Pastor’s Viewpoints, “So, you expect to be trusted!”

“So, you expect to be trusted!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Trust is a precious commodity. Once lost it may never be restored. People tend to develop trust in an individual in whom they see character. There are public figures who want to be trusted yet are held at “arm’s length” because of deceptive and weak behavior, as well as empty promises.

We know that character concerns a person’s morals and ethics. Character is developed over an extended period of time. We can look at a person’s past and make an assessment of how he or she will act in the future. For example, a person’s record of telling the truth is invaluable in determining that person’s character.

The biblical record of the lives of Joseph and Moses are examples of men of godly character. As you read their stories, the first thing that should come to mind is that these men are not perfect. The Bible does not fail to describe their faults as well as their virtues.

Genesis 39 is a significant part of Joseph’s life that reveals his character. Joseph became a successful man. He was put in charge of the household of an officer of the Pharaoh. We read that the LORD was with Joseph. Joseph had an ongoing relationship with the LORD. As a child, Joseph thought he was of special privilege. As you may recall, his superior attitude angered his brothers to such a degree that they plotted to kill him, but ended up selling him as a slave.

Years later, Joseph who walked with the LORD was blessed by Him. He became very successful. His character was tested at this very comfortable point in his life. The beautiful wife of the officer who entrusted his household to Joseph sought to seduce him. Joseph resisted and Moses recorded what he said. “… “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge… How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”’ Genesis 39:8ff

Nevertheless Potiphar’s wife persisted in seduction. The Bible records Joseph’s action to flee from her presence so definitively that she grasped his garment in her hand. The officer’s wife wrongly accused Joseph. Her testimony was believed which resulted in Joseph’s imprisonment.

Even in the midst of this injustice Joseph never turned from trusting in the Lord and pursuing godliness. Joseph’s life was a foreshadowing of Christ’s perfect life which is the absolute standard of perfect character. Jesus said of Himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

In order to have the kind of character that Joseph had one must be humble. Humility is a virtue which enables the one who has it to rightly assess himself before God. Jesus said that He was gentle and lowly in heart. The word from which both gentle and lowly are derived can also be translated as humble. The Bible calls Christians to imitate God in Christ, Cf. Ephesians 5:1, in response to being made new creations, Cf. 2Corinthians 5:17.

The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus’ humility in Philippians 2:6-11. Even though He was God, He did not consider Himself to be equal to God, but He humbled Himself by taking upon Himself human nature. Jesus’ humility extended to obeying the Father even to death upon the cross.

The human author of the story of Joseph was himself a humble man. Moses wrote of himself, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 The Spirit of God inspired Moses to write these words about himself when his leadership was challenged by two people who were the closest to him.

Like Joseph, Moses’ life demonstrated his trust in the LORD. Even when Moses sinned and God forbid him to enter the Promised Land, he endured the consequence of his sin and continued to obey God.

Character is the measure of a man or a woman. Behavior reveals character and it matters profoundly. Men and women of character are humble and can be trusted. Their character is seen over time.

A trustworthy person is a person of character. A person of character tells the truth and keeps his word. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Happy Thanksgiving!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We are blessed to live in a country that sets a day aside for giving God thanks. As you know, George Washington set one day apart to thank God for His providence. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day to be a national holiday in 1863. He called for special prayer for all who had lost loved ones and for God to heal the nation.

We all have many things for which to be thankful, our spouse, our children, our church, our homes and our nation. Yet our tendency as sinful human beings is to see the glass half empty rather than half full.

We look at those things that are not to our liking or are less than desirable and complain about them. It seems distasteful, even contrary to thank God for everything, even those “bad” things. But that’s exactly what God’s will is for us. He said to give thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers know that all things work together for those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Giving thanks to God is a response of one who has been changed by Him. It is informative to look back at one of the greatest celebrations in the Bible. It was a thanksgiving service! 1Chronicles 16 records King David’s preparation and implementation of a thanksgiving worship service. His motivation was the return of the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chr. 16:4 The Ark was a visible sign of God’s faithfulness to His covenantal promise made to His people.

The Ark contained the stone tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments. There was also with the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the golden urn containing the manna from heaven and the budded staff of Aaron.

King David knew that the people of God needed a visible reminder of His providence. As a man of God, David knew that God’s people were commanded to thank Him. The Ark of the Covenant was a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. God demonstrated His faithful providence by providing food for Israel in the wilderness. Jesus confirmed God’s faithfulness. The Father always provides His people’s needs, Matthew 6:25-32.

