Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Few Good Men”

“A Few Good Men”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A few good men were needed in Israel and the church would benefit from her example. The title may appear to be one that is overused. I sought a better one and was unable. The church’s greatest need is a few good men! It is only necessary to look back at the church of the Old Testament to see the need and God’s remedy.

1Kings 12 through 2Kings 25 contains the record of God’s dividing Israel into two Kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom consisted of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Southern Kingdom contained the remaining two tribes of Israel. The Northern Kingdom came to be known as Samaria and the Southern as Judah.

There were thirty-nine kings and one queen between the two Kingdoms. Out of these forty monarchs there were only eight who did what was right in accordance with God’s standard of what is right. Of those eight kings, four kings failed to remove the “high places”. Their failure to remove the “high places” resulted in the people continuing to worship pagan gods at those “high places”.

The Northern Kingdom, Samaria, existed for approximately 208 years. The Southern Kingdom’s longevity was 344 years. The Northern Kingdom of Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians. The Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians. God, through the Prophets declared the end of both.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church of the demise of Israel in order to warn believers, 1Corinthians 10:1-12. Israel in the Old Testament was a nation of idolaters. John Calvin wrote in the 16th Century that the mind of man is an idol factory. Mankind hasn’t changed.

We who are the church ought to take the Bible’s warnings seriously. That is, those of us who profess Jesus is Lord know that we are citizens of heaven, yet we still live in the world. God has called us to work out our salvation within the context of the local church. He has given each one of His children and the church in general a command to be holy! Christians affirm that God has made us for worship. We know that all men were created to worship the one true God. God has set His people apart for Himself.

The modern evangelical church in large part has been reflecting ignorance of God’s command to worship Him as Israel did. Not only has He commanded worship, but He has declared the way He desires His people to worship Him. The church has been deceived with the teaching of some that the church is about fellowship or relationships with one another. The Bible teaches that fellowship in the church is a propositional truth because all believers are “in Christ”. Relationships with one another are meaningful if based in Christ.

One of the last concerns of the Apostle Paul was leadership in the church. He knew that the church would be invaded by false teachers. He wrote that people would surround themselves with those who would tickle their ears, 2Timothy 4:3. He knew that the only remedy was for the leaders in the church to be fully convinced of the absolute sufficiency of the word of God. He said that there would be terrible times in the last days. He said that people would be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, irreverent, brutal and not lovers of the truth. Of course, as we read 2Timothy 3:1-5, we immediately think of the world around us. But, the sobering reality is that Paul was not speaking about the world. He was declaring what would happen in the church! He said that there would be people having an appearance of godliness but denying its power. 2Timothy 3:5

The answer Paul gave to two Pastors, Timothy and Titus was to select a few good men to lead the church under Christ, the Head. The answer is still the same. The Southern Kingdom of Israel had a few good men who did what was right. Likewise, the church of Jesus Christ, now more than ever, needs a few good men to lead in submission to the word of God. We don’t need new ideas, youth movements, or so-called “missional” emphases in the church. The answer is biblical leadership. May the Lord rise up a few good men in every Bible believing church and may we recognize them.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Protestant Reformation”

“The Protestant Reformation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God used an Augustinian monk to bring about reform to the church. Martin Luther who nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, would come to be known as God’s “lightning rod”. Luther among others was raised up by God to correct the perverted teaching that had become part of the Roman Church. A Pope sent a cleric to Germany to raise money for building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cleric’s name was Johann Tetzel. His message was summarized by the saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings the soul from Purgatory springs.”

Luther was outraged by connecting salvation to giving money. As Luther studied the Bible to teach it, the doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear.

God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which God imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone, Romans 1:17 and 3:28. The Latin term is Sola Fides. Luther reportedly said that when he understood the doctrine of Sola Fides it was as if the gates of Paradise opened and he walked through.

