Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Frustration and Injustice”

“Frustration and Injustice”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Psalm 73 speaks to the root cause of frustration and anger. The Psalmist described his frustration caused by the prosperity of the wicked. He could not understand how the wicked could go unpunished while they enjoyed prosperity. The Psalmist knew that God was the source of all that is good. He also knew that God was holy and just. His struggle with knowing the holiness of God and seeing the prosperity of the wicked caused him to be frustrated.

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:1-3 (ESV)

The human author, Asaph was placed in charge of the singers and musicians in God’s House. King David assigned him the task of leading God’s people to thank Him and praise Him.

The first three verses put his frustration into perspective. Asaph addressed Israel in general and specifically those who are “pure in heart”, which means those who are faithful to God. The phrase “pure in heart” is in parallel with “Israel.” Applied today, the Psalmist described those in the visible church living under the word of God.

He reminded us of the goodness of God. God is always good. The Bible says that God is the source of all that is good. James wrote in his epistle, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

Asaph acknowledged his own weakness. He said, “My feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” Asaph was close to being overwhelmed by the prosperity of the wicked. He said that he was envious of their worldly success.

He saw the wicked prosper in the midst of their arrogance. Asaph experienced what we experience. He saw the proud and arrogant living above the law. We see our leaders selectively enforce the law. He saw men acting selfishly at the expense of others. We see men using the law for their own purposes. Asaph declared that these arrogant and proud men escaped any judgment in this life. “For they have no pangs until death…” Psalm 73:4a.

It was obvious to Asaph that the only time of judgment for these men was death. This was little comfort to him as all men die, even the righteous die.

Asaph kept looking for justice and found none. The wicked were living in great prosperity and no one was holding them accountable for their actions. He was at a loss to explain their prosperity in the face of a good God. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task.” Psalm 73:16

Compound what you see concerning the prosperity of the wicked with the reality that many people don’t seem to care to do anything about it and you have the formula for deep frustration leading to anger, symptomatic of our society.

One of the great comforts given to us in the Psalms is that godly men experienced what we often experience, and that God not only listened but He answered them in their distress. Asaph received God’s response to this injustice.

Asaph wrote God’s words as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. Asaph received God’s answer and it is important for us to observe where he received it. “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:17 Asaph received God’s answer in corporate worship. He entered God’s House and was able to discern the end of the wicked. As he worshiped God everything was put into an ultimate perspective.

Everyone must answer to God. This life is not all that there is. Like Asaph, Christians know that they are sinners and that Jesus paid for their sins. Christians also know that God has promised to forgive them and continually cleanse them from unrighteousness when they confess their sins to Him. The rest of mankind will fall under the wrath of the holy God. They are without hope.

This word is for the Church!

If you are relying upon Christ alone, you are secure. He will execute justice on those who live for themselves. They may have their best life now, but they will not escape the eternal wrath of God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Pain and Suffering

Pain and Suffering
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings…” Romans 5:3a
Are you kidding? Who is the one who rejoices in sufferings? I know I don’t find my joy in my sufferings. But the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said that he rejoiced in his sufferings! Why would he say such a thing? Notice that the verse begins with “more than that”. He had declared that anyone who has been justified by faith alone in Christ alone is at peace with God. More, he stated a propositional truth. He said that those who have been justified are destined for glory. He followed this certain hope of glory with his view of suffering. He saw the suffering of this life as a means by which God prepares His people for glory in heaven. Paul rightly viewed suffering as producing strength, confidence, character and a deepened faith. All of what suffering produces in the believer’s life ends in a deep and abiding confidence in our hope of glory!

Some attempt to explain Romans 5:1-5 as specifically referring to suffering for the gospel. However, there is nothing in the context requiring Paul’s use of the word “suffering” to gospel-related tribulation. I believe that the more natural interpretation that includes all pain and suffering is the Apostle’s point. Clearly, there will be suffering and persecution for Christ’s sake and the sake of the gospel. Jesus said don’t be surprised if the world hates us because it hated Him first. Those who follow Christ will be persecuted. However, there is just plain suffering, sickness and death. What about simply living in this fallen world?

