Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Advent”

“Advent”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Advent is a season in the Church Year that was instituted so that Christians would 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. We are in this season of preparation. We are preparing to celebrate the historical and miraculous event of the Incarnation. God ordained in eternity that His Son would take upon Himself human nature and give Himself as a ransom for many. Jesus, the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah and others is the God-Man who came in the fullness of time.” He was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that (God’s people) might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:5

John’s message is still applicable. Repentance is one of the two gifts God gives to His people at their conversion. The other is faith. Those who have received these gifts from God live them throughout their lives. That is, professing Christians are penitent people. We repent of our sins and confess them knowing that God has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness, 1John 1:9. Likewise professing Christians live in reliance on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the object of our faith. He is the holy one of God before whom we see the truth of our sinfulness and know that He is life.

The Season of Advent has begun. This year, Sunday, December 2nd marks the beginning of Advent.

Jesus told us how we should prepare in 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 good news declared by Jesus was that the King of the Kingdom had come to earth.

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

I am not suggesting that Christians refrain from buying gifts for others. In fact, giving is an expression of having received. But, I am suggesting that we remember what we have received and from whom we received it. In response, offer acceptable worship to God in holiness, Romans 12:1; Hebrews 12:28.

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.

If you have not thought of preparing to celebrate Christmas in this way, I would encourage you to begin. Celebrate the Incarnation by attending corporate worship on each Lord’s Day and on Christmas Eve.

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. As you come to worship, come expecting to hear the good news that Jesus came and died for the sins of His people and that His work of redemption has been confirmed by His bodily resurrection. This is the gospel by which you are being saved, if you receive it in faith and live by it. 1Corinthians 15:1-4

May this season of Advent be one of holy preparation as you remember God’s incomparable gift of His only Son, Jesus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Providence of God”

“The Providence of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Anxiety plagues all of us. We would all like to live an anxious and worry-free life. Jesus said that Kingdom life is indeed worry-free! Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is Kingdom Life. It is how Christians are to live now. Kingdom life is impossible apart from the God who provides. Jesus is the only One who lived the Kingdom life perfectly.

The once popular song, “Don’t worry, be happy”, denies reality. It is for those who live for themselves. The song represents a philosophy of life. There are those who would tell us that reality can be created. They suggest that worry can be overcome by thinking happy thoughts, whatever that means. After we awake from our “happy” dreams, life with all its cares and worries is still there.

How then can God’s book, the Bible, that is without error and always reliable command believers, “Do not be anxious about your life”, Mt. 6:25?

Yet, God commands His people not to worry. This is not a denial of reality but an embrace of it. Specifically, God has revealed Himself as the One who always provides for His people. The reality that must be embraced is the truth of God!

Abraham, the father of all who believe in the God of the Bible, declared the truth of the providence of God, see Genesis 22:8, 14. The psalmist wrote, God “provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever,” Psalm 111:5. The Apostle Paul commanded the church in Philippi, “do not be anxious about anything,” Philippians 4:6.

What did Abraham, the psalmist and Paul know? It is clear as we read about their lives and what they wrote they were not ones who denied reality and simply thought happy thoughts. Abraham, for example, was in the process of obeying God by preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac when he confessed trust in God to provide. Abraham embraced reality and he trusted God. He knew as Paul did that God would never be unfaithful for to do so would be to deny Himself! 2Timothy 2:13

The popular song quoted above was written by Bobby McFerin and was the number one song in 1988. It presents an apparently innocent and harmless suggestion. But on closer examination, we learn that Bobby McFerin didn’t originate the phrase. It was promoted by an Indian mystic, Meher Baba. Meher Baba considered himself to be the Ancient One and god. He believed that he was the real self within everyone. His view of himself was revealed by one of his recorded statements, “I have come not to teach but to awaken.”

Life in Christ is in direct opposition to that guru’s philosophy. God has not only revealed Himself but He has revealed propositional truth. We don’t need some self-proclaimed guru to find the meaning of life. The source of worry is not our lack of “happy thoughts” or not embracing the god within us. The source of worry is unbelief in God, the true God. The God who provides is the one who created all that we see. He is the one who ordains all that comes to pass. He is transcendent, not part of Creation. The Bible says, in Jesus Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” Colossians 1:20 and in Him we can have intimacy with God.

Bobby McFerin’s song concerns happiness. As we all know, happiness is very elusive. In the midst of anxiety and worry it’s nearly impossible to find happiness. The impossible becomes possible with God. The Apostle Paul gave advice to Timothy concerning the source of true joy which exceeds happiness. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy,” 1Timothy 6:17.

Notice the connection between the providence of God and enjoyment. God provides and believers enjoy what He gives. You don’t need to search out some new age philosopher which really is old age, eastern mysticism. Only knowing the truth of God will bring joy, the joy that lasts forever. The God who provides is the only One who gives joy. He gives joy by revealing the truth of Jesus to your heart. Knowing Jesus is the only thing that will dispel the worry and anxiety with which we burden ourselves. So, glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Acknowledge the Giver!”

“Acknowledge the Giver!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“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 Our nation has set aside one day to give thanks. Giving thanks implies that there is a giver. Whether God is acknowledged or not, we exist by His favor. We are particularly blessed to live in a country that sets a day aside for giving thanks to God.

We often experience things that are not to our liking and complain about them. It seems distasteful, even contrary to thank God for those “bad” things. It makes no worldly sense to give thanks to God for hardship. Exactly, it is nonsense to the world, but to those who have been changed by God it is wisdom. God has said to give Him thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers “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.

Thanking God is the response of one who has been changed by Him. Let us look back at one of the greatest celebrations in the Bible. It was a thanksgiving service! 1Chronicles 16 records King David’s organization of a thanksgiving worship service. It was motivated by 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.

