Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Time to Praise the Lord”

“A Time to Praise the Lord”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Prophet Jeremiah was reluctantly taken with those who sought the protection of Egypt. They rejected the word of God spoken by Jeremiah and fled from the Babylonians. While in exile the Prophet wrote these words: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! …But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”’ Lamentations 3:19ff

This I call to mind! Twenty Nine years ago, God broke into my heart. I look back and know that I was born again on January 29, 1986. Jeremiah’s words drew me to think back on God’s steadfast love for me. It is indeed a time to praise the Lord!

Every believer has a story of how God changed his life. My story is different, but God’s work of changing a sinner into a saint is the same for all of God’s people.

God doesn’t want to make us better people. He doesn’t want to smooth out our rough edges. No! God changes us. In a moment, in a flash, God makes everyone He chooses a new Creation, 2Corinthians 5:17.

Since that day, twenty nine years ago, I have been experiencing God’s mercies. Indeed they are “new every morning.” Now I look back and by God’s grace am able to see His hand in my every decision and circumstance. All along I thought that I was planning my steps, But, God was working out His plan for me that He established in eternity, Ephesians 2:10.

On January 29, 1986 God snatched me from the pit of hell. Whether you want to admit it or not, we all deserve to go to hell. I was heading to hell and was unaware of it. In fact, I never considered that God would ever judge me. I looked around me and thought that I was a better person than most. I was sure that at the end of the day my good deeds would outweigh my bad ones. Surely, God would be pleased to accept me. I never heard nor would I have accepted that all men and women are born spiritually dead. We are by nature children of God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3.

God poured out His grace to me using a serious automobile accident to break me physically and spiritually. It was only by the providence of God that I survived the accident. The paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I was flown to a hospital in a larger city in Florida for treatment. Almost every bone in my body was broken. I sustained serious nerve damage as a result of spinal injury. My jaw was broken in two places. It had to be wired back together. As a result of head trauma, I didn’t regain stable consciousness until four days afterwards. When I awoke, I had a burning desire to run to Jesus. I had little knowledge of the truth of God, yet I had an unquenchable desire to know Him. By God’s sovereign grace, He raised me from death to life. He regenerated me. I was born from above!

Before God’s act of regeneration, I was blind to Him. I dare not boast of my faith in Christ. From beginning to end it is all by God’s grace. Jesus said that no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again, John 3:3, 5. God calls, regenerates, converts, justifies, adopts, sanctifies and glorifies. From the moment that God regenerates a man or woman, He begins His work of free grace called sanctification.

Over the weeks and months of recuperation, my desire for God grew. I read the Bible. I desired to worship God. I started to teach a small group Bible study. After five years, I was convicted by God to learn how to better teach His Word. He led me to seminary to learn and grow in Christ.

I have been an ordained minister of the gospel since 1994 and the Lord continues to show me His “mercies every morning.” Every day is a day to praise God but remembering what He did twenty nine years ago caused me to be filled anew with joy in Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why does the church exist?”

Why does the church exist?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The visible church is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and 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 and revealed her marks. He chose to use her to reach the lost. Likewise, God gave the church one reason to exist. The clearest word describing existence is purpose. In this sense, purpose is a reason for being. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ, God has given the church a singular purpose. The purpose or reason for being of the church is to be holy. God commanded His people to be holy because He is holy, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.

It is a common error to think that the purpose of the church is her ministries. Activities such as preaching, teaching, liturgy, and programs are often used to define the purpose of the church. But unless God’s revealed reason for the church’s existence is the foundation of all the work done the church fails to be faithful to God’s call. Put in another way, unless we understand who and what we are to be, what we do is of little value in the Kingdom.

The purpose of the church is holiness. The reason for the existence of the church is to be what God has commanded. Be holy! The basic meaning of holy is unique and set apart. The range of meaning includes purity and perfection. God is described as holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8. God set the church apart. The word used in the Bible and translated “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “called out”. God called a people who were not a people. God called His people out of the world to be different. Even though believers live in the world we are not of the world.

