Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Renewed Challenge”

“A Renewed Challenge”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Psalm 100:4-5 (ESV)
We have been blessed with a New Year in which to praise God! Before thinking of “new” things, look back on God’s grace. Think of the blessings from Him in 2017.

My wife and I were blessed again by God in giving our family two new members. Granddaughters Frankie Lou and Dinah were born in 2017. My wife, Laurie and I now have seven grandchildren. We thank our Lord every day for His blessings. As King David wrote, 1Chronicles 29:14b, “All things come from (God)…”

So then, in the light of our merciful God, I offer a renewed challenge for 2018. I challenge myself and you all to deepen your passion for God. In other words, commit to pursue godliness; to obey the Lord’s command to “be holy”, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.

This renewed challenge, the pursuit of godliness, is one resolution that will be kept for all who call upon the Lord. He will work in you and conform you to Christ! Philippians 2:12-13

Those whom God justifies are in Christ. Those who are in Christ pursue godliness. Those who are in Christ are so by God’s grace alone and the pursuit of godliness is God’s work of free grace that progressively makes the one in Christ more and more like Him.

In other words, the renewed challenge I lay before you is to live in Christ every day by dying to self and living for God. A genuine Christian will meet this challenge with joy in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible declares that those who are in Christ are chosen by God. “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.

Therefore, those who are in Christ are there solely by God’s grace, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation doesn’t end there. The renewed challenge engaged in and that will be kept is: Christians will be made holy. God made this promise, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone and He causes me to pursue godliness. I have the assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my spirit, Romans 8:16.

So then, what is the renewed challenge? Simply put, the renewed challenge for professing Christians is: pursue the things of God! The desire to engage in this pursuit was given by God at conversion. All who are in Christ have this desire.

By God’s will we are called to engage with Him in this pursuit. “By the mercies of God… be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Romans 12:1, 2

Meet this challenge God’s way through a local church centered in the word of God. The church is God’s instrument by which His people “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Happy New Year in the Lord!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”

“Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

In our culture, we are often asked to trust in the unknown. Our fellow citizens have been manipulated into thinking that character doesn’t matter. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future. Opposed to this is the Christian Faith. It is a step into the light not a leap into the darkness. Christians don’t possess a blind faith. We trust in what we have “learned, firmly believed and been convinced of” 2Timothy 3:14.

In light of the above, the Bible states the means by which we can know someone’s character. We can gain information from a person’s past to help predict his actions in the future. Of course, there are no guarantees. We are not omniscient as God is. Yet, we can make reasonable decisions concerning a person’s character.

My title is from the greatest sermon ever preached. We all know it by its full name, “Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount”. I would encourage everyone to read it regularly. You will find it in your Bible in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapters 5 through 7. The entire sermon was a teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples. Matthew sets the context on a mountainside. Jesus saw the crowds that were following Him and He went up on the mountain and then He sat down. Matthew 5:2, “And he opened his mouth and taught them (his disciples) …”

This sermon was given by Jesus not as another Law but to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived out what He preached. The purpose of His Sermon is to drive those who have been born again, citizens of the Kingdom, to their knees. We, citizens of His Kingdom, profess Christ by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon.

The verse re: “wolves in sheep’s clothing” is near the close of Jesus’ sermon. He declares that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God seeking to destroy God’s people. They arise from within the visible church.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. It is absolute and universally true for all men. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning discerning another’s character and genuineness. He said it is recognizable regardless of the circumstance or context. The character of an individual is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. In order to recognize a man or woman of character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. “Wolves” produce rotten fruit as they seek to destroy people

Whereas this principle of discerning wolves from sheep is universal, Jesus’ main concern was the visible church. “Sheep” can be easily deceived. That is, members of churches have demonstrated that they are more impressed by appearances than content. Christians have fallen for the lie that success is measured by size and programs. Beloved, neither large or small is relevant. God has given us the standard. It is His word written. God’s purpose for organizing the visible church is to grow up each member into Christ. Success is faithfulness to God’s word!

