Pastor’s Viewpoints, “All That Is Necessary”

All That Is Necessary
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A frequently asked question by Christians is, “What do I need to live as a Christian?” All too often the search begins without first looking for the God-given answer. We often get bogged down by the details of life, albeit challenging or dire. God has provided all that His people need to live in Christ.
God revealed His sovereign grace in making a people for Himself. God calls, regenerates, converts, adopts, sanctifies, and promises to bring His people to glory. Romans 8:28-30 clearly reveals God’s sovereign actions in making a people for Himself. Therefore, Christians know that God has provided every means by which believers are brought to glory. Jesus said that God knows our needs and He will provide everything we need for this life (Matthew 6:25-34).
Yet, many Christians are ill-informed concerning the means that God has given for everyday life in Christ. The basic yet complete answer to the question, “What do I need to live as a Christian?” is the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures.
The Bible is God’s word to Man. The Apostle Paul said all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). The Apostle Peter equated Paul’s writing with the whole of Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). God warned His people in Deuteronomy and Revelation not to add to or subtract from His word. The Psalmist declared that all of God’s words are true.
Creation testifies to the existence of God. And the Bible gives saving knowledge of God in Jesus Christ.
The Bible is more than an ancient book. In fact, it is a collection of 66 books. Each one was written by a human author by the inspiration of God, the Holy Spirit.
Four words are used by the Christian Church to describe the Bible: inerrant, infallible, perspicuous, and sufficient. Each word points to the nature and essence of its ultimate author, God.
The Bible is inerrant because God is truth, and He has revealed the truth. The church has understood that the Bible is without error in the original autographs. The autographs were the actual writings of the human authors in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Skeptics say at this point, “We don’t have any of the original autographs.” True, but we have thousands of ancient manuscripts for the New Testament and the extremely precise oral tradition copied by Hebrew scribes. The Dead Sea Scrolls supported the oral tradition almost exactly. By using all that is available, the original texts of the Bible were reconstructed.
Next, the Bible is infallible in that it is always reliable. Everything taught in the Bible can be relied upon to give good guidance for life. This doctrine of infallibility rests upon the previous doctrine of inerrancy. We can have confidence in the reliability of the Bible to guide us in the right path because it is inerrant.
Third, the Bible is called perspicuous. Perspicuity is an unusual word, even hard to pronounce. But its meaning is simple. Perspicuous means clear. The Protestant Reformers recaptured the ancient church’s doctrine that light is shed upon the hard parts of Scripture by the clearer parts. In other words, because the Bible is perspicuous, it interprets itself. As the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility rest upon the character of God, so too does the Bible’s perspicuity. God, the one true God, is a God of revelation. He gave us the Bible so that we might come to know Him. No man can know all of God. He is infinite and we are finite. But we can know what God has revealed about Himself.
Finally, because the Bible is sufficient, we may apply it with confidence knowing that the word of God will “light our path” (Psalm 119:105). The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy not only declaring the nature of Scripture but also its efficacy. It was the Scriptures that would make him and every Christian complete (2 Timothy 3:17).
Most evangelical churches hold to the first three doctrines of Scripture. Yet, by the tremendous and unending list of church programs, the insufficiency of Scripture is demonstrated. Christians seem more concerned with meeting “felt needs” or life-situations than learning to apply the Bible to live wisely. Now more than ever we need to major on the sufficiency of the Bible, learning sound doctrine for God’s glory and our enjoyment of Him. Therefore, know that the Bible is all that is necessary to live in Christ for His glory! Christians hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s word!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Face of Evil”

