Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Know the Difference!”

Know the Difference!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We are blessed to live in a Country where freedom is prized. The fact is that our Nation was built upon Judeo-Christian principles. May we all endeavor to guard our freedom.

But, I have observed that Christians sometimes confuse politics with the church. For example, some in the church examine candidates for public office with the same criteria as those appointed to the Office of an Elder or Pastor. Christians need to know their duty to the government and to God.

On the one hand, Christians obey governing authorities, Romans 13:1. God ordained civil authorities for the good and welfare of all people. Christians respect the rule of law and obey civil laws. The Apostle Paul said to do otherwise is to resist God. Paul wrote those words while under the authority of the Roman Empire.

On the other hand, the church must know how to act when man’s law contradicts God’s. When Peter and John were commanded by the government to cease from preaching the truth of Christ, they responded to the leaders, “We must obey God rather than men.” By making that decision, they bore the consequences.

God has established a sphere of rule, a granted authority, to civil government. God has not given over all authority to civil government. Christians confess that Jesus is Lord. The early Christians lost their lives because they refused to confess that Caesar was lord. The church lives under the headship of Christ. He is King and Head of the church. Christ died for His bride, the church. The Apostles’ John and Peter were quick to respond to the leaders of their day because they knew the truth of God!

Jesus gave a commission to the church before He ascended. He declared that He had all authority in heaven and on the earth. He commanded His followers to make followers. He gave the means by which followers were to be made. He said to baptize them in the name of the triune God and to teach everything that He had commanded, Matthew 28:18-20.

The church takes seriously her commission. The church is accountable to God to teach and preach the word. The Apostle Paul commanded Timothy, a Pastor to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” 2Timothy 4:2

The church is the place where the whole counsel of God is to be taught. There is no eternal value in teaching men and women how to live a better life. God has called His people to a new life. We are new creatures in Christ. We have been changed to live for Him. Jesus said that a follower of His must die to self. He used the cross, an implement of execution to teach disciples that they had to take up their cross daily and follow Him. He wasn’t speaking of bearing our lot in life. He was calling men and women to die to self. Jesus said that to lose one’s life was to save it.

Governments will come and they will go. Praise God that we live in a nation where we are free to worship God and free to live for God. We would do well to learn what it means to follow Him so in the event we are challenged, we will know what is right.

Paul said that there would be times like this. “But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 2Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

First, Paul spoke to those in the church. He addressed professing Christians. Second, Paul wrote of the last days. The last days began when Christ ascended and will end when He returns. That is, we are living in the last days.

Pastors, let’s not waste time in the church. Teach the truth. Be ready when things are going well and when they aren’t. I believe that this is a time for the church to be the church of God. This is an opportunity to be equipped with the truth of God so that we will know when to obey God rather than men. Are you in a church that teaches the whole counsel of God?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Psalm 23, “I Shall Not Want”

Psalm 23, “I shall not want!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
(All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.)

“The LORD is my shepherd.” David wrote Psalm 23 and declared that Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD was his Shepherd. He harkened back to Exodus 3:14. The Great “I Am” appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Moses asked God for His name. God told Moses that He is who He is. In other words, God declared that He is the eternal being. There is more to God’s name. LORD is descriptive of God’s covenantal faithfulness. The Hebrews held God’s personal name in such regard that they did not speak His name. God gave His name in the Hebrew verb “to be”. All being, all existence proceeds from the only one who has being, existence in Himself.

I recall one Bible teacher saying that we are misnamed as human beings. We should be called human becomings, since we are always changing from one thing to another. From the time we are born we age. As we age we are maturing. God, however, never changes. He is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever”, Hebrews 13:8.

So, when David made the declaration that “The LORD is my shepherd” he was stating that He was cared for and guided by the One who alone has eternal being. His declaration was made to the absolute highest and greatest being. More, King David addressed the eternal One as his Shepherd. As such he was declaring intimacy with the Father.

King David knew the LORD. He wrote that the one who led him, cared for him and provided for his needs was the Great “I Am”. As we look at this psalm, we who know the LORD can also state with David the care and providence of God for us. The Gospel of John recorded the “I Am “sayings of Jesus. John 10:11 in particular recorded who this Great “I Am” was and is. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words about Jesus who is the Great “I Am”. “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, Colossians 1:15-19. The fullness of God was revealed in Jesus who is eternally begotten (not born but proceeding) from the Father.

David wrote Psalm 23 more than 3,000 years ago. Yet for those who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead have the Great “I Am” as their Shepherd as David did. King David looked forward to the person and work of Christ. We who trust in Jesus look back at Him.

God’s faithfulness revealed in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is for all who call upon the name of the LORD. We say with King David” The LORD is my Shepherd. Therefore, I trust that the LORD will meet my needs. Because He is my Shepherd, “I shall not want.”

Jesus said do not worry about the needs of life. He said the Father knows my needs and will provide what I truly need.

Confidence in God’s providence is not exclusive to me but applies to everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus! Those who call upon the name of Jesus are those who rely upon and trust in the person and work of Christ.

The object of saving faith is the Jesus revealed in the Bible. He is the God-Man. He is God in the flesh. He is not a created being. He is not the Jesus of another testament, book or philosophy. He is not just a prophet. He is fully God and fully Man. This is the Jesus who promised God’s providence because He is God!

