“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Thursday, September 9, 2021

RELIGION VERSUS JESUS CHRIST


Over the years, I have noticed that Christians who are losing their faith (or have lost it) stop talking about Christ and start speaking about "religion"—usually in a negative way. The word 'religion' has a generic quality that allows a person who has lost their faith to use a shotgun approach in their attacks against Christianity. They attack the sins of Christians, or people posing as Christians, past and present. If they were once Christians, they should know that Christianity is not about religion. It is about Christ. It is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ex-Christian, or ant-Christian, talks much about sins of the church and little about forgiveness found in Christ — experienced by hundreds-of-millions of people throughout the last 2,000 years! Genuine Christianity is about Christ, so why don’t they attack Christ? 

 


There are anti-Christians who DO attack Jesus Christ, but again they
often base their attacks on the failures and sins of Christians. There is also a set of darker people whose wicked hearts hate Christ because He is God. He is the Word. He is Truth. Jesus Christ is the source of all that exists, visible and invisible. He is the only source of salvation.
[1]

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being.”[2]  

 

Anti-Christians and people who have lost their faith and turned away from Christ, choose darkness rather than light.

 

“What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”[3]

 

Some people have lost their faith because they are disappointed or angry with God. Their lives did not go as they planned or wanted. They are disappointed or angry because disease, disability, divorce, or the loss of a loved one, or loved ones. Perhaps their bitterness is rooted in being betrayed, abandoned or rejected by those they love most. Their hearts are broken and they blame God. 

 

Other people hate Christ because His light shines into their darkness and exposes their sin. They like their sin and want to continue. They prefer darkness of the soul.  Still others execrate Christ because they are anti-Christian, they are anti-Christ. They have given themselves over to the prince of darkness. 


Do not dismiss the idea of the diabolical at work in the world. All you have to do is watch the Hollywood’s movies about demons, witches, possession, and celebrating all forms of evil and sin. Look and the number of books with demonic themes, witches and wicca. Can’t you see the spirit of the age? 

 

Jesus spoke of Satan as a real being.[4] He spoke to Satan and Satan spoke to him.[5]  Jesus spoke about hell as being a real place.[6] Sceptics may say that references to fire and brimstone and gnashing of teeth are not meant to be taken literally. How do they know? 


Mike Livingstone wrote:

 

The images of fire (Matt. 25:41), darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), the weeping and gnashing of teeth ” (Matt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28), and being cut into pieces speak of the horror of hell.”

“Are these vivid images of hell literal or figurative? If they are meant to be figurative, then the imagery is pointing beyond what human language can convey. In other words, hell—if not a literal fire and literal darkness—is immeasurably worse than those images and inexpressibly worse than we can even imagine or describe. As heaven is more wonderful than our finite minds can comprehend, hell is more horrible than we can comprehend.” (see footnote 5.)

Jesus also spoke of heaven as a place that is perfect, a place of joy, rewards and treasures. Shari Abbott wrote: “What Did Jesus Say About Heaven?” (https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/what-did-jesus-say-heaven-hell/). Heaven is a place where Christ is: I want to be with Him. I want to see the face of the One who has loved me and been with me throughout a life of trial, pain, disease and disability. I want to finally know why. I want to know as I am known.[7] And I want you to be there too.

There are so many traps, deceptions, temptations, addictions, and practices that seem harmless yet can draw believers away from Christ. Do not be drawn into them. If you are a Christian, your relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in all your life. As Saint Paul said, put on the Whole Armor of God.[8] Fellow Christian! Summon all your spiritual resources! Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee.[9]

MDP

__________

[1] John 14:6.

[2] John 1:1-3

[3] John 1:3b-5.

[4] Matthew 13:19 & 25:41; Mark 4:15; Luke 10:18, 11:18, 22:31-32; John 12:31, 14:30; 16:11.

[5] Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.

[6] Matthew 5:29-30, 10:28, 15:33, 25:41; Luke 15:15; 16:23.

[7] 1Corinthians 13:12.

[8] Ephesians 6:10-18.

[9] James 4:7.

Monday, August 23, 2021

PRESS RELEASE: GRANDFATHER'S GRANDDAUGHT STUCK IN HAITI !

 MY GRANDDAUGHTER IS STUCK IN HAITI !

