Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Relevance”

“Relevance”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

I’ve been thinking a lot, as I’m sure many have, about the state of our world. The world again witnessed evil. Islamic terrorists perpetrated murder in the name of their god. I’m not about to write an article on Islam. But, I do know that the range of practice within Islam depends upon one’s interpretation of the Koran and the writings of Muhammad. Actions are dependent upon either a literal or liberal interpretation of the source documents.

Learning what world religions believe, especially Islam would be beneficial. But, more important than knowing about world religions is to know the true religion, which expresses worship of the one true God.

Just a cursory reading of the basics of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. reveals that they contradict Christianity. Whether one is a believer or not, it is readily obvious that the one true God revealed in the Bible and fully in Jesus Christ is not the god of Islam or Judaism. Even though both are monotheistic religions (believe in one god).

Jesus said that He is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him, John 14:6. Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God and Jesus Christ, the one whom He sent, John 17:3. Jesus said that before Abraham was “I Am”, John 8:58. Jesus is the “Great I Am”!

Christianity is exclusive. God’s revealed truth contradicts every other religion. God’s word broke into the pagan culture that surrounded Israel. God said, “In the beginning (He) created the heavens and the earth”, Genesis 1:1.

The issue of relevance ought to be a concern of every man and woman. Relevance means “relation to the matter at hand”, Webster’s Dictionary. Our faith relates to the matter at hand because it is true. It guides our actions.

The object of our faith is the one true God revealed in His only Son, Jesus. Further, Christianity is grounded in the word of God written which is without error, reliable, sufficient and clear. Therefore, Christianity is relevant in every situation and circumstance.

How is our faith relevant in the face of such evil as was witnessed in France? It is relevant because the word in which it is based shows us that which is good, right and true.

Relevant application begins with recognizing evil. God declared a woe to those who call evil good or good evil, Isaiah 5:20. God’s word calls us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him, Micah 6:8.

Genuine Christians confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. Therefore, the relevance of the Christian Faith calls us to confront evil. We are to do what is in our power in standing against those who murder in the name of their god. We see them as agents of Satan who is the real enemy of all that is good, right and true.

We who are Christians expect our leaders to do what is right. When we see otherwise, the natural tendency is to despair at the weakness and ignorance of some of our elected officials. Yet despair should be far from those who profess Christ.

Christians do not place their hope in men. Our hope is in God. We know that He is holy and that He will execute His wrath against all unrighteousness.

We have hope because God has given us eyes to see and ears to hear the voice of the Savior. The hope that He gives is eternal. No one can rob us of the joy that is in Christ Jesus.

God sees the evil that men do. He will execute judgment against all evil doers.

Every genuine Christian has been given the Holy Spirit. His grace works in everyone who belongs to Jesus to live in accordance with His will. He is the Rock who gives us the strength to stand against evil.

I am not discouraged. I am filled with certainty. I don’t place my confidence in men. My certainty is in the God who spoke and all Creation came into being. My certainty is in the One who said, I will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5. My certainty is in the Risen Lord Jesus who will come again to pour out His wrath on evil. The relevance of Christianity is demonstrated by living it.

Pastor’s Viewpoints: “The Bottom Line”

“The Bottom Line”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We’re always interested in knowing the Bottom Line. The Bottom Line is an expression used to refer to the final number on a balance sheet. It’s often figuratively used to describe the final benefit of choosing a course of action. More importantly, there is a Bottom Line of all life! The Bottom Line of life is to “Fear God and keep His commandments, Ecclesiastes 12:13. God used the man whom He made the wisest one who ever lived, Solomon, to declare the “Bottom Line”.

I am continually amazed that most people don’t seem to be aware of God’s Bottom Line or even care that they are held accountable to meet it. This is serious enough, but it is disastrous for the church to fail to make her members aware of this ultimate standard.

Christians used to be known by God’s Bottom Line. We used to be referred to as “God-Fearers”. Fearing God is not a very popular topic in the church these days. Yet the response of those who know the one true God, even Jesus Christ whom He sent, is to fear Him!

