Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What Will It Take?”

“What Will It Take?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What will it take? What will it take for our minds to connect with what we hear and see? I keep hoping that men and women will become critical concerning what they are told to believe. Yet, I see little evidence that critical thinking is the majority behavior.

I remember that I took a Myers- Briggs personality test about twenty five years ago. This test was designed to categorize one’s personality. It generally revealed how one processed relationships and events. It is somewhat helpful in allowing the person tested to “work on” certain areas of weakness. By no means is this test based upon Christian principles. The founders of the test based their work on Carl Jung, the predecessor of Freud. Nevertheless, just as a stopped clock is right twice a day so too this study has been helpful in assessing various personality strengths and weaknesses. You may have guessed that I’m not a fan of either Jungian or Freudian psychology. As a Christian, I view myself through the lens of Scripture. That is, my identity is in Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and revealed the details of Christian identity. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

I’m not seeking to be some “pop psychologist.” I’m simply use my experience of this testing to illustrate a point. I am aware that all truth is God’s truth.

Nevertheless, I was required to take the Myers-Briggs test and when I did, the version I took had a score of 1-20 in four areas. I honestly answered the questions. I had hopes of learning about myself. I discovered that in the judging section of the test I scored a perfect 20. I was so upset that my judging score was 20 that I asked to take the test again. I was allowed to take it, but was advised that any different score would not be counted, but I could take the test for personal reasons. In the re-take, I purposely changed a few answers and to my surprise, my score in the same section was 19 to 1 judging.

My wife still jokes with me about that test. Recently, I’ve started to think about that score I received 25 years ago. Why, I thought, was I so distressed in receiving a score of 20 or even 19 in the judging section? I initially assumed that judging in the test meant that I was a judgmental person. Upon further review, I discovered that the judging section was a determiner of critical thinking. A “judging” person is one who seeks facts rather than perceptions in order to make decisions.

As a Christian, I know that my faith is a gift from God and it is based upon facts. The supreme fact is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The validity of the Christian Faith rests upon the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1Corinthians 15:17.

I know that God enters the mind and changes the heart. I know that Man is made in the image and likeness of God. We bear some of God’s attributes that He communicated to us. We have a mind by which we can think, reason, critique and make decisions.

If you’re a fan of Myers-Briggs, you’ll recognize the following letters: I-T-S-J. Myers-Briggs’ letter categories stand for: I = introversion versus E = extraversion; T = thinking versus feeling; S = sensing versus intuitive; J = judging versus perceiving. Don’t be led to believe that only certain people think or certain people feel, etc. God made us all with all of these abilities. Some are stronger in certain areas than are others.

We must make decisions. I am reflecting upon our culture and am led to ask, “What will it take for men and women to make intelligent, informed decisions?”

I write to Christians. I am concerned that much of the church is not arming her members to think. We have majored in “feelings.” Yet, basic issues are confusing to Christians. We seem unable to know what is right.

Christian, don’t “check” your mind at the door. Study to show yourself approved. Learn what is right and good and true. Then do it for the glory of God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “While We Were Sleeping”

“While We Were Sleeping”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
My title is taken from one of my wife’s favorite movies, “While you were sleeping.” It’s about a young woman’s desire to marry her “dream” man. Her dream turns out to resemble a kind of nightmare. But the story ends happily as she does realize her dream by marrying the “dream” man’s brother.

Sometimes it’s just great to immerse oneself in the fantasy world of the movies. Some movies, like the one mentioned, provide a respite from the harsh reality that surrounds us. But I chose a variation of the title of that movie to be the title of this article because we are witnessing the decay of our Christian Culture. It has occurred while we, the church, have been sleeping.

Current events seem more like fiction than reality. We are being led by men and women who continue to deny reality. They have no absolute principles. Decisions are made by consensus. The end of the book of Judges is being lived out. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25 God’s word revealed by the Prophet Micah is all but forgotten. “…Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8. This not only reflects our culture, it is reflected in much of the Evangelical Church which seeks to please men rather than God.

The Church has been asleep. The decay into moral relativism has been occurring over decades. It will take an intentional effort of Christians in the Church to be different, speak the truth and thereby by God’s grace make a difference.

