“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

Monday, January 24, 2022

A LOVE THAT IS, THAT IT IS


I read what someone wrote on LinkedIn about the poster above: “God has been God for a very, very long time.” He meant well, but I think there is a flaw in the writer’s thinking. It’s not that God has been God for a long time, He created time and operates outside of time. God always was. But even this sentence is foolish because the words "always" & "was" acknowledge time and can only make sense within the context of time. 


We cannot comprehend something existing outside of time because a world of time is all we know. In my pea-sized brain, I will make an analogy. Christ's disciple John said God is love. (1John 4:8-9). How much time does love occupy? How much time does an idea or thought occupy? The essence of love, and an idea are not expressed in time, only the thought of love or thinking the thought occupy a tiny span of time. In and of themselves, love, or an idea, transcend time. To ask, "How much time does love occupy?" is a non-sensical question. It is unanswerable. In his remarkable little book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis addressed this: "Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that."

 

In fact, I would go as far as to say, the things that matter most in life exist and operate outside the confines and limits of time. I have lived most of my adult life with serious degenerative disability (MS). The most unanswerable question in terms of my suffering is Why? After 38 years asking that question, I have begun to understand that the answer behind my every Why is the love of Christ. Divine love exists on another dimension that's not governed or subject to time. It is inexpressible, unfathomable. It simply is. I can express it another way: love is that it is. 


When I united my suffering with His salvific suffering on the cross, I discovered that I briefly entered an anteroom of the timeless, too wonderful to endure in my present (or present state) other than for a brief nano-second. In that brief whisper of bliss—which entered a moment in time to be expressed to my time-boundedness—suffering and creeping paralysis no longer mattered. All that mattered was/is God’s divine love.


This Divine love enters time for the sake of our earthly reality to benefit of you and me, but it comes from far beyond us. Its home is eternity which is outside of time. If I analyze it, love in its purest form seems to straddle both time and the timeless. My heart aches because it cannot take it all in—the smallness of my human understanding and my gigantic imperfection is yet incapable in this world, only the next. Then, I will understand just as I'm understood. The Apostle Paul said, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” To know and be known transcends time.


There was a sense of an eternal timeless reality—the only reality that ultimately matters—in Jesus' words, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” (John 5:58) Jesus existed in the essence of the Godhead with and in His Heavenly Father before the world of time and space existed (See John 17.5 & 24). The Incarnation brought Jesus into the world of time and space.  At Christ’s ascension, he stepped back into the timeless reality of eternity, just as all will who have given their lives to Him.


But what do I know, I'm a foolish old man.


MDP

 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

DISABILITY INCLUSION: SO FAR AND YET ... SO FAR!

Throughout my life (even before I was disabled with MS) I promoted disability inclusion. Many people have a hard time seeing people with disabilities (particularly visible disabilities or mental disabilities) as equals within normal society. Even progressives who pride themselves as inclusive have difficulty with this concept. They may say they don't, but they do. They make artificial gestures for token examples of disability inclusivity, but I always have a well-founded suspicion they are tokens and artificial. If it was otherwise, Canada would not fund and support assisted suicide by lethal injections for the disabled & terminally ill, while promoting suicide prevention amongst the healthy population. Canada's workforce would naturally tend to mirror the percentage of qualified and ready disabled workers in the population. But it does not. NOT even close!

I've been disabled almost all of my adult life. My children & grandchildren were brought up with disability in the family. They are comfortable with withered limbs and twisted bodies and tools used by people with disabilities such as wheelchairs, adapted vehicles and adapted homes. 

My wife and I taught them to see the person not their disability, to see abilities more than disabilities. That's genuine inclusion. (I've made many mistakes in my life but this was not one of them.) We did it before "inclusion" was a fashionable buzz-word. And I know we succeeded. Look at the photo below of my two granddaughters and me when they were little. Notice one is using one of my wheelchairs—as she often did—as a normal part of play. The other has a doll in a wheelchair. You see, It was as normal & natural as daylight to include disability in their fantastic world of imagination and play.




Thursday, December 23, 2021

CHRISTMAS IS A DIVINE IDEA OF LOVE EXPRESSED IN PHYSICAL TERMS


In his 2012 book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,[1] pope emeritus Benedict XVI explained the significance of Jesus name— prefigured in the Old Testament—first announced by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would bear a son.

