All posts by LouTiscione

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why Celebrate? The Reason for the Season”

Why Celebrate? The Reason for the Season
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
December 25th fast approaches. Each year it seems that we reach Christmas Day faster and faster. But my perception of the ever-increasing speed at which time passes is another story. I’m not sure, but I think that the speed at which time passes might have something to do with growing older.
Regardless of your view of the passing of time, Christians throughout the Western world will be celebrating the birth of the Savior on December 25th once again. It is Christmas Day. It’s not just any holiday. I suppose that it would be more politically correct to wish everyone a Happy Holiday. But denying the reality of the Incarnation does not make it so. December 25th is a day for celebrating the birth of the Christ!
The popular story is that the church borrowed December 25th from pagan practices. Yet a more accurate study of history reveals that the early church celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25th at least as far back as the 2nd Century A.D. And by the 4th Century, the entire Western church had set December 25th as the date upon which Jesus’ birth took place and was to be celebrated annually.
In the early church, the significance of Jesus’ birth was not the highest priority. More was written about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church Fathers were more concerned to keep the historic and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ before believers. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). At the same time, Jesus’ birth narratives were never questioned. It was assumed that every believer accepted the reality of Jesus’ birth as well as His bodily resurrection.
As important as the date for Christmas is, there is a more important question that faces all of us. The more important question is not when to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but why do we celebrate His birth?
But when we look at the basis of our faith resting upon the historic fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, it becomes obvious that without His physical birth, His bodily resurrection would not have occurred. The earliest prophecy of the Incarnation was revealed in Genesis 3:15. God declared that the “seed of the woman” would crush Satan’s head. God made it clear that a man would be born out of the natural course and defeat Satan. Isaiah prophesied the birth of Immanuel, God with us. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew recorded that Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit was to “fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]” (Matthew 1:22).
We celebrate Christmas because God’s only Son, Jesus was born as He promised. The gospel of Matthew states, “Mary… will bear a son, and you [Joseph] shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Apostle Paul wrote this, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4).
The incarnation was necessary for God to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There was a time in the history of the world during which God walked the earth. His name is Jesus, and He is the second person of the Trinity, very God and very Man. This Jesus born of a virgin is the only appeasement of the wrath of God against sin (1 John 2:2). He is the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He is the only Savior of mankind. He is Lord of lords and King of kings!
Jesus is the reason for the season! Amid giving gifts, decorating Christmas trees, and enjoying family gatherings, remember that God demonstrated His love by giving His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Celebrate this Christmas Season knowing Jesus, the reason for this season! Remember it was Jesus who said that eternal life was knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3).
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What Are We Waiting For?”

What are we waiting for?
(Advent, a Season of Preparation)
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

God’s declaration through the prophet Isaiah is a promise for believers. The verse is in contrast to those who appear strong like youths and those who are powerful. Those who are strong in worldly terms will all grow tired and weary. But those who wait for the LORD will not only survive but will run because they won’t get tired.

God promised to deliver His people and 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.

Isaiah often wrote in the Prophetic Past Tense. That is, he saw future events as completed. When he wrote of judgment, he saw the total destruction of the wicked. He saw their final end. He used expressions such as, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:7

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. But He will also lift the curse of original sin and usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth, Revelation 21.

For His people God has promised comfort, peace, and glory. This is what believers 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.

Waiting upon the LORD is how Christians are called to live. It is an ongoing process. This principle is especially important during times of evil. We have heard and seen reports of recent evil behavior of lawless people in many of our major cities. We continue to hear of those who support the killing of babies because of their misapplication of personal choice. Our governmental leaders continue imposing demands and taking more of our freedoms. More and more cultural leaders call good evil and evil good under the guise of a self-centered sense of equity.

Evil behavior and disasters 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. Disasters, natural or otherwise, will be absent from the perfection that God has promised when Christ returns. But for now, God has promised comfort. His comfort is the certainty of knowing that evil and distortions and disasters will come to an end. Further, God’s comfort is in knowing that He is walking through these evil circumstances with us. 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 God, Romans 8:35-39.

