Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Reformation is Not Over!”

“The Reformation is Not Over!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
October 31, 1517 was a day that God used to change the church! An Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Pope had sent a cleric to Germany to raise money for building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cleric’s name was Johann Tetzel. His message was summarized by the saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings the soul from Purgatory springs.”

Martin Luther was outraged by Rome’s hubris in usurping God’s authority revealed in the Bible!

God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God imputed to a sinner. God does so only by faith alone, Romans 1:17 and 3:28. The Latin term is Sola Fides which means by Faith Alone. Luther reportedly said that when he understood the doctrine of Sola Fides it was as if the gates of Paradise opened and he walked through.

In addition, four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Scriptures. They are: Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone; Solus Christus, by Christ Alone; Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone and Soli Deo Gloria, to God Alone be Glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. They had been taught by the church until the Middle Ages. The Reformers recovered these doctrines and taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3.

The second Sola, Sola Gratia, means by grace alone. The Bible teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are sinners, born dead in sin. We have inherited the sin nature of Adam. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 are two passages that teach man’s total bondage to sin. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus makes this fact clear. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.

The Protestant Reformers were not coming up with new or novel ideas. They were not offering an alternate perspective on salvation but were declaring and teaching the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth which the magisterial church had hidden.

Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great Reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases Solus Christus and Sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ Alone and by Scripture Alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. But the Reformers saw that the Church was usurping authority that belonged to God.

To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all life and salvation.

Of course, there are many authorities over all of us. God established the church, civil government and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. His word, the Bible is the ultimate Authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men possess a granted authority. When men usurp God’s authority, it is invalid.

The four Solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth Sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And, Romans 11:36, “for from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God!

Now, we are faced with so-called evangelical leaders who teach that the Church must “get over” the Reformation. This smells like smoke and is from the pit of hell. The Reformation started by God through the Reformers was intended to continue until Christ returns. The Church must be always reforming herself in accordance with the word of God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It’s a Matter of Interpretation”

“It’s a Matter of Interpretation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Bible is the breathed-out word of God. God has revealed what He wants us to know about Him and His plan of redemption. God has told us that all men are creatures. He is the Creator. The Bible reveals His Only Son, Jesus, through whom we know God personally. This unique and precious book is a collection of 66 books. Men whom the Spirit of God carried along wrote it. It contains everything necessary for life and salvation. God has preserved what we have today.

God gave us the Bible because He is a God of revelation. He desires that we understand what He has said. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Bible is understandable. Many are lost when it comes to interpreting the Bible. One would think that God’s book would have specific interpretations. But, Christians are faced with a myriad of interpretations. We are faced with choices. Who has the “right” interpretation? Whom should we follow? What is “right” doctrine? If we look at this issue of biblical interpretation logically, we must conclude that all interpretations cannot be right. When there are contradicting views of the Bible, one or both may be wrong. One thing for certain is they all can’t be right. There is only one right interpretation of a passage of Scripture. For difficult passages, we may never arrive at the right interpretation this side of heaven.

Don’t lose heart. The entire Bible does not fall into the category of “difficult”. Most biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such clear doctrine. God has revealed that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

How then do we know what God has said? As stated above, some might believe that it’s a matter of interpretation. They’d be right. It is a matter of interpretation, right interpretation, 2Timothy 2:15.

The answer is hermeneutics, interpretation. There are two principles by which we can interpret Scripture. The first is called the biblical principle. The second is called the literal principle. The biblical principle is also called the analogy of faith. The Protestant Reformers recovered this principle of interpretation. They understood that the Bible interprets itself. This means 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. There may be apparent contradictions, but once studied we find that the Bible is consistent with itself, because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue.

The second principle, the literal one, is also called the historical/grammatical principle of interpretation. 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.

Further, to interpret literally means to understand that which is plainly meant. It is how we read and understand any literature. Therefore, in interpreting the Bible: grammar, meaning of words, context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in understanding the 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.

Finally, the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice that God has given to His people. He means for us to understand it. I encourage you to apply these principles of interpretation so that your life will be lived for His glory and your blessing.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Basics of Faith in Christ”

“The Basics of Faith in Christ”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Biblical Faith has three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. My focus in this article is the first, knowledge. Simply stated, having faith assumes a certain body of information about the object. The object of our faith is God who has revealed Himself fully in the Person and Work of Christ.