“. . .[W]e encounter the name the name “Jesus,” which the Angel assigns to the promised child both in Luke (1:31) and in Matthew 1:(21). concealed within the name of Jesus is the tetragrammation, the mysterious name from Mount Horeb, here expanded into the statement: God saves. The, as it were, “incomplete” name from Sinai is finally spoken. The God who is, is the saving God, now present. The revelation of God's name, which began in the burning Bush, comes to completion in Jesus (cf. Jn 17:26).” 

 

In Jesus, everything is completed, including time, including all creation seen and unseen, including you and me. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote:

 

“…long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many in various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son whom he appointed heir to all things through whom He created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and exact imprint of God's very being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word.”[2]

 

From the beginning of everything, including time, Jesus was with God and was God. He is the Word.[3] In Him is all glory. Again, Pope Benedict:

 

“the “glory” of God is real, God is glorious, and this is truly the reason for joy: there is truth, there is goodness, there isbeauty. It is there—in God—indestructibilitly.”

 

God loved us unto existence. Human creativity is evidence of the image and likeness of God within every man and woman. The created touches the hem of the Creator when he brings forth beauty out of his imagination. The wellspring of beauty is heaven. Johann Sebastian Bach understood this; he had so often been transfixed by divine beauty and transposed it to music. I believe Bach must have felt the breath of the Holy Spirit within him. How else can we explain Saint Matthew’s Passion, Saint John Passion, or Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring?  Even his secular works carry a hint of the divine. Bach knew his music began from far beyond him. His last words were: “Don’t cry for me. For I go to where music is born.”  And yet as inspired as the music the great man composed is, it still falls short of the glory of God, its goodness, its beauty, its truth. 

 

I have seen that whisper of the divine in nature and in the eyes of a new-born baby. I have felt the whisper of the divine when praying the rosary.  God is the divine idea, inexplicable, intangible yet the ultimate reality. Truth. Love. Beauty. Goodness. People will fight for them and die for them, giving up temporal reality for eternal reality—and we have seen this in young soldiers prepared to lay down their lives for an idea like democracy and freedom, and martyrs prepared to die rather than deny Christ. 


The true joy of Christmas is, at its foundation, a sacred and divine idea expressed in physical terms. The Creator of everything, desiring the return of the only creatures that He gave His Image and likeness—providing a way back to Him when they/we had gone astray. Yes, humanity has become estranged from His love, out of which flows beauty, goodness, and joy. He gave His ultimate gift desiring that we might love Him in return. The incarnation. God made man. Jesus would become the sacrificial lamb that would take away the sins of the world for all those who wanted to be reconciled to God. 

 

To love and be freely loved in return. In the incarnation, God took the terrible risk of love: the possibility of rejection. In Jesus being whipped at the pillar, nails being driven through his wrists into the cross were the rejection of the divine love of God. But wait! In apparent defeat was victory. Millions upon millions of people through the past 2,000 years have believed in God’s Christmas gift and the price Jesus would willingly pay on the cross: victory over sin and its vice-like grip that held/holds people in bondage.  Freedom! Love returned!

 

I pray that this Christmas you will reciprocate to God’s love offered to you by choosing to love Him in return. He offered you the best gift of all. Accept it. Offer God your best gift of all: yourself.

Mark

 


[1] Joseph Ratzinger Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, JESUS OF NAZARETH: The Infancy Narratives (New York: Image, 2012) p. 30.

[2] Hebrews 1:1-3a.

[3] John 1:1-4.

Friday, December 10, 2021

THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT OF CHRISTMAS!

 I read a Christmas Day sermon by early Christian church father, Saint Leo the Great (400-461): 

 

“… In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.” 

“… Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because of His great love for us He took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins He brought us to life with Christ, so that in Him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off the old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.”

 

That is the whole point of Christmas! This is where the real joy of Christmas lies for all humanity. This is the real reason to rejoice. Christ is the Christian’s Joie de vivre. 


There is a mystery we see in a baby’s smile, yet unsullied by life’s disappointments and sin; they are still close enough to their mother’s womb and the presence of God they experienced there, even before they took on form.[1]  

 

I am an old man now, but bells of Christmas still call me back to my own simple early childlike joy. So many frosty Canadian Christmas mornings throughout adulthood I awoke to see my wheelchair beside my bed. The cold steel could not steal joy from my soul at the very real presence of the Holy Spirit deep within me (the same Spirit that has warmed the hearts of small children and Christians through the centuries). 

