Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Praising God”

“Praising God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The definition of praise is to declare the works and character of God. But my purpose in this article is not about defining praise. It is that personal investment in a local church and praise are connected. In fact, in order to offer biblical praise to God, one must engage Him in a local congregation.

First, examine how the object of praise, God, has revealed Himself. Isaiah 6:1, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord (Adoni) sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” The one whom Isaiah saw was full of majesty. He was declared to be “holy, holy, holy” by the Seraphim. He revealed Himself to be totally self-sufficient. He doesn’t need anything from His creatures. He commands all creation to worship and praise Him.

Isaiah saw the Lord. The English transliteration of the Hebrew word is Adoni which means Master. He saw the sovereign master of all Creation. It matters not what you may or may not believe. Specifically, Isaiah saw the Pre-Incarnate Christ in glory. God, the Lord is the Master of everything and everyone. That includes me and you!

God has revealed who He is. The word He chose to reveal His sovereign majesty is Lord. In other words, God has revealed Himself as the only object of praise and worship. He is the God of sovereign majesty.

Every year, I experience the joy of celebrating the Incarnation with my church family and visitors to our church. I was drawn to think about God’s blessing of being part of a church committed to worshiping Him!

When someone decides to become a member of our church, he or she is required to fill out our membership application. Our application for membership has three parts. The first concerns personal background information. The second is focused on one’s conversion story. The third is called the “Five Covenantal Questions.”

The first three Covenantal questions refer to one’s repentance, faith and trust in Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel. The final two questions concern commitments a member makes to our church. One is to support the church in its worship and work. Another one is to submit to the discipline and government of our church while praying for its purity and peace.

In my observation, there are some Christians who do not recognize God’s blessing afforded through investing in a local congregation. In order to justify keeping a “safe distance” from their fellow worshipers, they say that there isn’t a biblical mandate for church membership. In light of the truth of Scripture, they wrongly use the fact that every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit to avoid church membership.

I believe that both members of churches and those who bypass a commitment to church membership are sincere. Polls and surveys consider both groups to represent American Christianity. I am not suggesting that one can’t be a Christian unless he or she is a member of a local congregation. I am suggesting that the Bible is silent on singular Christians. Our rugged individualism has led us to ignore the magnitude of God’s blessing through praising Him as part of a local church to which we have made a public commitment. Staying aloof from membership in a Bible-believing church is symptomatic of our individualism.

Since God commands His people to praise Him, it is important to consider what He has said about the place of praise and membership in the body. God chooses the place of worship, Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Psalm 49:1, and God adopts those whom He chooses, Galatians 4:4-5. God’s spiritual adoption is worked out through the local congregation, Ephesians 4:11-16.

God’s people, those who are part of His adopted family in Christ, also have the privilege of praising Him wherever they are, Psalm 34:1; 119:164, but supremely as part of a church family through which God grows them up in Christ!

The most important part of genuine praise is what follows it. That is, are we living in the light of the God whom we praise? We might say, “Praise is not only an act or event it forms a lifestyle.” It is a lifestyle that is learned as one invests himself in a local, Bible-believing congregation which affirms that God is the object of praise and worship.

May you be blessed by our sovereign God in praise and worship of Him!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Where are the Leaders?”

“Where are the Leaders?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Leadership has always been fundamentally important in the Church and in the world. Specifically, Church History testifies to the need for godly leadership. Likewise, the Church in the Old Testament experienced the disasters associated with ungodly leadership. Surveys of the so-called Evangelical Church lead this observer to conclude, a timeless truth. The Church is not to model her leaders after the world to please men but in accordance with the word of God to please Him.

The Bible has much to say concerning leadership. Both testaments reveal God’s principles for godly leadership. The Apostle Paul gave instructions to both Timothy and Titus concerning the critical nature of selecting men to lead local churches.

Perhaps the most striking example of God’s revealed principles for leaders is Exodus 18:21. “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”

God revealed these principles through Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro observed Moses’ leadership of the people of Israel and told him that what he was doing would wear him out. Jethro recommended that Moses find men who would be able to lead the people with him.

Jethro gave four characteristics of the kind of men Moses should select. These are the four characteristics: able, God-fearers, trustworthy and those who hate bribery. Each of these characteristics requires further explanation.

