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.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Advent, Part 1”

“The Advent, Part 1”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The great excitement in the Church has encompassed the secular world. This excitement surrounds the annual celebration of the Incarnation. The Season of Advent is a time to prepare for the Coming One. December 25th was a date selected by the Church around the fourth Century to call Christendom to remember the miracle of the Incarnation and to be ready for Jesus’ second coming. Christmas is the celebration of Part 1 of the Advent! In Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins, He told His disciples, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13

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

The Incarnation was so important that God progressively revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we receive as the absolute truth. Our hope of eternal life is real because the only Son of God took upon Himself human nature.

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

The first explicit revelation is that the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He voluntarily set aside His glory.

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

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

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

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

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

But, the Advent, Part 2 will come at any time! “Watch therefore…!”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why the Church?”

“Why the Church?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Once again, I sense a need to write concerning the Church. Specifically, why does the Church of Jesus Christ exist? The clear and simple truth is that the Church exists for the same reason every believer exists. The Church exists for the glory of God. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A #1. This doctrinal statement proceeds from God’s command given to the Church in the Old Testament and repeated by the Apostle Peter. 1Peter 1:15, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

The visible church, the one we see, is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and includes their children. Every local church that teaches Jesus is fully God and fully Man, the second person of the Trinity is part of the universal visible church. The Protestant Reformation described the true church, the visible church as every church that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical church discipline.

God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” But God has also organized the visible church. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:11-12. Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the world-wide visible church of Jesus Christ.

God organized the church, revealed her marks and chose to use her to reach the lost. But all these things are not God’s purpose for His Church!

I use repetition for emphasis and specificity. The Church’s purpose is not to preach the gospel. The Church’s purpose is not to minister to the needy. The Church’s purpose is not to attract people. Surely, the Church’s purpose is not to entertain, offer programs, or present snappy skits or give testimonies. To summarize, the Church’s purpose is not whatever may loosely be listed under ministries.

The God-given purpose of the Church concerns being not doing. The singular purpose for the existence of the Church is to glorify God by being holy!

“Purpose” is defined as the reason for existence or being. The revealed reason for the church’s existence is to obey God’s command to be holy! Simply stated the church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. The range of meaning spans being set apart to being pure and perfect. God gave His church purpose; He declared that the church was set apart by Him and for Him. By God’s definition, the Church is to be different than the world.

In Chuck Colson’s “Against the Night”, he observed that the church had become or was at least striving to become just like the world. The current state of evangelicalism supports Colson’s assessment. D.L. Moody once compared the visible church to a ship in the sea. He said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the Church is in the world, God help the Church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the Church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the holy Jerusalem that the Apostle John was allowed to see coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church, Ephesians 5:25 to make her holy. God chose His people before the foundation of the world in Christ so that those chosen would be holy and blameless in His sight, Ephesians 1:4.

For the Church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. God doesn’t leave His command to be holy to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer; and the normal means through which He does so is within the visible Church.

Let me be frank. If you find yourself in a Church that demonstrates a different purpose, believes that non-believers should be entertained leave and search for one that pursues holiness by the grace of God. If you are in a Church that affirms God’s purpose of holiness, pray for, support and encourage your pastor and elders.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Don’t stop at knowing!”

“Don’t stop at knowing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Applying the science of biblical interpretation, will enable us to know what God has said. Once we arrive at what He said, there is a tendency to stay there. I would exhort you to move forward to apply what God has said. One area of applying what God has said concerns joining a local church. There are some in the evangelical world which place a very low priority on church membership. There is one clear observation that we can make concerning the New Testament. The human authors, especially the Apostle Paul did not write much on church membership because he assumed that those whom Christ made His own would naturally seek to invest themselves in a local body of believers. Church membership was assumed.

A genuine believer is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God working in concert with the Word of God. When God raises the spiritually dead, He makes him a new creation. As a new creation, He gives new desires. Believers have a desire to worship God, or you may be used to saying, “Go to Church.” Therefore, believers desire to find a body of believers with whom they can worship God.

