Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Truth Matters!”

“Truth Matters!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

We are living in a troubled time. Many are happy to live in denial. Many believe that truth doesn’t matter. We’re told truth is relative, after all. We are presented with news reports that defy the truth, misrepresent the truth or just straight out lie. The word “spin” is now used to describe lying. The truth is spinned in order to suit and support an agenda.

News agencies often no longer report facts. The facts are “interpreted” to support opinions. When some seek to discover the truth concerning an event, they are met with, “What does it matter now?”

It would matter if the person who responded would have actually experienced the event that was claimed not to matter now. Reality like truth can be ignored but not denied (for very long).

We’re not the first to experience people who don’t think that truth matters. Two thousand years ago Pilate, the Roman governor of Jerusalem, said to Jesus, “What is truth?” John 18:38 In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary or irrelevant. Truth didn’t matter to Pilate because he thought that he had the power of life and death. Ironically, Pilate said that to the only one who has the power of life and death, Jesus!

The observers of Culture have called our time in the west the Post Modern Era. Simply stated, this era subverts the importance 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 it said, “It’s all about the journey.”

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

Truth’s simple definition is: truth is that which is real. The Bible teaches that men naturally suppress the truth. We like to press reality down so as to seek to live above it or ignore it. We can deny or suppress the truth all we want. But we must live in and face reality.

Modern philosophy teaches, what’s true for you may or may not be true for me. Those who see reality are referred to as simple-minded or bigots. The charge against those of us who recognize absolute truth is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. To be tolerant, one cannot possibly believe in absolute truth!

Some live their lives solely on “what works.” Truth seems to have a decreasing place in life. Numbers are manipulated to convince us that what we observe is not real. We need polls to be able to make right decisions.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to the secular world. Churches are planted and led based upon the “what works” philosophy. Pragmatism is substituted for a God-centered world view.

Some evangelical leaders say in order to grow the church must seek to meet needs. So, in order to meet these “felt needs” programs are developed. Rather than teaching sound doctrine, the church should teach on matters that “tickle” the ears. Popular topics in our culture should be addressed by the church, issues like sex, who to marry, how to raise children, etc. The assumption is that this will enable people to be better and more fulfilled. Surely, God wants everyone to be happy.

Opposed to this is God’s command. The church is to be holy because God is holy. The means by which God changes lives is through the reading, study and application of His word. God changes lives by His word working in concert with His Spirit.

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

To those who seek to be free, truth matters profoundly. Jesus is the truth and the way and the life, John 14:6! He is the only way to have a relationship with God.

Jesus is the supreme reality. Truth profoundly matters. Apart from the revealed truth of God there is no hope for us.

God is the center of life.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “I’m God and you’re not!”

“I’m God and you’re not!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
My title for this article is the short summary of perhaps the oldest book in the Bible based on its historical setting… That book is Job. Job is the record of God’s dealing with man and Satan. In it God reveals His absolute sovereignty. We learn of the problem of suffering in the world. Job is afflicted under God’s authority. Satan is given permission by God to afflict Job. God set bounds around Satan’s actions.

Three of Job’s friends try to place the blame for Job’s condition on Job himself. Finally, God questions Job and asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Job 38:4a.

Mankind is still trying to make a god after his own liking. I often hear people say; “My god is a god of …” You can fill in the blanks. Usually, when the issue of man’s total depravity or the suffering of the “innocent” is discussed the blank is filled in with the word love. That is “My god is a god of love.” The respondent usually has their own definition of love which includes God being surprised by suffering and His “winking” at personal sin. But the true God, the one who has revealed Himself in the Bible and fully in Jesus Christ is holy and sovereign. He has authority over all things, Isaiah 43:10ff; Matthew 28:18.

Herein is the problem. God has revealed Himself and men continue to reject the truth. God confronted His people with this radical truth. The first book of the Bible is the most confrontational revelation from God. Precisely, the first words of Scripture confront and convict our self-importance and self-centeredness.

“In the beginning God…” presents the reality by which reasonable and honest people live. We all live under the supreme authority of God who made everything out of nothing! He spoke and all Creation came into being.

Genesis 1:1 declared clearly that there was a time nothing existed. Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. He spoke and all things leapt into existence. This is the true God who changed me. He made me a new creation. His words declare that no man has the right to make the claim that he is “in charge.”

God confronted me with the truth of His sovereignty when He regenerated me. By God’s grace, I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and exercise sovereign control of my life. There is no other reasonable response but to submit to Him! Creation itself is a constant revelation of the absolute sovereignty of God.