Have you wondered why the solutions to the problems in our society seem to be evasive? I suggest that the underlying reason is relativism which militates against absolute standards. When differing parties seek to come up with a solution to any given issue, a compromise that preserves a principle is impossible. The reason this kind of compromise is impossible is that each side has relative principles. We are told the only acceptable solution is to “give up” on the idea of any absolute. Compromise and be tolerant; using the new definition of tolerance which gives every opinion equal validity.

Marriage is under attack so I use it as an example. There is an absolute principle concerning marriage. The principle is that God defined marriage, Man did not. God defined marriage to be between one man and one woman.
Yet, our leaders seem to think that God’s design of marriage is not an absolute principle. We have allowed men and women to lead us who deny this absolute.

The “right” insists that the principle of marriage is based in tradition. The “left” insists that the definition of marriage is fluid and should be based on a mutual “love.” So the fight continues. Even churches have adopted same-sex marriage liturgies, which is in fact an oxymoron.

God has ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman. It is not simply traditional nor is it simply based upon mutual love. Marriage is defined as a permanent union of a man and a woman because God defined it so. God not only defined marriage in this way, but He also ordained marriage to be the building block of all societies.

I suppose that I would be considered by some to be “old fashioned” or worse, bigoted. So be it. It is long passed the time when Christians should seek to appease others. Jude called the Church to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

The Apostle Paul wrote that God organized the church so that we would speak the truth in love and grow up into Christ, who is the Head of the Church, Ephesians 4:15.

Be strong in the Lord and when confronted with a lie, declare it so. Christian, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them,” Ephesians 5:11. Seek God’s glory not Man’s. Remember, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A#1; 1Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 73:25-26.

Some suggest that the decay of our culture is irreversible. I believe that as the church awakes from her slumber, she will make a difference for God. Regardless, we know that God’s purpose for His people is holiness. No matter what the circumstance we, the people of God are to rely upon His sovereignty and live under His word!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Fact or Feeling”

“Fact or Feeling”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Jesus was asked by a lawyer to tell him the “great commandment of the Law.” Jesus gave a direct answer. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

God has commanded that every faculty, every part of what He has made us is to submit to Him in total devotion. Proceeding out of this primary command is our behavior towards others.

This is the summary of the Law and the Prophets. In the New Testament we learn more of God’s provision to enable His people in applying this command. For example, The Apostle Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

I am a Christian Pastor writing to fellow Christians. You may be reading this and wondering why, you as a Christian need to have some pastor write about what you already know?

Here’s my answer: I have found that professing Christians may have memorized these verses and if not memorized, at least are quite familiar with them. Likely, you have attended Sunday School Classes concerning God’s command given to mankind and His expectations which these verses emphasize. Yet, I must tell you that I’ve lost count of how many times Christians have told me that they make choices and decisions in life based upon what they feel will make them happy.

In one sense, this is simply an expression of our fallen nature. We will do what we want to do. We will do those things that we “feel” are right. We succumb to the thought that God wants us to be “happy”, whatever that means!

The God of the Universe, the One who said He has all authority in heaven and earth, Matthew 28:18 has revealed His divine attributes and thereby the means by which we, His creatures can have a relationship with Him. The point is that all of who we are includes the minds that God has given us. By His grace and mercy, we are not those who have been left in bondage to our desires and feelings. God sovereignly enters our minds and pierces our hearts. God makes us new creations in Christ, 2Corinthians 5:17.

The Apostle Paul was very clear in writing inspired Scripture. “Be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” Christians should be examples of those who engage their minds to seek God’s will.

Christianity is certainly more than simply a religion. It is that. But, it is supremely about a relationship. Christianity is God’s revealed means to have a relationship with Him. This is propositional truth. God has given one way. He has revealed that a right relationship with Him is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

By God’s grace this fact is ordained by Him to be lived. As God reveals more of Himself, we are confronted by our creatureliness. We depend upon Him to cause us to “renew our minds.” We are the ones intentionally seeking understanding of what He has said. Yet He is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

God’s command is to our whole person. The word translated by our English word love means total devotion. Therefore, God’s command to love Him with our heart, mind, soul and strength encompasses all of us. The heart is the seat of our wills, the motivator of our actions. It is not simply our emotions, although the heart includes our emotions. The heart must be informed by our minds. Our minds must be renewed by the word of God. Don’t be led astray by your feelings. Engage your mind with the word of God so as to be transformed. Then you will be able to test and discern God’s will, His good and perfect will. This, beloved, is a fact not a feeling!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Matter of Interpretation?

