Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Happy 499th Anniversary”

“Happy 499th Anniversary”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed 95 statements to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany protesting the church’s collection of money for indulgences. The leadership of the church was manipulating her members to give money in order to lessen the time of loved ones in the fictional place the church called purgatory.

Eventually, the issue was seen to strike at the very character of God. The church had taken authority over God, by taking authority over His word. You may have heard the term Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase declares that the Scriptures have ultimate authority. The English Reformer, Thomas Cranmer would write that “… it is not lawful for the church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another…” (Taken from the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England, Article 20)

We are free to believe whatever we want. But, no church calling itself Christian is free to re-define God in its own image or comfort nor to pervert His word for its own use! God has revealed Himself and one fundamental attribute of God is His sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are referring to His absolute rule of all of His Creation. God expresses His sovereignty in His word.

Martin Luther simply recovered the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. The church in his day had obscured the truth from her people. The critical issue of man’s inability to stand before the God who is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3, is plainly revealed throughout the Bible. Luther courageously declared before the church authorities affirming the teaching of Moses and Paul that by God’s grace alone is a man able to stand before God. God credits, imputes, perfect righteous to those whom He chooses. Therefore, God justifies a sinner through faith alone and this faith is a gift of God, Genesis 15, Romans 1, 3, 4, and Ephesians 2:8.

Because of God’s appointment of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Cranmer and many others even before Luther, we by God’s grace can know the truth, be assured of the truth and rejoice in our union with Christ! We celebrate the Protestant Reformation because we seek to continue its legacy of ongoing reform in accordance with the word of God, having our minds illumined by the Holy Spirit.

Let me get to the heart of the matter. My salvation and yours depends upon a sovereign God. The Bible teaches that men are incapable of turning to God. All men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability within us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only a sovereign God can promise that nothing will ever separate us from His love, Romans 8:38- 39.

In fact, I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “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?” Lamentations 3:37- 38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!

I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.

God’s rule is absolute and inclusive. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church, the visible kingdom of God.

So happy 499th anniversary to all who hold to the truth of God’s word which Luther et. Al. recovered for the glory of the holy and sovereign God! S D G. To God Alone Be Glory!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Politics or Morality”

“Politics or Morality”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Have you ever had the experience of listening to someone and feeling as though your body was like a thermometer? I’ve had that feeling more and more lately. Listening to some spokesperson list issues followed by a statement like, “There are good people on both sides.” There are issues about which reasonable people may hold opposing views.

In the church there are both creedal/confessional issues and application methods. Confessional issues are like a line in the sand. If one stands on one side, the side of the Confession or Creed that person is said to be orthodox.

For example, a confession all Christian Churches affirm is “Jesus is Lord.” If another would suggest that the meaning is only relevant to those who believe that Jesus is Lord and that there are other lords under whom men may live and still be within the “body of Christ,” that person would surely be seen as a heretic. What is confessed and believed is critical to life in Christ. A “said faith” is no faith at all, see Hebrews 6:4-6.

Issues of application in churches do not rise to the level of dogma. Church government or the frequency of celebrating the Lord’s Supper are not considered moral or essential issues.

Christians live in the world but are not of the world, John 17:14-19. We who are in Christ must make decisions concerning the things we hear. The “thermometer-like” response that I have been having concerns the confusion of political issues and moral issues. When the “red” rises in me, I must fall on my knees and remind myself of the truth that God is sovereign even and especially over evil.

My purpose for this article is to aid critical thinking so as to give tools for making informed decisions. The first step is to have definitions of terms solidly in our minds. Words have meaning. Without definite meanings we would not be able to communicate with each other. The word “moral” concerns what is right or wrong in human behavior; the word “right” describes that which conforms to facts or truth; “good” is everything that is virtuous and “evil” is the absence of “good”.