The Face of Evil
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).
Our nation has seen the face of evil. We’ve experienced evil in fascism, socialism, and communism. We’ve had to fight in world wars and conflicts in foreign lands. Twenty years ago, we witnessed evil perpetrated on our homeland. Today there are troubling conversations that indicate those evil events on 9/11 when Islamic terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the hijacking of Flight 93 either didn’t happen, were organized by our government, or were done by just a small group of fanatics. Those of us who remember the terror of the falling towers in New York City have a responsibility to remember that evil day and tell younger generations of the reality of the evil.
Evil men like those on 9/11 and more recently in Afghanistan 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. In the face of evil our God has promised comfort. His comfort is the certainty of knowing that evil and all ungodliness will come to an end. Further, the comfort that God gives is in knowing that He walks through these evil circumstances with His people. 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 our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
God declared through Isaiah His promise for believers. Isaiah 40:31 is in contrast to those who appear strong like youths and those who are powerful (v. 30). Those who are strong in worldly terms will all grow tired and weary. But those who wait for the LORD will remain strong in Him.
Sometimes it looks like evil is winning. But God’s promise of deliverance is certain. The prophet Isaiah began chapter 40 with God’s word of “comfort”. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” This chapter of Isaiah is the beginning of the “Suffering Servant” passages. The “Servant” is revealed to be Jesus! He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant (Luke 4:18-21). The Servant of God, Jesus, is the one who brings comfort. The comfort He brings is the assurance of deliverance which leads to glory in heaven and the elimination of evil.
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. He will lift the curse of original sin and usher in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21).
God has promised the elect 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.
The comfort is grounded 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 persevere knowing that glory awaits us. Perfect justice and peace will come. We wait upon the Lord who will bring them to pass. While we wait, we have the comfort of the Lord given in His promise to be with us!
Rejoice in and remember God’s providence in the darkest of times. Remember the brave men and women who stand against evil, especially those who died on September 11, 2001. Thank God that He continues to provide those who place their lives between us and evil.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Christian Response to Evil”

The Christian Response to Evil
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the seven woes issued by God to His people is “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Woe means impending distress or gloom.
God’s word is the standard of good and goodness. Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). We also know that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Both good and evil represent actions, behavior. They are moral categories. Good and evil are not created beings. In fact, evil is rightly understood as the deprivation or absence of good, as St. Augustine said.
As a Christian I am always amazed by the depth of man’s evil. When I see it from afar my heart burns. John Calvin, the great reformer of the 16th Century, wrote, “All who really serve and love God, ought to burn with holy indignation whenever they see wickedness reigning without restraint among men.” The Psalmist wrote, “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10a).
The Bible declares that those who know God are to hate evil. The Bible also puts forth a standard of Christian behavior that exhorts believers never to return evil for evil and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43ff; Romans 12:17ff; 1 Peter 3:9). On the surface these two teachings seem to contradict each other. We know that the Bible is altogether true. There are no contradictions. God does not contradict Himself. So then there must be two different things being expressed concerning evil.
The difference in calling for loving enemies on the one hand and hating evil on the other is a matter of context. God’s exhortation to love enemies is directed to those in the church who find themselves under the hand of evil men. They are the ones experiencing evil firsthand. The primary response of believers to evil and persecution is to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17). Peter used the word “bless” to describe the response of those in the church who find themselves under the hand of evil men (1 Peter 3:9).
Concerning those of who profess Christ and see evil from afar, Thomas Aquinas saw two Christian duties. The first is to combat it by every means and the second is to believe that God will vanquish it according to the perfect (but hidden) wisdom of His providence. Aquinas’ reflection on the issue of responding to evil reflects the Bible’s exhortation to hate evil. The Prophet Amos wrote, “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15).
When evil occurs, there are always those who admonish Christians who are outraged and use the Bible to call for loving enemies. Christians are to love all men. Christians are also to be people who stand for truth and justice. Micah 6:8 says, “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?”
Believers in the Risen Lord Jesus are never to “wink” at evil. Christians are not to respond with a man-centered idea of love. Often this response is recommended by those who haven’t actually been the objects of evil. We worship a holy God. He is holy and He is love. He defined love in the cross of Christ. When you see evil done on others, seek justice. Know that God will pour out His wrath upon all evil and wickedness.
It is never right to spiritualize a response to evil. Evil is real, but evil is not a thing. It is behavior that opposes God. As stated above, the short definition of evil is the absence of good. The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).
The Christian response to evil is two-fold. First, Christians respond to evil by doing good. Second, Christians are called to expose evil, simply to recognize what is evil and expose it.
When evil is observed, expose it and do that which is good, right, and true knowing that God will execute perfect justice when Christ returns. Everything hinges on knowing what is good. Therefore, the Church is responsible to teach the truth of God and the Person and Work of Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Hope that will not fade”

A Hope that will not fade
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Rome and said that suffering is not the last word for those who belong to Jesus. God has given us hope that “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

The psalmist asked himself a question that many have asked. He received God’s answer. His question was, “Why am I depressed?” God’s answer was because he had no hope! Psalm 42:11 says, “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.”