One option given by the purveyors of the health-wealth gospel is that God doesn’t want anyone to suffer. If that were so, no one would suffer. They want us to believe that if we only had enough faith or prayed the right prayer, we’d all be healed. Their teaching is more than nonsense, it is damaging.

First, to believe that God wants everyone to be healed, we have to limit God’s sovereignty. Think about it; if God is unable to accomplish what He wants, then is He really God? God has revealed that He will lift His curse upon Creation, Revelation 21. There will come a time when there is no more pain, no more crying and no death. But now we live in a world that was broken by the fall of Adam and Eve. All Creation was cursed because of original sin.

Second, to believe the claim of the health/wealth teachers, we must deny reality. Suffering is real. No matter what we think or not think about sickness, suffering and death, they are undeniable facts of this life. A friend of mine used to say denial is not only a river in Egypt! We can’t simply “name it claim it and frame it”!

No one escapes the pain of losing a loved one, seeing someone we love suffer with an illness or experiencing pain, loss and sickness ourselves.

I would suggest to you that in the midst of suffering there is only one thing that will cause us to persevere through it. That one thing is not a thing but a person. Only knowing the one true God in Jesus Christ will give us the hope of which Paul wrote in Romans 5. Those who are in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit who testifies to our spirits that we belong to God. We will suffer now, but we are not those who suffer without hope. And, our hope is a certain hope. We can say with James, “count it all joy…” because on the other side of suffering is glory!

Those who study culture have written that our Western Culture is predominantly individualistic. Even in the church we seem to focus everything on the individual. The truth of Christianity is grounded in the word covenant. We who profess Christ are in a covenantal relationship with Our Father in Heaven. He has saved us as individuals, and He has adopted us into His family. The visible family of God is the church. This may seem disconnected to persevering through suffering. But the church is God’s blessing of a community of believers who will stand alongside of us in the midst of our suffering. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The decline of our culture”

“The decline of our culture”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What happened to our culture? Why is reality ignored? Where are those who are able to think critically about issues without being offended?

The current situation with our government has caused me to think through the issue of our cultural decline. What are the reasons for our confusion and division within various institutions?

What is happening to our Western Culture?

Our current events seem more like a fictional story than reality. It seems we are being led by men and women who continue to deny reality. There are no principles by which decisions are being made. It’s like the end of the book of Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Our leaders feel proud to say that they are doing what they think is right. I continue to look for government officials to promise to do what is right, not what they think is right. Judges 21:25b, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is contrasted by Micah 6:8, “… do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” One action reflects relativism while Micah called for submission to the ultimate absolute, God.

Our relativistic culture has taken decades to build. It will take a concerted and ongoing effort to reverse cultural relativism.

A symptom of our cultural decay into moral relativism is the impossibility of opposing parties to negotiate. People wonder why leaders can’t sit down together and come up with solutions to the problems we face in our country?

Since in a morally relative culture there are no absolutes, efforts to negotiate over any issue are ineffective. Each side is motivated by different principles. If there are any who hold to moral absolutes, they are marginalized and ignored. We are told that thinking there are moral absolutes is pejorative and mean-spirited. But in their absence negotiations and compromise fail.

Another symptom of cultural decline is the understanding of what is virtuous. Tolerance has become the primary virtue in society. Now tolerance is defined as accepting every position as equally valid. Compromise now includes setting aside principles. The reality is that every view of or position taken on the same issue is not equally valid.

Tolerance previously meant respecting those who have differing points of view. Previously one would never compromise on principles but would negotiate on non-essential details. Principles on which any position is based are never to be compromised because genuine principles are grounded in absolutes.

For example, we have been told that borrowing more money doesn’t mean increasing debt and this logical inconsistency is believed. Some leaders tell us that man can define marriage anyway he wants, and a baby is not a baby until he or she is born. Some say that a child has no right to life as long as he or she is in the mother’s womb. Main line Christian denominations maintain that the Bible is man’s word about God when God has declared that He has spoken to man. Those same churches maintain that men are not accountable before God to be spiritual leaders; that men and women are not only equal but the same. These days no one seems to ask what the Protestant Reformers asked. “What saith the Scriptures?”