As the church gathers for worship the fear of God is to be demonstrated!

Therefore, the church’s leaders are not benefiting their members by failing to teach the fear of God. We teach it first by submitting ourselves to Him and then by instructing/discipling believers to live under His word.

Three texts of Scripture come readily to mind: Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 provide God’s clear revelation of how He expects His people to stand before Him.

Solomon expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon’s conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits was: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

In addition, the Apostle Peter declared the fear of God to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Fearing God is to be in awe of Him; to tremble before Him and to revere Him supremely.

Both Solomon and Peter based their exhortations on an underlying assumption.

Their assumption was given by Jesus. Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is God’s answer. Men are to fear God because of who He is and what He can do. Jesus’ words are clear. He said that only God has absolute sovereignty over His creatures. Therefore, He must be approached in humility. We are finite. He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Why fear God? We fear God because He is!

How many think that their lives are hidden before God? How many are blind to the truth that they are created beings? How many give explanations for creation that fit within their limited understanding? How many think that there is no God to fear?

We fear God because, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Everything you see around you is there because of our Creator God. We have been made to worship God. He is to be feared. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. Fear God, it’s the ultimate “Bottom Line”. Fear Him by your life. Fear Him in Corporate Worship!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eyes of Beholders”

“The Eyes of Beholders”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Now, hold on. Why is a pastor who believes in absolute truth writing about the eyes of beholders?

Good question, in fact, I am amazed that this subject would need to be addressed to the church! I confess. I am aware that there are those in positions of leadership who believe there are no absolutes and two views of the same reality can yield two “different truths” opposed to each other. I am amazed that some actually believe them.

This confusion is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that is concerned with reality. A world view is a view of reality. There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has no absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

One of the most concerning applications of our culture’s current world view is determining the “right” or “wrong” of an issue by popular vote or court action. Two such examples come to mind. They are marriage and abortion. Our current societal views on these topics continue to be based upon Man-Centered views rather than God-Centered ones. The definition of marriage is often changed as a result of popular sentiment or activist movements. Likewise the decision to end the life of an unborn baby is said to be a woman’s right by edict of a Federal Court. Sadly, we are told that the minority report is, “God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman” or “God is the author of life.”

In both cases, the underlying issue is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. In other words, Jesus is reality. In order to fully understand reality, Jesus, God’s Only Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, must be at the center. Truth which is reality is not in the eye of the beholder and no society can exist very long if reality is ignored.

Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

The world view that is the basis of confidence and security is the one that has God at the center of life. Here is the truth that all mankind will face in one way or another. The God of the Bible is the Creator. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

That which is true is true for all or not true at all. I am accountable as a Minister of the Gospel to clearly state that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary for all men and women, believer and unbeliever. The reason is obvious. Truth, reality, is not in the “eye” of the beholder. We don’t vote to determine the truth. We simply receive it and live it.

There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

What is your world view? How do you decide what is right or wrong? Are you waiting to see which way the wind blows in culture before deciding your course of action? I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.

Pastor’s Viewpoints: “A Challenge for the New Year”

“A Challenge for the New Year”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Before looking ahead it’s a good thing to look back. I encourage you all to look back on the previous year and list those blessings from the Lord that filled your heart with joy. Our family was privileged to be given two new grandsons. Titus and Max were born respectively in Wellington, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. My wife and I thank the Lord every day for such great blessings. By God’s grace and providence we now have five grandchildren!

Now, to look forward, I again challenge myself and you all to a passion for the things of God. In other words, commit to pursue godliness; to obey the Lord’s command to “be holy”, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.

It seems to be normal fare to make resolutions and then discover that the year has gone by and we have failed to keep them. This renewed challenge, the pursuit of holiness, is one resolution that will be kept not because of our faithfulness but because of God’s promise.

The certainty of this promise being kept is a fact for everyone who is in Christ. Two things require explanation. The first is the meaning of being in Christ. The second is the meaning of holiness. Both the first and second are rooted in God. Those who are in Christ have been brought there by God and holiness is God’s work of free grace that progressively makes the one in Christ more and more like Him.

