Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Politics or Morality”

“Politics or Morality”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Have you ever had the experience of listening to someone and feeling as though your body was like a thermometer? I’ve had that feeling more and more lately. Listening to some spokesperson list issues followed by a statement like, “There are good people on both sides.” There are issues about which reasonable people may hold opposing views.

In the church there are both creedal/confessional issues and application methods. Confessional issues are like a line in the sand. If one stands on one side, the side of the Confession or Creed that person is said to be orthodox.

For example, a confession all Christian Churches affirm is “Jesus is Lord.” If another would suggest that the meaning is only relevant to those who believe that Jesus is Lord and that there are other lords under whom men may live and still be within the “body of Christ,” that person would surely be seen as a heretic. What is confessed and believed is critical to life in Christ. A “said faith” is no faith at all, see Hebrews 6:4-6.

Issues of application in churches do not rise to the level of dogma. Church government or the frequency of celebrating the Lord’s Supper are not considered moral or essential issues.

Christians live in the world but are not of the world, John 17:14-19. We who are in Christ must make decisions concerning the things we hear. The “thermometer-like” response that I have been having concerns the confusion of political issues and moral issues. When the “red” rises in me, I must fall on my knees and remind myself of the truth that God is sovereign even and especially over evil.

My purpose for this article is to aid critical thinking so as to give tools for making informed decisions. The first step is to have definitions of terms solidly in our minds. Words have meaning. Without definite meanings we would not be able to communicate with each other. The word “moral” concerns what is right or wrong in human behavior; the word “right” describes that which conforms to facts or truth; “good” is everything that is virtuous and “evil” is the absence of “good”.

All genuine Christians affirm that God’s word is in fact His word. I teach and hold that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. The doctrine of inerrancy relates to the original autographs, the original writings in Hebrew (Some portions of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic.) and Greek. Knowing this and referring to Jesus’ words, “… No one is good except God alone,” Luke 18:19, we realize that in order to know what is good we must look to God’s word.

Knowing the “good” is not an option. God said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” Isaiah 5:20. God has told men what is good, Micah 6:8. Good, right and moral are related terms. In contrast, wrong, evil and sinful are related.

Here’s the problem: many times over the past few years and more frequently over the past weeks, I have heard people say that the issue of human life is a political one and there are “good” people on both sides. The two sides are referred to as “Pro Life” and “Pro Choice.” It would be more accurate to describe the latter side as “Pro Death.” Every time I hear a news person or political candidate describe the issue of life as political, the red in the thermometer rises in me. It compels me, as a Christian to speak out on this horrible state of affairs in our Nation. We are being confronted by those who are calling evil good and good evil. They categorize life as something that is under the purview of politicians saying that human life in the womb can rightly be ended by the mother’s choice. They celebrate the merchants of death, Planned Parenthood, by calling them providers of women’s health care.

I am NOT advocating a violent response. I AM advocating the use of the minds that God has given to all of us. Human beings bear God’s image. We can think and reason. No reasonable human being would choose to end the life of a baby in the womb.

I urge you who profess Christ to think; think deeply about God’s gift of life. Think about the Lord of life, Jesus Christ by whom through whom and for whom everything is made and exists, Colossians 1:16-17.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Has truth taken a vacation?”

“Has truth taken a vacation?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’ve stopped listening to the TV news. I’ve even turned off some of our local radio stations that report what they call the “news”. It seems that there is little concern for truth. The main emphasis has become spinning a story to support an agenda. This is my observation of our culture. Perhaps you may be confused over much of the main line media ignoring the despicable past behavior of one candidate for President and instead focusing on another candidate’s words spoken while he was in the business world, with no factual proof that he ever acted in accordance with his words.

We who are professing Christians shouldn’t be surprised by the depravity of man. The Apostle Paul wrote concerning this condition of mankind. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

The suppression of the truth in the world is not unexpected, or it shouldn’t be. Yet, in light of our culture, my main concern is the church. It seems that truth fares no better in churches. I recently received a survey by a ministry that I respect in done in partnership with another respected para church ministry. Ligonier Ministries partnered with Lifeway Research to discover the “State of Theology” in Evangelical Churches. The survey asked, “What do Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible?

