Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Are Men Basically Good?”

“Are Men Basically Good?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Look around at our world, don’t you find yourself asking, “Where are the good ones?” If there was just one good man or woman who would act upon his or her goodness our world would surely look different.

The question of man’s goodness is fundamental. It is the foundation of knowledge concerning the nature of man. The answer to this question is one of the two main concerns of the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation to man. It is concerned with the nature of man and God.

The basic question that all of us must at some point in our lives ask is, “Are men basically good?” Men’s desires are motivated by self-interest. From our politicians to leaders in business we are learning by experience what God revealed. We are seeing Genesis 6:5 and Jeremiah 17:9 reported on every day. The reality is that men are not basically good.

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

I look to Scripture, seeking God’s revelation concerning the nature of man. The Bible declares that God created man and woman. God declared on the sixth day of Creation that everything He had made was very good. The statement “very good” means that everything God made was complete, perfect and there was harmony in all of Creation. The declaration of goodness included Adam and the first woman, later named Eve by the man. This was the condition of our first parents. The Bible teaches that this condition did not last. Genesis 2 ends with perfect goodness and Genesis 3 ends with Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden and being prevented from eating from the tree of life. The perfect goodness of Adam and Eve ended permanently.

Every human being inherits the sin of Adam. Therefore, man was no longer basically good. From the beginning God poured out His grace by establishing requirements for men to have a relationship with Him. The Bible reveals the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men. Only God is good, Luke 18:19. The One who made all things and called them very good is the only source of goodness, James 1:17.

God’s view of mankind quoted from Genesis 6:5 and Jeremiah 17:9 are inclusive statements. There is no goodness in man because of and since the Fall of Adam and Eve. The Apostle Paul affirmed this truth and quoted the Old Testament. He wrote “no one does good, not even one,” Romans 3:12.

The plain truth is that men are incapable of doing good because their hearts desire self. God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel and revealed the absolute necessity of His action to give man a new heart, Ezekiel 36:28.

Even though I know that the Bible teaches that men are not basically good, I still hope against hope that our leaders would do good. I suggest that you are thinking in the same way. We all look around us and think that all it will take to solve our problems is for one man or woman to actually do what is good in any given situation. I thank the Lord, that our founding fathers understood man’s nature. They gave us a system of government with checks and balances.

We’ve been blessed throughout our history to have a few leaders who sought to do what is right. I thank the Lord for the courage they demonstrated, and some are even now demonstrating. Still, men pursue their own desires which are not good; they are focused in their own self-interest. No sacrifice is too great for others to make in order for these leaders to get what they want. What they want is their own power. They use fear to manipulate others to accomplish that end.

Don’t be surprised by this behavior; nor be intimidated. Rather stand against the evil that men do. God has revealed that only those who are in Christ have hearts that desire to do good. Know that only those who abide in Jesus will bear the fruit of Christlikeness. Above all know that all good is from God with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Only God is good. Unto Him be all glory!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why Should I Fear God?”

“Why should I fear God?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
People have been subjected to many kinds of fear. The world is full of circumstances, not the least of which are diseases much like our current pandemic, that instill fear. We even fear the unknown. Perhaps, that fear is the most insidious. In our current crisis, we are given so much information that is purported to be factual that our minds imagine the worst and fear of what might happen paralyzes us.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed that some people use the lack of known facts to manipulate people with fear in order to accomplish their desired results. Yet there is a wise fear. There is a fear that is reasonable.

The plain truth is whether you are a Christian or not, fearing God is the wise and reasonable response of a creature to the Creator.

The Bible answers the questions, “Why fear and Who to fear?” God is the answer to both questions. Fearing God is the subject of much of Scripture. Three texts of Scripture come readily to mind that concern man’s response to his Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 provide the clear answer.

Solomon who was declared by God to be the wisest man who ever lived expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon’s conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits was: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

From Solomon, king of Israel to the Apostle Peter the fear of God was known and declared to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Their fear of God was demonstrated in their worship. Fear includes a sense of awe, trembling and reverence.

In the case of Solomon fearing God was the only reasonable way of life. Peter gave the members of the church God’s guidance for life. Yet, each writer based his exhortation on an underlying assumption.