Grandfather of adopted granddaughter wants her home

 


B
eaumont, Alberta — 30 August, 2021
 — Mark Davis Pickup needs to get his new 4-year-old granddaughter out of a Haitian orphanage caught amid violence, natural disasters, social chaos, and heavily dysfunctional government that has gripped the nation.  

The disabled grandfather (MS) of five wants his new granddaughter to escape to the safety of his family in Canada.  His granddaughter was abandoned at birth on a street in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince and has lived all her life in a Christian orphanage. Her natural parents are unknown.

 

Mark stated, “I need the red-tape cut in Haiti and Canada to give her an expedited flight out of there. We don’t need financial help; we need cooperation of all governments involved to get my granddaughter out of Haiti safely and quickly, very quickly!” 

On the morning of August 14th, a 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti, bringing down thousands of homes and buildings. The death toll is nearly 2,200 and rising. Many people are still under rubble or unaccounted for. Mark commented, “Fortunately, the orphanage where my granddaughter is located is okay and no lives were lost.”  Violent gangs have been terrorizing the population and blocking roads needed to transport vital supplies. Covid is also an issue. To top it all, tropical storm Grace hit Haiti on the heels of the earthquake, triggering flash flooding and landslides. Haiti’s President Jovenel Mo├»se was assassinated in July increasing the level of social breakdown and chaos. It all complicates getting Mark’s granddaughter out of the country. 

 

Mark’s goal is to get an emergency flight for his granddaughter, and other children at the orphanage in similar situations who are separated from their adoptive families. Any remaining red tape needs to be cut, or dealt with after arriving in Canada or the U.S.. Mark stated: "The situation in Haiti is dire! Danger to my granddaughter increases each day."

 

The Adoption Unit within the US Embassy, Port au Prince, Office of Children’s Issues has issued a travel advisory for adoptive families to reconsider plans to go to Haiti. They stated, in part:


Haiti’s current Travel Advisory is Level 3; Reconsider Travel, due to crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping. Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed, violently attacked, and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince International Airport. According to press reports, one such incident led to the recent tragic murder of travelers.

 

A humanitarian flight has been offered to fly into Haiti to get Mark's granddaughter and other matched children at the orphanage. Because the situation is so dangerous with gang violence—and a gang is blocking the road from the orphanage to Port au Prince—Mark is asking for an armed escort to accompany his granddaughter and other  children matched with Canadian and American families from the orphanage to the Port au Prince airport to fly to Miami or Montreal. “My granddaughter is in increasing danger, as are other adopted children. I want my grandchild safely in the loving arms of her forever family, including my wife and me. She will be given every chance to rise to her full potential as a Canadian citizen.”

 

Lobby efforts begin to governments and diplomatic sources.  Mark commented: “I will be seeking help from religious leaders, human rights groups, international adoption experts and advocates." 

 

###

For more information contact: 


Mark Davis Pickup


Telephone: (780) 929-9230, email: Sanctity@shaw.ca

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

MEMORIES OF REFLECTIONS









Saint Augustine said:

Love,

Endures in adversity

It shows prudence in prosperity

It is strong in suffering

It rejoices in good deeds

It is safe in temptation

It is generous in hospitality

Cheerful among true brothers

Patient with the faithless

It is the soul of the Scriptures

The virtue in prophecy

The salvation of the mysteries

It is the strength of knowledge

The bounty of faith

It is wealth for the poor

Life for the dying

Love, is everything.

 

I have suffered with disease and creeping disability most of my adult life. Diagnosed with aggressive multiple sclerosis at thirty, I endured a muriate of frightening neurological symptoms for decades. I am an old man now. Looking back, I’ve come to the same conclusion: Love is everything. Even when the body fails, love remains.  Love is the only possession we can take from this life. 

 

Saint Paul wrote about love. He said that even if we were to possess all knowledge and have profound spiritual gifts, and have faith that can move mountains, if we do not have love, we are nothing. 

 

Loveless faith is harsh, unbending, legalistic. Loveless faith lacks the love of Christ. Real love has certain characteristics. Augustine spoke of them in the passage above.  Paul said:

 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

My life has been a journey toward love—at times halting and uncertain, jealous and envious, often miserly in its expression. But God has been slowly teaching, wooing, chastening then blessing.   

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Again, Saint Paul’s words. Saint Augustine understood. No doubt, he drew he drew much of his understanding on love from the 13th Chapter of 1Corinthians.  It has blessed and inspired humanity, and been read at countless weddings.

