Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It doesn’t matter!”

“It doesn’t matter!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Once again, we’re in the midst of a campaign season. Already, I’ve heard spokesmen and women saying that character doesn’t matter. Several months ago, one of those campaigning for the highest office in the country said, “What does it matter now?” The statement was made in response to a question concerning what really happened during an attack on one of our embassies. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future.

God said that He will judge those outside, 1Corinthians 5:13. The church must be concerned with judging ourselves. A Christian’s character is of great importance for the purity of the witness of the church. Character does matter.

The Bible gives the means by which we can know someone’s character. We can gain information from a person’s past to help predict his actions in the future. Of course, there are no guarantees. We are not omniscient. Yet, we can make reasonable decisions concerning a person’s character.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is one clear place of Scripture in which discerning a person’s character is given. The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew Chapters 5 through 7. The entire sermon was a teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples. Matthew set the context on a mountainside. Jesus saw the crowds that were following Him and He went up on the mountain and then He sat down. Matthew 5:2, “And he opened his mouth and taught them (his disciples)…”

This sermon was given by Jesus to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. The effect of His Sermon drives those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon.

The issue of character is near the close of Jesus’ sermon. Jesus called the evidence of character a person’s fruits. He said that there would be false prophets. He said that these false prophets would look and dress like sheep but would actually be wolves. These wolves would seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God seek to destroy God’s people.

The Bible is written to believers but applies to all people. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all whether or not it is believed. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning discerning another’s character and genuineness. Character is recognizable no matter what the circumstance. The character of an individual is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. In order to recognize a man or woman of character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. A man’s past actions are his “fruits.”

False people have “rotten fruit” seen by past actions. Sometimes these false people actually say things that might be true. They may be lifted up by those who have ulterior motives. Jesus said look at what they have produced before determining their genuineness.

We need leaders who are genuine. We need to look back on a man or woman’s life before we pledge our support. This principle of looking at a person’s fruits applies not only to our civil government but to all areas of life in which we must select leaders. Certainly, this evaluation of character is critical in the church.

We can complain about those in leadership who display little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth “made-up” leaders designed to attract the uninformed. Or, we can demand honesty from our leaders. Look for outlets that are willing to give accurate information about a prospective leader’s past. As Jesus instructed His disciples, look to their fruits. “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Words that turned my world upside down”

“Words that turned my world upside down”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“In the beginning God…” are the words that turned my world upside down! These words are revealed truth which is reality. Reality is that sticky truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some think that reality is what you make of it or believe it to be. Try standing in front of a brick wall and imagining that it’s not there. Then try running as fast as you can in the belief (even strongly held) that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious. Such is the result of being confronted by these words.

Just like that symbolic wall, God’s words knocked me off of my throne. I was a Christian when it happened, but had yet to think deeply about the nature and character of God. God knocked me down and caused me to think deeply about reality. Reality and truth are true for all or not true at all.

Genesis 1:1 declares that there was a time nothing existed; therefore, God made everything out of nothing! Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. By the word of His command all Creation came into being. God changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life. But not until He confronted me with the truth of Creation did I begin to understand how small I am and how infinite He is.

In making me a new creation, God gave me new desires, specifically a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being. All things that exist proceed from Him. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh in Greek (I’m paraphrasing). It is Jesus.” (Read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel).

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right of ownership and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28. The claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable.

Let me re-phrase. Before there was anything there was God. He chose a time to make everything out of nothing. A once great philosopher of the 21st Century said, “The cosmos is all there ever was or ever will be,” (Carl Sagan). Acceptance of this view, in my opinion, requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you or have you responded to the reality that you’re not in control?

The critic might say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

You are free to ignore reality. But, for the sake of repetition, it would be like ignoring the wall I mentioned in my introduction. So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator?

Here is Jesus’ answer. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote to the church, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:7-10

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is God?”

