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!

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

“What Are We Waiting For?”
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 indeed comfort for God’s people because they are reminded of His sovereignty and the absolute truth of His word. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8 The “Servant” who would comfort and redeem God’s people, revealed in Isaiah 42 and following is Jesus! He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Luke 4:18-21. The Servant of God, Jesus, brought comfort which is the assurance of deliverance leading to glory for those in Christ.

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 make all things new, Revelation 21.

For His people God has promised comfort, peace and glory. This is what we 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 remember the reports of the evil behavior of radical Islamic terrorists. We have heard of the brutally evil behavior of an abortion doctor in Philadelphia and civil leaders who approve of the murder of infants. We see the effects of tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and other events causing destruction and loss of life.

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 the love of God in Christ Jesus, 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 wait for perfect justice and glory, knowing that we have peace with God in Christ, Romans 5:1. We wait with eager expectation and the assurance of glory knowing God’s promise. We wait persevering in faithfulness to His word.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Black Friday”

“Black Friday”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Black Friday” has become very well-known and even expected. Merchants trying to get a jump on Christmas shopping have coined the title, “Black Friday”. Our culture continues to push a secular agenda on all of us. Now the press of shopping is crowding out a time of personal reflection on the goodness of God. Black is an appropriate word not only for a shopping day but also to describe the drift of western culture.

Giving thanks is a reasonable response of Creatures to their Creator. Thanking God is inseparable from praising God. Praise and thanksgiving are activities included in biblical worship. Those who thank God acknowledge His mighty works and His attributes. We give thanks to the one who provides all things, is the Lord of all things, and is always good!

King David wrote Psalm 65 and it has been used throughout the history of the Bible as a song of worship. Verse 1, “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.” King David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit put everything into a right perspective. He declared that praise is owed to God! Praise is the verbal declaration of the mighty works of God and His character. We are Creatures and we are in debt to the Creator. Surely professing Christians know that they are called to remind themselves that all we have and all that we enjoy has been provided by the hand of the sovereign God. We remember God’s mighty acts recorded in the Scriptures as we gather with brothers and sisters in Christ in corporate worship. It is expected that we will not keep those acts of God to ourselves. Praising God not only is required but it is the means to experience true peace in the midst of a black culture.

Biblical praise requires knowledge of God and His mighty acts. Too often, we think that praising God is a spontaneous emotional act done by “Charismatics” or “Pentecostals”. Some might suggest that praise is “Letting go of our inhibitions and being led by our emotions”. Praise is rather an intentional act which begins in our minds. As we read and study God’s word, those mighty acts like the deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt impress on our minds the absolute sovereignty of God. It reveals to us His grace. It demonstrates His providence. For those who have been born again, the Holy Spirit illumines their minds so that they may see and apply the truth of God. It is through this means that God sanctifies those whom He justified and gives peace. Biblical praise changes the worshiper thereby causing him to know God’s peace which passes all understanding, Cf. Philippians 4:7

The second part of verse one, “And to you shall vows be performed” aids in our understanding of genuine faith. Those who are intent on praising God are those who seek to be faithful to Him. A vow is a solemn promise. David wrote of the expectation of those who praise God to keep their promises made to Him.

When God breaks into the life of a man or woman, He makes that person a new Creation, 2Corinthians 5:17. There is an observable difference in one who has been born again. The Bible refers to this change as conversion. God changes the one whom He raises from death to life. Conversion is done by God instantaneously but continues throughout the life of a believer. The instant God converts a sinner into a saint is described as being brought from darkness into light by the Holy Spirit. The process of change that continues is what the Bible calls sanctification. Part of sanctification is profession. That is, when a believer is changed by God, he desires to declare his reliance upon Christ. Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven…” Matthew 10:32.

Christian, in the face of the increasing secularization of our culture make it a priority to give thanks to the God whom we praise for His mighty acts and attributes in corporate worship on every Lord’s Day. May the assurance of knowing Him provide you with the peace that surpasses all understanding. “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple!” Psalm 65:4b “Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness!” Psalm 96:9a

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 the day apart to thank God for His providence. Thank you is so easy to say, yet so often neglected.

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.