In other words, the challenge that I lay before you is simply living in Christ; every day dying to self and living for God. A genuine Christian will meet this challenge with joy in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible declares that those who are in Christ are chosen by God. “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.

So then, those who are in Christ are there solely by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation doesn’t end there. The resolution, rather the challenge that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. God made this promise, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

In addition, God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone and He causes me to pursue holiness. I have the assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God has said that He confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my Spirit, Romans 8:14.

So then, what is my challenge? Very simply put, I am challenged as a Christian to pursue the things of God. My pursuit of holiness is a desire that God gave me at my conversion. It’s a desire that everyone who is in Christ has been given! Therefore, by God’s will we are called to engage with Him, responding to His Holy Spirit by being transformed by the renewal of our minds.

Meet the challenge God’s way through a local church centered in the word of God. The church is God’s instrument by which His people “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Miracle of Immanuel”

“The Miracle of Immanuel”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The dictionary defines a miracle as a supernatural event. Our lives rest upon the genuineness of the miracle of Immanuel, the Incarnation. The Incarnation means God in the flesh. December 25th is not simply a holiday. We celebrate the historic fact of God’s miracle of the Incarnation. We are merry because we know that the One who came and dwelt among us, Jesus, did what Adam failed to do. We know that Jesus, the God-Man gave His life as a ransom for many so that those whom the Father gave Him would be delivered from the bondage of sin.

The Prophet Isaiah said, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 God’s promise was fulfilled in 4 B.C. with the birth of Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23

The Incarnation was so important that God spoke through His prophets throughout the Old Testament declaring the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we simply cannot adequately understand, but we receive this absolute truth because God said it. Our hope of eternal life is real because the miracle of Jesus’ birth was real.

The Apostle Paul took the opportunity of rivalry and disunity in the church to declare both the explicit and implicit meaning of the Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

First, the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He voluntarily set aside His glory. No analogy is adequate to describe Jesus’ humiliation in the Incarnation and His crucifixion.

Further, Paul wrote that Jesus was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, Galatians 4:4. Jesus was fully man, but a man without sin! Jesus was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. He was miraculously born of Mary who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because Jesus perfectly obeyed God the Father even unto death upon a cross, those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Apart from Jesus’ Incarnation we would never be able to have a relationship with God. The Incarnation led to the satisfaction of the Law’s demands! Because of His perfect sacrifice the sins of His people have been paid for.

Second, Paul wrote of Jesus’ exaltation. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, God gave Him the name that is above every name. That name is Lord. The Father gave Jesus to be the Master of all that exists. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

In summation, Paul wrote of God’s purpose in the Incarnation. Everything about the Incarnation is for the glory of God, the Father! The entirety of God’s plan of redemption is for His glory!

The Incarnation also has an implicit affect. The implication of the Incarnation, God with us is that those who are in Christ are joint heirs of heaven with Him. All those who are in Christ will receive exalted and glorified bodies like Jesus. God has promised that His people will see Him face to face. The miracle of Immanuel is God’s provision that insures redemption for every believer.

May this Christmas Season remind you of God’s great provision in sending His only Son!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “When Jesus Returns”

“When Jesus Returns”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What will happen when Jesus returns? Christians believe that He will return. Christians believe that He will return not as a Savior, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians believe that He will judge both the living and the dead.

There are well-meaning, yet ill-informed Christians who have been told that the Church will be spared of living through tribulation. Many so-called Prophecy Experts promote some view of a “secret return” of Jesus who will “rapture” the church out of tribulation and then judgment will begin.

Let’s ask the real expert Jesus. In His Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24, Jesus gave very specific answers to the questions concerning the end of the world, His return and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

“As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”’ Matthew 24:3

These questions were motivated by Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He said that not one stone would be left upon a stone, Matthew 24:2. Jesus’ words were fulfilled in 70 A.D. This great siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army was led by Titus. The ancient Jewish Historian, Josephus recorded the total destruction of the temple and the barbaric actions of the Romans toward the Jews and even the horrific actions within the Jewish community.

