Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Thinking People”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Image Bearers”

“Image Bearers”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The world tells us that our value as human beings is based upon our current or potential contribution to society. There are ethicists who teach that human life has no more intrinsic value than plants and animals! I hope that this shocks you. It should. I suggest that human life has been given a unique value by the Creator. Genesis 1:26a, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” All men are image bearers of God!

At this point, I think that I’ve probably lost all the atheists. The fact is: there is a God. His existence is undeniable. He has made His divine attributes known by all that He has made, Romans 1:19-20. The Bible says that there is no other reasonable explanation for the world around us.

This article is not about the existence of God, directly. But, His existence is the basis for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of every human being. The sacredness of human life proceeds out of being made in God’s image. No other creature has been given such a distinction. Because of this, man is accountable to God. We have been set apart by God. We are made in God’s image. One of my favorite Psalms declares, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

The sense of the words of Scripture, Gen. 1:26, that declare men and women are made in God’s image are likened to objects viewed in a mirror. We are a reflection of God. Distortions of this idea have been offered over the years. Joseph Smith wrote that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…” Another famous or infamous personality teaches that God is actually a man who is six feet, two inches tall. He even goes on to describe God’s arm length.

I believe that grounding ourselves in the truth is the best defense against such false teaching. In other words, know the truth in order to recognize error. So then, what is the truth of being made in God’s image? It cannot mean that mankind looks like God in a physical sense, as those referenced above teach. God made us male and female! Both men and women bear God’s image. All reasonable people admit that men and women are not the same.

Bearing God’s image means to have some of the attributes of God. Attributes are simply characteristics that define a being. Now I used the word “some” to qualify the attributes of God that we bear. We are not God! No man is immortal. No man is self-existent. No man can make the claim that he had no beginning. Yet, all men are able to: reason, think, and have limited knowledge. All men have a sense of right and wrong.

In bearing these characteristics, we are faced with our limitations. For example, we don’t know everything, in spite of thinking we might. We don’t always do what is right in spite of having the moral law written on our hearts. The Bible says that every intention of the thoughts men’s hearts are only evil continually, Genesis 6:5.

Yet man’s sinfulness does not eliminate man’s dignity. God made man in His image, male and female He made them as recorded in Genesis Chapter One. Two Chapters later, the Bible records the Fall of Adam and the Woman. As a result, all of those attributes were marred by the Fall. We all still have the God-given attributes and we also have an inherited sin nature. Adam is referred to as the head of the Human Race, Romans 5:12ff. Along with the dignity of being human comes the responsibility for our actions.

Having said all this, the fact that we are sinners does not remove the dignity which God conveyed by making Man in His image. It also does not reduce our responsibility to exercise good management of His Creation.

Human Life is sacred because God made it so. Remember no man can change what God ordained. You have dignity and value because the sovereign God made you in His image!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Secret Evil”

“Secret Evil”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We see evil around us. We experience the effects of believing in a false religion. We look outside ourselves and are quickly informed of evil around the world and in our own country. We see lawlessness. We see a segment of our society rejecting authority. The police are despised, even though they continue to protect those who despise them.

Further, I was reminded of a sobering statistic. It is recorded that every 26 seconds a baby’s life is snuffed out. This occurring while we debate what a true conservative is and wondering why a law-breaker can be allowed to run for the highest elected office in the land. Abortion is indeed the “secret evil’ for which God will judge us. His judgment will come either sooner or later. God sanctified human life by breathing into Adam the breath of life and “he became a living creature,” Genesis 2:7.

As I was reviewing the data collected by both pro-life and so called pro-choice organizations, I was struck with a deep sense of sorrow. My sorrow was both for the victims, babies in their mother’s womb as well as those young women who have been infected by the lies told them by organizations such as Planned Parenthood. The biggest lie is that abortion is safe. The psychological effects alone of an abortion may impact a woman’s life for decades.
The numbers are gruesome. Since 1973, the year in which the immoral decision made by our Supreme Court that declared abortion to be legal, there have been more than 56 million child sacrifices on the altar of progressiveness. Most of us who know better have remained silent. The issue of abortion is not only a Christian “thing.” The killing of babies in the womb is a human thing! It is our “secret evil.”
Our nation has taken up arms in order to defend the weakest of society. We have even fought to free those who have been oppressed by evil governments. But we insist that a baby in the womb has no right to live! The hard fact is that the most dangerous place for a child is in its mother’s womb. This exists in a nation that stands for liberty. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are only for those who make it to birth.
There is more. Of those who have an abortion the following is eye-opening: 74% say having a baby would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities. 73% say they cannot afford to have a child. 48% say they do not want to be a single parent, or have relationship problems with husband or partner. Finally, less than 2% say they became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. These statistics are from the Alan Guttmacher Institute. This organization studies “Reproductive Health” and considers abortion as a birth control method.
From January 1, 2016 to July 15, 2016, 587,779 babies were aborted. In comparison the hot ticket item of today, gun control, 6186 deaths have occurred by shootings during the same period.
Abortion is blight on our land. The first step in removing it is awareness. The primary purpose of this article is awareness.
With the first step being awareness, the next one is for the church to teach both the nature of man and the character of God. We can’t change our culture with more laws. We can’t change our culture by stiff penalties or, God forbid, violence against abortionists. Christians are not anarchists. We are commanded to submit to the governing authorities. The church has not been given the sword, civil government has, Romans 13. I am convinced that churches must teach both who God is and who we are. The leaders and pastors of Bible believing, Christ exalting churches are responsible to teach and preach the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Only God can change a man’s heart. Only God can cause men to see the Kingdom. Only God causes His people to live for Him. The God who is the Author of life is the only hope for changing our culture. He has given His word so that we might know Him. He sent His only Son, Jesus who is the full revelation of the Father. May you engage in a local church that keeps this main thing, the main thing by teaching the truth of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Lawlessness”

Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The giving of the Law and God’s ordination of civil authority are two blessings of God that intersect each other. The intersecting point is God! A symptom of a godless society is lawlessness. Lawlessness leads to ruin. God’s giving of the Law was an act of His grace.

