Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Resolutions”

“Resolutions”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
This is the time of the year when I look back over the past year. I’m a “list person” so I make a list of all those blessings that the Lord has poured out on me, my family and our church. As I write my list of blessings, I acknowledge that I’ve forgotten more than I can remember. However, the greatest blessing that one can ever experience and never forget is the blessing of knowing God through His only Son, Jesus Christ. The blessing of salvation is the only one that sustains the one who has received it in the midst of all of life’s circumstances. I know that God did for me that which I was unable to do. He saved me by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and my response is to worship Him!

As a “list person”, I also make a list of things that I would like to do for the New Year. This list contains my resolutions. When I look at my list, it often contains many of the same ones I made the previous year. Rather than look at unmet resolutions, I prefer to look forward making a new commitment to do them.

One resolution that is on my list every year is to be holy, always pursuing holiness.

This resolution is not unique to me. It is God’s will for everyone who is in Christ. Two things require explanation. The first is the meaning of being in Christ. The second is the meaning of holiness. Both the first and second are rooted in God. Those who are in Christ have been brought there by God and holiness is God’s work of free grace that progressively makes the one in Christ more and more like Him.

The Bible declares that those who are in Christ are chosen by God. “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.

So then, those who are in Christ are there solely by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation doesn’t end there. The resolution that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. The Bible makes this statement, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

In addition, God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone and He causes me to pursue holiness. I have the assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God has said that He confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my Spirit, Romans 8:14.

It is a tremendous joy to know that you belong to God. He accepts us as we are and loves us so much that He will not let us stay that way. He will cause His children to both make the resolution to pursue holiness and keep it. The Bible teaches that we will not be perfect this side of heaven. But, when we leave this life and enter the next we will be absolutely pure, perfect and our holiness will be brought to completion. May you make the resolution to pursue holiness this year and all those that follow knowing that God is working in you!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Divine Manifestation”

The Divine Manifestation
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Matthew recorded the visit of the “wise men”, Matthew 2. Tradition suggests that there were three wise men. Scholars are not certain of the number. It is suggested that there were more than three. The original word from which English translations of the Bible translate “wise men” is the word magi (magoi in Greek). The number three is likely assumed because three royal gifts were listed as being given to the Christ Child and Mary. “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

This narrative creates a great scene. It is usually part of depictions of the Christmas Story. Much has been written on the three gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus. Yet the main point of this episode in the life of Jesus is God’s will to manifest the Savior to gentiles. It is a foreshadowing of the universal call of the gospel to all men not only those of Israel.

These wise men traveled from the east. They were possibly from ancient Babylon or even further east. They may have been court advisers to kings who “read” the stars. God led these men to the exact location of Jesus’ birth. Pictures often show the wise men kneeling before the baby Jesus. But, it was more likely that they arrived during the time that Jesus was a toddler. Herod set out to destroy Jesus by killing all the male children up to two years old. He based his assumption on the timing of the visit of the magi.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord and they were far from the reach of Herod. This is one of many revelations from God that His plan of redemption cannot be thwarted by man.

The visit of these men holds an important place in God’s plan of redemption as it demonstrates what Isaiah prophesied under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. In addition, Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:16

The visit of the wise men has been viewed in the church as so significant that a special feast day was established. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the church every January 6th. The word “epiphany” means manifestation. All who are in Christ know that God is not a respecter of nationality or social status. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Why is this divine manifestation so important? It is important because of who was manifested! Jesus Christ is the only Savior. He is the God-Man. He lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. God made Him known.

John’s Gospel says that the One who made all things came into the world and the world did not know Him, John 1:10.

After all the presents have been opened and family dinners have been enjoyed, receiving the truth of Jesus Christ is crucial. John wrote, “to all who received him (Jesus), 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

The grace and mercy of God are so great that He chose to make known the truth to those whom He calls. None of us is capable of seeing the truth of Jesus on our own. We all depend upon God’s grace.

My prayer is that the word of Christ will pierce your heart and you may know the one who has the words of eternal life even Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Miracle of The Incarnation”

“The Miracle of The Incarnation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Come expecting a miracle!” The likelihood of hearing some Word Faith teacher or Prosperity Gospel false teacher exhort people to come to some healing crusade is sadly good. Rather than listen to lies, read the Scriptures. They record genuine miracles. There are two which are supreme. One is the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The other, equally significant, is the Incarnation.

