Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Basic Question”

“A Basic Question”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are a regular attender of a Christian Worship Service on each Lord’s Day, I pose the following basic question: Why do you attend Corporate Worship on Sunday? I’ve asked this question to professing Christians over the years. I’ve received several typical answers. One of the most representative answers is, “I go to church to be fed.” Other more obscure answers are: “I go to “feel” good. I go to be encouraged. I go because of my children.” These answers are obscure because the answer given is actually hiding the “real” answer. Each of these obscure answers are centered on “self.”

As opposed to these self-centered answers, God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of His resurrection. Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath. He said that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28

God made us to worship Him. It is deeply imbedded in each of us. We will worship. The question is, “Who will we worship?” Jesus’ final response to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness was, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matthew 4:10

There is only one biblical reason to worship God on the Lord’s Day. We, His creatures owe worship to Him. We gather with God’s people to worship Him!

May we all be honest with ourselves. Those of us who think that worship is for us, may we repent of this self-centered idolatry! Jesus said that the Father is seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, John 4:23.

If you have been raised from death to life, you will desire to worship the One who extended such grace to you. You were once dead in your sin, but God made you alive with Jesus Christ. Therefore, worship Him! This desire is not a feeling. It does not depend upon whether you feel loved by the people in the church or that the music is what you’re used to hearing in concerts or Christian radio. The desire to worship is part of being a new creation in Christ. That is, if your truly are!

Being a new creation in Christ does not depend upon saying the “sinners’ prayer” or doing some special ministry in the church. It is not about settling things with God and getting on with your life. No. Being a new creation is a change in our very being wrought only by the sovereign grace of God. It is being different and knowing that God has set you apart in Christ to be like Him! It is knowing that you are a sinner saved by God’s grace alone through the Person and Work of Christ alone. Being a new creation is to be a genuine Christian. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” 2Corinthians 5:17

Christians, new creations have been saved by God from God. The only response to being God’s adopted child in Christ is to bow down and worship Him! The idea that corporate worship is one thing in a list of things, is simply not biblical. Our entire life is worship. That is, Christians live in submission to the sovereign God. Christians have received God’s grace to live for Him, Romans 6:11.

I am dismayed when I hear a professing Christian give excuses for not joining God’s people to worship Him on the Lord’s Day. All of the excuses, save physical illness that is debilitating, are grounded in a love for self over a love for God.

To all those who fail to gather on the Lord’s Day for worship and profess to be Christians, I can only say what God has said. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” Hebrews 10:19,24-25 And, Therefore, brothers., be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election…” 2Peter 1:10

Psalm 122:1 expresses the depth of a new creation’s desire. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ It is an oxymoron to claim to be a child of God and not desire to worship Him with His people.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is Truth? (The Real Jesus)”

“Who is Truth? (the Real Jesus)”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Roman Governor of Jerusalem, the civil authority “ordained by God” to order the crucifixion of Jesus, asked the question, “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus the question already having determined an answer. In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary. He believed that the most important thing was power. Ironically, Pilate was right. However, he did not acknowledge the truly sovereign power, God Himself. He was standing in front of the truth and was blind to Him! A more accurate question not only for Pilate but for all men is, “Who is Truth?” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” John 14:6. Truth is reality. All men must face reality. Therefore, all men must face the one who is Truth! And, we all will.

Our current age is referred to as the Post Modern Era. Post modernism subverts the importance of truth. The Post Modern mind has no absolutes. A symptom of Post Modernism is reflected by what is called spirituality. We see it in movies and television. There are popular dramas centered in the world beyond this one. Talk shows on T.V. have segments to discuss the importance of having some kind of spiritual connectedness. People seem to be on never-ending quests to experience the latest spiritual guru’s method for attaining a deep spiritual fulfillment. You may have heard someone say, “It’s all about the journey.” The evangelical church is not immune. Books, like “The Shack” describing a different god, or those that record experiences of near death are received as certain truth.

