Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Happy Thanksgiving!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We are blessed to live in a country that sets a day aside for giving God thanks. As you know, George Washington set one day apart to thank God for His providence. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day to be a national holiday in 1863. He called for special prayer for all who had lost loved ones and for God to heal the nation.

We all have many things for which to be thankful, our spouse, our children, our church, our homes and our nation. Yet our tendency as sinful human beings is to see the glass half empty rather than half full.

We look at those things that are not to our liking or are less than desirable and complain about them. It seems distasteful, even contrary to thank God for everything, even those “bad” things. But that’s exactly what God’s will is for us. He said to give thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers know that all things work together for those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Giving thanks to God is a response of one who has been changed by Him. It is informative to look back at one of the greatest celebrations in the Bible. It was a thanksgiving service! 1Chronicles 16 records King David’s preparation and implementation of a thanksgiving worship service. His motivation was the return of 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 was a visible sign of God’s faithfulness to His covenantal promise made to His people.

The Ark 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. As a man of God, David knew that God’s people were commanded to thank Him. The Ark of the Covenant was a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. God demonstrated His faithful providence by providing food for Israel in the wilderness. Jesus confirmed God’s faithfulness. The Father always provides His people’s needs, Matthew 6:25-32.

God’s people in the wilderness were as fickle as are we. Even though God gave them a sign of His leading them through Moses and Aaron rebellion broke out regularly. As a visible sign of Aaron’s leadership God caused his staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It continued as a reminder of God’s promise to lead His people by His chosen instruments.

Now, 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.

In addition, Christians are told by the Holy Spirit that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers have eternal security. Believers have been given a clear revelation of God’s plan of redemption in the Bible. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God. The Church of Jesus Christ belongs to Him. He is the head and king of the Church. The most fundamental reason to give thanks to God is His grace of adoption, Galatians 3:26-29. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1John 3:1

If you have been adopted by God through faith alone in Christ alone thank Him every day and set apart a time during this Thanksgiving Season to gather with His people to corporately thank Him for what He has done in Christ. Believer never cease to give God thanks for all His provisions.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Just the facts, ma’am!”

“Just the facts, ma’am”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Some may remember this line made famous by Jack Webb who played Sergeant Joe Friday on the Dragnet Series. Living in our culture both in the world and in the church, Sergeant Joe would likely say, “Whatever you feel ma’am!” It seems that facts no longer matter. We have an image of what a leader ought to look like. Consultants do their best to make a candidate like what people feel he or she should be.

Many churches, perhaps the majority of evangelical churches, are built upon what people feel they need.

In both our political and church spheres, the “Whatever you feel” philosophy has given us looks without substance. Character built upon past experience is missing. All that matters is what looks good. Focusing on the feelings of people, “felt needs” churches’ primary concern is attracting people.

Concerning the church, what are the facts? After pushing aside peripheral issues, I believe that we are left with two critical facts. The first is knowledge of God and the second is knowledge of Man. Both of these have fallen on hard times in many churches. Yet they remain the most pure pursuits given by God’s revelation.

Psalm 104 reveals the one true God who ordains all things; has established all things; and who provides all things. The true God is “very great! … clothed with splendor and majesty.” He is the one who causes the grass to grow; gives man the means to eat; to be gladdened. God has “set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved,” verse 5.

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God made everything out of nothing. He is the Creator. He transcends His Creation. He is not part of it. The cosmos is not all there ever is or will be! There is no such thing as eternal matter. The only eternal one is God, who is wholly self-sufficient. Fact number one is that God is! He is the one who rules all things. He is holy, holy, holy!

God spoke to Job “out of the whirlwind” Job 38:1. The book of Job’s earliest date is 1500 B.C. The man Job was an historic figure who was a contemporary of the Patriarchs of Israel. The book of Job is considered to be wisdom literature, written as an historical narrative. Through Job, God revealed His absolute sovereignty and man’s limited creatureliness.

As God continued to speak out of the whirlwind, He asked Job a question. Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.” God continued to ask Job questions that were beyond man’s ability to answer. The basic summary of the book is “I’m God and you’re not!” This revelation is the beginning of wisdom. The wise man fears God. To be wise, one must understand who he is before a sovereign God.