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.” 1Chr. 16:4

The Ark of the Covenant was designed by God 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 for our daily sustenance. God’s people in the wilderness were fickle as are we. God gave them a sign of His 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 became a reminder to the people of God that He 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 Holy Spirit who testifies to their spirits 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 Choices We Make”

The Choices We Make…
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Scripture Quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV)
We all choose what we desire. We do what is our strongest “want” at the moment of choice. Yet, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign, and He has ordained the steps of men. Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” There is no contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s choices. The link between these two truths, God’s sovereignty and man’s will is the doctrine of secondary causes. The Bible does not teach what is called determinism. We are not robots. Yet, God’s revelation clearly declares that nothing that we do is outside of God’s sovereign will.

The matter of secondary causes represents the actions of men which God ordained in eternity to accomplish His decrees.

One clear example of God’s sovereignty was written by Jeremiah. “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 Isaiah also wrote concerning God’s sovereignty. “Also, henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” Jesus, who is God, declared “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Christians affirm the sovereignty of God. But confusion comes when God’s sovereignty is placed against our choices. God ordained the daily routines and details of our lives. Yet, we all choose to do what we desire. Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20

We search for answers that suit our finite minds. Some suggest that God is sovereign over the beginning and the end, but for all that is in the middle He has given man free will to choose whatever is desired. If this is true, then God is not sovereign, His word is false, and He is not God!

But God is sovereign over the ends and the means. He uses secondary causes to accomplish His ordained purpose. King Solomon wrote, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the Hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.” Proverbs 21:1 Luke recorded Peter’s explanation of a secondary cause used by God to accomplish redemption. “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:23

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1 states this concerning secondary causes.
“God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

Every action and circumstance has been ordained by God. And, He has chosen to accomplish His ordained plan through secondary causes, namely our choices.

Thereby, the sovereignty of God does not excuse man for his actions. The Bible affirms from cover to cover that every man is responsible for his actions!

The Creator has the right to make creatures as He wills. The Apostle Paul used very strong words aimed at those who rejected the absolute sovereignty of God in choosing some for salvation and passing over others. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you make me like this?”’ Romans 9:20

You may be thinking that the doctrine of secondary causes is interesting but all that one needs is to believe in Jesus. True, but, simply saying His name is not the extent of the saving faith given by God. When one comes to Jesus, he comes to the One who is Lord of all. He is the one by whom and for whom all Creation was made. His word declares that we are accountable to Him for our choices. He has also revealed Himself to be the sovereign ruler of the Universe. True, all that is necessary is to believe in Jesus, but in what Jesus do you believe? Is He the one who somehow permits you to wander in life as you choose or is He the one offered in the gospel who has ordained the steps of your life?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “True Religion”

“True Religion”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You may think that this Pastor’s “gone to meddling”. But I assure you that the topic of religion is extremely important. Since religion is important, we should concern ourselves with what is called true religion.

Religion is generally defined as a set of beliefs that connect the cause of nature and the purpose of life. Religion is relevant for all whether one is an evolutionist or a creationist. Even those who hold to a man-centered worldview practice a religion called secular humanism.

Those of us who believe in the Creator affirm that man was made for worship. Therefore, mankind has always pursued a means to reconcile himself to the Creator.

Two Latin words combine to form the word “religion”. “Re” means to return and “ligare” means to bind. So, religion is descriptive of the means by which men seek to “bind” themselves to their Creator. Another way of stating the same thing is to define religion as the means by which we seek reconciliation with our Creator.

Since religion involves reconciliation and all men express religion, it is reasonable to seek true religion. True religion is the real expression of reconciliation to God. That is, true religion reflects a right understanding of man’s relationship to God. He is the Creator and we are creatures. The Westminster Confession of Faith used the term true religion in defining the visible church. The visible church is made up of all throughout the world who profess the true religion and their children.

Philosophers say that there are many religions. You may have had a course in college that studied world religions. The late philosopher and professor, Dr. Joseph Campbell said that all religions were simply reaching for the truth. He said that, no religion could make the claim that it was the true one. Joseph Campbell taught, wrote, and was an alumnus of Columbia University and a Professor of Literature at Sarah Lawrence College. You may remember the interviews conducted by Bill Moyers with Professor Campbell. They are still periodically aired on Public Television and are available in book form, “The Power of Myth”.

Joseph Campbell, considered by some to be one of the greatest philosophical minds of the 20th Century, said that the purpose of life was to “follow your bliss”. Another name for this philosophy is hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure. Opposed to this is the Christian Philosophy of Life. Glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

All men can choose to believe anything. It is a sad commentary on our culture that elite institutions of learning would produce such an erroneous, shallow, and illogical philosophy of life such as Campbell’s and teach it to unsuspecting young minds.

