Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Advent… the 1st Coming”

“Advent… the 1st Coming”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Advent means coming. The American Heritage Dictionary defines advent as, “the coming or arrival esp. of something momentous; the birth or coming of Christ; the period including four Sundays before Christmas.” The Season of Advent is a call to heed the warning of the Prophet Isaiah. “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. Several hundred years later, John the Baptist came as God’s spokesman to call God’s people to prepare to meet the Messiah by repenting of their sins. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17. Every year since, believers have prepared to meet the Christ who came 2,000 years ago.

Jesus is the only Son of God. He took upon Himself human nature in obedience to God, the Father. Jesus lived a perfect life and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. Only His person and work satisfies God’s wrath for sin. 2Corinthians 5:21 is God’s revelation of His grace extended to His people for their salvation. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus told us how to prepare in the light of John the Baptist’s declaration. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

The ones whom God chooses receive the gifts of faith and repentance from Him. It is the Spirit of God who applies the finished work of Christ. Those who profess Christ are penitent people who live relying upon Christ. The Jesus who is revealed in the gospel is the object of Christian faith. He is the holy one of God before whom we see the truth of our sinfulness and know that He is life. In other words, living in Christ is the only way to be prepared to meet Him.

As you begin to experience this Season of Advent, are you again seeking to prepare your mind and heart for the sovereign Lord Jesus?

In our country, perhaps in the western world as a whole, preparing to celebrate the Incarnation has been overshadowed by making sure that we’ve managed to buy gifts for family and friends.

Now I am not suggesting that Christians refrain from buying gifts for others. In fact, giving is an expression of those who have received. But, I am suggesting that we remember what we have received and give in response to God’s grace as a demonstration of having received His mercy.

As a child I remember that Christmas wasn’t fully realized until our whole family went to church on Christmas Eve. It has been our church family’s practice to celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional worship service called, “Lessons and Carols”. We seek to involve our children in the service both for their worship and education. The service of Lessons and Carols was first used in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.

This 20th Century worship service’s purpose is to worship God by rehearsing God’s plan of Redemptive History. We read nine Scripture Lessons beginning in Genesis and ending with John’s gospel. As we hear from God, we respond in song with familiar Christmas Carols. Our aim is to turn our minds to God’s grace in saving His people. As God’s word is read, we are reminded that God established His plan of redemption in eternity. The Father and the Son made a covenant. The Son agreed to give His life to redeem those whom the Father chose before the world began.

The Service of Lessons and Carols is a “snapshot” of the Season of Advent. Christians are called by God to remember His mighty acts of Redemption. He progressively revealed His plan throughout the Bible. The church in the Old Testament experienced God’s delivery from the bondage of slavery in Egypt as a foreshadowing of God’s redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.

In His first coming, Jesus called all to “repent and believe in the gospel.” God has ordained that outside of the church there is no ordinary means of salvation. May you hear the pure gospel preached from the pulpit in your church. Rejoice that Jesus came as the Savior the 1st time. He will return as the holy King and Judge the second. May you be ready for Him!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Recognize Evil!”

“Recognize Evil!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Every day we hear and read about atrocities committed in the name of god! I use a small “g” because the god to whom the actions of radical Muslims are attributed is not the one true God regardless of what some leaders may say.

The Apostle John wrote to the churches in Asia Minor under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and by implication to the whole Christian Church. In 1John 4:2-3, he declared the difference between a made-up, even an evil god and the one true God. “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”

Islam is the religion founded by Muhammad who was born sometime between 570 and 580 A.D. In 610 A.D. Muhammad claimed to have received his first of a series of revelations of the Quran from God through the angel Gabriel (Reference: “The Kingdom of the Cults”, Walter Martin, Appendix by Richard Mendoza, edited by Gretchen Passantino). Yet, Islam rejects the Trinity and the Deity of Christ both essential doctrines of the Christian Faith.
The Letter to the Hebrews, 1:1-2, with precision informs us of the truth of God. “Long ago, and at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” The undeniable conclusion is that Jesus is God and the Canon of Scripture is closed. Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Further, Christianity is a revealed faith. Christianity is not based upon the imagination of men but on the word of God. “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty… And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention, as to a lamp shining in a dark place…” 2Peter 1:16, 19
When men design a god of their own liking, it is called a man-centered world view. A world view is a fancy term that simply means a view of reality. In other words, a world view is a perspective of that which is real. The truth of God, the word of God, the Bible is God’s revelation to man of that which is real. Primarily, the Bible reveals who God is. Further, the Bible reveals how man may relate to God. We are not, as creatures, at liberty to define God in our own terms. Men suppress the truth in unrighteousness because we are born dead in sin, Romans 1:18; 3:9.
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. Jesus is reality. In order to fully understand reality, Jesus must be at the center. Truth or reality is not dependent upon our embracing it.

