Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Pastoral Letter… Hope in the midst of crisis and fear”

“A Pastoral Letter…”
Hope in the midst of crisis and fear
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Fear, anger, uncertainty are all emotions that come to the surface when confronted with something out of our control. I am the Pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church. I preach and teach the sovereignty of God. I seek to live under the word of God for His glory. I know that God is in charge. The Bible teaches that there is nothing that comes to pass that He has not ordained. There are no coincidences.

I write these weekly articles not only for our community but also for our congregation. I would not write anything that I have not preached or taught in the church.

I have observed over these past few weeks fear and panic within the Christian community. We are indeed traveling in uncharted waters. Our country, the entire world is trying to deal with a virus that in some cases causes severe illness and even death. None of us can say with any certainty how this will turn out or when it will end.

But, we are those who have hope! “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) The faith that the writer declared under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the gift that God gives at conversion. The hope that we have is grounded in this gift of faith. Note that the word assurance is used in the English translation. The original word’s range of meaning includes conviction or confidence. That is, the gift of faith, genuine saving faith is a certainty, a conviction of a hope. This conviction, assurance is of “things hoped for”. The “things hoped for” are those things promised by God to all who trust in Him! Ultimately, heaven is not some doubtful or uncertain destination for a believer. No! Heaven is assured to those who live trusting in the. Person and Work of Christ!

But there are other “things”. We have God’s promise never to leave us or forsake us, Hebrews13:5 Therefore, we know that God is with His people. He is walking along side of us. Beloved, it is wise to be concerned over this virus. But, it is essential that we know in our head and heart that God is in charge even of this. We know, as those who have been given the gift of faith, “that for those who love Go all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV)

The question that I ask myself every day is, “Are my actions testifying to the certain hope that God has given to me?”

Before this “pandemic” it was easy to remind ourselves that God made us for worship. He expects those who have certain hope to worship Him. But now, in light of the government’s restrictions on gathering for worship, that basic and clear exhortation is not so easy to apply. Virtual worship, watching on our computers or TV’s is not the same as gathering with God’s people for worship. It’s something like the difference between “face time” with your family versus visiting them. Ask any “shut-ins” and they will tell you that there’s nothing like worshiping God with His people on the Lord’s Day.

Yet, for a time, churches are working to find means by which their members can stay connected. We need to praise God, confess our sins and hear His word read and proclaimed. We all need to be reminded of the certain hope that we have. We need to be reminded that God is in charge!

Likewise, our elders are working to use whatever technology is available to us to provide an electronic means to remind us of whose we are. Our intention is to offer whatever means we can so that our congregation will stay connected. Our prayer is that we will increase our desire to gather to worship our King and Lord when this pandemic is over.

In the interim, for this coming Lord’s Day we have set up a link for you all to praise God in your homes:
https://youtu.be/-NGw6lBBWa0

Further, our web site will continue to have my full sermon in audio format. Our church web site is: www.weatherfordpca.org.

Pray that our sovereign Lord will deliver us from this viral disease. Pray for God’s protection for all those physicians and medical workers who are on the “front line” fighting this virus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Made for Worship”

“Made for Worship”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In light of the concerns over the coronavirus, terms like “social distancing” and avoidance of social gatherings make it necessary that we in the church need to remind ourselves of the reason God made us. The stress of suspending Sunday Worship or making provisions for some form of alternate means of Worship is real.

We know that God made us for worship. God not only made man to worship, but to worship Him alone. Because of this truth, men and woman will worship someone or something. To worship is to bow down to and serve the object of worship. But the object of true worship is God who revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ, His only Son. We were all made to bow down and serve the Living God.

The problem in applying this truth is sin. We have all inherited the sin of Adam. Every single human being is born spiritually dead in sin. In the Sixteenth Century, John Calvin wrote concerning worship and the state of man after the Fall of Adam. He wrote, “Every man makes a god of himself, and virtually worships himself.” (Taken from Calvin’s teaching on the Psalms, Ps. IV; 132) God must raise a sinner from spiritual death for him to see the object of true worship.

