Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Made to Worship God”

“Made to Worship God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Our Creator made us for worship. Of course, this statement presupposes that you recognize that there is a God who made everything out of nothing. Those who don’t, called atheists, live in a world that denies reality. When pressed, every atheist will default to some moral code. Their moral code may simply be to do good to others. Even with such a basic code of civilized behavior, atheists must borrow from Judeo-Christian ethics. But my concern is not the unstable world view of atheism. I am concerned that honest men and women understand why God made us. He created us to worship Him!

A basic definition of worship is to love, honor and obey God. Worship is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” Worth- ship is an Old English compound word. It described the devotion and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.

Worship is about our primary relationship, our relationship to God. God commanded worship. But because of sin, men seek to make their own gods. The great reformer, John Calvin said, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413

Therefore, in view of man’s sinfulness, God by His grace declared that He alone was to be worshiped, Exodus 20:1-3. God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.

God, who has revealed Himself in His Word written and Incarnate is the only true object of worship. To make things even more direct, Jesus said that God the Father is the one who seeks worshipers, John 4. Idolatry/false worship was the sin of the Old Testament Church, Israel which continues in the Evangelical Church today!

The Apostle quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God, Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11. Even though God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. We are eager to fulfill our God-given desire to worship and often do so by erecting idols. Our idols are the things that control our lives. The idol of many churches today is self.

Normally in Evangelical Protestant Churches, we don’t see people bowing to or serving carved images as part of their acts of worship and devotion. But, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. We are: loving, honoring and obeying ourselves more than God!

When God is truly worshiped, the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words, love, honor and obey are relational. In our primary relationship, God has established its requirements and conditions. Jesus said, “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. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

However, looking at contemporary worship in churches, the music, the settings, even the preaching are designed for people not for God. Churches are more interested in attracting people than pleasing God. It appears that Churches are more eager to celebrate conservative politics and politicians than adhering to biblical orthodoxy.

Much of evangelical church leadership would serve the church of Jesus Christ well by hearing and applying God’s word. For example, Malachi wrote to those who were practicing man-centered worship, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the door, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain…”. (Malachi 1:10) And, the book of Hebrews warns, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Many Distinctions but Common Truths”

“Many Distinctions but Common Truths”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Biblical Faith includes three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.” Genuine Christians hold certain facts to be true.

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to different Christian Denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, even some significant distinctions, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God in His word.

Theologians and pastors of the early twentieth century called these basic truths the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. These men were given the name, Fundamentalists. They sought to list what every Christian throughout the ages affirmed to be true about God’s plan of redemption. They arrived at five basic truths. History recorded these truths as the Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. They are:
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant; Inerrancy
2. Jesus was born of a virgin; The Virgin Birth
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal and substitutionary; The Atonement
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection; The Bodily Resurrection
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic; The Authenticity of the Miracles
The first is the basis of the other four. The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Bible is without error. It does not refer to translations of the Bible but to the original autographs. Now, if you have been reading and studying the Bible for any length of time, I’m sure you’re aware that we do not possess any original autographs of Scripture. But, we do have thousands of New Testament manuscripts, the blessing of the oral tradition of the Ancient Hebrew people (the Masoretic text), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 B.C.)

Using textual criticism, the original can be reconstructed. For example, nearly all of our English translations are based on the work of the textual critics. The end result is that you can be assured that when you open your Bible and read it you are reading the truth of God. Textual Criticism increases the accuracy of the Bible! It does not challenge it.

Second, the virgin birth was challenged during the period known as the Enlightenment. The fact of Jesus’ birth was challenged because, they said, it’s naturally impossible. But, that’s exactly the point! Jesus was born outside of the natural course. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary. If you look at Genesis 3:15, you’ll notice that it was the “seed” of the woman who would bruise or crush Satan’s head. The Messiah was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. Jesus was the sinless and perfect sacrifice. Without the virgin birth, we’re all still dead in our sins! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2Corinthians 5:21

Third, the atonement of Christ was substitutionary. He took our place. It was penal. He was punished for sin. Jesus bore the full wrath of God. It was full and complete. There is no other sacrifice for sin. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus is the propitiation for “our” sins and not for “ours” only by for the sins of the whole world, 1John 2:2 Jesus’ last words were “It is finished”, John 19:30.

Fourth, a man got out of the grave! The body that was buried was the body raised in glory. The Bible says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we are the most to be pitied, 1Corinthians 15:12-19.

Fifth and finally, miracles are supernatural events. Only God can break into His Created world and ordain a miracle. The miracles recorded in Exodus, of Joshua, of Elijah, of Jesus and Apostles were factual occurrences.

