Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God Made Us to Worship Him”

“God Made Us to Worship Him”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The title of this article is not my opinion. God said it. Genesis 1:26-27 declares that God made man and woman in His image. Colossians 1:15-16 reveals that everything was made by Jesus, God’s only Son, the second person of the Trinity, “the image of the invisible God. Further the text documents that everything was not only made by Jesus but also for Him. Romans 11:36 states, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

My purpose is not to convince anyone of this divine truth. I can’t do that nor can any man. I am simply declaring the truth that we are creatures and as creatures we owe worship to the Creator. God doesn’t need us. He created us and all of Creation because He willed to for His glory.

I know that if our sovereign God reveals this fundamental truth to you, you will see all of life from a different perspective, His perspective. The only way that sense can be made out of all the distortions and evil in the world is to view all of life through the lens of Scripture, the breathed out words of God.

The primary evidence of knowing this truth is worship. One who knows God bows down to God in worship. Those who don’t know God will still worship. They will worship their own god, often themselves. The great reformer, John Calvin said this, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413

The cause of false worship is sin. All men inherit a sin nature from our first parents, Genesis 3. Even believers, set free from the bondage of sin, still sin, Romans 7. Therefore, God by His grace gave His people a clear command re: worship, Exodus 20:1-3. God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.

The object of true worship is God who has revealed Himself in His word written and Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. Jesus said that God the Father is the one who seeks worshipers, John 4.

The Apostle 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 God-given desire to worship and often do so by erecting idols. Our idols control our lives.

Normally in Evangelical Protestant Churches, we don’t see people bowing to or serving carved images as part of their acts of worship and devotion. But, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. In other words we are: loving, honoring and obeying things more than God! We seek to find churches that entertain us with snappy music or skits, etc. We are so full of ourselves that we think that worship is about us. Beloved, God is the object of worship. He is the “audience.”

When God is truly worshiped, the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words, love, honor and obey are relational words that describe our primary relationship to God in worship. In expressing our relationship to God, we need to be reminded that He established the requirements for our relationship. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

Finally, Christians know that worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every moment, every day of our lives. The Apostle Paul made the daily reality of worship clear to those who have experienced His 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

Christian, God made you for worship. Worship Him in holy attire!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “More than a Religion”

“More than a Religion”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Webster’s Dictionary defines religion as an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods. There are many systems of belief in the world. As a professing Christian I know that there is only one true faith. Saving faith has Jesus, the only Son of God as its object. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 Jesus also said, “… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus also commanded His disciples to make disciples by identifying them with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them the word of God, Matthew 28:19-20.

There is a difference between religion and faith. Faith is God’s gift by which the recipient professes trust and reliance upon Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. Religion is the expression of that faith. As there is only one true faith there is likewise only one true religion.

The Westminster Confession of Faith makes the following statement: “The visible church… consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Chapter 25, Par. 2)

But there is one world religion that is more than a religion. There is one existing religion that is a theocracy.

Once again, I refer to Webster’s Dictionary. A theocracy is a government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely inspired. The religion to which I refer is Islam. It is hard for those of us living in the West to understand a theocracy. Many hold dear the idea of the separation of church and state even though our founders assumed that the church would influence the morals of the state. We were a Nation founded upon Christian Principles. But, we were not intended to be governed by one religion.

In a theocracy church and state are one. Israel of the Old Testament was a theocracy. God appointed Prophets, Priests as well as Judges and Kings. The civil rulers were commanded by God to govern as God commanded. Israel’s civil laws were divine laws. Israel, as a biblical nation ceased to exist in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus.

In Romans Chapter 13, the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:1-2

From its inception Islam with its false view of God was established as a theocracy. Logically therefore, Islam’s goal is for there to be a church and state functioning as one under its god.

In my opinion our leaders are either purposely deceiving us or simply ignorant of Islam’s fundamental beliefs and goal. The various sects of Islam, in my opinion, may use different methods but their goal is the same. Islam will continue to seek to establish a theocracy such that the world would be ruled by their false god.

My purpose in writing this article is to cause men and women, especially Christian men and women to think about the most dangerous assault on our way of life in decades and it isn’t man-made climate change!

We are constantly bombarded by various philosophies, most notably secular humanism. We have dealt with the threat of the Fascism of Nazi Germany. We have watched as President Regan spoke concerning the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. We watch as our leaders refuse to act against those who see themselves above the law. We have even adopted some socialist programs that may indeed cause our economy to suffer. We have seen the world refuse to call evil evil. We have even seen in our Nation evil called good and good evil. We have witnessed little outrage at the murder of babies, even to the point of Planned Parenthood’s selling of murdered babies body parts.