“Who is God?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Looking back over the articles that I’ve written for publication, I discovered something that convicted me? I discovered that I had not written anything concerning the answer to the question, “Who is God?” Everyone has an opinion and will freely give their answer to the question. But, my opinion and every other opinion are irrelevant. Man does not have the right to define God. If we could, then we’d be gods! But man has an obligation to answer the question. The obligation was put in all of us by the One who made us.

Only the most hardened atheist would suggest that seeking to answer the question, “Who is God?” is vanity. The atheist will say that there is no God and then seek to explain everything without the need for God. Which confuses me since most of their effort is spent on eliminating something that they don’t believe exists. Well-intended secular humanists spend their efforts substantiating their world views based on their belief that they are gods.

Then there are those who believe that their god is calling them to murder those who don’t believe what they believe. Politicians expect us to believe that Muslims are actually worshiping the same God that Christians worship.

The fundamental question remains, “Who is God?” or rather, “What is God?”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the question biblically, which is the only way to answer. “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” The biblical bases for this answer are: John 4:24; Job 11:7; Psalm 90:2; Exodus 3:14; Rev. 4:8 and 15:4.

God has revealed to man the truth of whom and what He is. Creation is God’s revelation to man that He is. God’s word written, His special revelation, is the revelation from God that stipulates God’s redemptive history, including God’s requirements for man to have a saving relationship with Him. Jesus is the word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John 1:1. Further, the Apostle Paul wrote, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:15-16

Jesus who is God commanded those who follow Him to, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19. Jesus, the Son of God read from the prophet Isaiah in His home town synagogue, “The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me,” Luke 4:18a (Isaiah 61:1a). The Bible declares that God is one, Deuteronomy 6:4. The Bible also declares that there is one God in three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity is revealed throughout Scripture. Each person of the Trinity is fully God. Yet each person of the Trinity is a distinct person.

For example, in the Creation narrative of Genesis 1 we see all three persons involved in Creation. The Trinity is essential to our understanding of redemption as well. The Father initiated redemption. The Son accomplished redemption and the Holy Spirit applies redemption. As I referred to the Westminster Shorter Catechism for the definition of God, likewise I refer to it for the biblical definition of the Trinity. “There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC Q/A #6)

If anyone says that he believes in God, unless he believes in the Triune God, believes in a god of his own making.

The fact that there is a God is undeniable. That is, unless one desires to live in denial by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 18. Man’s view of God is not relevant in answering the question, “Who is God?” The one true God has revealed Himself. He alone, since He is God, has the right to tell us who He is!

Finally, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” The only way to know God is to know His Son, Jesus!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “One Man’s Story”

“One Man’s Story”
By the Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We’ve frequently heard the expression, “Where is he coming from?” What follows is one man’s story. It is his reason for seeing the world through the lens of Scripture. I am the “one man.”

God snatched me from the pit of hell on January 29, 1986. The day started normally. But, on my way to my office at the Nuclear Power Plant in Crystal River Florida, I was broad-sided by a semi-truck. It occurred about 7:30 in the morning. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I awoke four days later in a hospital in Gainesville, FL with one desire and many broken bones. My one desire was for Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The God of truth and grace opened my eyes to the world and to His beauty. My only thought was to run to Him. There was no struggling on my part in deciding whether to choose Jesus. I didn’t have the C.S. Lewis experience of being dragged into the kingdom. The thought of running from Jesus never entered my mind.

Not long after the accident, Jesus’ words in John’s gospel burned into my mind and traveled to my heart. “UNLESS one is born again he CANNOT see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (ESV)

Let me be frank, before that day, I had no such desire for Jesus. Oh, I thought that I was a good person, most people do. I thought that as long as I was better than most, the god of my making would welcome me. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? Surely it does! (1John 4:8) But the Bible also says that God is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3. I never thought about the justice of God. He never sets aside His justice. He extends mercy only because of the sacrifice of Jesus which alone satisfies God’s justice.