Whenever there is persecution and suffering in the Christian Church, God has the last word! Those who are in Christ have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance, which is heaven. Believers have been given an eternal perspective. We know that this life is not all that there is. Our eternal perspective is God’s means by which we will have the courage to stand against evil with whatever resources He has provided.

Hope is an eager expectation of fulfillment of a future blessing. When people hope they are expressing trust in or reliance upon the one whom they believe will bring fulfillment. Without hope, we wander aimlessly in life and are tossed around by every one of its circumstances. Possessing genuine hope is God’s means to “count it all joy” in the face of trials and tribulations.

We intuitively know that there must be more to life than what we see. This world is not all that there is. There is more to life than this world. There is a greater hope than our political, economic, or personal relationships can offer. God’s promise of hope is more than this world offers and is far above and apart from it. The Christian’s hope transcends the evil we see and experience. The Christian’s hope is transcendent because of the One from whom it proceeds, namely the Triune God.

Only God who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can give ultimate hope. God said that ultimate hope is eternal glory. The Apostle Paul writing God’s words said “the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed to His saints” is ultimate hope. Ultimate hope is “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26).

Christians possess ultimate hope. God gives hope to all those whom He chose “before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In love God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

Those whom God chose to be in Christ are children of God. Believers have been set apart by God for His glory. In Christ, we have been given everything that we need. One of those needs is a hope that cannot be shaken.

It seems clear that we are facing evil more and more every day. We need God’s protection. We need to have the courage to stand against evil. In so doing, the church universal must be assured of the hope that cannot be shaken. The church must teach her members that God has given a hope that will never fade.

Now, perhaps more than ever in our nation, Christians must think biblically about the world around us. We are a people who are sure that God will have the final word. He will stamp out evil. Christ defeated Satan 2,000 years ago. The devil and his fallen angels are on a short leash. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

To think biblically, we must know what the Bible says. We are to meditate upon God’s word. We are to fill our minds with what God has said. There is no short cut to “holding every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Christian, ground yourself in the word of God so that you might hold fast to the hope that will not fade. Read and study the Bible privately. Find a church that teaches the Bible accurately and faithfully. May we all stand against the current evil we face in the power of God’

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Justice or Mercy”

Justice or Mercy…Timeless Topics
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“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?” (Micah 6:8).
God spoke through the prophet Micah during a time of prosperity. He required His people to do justice and to love kindness (mercy) and to walk humbly before Him.
This divine imperative is simple and bears repeating. Do justice. Love Mercy. Live with a right assessment of ourselves before a sovereign God. God said that this is good. In light of this clear declaration, no one needs to struggle to know what is good.
Our good God commanded His people to do justice. God’s people are accountable to seek and apply justice. As God ordained civil authorities, He placed upon them the responsibility to rule and govern justly. What then is justice? In part, justice is fair treatment based on the law.
Therefore, the application of justice requires a standard. Our civil government operates under such a standard. It is the rule of law. When authorities consider themselves above the law anarchy is not far behind. An orderly and safe society requires all citizens and their leaders to obey the rules of law that govern them.
So, it is for the church. The authority of the church is under the word of God. Christ is the King and Head of the church. He exercises His Lordship through His word. Authority in the church is a granted authority. What is just and right is determined from the Bible, the church’s standard.
The Bible teaches that to do justice is to do what is right. That which is just is right and fair based upon the standard which is the word of God written.
Micah 6:8 also declares another critical concept. The Prophet called God’s people to love kindness. The original word is also translated loving kindness, steadfast love, or mercy. The word reflects the very character of God. Justice and mercy are not opposite sides of the same coin. Mercy stands in contrast to justice. Justice applies the rule of law. Mercy is granted to law breakers. Justice is deserved. Mercy is underserved and can only be granted by the benevolent action of a ruler. Mercy and grace are the unmerited favor of God.
Following the revealed truth of God’s word, all men deserve justice. The just and right action of the holy God is condemnation. The Bible is clear on this point throughout. From Genesis to Revelation, God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. All men are born in bondage to sin. Sin is defined as lawlessness by the Apostle John (1 John 3:4). Adam’s sin is inherited by every human being. The Apostle Paul wrote that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Left on our own we are all children of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). It’s at this point that the cry of “It’s not fair” is often heard. The offense of the truth causes men to define God in their own view. I’ve heard the statement, “My God is a God of love. He wouldn’t send people to hell. It’s not fair or loving.” My response is that definition of God is not the God of the Bible. God has revealed Himself as holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).
In the light of God’s holy justice, how can we hope to be saved? The Apostles, Prophets, and Jesus called people to repent and believe in the gospel. This is God’s ordained means to deliver men and women from this present darkness. The question that lays beneath God’s command to repent and believe in the gospel is “How”? How are men born dead in sin able to repent and believe? The only possible answer is by God’s grace. God extends grace to those whom He chooses. God said that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy (Romans 9:15).
King David wrote Psalm 51. He was confronted in his sin. David did the only thing that is possible. He threw himself upon the mercy of God. This is the truth of man’s only hope. There are only two alternatives. You will either experience God’s perfect justice or receive His mercy.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Speaking the Truth”