What is the church to do? The Bible says that action should follow knowledge (Psalm 119:105; Matthew 4:4; Romans 12:2; 2Timothy 3:16:17). Knowing the truth will both guard your mind and inform your actions!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What is a Christian?”

“What is a Christian?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Luke, the evangelist, wrote in Acts 11:26 that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. A disciple is a follower and a learner. Disciples follow and learn from their Master who is the Risen Lord Jesus. Therefore, a Christian is likewise a learner and follower of the Risen Lord Jesus.

I don’t think that there are any reasonable people who would not agree that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. We also know that cults use the name Jesus. Simply using His name does not indicate that they are Christians. No, Christians follow and learn from Jesus Christ who is the Second Person of the Trinity.

The Jesus who is offered in the gospel is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is the One who took upon Himself human nature, Philippians 2:6ff. He is the God – Man. He is not a created being as the cults contend. Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is the God. He is the only way to the Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what was written is authoritative, as is the whole of Scripture.

Salvation is only through confessing Christ to be Savior and Lord. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Ephesians 2:8

Many claim to be Christians. But not all are. Jesus addressed this condition in His famous sermon. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We must be clear on this fact. A genuine Christian is one who has declared that he commits to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We know that all lords issue commands. Jesus has issued absolute commands. His commands are His words written. Christians live under the plain and revealed word of God preserved by His grace in the Bible. The sixty six books that make up the Bible are the commands of our Lord Jesus.

We continue to hear of those who call themselves Christians affirming sinful behavior, behavior that God has expressly condemned. At the risk of offending some, let me say that those who affirm evil behavior of any kind and lead others to do the same are in no way Christians regardless of what they may say.

My entire ministry is centered on the word of God. I know that I am not sinless. God’s word says that anyone who says that he’s sinless is deceiving himself and does not have the truth. No, I sin and I seek God’s grace of forgiveness through confessing my sins to Him, 1John 1:8-9. Yet I seek to obey God’s call of me as a pastor. As do all Christian Pastors who seek to do their best to present themselves to God as those approved. I work like all Christian Pastors to righty handle God’s word. I am accountable to Him to preach and teach the truth, God’s word is truth, John 17:17

I am reminded of God’s warning given through the Prophet Ezekiel. God said that if the watchman sees destruction coming and does not warn the people their blood is on his head. If pastors fail to warn their members of the certainty of eternal judgment for living in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, they will pay a heavy price when they meet the Lord! This is exactly what is happening. Main line churches and other apostate groups are not only failing to warn their members of certain judgment but are actually affirming evil behavior, calling evil good.

I’m not only referring to homosexual behavior, but also other expressions of immoral behavior. This is a time of opportunity. Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but He has overcome the world. I exhort professing Christians to deepen their knowledge of what God has said. Peter wrote always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15

We have the great mystery uncovered, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Love Will Win!”

“Love Will Win!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” 1John 4:8-9

My wife and I recently returned from Brooklyn, N.Y. There was a great celebration in that city over the Supreme Court’s issuance of law concerning the union of same sex couples. I refuse to use the term marriage, as they did because their unions are repugnant to the definition of marriage.

My refusal is not based on my opinion. It is based in God’s ordination and definition of marriage. He did so on the sixth day of Creation, Genesis 2:23-24. Jesus referred to this and said, “…What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6b

My purpose in writing this article is not to re-visit God’s definition of marriage. Every genuine Christian affirms marriage to be the life-long union of a man and a woman. Surely, I am not a Christian because I believe in this definition of marriage. I am a Christian by God’s sovereign choice. I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, Ephesians 2:8

Yet, as a Christian I hold to God’s definition of marriage because I live under His word! In fact, I submit to all that God has said. I fall short more times than not. As one who has been born again, I often choose to sin. But by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I acknowledge my sin and appeal to God’s mercy for forgiveness. The Bible says, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2Corinthians 7:10

God said that all men are born dead in sin. It should not surprise me when pagans act like pagans. Yet I was shocked by the hubris of five of our Supreme Court Justices. Hubris is defined as extreme pride. It was an extremely prideful act to usurp the authority of God and re-define what He had defined in Creation.

