Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Wake-Up Call”

The Wake-Up Call
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God continues to issue a wake-up call to the church. No, I’m not a prophet. I haven’t received a new revelation from the Lord! There are no new revelations; the canon of Scripture is closed! God’s wake-up call was issued through His prophets in the Old Testament and His wake-up call to the church is likewise clear and simple. He has called His people to know Him! The church is commanded to be holy. Her primary responsibility is to teach God’s people the truth of who He is. God declared what He required. He told His people to do what is right, to love kindness and to walk humbly before Him (Micah 6:8). Each action—doing what is right, loving kindness, and walking in humility—requires knowing God as He has revealed Himself in His word.
The church fails in her purpose if she turns to pleasing men rather than God. If the church ignores her responsibility to teach the revealed character of God, then her members will not reflect His holiness.
Corporate Worship is the primary means by which the truth of God is declared and learned and demonstrated by God’s people. It is also the first place in which the church can be seen to either submit to God or pander to man. Some churches have chosen to design worship services to “attract people to God”. As well-intended as the motivation may be, the result is more people but less godliness. Jesus said that the Father is the seeker of worshipers (John 4:23). God has also revealed the content of worship, referred to as the biblical elements of worship.
The biblical elements of worship are reading Scripture, singing psalms and hymns, offering prayer, preaching the word, giving tithes and offerings, confessing the faith, and observing the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These elements are ordained by God for His glory and our enjoyment of Him.
Conversely, man’s desire to serve himself is as old as the Garden. There is a narrative that records a truly “seeker sensitive” worship service emphasizing man’s desire to please himself.
Aaron, Moses’ brother, was motivated by the people to design a “seeker sensitive” worship service to satisfy the people’s felt needs rather than to honor God. Exodus 32 is the record of this worship service and verse 6 is especially telling. “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” The people celebrated the satisfaction of their needs, when in fact they had become idolaters. The Apostle Paul quoted Exodus 32:6 in his warning to the church about the certain judgment of God against this kind of self-serving idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:6).
Psalm 50 is another example of God’s view of self-serving, empty worship. God indicted His people calling them “my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Psalm 50:5). He then proceeded to tell His people to keep their useless rituals. He reminded them that He didn’t need any bulls to be sacrificed. He owned everything. He declared that those who call upon Him are to “offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14).
The church of the Old Testament demanded that Aaron make gods for them. God judged them. The people of Psalm 50 received God’s rebuke and He judged them for their false worship. Yet in the light of God’s warning, many churches persist in structuring worship, ministry, and teaching around what people feel they need. Much of the church is being led by culture rather than by God.
Yes, the church meets needs. But what people feel they need is not what they need. The biblical elements of worship were revealed by God so that His church would engage Him and experience His holiness. Using His principles will lead men and women to be impacted by His word in concert with His Spirit. As a result, His people will desire to reflect the truth of God in this lost world. God promised to meet our needs. The Apostle Paul said, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
May all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus answer His wake-up call to know God and thereby live as a reflection of His revealed character. Seek a church that is faithful to God’s word, and invest in His Kingdom through that church.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Heaven and Hell”

Heaven and Hell
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What’s the “bottom line” of life? It is that there is a heaven and a hell. When this life ends, an eternity begins. Everyone will be in one of two places, either heaven or hell. One of the most frequent themes of Jesus’ teaching was judgment. Jesus said that there will be a final accounting given to God (Matthew 11:20-24). He instructed His disciples to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, not the one who was able only to kill the body (Matthew 10:28).
Jesus was a master teacher. He used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. He also used those same parables to confuse those who were destined to perish (Matthew 13:10-17 and Isaiah 6:9-10). The parables of Jesus are cumulative. That is, each one builds upon the previous. The final parable, Matthew 25:31-48, is about judgment. It is undeniable to all who read the Bible that God is holy, and He will judge the world. Judgment has been given to the Risen Lord Jesus. When He returns, He will put an end to all that is unholy and evil.
We would do well to examine that final parable that is called “the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”. For the sake of brevity, I want to draw attention to the beginning and the end of the parable.
Jesus gave the time of judgment. He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory” (Matthew 25:31). The exact date was not specified. But, clearly, the day of judgment is what the prophet Joel referred to as “the Day of the LORD” (2:31). The Apostle John was given a vision of that day, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them” (Revelation 20:11).
Jesus used the title “Son of Man” when speaking of Himself. This was a familiar Old Testament description of the Messiah, the King of Righteousness. Jesus said that He would come in His glory. That is, when He returns, He will not come as the Savior, but as the King who has all glory and honor and power. He will come sitting on His glorious throne. This is figurative language describing the absolute power and authority that Jesus possesses and will execute holy justice.
The initial actions of King Jesus are clearly stated. Jesus said that He will have all nations gathered before Him. No one will escape this divine appointment. Immediately, Jesus said that He will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep are described as those “who are blessed by My Father” (Matthew 25:34). They are said to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In other words, the sheep are those whom God chose in eternity to be in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6); they are God’s elect.
In the parable, Jesus described characteristics of sheep. The sheep discovered that as they ministered to Jesus’ brothers, they were ministering to Jesus. The sheep’s behavior was not a checklist of reasons for being “sheep”. It was a declarative statement that described the behavior of sheep.
God said that those who are in Christ live differently. They are new creations in Christ with desires for Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, sheep live like sheep. James wrote about the genuineness of saving faith. “So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). The Apostle Paul also wrote concerning the lives of “sheep” (believers). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
The Parable ends with the reality of an eternal hell! Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:31). The horror of hell is not separation from God, but the presence of God in His wrath for eternity. The “goats” are commanded by Jesus to depart from Him. Their eternal home was prepared by God for the devil and his angels. The bottom line is the reality of heaven or hell. God has chosen those who will live with Him forever. This truth may not tickle men’s ears, but God has promised to raise the dead by His word in concert with His Spirit. Our only hope given by God is the gospel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Dire Warning”

