Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What Are We Waiting For?”

What are we waiting for?
(Advent, a Season of Preparation)
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

God’s declaration through the prophet Isaiah is a promise for believers. The verse is in contrast to those who appear strong like youths and those who are powerful. Those who are strong in worldly terms will all grow tired and weary. But those who wait for the LORD will not only survive but will run because they won’t get tired.

God promised to deliver His people and the prophet Isaiah began Chapter 40 with God’s word of “comfort”. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” This Chapter of Isaiah is the beginning of the “Suffering Servant” passages. The “Servant” is revealed to be Jesus! He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant, Luke 4:18-21. The Servant of God, Jesus, is the one who brings comfort. The comfort He brings is the assurance of deliverance which leads to glory in heaven.

Isaiah often wrote in the Prophetic Past Tense. That is, he saw future events as completed. When he wrote of judgment, he saw the total destruction of the wicked. He saw their final end. He used expressions such as, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:7

The end is certain. On the one hand God will establish perfect righteousness and on the other He will judge all ungodliness. There will be no escape for the ungodly. But He will also lift the curse of original sin and usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth, Revelation 21.

For His people God has promised comfort, peace, and glory. This is what believers are waiting for! We know that God never fails to keep His word. His word declares He has claimed His people as His possessions, Isaiah 43:1. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28

God’s people wait upon Him with eager expectation of the fulfillment of His promises. The promise now is comfort. We eagerly await His promise of final deliverance. These promises are for all those who belong to the LORD. Those who belong to the Lord wait upon Him. The word translated wait means trusting God now by obeying Him while waiting for His final deliverance.

Waiting upon the LORD is how Christians are called to live. It is an ongoing process. This principle is especially important during times of evil. We have heard and seen reports of recent evil behavior of lawless people in many of our major cities. We continue to hear of those who support the killing of babies because of their misapplication of personal choice. Our governmental leaders continue imposing demands and taking more of our freedoms. More and more cultural leaders call good evil and evil good under the guise of a self-centered sense of equity.

Evil behavior and disasters will be with us until Christ returns. The evil in the world done by men is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. Disasters, natural or otherwise, will be absent from the perfection that God has promised when Christ returns. But for now, God has promised comfort. His comfort is the certainty of knowing that evil and distortions and disasters will come to an end. Further, God’s comfort is in knowing that He is walking through these evil circumstances with us. Those who believe that Jesus is who He said He is and rely upon Him have the assurance that nothing will ever separate them from God, Romans 8:35-39.

The comfort is in knowing that His word is always true. He promised never to leave us or forsake us, Hebrews 13:5. By God’s grace, the experience of Christ’s work in our lives causes us to know that He holds us in the palm of His hand.

We are waiting for perfection. We are waiting for justice, peace, and glory. We wait for them with eager expectation and assurance that God will bring them all to pass. While we wait, we have the comfort of the Lord by His promise to be with us, Immanuel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Giving Thanks”

Giving Thanks
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Every day I thank the Lord for the blessings of this life. I know that everything that I enjoy is from His hand. We all enjoy the blessings of our sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote the reality of God’s sovereign actions in the midst of his suffering. Jeremiah said, “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?” God has called His people to “give Him thanks in all circumstances,” 1Thessalonians 5:18

We are blessed in our country to have a day set aside for giving God thanks. You may know that George Washington set one day apart to thank God for His providence. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day an annual observance.

Thank you is so easy to say, yet so often neglected by so many.

Our tendency is to look at those things that are not of our liking and complain about them. It seems distasteful to thank God for even those bad things. But that’s exactly what God’s will is for us. He said to give thanks in all circumstances, 1Thessalonians 5:18.

One of the greatest celebrations in the Bible was a thanksgiving service. 1Chronicles 16 records King David preparing and implementing a celebration of giving thanks to God. The actual event that motivated David was the reminder of God’s covenantal promise made visible in the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chronicles 16:4

God designed the Ark of the Covenant, and it 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. They saw the Ark of the Covenant as a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. The people of God were reminded that He provided their food in the desert. Jesus said that the Father knows what we need, and He will provide it. God’s people in the wilderness were as fickle as are we. God gave them a sign that He was leading them through Moses and Aaron. When rebellion broke out against Moses and Aaron, God caused Aaron’s staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It was a reminder to the people that God was leading them and would protect them.