For me, it was a passage of the holy Scriptures I kept in mind and close to my heart during my worst attacks of multiple sclerosis. And they were bad, so bad that my doctor did not think I would live more than a few years.  The best doctors could do nothing to stop the savage attacks and slow degeneration. My wife had to watch it all ! She was convinced she would be widowed as a young mother with two children.  That’s how bad things got during the 1980s and ‘90s.

American author, lawyer and senior Fellow for the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism met me. He described what he saw:

“I met Mark in the early 1990s and we became good friends. When I met him, he could barely walk using two canes because of his progressive MS. Over time, I observed his physical condition worsen, to the point he became triplegic, that is, was only able to use his left arm. He had no use of his legs whatsoever.”

In 2006, the MS also began to affect my left arm. My neurologist had exhausted all his treatment options. He resorted to administering the chemotherapy drug mitoxantrone (at that time still an experimental treatment for MS). It had some ugly side-effects and was discontinued. 

During those dark days, the knowledge that I was loved, and had always been loved, became magnified—it was my comfort and my consolation. One night I was lying awake on my bed in the middle of the night, gazing at the shadowy hoist hovering above me (used to help get me out of bed). I thought about what I'd lost over the years: My career, my health, use of my body, many friends and family. The words of Job came to me:

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19.25-27)

 

Throughout the ages, a great sea of heavy-hearted humanity have identified with Job's words, the words of a man who lost everything: his health, his children, his wealth. His "friends" Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar taunted him under the guise of comfort. Even Job’s wife taunted him: “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die.” (2.9).  And yet, even in his deepest sorrow and discouragement, Job cursed the day he was born, but not God. 

 

Those of us who have passed through that great sea of heavy-hearted humanity, can learn much from Job. Even if we die having lost everything in this world, through faith in Jesus Christ, we will have everything in the next world. Job reminds us that although our flesh will be destroyed, we shall see God. 

 

The love we take from this life will be perfected as we enter God's perfect love. All things will be made new—even us who believe in His Son! 


Mark 

 

 




Friday, July 30, 2021

HAITI NEEDS VISION AND HOPE


Sustainability and self-sufficiency are most often the keys to raising people out of poverty. Personal initiatives, small businesses, and responsible farming must be encouraged. I think of the oft quoted pearl of wisdom: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

 

In the years after the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010,

many appeals were made to the world for essential things like clothing; clothes were given. The pleas kept coming; so in 2013, my wife, LaRee, packed 5 sewing machines on a plane and flew to a Haitian orphanage. She taught the older children to sew and left the sewing machines there. (My wife is a maternalistic sort of woman with an immensely practical orientation.) LaRee ascribes to the view that giving people a hand up is better than just giving them a handout. LaRee is a grandmother with an older school of thought rooted in practicality and resourcefulness. Decades before it was fashionable, she repaired and patched clothing, and reused fabric in what might be called “re-purposing” or “retro” today. She simply calls it frugality, and not being wasteful. 

 

[Give a child a garment and you’ve clothed him until he grows out of it. Teach him to make his clothes and you have clothed him for a lifetime. Teach him how to mend and alter clothing and you’ve given him a profession.]

 

That’s my LaRee. Practical. Hands-on. Never mind all the highfalutin hoity-toity international declarations. proclamations and promises of aid. As Larry the cable guy says just “Git-er-done!”

 

Before anything meaningful can be done for sustainability, Haiti’s chaos, rampant violence and societal disintegration must be brought under control and stopped. Haiti needs the expertise and assistance of businesspeople and their “know how.” Haiti needs community development from the ground up. Farmers need to be supported, Their farming techniques must be updated and modernized. That will take the form of on-the-ground agricultural expertise to help farmers and farm families. Corporate investments must play a role in Haiti’s economy. The UN, other nations, international and private foundations and philanthropists have a role to play. 

 

This has been done before in other places. Twenty-five years

ago, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown took a delegation of business executives to former Yugoslavia to explore possible business opportunities that might re-build the war-torn region and make a meaningful difference in the Balkans. Unfortunately, the delegation of 34 died in a plane crash in Dubrovnick, Croatia. But it did not stop the rebuilding and America played a significant role.

