All posts by LouTiscione

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Seekers”

“Seekers”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Much of the Western Christian Church has embraced the idea that men and women are seeking after God. A movement that primarily began in the 80’s called the “Church Growth Movement” had its origin in this assumption.

At least 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. Churches using this philosophy have grown by the thousands. Since those early days, many church leaders have improved upon the “seeker” philosophy. Books have been written that outline methods for growing a large church. In one way or another, the methods condense down to meeting “felt needs” of the people. By definition, “felt needs” are those things people feel that they need to find satisfaction in life.

Since there are as many “felt needs” as there are individuals, unique programs are needed. Church Growth experts urge pastors to develop ministry programs to satisfy the needs of people segregated into groups based on common life situations. For example, they instruct leaders of churches to have a ministry to single mothers, to teens, to divorced people, to older singles, to older couples; the lists go on and on.

There is a common thread in churches developed to meet “felt needs”. They design entertaining worship experiences. 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 verse from which the Pastor speaks. The worship service is designed for unbelievers with the intention of evangelism. Praise bands provide the entertainment necessary to attract people. The experience is much like attending a secular concert.

The motivation may be well-intended by some. Those who promote the “felt needs” philosophy of church growth may sincerely believe that men and women can be convinced to give their lives to Jesus. They hold a sincere belief that there are people seeking a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

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 our dislikes or preferences. The Bible calls believers to hold up what they see to the light of Scripture. In other words, “What does God say concerning church growth and seekers?”

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter, and on this rock 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. The Christian Faith is the faith received by the Apostles who wrote and proclaimed the truth. The response of those who were pierced by the Word and Spirit through Peter’s preaching, Acts 2, devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and to the prayers. But, Peter’s confession, Matthew 16:16, was the main point. He declared Jesus to be the “Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said Peter didn’t come up with that truth, but God, the Father revealed it to him. Peter’s confession is the truth upon which the Church of Jesus Christ is built.

Jesus’ method for growing the church is very simple. He is the builder. The means by which He 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.

Concerning seekers, Jesus told a Samaritan woman that God, the Father seeks worshipers, John 4:23ff. The Apostle Paul quoted the Old Testament and wrote, “No one understands; no one seeks for God,” Romans 3:11. Men and women do not seek the one true God. People seek after what they feel they need, but not what they really need. The bottom line is that all mankind is dependent upon God. We depend upon Him to bring us to Him. He is the one who seeks His own. Those who are His come to Him; submit to Him; live for Him and worship Him. Jesus promised to build His church His way and even the forces of hell will not prevail against it.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Hope for Today”

“Hope for Today”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?… Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:1, 3

King David wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He felt all alone, forsaken, abandoned by God. It has been said that desperate people do desperate things. But David’s desperation showed itself in constant prayer. He persisted in seeking God’s answer to his desperation.

Jesus told a parable, Luke 18:1ff, of a persistent widow to teach His disciples to persist in prayer. A demonstration of trust in the Lord is persistence in prayer in our times of need.

Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. Jesus quoted from Psalm 22 as He hung on the cross. The fulfillment of David’s words in the first part of Psalm 22 were in Jesus’ taking upon Himself the full wrath of God for the sins of His people.

Yet, there is ongoing meaning for all who are in Christ. Desperation comes upon all of us. At some time, we will all face being alone or feeling that we are alone. Therefore, there is something that must be known and lived concerning God. David knew that he lived before a holy God. He wrote, “Yet you are holy,” Psalm 22:3a. As David was, I also am aware that I live before God who is holy.

David wrote that the holy God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” That is, He is the God who has revealed Himself to His people who respond in praise. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” John 4:22. The point is, there is only one God and He has revealed Himself as holy. Unless we know Him, we are lost and hopeless in our desperation.

I believe that many in churches are like the Samaritan woman, worshiping what they don’t know. In stark contrast David persisted in prayer because he knew that the object of his prayer was the holy God. He remembered that He was the One in whom his predecessors trusted. He remembered that God answered their prayers, heard their cries and delivered them from bondage.