Much of society doesn’t look at life with a biblical world view. So when Islam is referred to as a religion of peace or that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews it is uncritically accepted. I suggest that the acceptance of this as true is the beginning of the end of our Judeo – Christian Culture.

Holding a God-centered world view or simply acknowledging the Creator God is essential for all men to discern reality. Discernment of reality is the starting point to recognizing evil. Evil is the absence of good and the one true God is always good. But He is never the author of evil. Yet He is sovereign over evil. God also established moral law. All men have His moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

Western Society is based upon the moral law of the one true God. We live in a critical and dangerous time. But now evil is being called good under the name of God! The church cannot be silent at such a time. I urge you to seek a church that boldly teaches the truth of God. May you be equipped to look at life through a God-Centered World View. May you be able to stand against evil.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Time to Remember”

“A Time to Remember the Source”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God is the source of every good gift and every perfect gift. George Washington acknowledged this truth and set one day apart to thank God for His providence. We will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Some will have family feasts; others will celebrate Thanksgiving in a quiet way.

We all have many things for which to be thankful, our spouse, our children, our church, our homes, our city and our nation. Yet our tendency is to see the glass half empty rather than half full.

We look at those things that are not to our liking or are less than desirable and complain about them. It seems distasteful, even contrary to thank God for everything, even those “bad” things. But, that’s exactly what God’s will is for us. He said to give thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers know that all things work together for those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Giving thanks to God is a response of one who has been changed by Him. It is informative 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.” 1Chr. 16:4 The Ark was a visible sign of God’s faithfulness to His covenantal promise made to His people.

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 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.

Further, Christians are told 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

If you have been adopted by God through faith alone in Christ alone thank Him every day and set apart a time during this Thanksgiving Season to gather with His people to corporately thank Him for what He has done in Christ.

May your Thanksgiving Day plans be centered in giving thanks to God for the Person and Work of Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do we have free will…the wrong question?”

Do we have free will… the Wrong Question!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
How time flies when you’re having fun! It’s been more than three years since I wrote concerning Man’s Will and I believe that many continue to struggle with the question. Generally, Christians and non-Christians answer the “Free Will” question in the same way, “Of course men have free will!”

Yet, the wrong question is being answered. Surely, the Bible teaches that we all do what we want to do, CF: Judges 21:25; Romans 1:18-32.

The problem is with the word “want.” Our wants are our desires. So the right question is, “What do we want or desire to do?”

Since everyone has an opinion on this matter. But, only one opinion counts, God’s opinion and we’re not seeking to vote on the question. We must go to the only reliable source, the inerrant and infallible word of God.

To eliminate the wrong question, “Do we have free will?” go to the concordance of your Bible and look for the words “free” and “will” used together in the same sentence. You will discover that those two words don’t appear together. The closest occurrence is Genesis 2:16-17. God told the first man, Adam, “You may surely (or freely) eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…” Adam’s was free to obey or disobey God.

We know what happened. Adam and the woman, later named Eve, freely chose to eat 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 before which He surveyed all mankind and made this clear declaration. God said, “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. 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. But we will do what we desire (or want). 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 desire present is sin, evil!

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! Until God changes us, we desire evil!

I firmly believe that this fundamental teaching from God’s word is essential in knowing the majesty of God’s grace which He extends to those whom He chooses.

So what are we to make of the right question? What does the unregenerate or natural man desire? 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. You may insist that you are free to do whatever you want while the police officer continues to write you a ticket. This is even more significant in our spiritual life.

The fact is unless God’s sovereign will trumps your human will, you will remain dead in your sins. But, God is rich in mercy; He has chosen some to be His own possession and He gives them the desire for Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2Corinthians 5:17 New creations have new desires, supremely the desire for Him. So then, “Do you desire Him?”