The church in the Old Testament was commanded by God to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday in light of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church refers to each Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each Lord’s Day is given over to the worship of the Triune God.

The Christian Sabbath is set apart to the Lord for Christians to gather to worship God in the way He has commanded. We praise Him; we pray to Him; we read His word; we hear His word expounded; we celebrate the two Sacraments; we give of our tithes and offerings. All of these are called the elements of biblical worship.

Since God made man to worship Him, it is not optional for a Christian. Worship is not something that we design in accordance with our feelings or imaginations. Christian Worship is not designed to attract people. Worship on the Lord’s Day is not part of a list of things to do of which one item may take priority over it. True worship is the principal outpouring of a heart and, in the case of Corporate Worship, hearts that have been changed by God. In other words, Christian Worship is the offering to God of oneself as a living sacrifice in response to the saving grace of God, Romans 11:33-12:2. Worship expresses love for God, Deuteronomy 6:5.

Christians, those made “new creations” don’t go to church. Christians are the church. The visible church, the one we see, is defined as those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and their children. As such, those who genuinely confess Christ desire to worship the Risen Lord with their fellow believers on the Lord’s Day.

Indeed, God made everyone for worship. Men and woman will worship someone or something. The question is, “Do you know the One to whom all worship is due?” Or, better, “Does He know you?”

The worship manual of the Old Testament Church the book of Psalms answers this question. Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ God gives each believer the desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed. A believer hears the call of God to worship as more than a duty. He hears God’s call as a joy. In worshiping God, the believer is moved from duty to devotion.

God has commanded worship. His people respond expressing their love for Him. Worship becomes the center of a life devoted to the Lord. And, worship is necessary for a believer to grow up in Christ.

It is my prayer that we all keep these principles of worship before us as we make decisions in light of current health concerns. May our sovereign Lord make His face to shine upon us in this difficult time.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “If God is in Charge…”

“If God’s in Charge…”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

There is no “if” necessary! By definition, God is in charge! If there was any circumstance over which God was not sovereign, then He would not be God. There are times when circumstances challenge the truth of God’s sovereignty, like the recent panic over a virus. But make no mistake, God is always in charge. He is sovereign over all of Creation, even diseases.

Two passages of Scripture come to mind concerning God’s sovereign rule. Job 2:10, “… Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” And, Lamentations 3:37-38, “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?”

Both passages were written during times of adversity. The first was Job who answered his wife when God ordained that his health would be taken from him. The second was declared by Jerimiah as he viewed the destruction of Jerusalem while exiled in Egypt.

God revealed His absolute sovereignty throughout Scripture. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. He revealed His character to His people by way of declaring His attributes. One of God’s attributes is His sovereignty.

Years ago, I was questioned by a man in a church that I served. He was concerned about my regular use of the word “sovereignty”. He said no one understood that word anymore. My response was that we shouldn’t stop using words because people may not understand them. Rather it would be more edifying if we explained the meaning of important words such as sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. God’s sovereignty eliminates our need to wonder “Who’s in Charge?” We know God is because He sovereignly rules all things. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth” had been given to Him, Matthew 28:18. Satan asked the sovereign Lord for permission to cause Job’s suffering, Job 1 and 2.

God not only revealed His sovereignty by declarative statements such as Matthew 28:18, but He also revealed it through historic narratives. One such historical narrative is Daniel 4: 34-37. The Prophet Daniel recorded an incident that involved a king who thought he was the be-all and the end-all. Nebuchadnezzar believed that he was “in charge.” He was a ruthless man, king of the ancient Babylonian Empire. He had a very confusing dream about a huge tree that “a holy one from heaven” ordered to be chopped down. God empowered Daniel to interpret the dream. Daniel’s interpretation predicted that the king would be humbled until he acknowledged the one true God. The tree in the king’s dream was him.

After a time, God drove the king, full of pride, mad. He made him act and appear animal-like. At the time appointed by God, the king’s senses returned to him. Daniel recorded what the king said. Nebuchadnezzar said this about God, “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?”’

