Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Fact or Feeling”

“Fact or Feeling”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Jesus was asked by a lawyer to tell him the “great commandment of the Law.” Jesus gave a direct answer. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

God has commanded that every faculty, every part of what He has made us is to submit to Him in total devotion. Proceeding out of this primary command is our behavior towards others.

This is the summary of the Law and the Prophets. In the New Testament we learn more of God’s provision to enable His people in applying this command. For example, The Apostle Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.” Romans 12:1-2

I am a Christian Pastor writing to fellow Christians. You may be reading this and wondering why, you as a Christian need to have some pastor write about what you already know?

Here’s my answer: I have found that professing Christians may have memorized these verses and if not memorized, at least are quite familiar with them. Likely, you have attended Sunday School Classes concerning God’s command given to mankind and His expectations which these verses emphasize. Yet, I must tell you that I’ve lost count of how many times Christians have told me that they make choices and decisions in life based upon what they feel will make them happy.

In one sense, this is simply an expression of our fallen nature. We will do what we want to do. We will do those things that we “feel” are right. We succumb to the thought that God wants us to be “happy”, whatever that means!

The God of the Universe, the One who said He has all authority in heaven and earth, Matthew 28:18 has revealed His divine attributes and thereby the means by which we, His creatures can have a relationship with Him. The point is that all of who we are includes the minds that God has given us. By His grace and mercy, we are not those who have been left in bondage to our desires and feelings. God sovereignly enters our minds and pierces our hearts. God makes us new creations in Christ, 2Corinthians 5:17.

The Apostle Paul was very clear in writing inspired Scripture. “Be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” Christians should be examples of those who engage their minds to seek God’s will.

Christianity is certainly more than simply a religion. It is that. But, it is supremely about a relationship. Christianity is God’s revealed means to have a relationship with Him. This is propositional truth. God has given one way. He has revealed that a right relationship with Him is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

By God’s grace this fact is ordained by Him to be lived. As God reveals more of Himself, we are confronted by our creatureliness. We depend upon Him to cause us to “renew our minds.” We are the ones intentionally seeking understanding of what He has said. Yet He is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

God’s command is to our whole person. The word translated by our English word love means total devotion. Therefore, God’s command to love Him with our heart, mind, soul and strength encompasses all of us. The heart is the seat of our wills, the motivator of our actions. It is not simply our emotions, although the heart includes our emotions. The heart must be informed by our minds. Our minds must be renewed by the word of God. Don’t be led astray by your feelings. Engage your mind with the word of God so as to be transformed. Then you will be able to test and discern God’s will, His good and perfect will. This, beloved, is a fact not a feeling!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Matter of Interpretation?

“A Matter of Interpretation?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Permit me to make an assertion. The Bible is the most important book in existence. More aptly, the Bible is a collection of 66 books that will change your life!

Yet not only is the Bible the least understood literature in our day. It is the most distorted as well. We’ve been led to think that what is contained in the Bible is a matter of individual interpretation. There are as many opinions concerning the meaning of a particular passage as there are readers. But, here is the harsh reality. Every interpretation cannot be right. In fact, there is only one right interpretation of any particular passage. Logically, different and opposing interpretations may all be wrong. But they cannot all be right. There are some very difficult passages of Scripture that we may never be able to arrive at the right interpretation, at least not until we get to glory.

God gave us the Bible because He is a God who desires to be known. The Bible is His revelation of Himself and how we, as His creatures are to relate to Him. Therefore in general, it is possible for us to understand what God has said.

The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such clear and indisputable doctrine. It is clearly revealed by God that men (or women) are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

How is it, then that we can navigate through the myriad of personal interpretations of the Bible?

The answer is hermeneutics, interpretation. There are two principles by which we are able to interpret Scripture. The first is called the biblical principle. The second is called the literal principle. The biblical principle is also referred to as the analogy of faith. The Protestant Reformers did not discover this principle, they merely recovered it. They understood the importance of the biblical principle which means that the Bible interprets itself. The clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. In other words, there are no contradictions in the Bible. In addition, the Old Testament is understood in light of the New Testament. There may be an apparent contradiction, but once studied we find consistency throughout because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue. God does not contradict Himself!

The second principle, the literal one, also called the historical/grammatical principle means that the plain meaning of the text is always sought. You may have heard the saying that, “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.