In addition, four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Scriptures. They are: Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone; Solus Christus, by Christ Alone; Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone and Soli Deo Gloria, to God Alone be Glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. They had been taught by the church until the Middle Ages. Luther and the other Reformers recovered these biblical doctrines and rightly taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3.

The second Sola, Sola Gratia, means by grace alone. The Bible teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are sinners, born dead in sin. We have inherited the sin nature of Adam. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 are two passages that teach man’s total bondage to sin. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus makes this fact clear. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.

The Protestant Reformers did not come up with new or novel ideas. They did not offer an alternative perspective on salvation but declared and taught the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth which the magisterial church had hidden.

Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great Reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases Solus Christus and Sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ Alone and by Scripture Alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. But the Reformers saw that the Church was usurping authority that belonged to God.

To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all life and salvation.

Of course there are many authorities over us. God established the church, civil government and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. His word, the Bible is the ultimate Authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men possess a granted authority. When men usurp God’s authority, it is invalid.

The four Solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth Sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And, Romans 11:36, “for from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God. Soli Deo Gloria! Pray that the Church would continue to teach these fundamental biblical doctrines.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discouragement”

“Discouragement”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Discouragement is a common life experience. I’ve experienced discouragement and I’m sure that you have as well. Sometimes circumstances seems so dark that you think you’ll never be lifted out of them. Some who suffer with a chronic illness see no hope. The constant pain and suffering leads one to say, “I give up!” Perhaps your current discouragement stems from those who have been given a free reign to deconstruct our nation and re-make it as a socialist utopia (which doesn’t exist). It seems no one steps up to check their delusion.

The Psalmist repeated his discouragement in Psalms 42 and 43, three times. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” In the midst of declaring his deep desire and desperate need for God, the psalmist recorded his state of mind. He was in the depths of discouragement and despair. He could do nothing but ask himself “Why?” I notice that he didn’t give an answer to the “why” of it but rather, he gave the cure.

The “cure” is to have a hope that is certain and there is only one certain hope. The psalmist declared the object of certain hope. It is God. He knew that God alone saves. God alone has promised to be with His people no matter what circumstance in which they find themselves. God has promised to bring His people to glory with Him. Jesus said that He was preparing a place for His followers and that He would take them to His Father’s Mansion in Heaven.

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” God gives life to each one He calls to Himself. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

God’s children have certain hope because He has revealed that heaven is their home!

However, while we live in this world, one of the reasons we often get discouraged is unfulfilled or broken promises. We must remind ourselves of the futility in trusting in man. Placing trust in man or man’s systems will result in discouragement. Even the “best” of us may fail to keep our promises. God alone is always faithful. The Bible declares the truth of God’s faithfulness in the midst of man’s unfaithfulness. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” 2Tim. 2:13

Knowing God and what He has said is our only defense against discouragement. For example, even though “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” The Bible declares that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2Cor. 4:16-17

In other words, whatever is causing discouragement God said that it is temporary. If you are in Christ, He is renewing you every day. He is preparing you for glory. God has given His people this certain knowledge so that all of the distortions of this world would not overwhelm them. As a Christian, I know that whatever I am facing will pass; and more, God is using every circumstance good or bad to prepare me for glory. Remember, God is faithful, and He will “never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

As a child of God, I didn’t always look at the beginning of my hope. I’m speaking of the gospel. Paul wrote to Christians that “the gospel is the power of God…” Rom. 1:16. The Lord used every manner of adversity in my life to teach me that He revealed the means and certainty of my hope including my rising from discouragement. He revealed to me the gospel. That He saved me by Jesus’ blood and righteousness is not simply a past action, but the truth upon which I live. The gospel is God’s power to save. I am saved. I am being saved and I will be saved. There is no other power to lift me or anyone else out of discouragement. After all, God raised me from death to life. Will He not also raise me out of the pit of discouragement?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Studying History”

“Studying History”
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 need to know history. History is God’s, story. History belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself through history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history. History is linear not circular. We may repeat past mistakes, but we are moving ever closer to God’s ordained end.