The clarity of God’s revelation on this issue is undeniable. Yet, there is a persistent problem. The problem is man’s sin, specifically pride. Some church leaders have taken it upon themselves to define the church’s purpose in pragmatic terms. They suggest that the reason for the church’s existence is found in what is done, especially what “works” by their definition. Usually, “what works” is defined in terms of numerical or financial growth.

Chuck Colson wrote in “Against the Night” that the church was becoming just like the world. D.L. Moody once compared the church to a ship in the sea. “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, but 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 saw coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church, Ephesians 5:25 to make her holy.

It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. The individual members of the church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, Ephesians 1:4. God doesn’t leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.

Christian, God commands you to be holy!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Relevance”

“Relevance”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

I’ve been thinking a lot, as I’m sure many have, about the state of our world. The world again witnessed evil. Islamic terrorists perpetrated murder in the name of their god. I’m not about to write an article on Islam. But, I do know that the range of practice within Islam depends upon one’s interpretation of the Koran and the writings of Muhammad. Actions are dependent upon either a literal or liberal interpretation of the source documents.

Learning what world religions believe, especially Islam would be beneficial. But, more important than knowing about world religions is to know the true religion, which expresses worship of the one true God.

Just a cursory reading of the basics of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. reveals that they contradict Christianity. Whether one is a believer or not, it is readily obvious that the one true God revealed in the Bible and fully in Jesus Christ is not the god of Islam or Judaism. Even though both are monotheistic religions (believe in one god).

Jesus said that He is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him, John 14:6. Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God and Jesus Christ, the one whom He sent, John 17:3. Jesus said that before Abraham was “I Am”, John 8:58. Jesus is the “Great I Am”!

Christianity is exclusive. God’s revealed truth contradicts every other religion. God’s word broke into the pagan culture that surrounded Israel. God said, “In the beginning (He) created the heavens and the earth”, Genesis 1:1.

The issue of relevance ought to be a concern of every man and woman. Relevance means “relation to the matter at hand”, Webster’s Dictionary. Our faith relates to the matter at hand because it is true. It guides our actions.

The object of our faith is the one true God revealed in His only Son, Jesus. Further, Christianity is grounded in the word of God written which is without error, reliable, sufficient and clear. Therefore, Christianity is relevant in every situation and circumstance.

How is our faith relevant in the face of such evil as was witnessed in France? It is relevant because the word in which it is based shows us that which is good, right and true.

Relevant application begins with recognizing evil. God declared a woe to those who call evil good or good evil, Isaiah 5:20. God’s word calls us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him, Micah 6:8.

Genuine Christians confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. Therefore, the relevance of the Christian Faith calls us to confront evil. We are to do what is in our power in standing against those who murder in the name of their god. We see them as agents of Satan who is the real enemy of all that is good, right and true.

We who are Christians expect our leaders to do what is right. When we see otherwise, the natural tendency is to despair at the weakness and ignorance of some of our elected officials. Yet despair should be far from those who profess Christ.

Christians do not place their hope in men. Our hope is in God. We know that He is holy and that He will execute His wrath against all unrighteousness.

We have hope because God has given us eyes to see and ears to hear the voice of the Savior. The hope that He gives is eternal. No one can rob us of the joy that is in Christ Jesus.

God sees the evil that men do. He will execute judgment against all evil doers.

Every genuine Christian has been given the Holy Spirit. His grace works in everyone who belongs to Jesus to live in accordance with His will. He is the Rock who gives us the strength to stand against evil.

I am not discouraged. I am filled with certainty. I don’t place my confidence in men. My certainty is in the God who spoke and all Creation came into being. My certainty is in the One who said, I will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5. My certainty is in the Risen Lord Jesus who will come again to pour out His wrath on evil. The relevance of Christianity is demonstrated by living it.