All genuine Christians affirm that God’s word is in fact His word. I teach and hold that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. The doctrine of inerrancy relates to the original autographs, the original writings in Hebrew (Some portions of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic.) and Greek. Knowing this and referring to Jesus’ words, “… No one is good except God alone,” Luke 18:19, we realize that in order to know what is good we must look to God’s word.

Knowing the “good” is not an option. God said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” Isaiah 5:20. God has told men what is good, Micah 6:8. Good, right and moral are related terms. In contrast, wrong, evil and sinful are related.

Here’s the problem: many times over the past few years and more frequently over the past weeks, I have heard people say that the issue of human life is a political one and there are “good” people on both sides. The two sides are referred to as “Pro Life” and “Pro Choice.” It would be more accurate to describe the latter side as “Pro Death.” Every time I hear a news person or political candidate describe the issue of life as political, the red in the thermometer rises in me. It compels me, as a Christian to speak out on this horrible state of affairs in our Nation. We are being confronted by those who are calling evil good and good evil. They categorize life as something that is under the purview of politicians saying that human life in the womb can rightly be ended by the mother’s choice. They celebrate the merchants of death, Planned Parenthood, by calling them providers of women’s health care.

I am NOT advocating a violent response. I AM advocating the use of the minds that God has given to all of us. Human beings bear God’s image. We can think and reason. No reasonable human being would choose to end the life of a baby in the womb.

I urge you who profess Christ to think; think deeply about God’s gift of life. Think about the Lord of life, Jesus Christ by whom through whom and for whom everything is made and exists, Colossians 1:16-17.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Has truth taken a vacation?”

“Has truth taken a vacation?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’ve stopped listening to the TV news. I’ve even turned off some of our local radio stations that report what they call the “news”. It seems that there is little concern for truth. The main emphasis has become spinning a story to support an agenda. This is my observation of our culture. Perhaps you may be confused over much of the main line media ignoring the despicable past behavior of one candidate for President and instead focusing on another candidate’s words spoken while he was in the business world, with no factual proof that he ever acted in accordance with his words.

We who are professing Christians shouldn’t be surprised by the depravity of man. The Apostle Paul wrote concerning this condition of mankind. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

The suppression of the truth in the world is not unexpected, or it shouldn’t be. Yet, in light of our culture, my main concern is the church. It seems that truth fares no better in churches. I recently received a survey by a ministry that I respect in done in partnership with another respected para church ministry. Ligonier Ministries partnered with Lifeway Research to discover the “State of Theology” in Evangelical Churches. The survey asked, “What do Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible?

By God’s design, the church is to be a light in the world. The church is to be a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, this survey discovered great confusion in Evangelical Churches. Here are some examples of the questions and the answers received by men and women who attend an Evangelical Church for worship.

The survey discovered that “46% agreed or somewhat agreed that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.” Also, “36% of self-identified evangelicals agree or somewhat agree that they contribute to earning heaven by the good deeds that they do.” There were several more alarming results. The survey reported that 43% of those surveyed agreed that God is the author of Scripture and at the same time, “modern science discredits the claims of Christianity.”

If your head is spinning, there’s more. Concerning the issue of ethics, that is how Christians make decisions concerning marriage and life, etc., “only 52% of self-identified evangelicals who attend church once or twice per month strongly agree that sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.” Concerning abortion, I was astounded to learn that “only 48% of self-identified evangelicals attending church once or twice per moth strongly agree that abortion is a sin.” Lest you think that only the uneducated Church goer reflects this kind of reprobate thinking, the survey asked this question of those who have graduate degrees, is it true that “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation”? The answer received was that 56% of this educated group disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the exclusivity of Jesus Christ!

Rather than seek to discover the root cause of this situation in the church, I believe that the more effective action is to be faithful in informing the members of our churches of the truth of who God is and what He has said. The conclusion reached by the organizations who performed this survey is worthwhile to quote exactly.