It’s common to hear that when someone dies they have gone to a better place! We fail to remember that there is such a thing as absolute truth. There is a person who is truth. There will be an accounting for all men. Revelation 20:11-13 Judgment is real.

Men and women live in denial. People have bought the lie that everything is relative. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me. Those who see reality are referred to as simple-minded or bigots. Their charge against those of us who recognize absolute truth is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. Decisions are made according to poll numbers. We know and have experienced that polls are designed to support an agenda rather than report on the truth.

Too often the evangelical church is not different than the world. Some who claim to speak for the church would have us believe that it’s all about relationships and that truth is contrary to love. Doctrine is outdated. The central focus of many churches is fellowship with each other and sincerity towards God. They suggest that God honors sincerity regardless of submission to the truth. Fellowship is the “warm feeling” one gets by being with like-minded people rather than being in union with Christ knowing that you are a member of His body, the Church.

Nevertheless, having a relationship with the real Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the truth. He is the revealed Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? One might be sincerely wrong if his devotion does not proceed out of Christ. He is reality! He commands that men and women repent and believe in the gospel! Mark 1:15

The church does not exist to meet “felt needs”; to offer courses on how to have a better marriage or how to live as a single or divorced person, etc. The church is commanded to teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. In doing so believers will be equipped to make a difference in the world for the glory of God.

The answer to the question asked in the title is: Jesus is the Truth. Truth is that which is real and truth is a Person! Truth matters. Absolute truth matters absolutely. By God’s grace, He has revealed truth. His name is Jesus. He is the only begotten one of God, not born, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He is the one revealed in the Bible. He is the one offered in the gospel. All life is lived in response to Him. Every relationship is designed by God to find meaning as a result of knowing Him.

Abide in the word and you will know the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Apathy”

“Apathy”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” Psalm 14:1a “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

On one hand, king David defined the ultimate lie that “fools” tell themselves. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul declared that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Both texts are given to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Both texts declare, in part, man’s apathy.

Apathy as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary means to have a lack of feeling or interest or to be indifferent to reality. The origin of the word is found in Greek. Apathy is a compound word. Pathos means feeling, sometimes lustful passion. The prefix “a” is a negation. We may literally understand the word apathy to mean no interest or feeling.

I find it very difficult that one knows the truth and yet doesn’t care about it. Truth, remember, is that which is real. In our physical world, no one can survive very long by being indifferent to reality. I’ve used the analogy of a wall to describe the impossibility of being indifferent to reality. Think for a moment. We all live in houses or apartments. Our homes have walls that both mark boundaries and provide privacy and protection. In order to enter our home, we normally enter through a doorway. We wouldn’t consider walking through a wall. We know that that wall is real. It is a physical barrier. Even if we were somehow indifferent to the wall, we still know that it prevents us from walking through it. We can deny the reality of the wall. But, our denial of it does not make it possible for us to ignore it

Yet, some Christians live as though truth doesn’t matter. They live in a state of denial. They even express indifference to ultimate truth.

Christians are citizens of heaven, Philippians 3:20. Jesus said that He is “the way and the truth and the life,” John 14:6. Jesus also said that He is the Good Shepherd. He is the door into His pasture. John 10.

Jesus taught the ethic of life in the Kingdom, Matthew 5-7. In reading and understanding Matthew 5-7, we are faced with the impossibility of meeting those standards. The reality revealed in the Sermon on the Mount is that no man can do it, save the God-Man, Jesus. We who profess Christ must fall on our knees in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to live in Christ as God intends.

Every day, we see our need for Christ, our Savior and Lord. We read that the gospel is the power of God, Romans 1:16. All who are in Christ have confessed that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. The ultimate truth is that Jesus, as He is offered in the gospel, is the only Savior and Lord. He is God, the second Person of the Trinity. He is fully God and fully Man.

