Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Cultural Confrontation”

Cultural Confrontation
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God’s word confronts secularism. It has been said by cultural observers that the first four words of the Bible are its most despised words. “In the beginning God…” These words turn the world upside down. They are revealed truth. Reality is truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some think that reality is what you make 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 believing that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious. So too is the confrontation of these four words that are the foundation of all reality.

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, “Where are the Leaders?”

“Where are the Leaders?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
When difficulties arise the question often asked is, “Where are the leaders?” The history of the church includes testimony of the essential need for godly leadership. The church in the Old Testament experienced the disasters associated with ungodly leadership. Current events have led me to observe an absolute principle: What is true is true for all. That is, biblical truth not only applies to believers but to all people. All mankind is subject to the word of God. God’s word is absolute!
The Bible has much to say concerning leadership. Both Old and New Testaments contain God’s principles for godly leadership. The Apostle Paul gave instructions to both Timothy and Titus concerning the critical nature of selecting men to lead local churches.
Perhaps the most striking example of God’s revealed principles for leaders is Exodus 18:21: “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”
God revealed these principles through Moses’ father-in-law Jethro. Jethro observed Moses’ leadership of the people of Israel and told him that what he was doing would wear him out. Jethro recommended that Moses find men who would be able to lead the people with him.
Jethro gave four characteristics of the kind of men Moses should select. Here are the four characteristics given by Jethro to Moses: able, God-fearing, trustworthy, and those who can’t be bought (hates bribery). Each of these characteristics requires further explanation.
First, he should choose men from among the people. That is, those chosen should be recognized by the people as men who have a history of accomplishing assigned tasks. We can understand this as men who had resumes of accomplishments that demonstrated their abilities. Note that they should be chosen from among the people. That is, Jethro intended that their resumes could be verified as genuine. These men were known to the people whom they served.
“Able” is translated from the root word that means a rampart or fortress. In other words, the able man is a man of strong character in whom people can trust.
A God-fearer is a genuine believer. A man who fears God is a humble man. Fearing God includes trembling, awe, and worship. A man who fears God knows both intellectually and intimately that God is holy, sovereign, and the one who is full of majesty. This man has a right assessment of himself before God, which is the definition of humility.
Thirdly, trustworthy men are men who love the truth. These are men of integrity and faithfulness. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37).
It is surely obvious that for one to love the truth, one must acknowledge that there is absolute truth. A man who loves the truth is not a relativist who changes his mind because of peer pressure or one who lacks principles by which a lover of truth lives his life.
Fourthly, a leader is a man who does not covet. He hates bribery. Not only will he not be bribed, but he will also not attempt to bribe anyone else to get what he wants. This is a leader who stands against those who constantly covet what others have. This leader finds his satisfaction in God, enjoying what God has provided to him.
These are the kind of men God calls to lead His church. These are likewise the kind of people who we do well to recognize to lead our Country. These are the kind of men and women we look to for leadership in our communities, in military service, and wherever groups of people are called to move in unity to accomplish anything.
Where are the leaders? They are in our midst. They are able, God-fearing, trustworthy, and honest.
All things are from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Biblical leadership is defined by this principle. God provides the church with capable men, God-fearing men, trustworthy men and those who hate bribery. May we recognize them and follow them for the glory of God. Also, may we use this revelation of leadership to guide us in electing those who seek governmental office.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Hope and Trust”