The disciples also wanted to know about Jesus’ return and the end of this world. The first answer concerning the sign of Jesus’ second coming was answered very directly by our Lord. He said that His coming would be like lightning! The book of Revelation describes Jesus’ coming in these words. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” Revelation 1:7 It is clear that Jesus second coming will not be in secret.

The Apostle John was allowed to see Jesus’ coming and he sought to explain the unexplainable in words. The fact is no words are adequate to describe pure glory. But, the Revelation of Jesus Christ which was given to John was intended to reveal the certainty of Jesus’ return. All the nations will mourn because of sin. There will be great wailing by all because the time for salvation will be ended. When Jesus comes again, He will come to judge both the living and the dead. He will come not as the Savior but as the Judge.

Every eye will see Jesus in His glory. There is no “secret rapture” recorded in the Bible. By God’s sovereign grace, the church will persevere through ever increasing tribulation. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church.

The so-called rapture theology is built around one word derived from the Latin translation of the Bible. This word is “rapture.” The word in the original language is translated “caught up”, 1Thessalonians 4:17. Paul described what would happen to believers who were alive when Christ returned. He said that the dead in Christ would rise first, receive glorified bodies and those who were alive would be caught up in the air, changed in the twinkling of an eye to meet Christ as He descends.

Likewise, Jesus warned disciples when He said “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40-41 He followed that statement by calling the disciples to “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 In other words, Jesus was exhorting disciples to remain prepared for His coming because no man knows when He will return. In fact, Jesus declared that in His human nature, He didn’t know when He would return. “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36 But, Jesus said that He would return when all the elect are gathered in. That is, when all those whom God chose from eternity have professed faith in Jesus’ person and work, the end will come.

Don’t be distracted by spurious teachings. Rather, be ready for Jesus’ return. Repent and believe in the gospel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Reasonable Expectations”

“Reasonable Expectations”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a leader say, “I commit to do what I think is right.” Such a declaration is often followed by accolades. Each time I hear it, my amazement increases. I’m astounded that so many think that what one “thinks is right” is somehow 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 is, in my mind, irrelevant. We should all seek to do what is right! Doing what is right is a reasonable expectation to have for all leaders.

How can one 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 is wise living.

The Ancient Hebrews knew that “the fear of the LORD was the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely it is necessary for the creature to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Just as the church in the Old Testament knew to apply God’s word for wise living, every believer ought to do likewise.

The application of God’s word is wisdom. Therefore discernment, knowing the right action, 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 following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself 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 to the problem. Paul’s 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.

May our reasonable expectations be met in all our leaders.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Beam me up Scotty”

“Beam me up Scotty”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You may remember those words spoken by the captain of the Star Ship Enterprise. This phrase has been used to indicate a denial of reality or other questionable circumstances. When descriptions of events contradict common sense or ignore reality Kirk’s line fits. The recent announcement of an Executive Action that seemed to clearly usurp authority, the rioting in a community that occurred when evidence was lacking to indict a police officer and the release of men suspected of terrorist activities who will likely return to those activities strain our common sense. More than straining common sense, these decisions and actions demonstrate a refusal to submit to the “Rule of Law.”

The Law was and continues to be a blessing from God. The Law given on Mount Sinai reveals the character of God. God blessed His people with the Law and declared to them that submission to it was the true path of blessing.

“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.” Deuteronomy 11:26-28

The Apostle Paul wrote, “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.

Christians receive the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible, clear and sufficient word of God. We know that God ordains all authority. Concerning civil authority, God’s provides for an ordered society. When society and its leaders refuse to submit to the Rule of Law that society will not survive for very long!

To understand the importance of the Law the Protestant Reformers recovered 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. The incidents I mentioned are examples of the disregard of the Rule of Law.

Apparently we have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only do so selectively. This makes for 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.