“Speaking the Truth”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
All Christians would likely affirm that we are called by God to always speak the truth. One would think that there is no question that this must be the case. Yet so many think that speaking the truth is unloving. We are encouraged to be tolerant. Which now means to accept all views as equally valid rather than to respect opposing views. It is especially unloving when a major figure lies, and we are told that exposing the lie and the liar is unloving and a failure to take “the high moral ground.” From my perspective, this not only borders on insanity but causes people to deny reality. This new definition of tolerance, that every point of view is equally valid is a step towards holding a world view that is fundamentally amoral.

We face this both inside the church and in society. It is called “bad form” or even worse to expose a false teacher in the church. We are exposed to the prosperity teachers and the word faith cult teachers on an ever-increasing rate. We hear leaders teach that the new view of “social justice” is a gospel issue! It is neither a biblical issue nor is it in any sense a gospel issue.

Years ago, the late Peter Jennings did an investigative report on the Evangelical Church, as the secular press understood it. In his broadcast, a Vineyard Church was filmed. The members were rolling on the floor and barking like dogs. It was alarming and offensive to me. It was alarming as I was shocked in disbelief that some of those who were acting so preposterously may have professed to be genuine believers. It was shocking to me that a major news agency would use this kind of perverted behavior to represent Evangelical Christianity.

These false teachers are often categorized as being part of Evangelical Christianity. The leaders of this theological cult are too numerous to mention. They teach the secret wisdom to “have your best life now”. Some focus on physical healing. You may hear statements made that reflect “name it and claim it” faith. Some exhort people to “sow a seed” and God will return what is sowed ten-fold. Of course, the so-called sowing is done in their personal field.

Their basic teaching is that faith is a force and words are the medium through which the force of faith is released. You can believe that you’re well and if your faith is strong enough you will be!

Now we face another gospel, “social justice”, which is no gospel. Social justice is based on Critical Theory not Scripture. Biblical justice is doing God’s will, that which is good, right, and true. Micah 6:8; Philippians 4:8

Christian, what should be your response? “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them… Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11 (ESV)

Jesus called His disciples to be salt and light in the world, Matthew 5:13-18. The means He has given to be salt is the truth of His word. Those who know the truth are accountable to stand against lies. “Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Christians are accountable for what they hear. We are called to discern truth from error. We are responsible to expose error. In order to be able to discern the truth, we must be “people of the book”, the Bible. The Psalmist declared that the word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 The word of God, the Bible, is “breathed out by God.” 2Timothy 3:15

As a Christian Pastor, I believe that what we know to be true concerning the Christian Faith should be lived in the Church and carried into the public sphere. It is not unloving to speak the truth. It is not a low road morally to expose a liar. Christians are to be people of integrity. People of integrity don’t live one way on Sunday and a different way during the rest of the week.

I encourage you to find and join a church that equips you to be salt and light, teaching you the truth of God’s word.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discernment”

Discernment
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a leader say, “I commit to do what I think is right.” Such a declaration is often followed by accolades. Each time I hear it, my amazement increases. I’m astounded that so many people think that what they “think is right” is somehow representative of goodness and virtue. Now we even have virtue signs. We can even see who is right and virtuous by what may or may not be on their face. A good and virtuous person would commit to do that which is right. Whether or not one thinks an action is right is, in my mind, irrelevant. We should all seek to do what is right!
No one can declare that he is doing what is right unless he knows 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 5:8 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” (Ephesians 5:9). 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, so it should be today.
The application of God’s word is wisdom. Therefore discernment, knowing the right action, 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 following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself 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 2 Timothy 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 can make the believer “competent and equipped for every good work” (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 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 Image of God”