First, he should choose men from among the people. That is, those chosen should be recognized by the people as men who have a history of accomplishing assigned tasks. We can understand this as men who had resumes of accomplishments that demonstrated their abilities. Note that they should be chosen from among the people. That is, Jethro intended that their resumes could be verified as genuine. These men were known to the people whom they served.

“Able”, is translated from the root word that means a rampart or fortress. In other words, the able man is a man of strong character in whom people trust to provide protection.

A God-fearer is a genuine believer. A man who fears God is a humble man. Fearing God includes trembling, awe and worship. A man who fears God knows both intellectually and intimately that God is holy, sovereign and the one who is full of majesty. This man has a right assessment of himself before God, which is the definition of humility.

Thirdly, trustworthy men are men who love the truth. These are men of integrity and faithfulness. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

It is surely obvious that for one to love the truth, one must acknowledge that there is absolute truth. A man who loves the truth is not a relativist who changes his mind because of peer pressure or one who lacks the principles by which a lover of truth lives his life.

Fourthly, a leader is a man who does not covet. He hates bribery. Not only will he not be bribed, he will not attempt to bribe anyone else to get what he selfishly wants. This is a leader who stands against those who constantly covet what others have. This leader finds his satisfaction in God, enjoying what God has provided to him.

These are the kind of men God calls to lead His church. Those who exemplify the above characteristics are the kind of men and women we look to for leadership in our communities, in military service and wherever groups of people are called to move in unity to accomplish anything.

Where are the leaders? Perhaps, a better question would be, “Who are Leaders?” They are in our midst. They are able, God-fearing, trustworthy and honest.

All things are from God. “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 Biblical leadership is not excluded from this principle. God has provided the church with capable men, God-fearing men, trustworthy men and those who hate bribery. May we recognize them and follow them for the glory of God. May our Sovereign Lord continue to build His Church using those whom He has called and gifted to lead God’s people in faithfulness.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “My Story”

“My Story”
By the Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” 2Corinthians 5:17
So, what’s new? God gives everyone He raises from death to life new desires, desires for Him!

My new desires began on January 29, 1986. On that day, God snatched me from the pit of hell. It was a normal day. But, on my way to my office that day, I was broad sided by a semi-truck. The paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I awoke four days later in a hospital in Gainesville, FL with one desire and many broken bones. My one desire was for Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The God of truth and grace opened my eyes to see the beauty of Christ. My only thought was to run to Him. I testify that God did not drag me into His Kingdom. No, the thought of running from Jesus never entered my mind. My desire was and continues for Him! The words of Jesus burned into my heart. “UNLESS one is born again he CANNOT see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (ESV)

Before that day, I had no such desire for Jesus. Oh, I thought that I was a good person, most people do. I believed, as long as I was better than most, surely, God would welcome me. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? (1John 4:8) Yes, but the Bible also says that God is holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3. I never thought about the justice of God. He never sets aside His justice. He only extends mercy on the basis of the merit of Jesus Christ, His perfect life and perfect sacrifice.

Before my “accident,” I never knew the one true God. I was dead in my sin. Before God’s act of free grace, I thought all this “born again” stuff was for the weak minded. God pierced my heart with the truth that spiritually dead men live for themselves. After the accident, I was unconscious. I couldn’t have saved myself. I couldn’t even get out of my hospital bed. Before God’s action, I didn’t know I was lost and headed to hell. God had to act. He did and I look back in amazement that He chose me! Yes, I responded to Him. But I was only responding to His action.

Beware, there is a persistent false teaching that if one believes he will be born again. How foolish! Worse, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. God alone acted and saved me!

As I look back through the lens of God’s word on His action in saving me, I realize every aspect of my life is a part of God’s sovereign plan. Even when I didn’t know God, He was directing my path in accordance with His will. I thought that I was making choices. And I was, but my choices had already been planned by the Sovereign God. Think about this when you are wondering how you got to where you are: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (ESV) The words of Jesus, John 6:44, make perfect sense as I look at my life in Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (ESV)

May I suggest a principle for life that may bring you comfort and assurance? I have been saved by God from God for God.