Even though I know that, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision”, (Psalm 2:4) I was angry at those who demonstrated hatred of God.

Now, I am grieving over those whose sinful lifestyles have received the affirmation of our highest court. I am grieving as I hear of churches and pastors who call themselves Christians celebrating this decision saying, “Love won.” In fact, love will win; the love that wins proceeds from the Sovereign Lord who is love.

My purpose in writing this article is to exhort all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus to grow in the knowledge of what we believe and why we believe it. The Apostle Paul wrote to those who were born again and said, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

Marriage was given to mankind by God to be a blessing; to be the foundation of all societies. Marriage between a man and a woman is a profound mystery that refers to the relationship that Christ has with His church, Ephesians 5:32.

Don’t be surprised at the behavior of those who are lost. They oppose God because their hearts are evil continually. We would be just like them, children of God’s wrath. But God was rich in mercy and chose to save His people by grace, Ephesians 2.

Finally don’t be misled by those who may tell you that you can live as they do and still be a citizen of the Kingdom. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1Corinthians 6:9-11

Christian pursue godliness by living under His word for His glory! Grow in a church that teaches the truth.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Fear Sells”

“Fear Sells”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Recent books on Prophecy and the End Times are more focused in fear than truth. It seems that emotional fear sells books. Those concerning the “Left Behind” theory are among the greatest sellers in Christian Book Stores.

Few of the experts promoting this theory ask the real expert. His name is Jesus and He gave very specific answers to questions concerning the end of the world so that disciples would not be manipulated by the emotional fear constructed by false teachers.

Here is what Jesus said: “As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age… (Jesus said) “See that no one leads you astray… But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”’ Matthew 24:3, 4, 36

These questions were motivated by Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He said that not one stone would be left upon a stone, Matthew 24:2. Jesus declared what happened in 70 A.D. The great siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army was led by Titus. The ancient Jewish Historian, Josephus recorded the total destruction of the temple and the barbaric actions of the Romans toward the Jews.

The disciples also wanted to know what Jesus’ return would be like as well as the day of the end of this world. The first answer concerning the sign of Jesus’ second coming was answered very directly by our Lord. He said that His coming would be like lightning! The book of Revelation describes Jesus’ coming in these words. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” Revelation 1:7

The Apostle John was allowed to see Jesus’ coming and he sought to explain the unexplainable in words. The fact is no words are adequate to describe pure glory. But, the Revelation of Jesus Christ which was given to John was intended to reveal the certainty of Jesus’ return. All the nations will mourn because of sin. There will be great wailing by all because the time for salvation will be ended. When Jesus comes again, He will come to judge both the living and the dead. He will come not as the Savior but as the Judge.

John saw more. He saw that Jesus’ return would not be a secret! Every eye would see Him in His glory. There is no “secret rapture” recorded in the Bible. I am aware that there are some who have built an entire theology on one word that is derived from the Latin translation from which our word rapture is derived. The word in the original language is translated “caught up”. It is found in 1Thessalonians 4:17. Paul was describing what would happen to the believers who were alive when Christ returned. He said that the dead in Christ would rise first and those who were alive would be caught up in the air to meet Christ as He descended.

Likewise, Jesus spoke in a figure of speech when He said that “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40-41 He followed that statement by calling the disciples to “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 In other words, Jesus was exhorting disciples to remain prepared for His coming because no man knows when He will return. In fact, Jesus declared that in His human nature, He didn’t know when He would return. “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36 But, Jesus said that He would return when all the elect are gathered in. That is, when all those whom God chose from eternity have professed faith in Jesus’ person and work, the end will come.

Now you know. Don’t buy into the “fear game” of false teachers. “Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 Are you ready to meet Him?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What Will It Take?”

“What Will It Take?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What will it take? What will it take for our minds to connect with what we hear and see? I keep hoping that men and women will become critical concerning what they are told to believe. Yet, I see little evidence that critical thinking is the majority behavior.

I remember that I took a Myers- Briggs personality test about twenty five years ago. This test was designed to categorize one’s personality. It generally revealed how one processed relationships and events. It is somewhat helpful in allowing the person tested to “work on” certain areas of weakness. By no means is this test based upon Christian principles. The founders of the test based their work on Carl Jung, the predecessor of Freud. Nevertheless, just as a stopped clock is right twice a day so too this study has been helpful in assessing various personality strengths and weaknesses. You may have guessed that I’m not a fan of either Jungian or Freudian psychology. As a Christian, I view myself through the lens of Scripture. That is, my identity is in Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and revealed the details of Christian identity. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

I’m not seeking to be some “pop psychologist.” I’m simply use my experience of this testing to illustrate a point. I am aware that all truth is God’s truth.