The biblical doctrine of adoption necessitates Church Membership. God Adopts the sinner into His family by an act of His free grace. The adopted are heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. We know that the Bible teaches that God sanctifies those whom He adopts into His family. Sanctification is God’s process of change in every believer. He works in each one causing him to respond by the ongoing mortification of sin. Believers work out their own salvation because God, the Holy Spirit works in them to make them more and more like Christ.

Likewise, the Bible teaches that salvation is God past act, His ongoing work and His future promise. Christians have been saved, are being saved and will be saved! The Christian’s desire to worship God with brothers and sisters in Christ is the motivation to invest in a local church. Church membership is the God-ordained normal means by which Christians live out their adoption.

Christians gather to: praise God, pray to Him, and hear Him speak both in the reading and proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

Believers grow spiritually by participating in corporate worship. Therefore, finding a church is critical for living in Christ, applying God’s adoption. A believer desires a church in which he can grow up into Christ. As a result, it is necessary to know what constitutes a “true church”, that is, one that preaches the pure word, administers the two sacraments as Christ ordained them and exercises biblical Church Discipline. These three marks of a true church were re-discovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century.

These three marks are revealed in the Bible. They are necessarily present in every local congregation that calls itself “Christian.” For emphasis I repeat them. The first mark is that the pure word of God is preached. The second is that the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution. The third is that Church Discipline is exercised in accordance with God’s word.

Christians are often deceived by pragmatists and others who base supreme value on “what works” to grow in numbers. Christians too often seek churches with the right programs, or an age group of those of similar life circumstances. It sometimes seems that God-centered worship and ministry has fallen on “hard times”, especially in the American Evangelical Church.

But, against man-centeredness stand the marks of a true church. I encourage all who profess Christ to seek out such a local church. Be intentional about seeking a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. God has ordained that Christians will grow spiritually through the ministry of a local church centered on Him. Don’t settle for fancy or entertaining skits, programs or social circles. If you are the father of a family, you not only need the spiritual growth possible in a faithful church, but your wife and, if the Lord has blessed you, your children need to be in a church that is God-honoring, Christ-exalting and Bible-centered. Once you find one, invest your God-given gifts and talents for the glory of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Know What God Has Said!”

“Know What God Has Said!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The statement I often hear in Christian circles is not the positive statement above but one that denies the very nature and character of the one true God. The statement is, “No one can know what God has said.” After all isn’t interpreting the Bible simply offering an opinion. What did God say about such a false notion? “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

God, our God is the God of revelation. He desires to be known. He revealed Himself in two ways. We know that He exists because He has revealed His “invisible attributes” by what He has made, Romans 1:19. All Creation declares the glory of God, Psalm 19:1. Further, God has fully revealed Himself in His word written and Incarnate. “Long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” Hebrews 1-2.

It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the Bible is understandable. Yet, many are lost when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Christians are faced with a myriad of interpretations. Christians don’t ask, “Who has the “right” interpretation?” Rather, I’ve heard people say, “They may all be right.” 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.

But, don’t lose heart. The entire Bible does not fall into the category of “difficult”. The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is clear. God has revealed that men are born dead in sin and are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

To know what God has said, the church has applied the science of interpretation called hermeneutics. There are two principles by which we 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. No one place of Scripture may be placed against another. In other words, there are no contradictions in the Bible. There may be apparent contradictions, but the Bible is consistent with itself. God does not speak with a “forked” tongue.

The second principle, the literal one, also called the historical/grammatical principle. “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.

The literal principle seeks to understand that which is plainly meant. It is how we read and understand any literature. Therefore, genre, grammar, meaning of words, context, and the time of the writing are involved in discovering the meaning. Figurative language is also taken into account. 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! Jesus meant that He is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

There are many good books. But there is only one that is life, Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4. I urge you to find a Church which will equip you to know the word of God and apply it for His glory!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “More Than One Day”

“More Than One Day”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The meal is finished. The extended family has left. Now, it’s time to get ready for Christmas. Well, no! It’s time to give thanks, rather to continue to give thanks.