Beware of “wolves” who teach sweet-sounding lies that make you “feel good” about yourself. They may occupy the pulpits in large churches or small ones. Paul warned Timothy that men would surround themselves with teachers who will “tickle” their ears, 2Timothy 4:3. The same Apostle warned the elders in Ephesus that after his departure, “fierce wolves” would enter the church, Act. 20:29.

As we come to the close of another year, be all he more diligent to “make your calling and election sure “, 2Peter 1:10. Be discerning. Grow in the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Word Became Flesh!”

“The Word Became Flesh!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Years ago, I remember sitting in our family room watching a Christian Television Program. The star of the show announced one of his future crusades by calling people to come “expecting a miracle”. The dictionary defines a miracle as a supernatural event.

Contrary to this showman’s dubious claim, there was a genuine miracle revealed in the Bible and witnessed by men. Our lives rest upon this miracle. The miracle to which I refer is the Incarnation. The meaning of the Incarnation is God in the flesh. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us…” John 1:14a

Isaiah predicted this miracle. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 God’s promise was fulfilled in 4 B.C. with the birth of Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

The Incarnation was so important that God spoke through His prophets throughout the Old Testament declaring the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we simply cannot adequately understand, but we receive it as the absolute truth because God said it. Our hope of eternal life is real because the miracle of Jesus’ birth was real.

The Apostle Paul took the opportunity of rivalry and disunity in the church to declare both the explicit and implicit meaning of the Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

The first explicit revelation is that the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He voluntarily set aside His glory. No analogy is adequate to describe Jesus’ humiliation in the Incarnation and His crucifixion.

Further, Paul wrote that Jesus was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, Galatians 4:4. Jesus was fully man, but a man without sin! Jesus was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. He was miraculously born of Mary who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Jesus’ humility in fully submitting to the Law in obedience to God the Father even unto death upon a cross those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of His blood and righteousness. Apart from Jesus’ Incarnation we would never be able to have a relationship with God. The Incarnation led to the satisfaction of the Law’s demands! Because of His perfect sacrifice our sins have been paid for.

Second, Paul also wrote of Jesus’ exaltation. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, God gave Him the name that is above every name. That name is Lord. The Father gave Jesus to be the Master of all that exists. Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

In summation, Paul wrote of God’s purpose in the Incarnation. Everything about the Incarnation is for the glory of God, the Father! The entirety of God’s plan of redemption is for His glory!

The Incarnation also has an implicit affect. The implication of the Incarnation, God with us is that those who are in Christ are joint heirs of heaven with Him. All those who are in Christ will receive glorified bodies like Jesus. God promised that His people will see Him face to face. May you keep this miracle, God with us, at the forefront of all your thoughts and actions. Merry Christmas!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Prepare the Way!”

“Prepare the Way!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Advent means coming. The American Heritage Dictionary defines advent as, “the coming or arrival esp. of something momentous; the birth or coming of Christ; the period including four Sundays before Christmas.” The Season of Advent is a call to heed the warning of the Prophet Isaiah. “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. Several hundred years later, John the Baptist came as God’s spokesman to call God’s people to prepare to meet the Messiah by repenting of their sins. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17. Every year since, believers have prepared to meet the Christ who came 2,000 years ago.

Jesus is the only Son of God. He took upon Himself human nature in obedience to God, the Father. Jesus lived a perfect life and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. Only His person and work satisfies God’s wrath for sin. 2Corinthians 5:21 is God’s revelation of His grace extended to His people for their salvation. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus told us how to prepare in the light of John the Baptist’s declaration. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

The ones whom God chooses receive the gifts of faith and repentance from Him. It is the Spirit of God who applies the finished work of Christ. Those who profess Christ are penitent people who live relying upon Christ. The Jesus who is revealed in the gospel is the object of Christian faith. He is the holy one of God before whom we see the truth of our sinfulness and know that He is life. In other words, living in Christ is the only way to be prepared to meet Him.

As you begin to experience this Season of Advent, are you again seeking to prepare your mind and heart for the sovereign Lord Jesus?