By God’s design, the church is to be a light in the world. The church is to be a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, this survey discovered great confusion in Evangelical Churches. Here are some examples of the questions and the answers received by men and women who attend an Evangelical Church for worship.

The survey discovered that “46% agreed or somewhat agreed that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.” Also, “36% of self-identified evangelicals agree or somewhat agree that they contribute to earning heaven by the good deeds that they do.” There were several more alarming results. The survey reported that 43% of those surveyed agreed that God is the author of Scripture and at the same time, “modern science discredits the claims of Christianity.”

If your head is spinning, there’s more. Concerning the issue of ethics, that is how Christians make decisions concerning marriage and life, etc., “only 52% of self-identified evangelicals who attend church once or twice per month strongly agree that sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.” Concerning abortion, I was astounded to learn that “only 48% of self-identified evangelicals attending church once or twice per moth strongly agree that abortion is a sin.” Lest you think that only the uneducated Church goer reflects this kind of reprobate thinking, the survey asked this question of those who have graduate degrees, is it true that “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation”? The answer received was that 56% of this educated group disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the exclusivity of Jesus Christ!

Rather than seek to discover the root cause of this situation in the church, I believe that the more effective action is to be faithful in informing the members of our churches of the truth of who God is and what He has said. The conclusion reached by the organizations who performed this survey is worthwhile to quote exactly.

“Faithful Christians can look at these survey results and lament the state of theology in America. Or, we can look at these results and engage our Great Commission work with a renewed urgency and purpose. Ligonier Ministries is taking the latter approach. It is easy to get distracted by cultural trends and apply our resources toward chasing novel methodology. This survey reminds us of the necessity of teaching foundational truths: God’s holiness, Christ’s person and work, humanity’s true need to be saved from the wrath of God, and the Bible’s authority – even in the twenty-first century.”

My commitment as a Christian Pastor is to teach the truth. I urge you as a professing Christian to find a local church which is likewise committed to teach the truth. Above all, I urge you to worship God in a church that holds Him as the only object of worship! Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Clear Contrast”

“Clear Contrast”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We can learn a great deal by simply listening. Radio is one of the greatest sources to hear a clear contrast between what all Christians know to be true and what the world thinks. I should re-phrase the statement by inserting the word “should”. There is a clear contrast between what all Christians should know to be true and what the world thinks.

May I give a short answer for revising my statement to “should know” rather than the assumption that all professing Christians know the truth? The sad fact is that many churches calling themselves Christian are not teaching the truth. Church members are not being equipped to evaluate what they see in the world from a God-centered World View. Surveys done reveal that the life-styles of those who profess to be Christians are no different than the life-styles of those in the world. These churches are more interested in entertainment than exposition.

This article is not about the state of the Evangelical Church. Rather, this article concerns the obvious contrast, the clear contrast between a biblical, God-centered World View and a Man-centered one. For the purpose of explanation, I draw upon two recent statements. One is clearly Man-Centered and the other is clearly God-centered. Remember, a World View is the way we see reality.

First, the Man-centered statement that I heard on one of our local radio stations. A man was interviewed for having written a book that concerned looking for direction in times of difficulty. The author asked, “Where do you go when things are bleak?” He suggested that the one whom people often don’t list or go to even as a last resort is God. So far, so good. I rejoiced when he said it. But, then he gave the method. He suggested imagining two chairs one for you and one for God. He said to set aside five minutes. One minute to speak to God and four minutes to listen to God.

At this point, I’m sure that many of you who are Christians are saying, “That’s great advice!” I had a different reaction. My reaction was in the form of a question. How does one know that God is speaking? Now, I certainly believe that God speaks to His people. The way in which He speaks is through His word written, the Bible. A friend of mine says, “If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible out loud.”

The truth is, the Mormon Cult believes exactly what that author was suggesting. They suggest that in order to know God’s will just pray and ask Him and He’ll tell you. Beloved, there are many spirits as there are many antichrists operating in the world. We will even tell ourselves things to suit our needs. If you want to know God’s will go to His word. God’s purpose for you is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. Don’t fall for the nonsense that God “pours” His will into your head. That is a heresy called Gnosticism. It is darkness. God’s will is revealed in His word in the form of principles. The Holy Spirit applies those revealed principles uniquely to everyone who is “in Christ.” This is light. This process is called sanctification, a work of God’s free grace.