We have a fuller revelation than did the church of the Old Testament. Yet, like them, we seem to think that there must be more than knowing the holiness of God! We demonstrate our desires by the things we do and teach. We think or at least some, that discipleship is a program. More, discipleship programs are often about how to live while being accountable to another person or group. Rarely is discipleship about theology. Often missing in these discipleship programs is learning about the one disciples follow.

Again, notice King David’s declaration. “Yet you are holy.” David knew God! He was a man after God’s own heart. David had the revealed truth of the character of the God in whom he trusted. The Spirit of God held David accountable.

It is the same Spirit of God who holds disciples accountable to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Peter wrote, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” 1Peter 3:15a. The means of growing is by God’s design through the Spirit of Christ working in us to do that which is pleasing in His sight, Hebrews 13:20.

Psalm 22 was not only a prophecy of Christ’s sacrifice; it is hope for all who know Him. The means God has given His people to persevere in the midst of feelings of desperation is the knowledge of who He is.

If you are going through a time of feeling deserted by God, turn to learn more of who He is. Turn to His revealed truth, the Bible. You will discover that He has promised never to leave His people. We may all cry “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” But know that the One who was truly forsaken by God, Jesus, is the light of the world. He has promised to be with us; to intercede to the Father; to go before us and to bring us to His heavenly home.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Ethics”

“Ethics”

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

Why does it seem that society requires Christians to keep what they believe to themselves? In our so-called multi-cultural society, all have equal opportunities to express themselves except Christians. Secular humanists are those who have a man-centered world view. They insist that faith is a private matter. They are quick to point to our founders who expressed the idea that the church is separate from the state.

Those who claim that there is this overriding principle of the separation of church and state, silence public moral reflections. Their premise is that there are no moral standards; just as there is no absolute truth. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes! So, we might use their standard to critique their philosophy. Since there are no absolutes, how can the secular humanists impose this one, “Christian be silent?”

Let me suggest a view that is closer to our Founders’. They, E.G. Jefferson, insisted that the establishment of a state religion was not appropriate for religious freedom in this country. Specifically, they did not recommend a Church of America comparable to the Church of England. However, the Founders knew that this experiment of a Democratic Republic (Representative Republic) would not survive unless those involved in government had a moral compass. The Founders envisioned a triangular system. The three points of the triangle are: Government, Capitalism and Faith, each one informing the other. In my opinion, it has only been in the last four or five decades that faith has been removed the triangle.

When faith is absent, ethics are also absent. Decisions not informed by faith are made based on individual preferences.

Opposed to the system based on personal preference there is an ethical system. Ethics are brought to bear in every situation so as to make good and right decisions. In order to make ethical decisions, especially for those in government, one cannot “keep it to oneself”. The “it” is faith. Faith motivates our actions. Therefore, keeping our faith to ourselves is not possible if credible/ethical decisions are sought.

We are seeing the absence of moral ethics in our society. Self-interest has become the great motivator. That is, we make decisions based upon what someone promises to give us or what we think will benefit us. The question of right and wrong rarely enters our decision-making process.

It’s not only the secular world where this philosophy is seen. It is in the church as well. There is a generally accepted philosophy of ministry in so-called evangelical churches. This popular motivation for why churches do the things they do is called “felt needs”. Felt needs in churches are analogous to self-interest in the public arena.

There are two passages of Scripture that specifically address the question of ethical practice. Deuteronomy 11:26-28, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God… and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God…” and 2Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

In each case, Deuteronomy and 2Corinthians, believers are called to apply what they know to be true in making decisions. The guiding force in each case is the knowledge of God. Faith in God should be seen. It is not in accordance with God’s word that His people keep what they believe silent. He holds all of His people accountable to declare the truth.

James wrote, “… I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18 Peter exhorted Christians to, “… always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15. The Risen Lord Jesus commanded disciples to make disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:19.

If we are truly to be the church of Jesus Christ, we must speak what we believe. How can we simply remain silent when all around us there are people lost and heading to hell? Ethical decisions are made when we look at every opportunity to live out the truth of what we believe.