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to many different Christian Denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God concerning our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Theologians and pastors of the early twentieth century called these basic truths the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. These men were given the name, Fundamentalists. They sought to list what every Christian throughout the ages affirmed to be true about God’s plan of redemption. They arrived at five basic truths. History recorded these truths as the Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. They are:
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant;
2. Jesus was born of a virgin;
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal and substitutionary;
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection;
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic.
The first is the basis of the other four. The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Bible is without error. It does not refer to translations of the Bible but to the original autographs. Now, if you have been reading and studying the Bible for any length of time, I’m sure you’re aware that we do not possess any original autographs of Scripture. But, we do have thousands of New Testament manuscripts, the blessing of the oral tradition of the Ancient Hebrew people (the Masoretic text), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 B.C.)

Using textual criticism, the original can be reconstructed. For example, nearly all of our English translations are based on the work of the textual critics. The end result is that you can be assured that when you open your Bible, if it is a translation rather than a paraphrase, and read it you are reading the truth of God. Textual Criticism increases the accuracy of the Bible!

Second, the virgin birth was challenged during the period known as the Enlightenment. The fact of Jesus’ birth was challenged because, they said, it’s naturally impossible. But, that’s exactly the point! Jesus was born outside of the natural course. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary. If you look at Genesis 3:15, you’ll notice that it was the “seed” of the woman who would bruise or crush Satan’s head. The Messiah was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. Jesus was the sinless and perfect sacrifice. Without the virgin birth, we’re all still dead in our sins! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2Corinthians 5:21

Third, the atonement of Christ was substitutionary. He took our place. It was penal. He was punished for sin. Jesus bore the full wrath of God. It was full and complete. There is no other sacrifice for sin. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus is the propitiation for “our” sins and not for “ours” only by for the sins of the whole world, 1John 2:2 Jesus’ last words were “It is finished”, John 19:30.

Fourth, a man got out of the grave! The body that was buried was the body raised in glory. The Bible says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we are the most to be pitied, 1Corinthians 15:12-19.

Fifth and finally, miracles are supernatural events. Only God can break into His Created world and ordain a miracle. The miracles recorded in Exodus, of Joshua, of Elijah, of Jesus and Apostles were factual occurrences.

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus said,” Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3. The fact of the matter is; we don’t as Christians make up our faith. We believe in a faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible.

The Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith are the basics of the Apostolic Faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “We all do what we want; that’s the problem”

“We all do what we want; that’s the problem!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
How time flies when you’re having fun! It’s been more than three years since I wrote concerning Man’s Will and I believe that many continue to struggle with the question. Generally, Christians and non-Christians answer the “Free Will” question in the same way, “Of course men have free will!”

Yet, the wrong question is being answered. Surely, the Bible teaches that we all do what we want to do, CF: Judges 21:25; Romans 1:18-32.

The problem is with the word “want.” Our wants are our desires. So, the right question is, “What do we want or desire to do?”

Since everyone has an opinion on this matter. But, only one opinion counts, God’s opinion and we’re not seeking to vote on the question. We must go to the only reliable source, the inerrant and infallible word of God.

To eliminate the wrong question, “Do we have free will?” go to the concordance of your Bible and look for the words “free” and “will” used together in the same sentence. You will discover that those two words don’t appear together. The closest occurrence is Genesis 2:16-17. God told the first man, Adam, “You may surely (or freely) eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…” Adam was free to obey or disobey God.

We know what happened. Adam and the woman, later named Eve, freely chose to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. At the end of Chapter three of Genesis, we read that God “placed the cherubim (mighty angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God insured that no man would be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever, Genesis 3:22-24.

We next look at God’s destruction of the earth by the universal flood before which He surveyed all mankind and made this clear declaration. God said, “Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, “Genesis 6:5. Further, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God and said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The New Testament is consistent. Men have not changed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10

God’s view of man’s will is it is in bondage; it is not unencumbered. But we will do what we desire (or want). One of the greatest, possibly the greatest American Theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled, “The Freedom of the Will.” The basic premise of his book is that men do whatever they want to do. The problem is that before God regenerates a man or woman, the only desire present is sin, evil!