 

Twinkling lights of a Christmas tree greeted me when I whirred in the living room in my electric wheelchair. The violence occurring to my brain could not extinguish the peace in my mind. Christmas joy shone bright deep within me.  For more than three decades, my body slowly became more and more like a corpse with multiple sclerosis, but my soul hummed knowing God has loved me since before I was formed in my mother’s womb. Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.[2] He came to reconcile with God the likes of sinful people like me.[3]

 

This was the message of Leo the Great’s homily. As he finished his sermon he said: 


“Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. … Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.” 

 

The star of Bethlehem shone through the darkness of night. It gave witness to the Light of the world being born in a dank lowly manger, come to take away the sins of the world, for all who believe in Him. The road from Bethlehem led inexorably to Golgotha. From cradle to cross, Jesus brought a light to mankind. 

 

Another cold Canadian Christmas season is holy and warms my heart. Frigid northern winter night air whispers of hope, forgiveness, and joy to all who will listen with their soul rather than their ears. They will see with their heart rather than their eyes the love of God all around them now and throughout the year. 

 

Beneath a mountain of blankets, I turn in my bed. The wheelchair is gone. My legs are alive once again.  Sleep comes easy in the abiding peace of Christ. 


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight. — Mark 




[1] Psalm 139:13-16.

[2] Romans 8:38-39.

[3] John 3:16-21; Romans5:8-9.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE LIVING TO THE DYING AND THE DYING TO THE LIVING

Palliative care should not be about dying; it should be about the last phase of living. With modern pain control methods, medications and techniques, all physical pain can be eliminated, without leaving the patient in a drugged stupor. Dying time can be good time with proper palliative care. The dying process can have the effect of stripping away all things extraneous to life, leaving only that which is essential. It is a time when we can love our own, or reconcile with estranged friends or family. It is a time to show love and care toward an abandoned or unloved person we may not even know. In doing so, the living and dying enrich expressed love. That is beauty.

I know this first hand: Like the boy in the photo above, a quarter of a century ago, my son walked his great-grandfather through his final days. Great-grandpa was blind, he had Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and finally a stroke. He was dying. He knew it and we knew it. He could not be cured so we cared. My son was able to show his great-grandfather he loved him. He expressed his love through little things: he shaved his great-grandfather, washed him, turned him in his bed, and just kept him company. The intimate beauty of those hours and days were beyond description—not only for great-grandpa but my son, and those of us who watched.  My son and his great-grandfather were able to say their last quiet goodbyes. Something beautiful happened in that hospital. Did my son grieve his great-grandfather's death? Yes he did but is was healthy grieving.

Canada made a dreadful mistake when it legalized assisted suicide under the guise of a law it euphemistically called "medical assistance in dying." That is not what Canada actually legalized. What we got was medical killing by lethal injection of the disabled, sick and dying. 

For the sake of assisting a defeated person kill themselves, we killed so much more. We broke an ancient moral code not to murder. In doing so we killed a precious quality of a civilized society and interdependent community that holds up the intrinsic value and worth of every human being—even if they have ceased to believe in their own innate natural dignity. We killed individual's consciences. We killed the taboo never help someone commit suicide. We killed physician/patient trust. And it killed individual responsibility to the greater society.

I have had multiple sclerosis for 37 years. At some points, it became so serious that my physician doubted I would live more than a few years. Even when I hung over the abyss of potential quadriplegia, my grief did not absolve my responsibility to others, or posterity. I had a responsible not only to the sanctity of my own life but every other life. My agony did not diminish that sacred ideal or my obligation to it. I had to look beyond my own predicament, my own pain and fears. Although I was suffering, I still had a duty not to leave this world poorer because of my decisions or actions. 

Society must provide every support to the disabled, sick and dying. It must never give in to misplaced compassion and kill a person who asks for it.  We have a responsibility to moral integrity—developed across centuries—not only for the safety of society but to our own consciences (regardless of how seared or cynical they may become). 

We all have a responsibility to uphold the sacredness of every human life now, and those yet to be born. 

MDP



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND DISCERNMENT


“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

But you have not so learned Christ,  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24.)