This radical statement was spoken by a pagan king. The king was humbled by God. The sovereign Lord caused the king to see the truth. Nebuchadnezzar declared that all creatures are under the sovereign authority of God. He rules over every man’s actions and He holds him responsible. This great and mighty ruler who thought he was a god was used by God to declare His eternal rule.

Nebuchadnezzar learned the meaning of absolute sovereignty. He was totally broken by the sovereign God of the Universe. This great and mighty king in the Ancient world faced the reality that he was a creature made by a sovereign Creator. All men and women will learn the depth of God’s sovereignty. No matter what worldly position is held, no matter what power is wielded, God remains sovereign.

Men either suppress the truth of God’s sovereignty or try to mitigate it. The Bible says God will make even the mighty submit to His sovereignty either now or when Jesus returns. God’s rule is absolute. God is in charge regardless of whether we think He is or not! Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings, whether we believe it or not.

Know the sovereign Lord. Don’t panic. God is in charge!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is Hungry for the Gospel?”

Who is hungry for the gospel?
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Some Christian leaders declare that there is a hunger for the gospel as though it was an undeniable fact. As a result, many Christians stand firmly on the idea that the world is longing to hear the gospel. After all, why wouldn’t people be hungry for God’s good news?

However, there just isn’t any biblical support for man’s hunger for the gospel or any of the things of God. God said, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:19

First, what is the gospel? The word “gospel” means good news. It is specifically the good news of God. The gospel belongs to God. Romans 1:1 states that the gospel is the possession of God. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” The gospel is all about the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is God’s good news of life only through the Person and Work of Christ.

Secondly, the gospel has specific content. 1Corinthians 15:3-4 is a precise and condensed declaration of the content of the gospel. “… Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Further, the Apostle Paul wrote that he received the gospel. It was revealed to him. He then delivered the gospel as his first order of business. He knew that the gospel is God’s power to save all who believe, Romans 1:16. In addition, Christ not only died for the sins of His people, but He lived a perfect life, accomplishing what Adam failed to do.

Thirdly, the gospel revealed in the Bible must be believed and relied upon. This is the heart of the problem. Natural man is unable to believe and place his trust in Jesus. All men are born spiritually dead. The sin of Adam is inherited by every person. Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.”

The comparison between man’s physical and spiritual parts creates a profound word picture. A dead body is unable to move or do anything. So, it is with our spiritual lives. We are naturally incapable of doing anything to save ourselves. In fact, the natural man doesn’t even know that he is lost and on his way to hell. God must cause a man to see. It is not by our ability or our wills, but God’s sovereign will that anyone can see the truth of life in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that unless the Father draws a man or woman, he or she cannot come to Him. The word that is translated draw also means compel. The idea expressed in John 6:44 is that God causes an individual to believe in Jesus.

The first part of the statement concerning man’s hunger is accurate. People are hungry for a god to fix their lives. A famous speaker claims that God wants to make you a better you. Some evangelists minister under the assumption that the eloquence of their preaching will convince people of the truth.

The true God doesn’t want to make you a better you. The Apostle Paul said that any who are in Christ are new creations. Paul also said that faith comes from hearing through the word of Christ. Likewise, it is not the eloquence of the preacher that brings life. But the Spirit of God in concert with the word of God is His means to raise the dead.

The truth of man’s condition and his absence of hunger for God can be paraphrased. Men are not hungry for salvation because they don’t think that they’re lost. Only God causes a man or woman to see how desperate and hopeless he or she is. Only God draws a man or woman to Himself. Only God raises the dead to be able to see His Kingdom.

Those who know and receive the gospel have been brought to their knees. Has God pierced your heart with the truth of the gospel? Have you cried out to Him, “What shall I do to be saved?” “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. “John Newton, “Amazing Grace”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Know the Difference!”

Know the Difference!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We are blessed to live in a Country where freedom is prized. The fact is that our Nation was built upon Judeo-Christian principles. May we all endeavor to guard our freedom.

But, I have observed that Christians sometimes confuse politics with the church. For example, some in the church examine candidates for public office with the same criteria as those appointed to the Office of an Elder or Pastor. Christians need to know their duty to the government and to God.