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus said,” Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3. The fact of the matter is; we don’t as Christians make up our faith. We believe in a faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible.

The Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith simply condense and articulate biblical doctrine that all who profess Christ affirm. What do you believe?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Words Have Meaning!”

“Words Have Meaning!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all need to communicate with others. There are fundamental rules assumed in communication. There are rules of logic and the meaning of words.

There are three “Laws” of Thought and Communication/ Logic and Reasoning:
1. The first is the Law of Identity. The following formula is helpful in explaining it:
o If A is A it cannot also be Non-A
2. The second law is the Law of Non-contradiction. The explanatory formula for this law is:
o If A = B, then A does not equal B is excluded.
3. The third law is the Law of the Excluded Middle. It concerns true or false statements:
o True or false is absolute. There can be no Middle (something between true or false for the same thing)
Regardless of whether we know these laws that guide thought, communication and reasoning, they are applied in everything we say, write, read or hear. For example, we know that a car is not a non-car or even a bicycle. Likewise, it is also clear that if a car is the same as a vehicle; it cannot be said that a car is not a vehicle. If it is said that a car is a vehicle and this is a true statement. It cannot also be said of that statement that it is neither true nor false, but something else!

This crude example of logic proceeds from the first rule of communication. The second rule is that words have meaning. We rely upon dictionaries to define the meaning of words and we also take those universal meanings and use the word in a certain context. You may be familiar with the saying, “Text without context is pretext.” Generally, words have a range of meaning. The exact meaning of a word in any given instance depends upon the context in which it is used.

Currently in our culture, there is a disturbing thing that often occurs in communication. For example, we are subjected to words being used to describe men based upon their office. The word “honorable” is often used to describe a man based upon his appearance, office or profession. Now, one’s dress may reflect an effort to show honor. An office may also be described as being honorable. Even one’s profession may be described as honorable. But, appearance, office or profession do not also describe the person who may hold the office or profession.

Wicked or despicable persons may dress honorably; hold an honorable office, or work in an honorable profession. But before defining them as honorable, their behavior, past and present, should be considered.

The example, “honorable” is defined in Webster’s Dictionary. “It is characterized by [a person of] integrity, [who is] guided by a high sense of honor and duty… having or showing honesty and good moral character.” Another source, the American Heritage Dictionary, defines “honorable” as [a person] “deserving or winning honor and respect.” Both definitions are reflective of an individual’s behavior, both past and present.

With the application of these two rules of communication consistently applied, we are able to discern truth from error; facts from innuendo. Just so my communication is clear, innuendos are inferences that a person’s actions are either immoral or improper. As such, innuendos are inferences that lack specific evidence. They are usually based upon feelings about a person or gross assumptions surrounding a person’s life style, wealth or abilities without any empirical evidence.

Recent actions taken by certain governmental officials, as they have been reported, bear reflection. “Honorable” men are reportedly using their positions and professions to advance personal agendas to remove our duly elected President from office. Or, they seek to remove any possibility of his effectiveness because of their personal dislike of him.

I am a Pastor by God’s internal call and the Church’s external affirmation of His call. Yet, I am also a citizen of the United States of America and very proud of my citizenship. I thank God every day that I am able to live in a country that freely allows me to worship God and preach and teach His word. I have listened intently over the past several weeks of the reported actions of our governmental leaders in Washington, D.C.

So-called honorable men, have chosen to ignore the illegal activities of some officials while searching for some perceived crime committed by others. Words do matter. May we all develop our listening skills so as to discern truth from error.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Trustworthiness is Demonstrated!”

“Trustworthiness is Demonstrated!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the most important words that guide life is the word trustworthy. Trustworthy means worthy of trust or reliable. Trustworthiness is a character trait that is demonstrated not fabricated or assumed as a result of holding a certain respectable office.

We all desire to be people that can be trusted, that is, trustworthy. We look for trustworthy people to lead us whether it is in the church or in government and business. We certainly don’t want to follow or submit to someone who can’t be trusted.

“God said, “Let us make man in our image…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26, 27 Human beings bear the image of God. Those attributes of God that He communicated to all men through Adam are called communicable attributes. Question 10 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How did God create man?” The answer is, “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”

The attributes that God gave to us: knowledge, righteousness and holiness set us apart from all the other creatures that God made. The fall of Adam marred these attributes. Yet, they are innate to every single human being. We are able to think and reason. We have a moral code in our nature. We know what is right. We have a desire to be holy as God is holy. Yet we lack the ability to accomplish it.

Nevertheless, these attributes possessed by all mankind are the reasons why trustworthiness is so important to us. We value it in ourselves. We look for it in others. We give respect and honor to those who demonstrate trustworthiness.