Fact number two, men are creatures owing everything to their Creator! Our life is given by God and for God. The Apostle Paul declared to the Greek Philosophers that men live and have their being in the Son of God, Jesus. He wrote to the church in Colossae, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1: 15-17

These two facts are rightly received in humility. All men who study the depth of God’s revelation of Himself and mankind base their lives on what they learn. Therefore, most importantly, Christian are you learning who God is and who you are in relation to Him? I suggest that everything in life proceeds out of these two facts. May your local church be faithful in teaching the truth of God and man.

May all of us who study these revealed facts apply them in every aspect of our lives for the glory of our Creator God who has revealed Himself fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ, His only Son.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Rule of Law”

The Rule of Law
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 various civic leaders and personalities. We read about our Executive Branch seeking to enforce laws enacted by our Legislative Branch of government and yet called evil for doing so!

Apparently we have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws are viewed by some as the oppressors. We are living in a dangerous time.

But we are very blessed in 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. 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, “A Few Good Men”

“A Few Good Men”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A few good men were needed in Israel and the church would benefit from her example. The title may appear to be one that is overused. I sought a better one and was unable. The church’s greatest need is a few good men! It is only necessary to look back at the church of the Old Testament to see the need and God’s remedy.

1Kings 12 through 2Kings 25 contains the record of God’s dividing Israel into two Kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom consisted of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Southern Kingdom contained the remaining two tribes of Israel. The Northern Kingdom came to be known as Samaria and the Southern as Judah.

There were thirty-nine kings and one queen between the two Kingdoms. Out of these forty monarchs there were only eight who did what was right in accordance with God’s standard of what is right. Of those eight kings, four kings failed to remove the “high places”. Their failure to remove the “high places” resulted in the people continuing to worship pagan gods at those “high places”.

The Northern Kingdom, Samaria, existed for approximately 208 years. The Southern Kingdom’s longevity was 344 years. The Northern Kingdom of Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians. The Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians. God, through the Prophets declared the end of both.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church of the demise of Israel in order to warn believers, 1Corinthians 10:1-12. Israel in the Old Testament was a nation of idolaters. John Calvin wrote in the 16th Century that the mind of man is an idol factory. Mankind hasn’t changed.

We who are the church ought to take the Bible’s warnings seriously. That is, those of us who profess Jesus is Lord know that we are citizens of heaven, yet we still live in the world. God has called us to work out our salvation within the context of the local church. He has given each one of His children and the church in general a command to be holy! Christians affirm that God has made us for worship. We know that all men were created to worship the one true God. God has set His people apart for Himself.

The modern evangelical church in large part has been reflecting ignorance of God’s command to worship Him as Israel did. Not only has He commanded worship, but He has declared the way He desires His people to worship Him. The church has been deceived with the teaching of some that the church is about fellowship or relationships with one another. The Bible teaches that fellowship in the church is a propositional truth because all believers are “in Christ”. Relationships with one another are meaningful if based in Christ.

One of the last concerns of the Apostle Paul was leadership in the church. He knew that the church would be invaded by false teachers. He wrote that people would surround themselves with those who would tickle their ears, 2Timothy 4:3. He knew that the only remedy was for the leaders in the church to be fully convinced of the absolute sufficiency of the word of God. He said that there would be terrible times in the last days. He said that people would be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, irreverent, brutal and not lovers of the truth. Of course, as we read 2Timothy 3:1-5, we immediately think of the world around us. But, the sobering reality is that Paul was not speaking about the world. He was declaring what would happen in the church! He said that there would be people having an appearance of godliness but denying its power. 2Timothy 3:5

The answer Paul gave to two Pastors, Timothy and Titus was to select a few good men to lead the church under Christ, the Head. The answer is still the same. The Southern Kingdom of Israel had a few good men who did what was right. Likewise, the church of Jesus Christ, now more than ever, needs a few good men to lead in submission to the word of God. We don’t need new ideas, youth movements, or so-called “missional” emphases in the church. The answer is biblical leadership. May the Lord rise up a few good men in every Bible believing church and may we recognize them.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Protestant Reformation”

“The Protestant Reformation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God used an Augustinian monk to bring about reform to the church. Martin Luther who nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, would come to be known as God’s “lightning rod”. Luther among others was raised up by God to correct the perverted teaching that had become part of the Roman Church. A Pope sent a cleric to Germany to raise money for building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cleric’s name was Johann Tetzel. His message was summarized by the saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings the soul from Purgatory springs.”

Luther was outraged by connecting salvation to giving money. As Luther studied the Bible to teach it, the doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear.

