Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Wake-Up Call”

God’s Wake-Up Call
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

I believe God is issuing a wake-up call to the church. No, I’m not a prophet. I haven’t received a special word from the Lord! God’s wake-up call was issued through His prophets in the Old Testament. His wake-up call to the church is very clear and simple. He has called His people to know Him! The church, commanded to be holy, has a primary responsibility. She is to teach God’s people His revealed character. God declared what He required. He told His people to do what is right, to love kindness and to walk humbly before Him, Micah 6:8. Each action: doing what is right, loving kindness and walking in humility requires knowing God as He has revealed Himself in His word.

The church will make little difference in the world if she turns to pleasing men rather than God. If the church ignores her responsibility to teach the revealed character of God, then her members will not reflect His holiness.

Corporate Worship is one of the primary means by which the truth of God is declared and learned by God’s people. It is also the first place in which the church can be seen to either submit to God or pander to man. Some churches have chosen to design worship services to “attract people to God”. As well intended as the motivation is, the result is that people may be attracted but not to the one true God. Jesus said that the Father is the seeker of worshipers, John 4:23. God has also revealed the content of worship, referred to as the biblical elements of worship.

The biblical elements of worship are reading Scripture, singing psalms and hymns, offering prayer, preaching the word, giving tithes and offerings, confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These elements are ordained by God for His glory and our enjoyment of Him.

Conversely, man’s desire to serve himself is as old as the Garden. There is a narrative that records a truly “seeker sensitive” worship service emphasizing man’s desire to please himself.

Aaron, Moses’ brother designed a “seeker sensitive” worship service to satisfy the people rather than honor God. Exodus, Chapter 32 is the record of this worship service and verse 6 is especially telling. “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” The people celebrated the satisfaction of their needs, when in fact they had become idolaters. The Apostle Paul quoted Exodus 32:6 in his warning to the church about the certain judgment of God against this kind of self-serving idolatry, 1Corinthians 10:6.

Psalm 50 is another example of God’s view of self-serving, empty worship. God indicted His people calling them “my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice,” Psalm 50:5. He then proceeded to tell His people to keep their useless rituals. He reminded them that He didn’t need any bulls to be sacrificed. He owned everything. He further declared that His requirement was “a sacrifice of thanksgiving,” Psalm 50:14.

The church of the Old Testament demanded that Aaron make gods for them. God judged them. The people of Psalm 50 received God’s rebuke and He judged them for their false worship. Yet in the light of God’s warning, many churches persist in structuring worship, ministry and teaching around what people feel they need.

Yes, the church is about meeting needs. But what people feel they need is not truly what they need. The biblical elements of worship were designed by God so that His church would engage Him as the truth of who He is taught and experienced in worship and ministry. Using God’s revealed principles will lead men and women to be impacted by His word in concert with His Spirit. As a result, His people will live seeking to reflect the truth of God’s self- revelation. God has promised to meet our needs. The Apostle Paul said, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

May all who call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus answer His wake-up call to know God and thereby live as a reflection of His revealed character. Seek a church that is faithful to God’s will by declaring the truth of His holy character so that by His power you will be enabled to live for His glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Refusing to Believe…”

Refusing to Believe…
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The most reliable book, the Bible, documents in great detail the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus! The gospel of Mark records the event of Jesus’ resurrection. Mark wrote that the resurrected Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” Mark 16:9. Matthew and Luke also recorded the same incident.

The Apostle John wrote that Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter. John recorded that Peter and John went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. They had to see what Mary reported. After all they couldn’t just believe a woman’s testimony. They found that Mary had reported what she saw accurately.

Centuries earlier the writers of the Psalms prophesied of the person and work of Christ, E.G.: Psalms 2, 3, 8, 16, 22 and 23. Isaiah wrote of the “Suffering Servant” who would bear the sins of His people and reign forever, Isaiah 42-66.

Ancient historians also documented Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, E.G. Josephus, “the Antiquities”.

The followers of Jesus all preached His resurrection. The church has continued to preach the resurrection of Jesus for 2,000 yrs. Persecution did not dampen or alter the message. It only served to spread it. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” as stated by Tertullian (160 – 225 AD).

Yet unbelief persists. The world has attempted every possible means to crush the truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and men continue in their refusal to believe!

Resurrection does not simply mean to be made alive again. Lazarus (John 11) was made alive again by Jesus simply commanding him to come out of the grave. Lazarus was resuscitated. He was made to live again as a mere mortal. Lazarus subsequently died as all men do. Jesus however was resurrected. He got out of the grave with a glorified body. He was seen as a man; He was recognized by those who knew Him. He ate with His disciples. Yet, He appeared to His disciples who were in closed rooms. He was able to move to another place in an instant. The resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven. The Lord of glory is physically in heaven. He rules all things from heaven. He is on the right hand of God, the place of power and authority.