In writing this, I am declaring my total reliance upon God. I believe the God who saved me has spoken and continues to speak in His word. I believe His word is without error and absolutely reliable because He is. I believe that His word is clear because He desires to be known. I believe that His word is sufficient for all faith and practice. God’s word revealed how He saves His people; how He continues to save His people; and that He has promised that He will bring His people to glory!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Speak for our Children”

“Speak for our Children”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
January has been designated as “Sanctity of Human Life Month”. I believe it is necessary to hold the fact that God has sanctified human life before us. It is especially necessary for the Church that calls herself “Christian” to speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves! These unborn babies present an opportunity for the Church to declare the truth of the sovereignty of God over human life. He has authority to give life and to take it away.

Politicians regularly cry to protect children to demonstrate their compassion. They frequently use the term “gun violence” when an atrocity occurs, and children are involved. Yet, they conveniently make no mention of the largest loss of children’s lives. The staggering fact is that since 1973, more than 62 million babies have been killed through abortion in our Nation and 1.7 billion world-wide. In this day of so-called scientific enlightenment, denying that the life of a human being begins at conception would seem to any reasonable person to be unbelievable.

In the interest of our children, I stand with those who say, “Let’s stop the violence.” Indeed, let’s stop the violence right now and stand for the sanctity of human life. Christians are accountable to the God of life to speak out against the evil of abortion.

Why do so many Christians speak strongly for the sanctity of human life? The reason is that God is for life. The truth is, He sanctified human life.

Since, the mid Seventies, the “Progressives” have given government the authority to remove the right to life given by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1981, “The dignity of human life is not some peripheral issue,” The Christian Manifesto.

The protection of human life is not something upon which we can agree to disagree. The dignity of human life is an absolute! The right to live is given by God who is the source of life. He breathed into Man the breath of life, Genesis 2:7. Human life is sacred because the Creator God made it so.

Secular Humanism has clouded the mind of our culture. In a culture where there are no absolutes, men make decisions based upon personal preference. Our culture is governed by moral relativism. Everything is considered relative. There are no absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Yet, the dignity of human life is an absolute.
Our very own Declaration of Independence stated clearly both the source of life and its inherent value. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founders of our country declared that the source of life was God and that life is an undeniable right given by Him, therefore an absolute.
Further, when God gave the Law through Moses to His people, He included a commandment against murder, Exodus 20:13. The word translated kill or murder in the 6th Commandment is understood to mean the unlawful taking of life. Only God can authorize the taking of life. God’s highest consequence for the taking of life is the life of the one who took it.

The 6th Commandment is not only a prohibition for Man, but it reveals the character of God, as do all the Commandments. That is, God is for life not death. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, Matthew 22:32. Jesus also said that He is the life, John 14:6.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. My concern is that so-called Liberal Christianity has joined the culture and allowed the discussion to be based upon the spurious issue of “Reproductive Rights” or a woman’s right to choose rather than the fundamental issue of human life. Whether you are a Christian or not I urge you to speak for those who have no one to speak for them. The statistics demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is in the womb!

Abortion not only sacrifices our children but scars our Nation and harms physically and emotionally every woman it touches. Yet the God whom we worship is merciful. There is forgiveness and healing in Jesus Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Power of God”

The Power of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

When Jesus began His public ministry He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

The Apostle Paul in writing to believers declared that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, Romans 1:16. He also told the believers in Corinth that those who were being saved stood in the gospel, 1Corinthians 15:1.

Those who profess Christ are called by God to preach the gospel to themselves on a regular basis. Christians know that all life is in Christ through repentance and faith in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation is not only God’s guarantee of heaven. Salvation is deliverance. God’s people are saved by God from God. When God breaks into a man’s life, He frees him from the bondage of sin. Those in Christ are set free to love God! Salvation begins when God declares a sinner right with Him. It continues throughout life and is consummated in glory. All of what God has done for us is in and through the gospel. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the revealed power of God!

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command in Mark 1:15. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem , “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith in the gospel, the power of God!

Jesus’ command was very specific. It centered on God’s rule and the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b. The gospel is the only means God has given for men and women to know Christ and have eternal life.

The word “gospel” means good news. The good news is: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! God’s power revealed in the gospel causes men and women to rely upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen. The gospel is God’s power to save!

Therefore, may he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 Those who hear and believe know and live in the power of God revealed in the gospel!