Hope and Trust
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Hope is that to which we look forward. Trust is our action and investment in someone or something to bring us to the realization of our hope. Our deepest longing is the thing for which we hope, and we are motivated to follow the one who we believe will give us our heart’s desire.
We are living during a time in which our culture is being destroyed by those responsible to provide for the “common defense”. We see the aggressive secular and godless culture gaining ground. Therefore, the challenge for the church is to keep her focus on the certainty of her hope and to trust in the one who guarantees it.
We need not be amazed at the godless behavior we see in our culture. The secularists will continue to gather civil leaders to support their own passions. By God’s grace there are a few civil servants who are willing to speak the truth. But they are becoming less in number at every election. Even those who profess to believe in absolute truth put forth legislation that betrays what they profess in order to get re-elected and stay in power.
Elected officials continue to declare evil as good and good as evil. Legislation that defends the life of the unborn is called bigoted and not supportive of a woman’s reproductive choice. Our culture demeans the individual’s dignity and worth but assigning people to groups of oppressed and oppressors.
In the reality of our secular culture my concern is that the church is not prepared to meet the challenge of living in faithfulness to God. I love the church. In fact, every Christian loves the church. The Bible says that Christ died for the church (Ephesians 5:25). Therefore, as Christ gave His life for the church it necessarily follows that those for whom He died would love the church.
To meet the challenge of living in today’s secular culture, the church must proclaim and teach the nature and source of Christian love, eternal hope, and trust which intersect at the cross. The atonement of Christ – His once-for-all sacrifice for sin, His physical death and His bodily resurrection – guarantee that those for whom He died will see Him in glory. The Christian’s hope is certain not because of his faith but because of God, the object of genuine faith. There is only one Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. Eternal life is in Him and no one else. Christians don’t need the government to save them! Nor can the government save anyone!
The Christian’s hope and experience of God’s love is the motivation for the believer to trust in Him. It is precisely because of the propositional truth of God’s initiating and demonstrating His love for His people that I believe the church must be taught to act in obedience to God’s word. Believers in the church are exhorted by God’s word to be equipped to give an answer to everyone who asks them for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15). Christian pastors are accountable to lead and teach God’s people whom He has placed under their care the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
As believers are taught and subsequently apply their knowledge of God they are transformed by the Spirit of God. We are called to be “salt and light”. For the church to make a difference, her members must be people who pursue holiness in the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God alone.
Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Notice that this is a conditional statement. It begins with the conditional word “if”. If you are truly a Christian, then God said to seek godly things. The church is commanded to be holy. Each member is to pursue holiness. The means God has given us is His word. He has revealed those things that we are to be focused upon. When her members “put to death what is earthly” by the power of the Holy Spirit the church will make a difference in our culture. Her difference will glorify God!
May you be equipped to pursue holiness and to speak the truth in love, resting in the certain hope given to those who trust in God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Sovereignty of God”

“The Sovereignty of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The world is being confronted by evil. Many are overwhelmed and wonder, “Who’s in charge?” Or “How could God allow these atrocities to continue?”

Rather than honestly seeking to answer the ultimate question, “Who’s in charge?” The blame-game is ongoing. Everyone seeks someone else to blame; some even blame God. We fix blame in our minds as it suits us. The reality is the evil dictator of Russia is to blame. He continues to brutally oppress others while the West continues to fund his military campaign by purchasing oil motivated by the false notion of man-made climate change.

Why don’t our leaders recognize that they allowed Russia to hold eastern Europe hostage to their oil? When can we expect our leaders to have more concern for the people they govern than for protecting their power?

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian people are facing evil. Civilians are targeted; Russia is attempting to crush all hope. The ultimate question remains. Who’s in charge amid this evil?

It is necessary to investigate root causes for this Ukrainian disaster. It is prudent to seek ways to avoid such evil in the future. But finding the root cause of this crisis is not my purpose. It is to point to the sovereignty of God and thereby give us hope.

God is in charge! By the plain meaning of the word, “God”, He must be in charge or He’s not God.

The Bible reveals the character of the true God. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. He has revealed His character by way of declaring His attributes. One of God’s attributes is His sovereignty.

Years ago, a man in a church that I served was concerned about using the word “sovereignty”. He said no one understood that word anymore. My response to him was that we shouldn’t stop using words because people may not understand them. Rather our response would be more edifying if we explained the meaning of important words such as sovereignty. It is this word which provides the answer to our question. We know God is in charge because He is sovereign. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth” had been given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

God not only revealed His sovereignty by declarative statements such as Matthew 28:18, but He also revealed it through historic narratives. One such timely historical narrative is recorded in Daniel 4: 34-37. The human author, Daniel, a faithful worshiper of God, recorded an incident that involved a king who thought he was the be-all and the end-all. The king’s name was Nebuchadnezzar. He was a ruthless man, king of the ancient Babylonian Empire. This king had a very confusing dream about a huge tree that “a holy one from heaven” ordered to be chopped down. God empowered Daniel to interpret the dream. Daniel’s interpretation predicted that the king would be humbled until he acknowledged the one true God. The tree in the king’s dream was him.

After a time, because of the king’s pride, God drove him mad. He made him act and appear animal-like. At the time appointed by God, the king’s senses returned to him. Daniel recorded what the king said. Nebuchadnezzar said this about God, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’

This radical statement was spoken by a pagan king. The king was humbled by God and caused by Him to see the truth. He declared that all creatures are under the sovereign authority of God. He rules over every man’s action, and He holds him responsible. This great and mighty ruler who thought he was a god was used by God to declare His eternal rule.

Some teach that God’s sovereignty is limited by man’s will. The Bible says God will make even the mighty submit to Him either now, at death, or, when Jesus returns. God is sovereign even over the ruler of Russia. God’s rule is absolute. God is in charge regardless of whether we think He is or not! Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings, whether we believe it or not. This is our comfort in the face of evil. Those who do evil will face God’s wrath!