 

Throughout his presidency, I corresponded with Bill Clinton on a number of occasions, usually about disability issues and public policy supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a much wider context, I also encouraged the president’s administration in its efforts to rebuild the Balkans and create an economy where free enterprise could flourish and people thrive.  (I believe that the sanctity of human life and being pro-life is also concerned with how people live to reach their full potential.) After his Secretary Brown’s untimely death, I sent a letter of condolence to the President. He responded by saying, in part:

 

“Dear Mark: Thank you for your heartfelt message of condolence on the death of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and the 34 people who accompanied him on his mission in support of peace. … Ron Brown knew the meaning of the American Dream and, as a member of my Cabinet, fought to secure it for everyone willing to work for it and believe in themselves. He and his colleagues lost their lives in their quest to bring the benefits of economic renewal to the Balkans and to strengthen the peace. …”

 

We can take the sentiments expressed by Bill Clinton and apply them to Haiti. Haiti needs someone to ignite a spark of a Haitian Dream that brings hope to Haiti’s people. They need to believe they can succeed. They need to embrace a vision that they can honestly achieve their dreams of prosperity, and better their communities, if they only believe in themselves. 


There is a Biblical proverb that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”[2] It is not a vision seen with the eyes, rather the heart—that internal place where dreams are born. Remember the words of the fox to the Little Prince: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”[3] 

 

I believe that Haiti’s primary problem is that they are a people

without hope. They have no vision. That needs to change. It can
change! Creating an environment that is conducive to economy renewal, encourages investment, restores law and order, supports local businesses and farming, and, most importantly, brings Christian hope to the people that only Jesus Christ offers. 

 

Imagine that dreams really can come true, then make it happen. Theodore Roosevelt once said “Believe and you’re half the way there.” 

 

Mark Davis Pickup 



[1] Cindy Wooden, “To feed the world, start with family, pope says” Our Sunday Visitor, 26 July 2021. https://www.osvnews.com/2021/07/26/to-feed-the-world-start-with-family-farms-pope-says/

 

[2] Proverbs 29.18.

 

[3] Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

[3]

Monday, July 26, 2021

THE PEWS ARE EMPTY!



I remember when the cultural madness became apparent to me, at least to my boy's mind. It was the early 1960s. My vague early memory of the 1950s was a world still deeply influenced by western Christian civilization with its morals, culture and mores. Life made sense and had order. 

 

Not everyone was Christian or even attended church. But you would have been hard-pressed, for instance, to find someone who did not know the ten commandments. They may not have followed them, but they knew they ought to. I remember when people were not afraid to walk alone at night on city streets, when people did not lock the doors of their houses or cars. More people told the truth than lied. I remember people whose word was their bond, and a handshake was as binding as any written contract. It’s hard to believe things were that way but they were. I remember it.

 

At a personal level, I was surrounded scholarly, ordered conservative men of manly good natures, like my father and grandfather. My grandfather's world was made up of music, tweed, a living room with overstuffed brocade chairs and sofa, and an ancient faded Persian rug.  A mantle clock sat on his fireplace. Its gentle steady ticking marked the hours, days, months, years, and decades dating back the early 20th century. His house smelled of coffee, old books, and pipe tobacco.  I loved being there.

 

In today’s world of the 21st century, men like my father and grandfather would be reviled and scorned as patriarchy.  It must have rubbed off on me—recently I was called “a patriarchal piece of S...t.” (I rather like the title.) The word ‘patriarchy’ is a dirty word now, but not to me. It evokes dear memories of security, family, Christian moral order, honesty, and decency. 

 

My father encouraged young people of both genders to rise to their full potential.  In fact, after his death in 1970, a Junior high school was named in his honour because of his love for education. But none of that fits into the mentality of 21st century moderns, the woke crowd, cancel culture, or ideologues of alternate gender fiction. (I’ve lost count of how many genders we are supposed to believe exist.) They cancel the memory of such men.  After all, men like my father were white straight men. They had “white privilege” despite being raised in the Great Depression of 1930-1940, then fighting a world war that claimed between 22-30 million military lives—and the same estimated number of civilian deaths.[1] 


They defeated the Nazis! Some white privilege! If my father’s and grandfather's generations were still alive, moderns would call them Nazis—but then the vocabulary moderns tends to be limited. They call anyone they disagree with a Nazi. Of course those who level the white privilege and Nazi accusations didn’t experience any of that history. They prefer to alter and rewrite history to suit their own agendas and worldviews. 

