Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The State of Affairs”

“The State of Affairs”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In the words of the “Bard”, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” These are the lines spoken by the character Marcellus, an officer of the palace guard in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Another “rotten” incident has occurred; this time not in a play but in the State of New York. I’m sure that you have heard of the newly revised law in New York euphemistically called “The Reproductive Health Act”. This law legalizes abortion up to the time of birth. Effectively, the State of New York legalized infanticide! No matter your view, understand that this is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. Why would anyone call such an evil action good as did the legislators in New York? The reason is God has been removed. Therefore, there is no basis for good. Secular humanists make their decisions on personal preference as the truth is suppressed in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18.

What is God’s revealed view? Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God issued a warning to His people. God directed His “woe” against the leaders of His people.

God expects His people to know good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. The ultimate source of “the good” is God. He has revealed “the good” in His word. “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a

We also have God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

The Bible, God’s word written, is binding on all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthans 5:10

As a result of our sinfulness both believers and unbelievers often have a difficult time in discerning “the good”. Believers always appeal to the word of God and pray for the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to guide our discernment, Psalm 119:105

Issues of human life do not fall in the category of moral confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good fall under God’s “woes” that Isaiah declared. We must all be wise to understand titles godless people give to evil actions. In this case, Pro Choice is really Pro Death. Reading of the celebrations and commendations of the law makers who passed this evil legislation, the words of king David and the Apostle Paul echoed in my mind. “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” Psalm 36:1; Romans 3:18.

Technically, New York State Law does not affect us… yet. But this latest action is another step in our culture’s spiral downward. Those who still believe in God must be diligent; especially all who profess the Name of Christ! This latest evil action should exhort all to understand the cultural issues before us; abortion being the primary one.

I am called to be a minister of the gospel. I am an ordained pastor. Yet, in this I am simply writing as a man who believes the Risen Lord Jesus. I have been made a new creation by the sovereign grace of God. He has caused me to see the truth and the beauty of Christ. As a member of His family, I am obligated to declare the truth and live under His word. I dare not bless what God curses! I dare not remain silent when evil is called good. Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33

The Risen Lord Jesus cannot be separated from His word. Therefore, to acknowledge Him before men, we must live under His word. His word written, the Bible, reveals that which is good. We live in a Country in which we have the right to free speech. May we use our liberty for the glory of God and call evil evil and good good!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Purpose of the Church”

“The Purpose of the Church”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There are fundamental truths that all Christians affirm. All who profess Christ would affirm that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. All would believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Professing Christians have received the truth that Jesus was the full, penal and substitutionary atonement for sin. Clearly, Christian assurance is grounded in the bodily resurrection of Christ. Finally, since the Bible is true, all the miracles recorded in it are a matter of historic veracity. All of these doctrines are believed by every individual Christian. They are also held and taught by every true Christian Church.

I want to briefly examine the purpose of the gathering of those who hold those truths. That is, the church has been given a purpose. There is a God-given reason for the church to exist. Since everything is for the glory of God, the church must therefore exist for His glory.

The visible church is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and their children. Every local church that teaches the fundamental truths listed above is part of the universal visible church, gathered to worship the Triune God! The Protestant Reformers described the true visible church as one that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical discipline.

God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (ESV) But God has also organized the visible church. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV. Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the world-wide visible church of Jesus Christ.

God organized the church, revealed her marks and chose to use her to reach the lost, it is reasonable to expect that He also gave her a purpose.

It’s common to think that the purpose of the church is the ministry that she does. We can look to biblical preaching, teaching sound doctrine, liturgy, programs, etc. But the God-given purpose underlies all of the things that the church does. Purpose is concerned with being rather than doing.

The dictionary’s definition of purpose is the reason for existence or being. Applying this definition, what is the reason for the church’s existence? Everything is for God’s glory. The church glorifies God because she is to be holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16. Peter wrote, “Since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”’ A holy church glorifies God.

Therefore, the purpose of the church is holiness. The church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. Biblical holiness, uniqueness has a range of meaning which spans from uniqueness to purity and perfection. God declared that the church was set apart. By God’s definition, the church is to be different from the world.