God’s people in the wilderness were as fickle as are we. Even though God gave them a sign of His leading them through Moses and Aaron rebellion broke out regularly. As a visible sign of Aaron’s leadership God caused his staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It continued as a reminder of God’s promise to lead His people by His chosen instruments.

Now, consider what God has given to us! We have been given God’s word written. We hear Him every time we read His word. Every Christian has been given the Holy Spirit who works in concert with the Word to change us and speak to our hearts. God has said that believers can approach His throne of grace with confidence because Jesus has given them access through His shed blood. As we come to the Father in our quiet moments, He has promised to hear us and to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we ask or think.

In addition, Christians are told by the Holy Spirit that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers have eternal security. Believers have been given a clear revelation of God’s plan of redemption in the Bible. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God. The Church of Jesus Christ belongs to Him. He is the head and king of the Church. The most fundamental reason to give thanks to God is His grace of adoption, Galatians 3:26-29. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1John 3:1

If you have been adopted by God through faith alone in Christ alone thank Him every day and set apart a time during this Thanksgiving Season to gather with His people to corporately thank Him for what He has done in Christ. Believer never cease to give God thanks for all His provisions.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Just the facts, ma’am!”

“Just the facts, ma’am”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Some may remember this line made famous by Jack Webb who played Sergeant Joe Friday on the Dragnet Series. Living in our culture both in the world and in the church, Sergeant Joe would likely say, “Whatever you feel ma’am!” It seems that facts no longer matter. We have an image of what a leader ought to look like. Consultants do their best to make a candidate like what people feel he or she should be.

Many churches, perhaps the majority of evangelical churches, are built upon what people feel they need.

In both our political and church spheres, the “Whatever you feel” philosophy has given us looks without substance. Character built upon past experience is missing. All that matters is what looks good. Focusing on the feelings of people, “felt needs” churches’ primary concern is attracting people.

Concerning the church, what are the facts? After pushing aside peripheral issues, I believe that we are left with two critical facts. The first is knowledge of God and the second is knowledge of Man. Both of these have fallen on hard times in many churches. Yet they remain the most pure pursuits given by God’s revelation.

Psalm 104 reveals the one true God who ordains all things; has established all things; and who provides all things. The true God is “very great! … clothed with splendor and majesty.” He is the one who causes the grass to grow; gives man the means to eat; to be gladdened. God has “set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved,” verse 5.

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God made everything out of nothing. He is the Creator. He transcends His Creation. He is not part of it. The cosmos is not all there ever is or will be! There is no such thing as eternal matter. The only eternal one is God, who is wholly self-sufficient. Fact number one is that God is! He is the one who rules all things. He is holy, holy, holy!

God spoke to Job “out of the whirlwind” Job 38:1. The book of Job’s earliest date is 1500 B.C. The man Job was an historic figure who was a contemporary of the Patriarchs of Israel. The book of Job is considered to be wisdom literature, written as an historical narrative. Through Job, God revealed His absolute sovereignty and man’s limited creatureliness.

As God continued to speak out of the whirlwind, He asked Job a question. Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.” God continued to ask Job questions that were beyond man’s ability to answer. The basic summary of the book is “I’m God and you’re not!” This revelation is the beginning of wisdom. The wise man fears God. To be wise, one must understand who he is before a sovereign God.

Fact number two, men are creatures owing everything to their Creator! Our life is given by God and for God. The Apostle Paul declared to the Greek Philosophers that men live and have their being in the Son of God, Jesus. He wrote to the church in Colossae, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1: 15-17

These two facts are rightly received in humility. All men who study the depth of God’s revelation of Himself and mankind base their lives on what they learn. Therefore, most importantly, Christian are you learning who God is and who you are in relation to Him? I suggest that everything in life proceeds out of these two facts. May your local church be faithful in teaching the truth of God and man.

May all of us who study these revealed facts apply them in every aspect of our lives for the glory of our Creator God who has revealed Himself fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ, His only Son.

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 descriptions of the three uses of the law have been paraphrased from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, chapter 7, sections 9 and 10. John Calvin articulated what the Bible teaches concerning the Law, Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Galatians 3; 5 and Romans 13.

The intersection of the blessing of the Law and Civil authority is 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.

It is accurate to say, “All truth is God’s truth”, especially when speaking of the rule of law. We are experiencing the disregard of law by various civic leaders and personalities. We read about our Executive Branch seeking to enforce laws enacted by our Legislative Branch of government and yet called evil for doing so!

Apparently we have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws are viewed by some as the oppressors. We are living in a dangerous time.

But we are very blessed in 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. May we all devote ourselves to elect men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law. May we once again understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we will be able to guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.