The comfort is 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 are waiting for perfection. We are waiting for justice, peace, and glory. We wait for them with eager expectation and assurance that God will bring them all to pass. While we wait, we have the comfort of the Lord by His promise to be with us, Immanuel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Giving Thanks”

Giving Thanks
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Every day I thank the Lord for the blessings of this life. I know that everything that I enjoy is from His hand. We all enjoy the blessings of our sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote the reality of God’s sovereign actions in the midst of his suffering. Jeremiah said, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” God has called His people to “give Him thanks in all circumstances,” 1Thessalonians 5:18

We are blessed in our country to have a day set aside for giving God thanks. You may know that George Washington set one day apart to thank God for His providence. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day an annual observance.

Thank you is so easy to say, yet so often neglected by so many.

Our tendency is to look at those things that are not of our liking and complain about them. It seems distasteful to thank God for even those bad things. But that’s exactly what God’s will is for us. He said to give thanks in all circumstances, 1Thessalonians 5:18.

One of the greatest celebrations in the Bible was a thanksgiving service. 1Chronicles 16 records King David preparing and implementing a celebration of giving thanks to God. The actual event that motivated David was the reminder of God’s covenantal promise made visible in the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chronicles 16:4

God designed the Ark of the Covenant, and it contained the stone tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments. There was also with the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the golden urn containing the manna from heaven and the budded staff of Aaron.

King David knew that the people of God needed a visible reminder of His providence. They saw the Ark of the Covenant as a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. The people of God were reminded that He provided their food in the desert. Jesus said that the Father knows what we need, and He will provide it. God’s people in the wilderness were as fickle as are we. God gave them a sign that He was leading them through Moses and Aaron. When rebellion broke out against Moses and Aaron, God caused Aaron’s staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It was a reminder to the people that God was leading them and would protect them.

Consider what God has given to us! We have been given God’s word written. We hear Him every time we read His word. Every Christian has been given the Holy Spirit who works in concert with the Word to change us and speak to our hearts. God has said that believers can approach His throne of grace with confidence because Jesus has given them access through His shed blood. As we come to the Father in our quiet moments, He has promised to hear us and to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we ask or think.

The above gives abundant reasons for giving thanks. But God is good beyond all measure. He has given us families, friends, provisions and above all the freedom to worship Him.

In addition, Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit who internally testifies that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers now have a clearer revelation of God’s working then did the church of the Old Testament. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God.

We have been given this opportunity to offer thanks and to take time for reflection upon the providence of God. Enjoy time with families and friends. Acknowledge the one who has so graciously provided all that we enjoy.

My prayer is that as you remember and give thanks you will be filled with the knowledge and love of God. He is the source of all that we have. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 Thank the Lord God from whom all blessings flow!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Great Provider”

The Great Provider
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). These are the words of God spoken by Moses to the people of God in the wilderness.
The uncertainty and deep anxiety of many because of our economic situation, our federal government’s demonstrated incompetence, and our culture’s moral decay have led me to think of man’s most basic need and the only one who provides it. Man’s most basic need is life and the only one who provides it is God.
Jesus, who is the Incarnate Word, the only Son of God, quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4). Satan sought to tempt Jesus by drawing His attention to His physical needs. As you may recall, Jesus fasted for 40 days before meeting Satan. Satan challenged the fact of Jesus’ divinity. The challenge, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3) was met with Jesus’ reminder to Satan that there is something much more basic than physical needs. Jesus told Satan and reminded all of us that man’s very existence depends upon the word of God.
A few basic observations may especially help Christians put a right perspective on adversity, considering the current uncertainties of the state of our nation and culture.
God’s word in Deuteronomy was designed by Him to comfort and teach His people. God humbled His people so that they would know an important fact. That fact is the universal truth that all mankind exists by God’s word. There is no life possible apart from the word of God. The plain truth is that because God is, we are! All life proceeds from Him. The Apostle Paul told the philosophers in Athens that all mankind lives and moves and have being (existence) in Jesus. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “All things were created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17).
Many of us think we are the center of the world. Much of our current civil leadership uses this erroneous thinking to manipulate the public. Even those who profess Christ live as though they are the center of everything and fall prey to this manipulation. Many look to the government to provide their needs. When men fail and they will, the result is depression, anger, and despair. Unscrupulous leaders design systems purposed in making men dependent upon them. These leaders make promises that they have no intention of keeping. Yet they depend upon those who are already trusting in them to believe the promises and continue to keep them in power.
The current state of our nation and culture didn’t happen overnight. It took decades in our nation for our leaders to convince many citizens that they are dependent upon government. It will likely take much time to reverse this trend.
In the meantime, know that God ordained our current situation. At a minimum He is teaching all of us that He is the center of the world. He is the one who ordains the steps of men. It is His word by which we live and move and exist. He is the one who provides the needs of His people.
Whether you are directly affected by our government’s incompetence or simply one of many who don’t know from where your next meal will come, know this: Your life depends upon God. Jesus told His disciples that their heavenly Father knew what they needed and would provide it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that our current situation may not change. Yet, please know that amid your difficulty, God is with you. If you belong to Him, He has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
I pray that by God’s grace our nation will be lifted out of decline. Yet, I’m certain that we will continue to face many challenges to our faith. I’m likewise certain that some of our leaders will continue to usurp the place of the Great Provider. I urge you to know the truth. God has revealed the basic fact of man’s existence so that we might submit ourselves to Him and acknowledge Him, for He is the Great Provider.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Holiness, The Supreme Perfection of God”