God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which God imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone, Romans 1:17 and 3:28. The Latin term is Sola Fides. Luther reportedly said that when he understood the doctrine of Sola Fides it was as if the gates of Paradise opened and he walked through.

In addition, four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Scriptures. They are: Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone; Solus Christus, by Christ Alone; Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone and Soli Deo Gloria, to God Alone be Glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. They had been taught by the church until the Middle Ages. Luther and the other Reformers recovered these biblical doctrines and rightly taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3.

The second Sola, Sola Gratia, means by grace alone. The Bible teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are sinners, born dead in sin. We have inherited the sin nature of Adam. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 are two passages that teach man’s total bondage to sin. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus makes this fact clear. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.

The Protestant Reformers did not come up with new or novel ideas. They did not offer an alternative perspective on salvation but declared and taught the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth which the magisterial church had hidden.

Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great Reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases Solus Christus and Sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ Alone and by Scripture Alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. But the Reformers saw that the Church was usurping authority that belonged to God.

To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all life and salvation.

Of course there are many authorities over us. God established the church, civil government and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. His word, the Bible is the ultimate Authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men possess a granted authority. When men usurp God’s authority, it is invalid.

The four Solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth Sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And, Romans 11:36, “for from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God. Soli Deo Gloria! Pray that the Church would continue to teach these fundamental biblical doctrines.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discouragement”

“Discouragement”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Discouragement is a common life experience. I’ve experienced discouragement and I’m sure that you have as well. Sometimes circumstances seems so dark that you think you’ll never be lifted out of them. Some who suffer with a chronic illness see no hope. The constant pain and suffering leads one to say, “I give up!” Perhaps your current discouragement stems from those who have been given a free reign to deconstruct our nation and re-make it as a socialist utopia (which doesn’t exist). It seems no one steps up to check their delusion.

The Psalmist repeated his discouragement in Psalms 42 and 43, three times. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” In the midst of declaring his deep desire and desperate need for God, the psalmist recorded his state of mind. He was in the depths of discouragement and despair. He could do nothing but ask himself “Why?” I notice that he didn’t give an answer to the “why” of it but rather, he gave the cure.

The “cure” is to have a hope that is certain and there is only one certain hope. The psalmist declared the object of certain hope. It is God. He knew that God alone saves. God alone has promised to be with His people no matter what circumstance in which they find themselves. God has promised to bring His people to glory with Him. Jesus said that He was preparing a place for His followers and that He would take them to His Father’s Mansion in Heaven.

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” God gives life to each one He calls to Himself. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

God’s children have certain hope because He has revealed that heaven is their home!

However, while we live in this world, one of the reasons we often get discouraged is unfulfilled or broken promises. We must remind ourselves of the futility in trusting in man. Placing trust in man or man’s systems will result in discouragement. Even the “best” of us may fail to keep our promises. God alone is always faithful. The Bible declares the truth of God’s faithfulness in the midst of man’s unfaithfulness. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” 2Tim. 2:13

Knowing God and what He has said is our only defense against discouragement. For example, even though “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” The Bible declares that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2Cor. 4:16-17

In other words, whatever is causing discouragement God said that it is temporary. If you are in Christ, He is renewing you every day. He is preparing you for glory. God has given His people this certain knowledge so that all of the distortions of this world would not overwhelm them. As a Christian, I know that whatever I am facing will pass; and more, God is using every circumstance good or bad to prepare me for glory. Remember, God is faithful, and He will “never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

As a child of God, I didn’t always look at the beginning of my hope. I’m speaking of the gospel. Paul wrote to Christians that “the gospel is the power of God…” Rom. 1:16. The Lord used every manner of adversity in my life to teach me that He revealed the means and certainty of my hope including my rising from discouragement. He revealed to me the gospel. That He saved me by Jesus’ blood and righteousness is not simply a past action, but the truth upon which I live. The gospel is God’s power to save. I am saved. I am being saved and I will be saved. There is no other power to lift me or anyone else out of discouragement. After all, God raised me from death to life. Will He not also raise me out of the pit of discouragement?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Studying History”

“Studying History”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“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)
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Each of these men reflected on the need to know history. History is God’s, story. History belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself through history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history. History is linear not circular. We may repeat past mistakes, but we are moving ever closer to God’s ordained end.

We realize great value in studying Church History because knowing past mistakes is an aid in avoiding the same ones in the present. Some Christians are led to 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. It would seem obvious that much can be gained by studying the church’s history. The Church is not a parenthesis as some teach. The Church was in God’s mind in eternity. It was the Church for whom Christ died, Ephesians 5:25.

