Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Four Most Confrontational Words”

“The four most confrontational words”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“In the beginning God…” are the four words that upset my world. My hope is that they will upset yours as well! These words are revealed truth which can also be called reality. You know reality is that sticky truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some may think that reality is what you make of it or believe it to be. Try standing in front of a brick wall and imagining that it’s not there. Then try running as fast as you can in the belief (even strongly held) that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious. So too is the confrontation of these four words.

Just like that wall, God’s words knocked me off my throne. A Christian can see the reality of these four words. The Holy Spirit who regenerates sinners also illumines their minds so that these words and all of God’s word can be applied. Yet, reality and truth are true for all or not true at all.

Genesis 1:1 declared clearly that there was a time nothing existed; therefore, God made everything out of nothing! Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. He spoke and all things leapt into existence. This God changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life, to think that I was “in charge.”

In making me a new creation, He gave me new desires, specifically a new desire, a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being. All things that exist proceed from Him. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh in Greek (I’m paraphrasing). It is Jesus.” (read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel).

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature (me) could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28 ESV, the claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me re-phrase. Before there was anything there was God. He chose a time to make everything out of nothing. Opposed to this is the view of eternal matter. A once great philosopher of the 21st Century said, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Acceptance of this view, in my opinion, requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1, ESV

Considering God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you or have you responded to the reality that you are not in control?

The critic might say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” This supremely points to Jesus Christ but is significant for the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But, for the sake of repetition, it would be like ignoring the wall I mentioned in my introduction. So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator?

If you’ve gotten this far, I believe that another question has arisen in your mind. And this is a necessary question: “If God has sovereign, supreme authority, and control, why am I responsible for my actions?” An honest question deserves an honest answer. Much more should be said on the subject but let me suggest a beginning to the answer. A biblical principle, one grounded in logic is that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are not a contradiction. All men are responsible for what they do, there is no exception. Yet, God is sovereign over every action.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “All Life Maters”

“All Life Matters!”
(Especially babies in the womb)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Politicians convince people of the most amazing things simply by claiming that whatever it is will be in the interest of our children. I want to affirm the importance of children’s lives, in fact, I want to declare that all lives matter. Also, the importance of human life is not rooted in politics. The issue of life is a moral issue.

If we are serious about the importance of all life, we must address the most dangerous issue of our life. The issue to which I refer is abortion. The staggering fact is that since 1973, more than 62 million babies have been killed through abortion. Further, worldwide, almost 1.2 billion babies have had their lives snuffed out by the evil of abortion.

In this day of so-called scientific enlightenment, denying that the life of a human being begins at conception would seem to any reasonable person to be unbelievable.

I stand with those who say, “Let’s stop the violence.” Indeed, let’s stop it right now. Stand for the sanctity of human life. All people, especially Christians are accountable to the God of life to speak out against the moral evil of abortion.

God set human life apart and sanctified it!

Since, the mid Seventies, the “Progressives” have given government the authority to remove the right to life given by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1981, “The dignity of human life is not some peripheral issue,” The Christian Manifesto. The value that a society places upon human life represents the overall worth of that society.

The protection of human life is not something upon which we can agree to disagree. It is not simply a political issue. The dignity of human life is an absolute! The right to live is given by God who is the source of life. He breathed into Man the breath of life, Genesis 2:7. Human life is sacred because the Creator, God made it so.

Secular Humanism has clouded the mind of our culture. In a culture where there are no absolutes, men make decisions based upon personal preference. Our culture is governed by moral relativism. Everything is considered relative. There are no absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Yet, the dignity of human life is an absolute.
Our very own Declaration of Independence stated clearly both the source of life and its inherent value. “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.” The Founders of our country declared that the source of life was God and that life is an undeniable right given by Him, therefore an absolute.
Further, when God gave the Law through Moses to His people, He included a commandment against murder, Exodus 20:13. The word translated kill or murder in the 6th Commandment is understood to mean the unlawful taking of life. Only God can authorize the taking of life. God’s highest consequence for the taking of life is the life of the one who took it.

The 6th Commandment is not only a prohibition for Man, but it reveals the character of God, as do all the Commandments. That is, God is for life not death. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, Matthew 22:32. Jesus also said that He is the life, John 14:6.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. My concern is that Christians will allow the discussion of human life to center on personal choices rather than moral absolutes. However, whether you are a Christian or not I urge you to speak for those who have no one to speak for them. Speak for the unborn babies. The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is not in schools, crowds, etc. but in the womb.