The reality revealed by the word of God is, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” Romans 5:8, 10. Man’s will is in bondage to sin! Until God changes us, we desire evil!

I firmly believe that this fundamental teaching from God’s word is essential in knowing the majesty of God’s grace which He extends to those whom He chooses.

So, what are we to make of the right question? What does the unregenerate or natural man desire? Even in a purely physical sense, we are limited. No one can honestly claim that he can do whatever he wants. All of us have certain restrictions placed upon us. Next time, may God forbid, that you’re pulled over for driving above the speed limit, try telling the officer that you are free to do whatever you want, because the speed limit doesn’t apply to you. You may insist that you are free to do whatever you want while the police officer continues to write you a ticket. This is even more significant in our spiritual life.

The fact is unless God’s sovereign will overwhelms your human will, you will remain dead in your sins. But, God is rich in mercy; He has chosen some to be His own possession and He gives them the desire for Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2Corinthians 5:17 New creations have new desires, supremely the desire for Him. So then, “Do you desire Him?”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Saved by God From God!”

“Saved by God from God!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostles Peter and John stood before the religious rulers of Israel in Jerusalem. They were called before these leaders because many people were being saved by God’s grace through the preaching of the word in concert with the Holy Spirit. The Jewish leaders wanted to know by what power or name the Apostles were speaking.

With great courage and boldness, Peter and John told the leaders that they were preaching by the name of Jesus who was crucified by the insistence of these leaders. The Apostles continued speaking and made this declaration. “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And 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 4:11-12

Notice the word “must” used by Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is commanded by God! There is no other name but the name of Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. Receiving the gospel is commanded. The gospel is not optional. The gospel is central not because of some idea of sentimentalism but because it is God’s command issued to all men to escape God’s wrath.

We know that the Bible teaches that salvation is to be saved by God from God. That is, we are delivered from the wrath of God by the sovereign act of God. In saving men and women God does not simply excuse sin. Sin had to be paid for. The only means of payment was the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The weight of the Apostles’ declaration is beyond what men can bear. The weight is the full wrath of God. Those who disobey God’s command to believe in the gospel will indeed experience the horror of God’s wrath for their sin.

Another aspect of the command to believe in the gospel is that God is not wringing His hands in heaven hoping that men will believe in His gospel. No! Those for whom Jesus died will obey His command. The payment for sin was actually and really made on Calvary. Jesus’ payment for sin was not dependent upon men accepting it. Jesus died for specific people. He died for those whom God chose before the world began, Ephesians 1:4.

So central is the gospel of God that Jesus began His public ministry with these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

The Apostle Paul in writing to believers declared that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, Romans 1:16. He also told the believers in Corinth that those who were being saved stood in the gospel, 1Corinthians 15:1.

Obeying God’s command to believe in the gospel is not only a guarantee of heaven. Salvation is deliverance. When God breaks into a man’s life, He frees him from the bondage of sin. Those in Christ are set free to love God! Salvation begins when God declares a sinner right with Him. It continues throughout life and is consummated in glory. All of what God has done for us is in and through the gospel.

Jesus’ command was very specific. It centered on God’s rule and the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b. The gospel is the only means God has given for men and women to know Christ and have eternal life.

The good news, the gospel is: Christ died for the sins of His people, He was buried and He was raised from the dead all in accordance with the Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. God’s power is revealed in the gospel. It causes men and women to rely upon the perfect righteousness of Christ. The Christian’s reliance upon Christ is by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen. The gospel is God’s power to save! Have you obeyed God’s command?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A True Church?”

“A True Church?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God’s call is that the church be as He has commanded. The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, Colossians 1:18. The church is made up of many parts. These parts are individual believers for whom Christ died, Ephesians 5:25.
God commands the church to be holy because He is holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16. God declared that His church is His holy priesthood, 1Peter 2:9ff. He is building His people up in Christ, Ephesians 4:11-16.

It seems to me that there is more interest in the church to study our political situation than there is to grow up into Christ! Now, I’m not suggesting that believers should separate themselves from the world. Jesus prayed that God would not take us out of the world but that He would keep us from the evil one and sanctify us in the truth, John 17:14-17. Jesus also made it very clear that the means of sanctification is by the power of the Holy Spirit in concert with His word.