Before my “accident,” I never knew the one true God. I know now that I was dead. I used to think that all this “born again” stuff was for the weak minded. But the reality, the truth of what I lived was that dead men don’t do anything. I was unconscious. I couldn’t have saved myself. I couldn’t even get out of my hospital bed. On my best day, I didn’t know that I was lost and headed to hell. God had to act. He did and I look back in amazement that He chose me! Yes, I responded to Him. But I only responded to His action. I often hear that if one believes he will be born again. How foolish! Worse, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. God had to act to save me and He did!

As I looked back on what God did in saving me through the lens of God’s word, I saw every aspect of my life as part of God’s sovereign plan. Even when I didn’t know God, He was directing my path in accordance with His will. I thought that I was making choices. And I was, but my choices had already been planned by the Sovereign God. Think about this when you are wondering how you got to where you are: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV) The words of Jesus, John 6:44, made perfect sense as I looked at my life in Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (ESV)

The biblical doctrine of salvation is: Salvation is by God from God.

God gave me eyes to see. Therefore, I believe the God who saved me also spoke and continues to speak in His word. God’s word is without error and absolutely reliable because He is.

This is where I’m coming from. My story is unique because all people are unique. Yet, the only way to view the world truthfully is to see every incident, circumstance and path through the lens of Scripture.

Where are you “coming from?”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Evil in our Midst”

“Evil in our Midst”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Lord has provided good things to me and our Church Family. He has brought us those whom He has sought. He continues to bind us together in Christ. We are blessed by Him to be a people set apart by Him and for Him to declare the praises of the Triune God. He has done for us what we were unable and unwilling to do. He saved us by His grace through faith in Christ. I am overwhelmed by His goodness every day. I am humbled that He called me to be the Pastor of this church under the headship of Jesus Christ who is the Chief Shepherd.
Because of our experience of God’s goodness and His providence we must not forget to remain faithful to Him. A very important part of remaining faithful is to obey God’s call to stand against evil. As a Christian, I must speak against evil when I see it. James 4:7 plainly commands believers to resist the devil!
The devil, Satan, is the evil one. He is called the destroyer and a liar. What we’ve have heard in the past few weeks concerning the selling of baby organs by Planned Parenthood is evil of such a grand scale that I believe Satan is behind it. Our experience of God’s goodness has caused this evil to be magnified!
I’ve been asking myself, “How is it that we’ve come to this place in our culture? Why is it that we think so little of human life?” We have given a more palatable name for the killing of babies. We call it abortion. Perhaps this allows some of us to think less of the human being whose life is being snuffed out.
This assault on our hearts and minds cannot be seen as simply a social issue, restricted to the so-called religious right. This strikes at the heart of being human. We have allowed an organization to hide itself under the guise of helping families to plan. Some may want to revise history. Planned Parenthood’s founder and heroine, Margaret Sanger, was intent upon eradicating the “less desirable” members of society such as minorities and the disabled. She was so clear in her intent that Adolph Hitler saw her as an ally.
Our country fought a World War to destroy fascism. We must never forget the Nazis’ extermination of more than 6 million Jews and others. We are now fighting radical Islam whose declared intent is the same. Yet, we still support the systematic killing of the most innocent of society. Now, how little outrage has been expressed by our leaders over the recorded evidence of the demonic harvesting of organs of aborted babies by an organization supported by our government!
I enjoy debates. I believe that much good comes from debating over theological issues. Whereas, I know that opposing sides in a debate may never come together. Those who are listening to the issues begin to think deeply about them. In the case of Planned Parenthood, there should be no debate. Sensible men and women should voice opposition to this unchecked evil.
My purpose is writing this hard-lined article is to issue a “wake-up” call to all those who profess to call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. Remember God is, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows,” Psalm 68:5. This evil behavior called abortion didn’t take over our culture overnight. Christians must be persistent in keeping the sanctity of human life before our civil leaders. God’s sovereignty is no excuse for our silence!
I close with a prayer. “Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account? But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” Psalm 10: 12-18 (ESV)