“A Matter of Interpretation?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Permit me to make an assertion. The Bible is the most important book in existence. More aptly, the Bible is a collection of 66 books that will change your life!

Yet not only is the Bible the least understood literature in our day. It is the most distorted as well. We’ve been led to think that what is contained in the Bible is a matter of individual interpretation. There are as many opinions concerning the meaning of a particular passage as there are readers. But, here is the harsh reality. Every interpretation cannot be right. In fact, there is only one right interpretation of any particular passage. Logically, different and opposing interpretations may all be wrong. But they cannot all be right. There are some very difficult passages of Scripture that we may never be able to arrive at the right interpretation, at least not until we get to glory.

God gave us the Bible because He is a God who desires to be known. The Bible is His revelation of Himself and how we, as His creatures are to relate to Him. Therefore in general, it is possible for us to understand what God has said.

The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such clear and indisputable doctrine. It is clearly revealed by God that men (or women) are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

How is it, then that we can navigate through the myriad of personal interpretations of the Bible?

The answer is hermeneutics, interpretation. There are two principles by which we are able to interpret Scripture. The first is called the biblical principle. The second is called the literal principle. The biblical principle is also referred to as the analogy of faith. The Protestant Reformers did not discover this principle, they merely recovered it. They understood the importance of the biblical principle which means that the Bible interprets itself. The clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. In other words, there are no contradictions in the Bible. In addition, the Old Testament is understood in light of the New Testament. There may be an apparent contradiction, but once studied we find consistency throughout because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue. God does not contradict Himself!

The second principle, the literal one, also called the historical/grammatical principle means that the plain meaning of the text is always sought. You may have heard the saying that, “Text without context is pretext.” The words of Scripture find their meaning within the broader context of the passage. For example, because of the difficulty in understanding Hebrews 6:4, it would not be accurate to base a theology on the possibility of losing one’s salvation! Keeping that verse within its context makes it clear that the writer is speaking of one who may profess faith, but does not possess genuine saving faith. In other words, the writer was speaking of those who are called apostates.

Furthermore, the Bible is literature. Recognizing literary devices and usages must be considered in arriving at a literal understanding of a particular passage. Grammar, the meaning of words, the context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in discovering the literal and plain meaning. It is important to remember that the literal interpretation of the Bible is not the same as a literalistic interpretation. For example, we know that when the prophet Isaiah wrote that the “trees of the field shall clap their hands” he didn’t mean that trees have hands. God was describing the joy of all Creation when His plan of redemption is finally consummated. Or, when Jesus said that He was the “door of the sheep”, He did not mean that He looked like a door! John 10 was declaring that Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

With these tools in mind, the biblical and literal principles of interpretation, you can then seek to understand what God has said so as to apply it for His glory. Guard yourself against the purveyors of subjective interpretations of the Bible. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beauty of Holiness”

“The Beauty of Holiness”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” Psalm 96:9

I have observed that the first three words of Psalm 96:9 are among the most ignored words of Scripture in the Western Church. Before the meaning of the “splendor or beauty of holiness” can be applied in worship, we must understand the command to worship.

“Worship the LORD,” means God alone is to be worshiped. The Psalmist commanded God’s people to “worship the LORD!” Yet, a cursory look at the contemporary church, reveals that her worship is designed to reflect on what God has done for us rather than on who He is. As I have read some of our “experts” concerning worship, most often their recommendations surround how we can attract people through the kind of music and skits, etc. offered. We’ve even used technology to simulcast a pastor’s message to remote locations. People gather around a screen eagerly anticipating a “relevant” message and are treated to the latest in contemporary music.

In the face of such methods, God’s word delivers clear application. “Worship the LORD!” The Psalmist’s point is to declare to God’s people that God is the object of worship, not us. When God’s people gather for worship on the Lord’s Day it is not primarily an opportunity for evangelism, or worse, entertainment. It is the time to submit to God’s word and declare His praises.

Does this seem like a radical thought? I’ve stopped asking professing Christians, “Why did you choose to join your church?” The answers vary from the engaging music to a good program for my children or relevant “how to” sermons. Almost never is the response, “I chose my church family because God is worshiped there.”

