Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Pastoral Letter… Hope in the midst of crisis and fear”

“A Pastoral Letter…”
Hope in the midst of crisis and fear
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Fear, anger, uncertainty are all emotions that come to the surface when confronted with something out of our control. I am the Pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church. I preach and teach the sovereignty of God. I seek to live under the word of God for His glory. I know that God is in charge. The Bible teaches that there is nothing that comes to pass that He has not ordained. There are no coincidences.

I write these weekly articles not only for our community but also for our congregation. I would not write anything that I have not preached or taught in the church.

I have observed over these past few weeks fear and panic within the Christian community. We are indeed traveling in uncharted waters. Our country, the entire world is trying to deal with a virus that in some cases causes severe illness and even death. None of us can say with any certainty how this will turn out or when it will end.

But, we are those who have hope! “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) The faith that the writer declared under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the gift that God gives at conversion. The hope that we have is grounded in this gift of faith. Note that the word assurance is used in the English translation. The original word’s range of meaning includes conviction or confidence. That is, the gift of faith, genuine saving faith is a certainty, a conviction of a hope. This conviction, assurance is of “things hoped for”. The “things hoped for” are those things promised by God to all who trust in Him! Ultimately, heaven is not some doubtful or uncertain destination for a believer. No! Heaven is assured to those who live trusting in the. Person and Work of Christ!

But there are other “things”. We have God’s promise never to leave us or forsake us, Hebrews13:5 Therefore, we know that God is with His people. He is walking along side of us. Beloved, it is wise to be concerned over this virus. But, it is essential that we know in our head and heart that God is in charge even of this. We know, as those who have been given the gift of faith, “that for those who love Go all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV)

The question that I ask myself every day is, “Are my actions testifying to the certain hope that God has given to me?”

Before this “pandemic” it was easy to remind ourselves that God made us for worship. He expects those who have certain hope to worship Him. But now, in light of the government’s restrictions on gathering for worship, that basic and clear exhortation is not so easy to apply. Virtual worship, watching on our computers or TV’s is not the same as gathering with God’s people for worship. It’s something like the difference between “face time” with your family versus visiting them. Ask any “shut-ins” and they will tell you that there’s nothing like worshiping God with His people on the Lord’s Day.

Yet, for a time, churches are working to find means by which their members can stay connected. We need to praise God, confess our sins and hear His word read and proclaimed. We all need to be reminded of the certain hope that we have. We need to be reminded that God is in charge!

Likewise, our elders are working to use whatever technology is available to us to provide an electronic means to remind us of whose we are. Our intention is to offer whatever means we can so that our congregation will stay connected. Our prayer is that we will increase our desire to gather to worship our King and Lord when this pandemic is over.

In the interim, for this coming Lord’s Day we have set up a link for you all to praise God in your homes:
https://youtu.be/-NGw6lBBWa0

Further, our web site will continue to have my full sermon in audio format. Our church web site is: www.weatherfordpca.org.

Pray that our sovereign Lord will deliver us from this viral disease. Pray for God’s protection for all those physicians and medical workers who are on the “front line” fighting this virus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Made for Worship”

“Made for Worship”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In light of the concerns over the coronavirus, terms like “social distancing” and avoidance of social gatherings make it necessary that we in the church need to remind ourselves of the reason God made us. The stress of suspending Sunday Worship or making provisions for some form of alternate means of Worship is real.

We know that God made us for worship. God not only made man to worship, but to worship Him alone. Because of this truth, men and woman will worship someone or something. To worship is to bow down to and serve the object of worship. But the object of true worship is God who revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ, His only Son. We were all made to bow down and serve the Living God.

The problem in applying this truth is sin. We have all inherited the sin of Adam. Every single human being is born spiritually dead in sin. In the Sixteenth Century, John Calvin wrote concerning worship and the state of man after the Fall of Adam. He wrote, “Every man makes a god of himself, and virtually worships himself.” (Taken from Calvin’s teaching on the Psalms, Ps. IV; 132) God must raise a sinner from spiritual death for him to see the object of true worship.