We intuitively know that trustworthiness, trust, is the “glue” that holds relationships together. When trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to restore. Relationships are often shattered as a result of a breakdown of trust.

The issue that concerns me is that it seems that our culture has been convinced that trustworthiness is assumed by virtue of holding an important office. We’ve been led to think that if a person holds a certain office he is assumed to be trustworthy.

We find ourselves being disappointed by those whom we’ve selected because of their appearance or style. We learn a painful lesson that character does matter. Appearances are helpful and an aide if a person is trustworthy.

Since trustworthiness proceeds from the character of the God who created man, the perfect standard of trustworthiness is God Himself. The Bible declares that, “The sum of God’s word is Truth.” Psalm 119:160 The Psalmist wrote a clear explanation of genuine trustworthiness. “The works of God’s hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.” Psalm 111:7-8

We know what is trustworthy because God who is trustworthy said it. The Bible is absolutely trustworthy because God is Truth. Jesus, the only Son of God said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 We believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible because “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” 2Timothy 3:16

The question that immediately comes to mind is, “How can we determine if a person is trustworthy?” First, I must state that no one is perfectly trustworthy except God. All men are sinners. Even those who are genuine Christians sin. The Apostle Paul wrote of his personal struggle with sin, Romans 7. He concluded his introspection with these words, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24, 25

But there must be a means by which we can determine a person’s character, his trustworthiness which will be less than perfect but which will demonstrate practical reliability. I suggest that there is a means to determine a man’s level of trustworthiness. The Psalm quoted above holds the key. Psalm 111:6a, “God has shown His people the power of His works.” The key is past behavior and words spoken. The means by which we can determine a man or woman’s trustworthiness is by what they do and what they say.

Don’t be misled. A man or woman of character who is trustworthy consistently acts and speaks truthfully.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Fate of Our Planet”

“The Fate of our Planet”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Christians have a God-centered World View. Those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel to be their Lord and Savior look at reality through the lens of Scripture. This view of reality is what is meant as a God-centered World View.

Over the recent decades, there has been much written concerning the fate of our planet. Specifically, most of what has been written and said has been toward the view that man, civilized man, will destroy our planet. I was in college during the first “Earth Day.” I remember that the majority of us thought little about the motivation for such a movement. In fact, the environmentalist movement started off very small. Yet, in our day it has grown to such a degree that I recently heard a statistic that 60% of our citizenry believe that our way of living will destroy our planet. What began as a concern for global cooling and a modern ice age has changed from global warming to man-made climate change.

The fear of a modern ice age has lost its punch since the predictions were that we would be in such a time right now. Therefore, the movement had to change terms. Now it simply looks at cyclical changes in our climate and attributes change to man’s use of things like fossil fuels.

An entire industry has sprung up. There will always be clever men who find a way to take advantage of situations, sometimes not for the good. The “Green” industry has been promoted by manufacturers and our Federal and State Governments by way of tax incentives for using “Green” materials and penalties for not using them.

You are likely aware of all this background concerning the fate of our Planet. I’m not a scientist. I do not intend to give any scientific explanations or to review computer models indicating disaster. My question is what, if anything, does God have to say about our Planet?

The truth is, He has a lot to say. After all, He made everything out of nothing. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1. At the end of the first Chapter of the Bible, God surveyed all that He had made and declared everything “very good,” Genesis 1:31. Since He is the Creator, it is obvious to Bible believing people throughout the world that He owns His Creation. I’m reminded of an old hymn written in 1901 by Malbie D. Babcock, “This Is My Father’s World.” The first part of the 3rd verse is telling concerning our topic. “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

As I thought about our world biblically, I found myself writing a sample of what we know about Creation.
1. God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo).
2. Man is a Creature.
3. Man’s power and ability is from the Creator.
4. Man is part of Creation whereas God transcends His Creation.
5. God’s absolute rule (sovereignty) of the world does not depend upon man believing in Him.
6. All men are accountable to God and will be judged by Him, the perfect judge.
7. God created man from the dust of the earth and all men die and return to it.
8. God gave man dominion over the earth and all that is in it.
9. God expects man to be a “good steward” of Creation.
10. All men inherit Adam’s sin nature, are born dead in sin, unable to save themselves.
11. There is only one hope for mankind, it is Jesus Christ, His perfect life and perfect sacrifice of Himself.
12. God cursed all Creation as a result of the Fall of Adam and He has promised to lift it when Christ returns.
If you have a concern about our planet’s fate and you know the truth of God in Christ, I encourage you to make your own list of truths revealed by our Sovereign God. I offer Psalm 93: 1-2 for your study before accepting popular views that man has the ability to determine our Planet’s fate. “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.” (ESV)