The Lord has blessed us all with the privilege of living in a country that cherishes freedom. We who are Christians are by God’s word to live under the law of the land and to exercise what we believe in the public arena.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Wake-Up Call”

God’s Wake-Up Call
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

I believe God is issuing a wake-up call to the church. No, I’m not a prophet. I haven’t received a special word from the Lord! God’s wake-up call was issued through His prophets in the Old Testament. His wake-up call to the church is very clear and simple. He has called His people to know Him! The church, commanded to be holy, has a primary responsibility. She is to teach God’s people His revealed character. God declared what He required. He told His people to do what is right, to love kindness and to walk humbly before Him, Micah 6:8. Each action: doing what is right, loving kindness and walking in humility requires knowing God as He has revealed Himself in His word.

The church will make little difference in the world if she turns to pleasing men rather than God. If the church ignores her responsibility to teach the revealed character of God, then her members will not reflect His holiness.

Corporate Worship is one of the primary means by which the truth of God is declared and learned by God’s people. It is also the first place in which the church can be seen to either submit to God or pander to man. Some churches have chosen to design worship services to “attract people to God”. As well intended as the motivation is, the result is that people may be attracted but not to the one true God. Jesus said that the Father is the seeker of worshipers, John 4:23. God has also revealed the content of worship, referred to as the biblical elements of worship.

The biblical elements of worship are reading Scripture, singing psalms and hymns, offering prayer, preaching the word, giving tithes and offerings, confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These elements are ordained by God for His glory and our enjoyment of Him.

Conversely, man’s desire to serve himself is as old as the Garden. There is a narrative that records a truly “seeker sensitive” worship service emphasizing man’s desire to please himself.

Aaron, Moses’ brother designed a “seeker sensitive” worship service to satisfy the people rather than honor God. Exodus, Chapter 32 is the record of this worship service and verse 6 is especially telling. “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” The people celebrated the satisfaction of their needs, when in fact they had become idolaters. The Apostle Paul quoted Exodus 32:6 in his warning to the church about the certain judgment of God against this kind of self-serving idolatry, 1Corinthians 10:6.

Psalm 50 is another example of God’s view of self-serving, empty worship. God indicted His people calling them “my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice,” Psalm 50:5. He then proceeded to tell His people to keep their useless rituals. He reminded them that He didn’t need any bulls to be sacrificed. He owned everything. He further declared that His requirement was “a sacrifice of thanksgiving,” Psalm 50:14.

The church of the Old Testament demanded that Aaron make gods for them. God judged them. The people of Psalm 50 received God’s rebuke and He judged them for their false worship. Yet in the light of God’s warning, many churches persist in structuring worship, ministry and teaching around what people feel they need.

Yes, the church is about meeting needs. But what people feel they need is not truly what they need. The biblical elements of worship were designed by God so that His church would engage Him as the truth of who He is taught and experienced in worship and ministry. Using God’s revealed principles will lead men and women to be impacted by His word in concert with His Spirit. As a result, His people will live seeking to reflect the truth of God’s self- revelation. God has promised to meet our needs. The Apostle Paul said, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

May all who call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus answer His wake-up call to know God and thereby live as a reflection of His revealed character. Seek a church that is faithful to God’s will by declaring the truth of His holy character so that by His power you will be enabled to live for His glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Refusing to Believe…”

Refusing to Believe…
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The most reliable book, the Bible, documents in great detail the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus! The gospel of Mark records the event of Jesus’ resurrection. Mark wrote that the resurrected Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” Mark 16:9. Matthew and Luke also recorded the same incident.

The Apostle John wrote that Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter. John recorded that Peter and John went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. They had to see what Mary reported. After all they couldn’t just believe a woman’s testimony. They found that Mary had reported what she saw accurately.

Centuries earlier the writers of the Psalms prophesied of the person and work of Christ, E.G.: Psalms 2, 3, 8, 16, 22 and 23. Isaiah wrote of the “Suffering Servant” who would bear the sins of His people and reign forever, Isaiah 42-66.

Ancient historians also documented Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, E.G. Josephus, “the Antiquities”.

The followers of Jesus all preached His resurrection. The church has continued to preach the resurrection of Jesus for 2,000 yrs. Persecution did not dampen or alter the message. It only served to spread it. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” as stated by Tertullian (160 – 225 AD).

Yet unbelief persists. The world has attempted every possible means to crush the truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and men continue in their refusal to believe!