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.

The above gives abundant reasons for giving thanks. But God is good beyond all measure. He has given us families, friends, provisions and above all the freedom to worship Him.

In addition, Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit who internally testifies that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers now have a clearer revelation of God’s working then did the church of the Old Testament. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God.

We have been given this opportunity to offer thanks and to take time for reflection upon the providence of God. Enjoy time with families and friends. Acknowledge the one who has so graciously provided all that we enjoy.

My prayer is that as you remember and give thanks you will be filled with the knowledge and love of God. He is the source of all that we have. “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 Thank the Lord God from whom all blessings flow!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Great Provider”

The Great Provider
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). These are the words of God spoken by Moses to the people of God in the wilderness.
The uncertainty and deep anxiety of many because of our economic situation, our federal government’s demonstrated incompetence, and our culture’s moral decay have led me to think of man’s most basic need and the only one who provides it. Man’s most basic need is life and the only one who provides it is God.
Jesus, who is the Incarnate Word, the only Son of God, quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4). Satan sought to tempt Jesus by drawing His attention to His physical needs. As you may recall, Jesus fasted for 40 days before meeting Satan. Satan challenged the fact of Jesus’ divinity. The challenge, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3) was met with Jesus’ reminder to Satan that there is something much more basic than physical needs. Jesus told Satan and reminded all of us that man’s very existence depends upon the word of God.
A few basic observations may especially help Christians put a right perspective on adversity, considering the current uncertainties of the state of our nation and culture.
God’s word in Deuteronomy was designed by Him to comfort and teach His people. God humbled His people so that they would know an important fact. That fact is the universal truth that all mankind exists by God’s word. There is no life possible apart from the word of God. The plain truth is that because God is, we are! All life proceeds from Him. The Apostle Paul told the philosophers in Athens that all mankind lives and moves and have being (existence) in Jesus. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “All things were created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17).
Many of us think we are the center of the world. Much of our current civil leadership uses this erroneous thinking to manipulate the public. Even those who profess Christ live as though they are the center of everything and fall prey to this manipulation. Many look to the government to provide their needs. When men fail and they will, the result is depression, anger, and despair. Unscrupulous leaders design systems purposed in making men dependent upon them. These leaders make promises that they have no intention of keeping. Yet they depend upon those who are already trusting in them to believe the promises and continue to keep them in power.
The current state of our nation and culture didn’t happen overnight. It took decades in our nation for our leaders to convince many citizens that they are dependent upon government. It will likely take much time to reverse this trend.
In the meantime, know that God ordained our current situation. At a minimum He is teaching all of us that He is the center of the world. He is the one who ordains the steps of men. It is His word by which we live and move and exist. He is the one who provides the needs of His people.
Whether you are directly affected by our government’s incompetence or simply one of many who don’t know from where your next meal will come, know this: Your life depends upon God. Jesus told His disciples that their heavenly Father knew what they needed and would provide it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that our current situation may not change. Yet, please know that amid your difficulty, God is with you. If you belong to Him, He has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
I pray that by God’s grace our nation will be lifted out of decline. Yet, I’m certain that we will continue to face many challenges to our faith. I’m likewise certain that some of our leaders will continue to usurp the place of the Great Provider. I urge you to know the truth. God has revealed the basic fact of man’s existence so that we might submit ourselves to Him and acknowledge Him, for He is the Great Provider.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Holiness, The Supreme Perfection of God”

Holiness, The Supreme Perfection of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We extensively use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We call things perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day.” Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).
There is always something lacking in our understanding of perfect. Our response to some of these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect.” The truth is there is a standard of perfection. God is that standard and His word reveals it. Jesus said that God alone is good. Yet both perfect and good do not fully describe God. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy [He said] because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:16). Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be faithful to the word of God.
I have found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes—His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. —and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect.
God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is wholly unique. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.
God reveals glimpses of His holiness in the Bible, e.g., Isaiah 6:1-5. The occurrence is God’s commissioning of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. Part of the vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” You may have heard that “holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.
The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy.” Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.
We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.
So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! As mentioned above, everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. Our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified (Romans 8:30). God glorifies His people by sanctifying them. He makes them holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify those who belong to Him so that when we see Jesus face to face they will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is man’s only hope!