The church has a long history, thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of some of them making the same mistakes over and over again. In the words of Albert Einstein, they could be defined as insane. Part of the reason for the insanity is a failure to consider the past.

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. Currently, we are experiencing heresies concerning the nature of man and the believer’s union with Christ.

Ancient civilizations died in part by embracing immoral behavior. Unfortunately, even some of our civil leaders have attempted to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more failures than perhaps any other social/economic construct and yet, there is a never-ending list of politicians advocating it under different names and slightly different methods. We even see strains of it in the Church under the guise of social justice, etc.

I am concerned for the Church. I remember a sermon delivered by one of my heroes, James Montgomery Boice, as he reflected on what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yields Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. May we not try to fill churches by being culturally relevant but “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3

There are currently at least three doctrines now being challenged in the Church. The first concerns race. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one race, the human race. Adam is declared to be the federal head of the human race, Romans 5:12-14. The second concerns reconciliation. The Bible declares that God has reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ, 2Corinthians 5:19. The Church is to proclaim God’s reconciliation. He is not depending on us to be reconcilers. The third issue is justice. Micah 6:8 lays out God’s requirements concerning justice. It is a command. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Christians are exhorted not to look on anyone simply in the flesh, 2Corinthians 5:16 Every human being has an immortal soul and there are only two destinies, heaven or hell. Man’s only hope is the gospel! Christians know and affirm that their identity is in Christ. ”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discernment is Necessary for Wise Living!”

“Discernment is Necessary for Living Wisely!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“I commit to do what I is right.” This is a commitment that all should make, especially those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We often shade that commitment by revising it. We equate, “I commit to do what I think is right” for committing to do what is right! It is a sign of our time that so many equate what one “thinks is right” as representative of goodness and virtue. A good and virtuous person would commit to do that which is right. Whether or not one thinks an action is right, in own my mind, is irrelevant. We should all seek to do what is right! Yet my concern is for the Church.

In order to do what is right one must know what is right? Romans 12:2 calls Christians 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.” 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 enables wise living.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. Being a “God-fearer” is foundational for wise living. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Fearing God because He is the Creator, who made everything for Himself gives the right perspective for all of life’s choices.

The right application of God’s word is wisdom. Therefore discernment to know what is right requires knowledge of what God has said.

The Bible reveals that God is good, righteous and true. All three are attributes of the One True God. To know the One True God one must know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the Father is the source, discernment only grows through a personal and intimate knowledge of His Son, Jesus. Discernment is a learned ability rather than a gift and is available to everyone who professes Christ.

Discernment leads to 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. Don’t be fooled by those who say that they will do what they think is right. Know what is right. Then do it.

The key to discernment 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. The 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.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Comfortable Confession”

“The Comfortable Confession”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

One of the most practical books of the Bible is the letter of James. James was the half-brother of Jesus. James may have written this letter as early as 40 A.D. In his introduction, James called himself a “bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” James did not consider himself to have a more special relationship to the Risen Lord Jesus than any other believer. His letter is often described as the “Proverbs” of the New Testament. The Epistle of James provides very practical insight for living the Christian Life.

Early in his ministry, the great Reformer Martin Luther called James a “straw epistle.” Yet in his later writings, Luther saw the connection between the Apostle Paul’s writing and James’. Specifically, whereas Paul defined the gift of faith through which God justified a believer, declared a sinner “right” with Him. James defined what that gift of faith actually looked like in the life of one who possessed it. James was not writing about earning one’s salvation, as Luther first thought. Rather, James declared the kind of behavior exhibited by one who possessed saving faith.

A “comfortable confession” is one that accommodates evil rather than exposes it. A comfortable confession of Christ avoids the attack of the evil one by ignoring it. Luther wrote this, “Also it does not help that one of you would say: ‘I will gladly confess Christ and his Word on every detail, except that I may keep silent about one or two things which my tyrants may not tolerate… For whoever denies Christ in one detail or word has denied the same Christ in that one detail who was denied in all the details, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken together or individually.”

James 4:7 commands the one who possesses saving faith to “Submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It is at the very point at which Satan and evil present themselves that the Christian is commanded to resist it, literally standing against it.

This is the point of attack at which the believer’s confession of Christ becomes uncomfortable. As the believer stands against evil, exposing it he or she is proving himself or herself to be a genuine follower of Christ.