There is a test that serves to guide us on recognizing what is true. The test is general and is stated, “That which is true is true for all or for no one.” One doesn’t need to be a Christian to apply this logic to Campbell’s hedonistic philosophy. His statement is destroyed because one person’s bliss may result in another’s terror. Evil is not relative.

Returning to “True Religion”, I propose that true religion can only be described by a right understanding of who God is and who we are. True religion begins with God’s revealed truth of His character. First and foremost, He is the one who spoke, and all creation came into being. He is the eternal being. He has provided the only means by which men might be reconciled to Him. We know Him in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

As we look at our religious practice. We must ask ourselves some fundamental questions. Is our religion centered on God? That is, do we worship God as He has commanded man to worship Him? Being centered on God demands us to think about our hopelessness apart from Him. God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. God must raise an individual from death to life so that he is able to see the truth. God has said that the only means of reconciliation of the world is in Christ alone.

The most visible expression of true religion is worship. As you gather to worship with God’s people are you gathering for fellowship or to declare your praises to God, to hear from Him and to confess your trust in Him? True religion is not about community or relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. True religion is about worshiping God as He has revealed Himself.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Frustration and Injustice”

“Frustration and Injustice”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Psalm 73 speaks to the root cause of frustration and anger. The Psalmist described his frustration caused by the prosperity of the wicked. He could not understand how the wicked could go unpunished while they enjoyed prosperity. The Psalmist knew that God was the source of all that is good. He also knew that God was holy and just. His struggle with knowing the holiness of God and seeing the prosperity of the wicked caused him to be frustrated.

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:1-3 (ESV)

The human author, Asaph was placed in charge of the singers and musicians in God’s House. King David assigned him the task of leading God’s people to thank Him and praise Him.

The first three verses put his frustration into perspective. Asaph addressed Israel in general and specifically those who are “pure in heart”, which means those who are faithful to God. The phrase “pure in heart” is in parallel with “Israel.” Applied today, the Psalmist described those in the visible church living under the word of God.

He reminded us of the goodness of God. God is always good. The Bible says that God is the source of all that is good. James wrote in his epistle, “Every good 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

Asaph acknowledged his own weakness. He said, “My feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” Asaph was close to being overwhelmed by the prosperity of the wicked. He said that he was envious of their worldly success.

He saw the wicked prosper in the midst of their arrogance. Asaph experienced what we experience. He saw the proud and arrogant living above the law. We see our leaders selectively enforce the law. He saw men acting selfishly at the expense of others. We see men using the law for their own purposes. Asaph declared that these arrogant and proud men escaped any judgment in this life. “For they have no pangs until death…” Psalm 73:4a.

It was obvious to Asaph that the only time of judgment for these men was death. This was little comfort to him as all men die, even the righteous die.

Asaph kept looking for justice and found none. The wicked were living in great prosperity and no one was holding them accountable for their actions. He was at a loss to explain their prosperity in the face of a good God. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task.” Psalm 73:16

Compound what you see concerning the prosperity of the wicked with the reality that many people don’t seem to care to do anything about it and you have the formula for deep frustration leading to anger, symptomatic of our society.

One of the great comforts given to us in the Psalms is that godly men experienced what we often experience, and that God not only listened but He answered them in their distress. Asaph received God’s response to this injustice.

Asaph wrote God’s words as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. Asaph received God’s answer and it is important for us to observe where he received it. “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:17 Asaph received God’s answer in corporate worship. He entered God’s House and was able to discern the end of the wicked. As he worshiped God everything was put into an ultimate perspective.

Everyone must answer to God. This life is not all that there is. Like Asaph, Christians know that they are sinners and that Jesus paid for their sins. Christians also know that God has promised to forgive them and continually cleanse them from unrighteousness when they confess their sins to Him. The rest of mankind will fall under the wrath of the holy God. They are without hope.

This word is for the Church!

If you are relying upon Christ alone, you are secure. He will execute justice on those who live for themselves. They may have their best life now, but they will not escape the eternal wrath of God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Pain and Suffering

Pain and Suffering
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings…” Romans 5:3a
Are you kidding? Who is the one who rejoices in sufferings? I know I don’t find my joy in my sufferings. But the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said that he rejoiced in his sufferings! Why would he say such a thing? Notice that the verse begins with “more than that”. He had declared that anyone who has been justified by faith alone in Christ alone is at peace with God. More, he stated a propositional truth. He said that those who have been justified are destined for glory. He followed this certain hope of glory with his view of suffering. He saw the suffering of this life as a means by which God prepares His people for glory in heaven. Paul rightly viewed suffering as producing strength, confidence, character and a deepened faith. All of what suffering produces in the believer’s life ends in a deep and abiding confidence in our hope of glory!