The resurrected Jesus is called the “first born among many brothers”, Romans 8:29. All who are in Christ will receive glorified bodies like His when He comes again to judge the living and the dead. If we remain alive when Christ returns, we “shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet,” 1Corinthians 15:51, 52.

The biblical and historical evidence is overwhelming for Jesus’ resurrection. In light of so great a body of factual documentation, it would seem unlikely that men would persist in unbelief. But unbelief is all around us.
Jesus said the reason is that men loved darkness rather than light, John 3:19.

Every Lord’s Day, Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian Church changed the Sabbath Day for Worship to the first day of the week because of Jesus’ resurrection. Many will visit churches on each Lord’s Day, perhaps, some for the first time. Some only make it their practice to go to church two or three times a year. Prayers will be said. The Scriptures will be read. Everyone will be looking forward to an uplifting sermon from the Pastor. Yet the hearts of many will remain cold to the truth. There will likely be no acknowledgement of the impact of the Resurrection of Jesus on their lives.

Nevertheless, the place to be on each Sunday is a local church that proclaims the pure gospel. God has chosen the means by which He saves His people. God’s ordinary means to save the lost is the preaching of His word, Romans 10:14-17.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “The visible church… is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

My prayer for is that many would attend a local church where the word of God is faithfully preached, so that the word of God in concert with the Spirit of God will effectually call men and women to Himself.

I urge you to find a church shaped by God’s word rather than one that seeks to be like culture, and which is committed to making you “feel” better about yourself! Believe the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It’s not about me.”

“It’s not about me.”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” “It is good to give thanks to the LORD…”

What a radical thought! It is indeed a good thing to thank God. This verse is one of the extreme understatements in the Scriptures. Yet, even though it is generally affirmed, I believe that it is rarely understood so that it can be acted upon. Oh, we say prayers of thanksgiving for various things, but to look to God and know that He is the giver of everything is rare. James wrote, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17a

The superscription for Psalm 92 declares it to be a “Song for the Sabbath”. The Sabbath was the day set apart to God. The New Testament believers set the first day of the week apart to the Lord Jesus because He was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. The Sabbath was and continues to be an act of commitment by those who profess faith declaring that everything is about and for God not man.

The Psalm is often used on the Lord’s Day precisely because it directs all attention to the LORD as is appropriate for Sunday Worship.

The hard teaching of Psalm 92 is that everything is for God. It was a humbling realization that I was 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.

Therefore, 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. We rightly thank others but forget that God is the ultimate source of everything good. He has chosen to work through secondary causes, that is, other men and women. God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift.

We all know this. Yet at the first sign of difficulty we focus attention on ourselves. We become introspective and sometimes spiral into a sense of despair. As long as the Lord tarries in coming back, there will be tribulation. Adversity will tend to challenge our security and hope in Christ. Our sinfulness will lead us to change our focus from God to us. Even during times of great prosperity, we will be tempted to look inward rather than outward toward God. The battle is constant. Our hope of victory is solely resting upon the sovereign Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Ephesus that every Christian will be engaged in a spiritual battle. We will be regularly challenged to lose hope and doubt God’s word. Paul’s exhortation is for the believer to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the might of His power.” Ephesians 6:10

So then, believer beware that you are not immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. God’s remedy is the only lasting one. God said, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2Corinthians 7:10

Thanking God begins with acknowledging that we are self-centered. In other words, we are sinners in His sight. May your acknowledgment lead to a deep sorrow for your sin. May that deep sorrow, a godly sorrow, lead you to turn from your sin of self and then to exercise the other gift that God gives to His people, namely faith.

Just as saving faith is a continuing reliance upon the person and work of Christ, repentance is an ongoing turning from sin. Christians live penitently. We confess our sins and turn to Jesus with the assurance that God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Therefore, for all those who possess genuine repentance and faith follow the psalmist’s exhortation. “… Give thanks to the LORD.” Life is all about Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do the right thing!”

“Do the right thing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We seem to be constantly bombarded with complicated situations that call for making an informed decision. Of course, generally, all would want to do the right thing!

Therefore, one must know what is right before he can do it. Further, to know what is right, one must know the source of all that is right. The source of what is good, right and true is God. He has revealed what is good, right and true in His word. All actions must be held up to the light of Scripture to determine right or wrong. God said that blessing is the result of obeying Him and curse is the end of disobedience, Deuteronomy 11:26-28.