May the rest of Captain Kirk’s line not be said of our society, “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no sign of intelligent life here.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Offer Thanksgiving for God’s Glory!”

“Offer Thanksgiving for God’s Glory!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Believers throughout the ages have offered thanksgiving to God to acknowledge His providence. Therefore, it was fitting for our first President to set one day apart to give God thanks for His providence. Thanksgiving is man’s reasonable response to God.

God is “The Mighty One, God the LORD,” and “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies” Him, Psalm 50:1a, 23a.

We have been blessed with many relationships by God’s providence. God has providentially led many of us to our spouse. He has blessed many of us with children. He has directed our steps to our church home. Our homes and our nation are likewise examples of God’s blessings.

Even those things that may not be to our liking or are less than desirable have been provided by God and are opportunities for Christians to give thanks. The word of God says to give thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers know “for those who love God all things work together for good,” Romans 8:28.

It is instructive 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.” 1Chronicles 16:4 The Ark was a visible sign of God’s covenantal faithfulness.

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. He declared that the Father will provide the needs of His people, Matthew 6:25-32.

God’s people in the wilderness were 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 of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. 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.

Christians are assured 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

May we all speak the words of King David from our hearts, thanking God for all our blessings. “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” 1Chronicles 29:11

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “To God be the Glory”

“To God be the Glory”
By the Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus told Nicodemus, “… Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 Nicodemus was one of the Jewish leaders. He was a member of the governing council in Jerusalem. He was, as Jesus said, a teacher of the word of God. Yet, this educated, religious man did not know that all men are born dead in sin. The Holy Spirit must raise a sinner from spiritual death to life.

This fact is not a matter of interpretation. If one is a believer in the Risen Lord he must be given eyes to see and ears to hear by the Holy Spirit. The technical and theological phrase that explains this truth is: regeneration precedes faith. In other words, it is impossible for men to believe and then be born again (regenerated)! In order to believe in Jesus the Spirit of God must act first. The Spirit of God acts in concert with the Word of God causing a man to see the Kingdom of God.

In order to bring this truth to a very practical understanding, I have chosen to use my own faith in Jesus. But, make no mistake, my story differs in details but the act of God is the same for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord!

I was snatched from the pit of hell on January 29, 1986. The day started normally. But, on my way to my office at the Nuclear Power Plant in Crystal River Florida, I was broad-sided by a semi-truck. It occurred about 7:30 in the morning. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I awoke four days later in a hospital in Gainesville, FL with one desire and many broken bones. My one desire was for Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The God of truth and grace opened my eyes to the world, to His beauty and to see His Kingdom.

Let me be frank, before that day, I had no such desire for Jesus. Oh, I thought that I was a good person, most people do. I thought that as long as I was better than most, the god of my making would welcome me. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? Surely it does! (1John 4:8) But the Bible also says that God is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3. Before God acted and regenerated me I didn’t consider the justice of God. He never sets aside His justice. He extends mercy only because of the sacrifice of Jesus which alone satisfies God’s justice.

Before my “accident,” I didn’t know God. I was spiritually dead. I used to think that all this “born again” stuff was for the weak minded. But the reality, the truth of what I lived was that dead men don’t do anything. I was unconscious. I couldn’t have saved myself. I couldn’t even get out of my hospital bed. On my best day, I didn’t know that I was lost and headed to hell. God had to act. He did and I look back in amazement that He chose me! Yes, I responded to Him. But I was responding to His action. “Ye must be born again” to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. My position in Christ is dependent upon God and Him alone!

As I looked back on what God did in saving me through the lens of God’s word, I saw every aspect of my life as part of God’s sovereign plan. Even when I didn’t know God, He was directing my path in accordance with His will. I thought that I was making choices. And I was, but my choices had already been planned by the Sovereign God. Think about this when you are wondering how you got to where you are: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV) The words of Jesus, John 6:44, made perfect sense as I looked at my life in Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (ESV)

Personal testimonies offer praise to God. May He be glorified by what I have written. Soli Deo Gloria!