Some attempt to explain Romans 5:1-5 as specifically referring to suffering for the gospel. However, there is nothing in the context requiring Paul’s use of the word “suffering” to gospel-related tribulation. I believe that the more natural interpretation that includes all pain and suffering is the Apostle’s point. Clearly, there will be suffering and persecution for Christ’s sake and the sake of the gospel. Jesus said don’t be surprised if the world hates us because it hated Him first. Those who follow Christ will be persecuted. However, there is just plain suffering, sickness and death. What about simply living in this fallen world?

One option given by the purveyors of the health-wealth gospel is that God doesn’t want anyone to suffer. If that were so, no one would suffer. They want us to believe that if we only had enough faith or prayed the right prayer, we’d all be healed. Their teaching is more than nonsense, it is damaging.

First, to believe that God wants everyone to be healed, we have to limit God’s sovereignty. Think about it; if God is unable to accomplish what He wants, then is He really God? God has revealed that He will lift His curse upon Creation, Revelation 21. There will come a time when there is no more pain, no more crying and no death. But now we live in a world that was broken by the fall of Adam and Eve. All Creation was cursed because of original sin.

Second, to believe the claim of the health/wealth teachers, we must deny reality. Suffering is real. No matter what we think or not think about sickness, suffering and death, they are undeniable facts of this life. A friend of mine used to say denial is not only a river in Egypt! We can’t simply “name it claim it and frame it”!

No one escapes the pain of losing a loved one, seeing someone we love suffer with an illness or experiencing pain, loss and sickness ourselves.

I would suggest to you that in the midst of suffering there is only one thing that will cause us to persevere through it. That one thing is not a thing but a person. Only knowing the one true God in Jesus Christ will give us the hope of which Paul wrote in Romans 5. Those who are in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit who testifies to our spirits that we belong to God. We will suffer now, but we are not those who suffer without hope. And, our hope is a certain hope. We can say with James, “count it all joy…” because on the other side of suffering is glory!

Those who study culture have written that our Western Culture is predominantly individualistic. Even in the church we seem to focus everything on the individual. The truth of Christianity is grounded in the word covenant. We who profess Christ are in a covenantal relationship with Our Father in Heaven. He has saved us as individuals, and He has adopted us into His family. The visible family of God is the church. This may seem disconnected to persevering through suffering. But the church is God’s blessing of a community of believers who will stand alongside of us in the midst of our suffering. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The decline of our culture”

“The decline of our culture”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What happened to our culture? Why is reality ignored? Where are those who are able to think critically about issues without being offended?

The current situation with our government has caused me to think through the issue of our cultural decline. What are the reasons for our confusion and division within various institutions?

What is happening to our Western Culture?

Our current events seem more like a fictional story than reality. It seems we are being led by men and women who continue to deny reality. There are no principles by which decisions are being made. It’s like the end of the book of Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Our leaders feel proud to say that they are doing what they think is right. I continue to look for government officials to promise to do what is right, not what they think is right. Judges 21:25b, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is contrasted by Micah 6:8, “… do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” One action reflects relativism while Micah called for submission to the ultimate absolute, God.

Our relativistic culture has taken decades to build. It will take a concerted and ongoing effort to reverse cultural relativism.

A symptom of our cultural decay into moral relativism is the impossibility of opposing parties to negotiate. People wonder why leaders can’t sit down together and come up with solutions to the problems we face in our country?

Since in a morally relative culture there are no absolutes, efforts to negotiate over any issue are ineffective. Each side is motivated by different principles. If there are any who hold to moral absolutes, they are marginalized and ignored. We are told that thinking there are moral absolutes is pejorative and mean-spirited. But in their absence negotiations and compromise fail.

Another symptom of cultural decline is the understanding of what is virtuous. Tolerance has become the primary virtue in society. Now tolerance is defined as accepting every position as equally valid. Compromise now includes setting aside principles. The reality is that every view of or position taken on the same issue is not equally valid.

