Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Self-evident Truths”

“Self-evident Truths”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We are blessed by our sovereign God to live in a country established upon the rule of law. Even now, when it seems that more and more of our liberties are being taken away or restricted, our Nation is still a Nation built upon the rule of law. It is a good time, especially now considering our current restrictions of freedoms to remember the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. It begins with, “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.”

We should not allow ourselves to be distracted by whether our Country was founded as a Christian Nation. Even a cursory reading of our founding documents reveals that the Founders were not encased in a moral or religious vacuum. Surely, many of our Founding Fathers were deists, seeing God as the cosmic watchmaker, far removed and uninvolved with His Creation. The God revealed in the Bible is both far above us and near us.

However, our founding documents, especially the Declaration of Independence relied upon biblical principles. We were founded as a Judeo-Christian Nation. The basis of our law was grounded in God’s Law. Our stated view of mankind was drawn from the Bible.

Returning to the sentence quoted from the Declaration of Independence, the first observation is that our founders understood absolute truth. They referred to self-evident truths. That is, they assumed that all men clearly understood that there are absolutes and those absolutes could be evident to all men.

What were these “self-evident” truths? First, they declared that all men were created. They affirmed that there is a God. The self-evident truth is that He is the Creator. The Bible teaches that men and women are made in God’s image. Further, the act of God in creating Man is documented to be with one man and one woman. Adam was an historic being. Adam was endowed with an immortal soul, unlike all other creatures. Our founders like all their contemporaries understood that mankind was not the product of millions of years of chance via evolution.

The Founders also affirmed the equality of men. They wrote that all men are created equal. Notice that the source of man’s equality was not nor is it government. The source of man’s equality is God, the Creator not the government!

God likewise was the source of certain unalienable rights. The Founders understood that all men naturally possessed three fundamental rights. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are among the basic human rights given by God. These rights do not come from government. Yet, God has ordained governments to guard these rights, Romans 13.

The first unalienable right is life which is given by God. Government oversteps its bounds when it seeks to grant or take away life. God has given the right to life. Human life is sacred, and the harshest penalty is rightly levied upon one who murders another.

The late Francis Schaeffer said that the future of our western culture would be determined by our view of human life. How are we doing? You decide.

Liberty is defined as the right to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing. God gave Adam the freedom to choose. Adam chose poorly and disobeyed God. The result of his disobedience was the Fall. As a result, all men inherit the consequence of Adam’s sin. Every inclination of man’s heart is only evil continually, Genesis 6:5. Nevertheless, we are free to choose what we want. We also bear the consequences of our choices.

Liberty is a treasured possession. Like the right to life, liberty was designed by our founders to be guarded by government. Like life, government is not the source of liberty. Liberty is guarded by the rule of law such that one man’s exercise of freedom does not take away another’s liberty.

Finally, the Declaration states that all men have an unalienable right to pursue happiness. God has given mankind the right to pursue his or her dreams. I continue to pray that we will all be able to return the free pursuit of those things or occupations that satisfy us and through which God provides.

Thank God for His providence in the establishment of this great nation where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were recognized as His gifts.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eternal Decrees of God”

“The Eternal Decrees of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Recent events have led many to think that things are out of control! Who, if anyone, is in charge? There is someone in charge! The one true God has given us hope.

The great prophet Jeremiah struggled with this uncertainty. He is referred to as the weeping prophet. God inspired him to write two books of Scripture. One is called by his name and the second is called Lamentations. Jeremiah wept. He lamented over the state of the once great city of Jerusalem. God used the Babylonian Empire to crush Judah. Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were sent into captivity. Jeremiah wept over what had happened knowing that God had exercised judgment against His people for their idolatry. He gave us the answer to: “Who is it that controls all things?” “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’s answer was clear. God has ordained everything that comes to pass. There was nothing then nor now, good, or bad, outside of His sovereign authority.