King David wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1, ESV

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you or have you responded to the reality that you’re not in control?

The critic might say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” This supremely points to Jesus Christ, but is significant for the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But doing so is not only futile but disastrous.

So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator? As all men who have been convicted of the truth have done since the Garden, we fall on our knees before God and appeal to His mercy. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” Psalm 51:1

Jesus’ first sermon during His public ministry was, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; Repent and believe in the gospel! Mark 1:15 There is no other way to be able to stand before the holy God. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him, John 14:6.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Time to Praise the Lord”

“A Time to Praise the Lord”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Prophet Jeremiah was reluctantly taken with those who sought the protection of Egypt. They rejected the word of God spoken by Jeremiah and fled from the Babylonians. While in exile the Prophet wrote these words: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! …But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”’ Lamentations 3:19ff

This I call to mind! Twenty Nine years ago, God broke into my heart. I look back and know that I was born again on January 29, 1986. Jeremiah’s words drew me to think back on God’s steadfast love for me. It is indeed a time to praise the Lord!

Every believer has a story of how God changed his life. My story is different, but God’s work of changing a sinner into a saint is the same for all of God’s people.

God doesn’t want to make us better people. He doesn’t want to smooth out our rough edges. No! God changes us. In a moment, in a flash, God makes everyone He chooses a new Creation, 2Corinthians 5:17.

Since that day, twenty nine years ago, I have been experiencing God’s mercies. Indeed they are “new every morning.” Now I look back and by God’s grace am able to see His hand in my every decision and circumstance. All along I thought that I was planning my steps, But, God was working out His plan for me that He established in eternity, Ephesians 2:10.

On January 29, 1986 God snatched me from the pit of hell. Whether you want to admit it or not, we all deserve to go to hell. I was heading to hell and was unaware of it. In fact, I never considered that God would ever judge me. I looked around me and thought that I was a better person than most. I was sure that at the end of the day my good deeds would outweigh my bad ones. Surely, God would be pleased to accept me. I never heard nor would I have accepted that all men and women are born spiritually dead. We are by nature children of God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3.

God poured out His grace to me using a serious automobile accident to break me physically and spiritually. It was only by the providence of God that I survived the accident. The paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I was flown to a hospital in a larger city in Florida for treatment. Almost every bone in my body was broken. I sustained serious nerve damage as a result of spinal injury. My jaw was broken in two places. It had to be wired back together. As a result of head trauma, I didn’t regain stable consciousness until four days afterwards. When I awoke, I had a burning desire to run to Jesus. I had little knowledge of the truth of God, yet I had an unquenchable desire to know Him. By God’s sovereign grace, He raised me from death to life. He regenerated me. I was born from above!

Before God’s act of regeneration, I was blind to Him. I dare not boast of my faith in Christ. From beginning to end it is all by God’s grace. Jesus said that no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again, John 3:3, 5. God calls, regenerates, converts, justifies, adopts, sanctifies and glorifies. From the moment that God regenerates a man or woman, He begins His work of free grace called sanctification.

Over the weeks and months of recuperation, my desire for God grew. I read the Bible. I desired to worship God. I started to teach a small group Bible study. After five years, I was convicted by God to learn how to better teach His Word. He led me to seminary to learn and grow in Christ.

I have been an ordained minister of the gospel since 1994 and the Lord continues to show me His “mercies every morning.” Every day is a day to praise God but remembering what He did twenty nine years ago caused me to be filled anew with joy in Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why does the church exist?”

Why does the church exist?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The visible church is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and their children. Every local church that teaches Jesus is fully God and fully Man, the second person of the Trinity is part of the universal visible church. The Protestant Reformation described the true church, the visible church as every church that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical church discipline.

God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” But God has also organized the visible church. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:11-12. Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the world-wide visible church of Jesus Christ.

God organized the church and revealed her marks. He chose to use her to reach the lost. Likewise, God gave the church one reason to exist. The clearest word describing existence is purpose. In this sense, purpose is a reason for being. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ, God has given the church a singular purpose. The purpose or reason for being of the church is to be holy. God commanded His people to be holy because He is holy, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.

It is a common error to think that the purpose of the church is her ministries. Activities such as preaching, teaching, liturgy, and programs are often used to define the purpose of the church. But unless God’s revealed reason for the church’s existence is the foundation of all the work done the church fails to be faithful to God’s call. Put in another way, unless we understand who and what we are to be, what we do is of little value in the Kingdom.