Tolerance previously meant respecting those who have differing points of view. Previously one would never compromise on principles but would negotiate on non-essential details. Principles on which any position is based are never to be compromised because genuine principles are grounded in absolutes.

For example, we have been told that borrowing more money doesn’t mean increasing debt and this logical inconsistency is believed. Some leaders tell us that man can define marriage anyway he wants, and a baby is not a baby until he or she is born. Some say that a child has no right to life as long as he or she is in the mother’s womb. Main line Christian denominations maintain that the Bible is man’s word about God when God has declared that He has spoken to man. Those same churches maintain that men are not accountable before God to be spiritual leaders; that men and women are not only equal but the same. These days no one seems to ask what the Protestant Reformers asked. “What saith the Scriptures?”

I’m sure you could continue this listing of the effects of moral relativism in our society. We continue to experience great frustration in this new relativistic culture. The answer to the question, “What happened?” is… we happened. We who know better have allowed a vocal minority to aggressively change our culture. We allowed prayer to be removed from our schools. We removed any discussion of God from our educational institutions. We continue to elect politicians who don’t know or refuse to do what is right. We elect men and women who make promises to give us something in return for our vote. Our culture has stopped doing justice, loving mercy and acknowledging a sovereign God.

Some have written on this subject and concluded that the trend is irreversible. I am more hopeful. I believe that what has taken decades to accomplish will take a long time to reverse. But by God’s grace and mercy reversal is possible. We who believe in moral absolutes revealed by a sovereign God are called by Him to live our beliefs in all facets of life.

The following timeless quote is traditionally attributed to St. Augustine, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What you don’t know can hurt you!”

“What you don’t know can hurt you!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What you don’t know can hurt you. There are times when ignorance will lead you to ruin. The most damaging ignorance concerns one’s soul. Jesus said, “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 10:28, 39; 16:26 All these words are strong and clear!

Ignorance of God and of what He said can hurt you. Only knowing God and the one He sent, even Jesus Christ will save your soul. We know that what God has said is true. God said that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Yet there was a time that men sought to usurp God’s authority. These men were in the church rather than outside of her. They were false teachers and false leaders of God’s people. They sought to manipulate the people of God to find their hope in them rather than God.

But God in His sovereign providence raised up godly men to call the church to submit to God’s word. One of these men was an Augustinian priest. His name was Martin Luther. History records his action of rebuking the church as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther’s bold stand for truth is remembered annually on the last Sunday of October. The historic date was October 31, 1517. Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (complaints) on the Wittenberg church door against the magisterium of the church. His action was a response to another monk who was doing “fund raising” in Germany. This monk’s name was Tetzel. This unscrupulous man was put in charge of the sale of indulgences in Germany. He was “heard announcing that the indulgence that they sold made the sinner cleaner than when coming out of baptism and cleaner than Adam before the Fall and that the cross of the seller of indulgences has as much power as the cross of Christ.” One of Tetzel’s more evil pronouncements was, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” (The previous quotes were taken from “The Story of Christianity” by Justo L. Gonzalez, Vol. 2)

Martin Luther started a movement. He and all the Reformers knew that the church needed to be in an ongoing reformation. They taught that the church had to be diligent to reform herself to be in accordance with the word of God. They declared that the root cause of Rome’s problem was her view of authority. The Pre-reformation church placed herself above God’s word. The church’s magisterium, her leaders placed themselves as the authority over God’s people.

The root cause of the Protestant Reformation, also referred to as the “Formal Cause” was Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase Scripture Alone means that God’s word, the Bible, has ultimate authority. We who are believers live under the word of God.

The Pre-reformation church used their illegitimate authority to manipulate people with guilt. Looking to Jesus’ words we know that God alone saves. He is the one to fear. Jesus is the one for whom and in whom we live.

Fundamental to the formal cause of the Reformation was what is called the material cause. The material cause was the teaching of the Scriptures that justification (God’s sovereign act of free grace) is through faith alone. Justification through faith alone or Sola Fides is the truth revealed by God that eliminates the idea that men can merit God’s favor.

The Reformation was one of the most significant events in history. Yet, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten it. The practices that we see in many churches stand against the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Methods and programs are suggested as necessary for a “so-called” growing church. When asked about the Protestant Reformation, most in the church respond with a blank stare. Many have been taught that the Reformation was simply an event in history. We in the church must stand on the shoulders of the Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer and others. We know, as they taught, that the church must always be reforming herself to ensure that she is living under the word of God in submission to the headship of Jesus Christ.