Likewise, answers to this question and others were sought from Scripture during the Sixteenth Century Protestant Reformation. By the Seventeenth Century England’s Parliament commissioned many pastors and theologians to give biblical clarity concerning the true religion, a description of man’s expression of biblical faith in Jesus Christ. They produced a document called the confession of faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith is still used as an expression of sound biblical doctrine. This Confession is part of the constitution of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). It remains our Confessional Declaration. The PCA began in 1973 as a Presbyterian Denomination committed to: biblical faithfulness, reformed doctrine, and obedience to the Great Commission.

Chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, paragraph 1 reads in part: “God from all eternity did ordain whatsoever comes to pass… “. In ordaining everything, they re-stated what the Bible declares: God is not the author of sin nor does He offer violence to the will of His creatures.

Reasonable people know that if God is not in charge, we live at the whim of someone or something else that has different intentions than the God who is always good! The fact that we often do not understand events does not nullify the sovereign authority of the God who ordained them.

This truth reflects the character of God. If He is not in charge, He is not God! If God has not ordained everything that happens, then all creation is at the mercy of some indeterminate entity or force. The Bible is clear and even man’s fallen reason testifies to the truth that a sovereign God ordains everything.

What then are we, believers in the truth to make of this? Jeremiah wrote in the same book, Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is in charge and He has a good plan because He is good. Jesus said to the rich ruler, “… No one is good except God alone,” Luke 18:19.

Notice that, I asked, “What are believers to make of the truth that God is in charge?” God promised that all things work together for good for those who love Him. The ones who love Him are those whom He called. Therefore, there is comfort for believers, the called ones, because God ordains everything that comes to pass. In other words, God has a wonderful plan for those who have placed their trust in Him. Those who place their trust in Him are those whom He calls.

So, when things look bad, they often are. But if you believe in the Risen Lord Jesus know that God will work those bad things together for your good. Trust in a good God. Do not place your trust in circumstances or in some human savior who promises to change your circumstances.

Remember that everything that happens has been ordained by God. Amid life, even the bad things, God has promised the ultimate good for His people and He never goes back on a promise!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “He is Risen… Now What?”

“He is Risen… Now What?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The bodily resurrection of Christ is an historic fact. Jesus completed everything necessary for redemption. He completed God’s plan of redemption established in eternity. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that the Father accepted His atoning sacrifice and that everything Jesus said is absolutely true. He is fully God and fully Man. He was the Passover Lamb which has been sacrificed, 1Cor. 5:7. The Risen Lord Jesus is our hope!

Those who stand firmly in the Person and Work of Christ have been made His followers by the Holy Spirit. Disciples are followers and learners of Jesus Christ. But only God makes Christians. No one is born a Christian. No one is righteous, no one even seeks God. The Bible describes all mankind as naturally children of God’s wrath. But, God is rich in mercy. God has chosen to pour out mercy on those He chose before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1, 2.

The Bible defines salvation to be deliverance by God from God for God. The Apostle Paul wrote that believers have been crucified with Christ. Christians no longer live for themselves but for Him. 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.

The believer’s life in Christ is made possible by the perfect life of Christ and His perfect sacrifice. His bodily resurrection is the proof of this absolute truth.

So now, we who are in Christ live in Him. We are called to work out our salvation because God is at work in us, Phil. 2:12-13. The Evangelist, Luke wrote the practical application for living in Christ by the power of His resurrection. Luke 24:48, Jesus said to His disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.” Therefore, a Christian is a learner and follower of Jesus Christ our Master and is a living witness of the Risen Lord! The Christian lives each day in the reality of the bodily Resurrection of Christ.

A friend of mine called a Christian, “A work in progress.” Jesus taught a parable that concerns this “work in progress.” This progressive work according to the Bible is called living “in Christ.”

