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!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Should You Fear?”

“Should You Fear?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The short answer is “Yes.” Everyone should fear God! Both believers and non-believers should fear God. The psalmist, Asaph wrote in Psalm 76:7, “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” He wrote this worship song to be used in corporate worship by those who know God. All believers know or should know the holiness and majesty of God. All believers know that God does not accommodate sin. He will exercise absolute justice. Only those who are in Christ will be able to stand before Him. Christians will stand before the holy God not in their own righteousness but only covered in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Most of mankind lives in denial of the God who is to be feared. Some Christians presume upon God’s electing grace in Christ by making their own god who is love as they define it.

The truth is: whether you are a Christian or not, fearing God is the only reasonable response of a creature to his Creator.

The Bible answers the question. Fearing God is the subject of much of Scripture. Three texts of Scripture in addition to Psalm 76 come readily to mind concerning man’s response to his Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 provide God’s revealed answer to whether or not He is to be feared.

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

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

From Solomon, king of Israel to the Apostle Peter the fear of God was known and declared to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Their fear of God was demonstrated in their worship. Fear includes a sense of awe, trembling and reverence.

In the case of Solomon fearing God was the only reasonable alternative to life. Peter gave the members of the church God’s guidance for life. Yet, each writer based his exhortation on an underlying assumption.

The underlying assumption was given by Jesus. Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is God’s answer. Men are to fear God because of who He is.

Jesus said that only God has absolute sovereignty over His creatures. Therefore, we must approach Him with great humility. We are finite and He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. Jesus said that, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

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

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

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

Everything you see around you is there because of our Creator God. We have been made to worship God. He is to be feared. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. Fear God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Calling it like it is”

“Calling it like it is”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
At the risk of being “politically incorrect” I’d like to take a moment to cause some thought to be given to evil versus good. We seem unable to distinguish between the two. Oh, not on a grand scale. We readily recognize evil perpetrated by radical Islamists. But when it comes to the subtler things, we allow ourselves to be confused by various reports of statements and incidents. Woe is used in Scripture to warn those who fail to “call it like it is.” Isaiah 5:20, “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!” God issued a warning to His people for their abusive and oppressive behavior towards their brothers. God issued this warning for leaders who failed to recognize evil as evil.

The book of Isaiah comprehensively covers God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The “woe” quoted from verse 5 is repeated five more times in Chapter 5.

God expects His people to know good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. The ultimate source of “the good” is God. He has revealed “the good” in His word. “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a

We also have God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called, Romans 8:28.

The Bible was written to believers but it applies to all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthans 5:10

As a result of our sinfulness both believers and unbelievers often have a difficult time in discerning “the good”. Believers always appeal to the word of God and pray for the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to guide our discernment, Psalm 119:105

There may be grey issues facing us today. Some say that not everything is black or white. In my opinion, we are too free to categorize issues as grey. Often they are grey because of our unwillingness to look at them through the lens of Scripture. But, there is one issue that is clearly evil. The issue to which I refer is the issue of human life. Some in our nation would suggest that a woman’s right to end the life of the baby in her womb falls under the heading of grey. But, any reasonable human being must admit in this day and age that life indeed begins at conception. The issue of the sanctity of human life does not fall in the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good risk falling under the “woes” declared by Isaiah.

I am called to be a minister of the gospel. I am an ordained pastor. Yet, in this I am simply writing as a man who believes in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. I have been made a new creation by the sovereign grace of God. He has caused me to see the truth and the beauty of Christ. As a member of His family, I am obligated to declare the truth and live under His word. I dare not bless what God curses! I dare not remain silent when evil is called good, nor should any person who professes Christ.

I read somewhere that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good and He expects me to stand for that which He has sanctified, namely human life. There is no middle ground when it comes to standing for the sanctity of human life.

During this critical time in our nation, look for leaders who call it like it is. Look for leaders who stand for the sanctity of human life!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Thinking People”

“Thinking People”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

God intends for His people to be thinking people. God has chosen men and women to be holy. Christians are commanded to be holy. The means of holiness is God working in us by the power of the Holy Spirit in concert with His word. There are two kinds of Christians of whom people refer. There are nominal Christians. These claim the title of Christian, but have little to do with God. Then there are the genuine Christians. These are those who have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world. God chose those who are His in Christ to be holy and blameless. The genuine “article” is called by God; regenerated by God; converted by God; justified by God; adopted by God; sanctified by God and glorified by God, Romans 8: 29-30.

God chose His people for His glory. Paul wrote that Christians have been chosen to the “praise of His glorious grace,” Ephesians 1:6. Christians are those who are in Christ; all others, including nominal Christians are in Adam. Those in Christ are alive and those in Adam are dead.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden, John 17:15, He asked the Father to keep Christians from Satan but not to take them out of the world. As a Christian Pastor, I am obliged to warn all who are in Christ that the world will continue to grow more and more evil. We will live in tribulation. But Jesus said to “take heart; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33. We know that we will share in Christ’s final victory. For now, we live in the “all ready.” When Christ returns we will experience the “not yet.” We will see Him as He is and we will be like Him, 1John 3:2.

Christians are told to keep their faith to themselves. For we are never to mix things like politics with our faith in Jesus Christ. At least so the secularists tell us. There are even some nominal Christians that have “bought” this lie. Somehow, we are to be spiritual people. Whatever that means in the mind of a secularist. The Bible says that “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned,” 1Corinthians 2:14. The truth is that the spiritual life is all of life. It includes that which we see and that which is yet unseen. We, Christians are spiritual people living in a world that does not see! Nevertheless, as those who live in this world, we are not to be naïve or ignorant of the things around us. We hear nonsense portrayed as wisdom and are expected to simply “wink” at it. Those who claim to be the intelligent elite are constantly trying to sell their folly as wisdom. Sadly, some Christians but it.

God has not called us to be naïve or ignorant of the things around us or the things that we hear. We are to be “as wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” Matthew 10:16. Jesus prepared the disciples He sent out, giving them authority and advice for acting wisely. So often, Christians think that we are to somehow “check our minds” at the door of the church building. I’ve actually heard self-appointed Christian leaders say, “God offends the mind to enter the heart.” What utter nonsense! God enters the mind and changes the heart. We are never to disengage our minds. God has given us our minds so that we can think our thoughts through Him.

Christians think using their minds which are being renewed by God as His Spirit applies His word. “We… take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2Corinthians 10:5.

Now to my exhortation and conclusion: Christians think within the church; Christians think in the workplace; Christians think as citizens of the United States of America; Christians think in every sphere of life in which God has placed them.

It is thinking Christians who glorify God and enjoy Him forever. There is no other kind of Christian but a thinking one. Think systematically; think in light of observable information; think biblically and make god-honoring choices.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Image Bearers”

“Image Bearers”
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. There are ethicists who teach that human life has no more intrinsic value than plants and animals! I hope that this shocks you. It should. I suggest that human life has been given a unique value by the Creator. Genesis 1:26a, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” All men are image bearers of God!

At this point, I think that I’ve probably lost all the atheists. 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.

This article is not about the existence of God, directly. But, His existence is the basis for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of every human being. 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

The sense of the words of Scripture, Gen. 1:26, that declare men and women are made in God’s image are likened to objects viewed in a mirror. We are a reflection of God. Distortions of this idea have been offered over the years. 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.

I believe that 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 those referenced above teach. God made us male and female! Both men and women bear God’s image. 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 simply 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 are able to: 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, in spite of thinking we might. We don’t always do what is right in spite of having the moral law written on our hearts. The Bible says that every intention of the thoughts men’s hearts are 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 of 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!