The blessing of the Law is stated in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. It was given to the Church of the Old Testament, which was a theocracy. A theocracy is when both the civil and religious laws are the same. In a theocracy there is no distinction between “Church and State.” There is currently only one theocratic system in the world today. It is Islam. Islam does not recognize any distinction between civil and religious law.

Within the theocratic system of the Old Testament Church, God declared that blessing would follow obedience to the Law. Likewise He said that curse would follow disobedience.

We do not now live in a theocracy. The Apostle Paul in writing to the Christians in Rome said, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:1 Note that Paul wrote these inspired words during the reign of Nero! This observation eliminates the assumption that Paul was only writing about “good” governments.

The Apostle Paul referred to civil authority and by implication civil laws. God is the one who ordains all civil authority. God’s purpose is to provide for an ordered society. Those who are governmental officers are God’s ministers for the good of all. They are charged with keeping order so as to promote good. As God is the source of all that is good, civil authorities and civil laws are subordinate to God’s law.

The Bible declared a situation in which there was a conflict between God’s law and man’s law. When the leaders of Israel commanded the Apostles to cease preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

To help understand the importance of the Law and law in general, there are, what the Protestant Reformers called three uses of the Law as they are revealed in Scripture. The first use of the Law is to point to man’s hopelessness and his desperate need for a Savior. The second use of the Law is to restrain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law. The third use of the Law is to guide the life of a believer in pleasing God. These descriptions of the three uses of the law have been paraphrased from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, chapter 7, sections 9 and 10. John Calvin articulated what the Bible teaches concerning the Law, Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Galatians 3; 5 and Romans 13.

The intersection of the blessing of the Law and Civil authority is the second use of the Law. It is the means given by God to put bounds around sinful mankind. It is this use of the Law that is the foundation of every society.

It is accurate to say, “All truth is God’s truth”, especially when speaking of the rule of law. We are experiencing an ever increasing disregard of law by duly elected members of our government and some of our citizens. We read about our Executive Branch ignoring laws enacted by our Legislative Branch of government. We experience men and women committed to a cause taking the law into their own hands.

Apparently we have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only do so selectively. Law enforcement agencies are given enforcement restrictions when certain sensitive “action groups” break the law.

Our country was founded upon a principle that our government is by the people and for the people. Our founders understood God’s blessing of Law. I pray that all our citizenry would recognize our current situation. May we all devote ourselves to elect men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law. May we all submit to the governing authorities. Understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we will be able to guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Worship the One, True God!”

“Worship the One True God!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Many Christians celebrate the feast of Pentecost which is sometimes called Whitsunday. Pentecost as you may know was celebrated in the Old Testament. The Bible refers to it as the Feast of Weeks. It was ordained by God to be one of the three mandatory celebrations in Israel along with Passover and the Feast of Booths. On the occasion of this feast the Apostle Peter delivered his famous sermon recorded in Acts 2:14ff. On that particular day, God poured out His Spirit on “all flesh” in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, Joel 2:28 which was also foreshadowed by God’s empowerment of elders recorded in Numbers 11. Note that Peter said that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled. Peter spoke in the 1st Century. Joel may have delivered his prophecy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit around 830 B.C. Yet many Christians continue to be deceived by so-called prophecy experts who insist that what Joel said, quoted by Peter is still yet to come.

Joel prophesied and Peter declared that God’s Spirit would be given to all believers. The church in the Old Testament had only a few select people upon whom the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was given by God. God anointed kings and empowered prophets to speak His words.

At the ascension of Christ into heaven the Bible says that “He gave gifts to men”, Ephesians 4:8. The ancient Creeds of the church profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Every believer called by God and regenerated by His Spirit is given the power of that same Spirit to accomplish the ministry given to him by God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1Corinthians 12:4-6.

Apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we are powerless in terms of ministry. Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, Matthew 16:18. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates, illumines our minds and empowers us for ministry in building the church.

Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost Sunday. Every Lord’s Day that follows Pentecost is marked as Sundays after Trinity Sunday. Trinity Season ends on the third Sunday before Advent. It is the longest season on the Christian Calendar. Trinity Season was observed from the early Church through the Reformation until today.

The ongoing purpose of celebrating Trinity Season in the Church is that God has revealed Himself in three persons. We worship a Trinitarian God. The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. But every aspect of what the word means does. For example Matthew 28:19 commands disciples to make disciples by identifying them with the Triune God! Jesus’ words in this verse also comprise the Baptismal formula in the universal Christian Church. Notice that Jesus’ words recorded by Matthew use the definite article “THE” before each person of the God-Head. The revealed doctrine of the Trinity is that God is three distinct Persons, yet One God.

As we were created for worship, to who worship the One True God, worshipers affirm the revealed truth of the Trinity. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 3 declares the Bible’s teaching concerning the Triune God. It states in part, “In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity…”

I propose that this teaching is fundamental for our lives. Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God and the one whom He has sent, Jesus Christ. To have eternal life, one must embrace God who is three in one.

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Father initiates life in Christ. The Son accomplished redemption by living a perfect life and offering Himself as the perfect atonement for sin. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ. The life I live is in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God, the Father.

In this time of great uncertainties, it is essential to know the true God. He is always true and faithful and has revealed Himself in His word. May the Lord empower you to draw your confidence and security in Him, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!