 

My father lived just long enough to see the beginnings of the 60s liberal church take root and abandon absolute truth for relative truth. They renounced the ancient tried-and-true Christian moral code for an experiment in social reconstruction of society. The stupidly audacious 1960s. My dad was a member of the United Church of Canada. It was, at one time, the largest Canadian Protestant denomination (or so they claimed). The 1960s saw a falling away from sound doctrine and Biblical truth. The early shifts were small—so small my father felt petty even mentioning them. But as surely as night follows day, one slight deviation after another, the falling away from Biblical truth became more and more apparent until: The Virgin birth was denied, the miracles denied, the validity and authority of the Bible was questioned, even the bodily resurrection of our Lord was denied with attempts to explain it away (remember the ridiculous 'swoon theory'?). By the time my father challenged the falling away, it was too late. A few years before he died, he said that one morning he woke up to realize he had nothing in common with his church anymore. When he challenged the church leadership’s direction, they invited him to leave (a fine display of liberal tolerance and accommodation). My father spent the last few years of his life at a local Anglican church that had an evangelical vicar.

 

Today the United Church of Canada is dead—a hollow shell of its former self. The local United Church where my father was a member—and was invited to leave in 1966—is now permanently closed. It died a slow death one empty pew after another until the last task of the minister was to turn out the lights and turn off the power. The closed church stands as a dismal monument to the failure of liberal compromise and accommodation of the culture. 


Liberal Christianity is just secularism cloaked in religious vestments.  


When denominations succumb to liberalism’s superficial allure, or "progressive Christianity," their people become starved of Biblical truth and the moving of the Holy spirit. Pews begin to empty. 


People don’t need more liberal blather and soft soap. They get enough of that from the media, governments, schools, tenured university professors and the entertainment industry. People do not need comforted consciences, they need conviction. In every heart-of-hearts, people know their own inner darkness; it only grows deeper the further they drift from God’s Truth, holiness, and divine love that has beckoned them since their earliest memory. They need the blazing light of Christ's objective truth, not relative truth. Objective truth convicts human hearts; it is the source of true healing and peace. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6) There are not many ways to God, there is only one way and Jesus Christ is it. Either that or Christ lied. Should I believe Him and His unchanging Truth or the ambient culture of uncertain brutal progressivism and fluid political correctness?


In his penetrating book Mere Christianity, (an important part of my own Christian conversion), C.S. Lewis said, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” 

 

That is why I became a Christian more than forty years ago. I was a liberal, and ever so progressive. Ultimately, I only found regress in liberal progress. Relative truth that started with comfort and comfortableness eventually broke my heart in despair. 


Christ’s truth gave me comfort despite terrible storms of neurological dysfunction of MS, and then cancer. He has been with me throughout it all. Don’t give me the gooey fat of liberalism. I need the solid meat of Biblical truth to rely upon and the Holy Spirit to guide me. 


MDP 



[1] History on the Net, How Many People Died In World War 2https://www.historyonthenet.com/how-many-people-died-in-world-war-2

 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

THE HUMANLIFEMATTERS BLOG PASSES 1-MILLION VIEWS

The HumanLifeMatters blog has passed a major milestone:

1-MILLION page-views! (See the total page-views at the right.) Readers are primarily American, Canadian and British. I never thought the blog would be so successful. 

Apparently, people are actually interested in what an unlettered, disabled old man—living in his little house out on the hinterland of the Canadian prairies—has to say about suffering and faith, Life and love, ethics and culture. I have nothing to offer except that which the Lord gives me.

Recently, a reader from Texas wrote: 

"I can only marvel at the extent to which Our Lord has taught, and continues, to teach you. Also at the effective communication gifts with which He has endowed you. This blog is so profound, truths learned in circumstances no one would ever invite upon oneself. Another of the blogs you wrote drove my mind back to the accounts of Job."

Retired Canadian Member of Parliament, Ken Epp said this about the HLM blog:

"God has gifted you with amazing communication skills, and even though we may object, it seems that the person that God hones through hardship is really sharpened in the message he has experienced and learned from." 

Their words are kind. I'm grateful to them for highlighting that everything comes from the Lord, not me. Any ideas of substance do not come from my pea-brain. How could they! Christ said we can do nothing without Him.[1] The Apostle Paul said, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God."[2] 

Many blog posts have been forged in the fires of aggressive multiple sclerosis, (and cancer). Christ has been with me in suffering throughout most of my adult life. I learnt to trust him even in the worst of circumstances. He was with me during the terrors of neurological degeneration and happy regeneration with a miracle that delivered me from years in an electric wheelchair.