On the one hand, Christians obey governing authorities, Romans 13:1. God ordained civil authorities for the good and welfare of all people. Christians respect the rule of law and obey civil laws. The Apostle Paul said to do otherwise is to resist God. Paul wrote those words while under the authority of the Roman Empire.

On the other hand, the church must know how to act when man’s law contradicts God’s. When Peter and John were commanded by the government to cease from preaching the truth of Christ, they responded to the leaders, “We must obey God rather than men.” By making that decision, they bore the consequences.

God has established a sphere of rule, a granted authority, to civil government. God has not given over all authority to civil government. Christians confess that Jesus is Lord. The early Christians lost their lives because they refused to confess that Caesar was lord. The church lives under the headship of Christ. He is King and Head of the church. Christ died for His bride, the church. The Apostles’ John and Peter were quick to respond to the leaders of their day because they knew the truth of God!

Jesus gave a commission to the church before He ascended. He declared that He had all authority in heaven and on the earth. He commanded His followers to make followers. He gave the means by which followers were to be made. He said to baptize them in the name of the triune God and to teach everything that He had commanded, Matthew 28:18-20.

The church takes seriously her commission. The church is accountable to God to teach and preach the word. The Apostle Paul commanded Timothy, a Pastor to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” 2Timothy 4:2

The church is the place where the whole counsel of God is to be taught. There is no eternal value in teaching men and women how to live a better life. God has called His people to a new life. We are new creatures in Christ. We have been changed to live for Him. Jesus said that a follower of His must die to self. He used the cross, an implement of execution to teach disciples that they had to take up their cross daily and follow Him. He wasn’t speaking of bearing our lot in life. He was calling men and women to die to self. Jesus said that to lose one’s life was to save it.

Governments will come and they will go. Praise God that we live in a nation where we are free to worship God and free to live for God. We would do well to learn what it means to follow Him so in the event we are challenged, we will know what is right.

Paul said that there would be times like this. “But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 2Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

First, Paul spoke to those in the church. He addressed professing Christians. Second, Paul wrote of the last days. The last days began when Christ ascended and will end when He returns. That is, we are living in the last days.

Pastors, let’s not waste time in the church. Teach the truth. Be ready when things are going well and when they aren’t. I believe that this is a time for the church to be the church of God. This is an opportunity to be equipped with the truth of God so that we will know when to obey God rather than men. Are you in a church that teaches the whole counsel of God?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Psalm 23, “I Shall Not Want”

Psalm 23, “I shall not want!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
(All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.)

“The LORD is my shepherd.” David wrote Psalm 23 and declared that Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD was his Shepherd. He harkened back to Exodus 3:14. The Great “I Am” appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Moses asked God for His name. God told Moses that He is who He is. In other words, God declared that He is the eternal being. There is more to God’s name. LORD is descriptive of God’s covenantal faithfulness. The Hebrews held God’s personal name in such regard that they did not speak His name. God gave His name in the Hebrew verb “to be”. All being, all existence proceeds from the only one who has being, existence in Himself.

I recall one Bible teacher saying that we are misnamed as human beings. We should be called human becomings, since we are always changing from one thing to another. From the time we are born we age. As we age we are maturing. God, however, never changes. He is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever”, Hebrews 13:8.

So, when David made the declaration that “The LORD is my shepherd” he was stating that He was cared for and guided by the One who alone has eternal being. His declaration was made to the absolute highest and greatest being. More, King David addressed the eternal One as his Shepherd. As such he was declaring intimacy with the Father.

King David knew the LORD. He wrote that the one who led him, cared for him and provided for his needs was the Great “I Am”. As we look at this psalm, we who know the LORD can also state with David the care and providence of God for us. The Gospel of John recorded the “I Am “sayings of Jesus. John 10:11 in particular recorded who this Great “I Am” was and is. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words about Jesus who is the Great “I Am”. “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, Colossians 1:15-19. The fullness of God was revealed in Jesus who is eternally begotten (not born but proceeding) from the Father.