Resurrection does not simply mean to be made alive again. Lazarus (John 11) was made alive again by Jesus simply commanding him to come out of the grave. Lazarus was resuscitated. He was made to live again as a mere mortal. Lazarus subsequently died as all men do. Jesus however was resurrected. He got out of the grave with a glorified body. He was seen as a man; He was recognized by those who knew Him. He ate with His disciples. Yet, He appeared to His disciples who were in closed rooms. He was able to move to another place in an instant. The resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven. The Lord of glory is physically in heaven. He rules all things from heaven. He is on the right hand of God, the place of power and authority.

The resurrected Jesus is called the “first born among many brothers”, Romans 8:29. All who are in Christ will receive glorified bodies like His when He comes again to judge the living and the dead. If we remain alive when Christ returns, we “shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet,” 1Corinthians 15:51, 52.

The biblical and historical evidence is overwhelming for Jesus’ resurrection. In light of so great a body of factual documentation, it would seem unlikely that men would persist in unbelief. But unbelief is all around us.
Jesus said the reason is that men loved darkness rather than light, John 3:19.

Every Lord’s Day, Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian Church changed the Sabbath Day for Worship to the first day of the week because of Jesus’ resurrection. Many will visit churches on each Lord’s Day, perhaps, some for the first time. Some only make it their practice to go to church two or three times a year. Prayers will be said. The Scriptures will be read. Everyone will be looking forward to an uplifting sermon from the Pastor. Yet the hearts of many will remain cold to the truth. There will likely be no acknowledgement of the impact of the Resurrection of Jesus on their lives.

Nevertheless, the place to be on each Sunday is a local church that proclaims the pure gospel. God has chosen the means by which He saves His people. God’s ordinary means to save the lost is the preaching of His word, Romans 10:14-17.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “The visible church… is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

My prayer for is that many would attend a local church where the word of God is faithfully preached, so that the word of God in concert with the Spirit of God will effectually call men and women to Himself.

I urge you to find a church shaped by God’s word rather than one that seeks to be like culture, and which is committed to making you “feel” better about yourself! Believe the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It’s not about me.”

“It’s not about me.”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” “It is good to give thanks to the LORD…”

What a radical thought! It is indeed a good thing to thank God. This verse is one of the extreme understatements in the Scriptures. Yet, even though it is generally affirmed, I believe that it is rarely understood so that it can be acted upon. Oh, we say prayers of thanksgiving for various things, but to look to God and know that He is the giver of everything is rare. James wrote, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17a

The superscription for Psalm 92 declares it to be a “Song for the Sabbath”. The Sabbath was the day set apart to God. The New Testament believers set the first day of the week apart to the Lord Jesus because He was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. The Sabbath was and continues to be an act of commitment by those who profess faith declaring that everything is about and for God not man.

The Psalm is often used on the Lord’s Day precisely because it directs all attention to the LORD as is appropriate for Sunday Worship.

The hard teaching of Psalm 92 is that everything is for God. It was a humbling realization that I was not the center of life. This principle is not only humbling for individuals, but it compels all mankind to submit to our Creator. Life is not about us. All life, all that God created is about Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16b. Jesus is the subject of Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the focus of everything.

Therefore, the psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” He affirmed that there is no other object to which thanks can or should be given both individually and corporately. We rightly thank others but forget that God is the ultimate source of everything good. He has chosen to work through secondary causes, that is, other men and women. God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift.

We all know this. Yet at the first sign of difficulty we focus attention on ourselves. We become introspective and sometimes spiral into a sense of despair. As long as the Lord tarries in coming back, there will be tribulation. Adversity will tend to challenge our security and hope in Christ. Our sinfulness will lead us to change our focus from God to us. Even during times of great prosperity, we will be tempted to look inward rather than outward toward God. The battle is constant. Our hope of victory is solely resting upon the sovereign Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Ephesus that every Christian will be engaged in a spiritual battle. We will be regularly challenged to lose hope and doubt God’s word. Paul’s exhortation is for the believer to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the might of His power.” Ephesians 6:10

So then, believer beware that you are not immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. God’s remedy is the only lasting one. God said, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2Corinthians 7:10

Thanking God begins with acknowledging that we are self-centered. In other words, we are sinners in His sight. May your acknowledgment lead to a deep sorrow for your sin. May that deep sorrow, a godly sorrow, lead you to turn from your sin of self and then to exercise the other gift that God gives to His people, namely faith.