Everything good I've experienced in life comes from God. I'm dependent upon Him even for my next breath and heartbeat. My trials have kept me dependent on Christ.

Suffering has the capacity of stripping away all things extraneous in life, leaving only that which is essential. Throughout thirty-seven years of MS, I have learnt that it is in a state of spiritual poverty that the voice of the Holy Spirit can be heard more clearly. Discernment becomes sharper. Whole new dimensions of internal richness can open to the sufferer if they unite their suffering with Christ's redemptive suffering. We learn there is no suffering that He has not suffered. There is no pain He does not know, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. 

CHRIST HAS BEEN BEFORE US
Someone may ask "How did Christ suffer spiritually?" Read Matthew's account of Christ's agony in Gethsemane (Matthew 26.36-44). He said "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, ...."[3] Jesus cried from the Cross, "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?"[4] He knew spiritual agony.

I have been afraid of suffering. Christ was too. Three times Christ asked if it was possible that the cup pass over Him—a bitter cup of drawn out torture, and crucifixion. Crucifixion was a most shameful and excruciatingly painful death. Christ knew it was waiting for Him. But He concluded each prayer of petition by saying not His will but His Father's will be done.[5] 

I experienced the frustration and humiliation of being confined to a wheelchair. For years, my legs were useless. Do you think that Jesus did not know the frustration of being unable to move?  His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, as He hung naked for all to see his agony! That is humiliation! My fear of creeping paralysis pales in comparison. 

I was abandoned and betrayed by friends when I became disabled with MS. So was Christ abandoned and betrayed by His friends. Peter abandoned and betrayed Jesus, so did Judas!

For more than three decades, I often asked God to take away my MS and return me to normal. He did not. I had to come to a point of total resignation and complete surrender of my life and my stubborn will. I had to be able to say and pray, "Thy will be done"—regardless of what that might be entail, and mean it. It was/is necessary for me to understand that whatever suffering God allows is for my ultimate good. 

My prayers began to change to prayers of trusting acceptance. I asked God to reveal Himself in my suffering and give me understanding in my physical degeneration. I stopped asking and began accepting. For years, I no longer asked God for deliverance. and prayed as Jesus gave us example in the garden of Gethsemane and the model prayer He gave us: Thy will be done.

Then one day a few years ago, I felt led to go before the Lord and ask once again if He was willing, could I get out of my electric wheelchair and walk again, even with canes or a walker, even if only for a short time, ... . and I humbly asked that if possible could I dance with my wife again, just once? The answer was Yes. 

Gradually, almost imperceptibly at first, I began to regain physical function. I slowly regained the use of my right arm and hand, and then my legs (but not completely). I did get out of my wheelchair! I did walk again, but not without the use of a cane, canes or a walker. One winter night I was able to put down my canes and slow dance with my wife in our living room to Lionel Richie's Three Times a Lady. Okay, it was more like gentle swaying in time to the music and rotating, but to us it was dancing.

Surprisingly, I even ride a bike! Granted it's a three-wheel bike (my balance is off) and I tire quickly, but hey, I'm riding a bike. The Lord has not returned complete function. It keeps me dependent upon Him.
Remember that God did not take away the thorn in Saint Paul's side. God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."[6] Strength in weakness? Such a paradox. Spiritual truths so often entail paradoxes. 

It is in life that we find death. Jesus told us that in death we find life.[7] In surrender to Him we find freedom and liberty.[8] The first in this life will be last in the next, and the last will be first.[9] It is through spiritual poverty that we gain richness of the kingdom of God.[10] We can be blessed in mourning, and receive God's comfort.[11] The Lord himself will wipe away every tear.[12]

I have personally experienced the Lord's comfort in my grief and mourning. I know Christ's words to be true. It is possible to experience divine joy in the midst of earthly sorrow. How can I keep such a discovery to myself? The HumanLifeMatters blog gives me an avenue to express it. And it's good to know so many people read my posts.

What if I have to return to my wheelchair? I will be thankful for the few years I parked it in the spare room of our house. I will have the memory of slow dancing with my wife. And if I lose the use of my right arm and hand again (or both hands) I will be grateful for LaRee's and my romantic suppers when she did not need to cut my meat.

I will thank God for granting my prayer request, even for a short time, and trust that what He does or allows is for my eternal good. My miracle has actually been a sign—a sign that Christ has heard every cry of anguish, every desperate and terrified prayer throughout the decades. He has been with me throughout it all.



