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.