Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Clear Purpose”

“A Clear Purpose”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Periodically, I take some time to reflect on the work to which God has called me and the church has sent me. God has revealed the purpose. “… Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.” 2Timothy 4:1-2

There are many tasks with which I can “busy” myself. Yet, I am accountable to God to Preach His Word! I am to preach when it is convenient and inconvenient; when I feel like it and when I “feel” like I’d rather do something else. My task is not to attract or motivate people. I am not about building a large congregation or overseeing the building of large facilities. My God-given task is His word. That is, in every setting, I must declare the truth that He has revealed.

Every activity in which I take part is centered on this singular task, the word of God. In writing these articles, I am moved at certain times to speak on current issues. I am very interested in politics. I enjoy reading and listening to political banter. I would encourage all who read this to do the same. We are not called by God to isolate ourselves from the public square. Rather, we are to engage with the world. Jesus said that His people are not of the world but are in the world, John 17:14-16 Christians are to be lights in this dark world. Those who are in Christ are new creations, 2Corinthians 5:17. Christians are to declare the message that God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, 2Corinthians 5:19-20.

Preaching the word does not mean that the preacher must tell people how to live or how to raise their children or who to marry or how to deal with divorce, etc. There are as many issues of life as there are people reading this article. There is a never ending array of life situations or stages in which Christians find themselves. We live in a sinful world. The whole world was impacted by the fall of Adam. Also, Christians desire to obey God and not sin, yet they do, 1John 1:8. The circumstances in which we find ourselves are consequences of the fall and/or our own sin. The promise that God has made to all who call upon the name of Jesus is that He will change us from the inside out. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God is at work in us to change us and make us more like Christ, Philippians 2:12-13. When we pass from this life to the next we will be perfect. And when Christ returns we will receive glorified bodies like His. We will see Him as He is and we will be like Him, 1John 3:2.

So then, if preaching the word is not about giving the people of God a list of “how to’s,” what is the essence of preaching the word? When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he declared the essence of preaching. “And I when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1Corinthians 2:1-2

First, Paul was not declaring his ignorance. He was ordained as a Pharisee before God broke into his life and made him a new creation. No, Paul was fluent in the Old Testament. He likely had most, if not all committed to memory. The only Bible that the Apostle Paul had was the Old Testament, which foreshadowed Christ. Therefore, Paul decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified! The ministry to which God had set Paul apart was to declare the Person and the Work of Jesus Christ.

To preach the word is to preach Jesus Christ. To preach the word the minister of the gospel must declare who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished! Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is the God-Man, who gave His life as a “ransom for many.” He was raised bodily from the grave and rules all things. He is coming back in glory to judge the living and the dead! May God use my imperfect words expositing His to change lives for eternity.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Think on This!”

“Think on This!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1

The God who spoke and all things came into being is the King and Ruler of all Creation. He rules all things and owns all things. God ordains all things that come to pass. He is the provider of all things.

David wrote Psalm 24 roughly 3,000 yrs. ago. We sometimes think that man in our time knows more than David did. We think that we’ve grown in wisdom, strength and knowledge since king David’s time. In many ways, however, we have actually regressed.

David was king in Israel by God’s anointing. He ruled Israel under the authority of God. David knew that God was the sovereign Creator of all things. David was also confronted in his sins of adultery and murder. David acknowledged his sin and appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness. David’s sin was forgiven but his household experienced his sins’ consequences.

We’ve grown little since the time of David. Paul predicted our current culture accurately in 2Timothy 3:1ff. We’ve become lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant and abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, etc. Even some of our leaders think that they are above God’s law. They govern to suit their own self-interest. They have a thirst for power forgetting that they are God’s ministers for the good and welfare of all people. But, there will come a day when they will have to give an account to the only King of Glory.

The human authors of the Gospels documented the historic event of Jesus’ entering Jerusalem in triumph. It occurred in space, time and history 2000 yrs. ago. This past event foreshadowed a future one. The future one will likewise occur in space, time and history. The future event is Christ’s return. Yet His return will not be to a city in the Middle East. The Bible declares that “every eye will see Him” Revelation 1:7. Those who are alive will not be crying “save us now, O Lord.” The Bible reveals the condition of people as one of mourning! Those who have not acknowledged Jesus as Lord and God will mourn because they will stand before the holy Judge and then be cast into eternal hell.

David asked a profound question in Psalm 24. “Who is this King of glory?” The King of glory is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten not made, the second person of the Trinity, fully God and fully Man.

Even though the people 2,000 yrs. ago cried out to Jesus to be saved, we know that merely one week later the same crowd was crying crucify Him! They were blind to the King of glory and their destiny was sealed.

The truth is, even if I had been there, I would have cried the same thing. But God is rich in mercy. He chose to save me. He took me out of Adam and put me in Christ. As Peter and John told the leaders in Jerusalem, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

All those in Christ rejoice in the King of Glory. This is what men were created to do.