Mark Davis Pickup
Email: HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca

_________________
[1] John 15.5.
[2] 1 Corinthians 3.5.
[3] Matthew 26.38a, Mark 14.34. Cf. John 12.27.
[4] Matthew 27.46, Mark 15.34. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 or 42.9.
[5] Matthew 26.39-44.
[6] 2Corinthians 12.9.
[7] John 11.25b, cf. John 14.1-3. Cf. 2Corinthians 5.1.
[8] 2Corinthians 3.17, Galatians 5.1,13.
[9] Matthew 19.30, 20.16.
[10] Matthew 5.3.
[11] Matthew 5.4, 
[12] Revelation 21.4

Thursday, June 17, 2021

WITNESS TO LOVE AND LIGHT ON A LOVELESS AND DARK LANDSCAPE

Somebody recently asked me about my Christian conversion experience forty-one years ago. In some ways it seems so long ago and yet in other ways as though it was yesterday. 

My conversion brought me out of addiction and restored my life. In meeting Jesus Christ, my life was salvaged and renewed.

 

I was engulfed by a torrent of sensations and emotions: shame and guilt at my sinfulness, a great sense of awe, quickly followed an intense desire to be right with God. Confession, repentance, sweet reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice at Calvary.[1] Something changed! Everything changed! There was an inexplicable quaking deep within me at a soul-level. It was a timeless moment that seemed to come to me from across the ages. I met the Messiah, the Creator time and space, all creation, and all things,[2] seen and unseen.[3]

 

As I grew in faith, the holy Spirit (the spirit of Truth) began to indwell.[4]

 

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”—Ephesians 1.13 

 

It was like fire that warms yet convicts, instructing, leading, teaching, the voice of discernment, when to speak and when to listen. When degenerative neurological disease came, it was the spirit of truth that told me when to hold on and when to let go. Strangely and wonderfully, I also began to experience immense raids of JOY I had not experienced since very early childhood, at the very dawn of my memory. In this joy, or what C.S. Lewis called “enormous bliss,” came the knowledge that I had always been loved, not from my birth, but before my birth.[5]  And I knew I would never be the same again. 


Thus began my Christian pilgrimage toward the Celestial City (to use a phrase of John Bunyan’s Christian classic book Pilgrim’s Progress.) 

 

My conversion in 1980 left me with a near continual desire or yearning for heaven. I know this is not unique to me. Saint Paul spoke of this.[6] There is a universal longing for heaven —although those who have not met Christ cannot place or identify what they long for nor identify the root of the deepest sweet desire that they have always had. I believe this is the image of God within them crying for heaven. 

 

Again, C.S. Lewis spoke about this innate and universal longing for heaven in a sermon he delivered in 1942, in Oxford England, at the height of the second World War. It was entitled The Weight of Glory.  Lewis described this desire as a longing for a far-off country we have not visited:

 

“In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, … I feel a certain shyness. … I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness, … we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves.  … Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that settled the matter.  … The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. … For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”[7]

 

Lewis later mentioned his own ancient longing, his “enormous bliss” in his remarkable little book entitled Surprised by Joy.  

 

About most things I know very little or nothing. But I do know this: The indelible Image of God[8] is bestowed upon every human being at their beginning (conception). That’s what gives every person inestimable value and natural dignity. Everyone is worthy of God’s love—and they are loved by God.[9] (He desires their love and reconciliation through His Son.) 


If inalienable rights really do exist—as the towering foundational American Declaration claims—they come from a "Creator" (God) and cannot be taken from people. They do not come from governments or they can also be taken away with a stroke of a pen. Inalienable rights may be robbed from a person, but their right to life, to rise to their fullest potential, and respect for their natural dignity are their endowment, their spiritual inheritance. What are those rights? They begin with right to life. The right to life is first and highest human right because all other rights are dependent upon it. Without the right to life guaranteed, all other rights become arbitrary and uncertain. Human life is sacred; it deserves protection, care, and nurture in body, mind and spirit.


In drawing closer to God, we naturally become more concerned for our neighbour's welfare. This a natural outgrowth of Jesus words: 


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first great command. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself." — Matthew 22.37-39.


The first love for God naturally leads to the second. To love God with one's whole being leads to love of neighbour, because God cares about those within our purview, and how we treat them. The more we love God the more we will love one another. The more we love one another the more we will be concerned for their natural rights such as their right to life and the right to for them to rise to their full potential that God intended when He created them and indelibly stamped His image on them. 