The second observation occurred during the recent Vice Presidential debate. This observation is a perfect example of a man holding a God-centered World View. There were two statements that struck me. In the midst of the moderator trying to speak over Gov. Mike Pence, he said,” My Christian faith is at the heart of who I am.” And, “… an ancient principle… where God says before you were formed in the womb I knew you.” As a professing Christian, Gov. Pence’s actions are informed by his faith. And, because of what God has said concerning the sanctity of human life, he works against the “abortion sacrament” that is a fundamental principle of the Democratic Party.

Where do these two statements originate for Gov. Pence? The first, Christians live by faith because everyone who is in Christ is a new Creation is from 2Corinthians 5:7 and 17. The second concerning the sanctity of human life is from Genesis 2:7; Psalm 139:13; and Jeremiah 1:5. These references are only three. God’s word throughout declares: He is the author of life; He is the sanctifier of human life; and He holds men accountable to stand for human life!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What Choice Do I Have?”

“What choice do I have?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
My guess is that the title made you believe that this article would be about who to vote for in our upcoming election for President of the United States of America. Well, what follows may aid you in making that choice. But my main point is that we, especially those of us who are Christians, make choices continuously. The question is, “How do you choose? How do you decide what is the right course of action?”

Most politicians are proud to say, “I always do what I think is right.” In the ultimate sense, that statement is irrelevant. The relevant question is, “What is the right thing to do?” What anyone thinks is right matters only if one’s thoughts are held captive to obey Christ! 2Corinthians 10:5 The word of God informs each believer of the way to blessing, Deuteronomy 11:26-28.

Christians are not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. The result is: “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Therefore, believers are to live as children of light, that is, to follow Jesus. Disciples of Jesus Christ are told that the “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.” Knowing what is good, right and true is called discernment. Doing it is wise living.

The Ancient Hebrews knew that “the fear of the LORD was the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely it is necessary for the creature to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Just as the church in the Old Testament knew to apply God’s word for wise living, every believer ought to do likewise.

The application of God’s word is wisdom. Knowing the right action requires knowledge of what God has said.

The Bible reveals attributes of God. He is good, righteous and true. The only way to know God is to know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The Father is the source of wisdom and discernment. Knowing the right choice comes through having a personal and intimate knowledge of His Son, Jesus.

Making right choices, discernment is wise living. Wise living follows the way of blessing. God said the way of blessing was to obey Him. Conversely, He warned that a cursed life would follow the one who disobeyed Him. I have yet to meet someone who wanted to live a cursed life. Yet, by ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we head towards destruction.

All this being said, the answer to, “What choice do I have?” is to know what is right, good and true. The method for knowing is not easy, but is a blessing. The method is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor. God has ordained that we grow in discernment and wisdom corporately. I am speaking of the necessity of growing in a church that teaches “sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1.

The Apostle Paul addressed the barrier to growth in discernment and it is recorded in 2Timothy 3. He wrote of the “last days”, those days between Jesus’ first and second coming. Paul said that people would be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Paul was not describing the world in general. He was describing the visible church corrupted by those who only looked godly. He gave a timeless answer to the problem. Paul’s answer then was for Timothy to continue in what he learned and firmly believed. Paul reminded Timothy that all Scripture was breathed out by God and it’s the Scriptures which are able to make the believer “competent and equipped for every good work.” God’s answer remains the same. The visible church is the place for growth in discernment through personal and corporate study of all that is good, right and true. Then you will be able to make the right choice!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Rule of Law… Here we go again!”

The Rule of Law… Here we go again!
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The giving of the Law and God’s ordination of civil authority are two blessings of God that intersect each other.

The blessing of the Law is stated in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. It was given to the Church of the Old Testament. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” Galatians 3:19. He called believers to “walk by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16. Believers live by the Spirit by applying the word of God in their lives.

He later wrote to the church in Rome, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad…” Romans 13:3 He reminded the members of the church that God is the one who ordains all authority. Those who are in authority are His ministers for the good and welfare of all people.

In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 and Galatians 3:19 the focus is on the Law of God which is the word of God and more precisely the Ten Commandments.

In Romans, Paul was referring to civil authority and by implication civil laws. God is the one who ordains all civil authority. God’s purpose is to provide for an ordered society. Those who are governmental officers are God’s ministers for the good of all. They are charged with keeping order so as to promote good. As God is the source of all that is good, civil authorities and civil laws are subordinate to God’s law.