The miracle of the Incarnation is God in the flesh. That is, God took upon Himself human nature. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Centuries before the actual event, the Prophet Isaiah predicted this miracle. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 God’s promise was fulfilled in 4 B.C. with the birth of Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

God spoke through His prophets declaring the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we are unable to thoroughly understand. We receive it as the truth because God said it. Our hope of eternal life is real because the miracle of Jesus’ birth was real.

The Apostle Paul took the opportunity of rivalry and disunity in the church to declare both the explicit and implicit meaning of the Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

First, the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He set aside His glory. No analogy is adequate to describe Jesus’ humiliation in the Incarnation and His crucifixion.

Paul wrote that Jesus was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, Galatians 4:4. Jesus was fully man, but a man without sin! Jesus was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. He was miraculously born of Mary who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Jesus’ humility in fully submitting to the Law in obedience to God the Father even unto death upon a cross those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of His blood and righteousness. Apart from Jesus’ Incarnation we would never be able to have a relationship with God. The Incarnation led to the satisfaction of the Law’s demands! Because of His perfect sacrifice our sins have been paid for.

Second, Paul also wrote of Jesus’ exaltation. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, God gave Him the name that is above every name. That name is Lord. The Father gave Jesus to be the Master of all that exists. Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

In summation, Paul wrote of God’s purpose in the Incarnation. Everything about the Incarnation is for the glory of God, the Father! The entirety of God’s plan of redemption is for His glory!

The Incarnation also has an implicit affect. The implication of the Incarnation, God with us is that those who are in Christ are joint heirs of heaven with Him. All those who are in Christ will receive exalted and glorified bodies like Jesus. God has promised that His people will see Him face to face. Now, this, the Incarnation is a genuine miracle upon which our hope rests praise God for Jesus, the God-Man.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Truth… Is It Important?”

“Truth… Is it Important?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
It seems that every day a new story is breaking that reveal lies told to the public. It is amazing to me that some, possibly many don’t seem to care. Even and especially our leaders consumed with their own self-interest and power don’t care about truth and try to convince all of us that truth is based on perception, presumably theirs!

This troubling symptom of our American Culture leads me to ask, “Is truth important?” I am a Christian Pastor of an evangelical church. I meet people every day who are unaware of the truth or fail to see its relevance. I have talked with many over the years who live as though truth doesn’t matter. In other words, they live in denial!

I and every genuine Christian know the answer to the question of truth. The obvious answer is truth is important! It must be important because truth is reality. In order to avoid reality, men have developed the philosophy that there are no absolutes. Men suppress the truth in their unrighteousness, Romans 1:18.

The absolute that these deniers hold is that there are no absolutes. Within this philosophical system, the governing dogma, “there are no absolutes”, everything is relative. If you are thinking that this is the height of confusion, you’re right. It is illogical and disastrous.

There are many biblical texts that emphasize the absolute standard of God’s word, which is always true and reliable. Amos 7:8, “… The LORD said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

The plumb line that God showed Amos was the word of God. This vision foreshadowed the coming Messiah. Jesus is the standard, the plumb line. He said that He is the truth, John 14:6.

As a result of this pervasive idea of relative truth, we must live in the awareness of being surrounded the liars and deceivers who say that truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Jesus said, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:19

Men will always seek to hide the truth so as to keep their evil deeds from the light of day. The Apostle Paul wrote this, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

Truth is important and men lie. So, what are men and women of integrity to do? Jesus taught His disciples that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied, Matthew 5:6. Ultimately, the truth will prevail.

I believe that truth in the public sphere is a necessity. I also believe that those who are people of integrity have a responsibility to expect our leaders to tell the truth. The starting place is close to home. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes” or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37 Individuals of integrity are the starting point, especially professing believers in the Risen Lord Jesus.

Truth matters and it matters profoundly. It is absolute. Make decisions in life based on the truth, not on someone’s perception or opinion.

We are living in a critical time. Our nation is at a crossroad. Truth is one way and error another. Error and lies will only lead to disaster. Jesus said that the truth will set you free. We stand for freedom. Those who say that they cherish freedom should be truthful. Those who are truthful are men and women who know that there is absolute truth and live in accordance with it. Those who do should be held accountable to live what they profess. Those whose past behavior reveals that they are relativists should not be taken seriously, let alone be elected to public office or chosen to lead in the church.

Truth is indeed important! Our, your future depends upon it. You may try to ignore or suppress it. But, we will all stand before the truth, Jesus Christ and give an account for what we’ve done, 2Corinthians 5:10. He is ultimate truth and He expects men and women to live truthfully!