Nevertheless, I was required to take the Myers-Briggs test and when I did, the version I took had a score of 1-20 in four areas. I honestly answered the questions. I had hopes of learning about myself. I discovered that in the judging section of the test I scored a perfect 20. I was so upset that my judging score was 20 that I asked to take the test again. I was allowed to take it, but was advised that any different score would not be counted, but I could take the test for personal reasons. In the re-take, I purposely changed a few answers and to my surprise, my score in the same section was 19 to 1 judging.

My wife still jokes with me about that test. Recently, I’ve started to think about that score I received 25 years ago. Why, I thought, was I so distressed in receiving a score of 20 or even 19 in the judging section? I initially assumed that judging in the test meant that I was a judgmental person. Upon further review, I discovered that the judging section was a determiner of critical thinking. A “judging” person is one who seeks facts rather than perceptions in order to make decisions.

As a Christian, I know that my faith is a gift from God and it is based upon facts. The supreme fact is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The validity of the Christian Faith rests upon the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1Corinthians 15:17.

I know that God enters the mind and changes the heart. I know that Man is made in the image and likeness of God. We bear some of God’s attributes that He communicated to us. We have a mind by which we can think, reason, critique and make decisions.

If you’re a fan of Myers-Briggs, you’ll recognize the following letters: I-T-S-J. Myers-Briggs’ letter categories stand for: I = introversion versus E = extraversion; T = thinking versus feeling; S = sensing versus intuitive; J = judging versus perceiving. Don’t be led to believe that only certain people think or certain people feel, etc. God made us all with all of these abilities. Some are stronger in certain areas than are others.

We must make decisions. I am reflecting upon our culture and am led to ask, “What will it take for men and women to make intelligent, informed decisions?”

I write to Christians. I am concerned that much of the church is not arming her members to think. We have majored in “feelings.” Yet, basic issues are confusing to Christians. We seem unable to know what is right.

Christian, don’t “check” your mind at the door. Study to show yourself approved. Learn what is right and good and true. Then do it for the glory of God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “While We Were Sleeping”

“While We Were Sleeping”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
My title is taken from one of my wife’s favorite movies, “While you were sleeping.” It’s about a young woman’s desire to marry her “dream” man. Her dream turns out to resemble a kind of nightmare. But the story ends happily as she does realize her dream by marrying the “dream” man’s brother.

Sometimes it’s just great to immerse oneself in the fantasy world of the movies. Some movies, like the one mentioned, provide a respite from the harsh reality that surrounds us. But I chose a variation of the title of that movie to be the title of this article because we are witnessing the decay of our Christian Culture. It has occurred while we, the church, have been sleeping.

Current events seem more like fiction than reality. We are being led by men and women who continue to deny reality. They have no absolute principles. Decisions are made by consensus. The end of the book of Judges is being lived out. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25 God’s word revealed by the Prophet Micah is all but forgotten. “…Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8. This not only reflects our culture, it is reflected in much of the Evangelical Church which seeks to please men rather than God.

The Church has been asleep. The decay into moral relativism has been occurring over decades. It will take an intentional effort of Christians in the Church to be different, speak the truth and thereby by God’s grace make a difference.

Have you wondered why the solutions to the problems in our society seem to be evasive? I suggest that the underlying reason is relativism which militates against absolute standards. When differing parties seek to come up with a solution to any given issue, a compromise that preserves a principle is impossible. The reason this kind of compromise is impossible is that each side has relative principles. We are told the only acceptable solution is to “give up” on the idea of any absolute. Compromise and be tolerant; using the new definition of tolerance which gives every opinion equal validity.

Marriage is under attack so I use it as an example. There is an absolute principle concerning marriage. The principle is that God defined marriage, Man did not. God defined marriage to be between one man and one woman.
Yet, our leaders seem to think that God’s design of marriage is not an absolute principle. We have allowed men and women to lead us who deny this absolute.

The “right” insists that the principle of marriage is based in tradition. The “left” insists that the definition of marriage is fluid and should be based on a mutual “love.” So the fight continues. Even churches have adopted same-sex marriage liturgies, which is in fact an oxymoron.