The Bible declared a situation in which there was a conflict between God’s law and man’s law. When the leaders of Israel commanded the Apostles to cease preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

To help understand the importance of the Law and law in general, there are, what the Protestant Reformers called three uses of the Law as they are revealed in Scripture. The first use of the Law is to point to man’s hopelessness and his desperate need for a Savior. The second use of the Law is to restrain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law. The third use of the Law is to guide the life of a believer in pleasing God. These descriptions of the three uses of the law have been paraphrased from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, chapter 7, sections 9 and 10. John Calvin articulated what the Bible teaches concerning the Law, Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Galatians 3; 5 and Romans 13.

The intersection of the blessing of the Law and Civil authority is the second use of the Law. It is the means given by God to put bounds around sinful mankind. It is this use of the Law that is the foundation of every society.

It is accurate to say, “All truth is God’s truth”, especially when speaking of the rule of law. We are experiencing the disregard of law by duly elected members of our government. We read about our Executive Branch ignoring laws enacted by our Legislative Branch of government. We hear excuses offered by a Political Party for their candidate’s behavior demonstrating that laws/rules apply to others. We see people being manipulated into thinking that those who dedicate their lives to protect citizens are actually intent on doing harm to them.

But our hope is that our country was founded upon a principle that our government is by the people and for the people. Our founders understood God’s blessing of Law. I pray that all our citizenry would recognize our current situation. May we all devote ourselves to elect men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law and encourage respect for police. May we once again understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we will be able to guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Attracting People”

“Attracting People”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Evangelicalism in America has embraced the idea that men and women are seeking after God. You may hear pastors say, “There’s a hunger for the gospel!” I will agree that there is a “hunger.” I would not agree that the hunger is for the gospel. The gospel is the good news of God in Jesus Christ. Those who hear it and receive it are changed. Christians are humbled before the holy and sovereign God. Christians are made new creations by God. As a result, the desire of the Christian is to submit to God and live under His word. Perspectives are changed. New desires are given by God. Jesus said that to be His disciple one must take up his cross daily, that is one must die to self! Luke 14:25ff

The “hunger” seen is a desire to be lifted out of difficulty, to have some “need” met or to find a purpose in life. Evangelical leaders recognized this condition and a movement was begun. It is called the “Church Growth” movement. There were certainly well-intentioned reasons promoted by the founders of the movement. Surely, the church should attract people by offering programs that will feed the hunger. They suggest that once people are brought in, then the gospel can be preached. Yet, the unspoken motivating factor is numbers, hence the name “Church Growth.”

My observation is that it has worked! Churches have been attracting more and more people. Churches spring up seemingly overnight. Snappy visions and programs attract many. Yet, as we look around at the lifestyles in the church, it is reported that behavior in the church mirrors behavior in the world.

One large congregation on the West Coast of America was started by knocking on doors in the targeted neighborhood and asking “What would it take for you to go to church?” After compiling the results, a “church” was formed to meet those expressed needs. The church was named the Crystal Cathedral. It was a forerunner in the Church Growth movement. It grew to thousands. Yet its leader expressed universalism. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ was denied. The Jesus talked about did not resemble the Jesus of the Bible! It created a horrible picture in my mind of people being given temporary comfort on their way to hell.

There are common threads in churches focused on attracting people. One thread common to all is their entertaining worship experience. A key word used to promote worship is “relevant.” Skits or pageants replace preaching. Prayers are limited to one said by the Pastor. The only Scripture read during worship may be the verses or even a phrase from which the Pastor speaks. The worship service is designed for unbelievers. Praise bands entertain these congregations. Everything is very relevant, they say!

The motivation may be well-intentioned. Those who promote the “felt needs” philosophy of church growth sincerely believe that men and women can be convinced to give their lives to Jesus.

Saint Augustine once said that it was wrong to judge any movement by the abuses in it. In other words, while we may not like some of the aspects of the “felt needs”/ seeker philosophy of church growth, we shouldn’t summarily dismiss it based on its distortions. The appropriate question is, “What does God say concerning church growth and seekers?”