Holiness, The Supreme Perfection of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We extensively use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We call things perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day.” Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).
There is always something lacking in our understanding of perfect. Our response to some of these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect.” The truth is there is a standard of perfection. God is that standard and His word reveals it. Jesus said that God alone is good. Yet both perfect and good do not fully describe God. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy [He said] because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:16). Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be faithful to the word of God.
I have found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes—His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. —and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect.
God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is wholly unique. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.
God reveals glimpses of His holiness in the Bible, e.g., Isaiah 6:1-5. The occurrence is God’s commissioning of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. Part of the vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” You may have heard that “holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.
The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy.” Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.
We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.
So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! As mentioned above, everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. Our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified (Romans 8:30). God glorifies His people by sanctifying them. He makes them holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify those who belong to Him so that when we see Jesus face to face they will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is man’s only hope!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Marriage”

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I call your attention to the title of this article. The topic is marriage. Note that the title is not narrowed by the word “Christian.” This observation is also necessary to our understanding of the current gender confusion being promoted in our society and in some churches. Marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman. Marriage was given to mankind by God revealed in His Creation narrative (Genesis 2:24). Likewise, God created Man in His image, “male and female” (Genesis 1:26-27).
A problem arises when the meaning of the word “marriage” is expanded. Some factions in society have succeeded to expand marriage to include members of the same sex (gender is defined as either male or female). The problem that results is a confused society. God defined marriage as the lifelong covenantal union of a man and a woman. As the word “marriage” is rightly understood and applied as God designed, societal confusion is lifted. No matter if one is an officer of a court, a legislator, or a church leader, the authority to change the meaning of what God has ordained is beyond their scope.
When the meaning of words change, communication becomes impossible. But the issue of marriage is even more significant than changing the meaning of a word. So-called traditional marriage is the most fundamental pillar of every society. Understanding that God created only two genders (male and female) is a basic prerequisite to understand God’s design for marriage.
I have heard that some church leaders have suggested that the church needs to prepare to accept a re-defined understanding of marriage. Yet, it is the church which is called by her Lord Jesus to stand for the truth. He is the truth. He has revealed the truth in words. We have God’s word written, inerrant, and infallible, under which we live.
So, what saith the Scriptures concerning marriage? I would expect that all who call upon the Lord would be intent on knowing what God has said concerning marriage.
The church’s marriage ceremony states the following: “Marriage was instituted by God Himself in the time of man’s innocency and uprightness. The Lord God said, ’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’ (Genesis 2:18). Thereupon God created woman of man’s own substance and brought her to the man…”
This is one of the greatest understatements recorded in Scripture. Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). God declared everything to be “very good” after this great creative act. Adam was overwhelmed by the wisdom of God in providing him a “helpmeet” who was the perfect complement, the perfect partner.
Further God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Jesus quoted this passage from Genesis and added, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
As further emphasis, the Apostle Paul wrote that the marriage of a man to a woman models the relationship of Christ to His church (Ephesians 5:32).
Therefore, we humbly receive God’s definition of marriage. Marriage is the covenantal union of one man to one woman. God’s great wisdom gave mankind the covenant of marriage. It is the most intimate human relationship. The challenges against traditional marriage are nothing more (or less) than rebellion against God. Attempting to re-define marriage or redefine for whom God ordained this union is rebellion against God.
Our Lawmakers have changed the definition of marriage. Yet their revisionism is neither godly, moral, nor loving! Psalm 2:4 declares God’s view of man’s attempts to usurp His authority. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” The God-instituted covenant of marriage will remain the union of one man with one woman. Our society will bear the consequences of perverting and diminishing marriage. We are already experiencing the consequences of the systematic breakdown of traditional marriage and the family unit.
The issue of marriage is not an issue of equal rights but an issue of revealed truth! I urge you who call upon the name of the Lord to speak up for the sanctity of marriage as defined by God. Pray for God’s protection for our marriages. Celebrate marriage as the profound mystery through which God demonstrates the intimacy between Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:32).

