Pastor’s Viewpoints,”Precious Gifts”

“Precious Gifts!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Politicians can convince people of the most amazing things simply by claiming that it will be in the interest of our children, this extends from illegal immigration to gun control. We intuitively know children are precious gifts from God.

For example, as a citizen of our great nation and a Christian who thinks biblically, I look at the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” I see this right based in the biblical principle that human life is sacred and should be protected, Genesis 2:7. Men and women bear the image of God, Genesis 1:26-27. Yet, my purpose here is not to debate the validity of our 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. My purpose is to embrace the cry in our country to protect our children.

This cry concerning our children publicized when it relates to gun control ignores the single biggest cost of human life concerning our children. As tragic and horrible as school shootings or so-called drive by shootings are, the staggering fact is that since 1974, more than 52,000,000 babies have been killed through abortion.

In the interest of our children, I stand with those who say, “Let’s stop the violence.” Indeed, let’s stop the violence right now and stand for the sanctity of human life! God is for life. Therefore, chose life not death!

Since, the mid Seventies, the “Progressives” have given government the authority to remove the right to life given by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1981, “The dignity of human life is not some peripheral issue,” The Christian Manifesto.

The protection of human life is not something upon which we can agree to disagree. The dignity of human life is an absolute! God who is the source of all life breathed into Man the breath of life, Genesis 2:7.

Secular Humanism has clouded the mind of our culture. In a culture where there are no absolutes, men make decisions based upon personal preference. Our culture is governed by moral relativism. Everything is considered relative. There are no absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Yet, the dignity of human life is an absolute.
Our Declaration of Independence stated the dignity of human life clearly. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founders of our country declared that the source of life was God and that life is an undeniable right given by Him, therefore an absolute.
Further, when God gave the Law through Moses to His people, He included a commandment against murder, Exodus 20:13. The word translated kill or murder in the 6th Commandment is understood to mean the unlawful taking of life. Only God can authorize the taking of life. God’s highest sentence for premeditated murder is the legal imposition of capital punishment.

The 6th Commandment is not only a prohibition for Man, but it reveals the character of God, as do all the Commandments. That is, God is for life not death. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, Matthew 22:32. Jesus also said that He is the life, John 14:6.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world, Matthew 5:13-16. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. My concern is that some professing Christians will fall under the deception of false teachers within the church who tell men and women that abortion is only a private decision made by a mother, that being “Pro-Choice” is virtuous. When in reality, God warns those who would call evil good and good evil, Isaiah 5:20.

Nevertheless, whether you are a Christian or not I urge you to speak for those who have no one to speak for them. Speak for the unborn babies. The most dangerous place for our children is not in school or on our streets because of guns but in the womb. Our children born and unborn are precious gifts from God!

May God convict you to speak for our children. Pray and support ministries such as Grace House Ministries in our own community. Children are precious gifts from God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Gospel”

“The Gospel”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Keeping the main thing the main thing!”

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

The gospel must be every Christian’s focus. Likewise, the urgency to preach the gospel ought to be foremost in every church that professes Christ as her head! The popular Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it.

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative mood and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious 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.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discouragement”

“Discouragement”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Discouragement is a common life experience. Discouragement comes upon us when we are deprived of courage or confidence. I’ve been discouraged and I know that you have as well. Discouragement comes when the object of our confidence is unreliable.

Often the object of confidence is ourselves or others. Conversely, the object of a Christian’s confidence is the Lord Jesus Christ. Circumstances may overwhelm us. For example, those who suffer with a chronic illness are keenly aware of discouragement. Discouragement when it grows to despair issues forth cries like, “I give up!” or “Why?”

This sentiment is stated by the Psalmist in Psalms 42 and 43, three times. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” In the midst of declaring his deep desire and desperate need for God, the psalmist recorded his state of mind. He was in the depths of discouragement. He could do nothing but ask himself “Why?” I notice that he didn’t answer his question, directly. Rather, he gave the remedy.

The “remedy” is to have a hope that is certain. There is only one certain hope because there is only one certain object of hope. The only certain object of hope is God. The Psalmist knew that God alone saves. God alone has promised to be with His people no matter what the circumstance. God has promised to bring His people to glory with Him. Jesus said that He was preparing a place for His followers and that He would take them to His Father’s Mansion in Heaven.

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” God gives life to each one He calls to Himself. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

God’s children have certain hope because He has revealed that heaven is their home!