Furthermore, the Bible is literature. Recognizing literary devices and usages must be considered in arriving at a literal understanding of a particular passage. Grammar, the meaning of words, the context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in discovering the literal and plain meaning. It is important to remember that the literal interpretation of the Bible is not the same as a literalistic interpretation. 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! John 10 was declaring that Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

With these tools in mind, the biblical and literal principles of interpretation, you can then seek to understand what God has said so as to apply it for His glory. Guard yourself against the purveyors of subjective interpretations of the Bible. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beauty of Holiness”

“The Beauty of Holiness”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” Psalm 96:9

I have observed that the first three words of Psalm 96:9 are among the most ignored words of Scripture in the Western Church. Before the meaning of the “splendor or beauty of holiness” can be applied in worship, we must understand the command to worship.

“Worship the LORD,” means God alone is to be worshiped. The Psalmist commanded God’s people to “worship the LORD!” Yet, a cursory look at the contemporary church, reveals that her worship is designed to reflect on what God has done for us rather than on who He is. As I have read some of our “experts” concerning worship, most often their recommendations surround how we can attract people through the kind of music and skits, etc. offered. We’ve even used technology to simulcast a pastor’s message to remote locations. People gather around a screen eagerly anticipating a “relevant” message and are treated to the latest in contemporary music.

In the face of such methods, God’s word delivers clear application. “Worship the LORD!” The Psalmist’s point is to declare to God’s people that God is the object of worship, not us. When God’s people gather for worship on the Lord’s Day it is not primarily an opportunity for evangelism, or worse, entertainment. It is the time to submit to God’s word and declare His praises.

Does this seem like a radical thought? I’ve stopped asking professing Christians, “Why did you choose to join your church?” The answers vary from the engaging music to a good program for my children or relevant “how to” sermons. Almost never is the response, “I chose my church family because God is worshiped there.”

If you are a Christian, you know that God made you to worship Him. I’m not writing against those times when we might attend preaching conferences or even Christian concerts. Those events can be used by God to edify and educate as well as lift our spirits. But, they do not constitute corporate worship on the Lord’s Day nor should they.

Psalm 96 is entirely focused on God’s majesty, sovereignty and holiness. Everything belongs to God and is for Him. Worship is a work of God’s people for God. This, by the way, is the meaning of the word “liturgy.” It is humbling to realize that I am not the center of life. This principle is not only humbling for individuals but it compels all mankind to submit to our Creator. Life is not about us. All life, all that God created is about Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16b. Jesus is the subject of Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the focus of everything and He is the object of worship. Christians worship the one true God who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has fully revealed Himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ who is the Second Person of the Trinity.

The psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” He affirmed that there is no other object to which thanks can or should be given both individually and corporately. God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift. Believers desire to worship Him!

None of us are immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. I believe this is most clearly seen in what is called worship in our day.

There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. May we all examine our worship. Specifically, may we re-think the content of our worship so as to make it clear that God is being worshiped and the Name of Jesus is being exalted.

Theologians and pastors have known that the first evidence of deterioration in the faith of the church is demonstrated by her worship.

Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman re: worship. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:22-23

Worship is repeated four times in these two verses. God has a high expectation of worship. May we who profess the Name of Jesus likewise submit to Him in the “beauty of holiness” as true worshipers.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Truth Will Set You Free!”

“The Truth Will Set You Free!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’

Free from what?” I can hear the rugged individualist’s response. “I am free! I can do whatever I want.” Indeed everyone can do whatever he or she wants to do. The problem is what he wants. God said that every inclination of man’s heart is only evil continually, Genesis 6:5. To understand our bondage, we must submit ourselves to the revealed truth of God. In so doing, Jesus said we will be set free. In order to submit to the truth, God must give eyes to see and ears to hear which He alone does by regenerating those whom He chooses.

Every time I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth only because God breathed life into me! The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

Knowing objective truth, it is frustrating to hear the so-called news reports. Instead of news, we often get the latest spin on the news. We value commentary on events rather than the facts. We are more impressed by form and presentation than content. Politicians speak around the truth. The truth is used rather than told. Sadly, the evangelical church is often no better than the world in speaking the truth.

Yet, the fact remains, there is ultimate truth. God has revealed the truth. His creation reveals His divine attributes, power and majesty, Romans 1:19. He has revealed Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 14:6. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can: know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3, know ultimate truth or be set free.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth. The freedom of which Jesus spoke is freedom from the bondage of sin.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her. The natural man is in bondage to sin and deserves hell.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.”

There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is received and believed on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers. Likewise, we who are Christians should demand that our leaders speak the truth and live the truth.

Look at the Apostle Peter’s testimony. He stood before very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. This is the truth that will set men free!

Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth leads to acting upon it. Knowing this truth ought to cause us to rejoice and be compelled to learn more of God’s truth in order to live in accordance with it.