Just as saving faith is a continuing reliance upon the person and work of Christ, repentance is an ongoing turning from sin. Christians live penitently. We confess our sins and turn to Jesus with the assurance that God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Therefore, for all those who possess genuine repentance and faith follow the psalmist’s exhortation. “… Give thanks to the LORD.” Life is all about Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do the right thing!”

“Do the right thing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We seem to be constantly bombarded with complicated situations that call for making an informed decision. Of course, generally, all would want to do the right thing!

Therefore, one must know what is right before he can do it. Further, to know what is right, one must know the source of all that is right. The source of what is good, right and true is God. He has revealed what is good, right and true in His word. All actions must be held up to the light of Scripture to determine right or wrong. God said that blessing is the result of obeying Him and curse is the end of disobedience, Deuteronomy 11:26-28.

But, you won’t likely find a verse of Scripture that will tell you which car to buy or where you ought to work, etc. But the Bible does give principles by which decisions can be made. The Spirit of God working in concert with the word of God informs the conscience of one who has been born again, that is, a genuine Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians to hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5.

In addition, Romans 12:2 calls Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind, “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, which includes doing the right thing. 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.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely; to do what is right, it is necessary for man to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Every believer is called to apply God’s word and obey Him for His glory. Thereby, believers seek to do the right thing.

Doing what is right, wise living, is the way of blessing. By ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we will do the wrong thing and 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 method for knowing the right thing is not easy. 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, so that you are equipped to know the right thing and then encouraged to do it.

All that I have said above applies to Christians. Only those who have been born again are able to see the truth and thereby know the One who has revealed it. Are we then to think that only genuine Christians can do the right thing? What of the rest of mankind?

The Bible applies to both believers and non-believers. For example, God gave the Law, Exodus 20. The Law has three uses. The first is to put bounds around sin. The second is to point to man’s need for Christ and the third is to be the guide for living the Christian Life, the means of sanctification, Galatians 3:19ff The Law reveals to all men what is good, right and true. Man’s laws stand under God’s law so as to protect the innocent and punish the wrongdoer. So for a believer and a non-believer the first step in doing the right thing is to obey the law.

In my view there are two basic questions to ask when discerning what the right action is. First “Is it lawful?” and second, “Does this agree with God’s Law?”

In conclusion, God “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

This simple and plain truth of God is perhaps more needed today than at any other time in our history.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Justice or Mercy”

“Justice or Mercy”
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. That which 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, 1John 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, “Heaven or Hell”

“Heaven or Hell”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What’s the “bottom line”? What’s at stake? Jesus taught about the “bottom line”. He said, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:25 In other words, there are only two options for all mankind, heaven or hell!

One of the most frequent themes of Jesus’ teaching was judgment. Jesus said that there will be a final accounting given to God, Matthew 11:20-24. He instructed His disciples to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Jesus was a master teacher. He used parables to teach His followers about the Kingdom of God. He also used those same parables to confuse those who were destined to perish, Matthew 13:10-17 and Isaiah 6:9-10. All the parables of Jesus have a cumulative effect. That is, each one builds upon the previous. The final parable, Matthew 25:31-48 is about judgment. It is undeniable to all who read the Bible that God is holy and He will judge the world. Judgment has been given to the Risen Lord Jesus. When He returns, He will put an end to all that is unholy and evil.

We would do well to examine that final parable that is referred to as the “Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”. For the sake of brevity, I want to draw attention to the beginning and the end of the parable.

Jesus gave the time of judgment. He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory”, Matthew 25:31. The exact date was not specified. But, clearly, the day of judgment is what the prophet Joel referred to as “the Day of the LORD”. The Apostle John was given a vision of that day, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” Revelation 20:11

Jesus used the title “Son of Man” when speaking of Himself. This was a familiar Old Testament description of the Messiah, the King of Righteousness. Jesus said that He would come in His glory. That is, when He returns, He will not come as the Savior, but as the King who has all glory and honor and power. He will come sitting on His glorious throne. This is figurative language describing the absolute power and authority that Jesus possesses and will exercise.