We are blessed to have a day for giving God thanks. You may know that George Washington set the day apart to thank God for His providence. We do well to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. But I suggest that thanksgiving is a life style for the Christian.

We list those things that we are thankful for, as our church does at our Thanksgiving Eve Prayer Service. But, God calls His people to respond by giving Him thanks always.

We look at those things that are not of our liking or are less than desirable and regularly complain about them. But we seem to easily forget to thank God for everything, even the bad things, for that is God’s will for us. He said give thanks in all circumstances. God said, “… all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his (God’s) purpose.” Romans 8:28. Therefore, the Church responds with thanksgiving.

One of the greatest celebrations in the Bible was a thanksgiving service. 1Chronicles 16 records King David preparing and implementing a celebration of giving thanks to God. The event that motivated David was the reminder of God’s covenantal promise made visible in the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chr. 16:4

The Ark of the Covenant was designed by God and it contained the stone tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments. There was also with the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the golden urn containing the manna from heaven and the budded staff of Aaron.

King David knew that the people of God needed a visible reminder of His providence. They saw the Ark of the Covenant as a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. The people of God were reminded that He provided their food in the desert. Jesus said that the Father knows what we need and He will provide for our daily sustenance. God’s people in the wilderness were fickle as are we. God gave them a sign of His leading them through Moses and Aaron. When rebellion broke out against Moses and Aaron, God caused Aaron’s staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It became a reminder to the people that God was leading them and would protect them.

Consider what God has given to us! We have been given God’s word written. We hear Him every time we read His word. Every Christian has been given the Holy Spirit who works in concert with the Word to change us and speak to our hearts. God has said that believers can approach His throne of grace with confidence because Jesus has given them access through His shed blood. As we come to the Father in our quiet moments, He has promised to hear us and to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we ask or think.

The above gives abundant reasons for giving thanks. But, God is good beyond all measure. He has given us families, friends, provisions and above all the freedom to worship Him.

In addition, Christians have the Holy Spirit who testifies to our spirit that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers now have a clearer revelation of God’s working then did the church of the Old Testament. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God.

We have been given this opportunity to offer thanks and to take time for reflection upon the providence of God. Having enjoyed time with family and friends, acknowledge the one who has so graciously provided all that we enjoy.

My prayer is that you continually remember to give thanks to God. He is the source of all that we have. “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 Thank the Lord God from whom all blessings flow! Thank Him especially all who profess to know the Father through Jesus Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Heaven on Earth”

“Heaven on Earth”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The title declares a lie promoted by leaders who seek to cause division by pitting those who see themselves as victims against all others. The so-called oppressed call the objects of their hate ignorant, racist, xenophobic or at a minimum simply not well-informed. The idea of man having the ability to create heaven on earth is rooted in an old, tired and heretical theology. The root of this philosophy is Liberation Theology.

Liberation Theology originated in Latin America in the 60’s within Roman Catholicism. It interprets the entirety of the Christian Faith from the perspective of the poor and oppressed. The most famous spokesman of this movement is Gustavo Gutierrez, a Roman Catholic Priest. He believed that the starting point of theology was a commitment to the poor. A dominant theme of Liberation Theology is social justice. Gutierrez teaches that sin is unjust social systems.

One of the social constructs that was recognized to fit with the system offered by Gutierrez was communism which is the logical end point of socialism. Some refer to both systems, communism and socialism as Marxism.

Our thoughts in relation to this erroneous view of reality are sparked by discussions of: reconciliation or walls/barriers when speaking of race relations, anger over the rule of law or hatred of those who are viewed as having more simply because of their birth.

The lie is rooted in a “small” view of God. Salvation is the relief of oppression. It follows that the imagined oppressors must be made to pay never-ending and retroactive reparations.

One of the biblical texts cited by those who seek heaven on earth is Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” God spoke these words through the Prophet Micah during a time of prosperity. He expected His people, specifically Israel’s leaders, to do justice and to love kindness (mercy) and to walk humbly before Him! God’s expectation is that truth, the rule of law and mercy should be foremost in the mind of everyone who professes Christ. God was not indicating that men could build Utopia on earth. We live in a world that is marred because of the sin of Adam. God subjected all Creation to futility because of Adam’s sin. There is no Utopia, no heaven on earth. Jesus prayed that all of His people would know that they were to live in this world but were not of this world.