God’s Dire Warning
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Woe is a word that has fallen out of usage in our day. The basic meaning of “woe” is a warning of impending doom. Woe is used in Scripture to convey a dire warning from God. It often precedes God’s judgment of evil. Isaiah Chapters 5 and 6 have led me to reflect on our cultural decline. Isaiah 5:20, especially, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God issued a warning to His people for their abusive and oppressive behavior towards their brothers. More specifically, God was directing His “woe” against the leaders of His people.

The book of Isaiah comprehensively covers God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The “woe” quoted from verse 5 is repeated five more times in Chapter 5 and once in Chapter 6. There are a total of seven woes, seven declarations of impending doom.

Our culture has turned morality upside down. We hear people proudly declaring something good that God calls evil! God’s people should know good from evil. He has revealed the “good” in the Bible. “Good” is that which is morally and ethically right. The source of all good is God. “He has told you, O man, what is good” Micah 6:8a).

We also have God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called (Romans 8:28).

The Bible was written to believers, but it applies to all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Our society calls the mission of Planned Parenthood to be good. This evil organization claims to exist for the interest of women’s health. Yet, the founder of Planned Parenthood believed in eugenics shaped by her belief in evolution. Eugenics is the attempt to improve the species through genetic control. In the case of Margaret Sanger improvement of the species would come by removing the less desirable members of society, such as minorities and the disabled. One of the tools that she advocated for improvement was abortion another was sterilization of minority women. The following quote of Margaret Sanger summarized her philosophy. “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control” (Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12). Praising Planned Parenthood is asking God to bless that which is evil.

As a result of our sinfulness both believers and unbelievers often have a difficult time discerning “the good”. Believers always appeal to the word of God and pray for the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to guide our discernment (Psalm 119:105).

Issues of human life do not fall in the category of ethical confusion, nor political choice. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good risk falling under the “woes” that Isaiah declared.

I am called to be a minister of the gospel. I am an ordained pastor, a Teaching Elder. Yet, on this I am writing as a man who believes the Risen Lord Jesus. I have been made a new creation by the sovereign grace of God. He has caused me to see the truth and the beauty of Christ. As a member of His family, I am obligated to declare the truth and live under His word. I dare not bless what God curses! I dare not remain silent when evil is called good.

I read somewhere that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good, and He expects me to stand for that which He has sanctified, namely human life. There is no middle ground when it comes to standing for the sanctity of human life. May we who know the truth, ask God’s blessing on that which is good and speak openly for the sanctity of human life!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Imago Dei… The Image of God”

Imago Dei… The Image of God
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Here “they” go again! “They” are the secular humanists, those who see themselves as gods, usurping the authority of the one, true God. Their evil philosophy has plagued mankind for decades. It has reached a fever pitch. Some sociologists teach that individuals have no innate value except for the socio-economic group into which one is born. These so-called experts group people into one of two groups: oppressors and victims. Some teach that human life has no more value than plants and animals. This should shock you. Human beings, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socio-economic origin, have a unique value given by the Creator. Genesis 1:26a says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
The fact is, there is a God. His existence is undeniable. He has made His divine attributes known by all that He has made (Romans 1:19-20). There is no other reasonable explanation for the world around us.
But this article is not about the existence of God, directly. Yet, His existence is the basis for the sanctity of human life. The sacredness of human life proceeds out of being made in God’s image. No other creature has been given such a distinction. Because of this, man is accountable to God. We have been set apart by God. We are made in 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).
Scripture, in Genesis 1:26, declares that men and women are made in God’s image. The sense of being made in God’s image is likened to objects reflected in a mirror. We are a reflection of God. Distortions of this truth have been offered over the years. For example, Joseph Smith wrote that “God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man.” Another infamous personality, Kenneth Copeland, teaches that God is a man who is six feet, two inches tall. This Word of Faith cult leader is reported to have borrowed his lie from the cult of Mormonism.
The truth is the best defense against such false teaching. Knowing the truth is the way 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 the views referenced above teach. God made us male and female. Both men and women bear God’s image. Yet, all reasonable people admit that men and women are not the same.
Bearing God’s image means to have some of God’s attributes. Attributes are those 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 can 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 don’t know everything, despite thinking we might. We don’t always do what is right despite having the moral law written on our hearts. God said, “every intention of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
Yet man’s sinfulness does not eliminate man’s 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, all those attributes were marred by the fall. We all still have the God-given attributes, and we also have an inherited sin nature. Adam is referred to as the federal head of all mankind (Romans 5:12ff). Along with the dignity of being human comes the responsibility for our actions.
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.
You have dignity and value because the sovereign God made you in His image. One of the fundamental truths under attack today is the dignity, more, the sanctity of human life. Speak out for life.