The initial actions of King Jesus are clearly stated. Jesus said that He will have all nations gathered before Him. No one will escape this divine appointment. Immediately, Jesus said that He will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep are described as those “who are blessed by My Father”, Matthew 25:34. They are said to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In other words the sheep are those whom God chose in eternity to be in Christ, Ephesians 1:4-6.

In the parable, Jesus described characteristics of sheep. The sheep discovered that as they ministered to Jesus’ brothers, they were ministering to Jesus. The sheep’s behavior was not a checklist of reasons for being “sheep”. It was a declarative statement that described the behavior of sheep.

The Bible teaches that those who are in Christ live differently by God’s grace in the Holy Spirit. In the context of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, sheep live like sheep. James wrote about the genuineness of saving faith. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”, James 2:17. The Apostle Paul also wrote concerning the lives of “sheep” (believers). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

The Parable ends with the fact of an eternal hell. Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” We learn that the horror of hell is separation from God’s favor. The “goats” are commanded by Jesus to depart from Him. Their eternal home was prepared by God for the devil and his angels. The goats will share this residence forever. The bottom line is the reality of heaven and hell. God has chosen those who will live with Him forever. This truth may not tickle men’s ears, but God has promised to raise the dead by His word in concert with His Spirit.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Method for Ministry”

“God’s Method for Ministry”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“He (the LORD) bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; He came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before Him hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds.” Psalm 18:9-12 (ESV) David wrote these words and through them painted a picture of the awesomeness of God. His description of God laid the foundation for the succeeding verses that declare God’s holy judgment! The true God whom David described will execute perfect justice.

As a pastor called by God and sent by the church to preach and teach His word and shepherd His people, I often ask, “How much of this God is really proclaimed in churches?” It has been said over the centuries by theologians and philosophers that man’s most basic need is to know God and oneself. Accurate knowledge of man proceeds from the revealed truth of God.

Knowing God and ourselves in relationship to Him connect our hearts to our heads. That is, making this connection motivates how we live. Ministry practices in the church begin with the revealed knowledge of God and continue as that knowledge is applied to all life situations.

The verses quoted are revealed truth. God is full of majesty. He is the one who created everything and therefore owns everything. All life is lived before Him. Therefore, it follows that all Christian ministry which is service is performed in light of and because of the knowledge of God.

On the occasion of my graduation from seminary our Commencement Speaker, Dr. J.I. Packer said, “Do not seek to interpret Scripture until you have been interpreted by Scripture.” As a minister of the gospel I am made constantly aware that my study and preparation to preach and teach the Bible is the means that God uses to change me. My conviction by the Spirit of God occurs prior to standing in the pulpit.

King David was living proof that God’s word in concert with His Spirit changed him. He wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about the God he worshiped. In the verses quoted from Psalm 18, David wrote not only of God’s supreme majesty but also of His holy justice. Like David, we all live before this God.

In addition, the book attributed to David’s son, Solomon, says this about God’s method for life and ministry, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7.

Both King David and Solomon understood the fear of the LORD and were caused see their lives in the light of God’s word. Likewise, as we combine God’s revelation of: His awesomeness, His holy justice with the source of knowledge and understanding we discover that “fear of the LORD” is the root of life and ministry in the church.

God revealed His method for ministry. His method is this: learn who He is and apply His revealed character in every situation. God’s method stands in stark contrast to Man’s. Men suggest that proper and effective ministry in the church requires that we learn what people need and then set out to meet those needs. This has proven to grow churches larger. Yet, growing numbers does not appear to accomplish growing influence, growing holiness, or the ability to make critical decisions. When we use man’s methods we get man’s results. But when we use God’s methods, we see His results.

One problem with man’s methods is: each new circumstance requires a new program to answer it. The church becomes a program generator rather than a place where the truth is heard, lived and shared. I believe that we are seeing the results of man’s methods. More and more professing Christians are unable to articulate what they believe or why. Surveys reveal that the lifestyles of church members look like the lifestyles of the world.

My purpose in this article is not to “bash” churches. I love the church and all that she represents. I love the church so much that I believe that I am accountable to God to briefly outline His means to make us more like Christ. This is what it means to follow Jesus.