If you are a Christian, you know that God made you to worship Him. I’m not writing against those times when we might attend preaching conferences or even Christian concerts. Those events can be used by God to edify and educate as well as lift our spirits. But, they do not constitute corporate worship on the Lord’s Day nor should they.

Psalm 96 is entirely focused on God’s majesty, sovereignty and holiness. Everything belongs to God and is for Him. Worship is a work of God’s people for God. This, by the way, is the meaning of the word “liturgy.” It is humbling to realize that I am not the center of life. This principle is not only humbling for individuals but it compels all mankind to submit to our Creator. Life is not about us. All life, all that God created is about Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16b. Jesus is the subject of Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the focus of everything and He is the object of worship. Christians worship the one true God who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has fully revealed Himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ who is the Second Person of the Trinity.

The psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” He affirmed that there is no other object to which thanks can or should be given both individually and corporately. God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift. Believers desire to worship Him!

None of us are immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. I believe this is most clearly seen in what is called worship in our day.

There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. May we all examine our worship. Specifically, may we re-think the content of our worship so as to make it clear that God is being worshiped and the Name of Jesus is being exalted.

Theologians and pastors have known that the first evidence of deterioration in the faith of the church is demonstrated by her worship.

Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman re: worship. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:22-23

Worship is repeated four times in these two verses. God has a high expectation of worship. May we who profess the Name of Jesus likewise submit to Him in the “beauty of holiness” as true worshipers.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Truth Will Set You Free!”

“The Truth Will Set You Free!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’

Free from what?” I can hear the rugged individualist’s response. “I am free! I can do whatever I want.” Indeed everyone can do whatever he or she wants to do. The problem is what he wants. God said that every inclination of man’s heart is only evil continually, Genesis 6:5. To understand our bondage, we must submit ourselves to the revealed truth of God. In so doing, Jesus said we will be set free. In order to submit to the truth, God must give eyes to see and ears to hear which He alone does by regenerating those whom He chooses.

Every time I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth only because God breathed life into me! The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

Knowing objective truth, it is frustrating to hear the so-called news reports. Instead of news, we often get the latest spin on the news. We value commentary on events rather than the facts. We are more impressed by form and presentation than content. Politicians speak around the truth. The truth is used rather than told. Sadly, the evangelical church is often no better than the world in speaking the truth.

Yet, the fact remains, there is ultimate truth. God has revealed the truth. His creation reveals His divine attributes, power and majesty, Romans 1:19. He has revealed Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 14:6. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can: know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3, know ultimate truth or be set free.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth. The freedom of which Jesus spoke is freedom from the bondage of sin.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her. The natural man is in bondage to sin and deserves hell.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.”

There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is received and believed on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers. Likewise, we who are Christians should demand that our leaders speak the truth and live the truth.

Look at the Apostle Peter’s testimony. He stood before very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. This is the truth that will set men free!

Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth leads to acting upon it. Knowing this truth ought to cause us to rejoice and be compelled to learn more of God’s truth in order to live in accordance with it.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Church and State Both Under God”

“Church and State Both Under God”
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. Both the church and state are under God’s sovereign authority.

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.

“All truth is God’s truth.” The necessity of the rule of law is absolute since truth is absolute. No society can exist for very long if law is relative or applied on sliding scales.

In light of the recent riots in Baltimore, we apparently 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 is a dangerous time.

Keep in mind that we are 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 would recognize the danger of our current lawlessness. Devote yourself to vote for men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law. Understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we are able to guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Hold dear the truth that freedom is only possible under the rule of law.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Suited to Lead… The Issue of Character”

“Suited to Lead… The Issue of Character”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What ever happened to our understanding of character? How is it that our culture doesn’t seem to care about character? We are often asked to trust in the unknown. We have been manipulated into thinking that character doesn’t matter. Somehow, past behavior doesn’t matter either. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future.

For Christians, God’s gift of faith should be a guide in evaluating character. For example, Christian Faith is a step into the light not a leap into the darkness. We who are Christians don’t possess a blind faith. We trust in what we have “learned, firmly believed and been convinced of” 2Timothy 3:14, namely the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

Likewise, our evaluation of a person’s character ought to be based on certain observable facts. A person’s past can aid in determining his/her character. In fact, past actions provide a guide to future ones. Of course, there are no guarantees. We are not omniscient, yet, we can make reasonable assessments of a person’s character.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” was taught by Jesus not as another Law but to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached in His sermon. The purpose of His sermon is to drive those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon.

