Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God turned my world upside down!”

“God turned my world upside down!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“In the beginning God…” are the four words that turned my world upside down. My hope is that they will do the same to you! These words are reality. Reality is that uncomfortable truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some may think that reality is what you make of it or believe it to be. Try standing in front of a brick wall and imagining that its not there. Then try running as fast as you can in the belief (even strongly held) that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious. So too is the absolute and ultimate reality declared throughout the Bible.

Like that figurative wall, God’s words knocked me off of my throne. The truth that God is the only eternal Being is central to the Christian Faith. In addition, the words of Genesis 1:1 declare reality to all mankind.

God’s words given to Moses declare there was a time when nothing existed; therefore, it follows that God made everything out of nothing! Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. By the sovereign command of God all Creation was made. The Creator changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life, to think that I was “in charge.”

In making me a new creation, He gave me new desires, specifically a new desire, a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being. All things that exist proceed from Him. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh in Greek (I’m paraphrasing). It is Jesus.” (Read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel).

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature (me) could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28 ESV, the claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me re-phrase. Before there was anything there was God. He chose a time to make everything out of nothing. Opposed to this is the view of eternal matter. A once great philosopher of the 20th Century, Carl Sagan said, “The cosmos is all there ever was or ever will be.” Acceptance of this view, in my opinion, requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1, ESV

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you respond to the reality that you’re not in control?

Critics say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” This supremely points to Jesus Christ, but is significant for the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But, for the sake of repetition, it would be like ignoring the wall I mentioned in my introduction. So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator?

If you’ve gotten this far, I believe that another question has arisen in your mind. And, this is a necessary question: “If God has sovereign, supreme authority and control, why am I responsible for my actions?” An honest question deserves an honest answer. Let me suggest a beginning in answering this question. A biblical principle, one grounded in logic is that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are not contradictory. All men are responsible for what they do, there is no exception. Yet, God is sovereign over every action. Each statement is independent of the other.

You are responsible to examine your life in light of God’s sovereignty!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Celebrate October 31st!”

Celebrate October 31st!
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you profess Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, October 31st is a day to celebrate. Christians celebrate this day called “All Hallows Eve” because on it Martin Luther nailed 95 indictments, called theses, on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. He was protesting the Church’s practice of selling indulgences. The practice was used to raise money both to build churches and fund the Crusades. It was based in the false doctrine of Purgatory. Purgatory was taught to be the place where people would go after death to fill up their punishment for their sinful lives. It was a kind of intermediate state between heaven and hell. Yet Purgatory was a temporary place. Those living could contribute to the Church so that their deceased loved ones’ time in Purgatory could be shortened.

While Luther’s 95 Theses did not discuss the doctrine of Purgatory, they did point to the major error of the church at that time. The major error demonstrated by the false doctrine of Purgatory was that the Church had set herself over and above the Bible. This unlawful authority became the Formal Cause of the Reformation. In opposition to the Church’s unlawful authority, the Reformers coined the phrase Sola Scriptura. Sola Scripture or Scripture Alone states that the word of God has ultimate authority.

Spurious doctrines like the doctrine of Purgatory were established by the magisterium of the Church whose leaders believed that they had authority over the Scriptures and used false doctrine to manipulate people.

The Protestant Reformers were not inventing new or novel ideas. The name Protestant was derived from the German Princes who protested along with Luther against the Church. Further, the Reformers believed that the church should always seek to reform herself in accordance with the written word of God. They were not offering an alternate perspective on salvation but were declaring and teaching the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the revealed truth.

The main issue that concerned the 16th Century Reformers was authority. The Latin phrase Sola Scriptura, which means Scripture Alone, identifies the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the Church or God?”

The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. It also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. The Reformers saw the Church usurping the authority that belonged to God. The Church only has a granted authority. The Church’s authority only exists under the word of God.

To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible has ultimate authority over all including leaders in the Church.