Pastor’s Viewpoints: “The Bottom Line”

“The Bottom Line”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We’re always interested in knowing the Bottom Line. The Bottom Line is an expression used to refer to the final number on a balance sheet. It’s often figuratively used to describe the final benefit of choosing a course of action. More importantly, there is a Bottom Line of all life! The Bottom Line of life is to “Fear God and keep His commandments, Ecclesiastes 12:13. God used the man whom He made the wisest one who ever lived, Solomon, to declare the “Bottom Line”.

I am continually amazed that most people don’t seem to be aware of God’s Bottom Line or even care that they are held accountable to meet it. This is serious enough, but it is disastrous for the church to fail to make her members aware of this ultimate standard.

Christians used to be known by God’s Bottom Line. We used to be referred to as “God-Fearers”. Fearing God is not a very popular topic in the church these days. Yet the response of those who know the one true God, even Jesus Christ whom He sent, is to fear Him!

As the church gathers for worship the fear of God is to be demonstrated!

Therefore, the church’s leaders are not benefiting their members by failing to teach the fear of God. We teach it first by submitting ourselves to Him and then by instructing/discipling believers to live under His word.

Three texts of Scripture come readily to mind: Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 provide God’s clear revelation of how He expects His people to stand before Him.

Solomon expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon’s conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits was: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

In addition, the Apostle Peter declared the fear of God to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Fearing God is to be in awe of Him; to tremble before Him and to revere Him supremely.

Both Solomon and Peter based their exhortations on an underlying assumption.

Their assumption was given by Jesus. Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is God’s answer. Men are to fear God because of who He is and what He can do. Jesus’ words are clear. He said that only God has absolute sovereignty over His creatures. Therefore, He must be approached in humility. We are finite. He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Why fear God? We fear God because He is!

How many think that their lives are hidden before God? How many are blind to the truth that they are created beings? How many give explanations for creation that fit within their limited understanding? How many think that there is no God to fear?

We fear God because, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Everything you see around you is there because of our Creator God. We have been made to worship God. He is to be feared. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. Fear God, it’s the ultimate “Bottom Line”. Fear Him by your life. Fear Him in Corporate Worship!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eyes of Beholders”

“The Eyes of Beholders”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Now, hold on. Why is a pastor who believes in absolute truth writing about the eyes of beholders?

Good question, in fact, I am amazed that this subject would need to be addressed to the church! I confess. I am aware that there are those in positions of leadership who believe there are no absolutes and two views of the same reality can yield two “different truths” opposed to each other. I am amazed that some actually believe them.

This confusion is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that is concerned with reality. 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 no absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

One of the most concerning applications of our culture’s current world view is determining the “right” or “wrong” of an issue by popular vote or court action. Two such examples come to mind. They are marriage and abortion. Our current societal views on these topics continue to be based upon Man-Centered views rather than God-Centered ones. The definition of marriage is often changed as a result of popular sentiment or activist movements. Likewise the decision to end the life of an unborn baby is said to be a woman’s right by edict of a Federal Court. Sadly, we are told that the minority report is, “God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman” or “God is the author of life.”

In both cases, the underlying issue is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. In other words, Jesus is reality. In order to fully understand reality, Jesus, God’s Only Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, must be at the center. Truth which is reality is not in the eye of the beholder and no society can exist very long if reality is ignored.

Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

The world view that is the basis of confidence and security is the one that has God at the center of life. Here is the truth that all mankind will face in one way or another. The God of the Bible is the Creator. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

That which is true is true for all or not true at all. I am accountable as a Minister of the Gospel to clearly state that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary for all men and women, believer and unbeliever. The reason is obvious. Truth, reality, is not in the “eye” of the beholder. We don’t vote to determine the truth. We simply receive it and live it.

There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

What is your world view? How do you decide what is right or wrong? Are you waiting to see which way the wind blows in culture before deciding your course of action? I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.