, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy (He said) because I am holy” Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:16. Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we would do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be obedient to the word of God.

I’ve found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes, His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect because He is holy.

God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is totally other, as some theologians put it. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.

We are given glimpses of God’s holiness in the Bible. Isaiah 6: 1-5 is probably the most familiar. The occurrence is God’s commission of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. The vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” “Holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew Language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.

The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy”. Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.

We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.

So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! Everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3: 23. Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. In this life: our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified, Romans 8:30. God glorifies His people by sanctifying us. He makes us holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify us so that when we see Jesus face to face, we will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is our only hope.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “World Views”

“World Views”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Haven’t you ever asked yourself the question? “Why don’t they see what I see?” Sometimes we’re dealing with perspectives. But other times we are dealing with reality. Everyone has a perspective of an issue based upon their past or current experiences. Theologians call those kinds of perspectives “presuppositions”. Yet, when the issue of reality is involved, perspectives are usually irrelevant. What is… is.

I believe that confusing our perspective of an issue with reality is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that concerns reality. Simply stated, a world view is one’s view of reality. There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has not absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

The concern is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. Jesus is reality. For us to fully understand reality and live in the real world, Jesus must be at the center of our life.

Truth is not dependent upon our embracing it. The Roman Governor, Pilate, uttered an understanding of truth which many today still hold. He said, “What is truth?” in response to Jesus who said, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” John 18:37,38 For Pilate, truth was irrelevant. From is perspective, what really mattered was who had the most power. Without knowing it, he pointed to the One who has supreme power, God.

Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word, they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

For example, the reason many in our society may not see what I see is because of the failure to acknowledge reality. Man’s refusal to see the truth or accept reality is at the heart of the problem!

I propose that the world view on which one can be confident of seeing the truth is the God-centered one. Truth is objective. Reality is not in the eye of the beholder. Here is the truth; the only self-existing being, God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

Obviously, much of society, some might even suggest that most of society doesn’t look at life through a biblical world view. The basis of a man-centered world view, namely, moral relativism is the primary means by which truth and reality are suppressed.

The man-centered world view is attractive because it suits man’s sinfulness. The Apostle Paul wrote that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. Jesus said that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, John 3:19.

It must be clearly stated at this point that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary not only for Christians but for all men. The reason is obvious. The reason is truth/reality is not in the “eye” of the beholder. There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

As a Pastor, I am accountable to God to ask you, “What is your world view?” “How do you decide what is right or wrong?” I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Means of Grace”

“God’s Means of Grace”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“… “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ Hebrews 13:5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

So many church attendees have heard that the gospel is something to “settle” with God. An invitation is given to “accept” Jesus and be saved. After accepting Jesus, one then pulls himself up by his own boot straps and gets on with life, or worse, now that your saved you can just go about life as usual!

This type of proclamation is reflective of man-centered religion, referred to as the theology of glory, where suffering is not considered to be part of life in Christ. The real question is not whether one accepts Jesus, but that one is accepted by Him!

The promise God made to Joshua and repeated in the letter to the Hebrews is critical as those whom He chooses live by faith and not by sight, 2Corinthians 5:7. Nothing happens in life, especially salvation, unless God does it. To this end, God has provided the means by which Christians live. They are referred to as God’s means of grace. There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.

There is an initial statement that I must make. The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A #88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”

The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.

The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.

Third and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. He assumed that disciples would pray. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.

So then, there are three: The Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing and strengthening His people. We depend upon His grace, certainly given in these means in order to grow up in Christ.