God established the church (Dt. 7:6-8; Eph. 4:11), civil government (Rom. 13:1-7) and the family (Gen. 1:28; 17:7; Mt. 19:4-6; Eph. 6:1-4). All derive their authority and rightly exercise it under God’s word. His word written, the Bible is the ultimate authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler over all the spheres of life. Men possess a granted authority. When men stand outside of or on the word they are usurping God’s authority.

The Reformers defined the sovereign authority of God with five Latin phrases. They are: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Fides (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be Glory).

Here is the reason for celebrating what the Reformers recovered: salvation was merited by Christ alone. God declares a sinner to be in right relationship with Him through faith alone. Salvation is by Grace Alone. All redemption is for God’s glory Alone!

Phrased differently the truth is: Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the Church; all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him; Christ completed what was necessary for redemption. God, the Holy Spirit applies the finished work of Christ to those whom the Father chooses.

There is no such place as Purgatory. Those who are in Christ have eternal life and go to be with the Lord after this life. The gospel is truly good news because God did for us in Christ that which we could never do! If we belong to Him, we are His forever. God said it that settles it. Amen!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Thinking people required!”

“Thinking people required!”
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, we are not able to think our 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, in thinking, we are told that we don’t have the ability to recognize reality. The general population can’t discern the meaning of what they observe. We have to rely upon those who are the “experts.”

Things that may be clear or at least easily evaluated end up being confused and uncertain. Take for example our current crisis concerning a deadly virus. We are unable it seems to establish basic self-defense measures. We are told that limiting travel from countries in which the virus originated won’t protect us. Surely, I thought, isolation would help in preventing the spread of the virus here. But, the governmental experts have rejected such measures by declaring that not only would isolation not help prevent the spread but it would actually aid in the world’s inability to address the virus.

This is just one example that is on many people’s minds. The fact that such statements are uncritically accepted is symptomatic of a general problem, as I see it. The problem is the inability or unwillingness to think critically. Critical thinking has been maligned in our present day. We are a people that base decisions on our feelings.

The evangelical church in the west has been infected by the same disease. Feelings trump critical thinking!

Romans 12:2 stands opposed to the disease. “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 “health and 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 this philosophy, 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.

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 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 the sins of His people, 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. One must think about his utter hopelessness. A man or woman must come face to face with their sin. We must know that God requires perfection for He is holy. We must acknowledge our sinfulness and turn to Christ who is our only hope. We must rely upon His perfect righteousness in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Train yourself to be a critically thinking person who knows his helplessness!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Preacher’s gone to meddling”

The Preacher’s gone to meddling!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
For a Christian, one of the most important activities is to find a church family in which to invest himself.
Over the years, I’ve heard many Professing Christians say, “I’m looking for a church in which I can…” Some of the criteria I’ve heard used are: I want to find a church in which I can be fed. I want to find a church where I have something in common with those attending. I want to find a church that has something to offer my children. I want to find a church that has uplifting music and the pastor preaches relevant sermons.

Rarely, if ever, have I heard a professing Christian say, “I want to find a Church where the God of the Bible is worshiped and His word is systematically preached and taught.”

This article is intended for those who have been born again by the Spirit of God. In other words, the search for a godly Church Family is a necessity for those who confess Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.

God has revealed that it is the organized church wherein His elect grow up into Christ. He has commanded that His people invest their gifts and talents in a local church. He has ordained that there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside of the visible church because the church is commanded to proclaim the gospel which is the power of God to save! Finally, He has commanded His people to worship Him alone, both individually and corporately.

Those who have been made “new creations” by God don’t go to church; they are the church!

Still there is a challenge in our Western Evangelical World. The Church has incorporated a business model to attract people. Christians are faced with a smorgasbord of “Church Offerings.” Churches seem to produce a never-ending array of programs and methods. People, even Christians are taken in by snappy worship services that employ skits and entertaining music. Christians have come to assume that the purpose of Corporate Worship is to lift them up.

Churches have segregated congregations by age groups. Worship Services are designed for Youth or children. There are even churches that offer worship services for the elderly.

Many elders in churches that have elders are young Christians. There is a sense that Church leadership must be a part of the Youth Culture in order to be attractive and relevant. The idea that the wisdom of gray haired men might actually be a blessing has fallen on hard times.

