Pastor’s Viewpoints, “We all need hope!”

We all need hope!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

All of us, if we’re honest, admit that we need hope. Yet, we look for hope in “all the wrong places.” The psalmist asked himself a question that many have asked. He received God’s answer. His question was, “Why am I depressed?” God’s answer was because he had no hope! Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” ESV

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

I have an ongoing hope that men and women will realize that hope placed in a man will lead to disappointment. This is a hope dashed by the object of hope’s failure to do what was promised.

There are endless arrays of temporal hope. We find ourselves in another election cycle. I have a hope for an observant, informed and critical electorate. In the light that this hope is temporal, my eternal hope remains secure.

My eternal hope or, if you prefer, ultimate hope is secure because of the one who made the promise of hope. There is more to life than what we see. “This” is not all there is. There is more to life than this world, there is a greater hope than our political, economic, or personal relationships can offer. It transcends this world and is far above and apart from it.

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible’s clarity on this issue of ultimate hope and its recipients is the greatest comfort and assurance any man or woman can have. Since God gives it no man can take it from you. Much more can be said concerning God’s gift of eternal hope and is proclaimed from pulpits of faithful churches. I want to leave all who read this article with this: God gives ultimate hope, which is eternal glory, to those whom He chooses in Christ. May you hear this truth proclaimed from your home church!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Connecting the Dots”

“Connecting the Dots”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There is one word that connects the Old Testament with the New. The word is “covenant.” The Hebrew word that is translated as “covenant” means, in part, to “cut a deal.” Covenant is the theme by which God reveals His faithfulness to His word. God established a covenant with Abram, Genesis 15. God sealed His promise with a ritual of cutting.

The word “covenant” is similar to our use of contracts. It is similar in that contracts establish legal commitments made by two parties that stipulate the ground of their relationship. Covenant is unlike a contract in that it is not made by equal parties. Contracts are entered into voluntarily, as they are agreements made between equals. But in the case of God’s revelation of His Covenants, He is the one who establishes the requirements for man’s relationship to Him. In addition, God always keeps His end of His Covenants.

The need for God’s establishment of covenants with man is clearly explained in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The distance between God and Man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with Him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with Man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the Covenant of Works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.

The second covenant that God made with Man is called the Covenant of Grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan through the “seed” of the Woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by His resurrection, Hebrews 2:14; 1Corinthians 15:54-57.

There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s Covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. It is within the context of what is called Covenant Theology that the gospel is set and understood.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal His faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with Man. This covenant was made within the God-Head, the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the Covenant of Redemption, John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21. This covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son. The essence of the Covenant of Redemption is that the Son agreed to lay down His life in accordance with the Father’s will to accomplish redemption. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ, Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The final fulfillment of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’

We are unable to interpret and apply the Bible without understanding “covenants.” The church has applied her understanding of Covenant Theology in rightly dividing the word of God. Tragically, the evangelical church in America has largely forgotten or worse rejected Covenant Theology.

Praise God for His faithfulness to His covenant promises!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Breath of God”

“The Breath of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breather into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:7
So much talk and no action! Talk that pretends to seek the protection of the most vulnerable of our land holds little value for me. Politicians talk of protection on the one hand and usurping rights on the other. Law abiding citizens are told that they must give up their constitutional right to protect themselves in the interest of removing “gun violence” from schools, etc. The argument always ends by those supposed well-meaning folks referring to the safety of our children.

I’m not an NRA member. I’m only a concerned citizen who professes the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I am truly concerned about our children’s safety. I am appalled by our society’s low view of human life. Today, we’re told that concern for human life is only applicable when discussing the second amendment of the Constitution.

Here is a truly appalling fact. Since 1974, more than 52,000,000 babies have been killed through abortion. A state-supported agency that says it is concerned with women’s health and family planning has been discovered selling “baby parts.” I hope that this shocks you. If you are even remotely concerned it certainly should.

I stand with those who say, “Let’s stop the violence.” Let’s stop it right now! All men are accountable to God to stand for life of life. Genesis 4; 9:6. God, the author of life, sanctified human life in the Garden. He holds man responsible for actions taken against life.

Since, the mid Seventies, the “Progressives” have given government the authority to remove the right to life given by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1981, “The dignity of human life is not some peripheral issue,” The Christian Manifesto.