I’m sure you could continue this listing of the effects of moral relativism in our society. We continue to experience great frustration in this new relativistic culture. The answer to the question, “What happened?” is… we happened. We who know better have allowed a vocal minority to aggressively change our culture. We allowed prayer to be removed from our schools. We removed any discussion of God from our educational institutions. We continue to elect politicians who don’t know or refuse to do what is right. We elect men and women who make promises to give us something in return for our vote. Our culture has stopped doing justice, loving mercy and acknowledging a sovereign God.

Some have written on this subject and concluded that the trend is irreversible. I am more hopeful. I believe that what has taken decades to accomplish will take a long time to reverse. But by God’s grace and mercy reversal is possible. We who believe in moral absolutes revealed by a sovereign God are called by Him to live our beliefs in all facets of life.

The following timeless quote is traditionally attributed to St. Augustine, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What you don’t know can hurt you!”

“What you don’t know can hurt you!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What you don’t know can hurt you. There are times when ignorance will lead you to ruin. The most damaging ignorance concerns one’s soul. Jesus said, “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 10:28, 39; 16:26 All these words are strong and clear!

Ignorance of God and of what He said can hurt you. Only knowing God and the one He sent, even Jesus Christ will save your soul. We know that what God has said is true. God said that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Yet there was a time that men sought to usurp God’s authority. These men were in the church rather than outside of her. They were false teachers and false leaders of God’s people. They sought to manipulate the people of God to find their hope in them rather than God.

But God in His sovereign providence raised up godly men to call the church to submit to God’s word. One of these men was an Augustinian priest. His name was Martin Luther. History records his action of rebuking the church as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther’s bold stand for truth is remembered annually on the last Sunday of October. The historic date was October 31, 1517. Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (complaints) on the Wittenberg church door against the magisterium of the church. His action was a response to another monk who was doing “fund raising” in Germany. This monk’s name was Tetzel. This unscrupulous man was put in charge of the sale of indulgences in Germany. He was “heard announcing that the indulgence that they sold made the sinner cleaner than when coming out of baptism and cleaner than Adam before the Fall and that the cross of the seller of indulgences has as much power as the cross of Christ.” One of Tetzel’s more evil pronouncements was, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” (The previous quotes were taken from “The Story of Christianity” by Justo L. Gonzalez, Vol. 2)

Martin Luther started a movement. He and all the Reformers knew that the church needed to be in an ongoing reformation. They taught that the church had to be diligent to reform herself to be in accordance with the word of God. They declared that the root cause of Rome’s problem was her view of authority. The Pre-reformation church placed herself above God’s word. The church’s magisterium, her leaders placed themselves as the authority over God’s people.

The root cause of the Protestant Reformation, also referred to as the “Formal Cause” was Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase Scripture Alone means that God’s word, the Bible, has ultimate authority. We who are believers live under the word of God.

The Pre-reformation church used their illegitimate authority to manipulate people with guilt. Looking to Jesus’ words we know that God alone saves. He is the one to fear. Jesus is the one for whom and in whom we live.

Fundamental to the formal cause of the Reformation was what is called the material cause. The material cause was the teaching of the Scriptures that justification (God’s sovereign act of free grace) is through faith alone. Justification through faith alone or Sola Fides is the truth revealed by God that eliminates the idea that men can merit God’s favor.

The Reformation was one of the most significant events in history. Yet, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten it. The practices that we see in many churches stand against the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Methods and programs are suggested as necessary for a “so-called” growing church. When asked about the Protestant Reformation, most in the church respond with a blank stare. Many have been taught that the Reformation was simply an event in history. We in the church must stand on the shoulders of the Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer and others. We know, as they taught, that the church must always be reforming herself to ensure that she is living under the word of God in submission to the headship of Jesus Christ.