God has ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman. It is not simply traditional nor is it simply based upon mutual love. Marriage is defined as a permanent union of a man and a woman because God defined it so. God not only defined marriage in this way, but He also ordained marriage to be the building block of all societies.

I suppose that I would be considered by some to be “old fashioned” or worse, bigoted. So be it. It is long passed the time when Christians should seek to appease others. Jude called the Church to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

The Apostle Paul wrote that God organized the church so that we would speak the truth in love and grow up into Christ, who is the Head of the Church, Ephesians 4:15.

Be strong in the Lord and when confronted with a lie, declare it so. Christian, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them,” Ephesians 5:11. Seek God’s glory not Man’s. Remember, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A#1; 1Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 73:25-26.

Some suggest that the decay of our culture is irreversible. I believe that as the church awakes from her slumber, she will make a difference for God. Regardless, we know that God’s purpose for His people is holiness. No matter what the circumstance we, the people of God are to rely upon His sovereignty and live under His word!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Fact or Feeling”

“Fact or Feeling”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Jesus was asked by a lawyer to tell him the “great commandment of the Law.” Jesus gave a direct answer. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

God has commanded that every faculty, every part of what He has made us is to submit to Him in total devotion. Proceeding out of this primary command is our behavior towards others.

This is the summary of the Law and the Prophets. In the New Testament we learn more of God’s provision to enable His people in applying this command. For example, The Apostle Paul wrote, “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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

I am a Christian Pastor writing to fellow Christians. You may be reading this and wondering why, you as a Christian need to have some pastor write about what you already know?

Here’s my answer: I have found that professing Christians may have memorized these verses and if not memorized, at least are quite familiar with them. Likely, you have attended Sunday School Classes concerning God’s command given to mankind and His expectations which these verses emphasize. Yet, I must tell you that I’ve lost count of how many times Christians have told me that they make choices and decisions in life based upon what they feel will make them happy.

In one sense, this is simply an expression of our fallen nature. We will do what we want to do. We will do those things that we “feel” are right. We succumb to the thought that God wants us to be “happy”, whatever that means!

The God of the Universe, the One who said He has all authority in heaven and earth, Matthew 28:18 has revealed His divine attributes and thereby the means by which we, His creatures can have a relationship with Him. The point is that all of who we are includes the minds that God has given us. By His grace and mercy, we are not those who have been left in bondage to our desires and feelings. God sovereignly enters our minds and pierces our hearts. God makes us new creations in Christ, 2Corinthians 5:17.

The Apostle Paul was very clear in writing inspired Scripture. “Be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” Christians should be examples of those who engage their minds to seek God’s will.

Christianity is certainly more than simply a religion. It is that. But, it is supremely about a relationship. Christianity is God’s revealed means to have a relationship with Him. This is propositional truth. God has given one way. He has revealed that a right relationship with Him is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

By God’s grace this fact is ordained by Him to be lived. As God reveals more of Himself, we are confronted by our creatureliness. We depend upon Him to cause us to “renew our minds.” We are the ones intentionally seeking understanding of what He has said. Yet He is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

God’s command is to our whole person. The word translated by our English word love means total devotion. Therefore, God’s command to love Him with our heart, mind, soul and strength encompasses all of us. The heart is the seat of our wills, the motivator of our actions. It is not simply our emotions, although the heart includes our emotions. The heart must be informed by our minds. Our minds must be renewed by the word of God. Don’t be led astray by your feelings. Engage your mind with the word of God so as to be transformed. Then you will be able to test and discern God’s will, His good and perfect will. This, beloved, is a fact not a feeling!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Matter of Interpretation?

“A Matter of Interpretation?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Permit me to make an assertion. The Bible is the most important book in existence. More aptly, the Bible is a collection of 66 books that will change your life!

Yet not only is the Bible the least understood literature in our day. It is the most distorted as well. We’ve been led to think that what is contained in the Bible is a matter of individual interpretation. There are as many opinions concerning the meaning of a particular passage as there are readers. But, here is the harsh reality. Every interpretation cannot be right. In fact, there is only one right interpretation of any particular passage. Logically, different and opposing interpretations may all be wrong. But they cannot all be right. There are some very difficult passages of Scripture that we may never be able to arrive at the right interpretation, at least not until we get to glory.

God gave us the Bible because He is a God who desires to be known. The Bible is His revelation of Himself and how we, as His creatures are to relate to Him. Therefore in general, it is possible for us to understand what God has said.