The purpose of the church is holiness. The reason for the existence of the church is to be what God has commanded. Be holy! The basic meaning of holy is unique and set apart. The range of meaning includes purity and perfection. God is described as holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8. God set the church apart. The word used in the Bible and translated “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “called out”. God called a people who were not a people. God called His people out of the world to be different. Even though believers live in the world we are not of the world.

The clarity of God’s revelation on this issue is undeniable. Yet, there is a persistent problem. The problem is man’s sin, specifically pride. Some church leaders have taken it upon themselves to define the church’s purpose in pragmatic terms. They suggest that the reason for the church’s existence is found in what is done, especially what “works” by their definition. Usually, “what works” is defined in terms of numerical or financial growth.

Chuck Colson wrote in “Against the Night” that the church was becoming just like the world. D.L. Moody once compared the church to a ship in the sea. “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the church is in the world, but God help the church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the holy Jerusalem that the Apostle John saw coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church, Ephesians 5:25 to make her holy.

It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. The individual members of the church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, Ephesians 1:4. God doesn’t leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.

Christian, God commands you to be holy!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Relevance”

“Relevance”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

I’ve been thinking a lot, as I’m sure many have, about the state of our world. The world again witnessed evil. Islamic terrorists perpetrated murder in the name of their god. I’m not about to write an article on Islam. But, I do know that the range of practice within Islam depends upon one’s interpretation of the Koran and the writings of Muhammad. Actions are dependent upon either a literal or liberal interpretation of the source documents.

Learning what world religions believe, especially Islam would be beneficial. But, more important than knowing about world religions is to know the true religion, which expresses worship of the one true God.

Just a cursory reading of the basics of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. reveals that they contradict Christianity. Whether one is a believer or not, it is readily obvious that the one true God revealed in the Bible and fully in Jesus Christ is not the god of Islam or Judaism. Even though both are monotheistic religions (believe in one god).

Jesus said that He is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him, John 14:6. Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God and Jesus Christ, the one whom He sent, John 17:3. Jesus said that before Abraham was “I Am”, John 8:58. Jesus is the “Great I Am”!

Christianity is exclusive. God’s revealed truth contradicts every other religion. God’s word broke into the pagan culture that surrounded Israel. God said, “In the beginning (He) created the heavens and the earth”, Genesis 1:1.

The issue of relevance ought to be a concern of every man and woman. Relevance means “relation to the matter at hand”, Webster’s Dictionary. Our faith relates to the matter at hand because it is true. It guides our actions.

The object of our faith is the one true God revealed in His only Son, Jesus. Further, Christianity is grounded in the word of God written which is without error, reliable, sufficient and clear. Therefore, Christianity is relevant in every situation and circumstance.

How is our faith relevant in the face of such evil as was witnessed in France? It is relevant because the word in which it is based shows us that which is good, right and true.

Relevant application begins with recognizing evil. God declared a woe to those who call evil good or good evil, Isaiah 5:20. God’s word calls us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him, Micah 6:8.

Genuine Christians confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. Therefore, the relevance of the Christian Faith calls us to confront evil. We are to do what is in our power in standing against those who murder in the name of their god. We see them as agents of Satan who is the real enemy of all that is good, right and true.

We who are Christians expect our leaders to do what is right. When we see otherwise, the natural tendency is to despair at the weakness and ignorance of some of our elected officials. Yet despair should be far from those who profess Christ.

Christians do not place their hope in men. Our hope is in God. We know that He is holy and that He will execute His wrath against all unrighteousness.

We have hope because God has given us eyes to see and ears to hear the voice of the Savior. The hope that He gives is eternal. No one can rob us of the joy that is in Christ Jesus.

God sees the evil that men do. He will execute judgment against all evil doers.

Every genuine Christian has been given the Holy Spirit. His grace works in everyone who belongs to Jesus to live in accordance with His will. He is the Rock who gives us the strength to stand against evil.

I am not discouraged. I am filled with certainty. I don’t place my confidence in men. My certainty is in the God who spoke and all Creation came into being. My certainty is in the One who said, I will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5. My certainty is in the Risen Lord Jesus who will come again to pour out His wrath on evil. The relevance of Christianity is demonstrated by living it.

Pastor’s Viewpoints: “The Bottom Line”

“The Bottom Line”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We’re always interested in knowing the Bottom Line. The Bottom Line is an expression used to refer to the final number on a balance sheet. It’s often figuratively used to describe the final benefit of choosing a course of action. More importantly, there is a Bottom Line of all life! The Bottom Line of life is to “Fear God and keep His commandments, Ecclesiastes 12:13. God used the man whom He made the wisest one who ever lived, Solomon, to declare the “Bottom Line”.