However, while we live in this world, one of the reasons we often get discouraged is unfulfilled or broken promises. We must continue to remind ourselves of the futility in trusting in man. Placing trust in man or man’s systems will result in discouragement. Even the “best” of us may fail to keep our promises. God alone is always faithful. The Bible declares the truth of God’s faithfulness in the midst of man’s unfaithfulness. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” 2Tim. 2:13

Knowing God and what He has said is our only defense against discouragement. For example, even though “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” The Bible declares that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2Cor. 4:16-17

In other words, whatever may be causing you to be discouraged God said it is temporary. If you are in Christ, He is renewing you every day. He is preparing you for glory. God has given His people this certain knowledge so that all of the distortions of this world would not overwhelm them. As a Christian, I know that whatever I am facing will pass; and more, God is using every circumstance good or bad to prepare me for glory. Remember, God is faithful and He will “never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

As a child of God, I didn’t always look at the beginning of my hope. I’m speaking of the gospel. Paul wrote to Christians that “the gospel is the power of God…” Rom. 1:16. The Lord used every manner of adversity in my life to teach me that He revealed the means and certainty of my hope including my rising from discouragement. He revealed to me the gospel. That He saved me by Jesus’ blood and righteousness is not simply a past action, but the truth upon which I live. The gospel is God’s power to save. I am saved. I am being saved and I will be saved. There is no other power to lift me or anyone else out of discouragement. After all, God raised me from death to life. Will He not also raise me out of the pit of discouragement?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “So, You’re a Christian?”

“So, You’re a Christian?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
It was “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians,” Acts 11:26b. I refer to this verse because in answering the question posed by the title of this article, we must be clear on what it means to be a Christian. Some would immediately point to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 5-7. Jesus taught His disciples the perfect Christian Ethic. Jesus lived what He taught. It would be accurate to call the Sermon on the Mount Jesus’ teaching on the economy of the Kingdom. Matthew recorded the event with precision. Jesus taught this ethic to His disciples. It is a general teaching that is meant specifically for those who have been born again. One must be born from above in order to profess faith in Jesus and thereby be a genuine Christian.

But looking to Christ’s perfect ethical standard serves to show Christians our total dependence upon the Spirit of God. Jesus’ sermon drives us to our knees. Only Christ lived the Sermon on the Mount!

A further look at Luke’s definition of a Christian in Acts 11:26 is very helpful. As stated, Christians are disciples. The word “disciple” means a learner and a follower of a master. Therefore, a Christian is a learner and follower of Jesus Christ our Master. Christians live in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit who conforms them to Christ.

There is a side road that must be taken at this point. The Bible teaches that followers and learners of Jesus Christ are made not born. In other words, God makes Christians. No one is born a Christian. The Bible declares that no one is righteous, no one even seeks God. The Bible describes all mankind as naturally children of God’s wrath.

If we consider the biblical definition of salvation which is to be delivered by God from God for God, this important side road, informs our understanding of the Christian Life. Put simply Christians live for God. We have God-centered lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2Cor. 10:5.

Now back to the main highway for discovering the Christian Life, we turn our attention to the parables of Jesus. Jesus gave a comprehensive view of the Kingdom through the parables. They teach us about the sovereignty and steadfast love of the King. They teach the necessity of living each day before the King expecting His return at any time.

As we read through the parables in Matthew’s gospel, we see them as cumulative. Each one builds toward a climax. The climax is the King’s final judgment revealed in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Immediately preceding Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment, He taught about living in the Kingdom. That is, how Christians are to live under the Lordship of Christ. We call this teaching the parable of the talents. The Christian Life can be summarized with a single word. The word is investment. I’m sure you all know the story. In summary, Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to an owner who went on a journey and gave his property to three of his servants. They were given a specified sum of money, “according to his ability”, Mt. 25:15. The master then left on his journey, returned after a time and sought to settle accounts.

Two servants invested the master’s money and presented him with a return on investment. They hear the master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.” Unfortunately, the third servant hid the master’s money and had no increase to give to the master. This servant did not hear comforting words. He heard words of judgment.

The two faithful servants represent the Christian Life. Jesus owns everything. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings. He has entrusted His people with gifts and talents and yes, money. God’s call to Christians is: invest what you have been given for God’s glory.

The parable of the talents confronts and informs Christians. It confronts by causing us to examine our lives. We are asked if we are living for God. It informs by giving us a practical means by which we can live for God. We live for God by investing all that we have been given in His Kingdom for His glory while living under His word!