All of the above are true and are affirmed by every Christian Church. Yet, in my experience, the Evangelical Church is remiss in teaching the Person and Work of Christ revealed in Scripture. There is apathy in congregations for learning the revealed truth of the Person and Work of Christ which is the gospel, the power of God. Some members of churches would rather hear methods, checklists on overcoming divorce, or dealing with sin, or the “right” way to raise children.

Many churches grow in numbers by using the “right methods.” The overwhelming majority of people in our area of the country declare that they are Christians. Yet, few know much of who Jesus is and what He accomplished, save that He died for their sins. Some are told that once they settle accounts with God through Jesus, they are guaranteed of heaven and life can go on as usual. People are taught that God wants to make them better. They are not told the truth that God changes those whom He calls to Himself.

There is also another expression of apathy in the church. It is in churches that teach the truth and yet her members have little time or interest to learn.

Both expressions: settling for lies or ignoring the truth are forms of apathy. Both expressions lead to disaster!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “False Prophets”

“False Prophets”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

There is a problem. In my opinion, the Evangelical Church has a problem. Too often, those in the church debate around the central issue and ignore the problem. We debate about the effectiveness of programs. We debate worship styles and music in churches. We talk of relevance. We spend time wondering how to attract people. We even fall for the “health -wealth” teachers. We lament that so many professing Christians lack even a basic knowledge of the Person and Work of Christ. We fail to recognize the root cause, the central issue, the problem.

Let me be frank. The root cause of all issues in the church, the problem in the Evangelical Church is the existence of “False Prophets.” A prophet is one who speaks God’s words. Therefore, the prophets in the church are her pastors and false prophets are literally false pastors.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” recorded in Matthew Chapters 5-7 is Jesus’ teaching given to His disciples concerning Kingdom Life now. It was not another giving of the Law. In precise words, the Sermon on the Mount describes Jesus’ ethic or practice. In it, Jesus laid out absolute standards of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. None of us is able in his own strength to do what He commanded. Jesus’ purpose was and 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.

Among the many absolute standards of Kingdom Life is the verse concerning false prophets. It is near the close of sermon. Jesus 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 and seek to destroy God’s people. The church is the visible Kingdom of God on earth. These “false prophets” are in the visible church.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. 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 concerning false prophets. The test of a true prophet is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. A true prophet can be assessed by looking at his fruit. That is, has this man been changed by the Word in concert with the Spirit? Does he live under the word of God?

The Evangelical Church’s problem is also her pressing need. The Church has always had this need. The need is for true prophets. Prophets in the church are the pastors. Pastors are called to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season,” 2Timothy 4:2. God has chosen to reach the lost through the foolishness of preaching, 1Corinthians 1:21. He calls men to the office of “Pastor-Teacher,” Ephesians 4:11. These men are accountable to God to “rightly handle the word,” 2Timothy 2:15.

There is a condition in the Church that rivals this pressing need. Too many members of churches love to have their ears tickled. Paul warned the Pastor Timothy of this tendency. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2Timothy 4:3-4

We can complain about church leadership displaying little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth man-centered methods and ministers trained to attract people. We can look for pastors who are expert at contextualizing the gospel. Or, we can demand honesty and integrity. Church members should have an expectation that they will hear the truth of God’s word from their pulpits. Don’t settle for a list of “how to’s” or self-determined relevant messages, or even things that make you “feel good.” Seek to hear the pure word preached and lived for the glory of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Theology”

“Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
As a pastor of a Church, a member congregation in a Reformed Denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am often asked by visitors what is Reformed Theology? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology. It was recovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century. Perhaps, a better question is “What is theology?” Reformed is simply an adjective describing the noun, theology.

Theology is the study of God, His attributes and mighty works. Reformed Theology is precisely the same thing. The Reformers understood what the fathers of the Ancient Church understood. All theology finds its roots in one very clear attribute of God that He revealed throughout Scripture. That one attribute is His sovereignty.