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Reformation”

The Reformation
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Reformation, usually referred to as the Protestant Reformation, was one of the greatest blessings God has given to His church. It was a blessing more than 500 years ago. It continues to be a blessing as the church continues to reform herself in accordance with the word of God.
The faithfulness of an Augustinian monk changed the church. Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. The pope at that time sent a cleric to Germany to raise money for building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cleric’s name was Johann Tetzel. His message was summarized by the saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings the soul from Purgatory springs.”
Luther was outraged by the Roman Church’s program of connecting salvation to giving money. A few years later, the revealed doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear to Luther.
God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which God imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone (Romans 1:17; 3:28). The Latin term is sola fide. Luther said that when he understood the doctrine of sola fide it was as if the gates of paradise opened, and he walked through.
In addition, four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Holy Scriptures. They are: sola gratia, by grace alone; solus Christus, by Christ alone; sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone and Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. They had been taught by the church until the Middle Ages. The Protestant reformers recovered these doctrines and taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
The second sola, sola gratia, means by grace alone. The Bible teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are sinners, born dead in sin. We have inherited the sin nature of Adam. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 are two passages that teach man’s total bondage to sin. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus makes this fact clear. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.
The Protestant reformers did not come up with new or novel ideas. They did not offer an alternative perspective on salvation but declared and taught the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth which the magisterial church had hidden.
Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases solus Christus and sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ alone and by Scripture alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). But the reformers saw that the Roman Church was usurping authority that belonged to God.
To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all matters pertaining to life and salvation.
Of course, there are many authorities over us. God established the church, civil government, and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. His word, the Bible is the ultimate authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men possess a granted authority. When men usurp God’s authority, it is invalid.
The four solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And Romans 11:36 says, “For from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God. Soli Deo gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Covenant Loyalty”

“God’s Covenant Loyalty”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the main vehicles used in society that stipulate requirements for establishing relationships is a contract. A contract is a written or verbal agreement between two or more parties that establishes their mutual relationship. All the parties commit to adhere to the agreed upon requirements. The failure of one party to meet their contractual obligations is called a breach of contract. A breach may support the other parties’ desires to make the contract null and void. Men and women freely enter contracts in order to legally bind all the parties to perform the requirements of the agreement.

We know that contracts are entered into voluntarily and that they are agreements made between equals.

The Christian Faith also includes the idea of contracts, but with significant differences. The main difference is that the Christian Faith’s contract is called a covenant and it is not made between equals!

The distance between God and Man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with Him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with Man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the Covenant of Works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.

The second covenant that God made with Man is called the Covenant of Grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan by the “seed” of the Woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by His resurrection, Hebrews 2:14; 1Corinthians 15:54-57.