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “… I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jude wrote that believers are to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3. Paul warned that men would gather teachers to “tickle” ears, 2Tim. 4:3. The Christian Faith is the faith received by the Apostles who wrote and proclaimed the truth. The response of those pierced by the Word and Spirit, Acts 2:37, devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Jesus builds His church on the truth!

Jesus’ method for growing the church is very simple. Preach the word, 2Tim. 4:2 The means by which Christ builds His Church is through the proclamation of the truth, Romans 10:14-17. Other methods may attract people. But the only one that grows the church is Jesus Christ by His word and Spirit.

Dr. J. M. Boice, the late, great pastor and theologian said, “Using Man’s methods yields Man’s results.” Great numbers do not necessarily mean great churches. There is only one seeker, God the Father!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do Not Fear!”

“Do Not Fear!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Matthew 10:28a
“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

It has been fifteen years since we all saw the face of evil. Radical Islamists attacked our country. I remember seeing the black hearts of men motivated by evil on my TV. I was in my Pastor’s Study in the Church that I served in Orlando, FL. I distinctly remember being stunned. I thought that I was watching a trailer for a new movie. But, unfortunately, I was seeing a glimpse of the depravity of man.

On September 11th this year, we took time to remember those who were murdered by radical Islamists a decade and a half ago. We grieve with those who lost loved ones. This year, in my remembering, I looked at the words of Jesus. “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.” Matthew 10:28

It is critical that we continue to remember what happened on September 11, 2001. Our Country was attacked. From that day we have been at war with the radical adherents to the Islamic faith. But, as a Christian, I am compelled to remind myself that there is a God who is sovereign over all things, even evil. Do not fear men!

Not only have so many forgotten 911 but we now seek to negotiate with evil. We live denying history. Solomon said that there is nothing that is really new. The evil that men do is not new! Yet, as the Philosopher Edmond Burke once said, unless we remember the past we will likely repeat it – mistakes and all.

Remembering is not only necessary in secular life but it is essential in the Church as well.

I recently asked our Adult Class, “Why should we study Church History?” I received an immediate response from a man in the class, “So that we don’t make the same mistakes.” We all had a great laugh, but the fact is some Christians think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. But, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham. The word “church” means those called out by God. This is what God did: He called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel. Much can be gained by studying the church’s history.

For thousands of years, God has called men and women to Himself. The accumulated wisdom of those “saints” is important to study so as not to repeat their mistakes and to learn how the church dealt with error.

For example, it can be said that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many. The question of evil has been studied over the centuries by all believers. We know, as God has revealed that the only remedy for evil is the wrath of the holy God. We know that God will crush all that is evil. He will do it and we can rest our hope on the truth of God’s word.

Too often, Church Leaders take the approach of our naïve leaders in government and seek to negotiate with evil. Because of the failure of churches to teach the truth of God, to worship God and to equip God’s people to grow up in Christ, members are unable to discern good from evil. The church has turned from exposition to entertainment. Mega churches continue to grow in numbers but their members are ill-equipped to respond to evil.

The prophet Isaiah said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20

Remember 911, while trusting in God and join a church that will equip you to live in Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What’s in it for me?”

“What’s in it for me?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God commanded His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday. The Church refers to Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Scripture does not reveal God’s primary purpose of worship to be satisfying His people. Yet, it is true that our satisfaction in God is most apparent as we worship Him. John Piper wrote that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

However, I have observed that the most common questions asked by people who are searching for a local church are about their felt needs: “What’s offered for my children?” Or, “What kind of music is used?” Or, “Are there people of my age and circumstances here?” Condensing all of the various questions leaves the basic one. “What’s in it for me?”

This entire issue is addressed to genuine Christians, those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. A genuine Christian is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God. The Bible views salvation in a logical order. First, God Effectually Calls a dead person to life. The effect of His call is Regeneration. All men are born dead in sin. God must raise a sinner from death to life. This is what Jesus said is being born again, John 3. The result of regeneration is Conversion. That is, God converts a sinner to a saint. In doing so, He gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second it the gift of repentance. Those gifts are exercised by those who receive them. The result of turning from sin and turning to Jesus is Justification. Justification is a legal term. God’s declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. All this is called double imputation. After justification, God Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Following adoption, God begins His work of Sanctification. Literally, as Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s action of making the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. The end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to see us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. I would encourage you to read Romans 8:30 and notice that all of the verbs are in the past tense, even glorified.