Now, please don’t think that I am speaking against the giftedness of young men. On the contrary, I believe that as Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, the young can learn from their elders and thereby grow in their giftedness.

So how is this meddling Pastor advising the believer in his quest for a church in which to invest?

May I suggest that the believer searching for a church should look to the word of God to light his path.

Most importantly, we all must understand God’s revealed purpose for His Church. In the Old Testament, God commanded the church to be holy, Leviticus 11:44. The Apostle Peter repeated God’s command, 1Peter 1:15-16. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’

Let me offer a radical statement. The church is not about us; it is about God! The church is commanded to direct us to God. The church worships God. He speaks to us in His word. We are convicted by His Holy Spirit. We gather with others who have been set apart by God to worship Him.

God does not want to make you a better you. God wants to change you to be more like Christ, that is, if you have been justified (declared right with Him). God will not make you feel better about yourself, if you are living in opposition to His word. He may indeed humble you and bring you to your knees.

My meddling advice is to seek a church where God is glorified. Join a church where you can learn the truth and be convicted to “grow up” in Christ. In summary, seek a Church Family that pursues godliness and equips you to join God as He extends His Kingdom!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Know the truth; your life depends upon it!”

“Know the truth; your life depends upon it!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7

Some in the church seem to live in a vacuum. Some emphatically preach and teach that the church needs to return to her pristine state. They suggest that the problem today is that the church should be more like the one in the New Testament. They surmise that a New Testament-like church is the only one in which the truth is heard.

The problem is they don’t specify to which New Testament Church we should return. Perhaps we should look to the Church in Corinth which failed to discipline herself, or perhaps the Church in Colossae which entertained gnostic teaching.

Perhaps we should look to the Church of the Old Testament for our model. Sadly, Israel’s track record was one of rebellion and idolatry. Surely, this model falls short of perfection as well.

Yet, against all the unfaithfulness recorded in the Bible of the people of God stands the truth that Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it, Matthew 16:18.

I suggest that the problem is that too often the church has failed to preach the truth.

Jude wrote that we are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3. Pastors and Teachers in the church are accountable to God to declare the pure gospel. There is only one gospel. Christ died for the sins of His people in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. He was buried and He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Old Testament, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is the good news of God. Very early in the New Testament false teachers crept into the church and were perverting this good news of God.

For example, Paul was amazed that the members of the church easily accepted perverted teaching. It was inconceivable to him that those whom the Holy Spirit had raised from death to life were now seeking to earn their salvation because some false teacher told them that it was necessary.

You may say, “We have grown such that we would never receive such a perverted teaching.” Yet, I’ve met many professing Christians who believe that members of a Cult are Christians because they use the name Jesus and live moral lives. We hear leaders say that Muslims are worshiping the same God as do Christians. Yet, Islam refutes the reality that Jesus is God.

We even read of Evangelical Christian Leaders who have joined forces with those who believe in a perverted gospel for the sake of some moral enterprise. When Paul wrote Galatians, approximately A.D. 48, Rome was the ruling authority. History has recorded much of the moral perversions practiced in the Roman Empire. The Jews represented those who practiced and taught strict moral behavior. Yet when it came to the church joining forces with them to stand against immorality, Paul said that the gospel was the central concern of the church. He said that those who were preaching a different gospel than the one they received and he preached were accursed, Galatians 1:9.

As there have always been elements of corruption in the Church, there has always been a faithful remnant. The Church of Jesus Christ will prevail. We have God’s word for it. Those who say that they are Christian yet do not accept that He is the only Son of God, the eternally begotten One, are not Christians. Those who refuse to accept that He is fully God and fully Man are not Christians. Those who say that Jesus was a prophet like Mohamed do not worship the God of the Bible! Those who reject the doctrine of the Trinity are not Christians.

Test what you hear. Be like the Bereans. “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11 Abide in Jesus’ words; know the truth; be free!

I urge you to find a serious Bible Study Group where you will learn who God is and how He has ordained that we might have a relationship with Him.