But, you won’t likely find a verse of Scripture that will tell you which car to buy or where you ought to work, etc. But the Bible does give principles by which decisions can be made. The Spirit of God working in concert with the word of God informs the conscience of one who has been born again, that is, a genuine Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians to hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5.

In addition, Romans 12:2 calls Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind, “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, which includes doing the right thing. 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.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely; to do what is right, it is necessary for man to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Every believer is called to apply God’s word and obey Him for His glory. Thereby, believers seek to do the right thing.

Doing what is right, wise living, is the way of blessing. By ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we will do the wrong thing and 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 method for knowing the right thing is not easy. 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, so that you are equipped to know the right thing and then encouraged to do it.

All that I have said above applies to Christians. Only those who have been born again are able to see the truth and thereby know the One who has revealed it. Are we then to think that only genuine Christians can do the right thing? What of the rest of mankind?

The Bible applies to both believers and non-believers. For example, God gave the Law, Exodus 20. The Law has three uses. The first is to put bounds around sin. The second is to point to man’s need for Christ and the third is to be the guide for living the Christian Life, the means of sanctification, Galatians 3:19ff The Law reveals to all men what is good, right and true. Man’s laws stand under God’s law so as to protect the innocent and punish the wrongdoer. So for a believer and a non-believer the first step in doing the right thing is to obey the law.

In my view there are two basic questions to ask when discerning what the right action is. First “Is it lawful?” and second, “Does this agree with God’s Law?”

In conclusion, God “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?” Micah 6:8

This simple and plain truth of God is perhaps more needed today than at any other time in our history.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Justice or Mercy”

“Justice or Mercy”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“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.” Micah 6:8

God spoke through the Prophet Micah during a time of prosperity. He required His people to do justice and to love kindness (mercy) and to walk humbly before Him.

This divine imperative is simple and bears repeating. Do justice. Love Mercy. Live with a right assessment of ourselves before a sovereign God. God said that this is good. In light of this clear declaration, no one needs to struggle to know what is good.

Our good God commanded His people to do justice. God’s people are accountable to seek and apply justice. As God ordained civil authorities, He placed upon them the responsibility to rule and govern justly. What then is justice? In part, justice is fair treatment based on the law.

Therefore the application of justice requires a standard. Our civil government operates under such a standard. It is the rule of law. When authorities consider themselves above the law anarchy is not far behind. An orderly and safe society requires all citizens and their leaders to obey the rules of law that govern them.

So it is for the church. The authority of the church is under the word of God. Christ is the King and Head of the church. He exercises His Lordship through His word. Authority in the church is a granted authority. That which is just and right is determined from the Bible, the church’s standard.

The Bible teaches that to do justice is to do what is right. That which is just is right and fair based upon the standard which is the word of God written.

Micah 6:8 also declares another critical concept. The Prophet called God’s people to love kindness. The original word is also translated loving kindness, steadfast love, or mercy. The word reflects the very character of God. Justice and mercy are not opposite sides of the same coin. Mercy stands in contrast to justice. Justice applies the rule of law. Mercy is granted to law breakers. Justice is deserved. Mercy is underserved and can only be granted by the benevolent action of a ruler. Mercy and grace are the unmerited favor of God.

Following the revealed truth of God’s word, all men deserve justice. The just and right action of the holy God is condemnation. The Bible is clear on this point throughout. From Genesis to Revelation, God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. All men are born in bondage to sin. Sin is defined as lawlessness by the Apostle John, 1John 3:4. Adam’s sin is inherited by every human being. The Apostle Paul wrote that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

Left on our own we are all children of God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3. It’s at this point that the cry of “It’s not fair” is often heard. The offense of the truth causes men to define God in their own view. I’ve heard the statement, “My God is a God of love. He wouldn’t send people to hell. It’s not fair or loving.” My response is that definition of God is not the God of the Bible. God has revealed Himself as holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8.

In the light of God’s holy justice, how can we hope to be saved? The Apostles, Prophets and Jesus called people to repent and believe in the gospel. This is God’s ordained means to deliver men and women from this present darkness. The question that lays beneath God’s command to repent and believe in the gospel is “How”? How are men born dead in sin able to repent and believe? The only possible answer is by God’s grace. God extends grace to those whom He chooses. God said that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy, Romans 9:15.

King David wrote Psalm 51. He was confronted in his sin. David did the only thing that is possible. He threw himself upon the mercy of God. This is the truth of man’s only hope. There are only two alternatives. You will either experience God’s perfect justice or receive His mercy.