I am reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt's words: 


'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.'12


The former First Lady named her fine 1958 speech "Where Do Human Rights Begin?" The venerable UN Chair of the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights words were true in as much as the physical places where human rights happen. But human rights actually begin long before then. They begin in  human hearts and consciences. This is the beginning of recognizing genuine human rights, regardless of what any government or legislature may declare. Human rights germinate in the heart before they are expressed in daily lives of people. I believe the source of human rights actually lies in the truth that every human being is endowed by God with His Image at that spark of life commonly referred to as conception.  This is the where and why of human rights. When this is recognized, we will place other peoples' best interests ahead of our own.11 


Love is the fuel of human rights that can be traced back to God. God is love.10 A community of people who understand this is a community where everyone is more concerned for the others than themselves. And when that happens, national human rights can thrive and do thrive. It defines community. The most vulnerable amongst us are safe and loved. A place where each person is concerned about his or her own rights and places their own rights ahead of other people's rights is not really community at all. Selfishness abounds and unnatural desires become paramount. Natural human rights under God are denied and decried. The most vulnerable eventually become unwelcome and unsafe.


Atheism's foundation does not logically support human rights. If human beings are just creatures, another species among many species that evolved from primordial slime, then there's no logical basis or reason for rights of any kind. Mob rule rules. Perceptions, instincts and convenience replace right and wrong and are replaced with "values" and "my truth" of the unholy trinity of Me, Myself and I. There is no place for objective truth that exists outside the individual. Right and wrong or morality are meaningless. What's correct is defined by dominant prevailing winds of thought that pleases the mob, at any given point in time. But in the end, chaos takes over. Even the mob turns in on itself. Might makes right. That is the abyss upon which western civilization now teeters and totters. We live in dangerous and treacherous times.


This brings me back to the Holy Spirit. Followers of Jesus Christ must continually rely upon the Holy Spirit to give them discernment and wisdom beyond their own insight.  Perhaps someone may ask "How can I discern between the voice of the the Holy Spirit and my own desires or other Spiritual Voices?" Good question. After all, Satan can appear as an angel light, make what is unholy appear as holy and sin appear as virtue. As we descend into a cesspool of moral corruption of the 21st century, how can we discern rightly? The Apostle John told us:


"Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits, whether they are of Go; because many false prophets have gone into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. ..."13  


Never allow yourself to become entangled with the world. We who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord are to be in the world but not part of the world. Be wise and serpents and harmless as doves.14  Remember, the devil prowls the earth like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. The Apostle Peter told us to resist him steadfast in faith.15 Any spirit that contradicts the Bible is not of God.


These are treacherous times, fellow Christian brother and sister. We must proclaim Jesus Christ to a lost, rebellious, hostile world. Don't expect an easy time. Remember the love and inexpressible joy of our Lord Jesus Christ that you yourself have experienced. Take that love into a loveless landscape all around us. God bless you as you go.


Mark  



[1] Colossians 1.13-14.

[2] John 1.1-3.

[3] Colossians 1.16-17,

[4] John 14.17, 1Corinthians 2.12-16.

[5] Psalm 139.13-18. Isaiah 49.1, Jeremiah 1.5, 31.3. Ecclesiastes 11.5b. Perhaps someone may think that because God was talking to Old Testament titans of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the same attention in utero was just for them. Not true! See Malachi 2.10a, Job 31.15, 1Corinthians 8.6, Ephesians 4.6

[6] 2Corinthians 5.2 -8, Philippians 1.231-23.

[7] C.S. Lewis, They Asked for a Paper (London, Geoffrey Bles, 1962) p.200.

[8] Genesis 1.26-27, 5.2.

[9] John 3.16-17. Cf. Exodus 20.13, Deuteronomy 4.32, Psalm 8.4-5.

[10] 1John 4.7-16.


[11] Philippias 1.27-2.4. Cf. John 13.34-35, 1John 3.11 & 23.


[12] Eleanor Roosevelt speech to the United Nation, "Where Do Human Rights Begin?" https://www.amnesty.org.uk/universal-declaration-human-rights-UDHR 


[13] 1 John 4.1-3a,  1 Corinthians 12.3,


[14] Matthew 10.16


[15] See 1 Peter 5.7-9a.