In our country, perhaps in the western world as a whole, preparing to celebrate the Incarnation has been overshadowed by making sure that we’ve managed to buy gifts for family and friends.

Now I am not suggesting that Christians refrain from buying gifts for others. In fact, giving is an expression of those who have received. But, I am suggesting that we remember what we have received and give in response to God’s grace as a demonstration of having received His mercy.

As a child I remember that Christmas wasn’t fully realized until our whole family went to church on Christmas Eve. It has been our church family’s practice to celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional worship service called, “Lessons and Carols”. We seek to involve our children in the service both for their worship and education. The service of Lessons and Carols was first used in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.

This 20th Century worship service’s purpose is to worship God by rehearsing God’s plan of Redemptive History. We read nine Scripture Lessons beginning in Genesis and ending with John’s gospel. As we hear from God, we respond in song with familiar Christmas Carols. Our aim is to turn our minds to God’s grace in saving His people. As God’s word is read, we are reminded that God established His plan of redemption in eternity. The Father and the Son made a covenant. The Son agreed to give His life to redeem those whom the Father chose before the world began.

The Service of Lessons and Carols is a “snapshot” of the Season of Advent. Christians are called by God to remember His mighty acts of Redemption. He progressively revealed His plan throughout the Bible. The church in the Old Testament experienced God’s delivery from the bondage of slavery in Egypt as a foreshadowing of God’s redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.

In His first coming, Jesus called all to “repent and believe in the gospel.” God has ordained that outside of the church there is no ordinary means of salvation. May you hear the pure gospel preached from the pulpit in your church. Rejoice that Jesus came as the Savior the 1st time. He will return as the holy King and Judge the second. May you be ready for Him!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “More Than an Event”

“More Than an Event”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…” Acts 17:6
The proclamation of the Person and Work of Christ by Paul and Silas was declared to have turned the world upside down. Likewise, the recovery of the truth of the gospel by the Reformers turned the world upside down! The Protestant Reformation was more than an event! It was God’s means to correct the teaching of the Medieval Church. The Spirit’s work of reformation is as needed today as it was in the 16th Century.

October 31, 1517 was a day that God used to change the church! An Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was outraged that the Church in Rome was connecting salvation to giving money. As Luther studied the Bible so that he could teach it, the doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear.

God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which God imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone, Romans 1:17 and 3:28. Luther said that when he understood the doctrine of Sola Fides, the first Sola, it was as if the gates of Paradise opened and he walked through.

Four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Scriptures. They are: Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone; Solus Christus, by Christ Alone; Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone and Soli Deo Gloria, to God Alone be Glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. The Reformers recovered these doctrines and taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3

The second Sola, Sola Gratia, means by grace alone. Salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are born dead in sin. We all inherit Adam’s sin nature. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 declare man’s total bondage to sin. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.

The Reformers did not invent new or novel ideas. They did not offer an alternate perspective on salvation but declared the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth.

Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great Reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases Solus Christus and Sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ Alone and by Scripture Alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. But the Reformers saw that the Church of Rome had usurped God’s authority.

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 is the ultimate authority of all life and salvation.

Of course, there are many authorities over all of us. God established the church, civil government and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. But, the Bible is the ultimate Authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men have a granted authority under God.

The four Solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth Sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And, Romans 11:36, “for from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God!

We get the name Protestant from the German Princes who protested along with Luther against the Church which sought to usurp God’s authority and keep people in bondage. The Reformers intended that the church would always reform herself in accordance with the Word of God. May she continue to do so!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Worship is the Priority of Life”

“Worship is the priority of life!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Worship is the most important activity of life. Our Creator made us for worship. A practical Christian 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.” The source of the word is an Old English compound word, worth-ship. 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 fundamentally about our primary relationship. It is about our relationship to God. God made us to worship Him. But because of sin, we naturally seek to make our own gods to worship. The great reformer, John Calvin said this, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413 Worship is central to the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. Luke recorded the excuses of people who put conditions on following Jesus, Luke 9:57-62. If Jesus is the center of our life, worship of Him will be the desire of our heart.