Distractions come every day. For example, it seems that our governmental leaders and media gurus regularly come up with more lies and half-truths. If you try to keep up with the things that these folks say, your head will “swim” in a sea of confusion.

There will be a never-ending supply of incompetent actions and lies emanating from men and women in our society. We can easily lose our focus. The church is not beyond the tendency to constantly examine and seek to fix the failings of society. In so doing, the church can easily lose her focus on what God has commanded her to be and thereby be unable to make a difference in the world.

The Shema, meaning hear, given by God to the church is His timeless command. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Jesus said this is the Great Commandment! He further said, “a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:37ff.

The word translated as “love” conveys the meaning of offering total devotion. The church’s focus is God; to know who He is; to know what He expects; to be totally devoted to Him!

Some teach that the way to love God is to love our neighbors. That is not what Jesus said. He clearly stated God’s command. It is to love Him! The Apostle John said, those who love God cannot hate their brothers, 1John 4:20. Love of our neighbor proceeds from a heart that God has changed. We love because God first loved us, 1John 4:19. So then may we not get confused about our primary focus? God is at the center of all life. He is especially at the center of what His church is and does. The church is the visible kingdom of God. As such, we are called by God to be different. The church is accountable to her head, Jesus Christ. God has uniquely gifted members in the church to build up the whole body of Christ. The church was organized by the Risen Lord so that we might all grow up into Christ who is the Head, Ephesians 4:15-16.

Having said all this, I ask a question. “Are you learning about God in your church or are you learning how to cope with the circumstances of life?” The only way that we can be equipped to deal with all the circumstances of life is to know God. We cannot love God with all our being unless we know Him. God has revealed Himself in His word and supremely in His Only Son, Jesus Christ. The first revelation we must know is that the Jesus of the Bible is unique. He was not born in the normal course. He eternally proceeds from the Father. Are you studying the Bible or are you studying what some Christian leader has learned from his or her study of the Bible? When you hear God’s word preached on the Lord’s Day do you hear about God or are you being given steps to have a better life. When you worship on the Lord’s Day are you pleasing God or being entertained? Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God, John 17:3 May you seek to grow in Christ in a true church!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “So, What’s New?”

“So, What’s New?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christian Church in Corinth. 2Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Therefore, I ask, “What’s new?” Our desires are new. Before regeneration, our desire was to satisfy ourselves. Now, in Christ, the Christian desires Him!

There is a way that the one who is in Christ demonstrates his new desire. In order to see that way, let us examine a basic truth. Jesus came to set His people free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, the new Creation is free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. The demonstration of this freedom in Christ is the connection between duty and devotion. The psalmist wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” Psalm 73:25. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Church, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8.

Concerning our duty, God commands those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him. God requires, even expects, obedience which is our duty. However, mere obedience is not enough! God changes the heart of a sinner to make him a saint. He gives the sinner a desire for Him.

Growth in the Christian Life is manifested by moving from the duty to obey God to a profound desire for Him which is a result of the Holy Spirit who indwells each Christian to motivate obedience.

Jesus was asked to define the “great commandment in the Law,” Matthew 22:37. He referred to Deuteronomy 6:5. The command is to “love” God! In His command, we come face to face with the connection between duty and devotion. We are obligated to love God. However, Love is a choice. Before the Christian’s obligation can be met, there must be a desire to carry out that duty.

The Bible says that men are not born with a desire to love God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the natural man is an enemy of God. God must change a sinner and give him a desire to love Him.

The words that God caused the human authors to use for love are critical for understanding. The New Testament word in Matthew 22:37 has at its heart the idea of sacrifice. It is referred to as sacrificial love. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the word for love conveys the meaning of total devotion. God’s command written by Moses called God’s people to a total devotion, to submit to Him and to demonstrate their devotion by a holy life.

Duty is not enough to satisfy God’s command. There must be a desire to fulfill this duty. God gives that desire. Jesus said that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3. As regeneration precedes faith; so too desire precedes duty. God changes the heart and gives the desire to obey Him. This desire motivates the believer to obedience. This is what’s new!

All Man’s actions are dictated by desire. The same is true for Christians. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is God’s grace in changing our desires when He makes us new creations. We as Christians have a desire to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength because He gave it to us. When we don’t desire God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to confess our sins to Him. God promised believers, “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1John 1:9.

