Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Where is the Church?”

“Where is the Church?”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We’re watching our “house” burning down, and I ask, “Where is the Church?” The “house” is our nation and the “fire” is Marxism.

However, here is God’s call to His Church: James 4:7 declares, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (ESV) 1Peter 5:8-9 states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (ESV)

Submit to God and resist the devil. Resist the devil while being firm in your faith in God. These are timeless exhortations given to the Church. Yet, as the saying goes, “When you’re up to your neck in alligators it’s hard to remember that your mission was to drain the swamp.” It takes perseverance and patience to keep your mind fixed on your purpose. It takes trusting in the power of our Sovereign God to cause you to focus on doing His will.

The culture is relentless. Passions of the flesh are overwhelming. Some in the church have acquiesced to the pressure of culture and have sought to find the good in evil. Some seek to find reasons to justify the evil. Some have concluded that we, the biblically faithful members of the Church are to blame. It is, they say that the hardline, unloving adherence to God’s word that has prompted the evil behavior we are experiencing. Church leaders conclude that the Church needs to be relevant and avoid alienating herself from the culture.

If indeed we are the Church, we are aliens to the culture of man-centeredness. Genuine believers are citizens of heaven. We are not of the world, though God has ordained that we live in the world for His glory. God’s command to His Church is to be holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16. He has issued a dire warning to those who would call evil good and good evil, Isaiah 5:20.

So, what ought the Church be? The Church is God’s called out people. He has set us apart to Himself. We are a royal priesthood to declare His excellencies. He called His people out of darkness into His marvelous light. In this current climate, it is especially important for the Church to be the Church! We dare not make excuses for the evil men do. We must be clear about our heavenly citizenship. We must never compromise the truth or negotiate with evil.

The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is “How is the Church to be the Church?”

Above all, believers must remember that they belong to God. It is His Church. He is sovereign over everything. He has ordained all things that come to pass. He is good and only does good. The evil that we see is under His sovereignty and we know that He will use it to accomplish His good purpose and judge evil.

To be the Church, her members must know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, John 17:3. The practical application of knowing God is to live in intimacy with Him under His word. He has shown the way of blessing and He has declared that cursing is the result of disobeying His commands. Members of the Church are called to think critically. We are people who communicate with words. God has communicated to us using words. Never engage in debate with the culture without first defining terms. Liberal advocates of change tend to pour their own meanings into words and phrases that have traditional meanings. For example, the phrase, “social justice” has no connection with justice. It is an expression that means the movement to transfer wealth and power from one ethnic or economic group to another. In short the movement called the social justice movement is rooted in cultural Marxism.

Further, to be the Church is to pray! Prayer is the most significant thing the Church does as the Church. Sadly, weekly prayer meetings have faded out of practice. Yet, prayer is a significant demonstration of our trust and dependence upon God. God has commanded prayer. Prayer is the means by which God has chosen to demonstrate His providence.

May the Church be the Church growing in knowledge and dependence upon God who hears the prayers of His people and answers them in ways that are best for us and most glorifying to Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who’s to Blame?”

“Who’s to blame?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A common malady of mankind is selective amnesia. When problems occur or plans aren’t working, or our lives are less than we think we deserve, our first impulse is to find someone to blame. The last place that we look is ourselves. No matter what the issue, political, church, home or society the cause of failure or dysfunction is sought outside of ourselves.

For example, our current social strife, motivated by so-called social justice, not reflective of justice social or otherwise, but rather based in cultural Marxism. Which is the philosophy that seeks to transfer power and money from one group to another in order to achieve a perceived equality. There are several stages through which efforts or movements such as this inevitably pass. One is called “reward of the non-participants”. Another is “persecution of the innocent”. Within each is an activity called “fixing the blame”. When a problem or event occurs, an effort ensues to fix the blame on a group. Individual responsibility doesn’t seem to matter. The important thing is to hold some group responsible. In this current movement the group that is always to blame is the so-called privileged group. People are segregated by race, gender, sexual orientation, biblical Christian, conservative or liberal. The oppressed groups are those who have been designated as “minorities” (an exception is women, declared a minority). The oppressors are those in the mainstream of our society, those who have absolute standards of morality and belief.

If you come across words such as “social justice” or intersectionality know that you are being drawn into a discussion to manipulate not to address truth. Some Christian leaders have tried to Christianize those terms, but their efforts are fools’ errands.

Social justice has nothing to do with justice. It has everything to do with the transfer of power and resources from the oppressors to the oppressed. Once designated to be in one group, it is a permanent designation.

Intersectionality is the term used to assign levels of being oppressed or of oppressing. For example, if you are a homosexual, black woman, you are in the oppressed group. If you are a white man who is conservative both politically and biblically, you are a member of the oppressor group. Each attribute intersects to elevate your level of either oppressor or oppressed.

Contrary to this new cultural Marxism, the word of God declares that there is only one group to which all mankind belong. This group is called the human race. Further, the word of God also declares that there is only one sub-group within the main group of the human race. All men are members of the human race. All men are born in Adam. God chooses some out of the human race to be in Christ, the last Adam. The idea of racism came out of Darwinian Evolution not Scripture.

Concerning the current activity of blaming groups, God assessed the individual’s desire to fix the blame and said, “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine; the soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:2-4

God said to fix the blame, or deny responsibility was like a father eating sour grapes and his child experiencing the sour taste. God said that is not so. Rather each one is responsible for his sin. Denying our responsibility will not make it go away. We will all stand before a holy God and give Him an account for our own individual actions.