David wrote Psalm 23 more than 3,000 years ago. Yet for those who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead have the Great “I Am” as their Shepherd as David did. King David looked forward to the person and work of Christ. We who trust in Jesus look back at Him.

God’s faithfulness revealed in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is for all who call upon the name of the LORD. We say with King David” The LORD is my Shepherd. Therefore, I trust that the LORD will meet my needs. Because He is my Shepherd, “I shall not want.”

Jesus said do not worry about the needs of life. He said the Father knows my needs and will provide what I truly need.

Confidence in God’s providence is not exclusive to me but applies to everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus! Those who call upon the name of Jesus are those who rely upon and trust in the person and work of Christ.

The object of saving faith is the Jesus revealed in the Bible. He is the God-Man. He is God in the flesh. He is not a created being. He is not the Jesus of another testament, book or philosophy. He is not just a prophet. He is fully God and fully Man. This is the Jesus who promised God’s providence because He is God!

There are two aspects of life in Christ to which David pointed in Psalm 23:1. They are guidance and provision. The Good Shepherd, Jesus guides and provides for His people. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus said that He knows His sheep and He calls them by name, John 10:3-14.

You who hear Jesus through His word follow Him. No one can harm you. You belong to Him. He will provide your needs. You shall not want!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How can this be?”

“How can this be?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Many have asked the question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Prosperity is seen as proof of doing what is good. Those who are seen as prosperous are idolized and followed. Moral integrity does not seem to matter. Evil behavior does not seem to be included in the discernment process.

One thing for certain is that following and idolizing the prosperous simply because of their prosperity is not new. The psalmist wrote, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:3 Asaph acknowledged his sin of envy. He saw the wicked prospering. The prosperity of the wicked has always been a stumbling block for those who desire justice, believing that moral integrity is important.

Asaph defined the wicked as those who lived apart from God. The wicked surround us. We look at the prosperity of the arrogant and proud and see injustice. We live in a culture where some leaders believe that the rule of law is for others. Yet these people continue to prosper and draw followers.

In the same Psalm, 73: 10a, the psalmist stated the effect that these wicked people had on others. “Therefore, his people turn back to them…” People will follow the wicked in the hope that they may be included in their prosperity because their critical thinking is replaced with the desire for prosperity above all else.

God did not answer the psalmist. He didn’t answer “why the wicked prosper?” God simply inspired the psalmist to state the fact. Evil men (used in a generic sense to describe men and women) prosper and people follow them.

The Bible declares why people follow evil rather than good. Genesis 6:5, records God’s view of mankind. God said that, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We have bought Satan’s lie since the Garden. The natural man believes that knowing good and evil is better than only knowing good. Even Christians often act more like non-Christians by following their own passions rather than thirsting after righteousness.

We all must face and acknowledge the reality of evil. We know that evil is not an entity. Evil has no being in itself. Evil is the privation or lack of good according to the writing of Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century. Evil is behavior that is morally wrong. I know that God is not the author of evil, yet He uses evil for His good purposes.

The prosperity of the wicked and evil men will be with us until the return of Christ. Their ongoing existence is part of the bad news. People motivated by selfish desires will continue to follow evil men. Evil behavior will persist until the end of this world. Satan will continue to deceive men and women even though he is on a chain. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we know the rest of the story. Satan has already been defeated. (He’s a slow learner.) There will come a time of perfect justice. The Lord Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. No one will escape. The wicked who are prospering now will receive justice. In the new heaven and the new earth, evil will be no more.

The psalmist’s struggle with the prosperity of the wicked is the same as our own. He found the answer for living in a world filled with evil and injustice. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:16

I would encourage you who know the fear of the Lord especially as you worship Him on the Lord’s Day. Learn His holy sovereignty. Know that He is holy and will execute perfect justice. The prosperity of the wicked is temporary. Their judgment is eternal.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more… Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 21:1, 22:14

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Avoid Past Mistakes!”

“Avoid Past Mistakes!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Each of these men reflected on the course of history and the need to know it. History is His, God’s, story. That is history belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself throughout history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history.