To summarize, Jesus said knowing the truth sets one free, John 8:32. Knowing Jesus is freedom. God has set His people free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. We have been freed from sin and given a desire for God. “The old has gone; the new has come!”

Many Christians are in bondage by legalism and/or moralism. Remember that God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are effective tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But, the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives for Him is freedom. Growth in the knowledge and love of Christ is to move from duty to devotion as you live under His word, as a new creation.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Made to Worship God”

“Made to Worship God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Our Creator made us for worship. Of course, this statement presupposes that you recognize that there is a God who made everything out of nothing. Those who don’t, called atheists, live in a world that denies reality. When pressed, every atheist will default to some moral code. Their moral code may simply be to do good to others. Even with such a basic code of civilized behavior, atheists must borrow from Judeo-Christian ethics. But my concern is not the unstable world view of atheism. I am concerned that honest men and women understand why God made us. He created us to worship Him!

A basic definition of worship is to love, honor and obey God. Worship is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” Worth- ship is an Old English compound word. It described the devotion and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.

Worship is about our primary relationship, our relationship to God. God commanded worship. But because of sin, men seek to make their own gods. The great reformer, John Calvin said, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413

Therefore, in view of man’s sinfulness, God by His grace declared that He alone was to be worshiped, Exodus 20:1-3. God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.

God, who has revealed Himself in His Word written and Incarnate is the only true object of worship. To make things even more direct, Jesus said that God the Father is the one who seeks worshipers, John 4. Idolatry/false worship was the sin of the Old Testament Church, Israel which continues in the Evangelical Church today!

The Apostle quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God, Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11. Even though God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. We are eager to fulfill our God-given desire to worship and often do so by erecting idols. Our idols are the things that control our lives. The idol of many churches today is self.

Normally in Evangelical Protestant Churches, we don’t see people bowing to or serving carved images as part of their acts of worship and devotion. But, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. We are: loving, honoring and obeying ourselves more than God!

When God is truly worshiped, the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words, love, honor and obey are relational. In our primary relationship, God has established its requirements and conditions. Jesus said, “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. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

However, looking at contemporary worship in churches, the music, the settings, even the preaching are designed for people not for God. Churches are more interested in attracting people than pleasing God. It appears that Churches are more eager to celebrate conservative politics and politicians than adhering to biblical orthodoxy.

Much of evangelical church leadership would serve the church of Jesus Christ well by hearing and applying God’s word. For example, Malachi wrote to those who were practicing man-centered worship, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the door, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain…”. (Malachi 1:10) And, the book of Hebrews warns, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Many Distinctions but Common Truths”

“Many Distinctions but Common Truths”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Biblical Faith includes three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.” Genuine Christians hold certain facts to be true.

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to different Christian Denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, even some significant distinctions, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God in His word.

Theologians and pastors of the early twentieth century called these basic truths the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. These men were given the name, Fundamentalists. They sought to list what every Christian throughout the ages affirmed to be true about God’s plan of redemption. They arrived at five basic truths. History recorded these truths as the Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. They are:
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant; Inerrancy
2. Jesus was born of a virgin; The Virgin Birth
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal and substitutionary; The Atonement
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection; The Bodily Resurrection
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic; The Authenticity of the Miracles
The first is the basis of the other four. The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Bible is without error. It does not refer to translations of the Bible but to the original autographs. Now, if you have been reading and studying the Bible for any length of time, I’m sure you’re aware that we do not possess any original autographs of Scripture. But, we do have thousands of New Testament manuscripts, the blessing of the oral tradition of the Ancient Hebrew people (the Masoretic text), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 B.C.)

Using textual criticism, the original can be reconstructed. For example, nearly all of our English translations are based on the work of the textual critics. The end result is that you can be assured that when you open your Bible and read it you are reading the truth of God. Textual Criticism increases the accuracy of the Bible! It does not challenge it.

Second, the virgin birth was challenged during the period known as the Enlightenment. The fact of Jesus’ birth was challenged because, they said, it’s naturally impossible. But, that’s exactly the point! Jesus was born outside of the natural course. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary. If you look at Genesis 3:15, you’ll notice that it was the “seed” of the woman who would bruise or crush Satan’s head. The Messiah was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. Jesus was the sinless and perfect sacrifice. Without the virgin birth, we’re all still dead in our sins! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2Corinthians 5:21

Third, the atonement of Christ was substitutionary. He took our place. It was penal. He was punished for sin. Jesus bore the full wrath of God. It was full and complete. There is no other sacrifice for sin. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus is the propitiation for “our” sins and not for “ours” only by for the sins of the whole world, 1John 2:2 Jesus’ last words were “It is finished”, John 19:30.