The words of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylon recorded by the Prophet Daniel is the most definitive declaration of God’s sovereignty in all of Scripture. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’ Daniel 4:34-35

God humbled the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, who was full of pride. God caused him to live like a wild animal. Even his appearance was changed. Daniel wrote this description of the king, “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” Daniel 4:33

We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our own image or comfort. God has revealed Himself to be the Holy Sovereign One.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t every church believe that God is sovereign?” You’re right. Every church that professes belief in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what’s this “Reformed Theology” all about and why does it represent the truth of Scripture? The reason is simple. Reformed Theology looks at every aspect of life through the lens of a sovereign God. He does as He pleases and He always accomplishes His will!

For example, salvation depends upon a sovereign God. God said that men are incapable of turning to Him. He said that all men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability in us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from death to life.

I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!

I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.

God’s rule is absolute and inclusive because He is sovereign. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church. Reformed theology affirms that the church is the visible kingdom of God.

So whatever your perspective happens to be, I propose to you that it is only relevant if God’s sovereignty is your absolute guiding principle. If you are in a church that teaches, “God is sovereign but you must choose to believe” invest in one that teaches the truth, the whole truth revealed by the sovereign God for your spiritual growth and health are at stake!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “My Story – God’s Work”

“My Story – God’s Work”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’m closing in on the anniversary of my spiritual birth. This year, I will celebrate and thank God for 31 yrs. of new life in Christ. By His grace alone, I was made His in Christ.

On January 29, 1986 God snatched me from the pit of hell. I was broad-sided by a large truck which was carrying home- insulation products. The driver later claimed that he realized his truck’s brakes were not working and as he approached a traffic light, he thought that he could speed up and get through the intersection before the light changed. He was wrong. The light changed and I was the second car proceeding through the light to turn left. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car.

I woke up four days later. I was transported to a city with a major hospital approximately 70 miles from where I lived. When I awoke, I knew that I was different. Physically I was a mess. But, spiritually I was alive. God gave me an unquenchable desire for Him.

I awoke a different person, with different desires because God raised me from death to life. Jesus said that one must be born again to see the Kingdom, John 3:3. God caused me to see the kingdom.

God broke me physically and through it showed me my total helplessness. Even after when I was discharged from the hospital, my wife fed me, bathed me and did all those other things that I used to take for granted. God used my physical recovery to hammer into me my need for Him every moment of every day.

Now as a pastor – teacher, a minister of the gospel, I have had the privilege of telling my conversion story to many groups and leaders. As I listen to men seeking to be ordained to the gospel ministry, I am reminded of those times when I gave my testimony before the church and am blessed by God’s grace “all over again.”

Yet, as a minister of the word of God, I know that testimonies don’t in and of themselves save anyone. I know that God alone saves and He does so by His Spirit in concert with His word. He gave me an incident and a specific time to remember His sovereign work. Other believers don’t have such a traumatic conversion story, yet, every conversion is an act of God’s grace wherein He begins a process of transformation.

The fundamental reason for sharing one’s conversion story is to praise God. Praise is to tell of God’s mighty works and His attributes, Psalms 117; 149; 150.

God’s conversion of me and every one whom He calls is the personal bit of experience of His mighty work and His sovereign faithfulness to redeem those whom He chooses. Conversion is the believer’s opportunity to praise the sovereign God.

My story has different details as does every believer’s story. But there is one commonality. God acts and men respond in praise and thanksgiving. My life’s details began before God’s effectual call, His exact timing for giving me eyes to see.

I was born in Trenton, N.J. on January 1, 1952 to devout Roman Catholic parents. Growing up I remember attending mass every Sunday and every special holy day. I was blessed to be sent to Roman Catholic Grammar School and Catholic High School. By God’s grace, the woman who would become my wife also attended the same High School. We began dating after attending a High School Graduation Party.