May the God of life bless your efforts to speak for our children. Pray for the protection of unborn babies and their mothers. Pray that the Lord will cause more of our citizens to see God’s blessing of human life from the womb to the tomb. May He be glorified in all things.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Truth”

“Truth”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

A famous question was asked by the Roman Governor of Jerusalem who had the temporal authority “ordained by God” to crucify Jesus. His name was Pontius Pilate. He asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Most today believe as Pilate did. He believed that the most important thing was power. Truth to him was irrelevant. Pilate like most in our society fail to understand that real power is rooted in truth. Pilate stood before the One who was truth and who possessed sovereign power.

Observers of Culture have called our time in the west the Post-Modern Era. Simply stated, this era subverts the importance of truth as Pilate did. In the Post Modern’s mind, there is no such thing as absolute truth. One of the symptoms is reflected in our culture by what is called spirituality. We see it in movies and television. There are popular dramas centered in the world beyond this one. Talk shows on T.V. have segments to discuss the importance of having a spiritual connectedness to something, anything. People seem to be on never-ending quests to experience the latest spiritual guru’s method for attaining a deep spiritual fulfillment. You may have heard someone say, “It’s all about the journey.”

The obvious problem with this philosophy is that the “journey” may indeed end in destruction. The only revealed way to avoid destruction is to receive the Truth, Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel.

The simple definition is truth is reality. The Bible teaches that men naturally suppress the truth. We like to press reality down in a futile attempt to live above it or ignore it. A friend of mine once said that denial is not only a river in Egypt. We can deny or suppress the truth all we want. But we must live in and face reality.

Every time we look around, we see men and women telling us that truth is relative; it is a matter of perspective. What is true for you may or may not be true for me. Those who see reality are referred to as simple-minded or judgmental bigots. The charge against those who recognize absolute truth is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. For example, there are those who take pains to make numbers say whatever is expedient. We have poll numbers, jobless numbers, positive case numbers, etc. that are used to support an agenda.

The church is no different. Some prominent Church leaders would have us believe that it is all about relationships and that truth is something contrary to what they call love. They claim that all this talk of doctrine is of no value. What is important, they say, is one’s relationship to Jesus and to others. The word “missional” is often used to describe the outworking of relational importance. However, it never enters the realm of possibility in their minds that there are many different Jesuses proclaimed. Having a relationship with the real Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the truth and the life and the way. He is the revealed Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? He is the reality of life!

The church’s job, some leaders say, is to meet “felt needs”, or to offer courses on how to have a better marriage or how to live as a single person, or divorced person. Rather than to see that the church is to teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine, what the Bible teaches. This emphasis enables believers to apply God’s word to every circumstance of life as people who have been set apart by Him. Thereby believers are equipped to make a difference in the world for the glory of God.

In answer to Pilate’s and culture’s question, “What is truth?” Let me be bold and say very simply and clearly that truth is that which is real. Truth matters since it is reality. By God’s grace, He has revealed truth. His name is Jesus. He is the only begotten one of God, not born, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He is the one revealed in the Bible. He is the one offered in the gospel. All life is lived in response to Him. Every relationship is designed by God to find meaning through knowing the Truth, Jesus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Gospel, the Hope of Mankind”

“The Gospel, the Hope of Mankind”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Especially now, amid turmoil, the Church needs to declare the truth of the Good News of God. People need to hear that there is ultimate good news!

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

The urgency to preach the gospel ought to be foremost in every church that professes Christ as her head! Through the gospel, the Person and Work of Christ, God has reconciled the world to Himself. Those who receive the gospel are at peace with God, the ultimate and necessary reconciliation.

The reason for Jesus’ public ministry was to preach. His message was clear. He preached: “Repent and believe in the gospel!” Both verbs are in the imperative mood and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus gave two reasons for His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His first coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically present with His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commands repentance, and faith!

Repentance and faith go together. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint, He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The other is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin, and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was specific. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b.

I am sure that you have heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So, what is the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is profoundly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen. Those who receive the gospel have a hope that is eternal, the only hope of mankind!

Repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8