Following Jesus, being a disciple, is a major theme of the gospel according to Luke. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The desire to worship God is a mark of a genuine follower of Jesus.

Because God made man to worship, He declared to His people that He alone was to be worshiped, Exodus 20:1-3. God’s people are forbidden to bow down to or serve any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.

God is the object of true worship. He has revealed Himself in His word written and Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. To make things even more direct, Jesus said that God the Father is the one who seeks worshipers, John 4. Though we have been made to worship God, He seeks us because we are sinners in love with self.

Paul 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 desire to worship and often do so by erecting idols. Idols are the things that control our lives.

Normally in Evangelical Protestant Churches, we don’t see people bowing down to or serving carved images. But, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. In other words, we are: loving, honoring and obeying things and people (like family) more than God!

However, Christians profess to live under the Lordship of Christ. We claim to love, honor and obey God. We claim to have a deep and intimate personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. We all know that worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every moment, every day of our lives. We also affirm that God’s has given His people a desire to worship Him with other believers. The Apostle Paul, made the reality of worship clear to those who have experienced God’s saving grace. “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.” Romans 12:1 God through the human author of Hebrews exhorts believers, not to neglect meeting together, Hebrews 10:25. Those who were born again in concert with God’s word and Spirit through Peter’s preaching demonstrated the change wrought in them. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42

Christian, has anything usurped the priority of worship in your life, especially on the Lord’s Day?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Way V Man’s”

“God’s Way V Man’s”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Church is built by the Lord Jesus, not by man, Matthew 16:18. Since Jesus, who is God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity and the Builder, the only reasonable conclusion is that in building His Church He provides the means to do so!

King David wrote, “He (the LORD) bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; He came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before Him hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds.” Psalm 18:9-12, ESV It is this awesome God who builds His Church.

As a pastor called by God and sent by the church to preach and teach His word and shepherd His people, I often ask, “How much of this God is really proclaimed in churches?” It has been said over the centuries by theologians and philosophers that man’s most basic need is to know God and oneself. Accurate knowledge of man proceeds from the revealed truth of God.

Knowing God and ourselves in relationship to Him connect our hearts to our heads. That is, making this connection motivates how we live. Ministry practices in the church begin with the revealed knowledge of God and continue as that knowledge is applied to all life situations.

God is full of majesty. He is the one who created everything and therefore owns everything. All life is lived before Him. Therefore, it follows that all Christian ministry, which is service, is to be performed in light of and because of the knowledge of God.

On the occasion of my graduation from seminary our Commencement Speaker, Dr. J.I. Packer said, “Do not seek to interpret Scripture until you have been interpreted by Scripture.” As a minister of the gospel I am made constantly aware that my study and preparation to preach and teach the Bible is the means that God uses to change me. My conviction by the Spirit of God occurs prior to standing in the pulpit. Further, this is God’s means to build His Church.

King David was proof that God’s word in concert with His Spirit changes a man. He wrote about the God he worshiped. In the verses quoted from Psalm 18, David wrote not only of God’s supreme majesty but also of His holy justice. Like David, we all live before this God.

In addition, the book attributed to David’s son, Solomon, says this about God’s method for life and ministry, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7.

Both King David and Solomon understood the fear of the LORD and were caused see their lives in the light of God’s word. Likewise, as we combine God’s revelation of: His awesomeness, His holy justice with the source of knowledge and understanding we discover that “fear of the LORD” is the root of life and ministry in the church.

This is God’s revealed method for ministry: learn who God is and apply His revealed character in every situation. God’s method stands in stark contrast to Man’s. Men suggest that proper and effective ministry in the church requires that we learn what people need and then set out to meet those needs. Man’s methods have been used to grow churches in numbers. Yet, growing numbers has not accomplished growing influence, growing holiness, or the ability to make critical decisions. When we use man’s methods we get man’s results. But when we use God’s methods, we see His results in lives changed for eternity.