The underlying assumption was given by Jesus. Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is God’s answer. Men are to fear God because of who He is and what He can do. Jesus’ words provide clarity. Jesus said that only God has absolute sovereignty over His creatures. Therefore, we must approach Him with great humility. We are finite and He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. Jesus said that, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Why should I/we fear God? We fear God because He is!

How many think that their lives are hidden before God? How many are blind to the truth that they are created beings? How many give explanations for creation that fit within their limited understanding? How many think that there is no God to fear?

Fear God because, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Everything you see around you is there because of our Creator God. We have been made to worship God. He is to be feared. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. Fear God! He is the One who ordained everything that comes to pass, everything! “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 (ESV)

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Remember Life!”

“Remember Life!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.” Psalm 125:3 (ESV)
Amid our current concerns over a virus, albeit a dangerous disease, I wonder how deep our society’s concern for life is? I think of the vast number of lives taken every day by the evil of abortion. We remember the more than 60 million plus babies that were not allowed to see the light of day. We remember leaders who have covered over evil by calling abortion the right to choose. We remember that God has set human life apart as sacred, Cf. Genesis 2:7, “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Men and women bear the image of God. God is for all life!

In fact, God ordained capital punishment in Israel for premeditated murder. Human life is so precious in God’s eyes that one who unlawfully takes it rightly forfeits his life.

We should not be surprised that those who believe in their hearts that there is no God would have such a self-centered and low view of life that abortion would be referred to as a woman’s right to choose. Whereas the fear of contracting a virus justifies closing our country and inflicting harm on our citizens.

Psalm 125 is called a Song of Ascent. Verse 3 declares that God restrains man’s evil. Further, psalms of ascent were used in the worship of God. The ascent was the act of going up to worship. Symbolically, as we worship the Living God, we lift our eyes to heaven from where our help comes, Psalm 121:1.

Psalm 125:3 quoted above is part of a song of worship. The details revealed include two unconditional promises to His people. Israel, the church of the Old Testament was promised by God to: always have a strong foundation for life and be assured of His protection. Verse 3 contains a conditional promise that God will keep evil from ruling over His people. The caveat is that God expects that His people would not “stretch out their hands to do wrong.”

We no longer live under a theocracy. That is, God has instituted Civil Government for the good and welfare of all people, Romans 13. Yet, believers ought not to take comfort in that this conditional promise of God no longer applies. God is holy. He never “winks” at sin. Sin is a direct offence against His character. He will never accommodate sin. Abortion is sin. It is first a sin against the holy God. It is also a sin against man and if His people do wrong, there will be consequences.

The Apostle Paul advised the Church in Corinth that judgment must be directed inside the church. He declared the truth that God will judge the world. Christians are followers of Jesus. We were made new creatures by God’s grace alone. Believers live under God’s word. Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the church and His word is her standard.

I in no way indorse those who would take the law into their own hands. Violence against abortionists can never be acceptable in defense of life. Those who would advocate such violence do more harm than any possible good that they may see. Yet I am calling Christians to be who they profess to be.

There are three actions Christians can and should take against the evil of abortion. First, Christians should pray for God’s protection of the unborn and for those who have been deceived to think that abortion is simply an acceptable choice. Second, Christians could support local pregnancy crisis centers financially and/or by volunteering. We in Weatherford have an opportunity to do exactly that. Grace House Ministries is a blessing to our community. I give the Lord thanks for their efforts in being used by God to minister to women and their unborn babies. Finally, Christians have been commanded to disciple the nations. We are called to be people of light. We know that the only way by which this evil can be purged from our land is by God’s grace in changing the hearts of men and women.

Remember life, all life, and never stretch out your hands to do evil (or support those who do)!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “No Words to Say”

“No Words to Say”
The Rev Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There are circumstances in life that come our way that force us to admit that we have no words to say that explain the circumstance. Our Church Family and I have been thrust into such a circumstance. We have experienced the tragic loss of life of a dear friend and leader in our church. He leaves behind a beautiful family, a loving wife and two wonderful children in addition to many shocked relatives and colleagues in his profession. Our dear friend was a caring and compassionate man. He loved the Lord, trusted in Christ and sought to live his life as a faithful witness of the Risen Lord Jesus. He was blessed by the Lord with gifts of healing and comfort. He was an excellent physician who spent many long hours in the Emergency Room treating patients for all sorts of conditions.