I regularly ask our Sunday Adult Class, “Why should we study Church History?” I usually receive an immediate response from a man in the class, “So that we don’t make the same mistakes.” We all enjoy a great laugh. But, the fact is some Christians think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. Yet, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham, some would say to “Adam”. The word “church” means those called out by God. This is what God did: He called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel. Therefore, we would do well to study the whole of the Church’s History.

The church has a long history, thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of those same men and women making the same mistakes over and over again. In the words of Albert Einstein, they could be defined as insane. Part of the reason for the insanity is a failure to remember or even know the past.

For example, it can be said that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and His bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many.

Likewise, culture is not immune to the effects of the ignorance of history. Ancient civilizations have died as a result of ignoring certain moral behaviors even in the face of historical evidence of past collapses. In addition, civil leaders have also tried to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more recent failures than perhaps any other social/economic construct and yet, there is a never-ending list of politicians advocating it under different names and slightly different methods. I expect that they may think that the failures of the past were due to not having the “right” people in charge!

My concern is for the evangelical church. I remember a sermon delivered by one of my heroes, James Montgomery Boice, as he reflected on what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yield Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. We can fill churches by meeting needs or offering programs and fail at teaching what it means to repent and believe in the gospel. Read Exodus 32 to see an ancient prototype of the Church pleasing men.

Leaders think that if the message is softened so as not to offend the “seeker”, then when they come they’ll be taught the whole truth. However, I believe that this “seeker” approach is based on two errors. The first is that there are no seekers after God according to the Bible, Romans 3:11. Second, Jesus commanded the church to make disciples by baptizing (identifying) them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and by teaching the whole counsel of God. As the church makes learners and followers of Jesus, He has promised to be present with her, Matthew 28:19-20. This is God’s method and it will yield God’s results. The “seeker” approach is tried over and over again. It yields large churches filled with members who live just like the world.

The history of the church reveals a different approach. It is to teach the truth. May we learn from the giants of our faith and avoid the errors they toiled to correct and remain faithful in using God’s methods by their example, expecting God’s results!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Praising God”

“Praising God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The definition of praise is to declare the works and character of God. But my purpose in this article is not about defining praise. It is that personal investment in a local church and praise are connected. In fact, in order to offer biblical praise to God, one must engage Him in a local congregation.

First, examine how the object of praise, God, has revealed Himself. Isaiah 6:1, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord (Adoni) sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” The one whom Isaiah saw was full of majesty. He was declared to be “holy, holy, holy” by the Seraphim. He revealed Himself to be totally self-sufficient. He doesn’t need anything from His creatures. He commands all creation to worship and praise Him.

Isaiah saw the Lord. The English transliteration of the Hebrew word is Adoni which means Master. He saw the sovereign master of all Creation. It matters not what you may or may not believe. Specifically, Isaiah saw the Pre-Incarnate Christ in glory. God, the Lord is the Master of everything and everyone. That includes me and you!

God has revealed who He is. The word He chose to reveal His sovereign majesty is Lord. In other words, God has revealed Himself as the only object of praise and worship. He is the God of sovereign majesty.

Every year, I experience the joy of celebrating the Incarnation with my church family and visitors to our church. I was drawn to think about God’s blessing of being part of a church committed to worshiping Him!

When someone decides to become a member of our church, he or she is required to fill out our membership application. Our application for membership has three parts. The first concerns personal background information. The second is focused on one’s conversion story. The third is called the “Five Covenantal Questions.”

The first three Covenantal questions refer to one’s repentance, faith and trust in Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel. The final two questions concern commitments a member makes to our church. One is to support the church in its worship and work. Another one is to submit to the discipline and government of our church while praying for its purity and peace.

In my observation, there are some Christians who do not recognize God’s blessing afforded through investing in a local congregation. In order to justify keeping a “safe distance” from their fellow worshipers, they say that there isn’t a biblical mandate for church membership. In light of the truth of Scripture, they wrongly use the fact that every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit to avoid church membership.