After High School, I attended Villanova University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Villanova was also a Roman Catholic institution.

I was living a normal and even successful life. Yet, I didn’t know Jesus or my desperate need for Him. The Lord blessed me with a godly wife whom He saved before me. We have three children and soon will have six grandchildren. My thoughts before God broke in were centered on me. Everything, every decision I made was evaluated by how it would benefit me and my career.

But my “normal” life was a lost one. I was heading to hell and didn’t know it. God broke in not because I was a good person but by His sovereign choice. “Praise the Lord… Extol Him… the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” Psalm 117

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “More Than a Title”

“More Than a Title!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Luke, the evangelist, wrote in Acts 11:26 that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. A disciple is a follower and a learner. Disciples follow and learn from their Master who is the Risen Lord Jesus. Therefore, a Christian is likewise a learner and follower of the Risen Lord Jesus. Being a Christian is more than having the title.

I don’t think that there are any reasonable people who would not agree that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. We also know that cults use the name Jesus. Simply using His name does not indicate that they are Christians. Calling someone a Christian does not make it so.

The Jesus who is offered in the gospel is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is the One who took upon Himself human nature, Philippians 2:6ff. He is the God – Man. He is not a created being as the cults contend. Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is the God. He is the only way to the Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what was written is authoritative, as is the whole of Scripture.

Salvation is only through confessing Christ to be Savior and Lord. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Ephesians 2:8

Many claim to be Christians. But not all are. Jesus addressed this condition in His famous sermon. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

A genuine Christian is one who has declared that he commits to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We know that all lords issue commands. Jesus has issued absolute commands. His commands are His words written. Christians live under the plain and revealed word of God preserved by His grace in the Bible. The sixty-six books that make up the Bible are the commands of our Lord Jesus. And, living under the word is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We hear of those who call themselves Christians affirming sinful behavior, behavior that God has expressly condemned. At the risk of offending some, let me say that those who affirm evil behavior of any kind and lead others to do the same are in no way Christians regardless of what they may say.

My entire ministry is centered on the word of God. I know that I am not sinless. God’s word says that anyone who says that he’s sinless is deceiving himself and does not have the truth. No, I sin and I seek God’s grace of forgiveness through confessing my sins to Him, 1John 1:8-9. Yet I seek to obey God’s call of me as a pastor. As do all Christian Pastors who seek to do their best to present themselves to God as those approved. I work like all Christian Pastors to righty handle God’s word. I am accountable to Him to preach and teach the truth, God’s word is truth, John 17:17

I am reminded of God’s warning given through the Prophet Ezekiel. God said that if the watchman sees destruction coming and does not warn the people their blood is on his head. If pastors fail to warn their members of the certainty of eternal judgment for living in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, they will pay a heavy price when they meet the Lord! Main line churches and other apostate groups are not only failing to warn their members of certain judgment but are actually affirming evil behavior, calling evil good.

I’m not only referring to homosexual behavior, but also other expressions of immoral behavior. This is a time of opportunity. Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but He has overcome the world. I exhort professing Christians to deepen their knowledge of what God has said. Peter wrote always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15

We have the great mystery uncovered by God, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Actions and Words”

“Words and Actions”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God created man in His image, Genesis 1:26. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 All men bear God’s image. We have been created with reason, a sense of holiness and righteousness.

As a result of the Fall of Adam, the attributes which we received from our Creator have been corrupted. I have been thinking recently of our ability to reason. Surely, our reasoning is not perfect. I think all would readily admit to the limitations of human reason.

For example, men and women are not able to think their way to a saving faith. All men, since the Fall are born dead in sin. We are all born with a sin nature. Yet, we are still able to reason and think, albeit imperfectly. Reason is the most obvious attribute that separates mankind from every other creature.

However, I have observed that many have been convinced that they are unable to think for themselves. Further, we are told that we don’t have the ability to recognize reality. It seems that we have lost the ability to connect words with actions. As a result, we can’t discern the veracity of what we hear. We have to rely upon those who are the “experts” to interpret the speaker’s intentions.