The church in the Old Testament was commanded by God to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday in light of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church refers to each Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each Lord’s Day is given over to the worship of the Triune God.

The Christian Sabbath is set apart to the Lord for Christians to gather to worship God in the way He has commanded. We praise Him; we pray to Him; we read His word; we hear His word expounded; we celebrate the two Sacraments; we give of our tithes and offerings. All of these are called the elements of biblical worship.

Since God made man to worship Him, it is not optional for a Christian. Worship is not something that we design in accordance with our feelings or imaginations. Christian Worship is not designed to attract people. Worship on the Lord’s Day is not part of a list of things to do of which one item may take priority over it. True worship is the principal outpouring of a heart and, in the case of Corporate Worship, hearts that have been changed by God. In other words, Christian Worship is the offering to God of oneself as a living sacrifice in response to the saving grace of God, Romans 11:33-12:2. Worship expresses love for God, Deuteronomy 6:5.

Christians, those made “new creations” don’t go to church. Christians are the church. The visible church, the one we see, is defined as those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and their children. As such, those who genuinely confess Christ desire to worship the Risen Lord with their fellow believers on the Lord’s Day.

Indeed, God made everyone for worship. Men and woman will worship someone or something. The question is, “Do you know the One to whom all worship is due?” Or, better, “Does He know you?”

The worship manual of the Old Testament Church the book of Psalms answers this question. Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ God gives each believer the desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed. A believer hears the call of God to worship as more than a duty. He hears God’s call as a joy. In worshiping God, the believer is moved from duty to devotion.

God has commanded worship. His people respond expressing their love for Him. Worship becomes the center of a life devoted to the Lord. And, worship is necessary for a believer to grow up in Christ.

It is my prayer that we all keep these principles of worship before us as we make decisions in light of current health concerns. May our sovereign Lord make His face to shine upon us in this difficult time.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “If God is in Charge…”

“If God’s in Charge…”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

There is no “if” necessary! By definition, God is in charge! If there was any circumstance over which God was not sovereign, then He would not be God. There are times when circumstances challenge the truth of God’s sovereignty, like the recent panic over a virus. But make no mistake, God is always in charge. He is sovereign over all of Creation, even diseases.

Two passages of Scripture come to mind concerning God’s sovereign rule. Job 2:10, “… Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” And, Lamentations 3:37-38, “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?”

Both passages were written during times of adversity. The first was Job who answered his wife when God ordained that his health would be taken from him. The second was declared by Jerimiah as he viewed the destruction of Jerusalem while exiled in Egypt.

God revealed His absolute sovereignty throughout Scripture. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. He revealed His character to His people by way of declaring His attributes. One of God’s attributes is His sovereignty.

Years ago, I was questioned by a man in a church that I served. He was concerned about my regular use of the word “sovereignty”. He said no one understood that word anymore. My response was that we shouldn’t stop using words because people may not understand them. Rather it would be more edifying if we explained the meaning of important words such as sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. God’s sovereignty eliminates our need to wonder “Who’s in Charge?” We know God is because He sovereignly rules all things. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth” had been given to Him, Matthew 28:18. Satan asked the sovereign Lord for permission to cause Job’s suffering, Job 1 and 2.

God not only revealed His sovereignty by declarative statements such as Matthew 28:18, but He also revealed it through historic narratives. One such historical narrative is Daniel 4: 34-37. The Prophet Daniel recorded an incident that involved a king who thought he was the be-all and the end-all. Nebuchadnezzar believed that he was “in charge.” He was a ruthless man, king of the ancient Babylonian Empire. He had a very confusing dream about a huge tree that “a holy one from heaven” ordered to be chopped down. God empowered Daniel to interpret the dream. Daniel’s interpretation predicted that the king would be humbled until he acknowledged the one true God. The tree in the king’s dream was him.