There are two aspects of life in Christ to which David pointed in Psalm 23:1. They are guidance and provision. The Good Shepherd, Jesus guides and provides for His people. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus said that He knows His sheep and He calls them by name, John 10:3-14.

You who hear Jesus through His word follow Him. No one can harm you. You belong to Him. He will provide your needs. You shall not want!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How can this be?”

“How can this be?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Many have asked the question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Prosperity is seen as proof of doing what is good. Those who are seen as prosperous are idolized and followed. Moral integrity does not seem to matter. Evil behavior does not seem to be included in the discernment process.

One thing for certain is that following and idolizing the prosperous simply because of their prosperity is not new. The psalmist wrote, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:3 Asaph acknowledged his sin of envy. He saw the wicked prospering. The prosperity of the wicked has always been a stumbling block for those who desire justice, believing that moral integrity is important.

Asaph defined the wicked as those who lived apart from God. The wicked surround us. We look at the prosperity of the arrogant and proud and see injustice. We live in a culture where some leaders believe that the rule of law is for others. Yet these people continue to prosper and draw followers.

In the same Psalm, 73: 10a, the psalmist stated the effect that these wicked people had on others. “Therefore, his people turn back to them…” People will follow the wicked in the hope that they may be included in their prosperity because their critical thinking is replaced with the desire for prosperity above all else.

God did not answer the psalmist. He didn’t answer “why the wicked prosper?” God simply inspired the psalmist to state the fact. Evil men (used in a generic sense to describe men and women) prosper and people follow them.

The Bible declares why people follow evil rather than good. Genesis 6:5, records God’s view of mankind. God said that, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We have bought Satan’s lie since the Garden. The natural man believes that knowing good and evil is better than only knowing good. Even Christians often act more like non-Christians by following their own passions rather than thirsting after righteousness.

We all must face and acknowledge the reality of evil. We know that evil is not an entity. Evil has no being in itself. Evil is the privation or lack of good according to the writing of Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century. Evil is behavior that is morally wrong. I know that God is not the author of evil, yet He uses evil for His good purposes.

The prosperity of the wicked and evil men will be with us until the return of Christ. Their ongoing existence is part of the bad news. People motivated by selfish desires will continue to follow evil men. Evil behavior will persist until the end of this world. Satan will continue to deceive men and women even though he is on a chain. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we know the rest of the story. Satan has already been defeated. (He’s a slow learner.) There will come a time of perfect justice. The Lord Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. No one will escape. The wicked who are prospering now will receive justice. In the new heaven and the new earth, evil will be no more.

The psalmist’s struggle with the prosperity of the wicked is the same as our own. He found the answer for living in a world filled with evil and injustice. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:16

I would encourage you who know the fear of the Lord especially as you worship Him on the Lord’s Day. Learn His holy sovereignty. Know that He is holy and will execute perfect justice. The prosperity of the wicked is temporary. Their judgment is eternal.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more… Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 21:1, 22:14

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Avoid Past Mistakes!”

“Avoid Past Mistakes!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Each of these men reflected on the course of history and the need to know it. History is His, God’s, story. That is history belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself throughout history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history.

I regularly ask our Sunday Adult Class, “Why should we study Church History?” I usually receive an immediate response from a man in the class, “So that we don’t make the same mistakes.” We all enjoy a great laugh. But, the fact is some Christians think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. Yet, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham, some would say to “Adam”. The word “church” means those called out by God. This is what God did: He called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel. Therefore, we would do well to study the whole of the Church’s History.

The church has a long history, thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of those same men and women making the same mistakes over and over again. In the words of Albert Einstein, they could be defined as insane. Part of the reason for the insanity is a failure to remember or even know the past.

For example, it can be said that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and His bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many.

Likewise, culture is not immune to the effects of the ignorance of history. Ancient civilizations have died as a result of ignoring certain moral behaviors even in the face of historical evidence of past collapses. In addition, civil leaders have also tried to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more recent failures than perhaps any other social/economic construct and yet, there is a never-ending list of politicians advocating it under different names and slightly different methods. I expect that they may think that the failures of the past were due to not having the “right” people in charge!

My concern is for the evangelical church. I remember a sermon delivered by one of my heroes, James Montgomery Boice, as he reflected on what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yield Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. We can fill churches by meeting needs or offering programs and fail at teaching what it means to repent and believe in the gospel. Read Exodus 32 to see an ancient prototype of the Church pleasing men.

Leaders think that if the message is softened so as not to offend the “seeker”, then when they come they’ll be taught the whole truth. However, I believe that this “seeker” approach is based on two errors. The first is that there are no seekers after God according to the Bible, Romans 3:11. Second, Jesus commanded the church to make disciples by baptizing (identifying) them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and by teaching the whole counsel of God. As the church makes learners and followers of Jesus, He has promised to be present with her, Matthew 28:19-20. This is God’s method and it will yield God’s results. The “seeker” approach is tried over and over again. It yields large churches filled with members who live just like the world.

The history of the church reveals a different approach. It is to teach the truth. May we learn from the giants of our faith and avoid the errors they toiled to correct and remain faithful in using God’s methods by their example, expecting God’s results!