Actions that don’t fit the words have little to do with what was said, we are told. The problem has worked its way into the church. Leaders profess commitment to the Bible, yet those same leaders use cleverly devised methods to build their churches, methods designed to attract “seekers.” The people in the pews simply assume that those special methods are necessary regardless of what the Bible teaches. The Apostle Paul warned the church to not be taken in by man-centered philosophies or worldly principles, Colossians 2:8.

Romans 12:2 stands opposed to this so-called wisdom. “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.” The Bible teaches that God enters the mind and changes the heart. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to reliance upon the Person and Work of Christ.

Christians have fallen prey to the “church building experts “and the “health – wealth” preachers as a result of “checking their minds at the door.” These false teachers have manipulated people to think that this world is the focus of life. In their minds’, Jesus becomes the one who can make your life better. He wants to heal you physically. He really wants you to be rich in this world. And, the church needs to be “relevant” in order to attract those seeking God!

Christian, think! Is this what Jesus said? Emphatically no! Jesus said eternal life is knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Life that never ends, the “abundant life” is KNOWING GOD. This life is but a nanosecond in relation to the whole of life in eternity. Jesus also said that the Father seeks true worshipers to worship Him, John 4:23-24.

Jesus didn’t come to make your life better. He came to change your life, if you belong to Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2Corinthians 5:17a.

As a pastor my foremost concern is the church. But, I am obliged to declare the gospel to all people. The pure gospel is that Christ died for our, that He was buried and that He rose on the third day, all in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. The gospel is ordained by God to enter your mind and pierce your heart. When God breaks in, we see our hopelessness. When God calls and regenerates a man or woman they come face to face with their sin. They learn that God requires perfection for He is holy. They are moved to acknowledge their sinfulness and to turn to Christ. They then live in reliance upon His perfect righteousness, having a desire to please Him. This will not attract all people. But it will be used by God to pierce the hearts of those whom He has chosen.

My exhortation to those who profess Christ is to train yourself to think critically, having a conscience formed by the word of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Sound Doctrine”

“Sound Doctrine”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul commanded Titus, a Pastor, to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” Titus 2:1. Likewise, Paul gave the same command to another Pastor, Timothy, “… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season…” 2Timothy 4:2. Sound doctrine is biblical teaching. The preaching of the word of God written, the Bible was not only for Timothy in the 1st Century, but it extends to the Church until Jesus returns. Sound doctrine, biblical teaching is also the focus of the church until the return of Christ.

Every Christian Pastor would affirm his call to preach the Bible. Yet, surveys of the evangelical church in America reveal that doctrinal teaching is not the norm. Every Christian Pastor would likewise affirm the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. But, practices in the Church do not support the reality of the sufficiency of Scripture. There are “things” that should be added, some say, in order to be successful. Programs must be cleverly devised that address “life-styles.” Preferences in worship music should be considered if the church is to “reach” the modern culture. The “word” relevant comes up in almost every conversation concerning one’s church of preference. Relevant is defined as hearing a “message” that addresses feelings or circumstances. Of course, worship must strike a chord to which one’s emotions will be affirmed. Still further, one’s stage in life must be considered in developing a relevant message or even applying spiritual oversight.

Obviously, not all evangelical churches fall into these worldly traps. There are many that consider sound doctrine and biblical preaching important. There are many who understand that there is only one seeker, God and that He has commanded the way in which He is to be worshiped. There are even many churches that understand that worship on the Lord’s Day is not for evangelism. Not all evangelical churches have replaced expositional preaching with skits complete with “stage props.”

Still, one might think that sound doctrine, biblical preaching and worship are discoveries of the modern church. Maybe it’s legalistic to suggest that the entirety of God’s word is not only relevant, but also necessary and sufficient to live in Christ. All these issues were dealt with by God in the Old Testament. God said that closing the doors of the church was preferable to vain worship, Malachi 1:10. If the church in the Old Testament was held accountable for her worship and teaching, we should certainly take heed.