Christians, those made “new creations in Christ” are the church. The visible church, the one we see, is defined as those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and their children. The visible church is where I, as a Christian can invest myself in the Kingdom. As a Christian, God has given me the desire to worship Him. The question should never be “What’s in it for me?” The question on the Christian’s mind and heart is, “What’s in it for God?”

God made every one for worship. Men and woman will worship someone or something. To worship is to bow down to and serve the object of worship. The object of our worship is God. Those seeking something for themselves are worshiping themselves!

The worship manual of the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church, the book of Psalms states the changed heart of a believer, Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ God places in each believer a desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

A believer grows as he understands that corporate worship is more than a duty; it is his desire! So then, has God filled your heart with a desire to worship Him with other believers? Worship Him by seeking the worship that pleases Him, Hebrews 12:28-29.

Pastor’s Viewpoints,”The Power of God”

“The Power of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

The Apostle Paul wrote, the gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe, Romans 1:16. Therefore, the gospel is every Christian’s focus. Likewise, the preaching of the gospel is foremost in every church that professes Christ as her head! The popular Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it. He proclaimed the good news of God!

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative mood and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem ,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! Rely upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Pastor’s Viewpoints,”No One Cares…when truth doesn’t matter”

“No One Cares…when truth doesn’t matter”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
When a society is engulfed by lies, distortions, or half-truths the people begin to believe that truth doesn’t matter. We are close to this being the case in our society. Facts are considered those things that are to be spun to benefit someone or something. Every day a news story breaks and those reporting it give perspectives on the facts rather than simply stating them.

There is something even more troubling to me. Truth in the eye of the beholder is in the church. Basic understandings relating to God’s self-revelation are taught as “perspectives.” The real importance, we’re told, is “How does the Bible impact you?”

I am a Christian Pastor of an evangelical church. I often meet people, as I’m sure you do, who believe truth is a matter of perspective.

This low view of reality is not new. It’s as old as mankind. It’s been around since the “Garden.” Satan’s lie was a denial of absolute truth. “You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:4

Likewise, Jesus faced this phenomenon as He was being questioned by Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus a rhetorical question. He asked, “What is truth?”, John 18:38. For Pilate as for many truth was irrelevant. What really mattered was, who has the power? But unknowingly Pilate’s question expressed the result of absolute truth! God has absolute power. Pilate was standing in the presence of the one who would say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Matthew 28:18. Jesus, the God-Man, rules all things. He has absolute power. This is the truth and it matters to all!

A philosophy popularized by Joseph Fletcher in the 60’s called situational ethics, bases ethical decisions on circumstances. Fletcher claimed that this philosophy emphasized the primacy of love. This may sound good and reasonable. You may even think that because it is based on “love” it is gracious and promotes compassion. Yet, as you might expect, one’s definition of “love” is critical in situational ethics. Fletcher defined love in utilitarian terms; that which is loving promotes usefulness.

A further deterioration of culture came about by a philosophy that mirrors situational ethics. It is moral relativism. Moral relativism has no absolutes. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Within this philosophy the governing dogma is that everything is relative except the absence of absolutes. This confused thinking is common today. It is the reason many think that truth doesn’t matter.

In moral relativism, truth has no role. One of the horrible results of such a philosophy is the secular view of human life which is the value of human life is derived from its usefulness. The truth is all human life which begins at conception is sacred because God set it apart. Human life has dignity and value because God is the Author.

Opposed to moral relativism is 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 is the word of God. Amos’ vision foretold the coming Messiah. Jesus is the absolute standard. He said that He is the truth, John 14:6.

Men and women will always seek to hide the truth so as to keep their evil deeds from the light of day, John 3:19.

I believe that the centrality of truth is essential if our western culture is to survive. I also believe that the church is accountable to God to teach the truth to her people. All people should expect our church and civil leaders to speak the truth. The starting place is personal. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes” or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

Christians are people of truth because genuine Christians are in union with Christ. Believers are purposed by God to bear the fruit of Christ-likeness.

May the church lead the way. May all who profess Christ live the truth, share the truth and by all means expect leaders to speak the truth in all aspects of life.

This is a unique and challenging time. Christian, don’t hide the light of Jesus, the way and the life and the truth, but let it shine!