I have come to a point in my life where I no longer give the same credence to the views and opinions of secular people as I do people with a Christian mindset, and who place their first loyalty with Jesus Christ. It’s a crap-shoot if non-Christians or lapsed Christians or anti-Christians will get moral issues right, and they always get things wrong when it comes to spiritual matters. Non-Christians tend to align their moral views with whatever clever sounding catchphrase or fashionable thinking is dominant at any given time.  

To identify as Christian on a census form is not enough either. That may be good for statisticians and government planners, but it means nothing to God.  Cultural Christianity is not Christian.  God wants a personal relationship with people. A living faith in Christ, and trust in His Word. He is the word. He has always been with God. Jesus Christ is God.[1]

Not only is Jesus Christ God, His unfathomable love for humanity is the reason He took on human form.[2]Imagine that! The creator of all things, seen and unseen, entered the world that He created and became part of our temporary reality so that we might become part of His eternal reality.

God is more concerned with your inner self than your outer self. Your physical self is continually aging. Through Christ your inner self can continually renew.[3] God speaks to your heart and mine. His law is written on our hearts.[4] The Holy Spirit witnesses and teaches God’s truth to us.[5]  Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to God’s children (sons of God)[6] The world that has rejected Christ is ignorant of the Holy Spirit;[7] for this reason it cannot receive the Holy Spirit (the 3rd member of the Trinity).  Faith in Christ comes first.[8] He is the 2nd member of the Trinity. God is the 1st member. There is no other way to God except through Christ.[9]

The Holy Spirt Christ dwells in the heart of the believer  This is not some airy-fairy concept. In Luke 11.13, Jesus said God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. It really happens! I know this from personal experience.  Someone reading this post may think to themselves: “Poor chap, the MS has affected Mark’s mind.” Even if that be true, how would that cynic explain the countless millions upon millions of people now — and throughout the past 2,000 years — who have experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? 

To bring a small contemporary example to mind, how do they explain the twenty-one Coptic Christians willing to die rather than deny Jesus Christ. They were beheaded on a Lybian beach in 2015. With ISIS knifes at their throats, they called to Christ and committed their spirits to Him.[10] (I bet you didn’t see that part on liberal western media.) 

Can anyone realistically say those twenty-one men did not know Christ or hear His voice? The Holy Spirit was with them, and in them, as they were martyred and entered the Kingdom of God. 

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who before you.” – Jesus[11]

Somebody else reading this post might scoffingly say, “Are you saying you hear voices?” — to draw similarities to something akin to schizophrenia or infer some other mental illness. To make my claim sound like fiction, they make up their own.  Yes, I am saying I communicate each day with Christ and He with me, and so do hundreds of millions of other Christians! 

This is why genuine Christianity is not about religion: It is about a personal relationship with Christ. It is my experience that He sends the Holy Spirit to guide me in matters of faith, morality and conduct; the Holy Spirit has comforted me in the terrors of serious neurological disease, and cancer, and when I have been excluded or falsely accused. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts me of sin and calls me to repentance, and back to God through Christ. Anti-Christian atheists just don’t get it. Why would they? How could they? They have rejected Christ.

Christians must be careful. There is a need to discern which spiritual voices are from God or the evil one? Satan can masquerade as an angel of light.[12] The Apostle John instructed us how to discern what is of God and what is not.

“… [D]o not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. ...[13]


“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”[14]

Any spirit that contradicts the Word of God is not of God. We who have met Christ and have given our lives to Him must always pray for more discerning discernment. The world is increasingly wily, cunning, and seductive in making evil seem good and good seem evil.  Be on guard. Put on the full armour of God.[15] Surrender your whole life to Him and let the Holy Spirit reign in you. 

MDP



[1] John 1.1.

[2] John 1.14. John 3.16.

[3] 2Corinthians 4.16.

[4] Jeremiah 31.33, Hebrews 10.16.

[5] Jeremiah 31.15, John 14.26 & 16.13, 1Corinthians 2.13.

[6] John 1.12-14, Ephesians 1.5, Romans 8.15.

[7] John 14.17a, 1Corinthians 2.11-14., Ephesians 1.5.

[8] John 3.5-7, Acts 2.38., Ephesians

[9] John 14.6, Acts 4.12

[10] See “Widow’s joy: He Didn’t Deny Christ When Beheaded” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD16TqLaZe0  

[11] Matthew 5.11-12.

[12] 2Corinthians 11.14.

[13] 1John 4.1-3.

[14] 1John 4.4-5.

[15] Ephesians 6.10-18. 

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.