One pragmatic problem with man’s methods is: each new circumstance requires a new program to answer it. The church becomes a program generator rather than a place where the truth is heard, lived and shared. We are seeing the results of man’s methods. More and more professing Christians are unable to articulate what they believe or why. Surveys reveal that the lifestyles of church members look like the lifestyles of the world.

My purpose in this article is not to “bash” churches. I love the church and all that she represents. I love the church so much that I believe that I am accountable to God to briefly outline His means to make us more like Christ.

Don’t be fooled by the success of man’s methods. Seek to know the one true God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Black Friday”

“Black Friday”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Thanksgiving is a time set apart to thank God for all His blessings. It seems culturally acceptable now for stores to get a jump on Christmas shopping by beginning “Black Friday” on Thanksgiving Day! Our culture continues to push a secular agenda on all of us. Now the press of shopping is crowding out a time of personal reflection on the goodness of God. Our culture continues to change the focus from God to us. We, even in the Church, are becoming more and more man-centered.

Giving thanks is the response of Creatures to their Creator. Thanksgiving to God is inseparable from praise and worship. In order to give God thanks it is necessary to acknowledge His mighty works and His attributes. We give thanks to the one who provides all things; is the Lord of all things and always good. Giving thanks assumes that the recipient acknowledges the Giver!

King David wrote Psalm 65 and it has been used throughout the history of the Bible as a song of worship. Verse 1, “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.” King David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit put everything into a right perspective. He declared that praise is owed to God! Praise is the verbal declaration of the mighty works of God and His character. We are Creatures and we are indebted to the Creator. We are called to remind ourselves that all we have and all that we enjoy has been provided by the hand of the sovereign God. Genuine believers praise God by remembering and declaring His mighty acts. It is expected that we will not keep those acts of God to ourselves. Praising God is not only required but it is the means to experience true peace in the midst of turmoil.

Obviously, biblical praise requires knowledge of God and His mighty acts. Too often, we think that praising God is a spontaneous emotional act done by “Charismatics” or “Pentecostals”. Some might suggest that praise is “Letting go of our inhibitions and being led by our emotions”. Praise is rather an intentional act which begins in our minds. As we read and study God’s word His mighty acts, like the deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt, impress on our minds the absolute sovereignty of God. It reveals to us His grace. It demonstrates His providence. For those who have been born again, the Holy Spirit illumines their minds so that they may see and apply the truth of God. It is through this means that God sanctifies those whom He justified and gives peace.

Therefore, praise is not only a debt owed to God but it is God’s means to change those who are His to be more like Christ thereby knowing the peace that passes all understanding, Philippians 4:7.

The second part of verse one, “And to you shall vows be performed” aids in our understanding of genuine faith. Those who are intent on praising God are those who seek to be faithful to Him. A vow is a solemn promise. David wrote of the expectation of those who praise God to keep their promises made to Him.

When God breaks into the life of a man or woman He makes them a new Creation, 2Corinthians 5:17. There is an observable difference in the person who has been born again. The Bible refers to this change as conversion. God changes the one whom He raises from death to life. Conversion is done by God instantaneously but continues throughout the life of a believer. The instant God converts a sinner into a saint is described as being brought from darkness into light by the Holy Spirit. The process of change that continues is what the Bible calls sanctification. Part of sanctification is profession. That is, when a believer is changed by God, he desires to declare his reliance upon Christ. Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven…” Matthew 10:32.

In the face of the increasing secularization of our culture, preserve time to give thanks to the God whom we praise for His mighty acts and attributes. May the assurance of knowing Him provide you with the peace that surpasses all understanding. “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple!” Psalm 65:4b

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Making Choices”

“Making Choices”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a leader say, “I commit to do what I think is right.” Such a declaration is often followed by accolades. Each time I hear it, my amazement increases. I’m astounded that so many think that what one “thinks is right” is somehow representative of goodness and virtue. A good and virtuous person would commit to do that which is right. Whether or not one thinks an action is right is, in my mind, irrelevant. We should all seek to do what is right!

How can one know what is right? Romans 12:2 calls Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. The result is: “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Therefore, believers are to live as children of light, that is, to follow Jesus. Disciples of Jesus Christ are told that the “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.” Knowing what is good, right and true is called discernment. Doing it is wise living.