God has ordained all civil authorities. He has ordained that those in authority are His ministers for the good and welfare of all people. Yet, there will come a time when this world will be judged. When Christ returns, God’s curse declared in Genesis 3 will be lifted. There will be a “New heaven and a new earth.”

For now, called “The Already”, we live under the rule of law and Christians are to obey the civil government. The Church should be the voice of order. The Church is commanded to preach the true gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. Salvation is to be delivered from the wrath of the Holy God by the Holy God and for the Holy God!

What we saw after our recent National election was the inevitable result of our leaders’ failure to maintain the rule of law without partiality. We live in a nation that is unique in the world. By God’s grace, we all have the right to express our views; to worship God freely; to invest ourselves in the political process as we desire. We don’t have the right to ignore the rule of law; to impose our views on others; to vandalize the property of our fellow citizens; to demean the very men and women who devote their lives to protect and serve all members of society.

May our leaders regain a sense of their duty to uphold the rule of law. May none of us, especially in the church, fall prey to those who teach that there is a heaven on earth. As Paul said to Timothy, may all of our men called to the gospel ministry “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” 2Timothy 4:2 The gospel is our only hope to be in the real heaven!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Living Under God”

“Living Under God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The National Elections of 2016 are over. The results have been finalized. We have all had the opportunity to participate in determining by whom our Republic is governed. I hope that you exercised your right to vote and did so thoughtfully. You are either satisfied with the results or dissatisfied. Now we all face the bigger issue. We, Christians, those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are by God’s word commanded to obey the governing authorities, Romans 13: 1-7. As Christians are to make decisions in light of God’s word, so too are Christians called to live under God’s word.

The means by which we can make good choices in life is to understand that which is real. We are, by definition, people of the “Book”. The “Book” is the word of God written, the Bible. As such, Christians understand that the Bible is altogether true. Therefore, if we seek to know what is the “right” thing to do in any circumstance, we look to God’s word. I’m not being simplistic. I’m not suggesting that the Bible will tell you which car to buy or what house to purchase, etc. Yet, I am proposing that God’s word reveals principles by which we live in response to God’s grace of saving us for eternity.

I believe that confusing choices are a result of failing to recognize reality, otherwise known as absolute truth. Perhaps you have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that concerns reality. Specifically, a world view is a view of reality. There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has not absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Christians develop a God-centered world view in order to live under God.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” Jesus is the truth and God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. He created everything that we see. These two declarations of God form the foundation of developing a God-centered world view.

With this as our foundation, it is necessary to understand what God’s will is. He is truth and He is the Creator, therefore, all men are accountable to Him. Christians especially ought to be concerned with knowing what He requires.

The overarching principle declared by the Holy, Sovereign Creator revealed fully in the Person and Work of Christ is to be holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15-16.

The Apostle Paul declared the way to live under God. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” 1Thessalonians 4:3. The word translated “sanctification” is the word that also is translated as “holy.” Christians are to be guided by God’s word not the world’s system or current cultural depravity. Christians, the Church is to be holy; to seek to be witnesses of the Holy God.

So then, is the choice that you are about to make enabling you to live for God rather than for yourself or someone else? The basic principle of holiness will eliminate unholy choices. If the house that you desire to purchase will put you in bondage to the lender, then your desire is not under God.

If you are tempted to “live together” with a member of the opposite sex, understand that you are choosing to live apart from God. Likewise, if you are desiring something that your neighbor has, your desire is not God’s will for you. If you are seeking a divorce because you “feel” that God’s sole purpose in marriage is your happiness, you are choosing to live outside of God’s will.

There are many more situations in life that can be used as examples of applying God’s principle of holiness, but these are, I believe, sufficient in providing clarity.

As a Pastor, I am accountable to God to ask, “What is your world view?” “How do you decide what is right or wrong?” I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” Therefore, find and join a local church that will enable you to develop a God-centered world view.