We realize great value in studying Church History because knowing past mistakes is an aid in avoiding the same ones in the present. Some Christians are led to think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. But, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham. 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. It would seem obvious that much can be gained by studying the church’s history. The Church is not a parenthesis as some teach. The Church was in God’s mind in eternity. It was the Church for whom Christ died, Ephesians 5:25.

The church has a long history, thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of some of them 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 consider the past.

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 the 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. Currently, we are experiencing heresies concerning the nature of man and the believer’s union with Christ.

Ancient civilizations died in part by embracing immoral behavior. Unfortunately, even some of our civil leaders have attempted to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more 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. We even see strains of it in the Church under the guise of social justice, etc.

I am concerned for the 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 yields Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. May we not try to fill churches by being culturally relevant but “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3

There are currently at least three doctrines now being challenged in the Church. The first concerns race. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one race, the human race. Adam is declared to be the federal head of the human race, Romans 5:12-14. The second concerns reconciliation. The Bible declares that God has reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ, 2Corinthians 5:19. The Church is to proclaim God’s reconciliation. He is not depending on us to be reconcilers. The third issue is justice. Micah 6:8 lays out God’s requirements concerning justice. It is a command. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Christians are exhorted not to look on anyone simply in the flesh, 2Corinthians 5:16 Every human being has an immortal soul and there are only two destinies, heaven or hell. Man’s only hope is the gospel! Christians know and affirm that their identity is in Christ. ”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discernment is Necessary for Wise Living!”

“Discernment is Necessary for Living Wisely!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“I commit to do what I is right.” This is a commitment that all should make, especially those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We often shade that commitment by revising it. We equate, “I commit to do what I think is right” for committing to do what is right! It is a sign of our time that so many equate what one “thinks is right” as representative of goodness and virtue. A good and virtuous person would commit to do that which is right. Whether or not one thinks an action is right, in own my mind, is irrelevant. We should all seek to do what is right! Yet my concern is for the Church.

In order to do what is right one must know what is right? Romans 12:2 calls Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. The result is: “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Therefore, believers are to live as children of light, that is, to follow Jesus. Disciples of Jesus Christ are told that the “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.” Knowing what is good, right and true is called discernment. Doing it enables wise living.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. Being a “God-fearer” is foundational for wise living. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Fearing God because He is the Creator, who made everything for Himself gives the right perspective for all of life’s choices.

The right application of God’s word is wisdom. Therefore discernment to know what is right requires knowledge of what God has said.

The Bible reveals that God is good, righteous and true. All three are attributes of the One True God. To know the One True God one must know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the Father is the source, discernment only grows through a personal and intimate knowledge of His Son, Jesus. Discernment is a learned ability rather than a gift and is available to everyone who professes Christ.

Discernment leads to wise living. Wise living follows the way of blessing. God said the way of blessing was to obey Him. Conversely, He warned that a cursed life would follow the one who disobeyed Him. I have yet to meet someone who wanted to live a cursed life. Yet, by ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we head towards destruction. Don’t be fooled by those who say that they will do what they think is right. Know what is right. Then do it.

The key to discernment is to know what is right, good and true. The method for knowing is not easy, but is a blessing. The method is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor. God has ordained that we grow in discernment and wisdom corporately. I am speaking of the necessity of growing in a church that teaches “sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1.

The Apostle Paul addressed the barrier to growth in discernment and it is recorded in 2Timothy 3. He wrote of the “last days”, those days between Jesus’ first and second coming. Paul said that people would 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.”

Paul was not describing the world in general. He was describing the visible church corrupted by those who only looked godly. He gave a timeless answer. The answer then was for Timothy to continue in what he learned and firmly believed. Paul reminded Timothy that all Scripture was breathed out by God and it’s the Scriptures which are able to make the believer “competent and equipped for every good work.” God’s answer remains the same. The visible church is the place for growth in discernment through personal and corporate study of all that is good, right and true.