The protection of human life is not something upon which we can agree to disagree. The dignity of human life is a God-given absolute! Both the sanctity of human life and marriage are two fundamental bases of western culture. Both are under attack by the secularists.

Secular Humanism has clouded many minds. In a culture where there are no absolutes, men make decisions based upon personal preference. Our culture is governed by moral relativism. Everything is considered relative. There are no absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Yet, the dignity of human life is an absolute.
Our very own Declaration of Independence stated clearly both the source of life and its inherent value. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founders of our country declared that the source of life was God and that life is an undeniable right given by Him, therefore an absolute.
Further, when God gave the Law through Moses to His people, He included a commandment against murder, Exodus 20:13. The word translated kill or murder in the 6th Commandment is understood to mean the unlawful taking of life. Only God can authorize the taking of life. God’s highest consequence for the taking of life is the life of the one who took it.

The 6th Commandment is not only a prohibition for Man, but it reveals the character of God, as do all the Commandments. That is, God is for life not death. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, Matthew 22:32. Jesus also said that He is the life, John 14:6.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. I continue to be motivated to write on the sanctity of human life. I cannot sit idly by when I see misguided discussion of gun control to overshadow the sanctity of human life. Whether you are a Christian or not I urge you to speak for those who have no one to speak for them. Speak for the unborn babies. The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is not in school but in the womb. Sunday, January 17 is declared to be Sanctity of Life Sunday. Remember the unborn that have been sacrificed on the altar of secular humanism.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Re-visiting the question of truth”

“Re-visiting the question of truth”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’m sure that like me you tire of hearing the “spin doctors.” These media types are the ones who try to put a positive spin on statements and actions of our public figures. They serve to cover over what is really being said or done. In other words, they are bending the truth.

We know that the definition of truth is that which is real. One cannot “bend” the truth. A bent truth is a lie. The truth is black and white. Granted, there are shades of grey in life. The greys are those decisions that we make seeking a better course. They are grey because there might be several good choices before us and we choose one that might bring the best outcome.

Truth is not like those decisions, despite what you may hear in the media. Something either is or it isn’t! There is no middle ground. This principle is called the “excluded middle” in logic. The excluded middle is generally explained by “true or false” statements. A proposition is either true or false, not something in the middle.

When we hear a report of facts, we evaluate them as either true or false based on the weight of evidence. When an attempt is made to bend the truth, it is called (moral) relativism.

There may be many reasons for “bending” the truth. The age old one is power. Truth is made relative so that power and control can be maintained.

The Roman Governor of Jerusalem of the first Century, Pontius Pilate, was an example of relativizing truth. His question, “What is truth?” revealed this relative philosophy.

We live in what philosophers call the Post Modern Era. This era calls for the subversion of truth as Pilate did. In the Post Modern’s mind, there is no such thing as absolute truth. One of the symptoms is reflected in our culture by what is called spirituality. We see it in movies and television. There are popular dramas centered in the world beyond this one. Talk shows on T.V. have segments to discuss the importance of having some kind of spiritual connectedness. People seem to be on never-ending quests to experience the latest spiritual guru’s method for attaining a deep spiritual fulfillment. You may have heard someone say, “It’s all about the journey.”

The obvious problem with this philosophy is that the “journey” may indeed end in destruction.

Reality stands opposed to relativism. The Bible teaches that men naturally suppress the truth. We press reality down in order to serve our own interests. We can deny or suppress the truth all we want for whatever we want. But we will ultimately face reality, the truth.

Those who seek reality, truth, are referred to as simple-minded or bigots. The charge brought is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. There are those whose sole effort is to “make numbers” say whatever is expedient. We have poll numbers, jobless numbers, approval ratings, etc. that are designed to support one position over and against another regardless of the truth.

The church is no different. Those who claim to speak for the church would have us believe that it’s all about relationships and that truth is something contrary to what they would call love. They claim that all this talk of doctrine is of no value. What’s important is: one’s relationship to Jesus and to others. This is true. However, it never enters the realm of possibility in their minds that there are many different Jesuses proclaimed. Having a relationship with the real Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the truth and the life and the way. He is the revealed Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? He is the reality of life! This is sound doctrine.

I urge you to be a part of a church that worships the one true God as He has commanded; that teaches His self-revelation; that exhorts her members to live under His word. In this way and in this context you will be equipped to recognize the truth concerning current issues. Jesus said, “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