I am continually amazed that most people don’t seem to be aware of God’s Bottom Line or even care that they are held accountable to meet it. This is serious enough, but it is disastrous for the church to fail to make her members aware of this ultimate standard.

Christians used to be known by God’s Bottom Line. We used to be referred to as “God-Fearers”. Fearing God is not a very popular topic in the church these days. Yet the response of those who know the one true God, even Jesus Christ whom He sent, is to fear Him!

As the church gathers for worship the fear of God is to be demonstrated!

Therefore, the church’s leaders are not benefiting their members by failing to teach the fear of God. We teach it first by submitting ourselves to Him and then by instructing/discipling believers to live under His word.

Three texts of Scripture come readily to mind: Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 provide God’s clear revelation of how He expects His people to stand before Him.

Solomon expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon’s conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits was: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

In addition, the Apostle Peter declared the fear of God to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Fearing God is to be in awe of Him; to tremble before Him and to revere Him supremely.

Both Solomon and Peter based their exhortations on an underlying assumption.

Their assumption was given by Jesus. Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is God’s answer. Men are to fear God because of who He is and what He can do. Jesus’ words are clear. He said that only God has absolute sovereignty over His creatures. Therefore, He must be approached in humility. We are finite. He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Why fear God? We fear God because He is!

How many think that their lives are hidden before God? How many are blind to the truth that they are created beings? How many give explanations for creation that fit within their limited understanding? How many think that there is no God to fear?

We fear God because, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Everything you see around you is there because of our Creator God. We have been made to worship God. He is to be feared. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. Fear God, it’s the ultimate “Bottom Line”. Fear Him by your life. Fear Him in Corporate Worship!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eyes of Beholders”

“The Eyes of Beholders”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Now, hold on. Why is a pastor who believes in absolute truth writing about the eyes of beholders?

Good question, in fact, I am amazed that this subject would need to be addressed to the church! I confess. I am aware that there are those in positions of leadership who believe there are no absolutes and two views of the same reality can yield two “different truths” opposed to each other. I am amazed that some actually believe them.

This confusion is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that is concerned with reality. A world view is a view of reality. There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has no absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

One of the most concerning applications of our culture’s current world view is determining the “right” or “wrong” of an issue by popular vote or court action. Two such examples come to mind. They are marriage and abortion. Our current societal views on these topics continue to be based upon Man-Centered views rather than God-Centered ones. The definition of marriage is often changed as a result of popular sentiment or activist movements. Likewise the decision to end the life of an unborn baby is said to be a woman’s right by edict of a Federal Court. Sadly, we are told that the minority report is, “God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman” or “God is the author of life.”

In both cases, the underlying issue is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. In other words, Jesus is reality. In order to fully understand reality, Jesus, God’s Only Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, must be at the center. Truth which is reality is not in the eye of the beholder and no society can exist very long if reality is ignored.

Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

The world view that is the basis of confidence and security is the one that has God at the center of life. Here is the truth that all mankind will face in one way or another. The God of the Bible is the Creator. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

That which is true is true for all or not true at all. I am accountable as a Minister of the Gospel to clearly state that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary for all men and women, believer and unbeliever. The reason is obvious. Truth, reality, is not in the “eye” of the beholder. We don’t vote to determine the truth. We simply receive it and live it.

There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

What is your world view? How do you decide what is right or wrong? Are you waiting to see which way the wind blows in culture before deciding your course of action? I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.

Pastor’s Viewpoints: “A Challenge for the New Year”

“A Challenge for the New Year”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Before looking ahead it’s a good thing to look back. I encourage you all to look back on the previous year and list those blessings from the Lord that filled your heart with joy. Our family was privileged to be given two new grandsons. Titus and Max were born respectively in Wellington, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. My wife and I thank the Lord every day for such great blessings. By God’s grace and providence we now have five grandchildren!

Now, to look forward, I again challenge myself and you all to a passion for the things of God. In other words, commit to pursue godliness; to obey the Lord’s command to “be holy”, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.

It seems to be normal fare to make resolutions and then discover that the year has gone by and we have failed to keep them. This renewed challenge, the pursuit of holiness, is one resolution that will be kept not because of our faithfulness but because of God’s promise.

The certainty of this promise being kept is a fact 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.