The Image of God
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The world tells us that our value as human beings is based upon our current or potential contribution to society. Now some sociologists teach that the individual has no value except for the socio-economic group that he or she is born into. These so-called experts group all people into one of two groups: oppressors and victims. Some ethicists teach that human life has no more intrinsic value than plants and animals! This philosophy/worldview should shock you because every human life, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socio-economic origin, has a unique value given by the Creator. Genesis 1:26a says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
The fact is, there is a God. His existence is undeniable. He has made His divine attributes known by all that He has made (Romans 1:19-20). The Bible says that there is no other reasonable explanation for the world around us.
But this article is not about the existence of God, directly. Yet, His existence is the basis for the sanctity of human life. The sacredness of human life proceeds out of being made in God’s image. No other creature has been given such a distinction. Because of this, man is accountable to God. We have been set apart by God. We are made in God’s image. One of my favorite Psalms declares, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).
Scripture, in Genesis 1:26, declares that men and women are made in God’s image. The sense of being made in God’s image is likened to objects reflected in a mirror. We are a reflection of God. Distortions of this idea have been offered over the years. For example, Joseph Smith wrote that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man.” Another famous or infamous personality teaches that God is actually a man who is six feet, two inches tall. He even goes on to describe God’s arm length.
Grounding ourselves in the truth is the best defense against such false teaching. In other words, know the truth in order to recognize error. So then, what is the truth of being made in God’s image? It cannot mean that mankind looks like God in a physical sense, as the views referenced above teach. God made us male and female! Both men and women bear God’s image. Yet, all reasonable people admit that men and women are not the same.
Bearing God’s image means to have some of the attributes of God. Attributes are those characteristics that define a being. Now I used the word “some” to qualify the attributes of God that we bear. We are not God! No man is immortal. No man is self-existent. No man can make the claim that he had no beginning. Yet, all men can reason, think, and have limited knowledge. All men have a sense of right and wrong.
In bearing these characteristics, we are faced with our limitations. For example, we don’t know everything, despite thinking we might. We don’t always do what is right despite having the moral law written on our hearts. The Bible says that every intention of the thoughts of men’s hearts was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).
Yet man’s sinfulness does not eliminate man’s dignity. God made man in His image; male and female He made them as recorded in Genesis chapter one. Two chapters later, the Bible records the fall of Adam and the woman. As a result, all those attributes were marred by the fall. We all still have the God-given attributes, and we also have an inherited sin nature. Adam is referred to as the head of the human race (Romans 5:12ff). Along with the dignity of being human comes the responsibility for our actions.
Having said all this, the fact that we are sinners does not remove the dignity which God conveyed by making man in His image. It also does not reduce our responsibility to exercise good management of His creation.
Human life is sacred because God made it so. Remember, no man can change what God ordained. You have dignity and value because the sovereign God made you in His image!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What is Grace?”

What is grace?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Apostle John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 (ESV) John referred to the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and to the truth which is reality revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. But what is the meaning of grace? For years Sunday school teachers have taught our children that grace means unmerited favor. Grace is to receive what is not deserved. Mercy is another expression of grace. As grace is undeserved, justice is what is deserved. The law of God given through Moses is a revelation of the absolute perfection of God. God revealed His absolute standard. The Jews sought to make the law fool-proof. The leaders of the Jews came up with more than 600 nuances of the basic commandments of God as a means of addressing every aspect of life and how men should behave to keep the law. Yet, Jesus repeatedly said that they had missed the spirit of the law. The truth is that no one can keep the law. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the law was to bound sin and lead men to their need for a Savior, Galatians 3:19-29.

May I offer you a fundamental principle of life from the word of God? God requires absolute perfection. Jesus said perfect righteousness is required for citizenship in the Kingdom. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

God doesn’t grade righteousness on a scale. I remember taking Quantum Physics in Engineering College years ago. If the professor didn’t grade our tests on a scale no one would have gotten a passing grade in his course. He took the lowest grade and the highest grade and developed an acceptable score. God doesn’t do that. If you think that God will compare you to others at the end of your life, you will not have a “passing grade.”

Are you willing to be honest with yourself? If you are, the undeniable conclusion is that you’re not perfect. No one is. This is the need for grace. Since no one is perfect no one will go to heaven unless God extends His grace.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may have a “passing grade.” But God’s grace is not simply winking at our failure to be perfect. God’s grace is extended because of merit, perfect merit. God’s grace is extended only because of the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. What all men fail to do, He did. The grace of God is His favor extended to His people because of the merit of Jesus on their behalf. This grace is called saving grace. It is given by God to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world. His choice is not based on anything we will do or have done. His choice is unconditional, Ephesians 1, 2.

