Pastor’s Viewpoints, “There is One God in Three Persons!”

“There is One God in Three Persons!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The feast of Pentecost, sometimes called Whitsunday, was rooted in in the Old Testament. The Bible refers to it as the Feast of Weeks. It was ordained by God to be one of the three mandatory celebrations in Israel along with Passover and the Feast of Booths. It was on the occasion of this feast that the Apostle Peter delivered his famous sermon recorded in Acts 2:14ff. On that particular day, God poured out His Spirit on “all flesh” in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, Joel 2:28 which was also foreshadowed by God’s empowerment of elders recorded in Numbers 11.

God’s Spirit is given to all believers to accomplish God’s work of building the church of Jesus Christ. The visible church in the Old Testament, that is Israel, had only a few chosen people upon whom the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was given by God. For example, those who were anointed kings and those who spoke God’s words fulfilling the office of a prophet were uniquely empowered by the Spirit of God to fulfill God’s purpose for their function.

At the ascension of Christ into heaven the Bible says that “He gave gifts to men”, Ephesians 4:8. The ancient Creeds of the church profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Every believer called by God and regenerated by His Spirit is given the power of God’s Spirit to accomplish the ministry given to him by God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1Corinthians 12:4-6.

Apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we are powerless in terms of ministry. Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, Matthew 16:18. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates, illumines our minds and empowers us for ministry in building the church.

The Sunday following Pentecost Sunday is called Trinity Sunday. Every Lord’s Day that follows Pentecost Sunday is marked as Sundays after Trinity Sunday. The traditional name of this “season” in the Church Year is Trinity Season. The early Church and the Reformers continued the practice of referring to the days following Pentecost Sunday as Trinity Season.

Their purpose and the ongoing purpose of celebrating Trinity Season in the Church is that God has revealed Himself as three persons. We worship a Trinitarian God. The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. But every aspect of what the word means does. For example, Matthew 28:19 which forms the first part of Jesus’ “Great Commission” commands disciples to make disciples by identifying them with the Triune God! Jesus’ words in this verse also comprise the Baptismal formula in the universal Christian Church.

God created us for worship. The only one to whom worship is due is the one, true God who revealed Himself as: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 3 declares the Bible’s teaching concerning the Triune God. It states in part, “In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity…”

The Doctrine of the Trinity stands against the Cults and False Religions. Every Christian Church holds this Doctrine as basic and fundamental. Knowing and believing it is not optional for a Christian!

The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Father initiated my life in Christ. The Son lived a perfect life and died for my sin. The Holy Spirit applied the work of Christ to me. The life I live is in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God, the Father.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 The Father is the initiator. The Son obeyed the Father perfectly and the Holy Spirit gives life in Christ and keeps us for Him.

In this time of questioning the integrity and truthfulness of our leaders, it is good to know that God who is always true and faithful has revealed Himself clearly in His word. May the Lord empower you to draw your confidence and security in Him, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Doctrine of Scripture”

“The Doctrine of Scripture”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Bible is referred to as the best-selling book of all time. I haven’t checked the statistics lately, but, I’m fairly certain that statement still holds true. Witnesses swear on the Bible. Our government leaders make oaths while laying their hand on the Bible.

The Bible also holds prominence in being the most misrepresented and attacked document in history. We live in an age where personal interpretation of the Bible is common place. Some in churches teach that there is no “right” interpretation of the Bible. Some say that the Old Testament contradicts the New Testament. Liberal Christianity teaches that the Bible is an old book; ancient man’s book about God.

However, the Bible declares itself to be God’s word to Man. The Apostle Paul said that all Scripture is God-breathed, speaking of the Old Testament. And the Apostle Peter equated Paul’s writing with the whole of Scripture. God warned His people in Deuteronomy and Revelation not to add to or subtract from His word. The Psalmist declared that all of God’s words are true.

The Apostle Paul and the Psalmist wrote that Creation testifies to the existence of God. The Bible, however, gives saving knowledge of God. It is the Bible that declares God established a plan to redeem His people. It is the Bible that declares God will re-create the world and make all things new. It is the Bible that teaches that God will crush evil finally and eternally. It is the Bible which declares God’s promise of heaven to His people and man’s desperate need for a Savior.

The Bible is more than a book. In fact, it is a collection of 66 books. Each one was written by a human author under the inspiration of God, the Holy Spirit. The Bible has been called 66 love letters from God to His people.

There are four words used to describe the Bible: inerrant, infallible, perspicuous, and sufficient. Each word points to the nature and essence of its ultimate author, God.

First, the Bible is inerrant because God is truth and He has revealed the truth. The church has understood that the Bible is without error in the original autographs. The autographs were the actual writings of the human authors in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Skeptics say at this point, “We don’t have any of the original autographs.” True, but we have thousands of ancient manuscripts for the New Testament and the extremely precise oral tradition copied by Hebrew scribes. The Dead Sea Scrolls supported the oral tradition almost exactly. By using all that is available, the original texts of the Bible are reconstructed.

The next word, infallibility, is connected to inerrancy. The Bible is infallible in that it is always reliable. Everything taught in the Bible can be relied upon to give good guidance for life. This doctrine of infallibility rests upon the previous doctrine of inerrancy. We can have confidence in the reliability of the Bible to guide us in the right path.

Third, the Bible is called perspicuous. Perspicuity is an unusual word, even hard to pronounce. But its meaning is simple. Perspicuous means clear. The Protestant Reformers recaptured the ancient church’s doctrine that light is shed upon the hard parts of Scripture by the clearer parts. In other words, because the Bible is perspicuous, it interprets itself. As the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility rest upon the character of God, so too does the Bible’s perspicuity. God, the one true God, is a God of revelation. He gave us the Bible so that we might come to know Him. No man can know all of God. He is infinite and we are finite. But, we can know what God wants us to know.

Finally, the most assailed doctrine of Scripture is called its sufficiency. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, that it was the Scriptures that would make him and every Christian complete, 2Timothy 3:17. Evangelical churches hold to the first three doctrines of Scripture. Yet, by the tremendous and unending list of church programs, the insufficiency of Scripture is demonstrated. Christians seem to be more concerned with meeting “felt needs” in particular life-situations than learning to apply the Bible so as to live wisely. I believe that now more than ever, we need to major on the sufficiency of the Bible, learning sound doctrine for God’s glory and our enjoyment of Him.

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!