Fourth, a man got out of the grave! The body that was buried was the body raised in glory. The Bible says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we are the most to be pitied, 1Corinthians 15:12-19.

Fifth and finally, miracles are supernatural events. Only God can break into His Created world and ordain a miracle. The miracles recorded in Exodus, of Joshua, of Elijah, of Jesus and Apostles were factual occurrences.

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus said,” Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3. The fact of the matter is; we don’t as Christians make up our faith. We believe in a faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible.

The Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith simply condense and articulate biblical doctrine that all who profess Christ affirm. What do you believe?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Words Have Meaning!”

“Words Have Meaning!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all need to communicate with others. There are fundamental rules assumed in communication. There are rules of logic and the meaning of words.

There are three “Laws” of Thought and Communication/ Logic and Reasoning:
1. The first is the Law of Identity. The following formula is helpful in explaining it:
o If A is A it cannot also be Non-A
2. The second law is the Law of Non-contradiction. The explanatory formula for this law is:
o If A = B, then A does not equal B is excluded.
3. The third law is the Law of the Excluded Middle. It concerns true or false statements:
o True or false is absolute. There can be no Middle (something between true or false for the same thing)
Regardless of whether we know these laws that guide thought, communication and reasoning, they are applied in everything we say, write, read or hear. For example, we know that a car is not a non-car or even a bicycle. Likewise, it is also clear that if a car is the same as a vehicle; it cannot be said that a car is not a vehicle. If it is said that a car is a vehicle and this is a true statement. It cannot also be said of that statement that it is neither true nor false, but something else!

This crude example of logic proceeds from the first rule of communication. The second rule is that words have meaning. We rely upon dictionaries to define the meaning of words and we also take those universal meanings and use the word in a certain context. You may be familiar with the saying, “Text without context is pretext.” Generally, words have a range of meaning. The exact meaning of a word in any given instance depends upon the context in which it is used.

Currently in our culture, there is a disturbing thing that often occurs in communication. For example, we are subjected to words being used to describe men based upon their office. The word “honorable” is often used to describe a man based upon his appearance, office or profession. Now, one’s dress may reflect an effort to show honor. An office may also be described as being honorable. Even one’s profession may be described as honorable. But, appearance, office or profession do not also describe the person who may hold the office or profession.

Wicked or despicable persons may dress honorably; hold an honorable office, or work in an honorable profession. But before defining them as honorable, their behavior, past and present, should be considered.

The example, “honorable” is defined in Webster’s Dictionary. “It is characterized by [a person of] integrity, [who is] guided by a high sense of honor and duty… having or showing honesty and good moral character.” Another source, the American Heritage Dictionary, defines “honorable” as [a person] “deserving or winning honor and respect.” Both definitions are reflective of an individual’s behavior, both past and present.

With the application of these two rules of communication consistently applied, we are able to discern truth from error; facts from innuendo. Just so my communication is clear, innuendos are inferences that a person’s actions are either immoral or improper. As such, innuendos are inferences that lack specific evidence. They are usually based upon feelings about a person or gross assumptions surrounding a person’s life style, wealth or abilities without any empirical evidence.

Recent actions taken by certain governmental officials, as they have been reported, bear reflection. “Honorable” men are reportedly using their positions and professions to advance personal agendas to remove our duly elected President from office. Or, they seek to remove any possibility of his effectiveness because of their personal dislike of him.

I am a Pastor by God’s internal call and the Church’s external affirmation of His call. Yet, I am also a citizen of the United States of America and very proud of my citizenship. I thank God every day that I am able to live in a country that freely allows me to worship God and preach and teach His word. I have listened intently over the past several weeks of the reported actions of our governmental leaders in Washington, D.C.

So-called honorable men, have chosen to ignore the illegal activities of some officials while searching for some perceived crime committed by others. Words do matter. May we all develop our listening skills so as to discern truth from error.