The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such clear and indisputable doctrine. It is clearly revealed by God that men (or women) are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

How is it, then that we can navigate through the myriad of personal interpretations of the Bible?

The answer is hermeneutics, interpretation. There are two principles by which we are able to interpret Scripture. The first is called the biblical principle. The second is called the literal principle. The biblical principle is also referred to as the analogy of faith. The Protestant Reformers did not discover this principle, they merely recovered it. They understood the importance of the biblical principle which means that the Bible interprets itself. The clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. In other words, there are no contradictions in the Bible. In addition, the Old Testament is understood in light of the New Testament. There may be an apparent contradiction, but once studied we find consistency throughout because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue. God does not contradict Himself!

The second principle, the literal one, also called the historical/grammatical principle means that the plain meaning of the text is always sought. You may have heard the saying that, “Text without context is pretext.” The words of Scripture find their meaning within the broader context of the passage. For example, because of the difficulty in understanding Hebrews 6:4, it would not be accurate to base a theology on the possibility of losing one’s salvation! Keeping that verse within its context makes it clear that the writer is speaking of one who may profess faith, but does not possess genuine saving faith. In other words, the writer was speaking of those who are called apostates.

Furthermore, the Bible is literature. Recognizing literary devices and usages must be considered in arriving at a literal understanding of a particular passage. Grammar, the meaning of words, the context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in discovering the literal and plain meaning. It is important to remember that the literal interpretation of the Bible is not the same as a literalistic interpretation. For example, we know that when the prophet Isaiah wrote that the “trees of the field shall clap their hands” he didn’t mean that trees have hands. God was describing the joy of all Creation when His plan of redemption is finally consummated. Or, when Jesus said that He was the “door of the sheep”, He did not mean that He looked like a door! John 10 was declaring that Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

With these tools in mind, the biblical and literal principles of interpretation, you can then seek to understand what God has said so as to apply it for His glory. Guard yourself against the purveyors of subjective interpretations of the Bible. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beauty of Holiness”

“The Beauty of Holiness”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” Psalm 96:9

I have observed that the first three words of Psalm 96:9 are among the most ignored words of Scripture in the Western Church. Before the meaning of the “splendor or beauty of holiness” can be applied in worship, we must understand the command to worship.

“Worship the LORD,” means God alone is to be worshiped. The Psalmist commanded God’s people to “worship the LORD!” Yet, a cursory look at the contemporary church, reveals that her worship is designed to reflect on what God has done for us rather than on who He is. As I have read some of our “experts” concerning worship, most often their recommendations surround how we can attract people through the kind of music and skits, etc. offered. We’ve even used technology to simulcast a pastor’s message to remote locations. People gather around a screen eagerly anticipating a “relevant” message and are treated to the latest in contemporary music.

In the face of such methods, God’s word delivers clear application. “Worship the LORD!” The Psalmist’s point is to declare to God’s people that God is the object of worship, not us. When God’s people gather for worship on the Lord’s Day it is not primarily an opportunity for evangelism, or worse, entertainment. It is the time to submit to God’s word and declare His praises.

Does this seem like a radical thought? I’ve stopped asking professing Christians, “Why did you choose to join your church?” The answers vary from the engaging music to a good program for my children or relevant “how to” sermons. Almost never is the response, “I chose my church family because God is worshiped there.”

If you are a Christian, you know that God made you to worship Him. I’m not writing against those times when we might attend preaching conferences or even Christian concerts. Those events can be used by God to edify and educate as well as lift our spirits. But, they do not constitute corporate worship on the Lord’s Day nor should they.

Psalm 96 is entirely focused on God’s majesty, sovereignty and holiness. Everything belongs to God and is for Him. Worship is a work of God’s people for God. This, by the way, is the meaning of the word “liturgy.” It is humbling to realize that I am 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 and He is the object of worship. Christians worship the one true God who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has fully revealed Himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ who is the Second Person of the Trinity.

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. God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift. Believers desire to worship Him!

None of us are immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. I believe this is most clearly seen in what is called worship in our day.

There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. May we all examine our worship. Specifically, may we re-think the content of our worship so as to make it clear that God is being worshiped and the Name of Jesus is being exalted.

Theologians and pastors have known that the first evidence of deterioration in the faith of the church is demonstrated by her worship.

Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman re: worship. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:22-23

Worship is repeated four times in these two verses. God has a high expectation of worship. May we who profess the Name of Jesus likewise submit to Him in the “beauty of holiness” as true worshipers.