In the parable of the Talents, Mt. 25:14-30, Jesus gave a comprehensive view of the Kingdom Life. Christians are citizens of the Kingdom and live before the King expecting His return at any time. King Jesus expects His servants to invest in His Kingdom. This again is the Christian’s life “in Christ” in light of the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection.

The Parable of the Talents immediately precedes Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment. The Parable of the Talents not only teaches God’s expectation for His people to invest what He has given. It further emphasizes the absolute sovereign rule of God.

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 their 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 invested what their master gave them. They represent those who live the Christian Life. Jesus 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.

I pray that we will be able to gather for an Easter Celebration in the future. But now, perhaps more than ever, we must answer the question: “Has the historic reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus changed your life?” May you live for God. May you seek to glorify Him in all that you do. May your life be an investment in the Kingdom as the Master has commanded!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Kiss the Son, Lest He be Angry”

“Kiss the Son, Lest He be Angry”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The title is taken from Psalm 2:12. The Psalmist gave this directive considering the reality of the sovereignty of God. He asked a question, which is as relevant today as it was when the Psalmist wrote it. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” Psalm 2:1a

I confess that over the recent weeks I have been angry, first with myself, then with those who profess to know the truth and live ignoring it. I ask, “Have I failed to adequately teach God’s people about biblical worship?” There appears to be little understanding of our need to gather for worship and whom we worship.

Our spiritual dilemma of faithfulness to God’s word versus civil directives appears to have clouded our, even my, thinking. Of course, we don’t want to put others at risk for most activities, that is, except those physical “needs” considered essential.

The answer: confess my sins daily and constantly remind myself of the God whom we love. The one to whom we bow before in worship, our Redeemer who is the King and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ!

I believe that our fundamental problem is our desire to be autonomous. We think that we are the center of the universe and certainly the most important thing is our physical health. Charles Darwin, for example sought to eliminate man’s need of the Creator God. His theory was purposed in proving that all creation came about through chance and natural selection. He supposed that if his theory of evolution was true then man could assume the place of God.

Most have rejected pure Darwinism. Over the years there have been many caveats made to Darwin’s original theory. As we have learned more about God’s wonderful and marvelous Creation, pseudo intellectuals have modified Darwin’s theory to accommodate the observed intricacies of our Universe.

Darwin wrote of one of the weaknesses of his theory. He admitted that the theory of evolution could not explain the complexities of the human eye. He was sure that as technology advanced, those complexities would eventually be explained in evolutionary terms. Today the functions of the human eye are known but the eye’s ability to do all that it can still points to the sovereign purpose of God. As we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, Psalm 139:14a gives us great assurance that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a sovereign Creator.

Still men suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. This is precisely the Psalmist’s point in Psalm 2. Faced with our true place as creatures before a sovereign Creator, we seek to be god and think that we can “make ourselves safe.” Especially during times such as these, Christians must remind themselves that God is sovereign. He is sovereign over everything. There is nothing that comes to pass that He hasn’t ordained. But He is not the author of evil.

God’s word reveals the reality of “living in Christ” in all circumstances. Psalm 2: 11-12, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way. For his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Serving the LORD begins with worship. Worship is humble submission to God. The New Testament calls believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God because that is our reasonable worship Romans 12:1. I pray that the Church will seek God’s deliverance so that we might again gather to worship and praise Him as He has commanded.

The Psalmist declared what was at stake for failure to know the truth. He said that Jesus’ anger, judgment and wrath would be experienced by those who persist in thinking themselves to be God. The most evident testimony that one acknowledges Christ before men is to bow before Him in worship.

This is not news. Yet, we have allowed the world to shape our behavior. We’ve succumbed too often to the elevated worth of those who rule over us rather than govern us as we have elected them to do.

Jesus said to fear the one who can destroy both our bodies and souls in hell. Don’t be deceived, Jesus is the Sovereign Lord. Fear Him trusting in His deliverance. He will have the final say. Christian, persevere in being a true disciple of Jesus. Remain in His word. “Kiss the Son!”