The context of James 4 is critical in our understanding of the cost of following Jesus. The command to resist the devil comes after the proposition that friendship with the world is enmity with God, James 4:4. So then, the word of God puts before the believer the truth that worldliness is directly opposed to God. It is so opposed to God that He has said that to be a friend of the world is to be His enemy.

In accordance with the Epistle of James, a comfortable confession is one that is in friendship with the world and therefore at enmity with God.

I should say that God’s command doesn’t mean that Christians should go out of their way to be offensive! I believe that it does mean that whenever an issue is raised to a level of visibility such that it is put forth for all to see and declared to be the “right and loving” way, Christians are commanded to speak out against what is contrary to God’s word.

Attacks on truth such as redefining marriage, approving of alternative lifestyles, suggesting that abortion is a matter of one’s choice are all points at which Christians are tempted to have a comfortable confession.

When lies such as these are put forth as truth or when men and women suggest that the truth doesn’t matter or is relative, Christians are exhorted by God to expose the lie and the liar, Ephesians 4. It doesn’t matter if these attacks occur in the Church or the Public Sphere. God is sovereign over the government, the church and the family. Truth is absolute. All truth is God’s truth and He is sovereign over all.

The challenge is coming at an ever-increasing rate. Those of us who profess Christ are being confronted by evil. Men seem to regularly call evil good and good evil. God expects His people to act. We are called to be salt and light. Christians do not possess a comfortable confession. We are people who submit to God in every aspect of life. Caution, confession is meaningless unless it’s carried into the world!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What is Praise?”

“What is Praise?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What’s so important about praise? It is necessary to define praise; to identify the object of praise; and to enable deep and critical thought of praise and worship. Look around our great city. We are blessed with an extraordinary number of churches. I suggest that the reason is that we are built for praise and worship. As written previously, “God made us for worship.” Worship includes the act of praising the object of worship.

Webster’s Dictionary defines praise as expressing approval or admiration. It continues the definition by including the idea of giving glory with God as the object. The essential ingredient in praise is that it requires an object.

Since the Garden, men have had the desire to praise. All too often praise was given to other men or places. The desire to praise has been built into us by our Creator. We will praise someone or something that we consider worthy. Praise and worth are intimately connected.

You might take a little test. Think about that which consumes your time and money. Then, consider whether the consumers you identify are worthy of your praise. In other words, would you choose to praise the one(s) to whom you give so much of your time and finances?

You may not agree with me at this point, but I am seeking to get you to think about worth. As you examine the definition it is clear that praise and worth are connected. The psalmist identified the greatest object of worth. Psalm 146, written by a man carried along by the Spirit of God, described a singular commitment to praise God! He said that he would declare praise to God throughout his entire life which he acknowledged was given by God.

Why would he make such a commitment? The answer is God alone is worthy of man’s praise! God alone saves man. Every instance of deliverance from oppression is by the sovereign hand of God. Only God is eternal. Opposed to this all men die. There are no exceptions. The only hope for man is God. Only God gives eternal life, a life that will never end. God raises the dead. He gives those whom He chooses eyes to see the truth, Jesus. Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the one true God and the One whom He sent, Jesus Christ, John 17:3.

In addition, we see injustice all around us robbing us of hope unless we look to God who is perfectly just. The Bible declares that He will execute perfect justice. And, the Bible, God’s word written, is always true and altogether reliable. The psalmist affirmed the holy justice of God and wrote: God “executes justice for the oppressed, (God) gives food to the hungry.” Jesus said that God the Father will provide everything that is needed for His children.

If this isn’t enough to convince you of God’s worthiness to be praised, then know that God is King. He rules all of His Creation. God’s absolute and sovereign rule of all Creation is not relative. That is, you may be thinking that I write such things because I’m a Christian Pastor. Indeed I am. And, not only do I write these things, but I actually believe them! But, to paraphrase a great philosopher, if something is not true for all it’s not true at all. God is the Creator and Ruler of His Universe. Jesus said that “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him. God who made us for worship is the only worthy object. Praise, which is part of worship, is to declare the character and deeds of the object. As we understand praise in this way, we likewise know that God is its only worthy object.

I’ve come to the end. I’ve defined praise to be declaring the character and deeds of its object. I’ve hopefully made a case to demonstrate that God alone is worthy of our praise. And, finally, I hope that I’ve been successful in guiding your thoughts about this very important aspect of life, namely praise.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21