There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s Covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. It is within the context of what is called Covenant Theology that the gospel is set and understood.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal His faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with Man. This covenant was made within the Godhead, the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the Covenant of Redemption, John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21. This covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son. The essence of the Covenant of Redemption is that the Son agreed to lay down His life in accordance with the Father’s will to accomplish redemption. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ, Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The final fulfillment of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’

God is always faithful to His Word. God’s “steadfast love” is a declaration of His loyal love for His people, Psalm 118. God has declared that He will accomplish all that He has promised. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself,” 2Timothy 2:13. Christians are secure not because of our faithfulness but only because of the faithfulness of our Covenant God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Church and State Both Under God”

“Church and State Both Under God”
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. Both the church and state are under God’s sovereign authority.

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.

Paul referred to civil authority and civil laws, Romans 13. This is critical as we no longer live in a theocracy. God instituted civil governments. 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 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 recorded 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 sanctification in response to God’s work of free grace. 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, 10, and 12. 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.

“All truth is God’s truth.” The necessity of the rule of law is absolute since truth is absolute. No society can exist for very long if law is relative or applied on sliding scales.

Now we apparently have laws in our nation that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only do so selectively. Truly this is a dangerous time!

Keep in mind that we are blessed in that our country was founded upon a principle that our government is by the people and for the people. Our founders understood God’s blessing of Law. I pray that all would recognize the danger of our current lawlessness. Devote yourself to vote for men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law. Understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we can guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hold dear the truth that freedom is only possible under the rule of law.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Few Good Men”

A Few Good Men
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A few good men were needed in Israel. The Church would be wise to learn from the example of Israel. The church’s greatest need is a few good men! It is only necessary to look back at the church of the Old Testament to see the need and God’s remedy. Problems in the church and in society always find their root in the quality and character of the leaders.
1 Kings 12 through 2 Kings 25 contains the record of God’s dividing Israel into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom consisted of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom contained the remaining two tribes of Israel. The northern kingdom came to be known as Israel and the southern kingdom as Judah.
There was a total of thirty-nine kings and one queen between the two kingdoms. Out of these forty monarchs there were only eight who did what was right in accordance with God’s standard of what is right. Of those eight kings, four kings failed to remove the “high places”. Their failure to remove the “high places” resulted in the people continuing to worship pagan gods at those “high places”.
The northern kingdom, Israel, existed for approximately 208 years. The southern kingdom’s longevity was 344 years. The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians. God, through the Prophets declared the end of both.
The apostle Paul reminded the church of Israel’s demise (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Israel in the Old Testament was a nation of idolaters. John Calvin wrote in the 16th century that the mind of man is an idol factory. Mankind hasn’t changed.
We who are the church ought to take the Bible’s warnings seriously. That is, those of us who profess Jesus is Lord know that we are citizens of heaven, yet we still live in the world. God has called us to work out our salvation within the context of the local church. He has given each one of His children and the church in general a command to be holy. Christians affirm that God has made us for worship. We know that all men were created to worship the one true God. God has set His people apart for Himself.
The modern evangelical church in large part has demonstrated ignorance of God’s command to worship Him despite His warning through Israel. Not only has He commanded worship, but He has declared the way He desires His people to worship Him. The church has been deceived by the teaching of some leaders that the church is about fellowship or relationships with one another. The Bible teaches that fellowship in the church is a propositional truth because all believers are “in Christ”. Relationships with one another are meaningful if based in Christ.
One of the last concerns of the apostle Paul was leadership in the church. He knew that the church would be invaded by false teachers. He wrote that people would surround themselves with those who would tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). He knew that the only remedy was for the leaders in the church to be fully convinced of the absolute sufficiency of the word of God. He said that there would be terrible times in the last days. He said that people would be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, irreverent, brutal, and not lovers of the truth. Of course, as we read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we immediately think of the world around us. But the sobering reality is that Paul was not speaking about the world. He was declaring what would happen in the church. He said that there would be people having an appearance of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5).
The answer Paul gave to two pastors, Timothy and Titus was to select a few good men to lead the church under Christ, who is the Head. The answer is still the same. The southern kingdom of Judah had a few good men who did what was right. Likewise, the church of Jesus Christ, now more than ever, needs a few good men to lead in submission to the word of God. We don’t need new ideas, youth movements, or so-called “missional” emphases in the church. The answer is biblical leadership. May the Lord raise up a few good men in every Bible believing church and may we recognize them.