Focus on groups is neither biblical nor proceeding from “common sense.” Men and women are not identified by their pathology, gender, or the color of their skin. Men and women are either in Adam or in Christ. Our hope is not to pass power and resources to another group. Our only hope is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. I thank God that each person is unique. I thank God that there are many differences within the human race. Yet, I know that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,” for all in Christ are one!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Image of God”

“The Image of God”
(Why All Life Matters!)
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford
Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The world tells us that our value and dignity are based upon our current or potential contributions to society. There are ethicists who teach that human life has no more intrinsic value than plants and animals! I hope that this shocks you. It should! Human life has been given a unique value by the Creator. In God’s eyes all life matters. Genesis 1:26a, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”

At this point, I think that I’ve probably lost the atheists or those who think that they are. Perhaps, even those who have embraced the evolutionary perspective that mankind is divided into categories of race have stopped reading here. But, here’s a news bulletin from the Bible. There is only one race, the human race. Human life is sacred because God declared it so. Human life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.

Even though this article is not about the existence of God, yet, His existence is the basis for the sanctity of human life. All men and women bear the image of God. No other creature has been given such a distinction. Man is accountable to God. We have been set apart by God. We are made to bear God’s image. One of my favorite Psalms declares, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

The sense of the words of Scripture, Gen. 1:26, that declare men and women are made in God’s image are likened to objects viewed in a mirror. We are a reflection of God. Distortions of this idea have been offered over the years. Joseph Smith wrote that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…” Another famous or infamous personality teaches that God is actually a man who is six feet, two inches tall. He even goes on to describe God’s arm length.

Being grounded in the truth is the best defense against such false teaching. In other words, know the truth in order to recognize error. So then, what is the truth of being made in God’s image? It cannot mean that mankind looks like God in a physical sense, as those referenced above teach. God made us male and female! Both men and women bear God’s image. All reasonable people admit that men and women are not the same, nor do we all look the same.

Bearing God’s image means to have some of His attributes. Attributes are simply characteristics that define a being. Now I used the word “some” to qualify the attributes of God that we bear. We are not God! No man is immortal. No man is self-existent. No man can make the claim that he had no beginning. Yet, all men are able to: reason, think, and have limited knowledge. All men have a sense of right and wrong.

In bearing these characteristics, we are faced with our limitations. For example, we are able to think and reason. But, our knowledge is limited. We don’t always do what is right in spite of having the moral law written on our hearts. The Bible says that every intention of the thoughts of men’s hearts are only evil continually, Genesis 6:5.

Yet man’s sinfulness does not eliminate his dignity. God made man in His image, male and female He made them as recorded in Genesis Chapter One. Two Chapters later, the Bible records the Fall of Adam and the Woman. As a result, our God given attributes were marred by the Fall. We still have them. But we also have an inherited sin nature. Adam is referred to as the head of the Human Race, Romans 5:12ff. Along with the dignity of being human comes the responsibility for our actions before God.

Having said all this, the fact that we are sinners does not remove the dignity which God conveyed by making Man in His image. It also does not reduce our responsibility to exercise good management of His Creation.

Human Life is sacred because God made it so. Remember no man can change what God ordained. You have dignity and value because the sovereign God made you in His image!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Rule of Law”

“The Rule of Law”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The giving of the Law and God’s ordination of civil authority are two blessings of God that intersect each other.

The blessing of the Law is stated in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. It was given to the Church of the Old Testament. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” Galatians 3:19. He called believers to “walk by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16. Believers live by the Spirit by applying the word of God in their lives.

He later wrote to the church in Rome, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad…” Romans 13:3 He reminded the members of the church that God is the one who ordains all authority. Those who are in authority are His ministers for the good and welfare of all people.

In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 and Galatians 3:19 the focus is on the Law of God which is the word of God and more precisely the Ten Commandments.

In Romans, Paul was referring to civil authority and by implication civil laws. God is the one who ordains all civil authority. God’s purpose is to provide for an ordered society. Those who are governmental officers are God’s ministers for the good of all. They are charged with keeping order so as to promote good. As God is the source of all that is good, civil authorities and civil laws are subordinate to God’s law.

The Bible declared a situation in which there was a conflict between God’s law and man’s law. When the leaders of Israel commanded the Apostles to cease preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

To help understand the importance of the Law and law in general, there are, what the Protestant Reformers called three uses of the Law as they are revealed in Scripture. The first use of the Law is to point to man’s hopelessness and his desperate need for a Savior. The second use of the Law is to restrain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law. The third use of the Law is to guide the life of a believer in pleasing God. These uses of the Law express what the Bible teaches in Exodus 20, the ten commandments; Deuteronomy 11:26-28, blessing and curse; Galatians 3 and 5, the purpose of the Law; and Romans 13, God’s establishment of civil authorities.

The intersection of the blessing of the Law and Civil authority is found in the second use of the Law. It is the means given by God to put bounds around sinful mankind. It is this use of the Law that is the foundation of every society. Without which no society will survive.

It is accurate to say, “All truth is God’s truth”, especially when speaking of the rule of law. Sadly, we are experiencing the disregard of law. We are flooded by news reports on the actions of anarchists. We see these criminals, law breakers on television. However, they are described by many civil leaders as good people seeking some so-called higher cause of social justice.

Apparently we have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only seem to do so selectively. We are living in a dangerous time. May it not persist!

We are blessed that our country was founded upon a principle that our government is by the people and for the people. Our founders understood God’s blessing of Law. I pray that all our citizenry would recognize our current situation for what it is, lawlessness. May we once again understand and apply God’s blessing of law. I pray that our laws will actually do what they were intended to do, guard those rights that God has given: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.