The time-tested hymns of the church convey sound doctrine. It is a travesty that so few churches sing hymns any more. One such hymn, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” expresses the doctrine of the glory of Christ. He is the King of glory. The first verse declares the truth of God’s plan of redemption. ”All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring! Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal Son, who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!”

In the busyness of life, I give you the same question. “Who is this King of glory?” Do you know Him? Do you worship Him? Do you seek to live under His word?

There is no greater concern. The King of glory is coming back. But, if Jesus tarries and your physical life ends, may you be ready to meet Him. The only way by which any man or woman will be “ready” to meet Him is if he or she is in Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Being Known Is the Most Important Thing!”

“Being Known Is the Most Important Thing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

It is essential to know the truth. Yet to know the truth, you must be known by the truth. Jesus said that knowing the truth is freedom. He also declared the way by which men may know the truth. Since He is the truth, John 14:6 and no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him, John 6:44, it necessarily follows that knowing the truth is a result of being known by the truth, Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

As a confirmation of this principle I look further at what Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23

Knowing objective truth is a comfort. Every time that I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth. The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 The Bible is inerrant and infallible. God never lies and He is always reliable. Yet the greater truth is God’s revelation to me that He knew me first!

Here’s the truth revealed by the One who is truth: God has revealed Himself by what He has made, His creation and He has condescended to reveal Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The terms general and special revelation refer to this knowledge respectively. General revelation is God’s revelation of Himself in Creation, Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20. Special revelation is the Bible, 2Timothy 3:16; 2Peter 3:16. Finally, the full revelation of God is His only begotten Son, Jesus, Hebrews 1:1-2. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3. This is the ultimate truth.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth, Jesus. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.” There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is not received on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers.

Luke recorded Peter and John’s appearance before the ruling council in Jerusalem because of what they were teaching concerning Jesus Christ. Peter stood before that council of very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth is eternal life. Knowing this truth only comes by being known by Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Character, everyone has it!”

“Character, everyone has it!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Character is the word used to describe the personal qualities of an individual. The qualities in view concern a person’s morals and ethics. Every single person has character. This may be a different perspective of looking at this issue. But, my point is, character is either good or evil. One can either be trusted or not.

God has revealed the standard measure of character. The Bible provides the true definition of character. The Old Testament contains the history of men of character. The Bible also contains narratives concerning men of weak and deceptive character.

Joseph and Moses are good examples of men of godly character. As you read their stories, the first thing that should come to mind is that these men are not perfect. The Bible does not fail to describe their faults as well as their virtues.

Genesis 39 is a part of Joseph’s life that reveals his godly character. We are told that Joseph became a successful man. He was put in charge of the household of an officer of the Pharaoh. We read that the LORD was with Joseph. Joseph had an ongoing relationship with the LORD. As a child, Joseph thought he was of special privilege. As you may recall, his superior attitude angered his brothers to such a degree that they plotted to kill him, but ended up selling him as a slave.

Years later, Joseph who walked with the LORD was blessed by Him. He became very successful. His character was tested at this very comfortable point in his life. The beautiful wife of the officer who entrusted his household to Joseph sought to seduce him. Joseph resisted and Moses recorded what he said. “… “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge… How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”’ Genesis 39:8ff

Even this strong statement did not dissuade the officer’s wife. She persisted and the Bible records Joseph’s action as fleeing from her presence leaving his garment that she grabbed in her hand. The officer’s wife wrongly accused Joseph and her testimony was believed which caused the officer to put Joseph in the king’s prison.

The rest of the story confirms the depth of Joseph’s character. He spent his life trusting in the Lord and pursuing godliness. Joseph’s life was a foreshadowing of Christ’s perfect life which is the absolute standard of perfect character. Jesus said of Himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

In order to express the kind of character that Joseph did, one must be humble. Humility is a virtue which enables the one who has it to rightly assess himself before God. Jesus said that He was gentle and lowly in heart. The word from which both gentle and lowly are derived can also be translated as humble.

The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus’ humility in Philippians 2:6-11. Even though He was God, He did not consider Himself to be equal to God but He humbled Himself by taking upon Himself human nature. Jesus’ humility extended to obeying the Father even to death upon the cross.

The human author of the story of Joseph was himself a humble man. Moses wrote of himself, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 The Spirit of God inspired Moses to write these words about his own character when his leadership was challenged by two people who were the closest to him.

Like Joseph, Moses’ life demonstrated his trust in the LORD. Even when Moses sinned and God forbid him to enter the Promised Land, he endured the consequence of his sin and continued to obey God.

Character is the measure of a man or a woman. Behavior reveals character and it matters profoundly. Men and women of character are humble and can be trusted. Their character is seen over time.

Through viewing a person’s character whether it is good or evil, future actions can be anticipated. We are all sinners in the sight of God. Yet we must make decisions concerning those who we choose to entrust with various roles in life like leadership. Choose wisely. Choose men and women of character.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Be Not Silent! – Ethics”

“Be Not Silent! – 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. In fact, 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, why then can the secular humanists impose the absence of absolutes?

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. Previously, I wrote concerning the motivation for ministry in the church. The most popular motivation for why churches do the things they do is “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.