In the book “Against the Night”, Chuck Colson observed that the church had become or was at least striving to become just like the world. D.L. Moody once compared the visible church to a ship in the sea. He said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the church is in the world, but God help the church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the new Jerusalem, the holy city, that the Apostle John was allowed to see coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church to make her holy, Ephesians 5:25-26.

It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, her members are likewise to be holy. Believers who are also members of the visible church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, Ephesians 1:4 God doesn’t leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Stand for Life!”

Stand for Life!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

We continue to hear some of the most astounding things from politicians. Great concern, rightly so, is expressed over the plight of children being used as pawns to cross our Southern border. It is right that there is concern and compassion for the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of the world. But there is a great hypocrisy! Many of our civil leaders’ express concern for the children of people seeking to enter our country illegally. Yet, there is a segment of not only our country but of the world that is forgotten, not defended and for whom there is no expressed compassion. I’m referring to unborn babies, those human beings still in their mother’s womb.

The World Health Organization recently reported that the greatest cause of human death in the world was abortion. They reported that more than 40 million babies were killed world-wide in 2018 by abortion. Further, the staggering fact in our country is that since 1974, 60+ million babies have been killed through abortion.

In this day of so-called scientific enlightenment, denying that the life of a human being begins at conception would be to any reasonable person that which is unbelievable.

In the interest of our children, I stand with those who say, “Stand for Life”! Christians are accountable to the God of life to speak out against the evil of abortion and take a stand for life.

Why should the Christian Church stand for the sanctity of human life? The answer is clear and simple. God is for life. He set apart human life and sanctified it.

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! The right to live is given by God who is the source of life. He breathed into Man the breath of life, Genesis 2:7. Human life is sacred because the Creator God made it so.

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 very own Declaration of Independence stated clearly both the source of life and its inherent value. “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 consequence for the taking of life is the life of the one who took it.

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 authority over life.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. I have written on the sanctity of human life for two reasons. The third Sunday of January is designated as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” and because of foreign children placed at risk during attempts of illegal border crossings.

I urge professing Christians to remember those who can’t defend themselves, the unborn. We are blessed to live in a country where we can legally speak for the unborn. The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is in the womb. Therefore, speak up; stand for life!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Meaning of Worship”

“The meaning of worship”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
All men will worship someone or something. Our Creator made us to worship Him! There is a worship that is acceptable to God and worship that is rejected by Him. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts believers to offer acceptable worship to God, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:28, 29.

One thing is clear. Biblical worship is an offering to God. God is the one to whom worship is given! He is the object of worship. He is the determiner of “acceptable” worship. Genesis 4 describes worship that God considered acceptable and worship that He rejected. God accepted Abel’s worship because he offered it by faith. Cain’s worship was rejected, Hebrews 11:4.

The secular world offers this definition of worship. It is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” The source of the word “worship” “is an Old English compound word, “worth-ship.” It described the loyalty and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.

In general, worship is foundationally about our primary relationship. It is about our relationship to God. He made us to worship Him. But because all men are born dead in sin, they seek to make their own gods in order to satisfy their need to worship. Even in the evangelical church, many have turned worship into a “felt need”. That is, worship is about us, entertaining us, having time with friends, or, purposed in making us “feel good.” John Calvin said this, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413

Therefore, within the Covenant of Grace, God declared that He alone is the one to be worshiped, Exodus 20:1-3. God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.

“The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all… and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served… But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself…” (the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, par. 1)

Paul quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God, Romans 3:11. God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, yet men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Man is eager to fulfill his God-given desire to worship and often does by erecting idols. Idols are those things that control how we live.

Normally, we don’t see people bowing down to or serving carved images. Yet, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. In other words, what things, experiences, or people do we love, honor or obey more than God?

When God is truly worshiped, the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words, love, honor and obey are relational words that describe our primary relationship. In this primary relationship, God is the one who established its requirements. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

We know that worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every moment, every day of our lives. In applying the words of Jesus quoted above, God through the Apostle Paul, made the daily reality of worship clear to those who have experienced His saving grace. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

May you gather with others who seek to offer acceptable worship to God each Lord’s Day.