You may be thinking that this choice of God to extend saving grace as He wills is unfair and God is not unfair. I agree. God is not unfair. But grace is not about fairness. God is perfectly fair. We call His fairness divine justice. He has said that at the end of this world there will be a final judgment. Two books will be opened by God. One book is the record of everyone’s deeds. The other is called the book of life. The judgment of God is that anyone’s name that does not appear in the book of life is thrown into the “lake of fire.” Those two books represent the difference between justice and grace. Those who live thinking that God winks at their sin and will somehow extend grace to them at the end are those who will experience perfect justice. On the other hand, those who live their lives relying upon the perfect life of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice will experience the fullness of God’s grace in eternal bliss.

So then, Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor based upon the merit of His only Son, Jesus. There are only two alternatives for mankind. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. In either case the standard is perfection. The truth is Jesus is the only One who was perfect.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Mission for His Church”

God’s Mission for His Church
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The purpose of the church is holiness. The church has been set apart by God for God. He said because “I am holy you are to be holy.” A purpose is a reason for being or existence. On the other hand, when we speak of mission in the church, we are looking to do something. The difference between purpose and mission is the difference between being and doing.
The church’s mission was prophesied by Isaiah. The Suffering Servant, Jesus, would come and be a “light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). God also said it is “too small a thing” to only save “Jacob” but that He would call all peoples to Himself through the gospel (cf. Isaiah 49:6). The Church of God was on mission, His.
One of the most familiar passages in the Bible declares God’s global mission for the church (Matthew 28:18-20). All Christian Churches know this passage to be our marching orders given directly by the Risen Lord Jesus. We refer to this as the Great Commission. The weight of this mission is supreme because of the weight of the one who gave it. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to me.” This is an inclusive statement. That is, regardless of whether men submit to Him, Jesus is the one who has all authority. We all would do well to think of Jesus’ ultimate authority when faced with other authorities in life that make clams upon us. Men have a granted authority. For example, we are called to submit to governmental authority because God has ordained their limited authority for the good and welfare of all men (Romans 13). The same Apostle wrote that a sign of the culture in the “last days” is that there will be a lack of submission to authority (2 Timothy 3). He was writing of the culture in the church. The church stands under the word of God and therefore, we receive His commands concerning purpose and mission and submit to Him.
Therefore, the Risen Lord Jesus directs the church on her mission. The church has been given a granted authority by the one who has supreme authority to do what He commands. So, we ought to be clear on the Savior’s command. Concerning mission, His command is to disciple. Those who are following Him are to go and make disciples. The word “disciple” is the main verb of Matthew 28:19-20. To translate Jesus’ command into English, the word “make” has been inserted. The critical nature of this command to make disciples was further detailed by the means. The means by which the church is to make disciples was described by two participles, baptizing and teaching.
The first means of making disciples is baptizing, which concerns identity. Discipling requires that the one discipled be identified with the One he is following, the Triune God. Followers of Jesus are identified with Him. This text is also the source of the church’s receiving of the sacrament of baptism, the sign and seal of the Covenant. Every follower of Jesus, by His command, may rightly receive the “sign of the Covenant” as a member in the visible Covenant Community. Also, the children of believers rightly receive the “sign of the Covenant”, in accordance with Genesis 17:10ff and Acts 2:39.
The second means of discipling is teaching. In the process of discipling, disciples are taught “everything that Jesus commanded,” namely, the whole of Scripture. A disciple is a learner and follower of Jesus throughout his entire life. Christians are disciples of Jesus. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26).
Discipleship requires teaching the whole truth. Paul told the elders in Ephesus that he was innocent of their blood because he did not “shrink from declaring . . . the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). The content of discipleship is the Bible, the word of God written.
The first thing taught is the gospel. When Jesus began His public ministry, He preached that the Kingdom was near, therefore, He said, “repent and believe in the gospel [of the Kingdom]” (Mark 1:15). Paul wrote that the gospel was “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Finally, as God’s purpose of the church is clearly given by Him; be holy because He is holy; the mission is likewise clear. God’s mission for His church is to make disciples “of all nations.”