I believe that both members of churches and those who bypass a commitment to church membership are sincere. Polls and surveys consider both groups to represent American Christianity. I am not suggesting that one can’t be a Christian unless he or she is a member of a local congregation. I am suggesting that the Bible is silent on singular Christians. Our rugged individualism has led us to ignore the magnitude of God’s blessing through praising Him as part of a local church to which we have made a public commitment. Staying aloof from membership in a Bible-believing church is symptomatic of our individualism.

Since God commands His people to praise Him, it is important to consider what He has said about the place of praise and membership in the body. God chooses the place of worship, Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Psalm 49:1, and God adopts those whom He chooses, Galatians 4:4-5. God’s spiritual adoption is worked out through the local congregation, Ephesians 4:11-16.

God’s people, those who are part of His adopted family in Christ, also have the privilege of praising Him wherever they are, Psalm 34:1; 119:164, but supremely as part of a church family through which God grows them up in Christ!

The most important part of genuine praise is what follows it. That is, are we living in the light of the God whom we praise? We might say, “Praise is not only an act or event it forms a lifestyle.” It is a lifestyle that is learned as one invests himself in a local, Bible-believing congregation which affirms that God is the object of praise and worship.

May you be blessed by our sovereign God in praise and worship of Him!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Where are the Leaders?”

“Where are the Leaders?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Leadership has always been fundamentally important in the Church and in the world. Specifically, Church History testifies to the need for godly leadership. Likewise, the Church in the Old Testament experienced the disasters associated with ungodly leadership. Surveys of the so-called Evangelical Church lead this observer to conclude, a timeless truth. The Church is not to model her leaders after the world to please men but in accordance with the word of God to please Him.

The Bible has much to say concerning leadership. Both testaments reveal God’s principles for godly leadership. The Apostle Paul gave instructions to both Timothy and Titus concerning the critical nature of selecting men to lead local churches.

Perhaps the most striking example of God’s revealed principles for leaders is Exodus 18:21. “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”

God revealed these principles through Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro observed Moses’ leadership of the people of Israel and told him that what he was doing would wear him out. Jethro recommended that Moses find men who would be able to lead the people with him.

Jethro gave four characteristics of the kind of men Moses should select. These are the four characteristics: able, God-fearers, trustworthy and those who hate bribery. Each of these characteristics requires further explanation.

First, he should choose men from among the people. That is, those chosen should be recognized by the people as men who have a history of accomplishing assigned tasks. We can understand this as men who had resumes of accomplishments that demonstrated their abilities. Note that they should be chosen from among the people. That is, Jethro intended that their resumes could be verified as genuine. These men were known to the people whom they served.

“Able”, is translated from the root word that means a rampart or fortress. In other words, the able man is a man of strong character in whom people trust to provide protection.

A God-fearer is a genuine believer. A man who fears God is a humble man. Fearing God includes trembling, awe and worship. A man who fears God knows both intellectually and intimately that God is holy, sovereign and the one who is full of majesty. This man has a right assessment of himself before God, which is the definition of humility.

Thirdly, trustworthy men are men who love the truth. These are men of integrity and faithfulness. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

It is surely obvious that for one to love the truth, one must acknowledge that there is absolute truth. A man who loves the truth is not a relativist who changes his mind because of peer pressure or one who lacks the principles by which a lover of truth lives his life.

Fourthly, a leader is a man who does not covet. He hates bribery. Not only will he not be bribed, he will not attempt to bribe anyone else to get what he selfishly wants. This is a leader who stands against those who constantly covet what others have. This leader finds his satisfaction in God, enjoying what God has provided to him.

These are the kind of men God calls to lead His church. Those who exemplify the above characteristics are the kind of men and women we look to for leadership in our communities, in military service and wherever groups of people are called to move in unity to accomplish anything.

Where are the leaders? Perhaps, a better question would be, “Who are Leaders?” They are in our midst. They are able, God-fearing, trustworthy and honest.

All things are from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 Biblical leadership is not excluded from this principle. God has provided the church with capable men, God-fearing men, trustworthy men and those who hate bribery. May we recognize them and follow them for the glory of God. May our Sovereign Lord continue to build His Church using those whom He has called and gifted to lead God’s people in faithfulness.