In addition, 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 be centered in giving thanks to God for the Person and Work of Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Understanding God’s Forgiveness”

“Understanding God’s Forgiveness”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Matthew and Mark recorded Jesus’ healing of a paralytic. As significant and real as that physical healing was there was something more significant that is essential to all who profess Christ. That which is more essential is: Jesus’ healing of the paralytic pointed to His authority to forgive sins.

The Scribes thought, “This man is blaspheming,” Matthew 9:3 and Mark 2:7. Jesus knew what they were thinking. Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”’ Mark 2:9-11

The Scriptures are clear. Sin is a direct offense against God. Sin is defined as missing the mark of God’s perfect righteousness. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “Any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” The Apostle John wrote, “Sin is lawlessness.” 1John 3:4b All sin, no matter how minor, is a direct offense against the Holy God. In light of this truth, there are no “private sins”. God is always the offended party. King David made this truth clear in his psalm of repentance, Psalm 51. In the fourth verse, David wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”

That verse continues with these words, “… so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” As you may know, David did not appeal to God for justice. He appealed to God for mercy. God is holy. David knew the truth of God’s holiness. Every Christian should likewise know that God is holy. God never “winks” at sin. We should also know that justice is what is deserved. All mankind deserves to go to hell. That is perfect justice. Since the Garden, all are born dead in sin. There was only one born sinless. He is the Son of God, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He was born out of the normal course. His conception was of the Holy Spirit.

This is not my opinion. Although, I hold firmly to it. This is the word of God. “(We who are in Christ) were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:3c-5

The gospel is the power of God for salvation! Romans 1:16 The gospel is the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; He was buried; He was raised from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. There is no other payment for sin, 1John 2:2. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, Hebrews 9:22 (Leviticus 17:11). Jesus offered Himself to God in obedience. He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. His resurrection proves that His sacrifice was accepted by God the Father. The summation of the matter is, “For our sake he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2Corinthians 5:21 Jesus Christ bore our sins, each one, past, present and future. He experienced the full wrath of the Holy God in our place! In Christ, God’s perfect justice was satisfied.

All that is above represents propositional truth. These are God’s words of hope to His people! We know that they are true because God said it. We may or may not “feel” forgiven. But, if you are in Christ, your sins are forgiven.

There is an ongoing need to regularly read these truths. When God makes an individual a “new creation” in Christ his sinning does not stop. It has been said: ‘we sin because we are sinners’! Paul dealt with this struggle, Romans 7, justified yet sinner. The truth is our struggle with sin begins when God makes us a “new creation” in Christ. Because one is in Christ he recognizes his sinfulness. Those in Christ must live relying upon His finished work. Christians preach the gospel to themselves and confess their sins to God every day!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Biblical Praise”

“Biblical Praise”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You would expect that the most fundamental activity of the Church, namely Praise and Worship, would be demonstrated and taught by every Bible believing, Christ exalting congregation. Yet in our age of consumerism, it is necessary to define biblical praise; to identify the object; and to enable deep and critical thought concerning it.

Our surrounding area is blessed with an extraordinary number of churches. The primary reason is that God made us for worship. Biblical worship includes praising the object, the Triune God.

Webster’s Dictionary defines praise as expressing approval or admiration. The definition continues with the idea of giving glory to God. The essential ingredient in praise is that it requires an object.

Since the Garden, men have had the desire to praise. All too often praise was given to other men or places. The desire to praise was built into us by our Creator. We will praise someone or something that we consider worthy. Praise and worth are intimately connected.

You might take a little test. Think about that which consumes your time and money. Then, consider whether the objects you identify are worthy of your praise. In other words, would you choose to praise the one(s) to whom you give so much of your time and finances?

You may not agree with me at this point, but I am seeking to get you to think about worth. As you examine the definition it is clear that praise and worth are connected. The psalmist identified the greatest object of worth. Psalm 146, written by a man carried along by the Spirit of God, described a singular commitment to praise God! He said that he would declare praise to God throughout his entire life which he acknowledged was given by God.

Why would he make such a commitment? The answer is God alone is worthy of man’s praise! God alone saves man. Every instance of deliverance from oppression is by the sovereign hand of God. Only God is eternal. Opposed to this all men die. There are no exceptions. The only hope for man is God. Only God gives eternal life, a life that will never end. God raises the dead. He gives those whom He chooses eyes to see the truth who is Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel. Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God and the One whom He sent, even Jesus Christ, John 17:3.

We see injustice all around us intent on robbing us of hope. Conversely, the Bible declares that God will execute perfect justice. The Bible, God’s word written, is always true and altogether reliable. The psalmist affirmed the holy justice of God and wrote: God “executes justice for the oppressed, (God) gives food to the hungry.” Jesus said that God the Father will provide everything that is needed for His children, Matthew 6:25ff.

If this isn’t enough to convince you of God’s worthiness to be praised, then know that God is King. He rules all of His Creation. God’s absolute and sovereign rule of all Creation is not relative. The truth of God’s word is true whether it is believed or not. That is, you may be thinking that I write such things because I’m a Christian Pastor. Indeed, that is my calling! I not only write these things, but I also believe them! God is the Creator and Ruler of His Universe. Jesus said that “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him. God who made us for worship is the only worthy object. Praise, which is part of worship, is to declare the attributes and mighty works of God. As we understand and apply praise in this way, we likewise know that God is its only worthy object.

I’ve come to the end. I’ve defined biblical praise as the declaration of the attributes and works of God. Hopefully I’ve made the case that God alone is worthy of praise. And, finally, I hope that I’ve been successful in informing how you think about this very important aspect of life.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21