“Faithful Christians can look at these survey results and lament the state of theology in America. Or, we can look at these results and engage our Great Commission work with a renewed urgency and purpose. Ligonier Ministries is taking the latter approach. It is easy to get distracted by cultural trends and apply our resources toward chasing novel methodology. This survey reminds us of the necessity of teaching foundational truths: God’s holiness, Christ’s person and work, humanity’s true need to be saved from the wrath of God, and the Bible’s authority – even in the twenty-first century.”

My commitment as a Christian Pastor is to teach the truth. I urge you as a professing Christian to find a local church which is likewise committed to teach the truth. Above all, I urge you to worship God in a church that holds Him as the only object of worship! Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Clear Contrast”

“Clear Contrast”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We can learn a great deal by simply listening. Radio is one of the greatest sources to hear a clear contrast between what all Christians know to be true and what the world thinks. I should re-phrase the statement by inserting the word “should”. There is a clear contrast between what all Christians should know to be true and what the world thinks.

May I give a short answer for revising my statement to “should know” rather than the assumption that all professing Christians know the truth? The sad fact is that many churches calling themselves Christian are not teaching the truth. Church members are not being equipped to evaluate what they see in the world from a God-centered World View. Surveys done reveal that the life-styles of those who profess to be Christians are no different than the life-styles of those in the world. These churches are more interested in entertainment than exposition.

This article is not about the state of the Evangelical Church. Rather, this article concerns the obvious contrast, the clear contrast between a biblical, God-centered World View and a Man-centered one. For the purpose of explanation, I draw upon two recent statements. One is clearly Man-Centered and the other is clearly God-centered. Remember, a World View is the way we see reality.

First, the Man-centered statement that I heard on one of our local radio stations. A man was interviewed for having written a book that concerned looking for direction in times of difficulty. The author asked, “Where do you go when things are bleak?” He suggested that the one whom people often don’t list or go to even as a last resort is God. So far, so good. I rejoiced when he said it. But, then he gave the method. He suggested imagining two chairs one for you and one for God. He said to set aside five minutes. One minute to speak to God and four minutes to listen to God.

At this point, I’m sure that many of you who are Christians are saying, “That’s great advice!” I had a different reaction. My reaction was in the form of a question. How does one know that God is speaking? Now, I certainly believe that God speaks to His people. The way in which He speaks is through His word written, the Bible. A friend of mine says, “If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible out loud.”

The truth is, the Mormon Cult believes exactly what that author was suggesting. They suggest that in order to know God’s will just pray and ask Him and He’ll tell you. Beloved, there are many spirits as there are many antichrists operating in the world. We will even tell ourselves things to suit our needs. If you want to know God’s will go to His word. God’s purpose for you is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. Don’t fall for the nonsense that God “pours” His will into your head. That is a heresy called Gnosticism. It is darkness. God’s will is revealed in His word in the form of principles. The Holy Spirit applies those revealed principles uniquely to everyone who is “in Christ.” This is light. This process is called sanctification, a work of God’s free grace.

The second observation occurred during the recent Vice Presidential debate. This observation is a perfect example of a man holding a God-centered World View. There were two statements that struck me. In the midst of the moderator trying to speak over Gov. Mike Pence, he said,” My Christian faith is at the heart of who I am.” And, “… an ancient principle… where God says before you were formed in the womb I knew you.” As a professing Christian, Gov. Pence’s actions are informed by his faith. And, because of what God has said concerning the sanctity of human life, he works against the “abortion sacrament” that is a fundamental principle of the Democratic Party.

Where do these two statements originate for Gov. Pence? The first, Christians live by faith because everyone who is in Christ is a new Creation is from 2Corinthians 5:7 and 17. The second concerning the sanctity of human life is from Genesis 2:7; Psalm 139:13; and Jeremiah 1:5. These references are only three. God’s word throughout declares: He is the author of life; He is the sanctifier of human life; and He holds men accountable to stand for human life!