After a time, God drove the king, full of pride, mad. He made him act and appear animal-like. At the time appointed by God, the king’s senses returned to him. Daniel recorded what the king said. Nebuchadnezzar said this about God, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’

This radical statement was spoken by a pagan king. The king was humbled by God. The sovereign Lord caused the king to see the truth. Nebuchadnezzar declared that all creatures are under the sovereign authority of God. He rules over every man’s actions and He holds him responsible. This great and mighty ruler who thought he was a god was used by God to declare His eternal rule.

Nebuchadnezzar learned the meaning of absolute sovereignty. He was totally broken by the sovereign God of the Universe. This great and mighty king in the Ancient world faced the reality that he was a creature made by a sovereign Creator. All men and women will learn the depth of God’s sovereignty. No matter what worldly position is held, no matter what power is wielded, God remains sovereign.

Men either suppress the truth of God’s sovereignty or try to mitigate it. The Bible says God will make even the mighty submit to His sovereignty either now or when Jesus returns. God’s rule is absolute. God is in charge regardless of whether we think He is or not! Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings, whether we believe it or not.

Know the sovereign Lord. Don’t panic. God is in charge!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is Hungry for the Gospel?”

Who is hungry for the gospel?
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Some Christian leaders declare that there is a hunger for the gospel as though it was an undeniable fact. As a result, many Christians stand firmly on the idea that the world is longing to hear the gospel. After all, why wouldn’t people be hungry for God’s good news?

However, there just isn’t any biblical support for man’s hunger for the gospel or any of the things of God. God said, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:19

First, what is the gospel? The word “gospel” means good news. It is specifically the good news of God. The gospel belongs to God. Romans 1:1 states that the gospel is the possession of God. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” The gospel is all about the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is God’s good news of life only through the Person and Work of Christ.

Secondly, the gospel has specific content. 1Corinthians 15:3-4 is a precise and condensed declaration of the content of the gospel. “… 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.” Further, the Apostle Paul wrote that he received the gospel. It was revealed to him. He then delivered the gospel as his first order of business. He knew that the gospel is God’s power to save all who believe, Romans 1:16. In addition, Christ not only died for the sins of His people, but He lived a perfect life, accomplishing what Adam failed to do.

Thirdly, the gospel revealed in the Bible must be believed and relied upon. This is the heart of the problem. Natural man is unable to believe and place his trust in Jesus. All men are born spiritually dead. The sin of Adam is inherited by every person. Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.”

The comparison between man’s physical and spiritual parts creates a profound word picture. A dead body is unable to move or do anything. So, it is with our spiritual lives. We are naturally incapable of doing anything to save ourselves. In fact, the natural man doesn’t even know that he is lost and on his way to hell. God must cause a man to see. It is not by our ability or our wills, but God’s sovereign will that anyone can see the truth of life in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that unless the Father draws a man or woman, he or she cannot come to Him. The word that is translated draw also means compel. The idea expressed in John 6:44 is that God causes an individual to believe in Jesus.

The first part of the statement concerning man’s hunger is accurate. People are hungry for a god to fix their lives. A famous speaker claims that God wants to make you a better you. Some evangelists minister under the assumption that the eloquence of their preaching will convince people of the truth.

The true God doesn’t want to make you a better you. The Apostle Paul said that any who are in Christ are new creations. Paul also said that faith comes from hearing through the word of Christ. Likewise, it is not the eloquence of the preacher that brings life. But the Spirit of God in concert with the word of God is His means to raise the dead.

The truth of man’s condition and his absence of hunger for God can be paraphrased. Men are not hungry for salvation because they don’t think that they’re lost. Only God causes a man or woman to see how desperate and hopeless he or she is. Only God draws a man or woman to Himself. Only God raises the dead to be able to see His Kingdom.

Those who know and receive the gospel have been brought to their knees. Has God pierced your heart with the truth of the gospel? Have you cried out to Him, “What shall I do to be saved?” “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. “John Newton, “Amazing Grace”