In this teaching, Jesus referred to a person’s “fruits.” Matthew 7:20, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” He declared that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God seek to destroy God’s people. The “fruits” of these false prophets are their deeds.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. But, it is absolutely and universally true for all men. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people whether or not they believe it. Jesus declared a universal truth which provides a means to discern another’s character. He said what’s in a person is recognizable no matter what the circumstance or context. The character of an individual is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. Just as recognizing false prophets is possible by examining actions. In order to recognize a man or woman of character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. A man or woman’s past actions are his/her “fruits.”

False people have “rotten fruit” evidenced by their past actions. Sometimes these false people actually say things that might be true. They may be lifted up by those who have ulterior motives. Jesus said look at what they have produced before determining their genuineness.

More now perhaps than ever, we need leaders who are genuine. We need to look back on a man or woman’s life before we pledge our support. This principle of looking at a person’s fruits applies not only to our civil government but to all areas of life in which we must select leaders. This is so simple yet it seems absent from some of the most important decisions we make.

We can complain about those in leadership who display little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth “made-up” leaders designed to attract the uninformed. Or, we can demand honesty from our leaders. Look for outlets that are willing to give accurate information about a prospective leader’s past. As Jesus instructed His disciples, look to their fruits. “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Only men and women of character are suited to lead. Those of character produce good fruits!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Darkness for Light”

“Darkness for Light”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We live in a culture that seeks to call darkness light and light darkness. While this is both terrible and amazing it’s not new. The fifth Chapter of Isaiah includes a listing of “Woes.” The word woe indicates a dire warning. In Isaiah, God warned His people of a coming judgment. One of the woes listed is “Woe to those … who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” Isaiah 5:20. The verse is Hebrew parallelism. Darkness is parallel with evil and light is parallel with good.

The Prophet Isaiah wrote comprehensively about 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.

God expects His people to know light from darkness and good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. God has revealed that He is the source of “the good.” The word of God reveals that which is good. Another Prophet, Micah wrote, “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a Notice, we know the good because God has told us what is good.

Further, God promised His people to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called, Romans 8:28.

We know that the Bible was written to believers yet 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.” 2Corinthans 5:10

One of the most blatant examples of putting darkness for light is promoted by the organization called Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood claims that they operate for the interest of women’s health. 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)

As a result of our sinfulness both believers and unbelievers often have a difficult time in discerning light from darkness and good from evil. Yet, there is certainty. We need not be awash in a sea of moral relativism. God has given believers His word and Spirit to understand and recognize good from evil and light from darkness, Psalm 119:105.

On the other hand, the issue of human life does not fall into the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. The sanctity of human life is not a grey issue. God is for life! Dare I say it; those who would call death good are fools. They are putting light for darkness.

God called me to be a minister of the gospel. I am an ordained pastor. Yet, in this I am simply writing as a man who believes in 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 you be courageous in your support of human life, especially the life of the unborn.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Knowing God Requires Growing by His Means”

Knowing God Requires Growing by His Means
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, John 17:3. The life that God gives in Christ is meant to grow. Those who are in Christ have been given a life that will never end. The substance of the Christian’s Life is an ever increasing depth of intimacy with God, the Father though Jesus, the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In these uncertain times, there is no greater gift of God than knowing His abiding presence.

God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5. The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would, “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” so as to be “filled with all the fullness of God, “Ephesians 3:19

The gospel is not something that we need to “settle” with God. There is no biblical warrant for invitations extended to manipulate people to accept Jesus. The Bible teaches that God who is sovereign calls His people to Himself. When God makes a sinner into a saint, life in Christ begins. And, the life begun grows by God’s design by God’s means.

God provides for spiritual growth through His “means of grace.” There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.

The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A#88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”

The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.

The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.

Thirdly and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.

So then, there are three: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing, strengthening and growing His people up in Christ.

Finally, the means of grace are ordained by God to provide each believer with the assurance of His abiding presence. May you grow in the knowledge and love of Christ by these means of grace!