Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Offer Thanksgiving for God’s Glory!”

“Offer Thanksgiving for God’s Glory!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Believers throughout the ages have offered thanksgiving to God to acknowledge His providence. Therefore, it was fitting for our first President to set one day apart to give God thanks for His providence. Thanksgiving is man’s reasonable response to God.

God is “The Mighty One, God the LORD,” and “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies” Him, Psalm 50:1a, 23a.

We have been blessed with many relationships by God’s providence. God has providentially led many of us to our spouse. He has blessed many of us with children. He has directed our steps to our church home. Our homes and our nation are likewise examples of God’s blessings.

Even those things that may not be to our liking or are less than desirable have been provided by God and are opportunities for Christians to give thanks. The word of God says to give thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers know “for those who love God all things work together for good,” Romans 8:28.

It is instructive to look back at one of the greatest celebrations in the Bible. It was a thanksgiving service! 1Chronicles 16 records King David’s preparation and implementation of a thanksgiving worship service. His motivation was the return of the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chronicles 16:4 The Ark was a visible sign of God’s covenantal faithfulness.

The Ark 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. As a man of God, David knew that God’s people were commanded to thank Him. The Ark of the Covenant was a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. God demonstrated His faithful providence by providing food for Israel in the wilderness. Jesus confirmed God’s faithfulness. He declared that the Father will provide the needs of His people, Matthew 6:25-32.

God’s people in the wilderness were fickle as are we. Even though God gave them a sign of His leading them through Moses and Aaron rebellion broke out regularly. As a visible sign of Aaron’s leadership God caused his staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It continued as a reminder of God’s promise to lead His people by His chosen instruments.

Now, 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 of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. 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.

Christians are assured by the Holy Spirit that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers have eternal security. Believers have been given a clear revelation of God’s plan of redemption in the Bible. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God. The Church of Jesus Christ belongs to Him. He is the head and king of the Church. The most fundamental reason to give thanks to God is His grace of adoption, Galatians 3:26-29. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1John 3:1

May we all speak the words of King David from our hearts, thanking God for all our blessings. “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” 1Chronicles 29:11

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “To God be the Glory”

“To God be the Glory”
By the Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus told Nicodemus, “… Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 Nicodemus was one of the Jewish leaders. He was a member of the governing council in Jerusalem. He was, as Jesus said, a teacher of the word of God. Yet, this educated, religious man did not know that all men are born dead in sin. The Holy Spirit must raise a sinner from spiritual death to life.

This fact is not a matter of interpretation. If one is a believer in the Risen Lord he must be given eyes to see and ears to hear by the Holy Spirit. The technical and theological phrase that explains this truth is: regeneration precedes faith. In other words, it is impossible for men to believe and then be born again (regenerated)! In order to believe in Jesus the Spirit of God must act first. The Spirit of God acts in concert with the Word of God causing a man to see the Kingdom of God.

In order to bring this truth to a very practical understanding, I have chosen to use my own faith in Jesus. But, make no mistake, my story differs in details but the act of God is the same for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord!

I was snatched from the pit of hell on January 29, 1986. The day started normally. But, on my way to my office at the Nuclear Power Plant in Crystal River Florida, I was broad-sided by a semi-truck. It occurred about 7:30 in the morning. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I awoke four days later in a hospital in Gainesville, FL with one desire and many broken bones. My one desire was for Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The God of truth and grace opened my eyes to the world, to His beauty and to see His Kingdom.

Let me be frank, before that day, I had no such desire for Jesus. Oh, I thought that I was a good person, most people do. I thought that as long as I was better than most, the god of my making would welcome me. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? Surely it does! (1John 4:8) But the Bible also says that God is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3. Before God acted and regenerated me I didn’t consider the justice of God. He never sets aside His justice. He extends mercy only because of the sacrifice of Jesus which alone satisfies God’s justice.

Before my “accident,” I didn’t know God. I was spiritually dead. I used to think that all this “born again” stuff was for the weak minded. But the reality, the truth of what I lived was that dead men don’t do anything. I was unconscious. I couldn’t have saved myself. I couldn’t even get out of my hospital bed. On my best day, I didn’t know that I was lost and headed to hell. God had to act. He did and I look back in amazement that He chose me! Yes, I responded to Him. But I was responding to His action. “Ye must be born again” to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. My position in Christ is dependent upon God and Him alone!

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

Personal testimonies offer praise to God. May He be glorified by what I have written. Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The One who merited God’s Favor”

“The One who merited God’s Favor”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Grace is unmerited favor. God’s favor, grace is received by those who did not merit it. Grace is poured out on God’s people because it was merited by Christ. The Bible declares that we are saved by God’s grace! Ephesians 2:8 Those who are in Christ are beneficiaries of Christ’s merit.

The Bible says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 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.

We teach our children the meaning of God’s grace and the importance of God’s law. Grace is to receive what is not deserved of which mercy is another expression.

The opposite of grace and mercy is justice. The law of God given through Moses is a revelation of the absolute perfection of God. God’s law 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, lead men to their need for a Savior and be the Christian’s guide for living. Galatians 3:19-29, 5:16-25

The Law of God leads us to our dependence upon the grace of God because He requires absolute perfection. Jesus said perfect righteousness is required to enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 5:20. God does not grade righteousness on a scale!

We must all be honest with ourselves before God. We cannot keep God’s perfect law of righteousness. No one is able to be perfect. Yet God requires perfection. Therefore, all we can do is appeal to God’s mercy that He would pour out His grace upon us, Psalm 51.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may stand before a holy God. But God does not simply winking at our failure to be perfect. God’s sovereignly extends grace to those whom He chooses only by the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did. We all inherit the sin of Adam. We are all dead in sin. We are unable to keep God’s law. No one is righteous no not one, Romans 3:10.

In summary, 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 two alternatives. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. The standard is perfection. Jesus is the only One who was perfect. As He said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15