My brother, friend and co-laborer in ministry was a godly example and I will miss him dearly. My thoughts are that my life and the lives of those he touched will never be the same. What can one say to bring comfort? What could I say to his wife and children who were living through this nightmarish event?

I was unable to come up with any suitable words. Everything seemed so trite and inadequate.

I’ve been asking myself, “What would he say?” I know that my dear friend is before the throne of God and being forever glowing in the inexpressible brilliance of the glory of God! But what of us who remain?

Immediately, Psalm 121:1-2 came to my mind. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.” My dear friend and I spoke of the reality of these verses often. We often said in dark situations, God is in charge! He is my hope. We look to Him because He is always faithful to His word.

This Psalm is part of the fifth book of the Psalter. The five books reflect the different stages of the life of Israel, the church in the Old Testament. Book Five is especially appropriate for our future hope of victory promised by God! Book Five includes Psalms 107-150. In general this grouping looks forward to a final restoration. The human authors thank God for His deliverance from captivity and look forward to the eternal reign of Christ.

In particular, Psalm 121 is entitled a “Song of Ascents”. This is a psalm sung by the people of God as they went up to worship God. It is significant as it draws the worshiper’s attention to the reason for his certain hope. Our hope, like the Old Testament saints, is in the God who created everything by the word of His command. He created ex nihilo, out of nothing. He alone is able to give us hope that is certain. He is the one who speaks words of hope, comfort and assurance to His people.

As I searched for words to say, God revealed that He has the words of eternal life! When many were deserting Jesus, He asked His chosen twelve disciples if they would do likewise. “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’”

Indeed, my dear friend knew this truth because God chose to reveal it to him. Likewise, I, now more than ever, remind myself of God’s grace in opening my eyes to the truth. God has spoken and His words are true, reliable, clear, and sufficient.

In the past, when my dear friend and I were confronted with the final enemy, death of a loved one, we would remind each other that we don’t grieve as others do who have no hope.

I read the words of the Apostle Paul with renewed intensity. 1Thessalonians 4:13-14, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

God has the words to say! Brother, life won’t be the same without you here. I am grieving, but I will see you again!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Regulative Principle of Worship”

“The Regulative Principle of Worship”
(Something to remember as many resume gathering for worship)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Worship is the most important activity of life and I believe Corporate Worship is our most critical need and comfort. God made us for worship. In worship, we engage with God who is “holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah 6:3 Its importance is so great that God ordained how to worship Him.

Worship is defined, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Worship is an Old English compound word, worth ship. It described the devotion 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.

God is the supreme sovereign who has revealed the content of acceptable worship.

Moses wrote to the people of God and declared to them that God chose the place of worship. The context moves from individual behavior to corporate practice. Deuteronomy 12: 31-32, detailed God’s general principle for the content of corporate worship. “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way (the way the pagan nations worshiped their idols), for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. “

Matthew recorded the words of Jesus concerning this very important topic. “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:19 This is the heart of what is called “man-centered” worship. Church leaders employ methods that are intended to grow their churches in numbers. They insist that the church ought to be “seeker” sensitive. Corporate worship is believed to be an evangelistic enterprise. Yet the Bible teaches that worship is for God by God’s people who are sought by Him, John 4:23.

The Protestant Reformers understood man’s tendency to invent a worship that seeks to satisfy physical desires. Their recovery of biblical worship was handed down to the church and is called the “Regulative Principle of Worship.” It is stated succinctly in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, Paragraph 1. “…The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”

Protestant Reformed Churches, those who seek to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Doctrines recovered by the Reformers, have applied the Regulative Principle in Corporate Worship by including the elements of biblical worship. Those elements are: the reading of Holy Scripture, the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, the offering of prayer, the preaching of the Word, the presentation of offerings, confessing the faith and observing the two Sacraments. On special occasions corporate worship includes the taking of oaths before God such as Commitments made for Church Membership.

The worship of God is serious. We gather in reverence and experience worship as a sacred event. It is sacred because we are coming before a holy God. We are submitting ourselves to Him as He has commanded. We know that God can only be approached by those who are covered by the righteousness of Christ.

I pray that all who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead will view worship on the Lord’s Day as wholly set apart to Him and not for our entertainment. Both the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s view of true worship.

“For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods…Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Psalm 96: 4, 8, 9.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29