In other words, the challenge that I lay before you is simply living in Christ; every day dying to self and living for God. A genuine Christian will meet this challenge with joy in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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, rather the challenge that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. God made this promise, “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.

So then, what is my challenge? Very simply put, I am challenged as a Christian to pursue the things of God. My pursuit of holiness is a desire that God gave me at my conversion. It’s a desire that everyone who is in Christ has been given! Therefore, by God’s will we are called to engage with Him, responding to His Holy Spirit by being transformed by the renewal of our minds.

Meet the challenge God’s way through a local church centered in the word of God. The church is God’s instrument by which His people “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Miracle of Immanuel”

“The Miracle of Immanuel”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The dictionary defines a miracle as a supernatural event. Our lives rest upon the genuineness of the miracle of Immanuel, the Incarnation. The Incarnation means God in the flesh. December 25th is not simply a holiday. We celebrate the historic fact of God’s miracle of the Incarnation. We are merry because we know that the One who came and dwelt among us, Jesus, did what Adam failed to do. We know that Jesus, the God-Man gave His life as a ransom for many so that those whom the Father gave Him would be delivered from the bondage of sin.

The Prophet Isaiah said, “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

The Incarnation was so important that God spoke through His prophets throughout the Old Testament declaring the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we simply cannot adequately understand, but we receive this absolute 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 voluntarily set aside His glory. No analogy is adequate to describe Jesus’ humiliation in the Incarnation and His crucifixion.

Further, 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 Jesus perfectly obeyed God the Father even unto death upon a cross, those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of Jesus’ 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 the sins of His people have been paid for.

Second, Paul 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. The miracle of Immanuel is God’s provision that insures redemption for every believer.

May this Christmas Season remind you of God’s great provision in sending His only Son!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “When Jesus Returns”

“When Jesus Returns”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What will happen when Jesus returns? Christians believe that He will return. Christians believe that He will return not as a Savior, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians believe that He will judge both the living and the dead.

There are well-meaning, yet ill-informed Christians who have been told that the Church will be spared of living through tribulation. Many so-called Prophecy Experts promote some view of a “secret return” of Jesus who will “rapture” the church out of tribulation and then judgment will begin.

Let’s ask the real expert Jesus. In His Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24, Jesus gave very specific answers to the questions concerning the end of the world, His return and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

“As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”’ Matthew 24:3

These questions were motivated by Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He said that not one stone would be left upon a stone, Matthew 24:2. Jesus’ words were fulfilled in 70 A.D. This great siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army was led by Titus. The ancient Jewish Historian, Josephus recorded the total destruction of the temple and the barbaric actions of the Romans toward the Jews and even the horrific actions within the Jewish community.

The disciples also wanted to know about Jesus’ return and the end of this world. The first answer concerning the sign of Jesus’ second coming was answered very directly by our Lord. He said that His coming would be like lightning! The book of Revelation describes Jesus’ coming in these words. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” Revelation 1:7 It is clear that Jesus second coming will not be in secret.

The Apostle John was allowed to see Jesus’ coming and he sought to explain the unexplainable in words. The fact is no words are adequate to describe pure glory. But, the Revelation of Jesus Christ which was given to John was intended to reveal the certainty of Jesus’ return. All the nations will mourn because of sin. There will be great wailing by all because the time for salvation will be ended. When Jesus comes again, He will come to judge both the living and the dead. He will come not as the Savior but as the Judge.

Every eye will see Jesus in His glory. There is no “secret rapture” recorded in the Bible. By God’s sovereign grace, the church will persevere through ever increasing tribulation. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church.

The so-called rapture theology is built around one word derived from the Latin translation of the Bible. This word is “rapture.” The word in the original language is translated “caught up”, 1Thessalonians 4:17. Paul described what would happen to believers who were alive when Christ returned. He said that the dead in Christ would rise first, receive glorified bodies and those who were alive would be caught up in the air, changed in the twinkling of an eye to meet Christ as He descends.

Likewise, Jesus warned disciples when He said “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40-41 He followed that statement by calling the disciples to “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 In other words, Jesus was exhorting disciples to remain prepared for His coming because no man knows when He will return. In fact, Jesus declared that in His human nature, He didn’t know when He would return. “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36 But, Jesus said that He would return when all the elect are gathered in. That is, when all those whom God chose from eternity have professed faith in Jesus’ person and work, the end will come.

Don’t be distracted by spurious teachings. Rather, be ready for Jesus’ return. Repent and believe in the gospel!