The Ancient Hebrews knew that “the fear of the LORD was the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely it is necessary for the creature to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Just as the church in the Old Testament knew to apply God’s word for wise living, every believer ought to do likewise.

The application of God’s word is wisdom. Therefore discernment, knowing the right action, requires knowledge of what God has said.

The Bible reveals that God is good, righteous and true. All three are attributes of the One True God. To know the One True God one must know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the Father is the source, discernment only grows through a personal and intimate knowledge of His Son, Jesus. Discernment is a learned ability rather than a gift and is available to everyone who professes Christ.

Discernment leads to wise living. Wise living follows the way of blessing. God said the way of blessing was to obey Him. Conversely, He warned that a cursed life would follow the one who disobeyed Him. I have yet to meet someone who wanted to live a cursed life. Yet, by ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we head towards destruction. Don’t be fooled by following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself what is right. Then do it.

The key to discernment is to know what is right, good and true. The method for knowing is not easy, but is a blessing. The method is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor. God has ordained that we grow in discernment and wisdom corporately. I am speaking of the necessity of growing in a church that teaches “sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1.

The Apostle Paul addressed the barrier to growth in discernment and it is recorded in 2Timothy 3. He wrote of the “last days”, those days between Jesus’ first and second coming. Paul said that people would be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Paul was not describing the world in general. He was describing the visible church corrupted by those who only looked godly. He gave a timeless answer to the problem. Paul’s answer was for Timothy to continue in what he learned and firmly believed. Paul reminded Timothy that all Scripture was breathed out by God and it’s the Scriptures which are able to make the believer “competent and equipped for every good work.” God’s answer remains the same. The visible church is the place for growth in all that is good, right and true. Equip yourself to make right choices. Invest in a church in which you hear expositional preaching and the teaching of sound doctrine.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Happy 500th Anniversary”

Happy 500th Anniversary!”
(We Give Thanks to God for the Reformation)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed 95 statements to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany protesting the church’s collection of money for indulgences. The leadership of the church was manipulating her members to give money in order to lessen the time of loved ones in the fictional place the church called purgatory.

Eventually, the issue was seen to strike at the very character of God. The church had taken authority over God, by taking authority over His word. You may have heard the term Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase declares that the Scriptures have ultimate authority. The English Reformer, Thomas Cranmer would write that “… it is not lawful for the church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another…” (Taken from the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England, Article 20)

We are free to believe whatever we want. But, no church calling itself Christian is free to re-define God in its own image or comfort nor to pervert His word for its own use! God has revealed Himself and one fundamental attribute of God is His sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are referring to His absolute rule of all of His Creation. God expresses His sovereignty in His word.

Martin Luther simply recovered the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. The church in his day had obscured the truth from her people. The critical issue of man’s inability to stand before the God who is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3, is plainly revealed throughout the Bible. Luther courageously declared before the church authorities affirming the teaching of Moses and Paul that by God’s grace alone is a man able to stand before God. God credits, imputes, perfect righteous to those whom He chooses. Therefore, God justifies a sinner through faith alone and this faith is a gift of God, Genesis 15, Romans 1, 3, 4, and Ephesians 2:8.

Because of God’s appointment of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Cranmer and many others even before Luther, we by God’s grace can know the truth, be assured of the truth and rejoice in our union with Christ! We celebrate the Protestant Reformation because we seek to continue its legacy of ongoing reform in accordance with the word of God, having our minds illumined by the Holy Spirit.

Let me get to the heart of the matter. My salvation and yours depends upon a sovereign God. The Bible teaches that men are incapable of turning to God. All men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability within us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only a sovereign God can promise that nothing will ever separate us from His love, Romans 8:38- 39.

In fact, I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37- 38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!

I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will is sovereign over man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.

God’s rule is absolute and inclusive. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church, the visible kingdom of God.

So, happy 500th anniversary for the well-being of the Church. S D G. To God Alone Be Glory!