Concerning sound doctrine, I was recently studying one of the Psalms of David, Psalm 12. I observed that the first three words of verse 1, “Save, O LORD” declare sound doctrine. First, David cried out to God for salvation. He knew that man could not save himself. David knew that man’s only hope was for God to act. David didn’t suggest that he chose God and therefore was the instrument to save himself. No, David cried to God. Only God saves. All men are born dead in sin. The Fall of Adam is inherited by all men born of a man and a woman. In another Psalm, 51, David declared that he was conceived in sin. David didn’t mean that he was born outside of wedlock. He was simply stating what God declared in Genesis 6:5, “… that every intention of the thoughts of men’s hearts was only evil continually.”

David also knew God was his only hope. Why did David know that and not, say, Saul? They both were anointed to be king. They were both members of the Covenant Community, the visible church. Yet David knew of his dependence upon God and Saul did not. Surely Saul knew there was a God as did David. Yet, knowing of the existence of God did not lead Saul to depend upon Him as David did.

The reason David knew to cry out to God was because God gave him eyes to see. God did not look down the corridor of time and see that David would choose Him. For there were many times when David chose himself over God.

The first three words of Psalm 12 reveal two essential truths, called sound doctrine. First, God alone saves. Second, God extends saving grace to those whom He chooses. God calls, regenerates, converts, justifies, adopts, sanctifies and glorifies, Romans 8:29-30. Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Ephesians 2:1-9.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Look Ahead”

“Look Ahead”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time to “take stock.” We want to remember the past, especially our mistakes, so that we won’t repeat them. Over the years, God has taught me more from my mistakes than from those things we see as successes. You may perhaps agree with me. So then, what about the year ahead. After remembering our mistakes, we move on; we look forward. We live with anticipation as we look ahead to opportunities and events that the Lord has already planned for us.

To look ahead a target is needed. Without it, I will simply move from one crisis to the next. My target is to do what is right. It may sound simple, but I suggest that doing what is right is the most profound target anyone can have. I don’t mean that we should do what we think is right. No! What we think is right is subjective, a moving target. That which is right is an absolute. It is absolute because it proceeds from absolute truth revealed by God in His word.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, that the believer is to take every thought captive to the word of Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5. Romans 12:2 is an exhortation to 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.” Believers are to be children of light, that is, Christians follow Jesus by living under His word. 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 only possible through God’s transformation. He has promised to change those whom He calls, regenerates and justifies. He does it by His word and Spirit. Doing what is right is the response of one who has been born again by the Holy Spirit in concert with God’s word.

Doing the right thing is wise living. Wise living follows the way of blessing. The way of blessing is to obey God. Conversely, God said that a cursed life would follow the one who was disobedient. 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.

Whereas God is the one working in a believer to do what is right, the believer is not an idle bystander. Christians live responding to the Spirit of God acting in them. God’s means to progressively change His people is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor but a corporate one. Each local church is accountable before God to “teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1. Every believer is likewise accountable to invest in such a church.

God organized the Church so that each member would grow up into Christ, Ephesians 4:11-15. It is through the local Church that God has provided spiritual growth. Christians are not adopted by God into His family in a vacuum. He adopts us into the body of Christ. He has blessed us with the visible church, the normal means by which men are saved and grow in Christ.

The barrier to growth in knowing what is right is our sinful desires and false teachers who prey on the spiritually immature. In 2Timothy 3 and 4, Paul described the visible church corrupted by those who only looked godly; those who sought to “tickle” men’s ears. He gave a timeless answer to the problem. Paul’s answer was for Timothy to continue in what he learned and firmly believed. Paul declared 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 to grow in knowing what is right as she faithfully teaches the Scriptures. I urge you to invest in one.