“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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A CHILD, A SONG, AND THE WEIGHT OF GLORY

In 2012, twelve year old singer Jackie Evancho delivered an
exquisite rendition of Nella Fantasia. It is the vocal version of Ennio Morricone's Gabriel's Oboe. Gabriel's Oboe is from the soundtrack for the 1986 film The Mission: A favourite film, and composition, of mine and I've written about it in an earlier blog post.

Sweet child, I believe that what you were singing about was a primordial human longing, a desire in the hearts of humanity, that has stretched across the centuries. It is what Solomon was referring to when he wrote that God "has put eternity in their hearts." (Ecclesiates 3.11). It is a desire for the perfect love of God. God is love.[1] He made us for heaven. C.S. Lewis wrote "Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object"[2] 

Whether you knew it or not, Jackie, I believe you sang of the weight of glory that God has placed within you and me and every other human being throughout the ages. It is embedded deep within your soul and is intertwined with the image of God you bear. It's roots began with the first spark of your life (that we commonly call conception).

As beautiful as the music and words are that you sang, they are merely symbolic of  a larger, grander glory that eludes expression and falls short of the real object of perfect love. When the last note fades away, we are still left with that yearning for something and somewhere else. I believe it is heaven. 

Fulton Sheen wrote this: "... the human heart heart is isolated and in agony: it has more love to give than  any earth-bound object can receive -- it clamors to be loved more lastingly and comprehendingly than any human lover. But both the longings -- to love perfectly, to be loved perfectly -- are merely vacuums in man."[3] Ah, the longing for perfect divine love! It can only be found in Jesus Christ and will reach its full potential and reality in heaven.

Unless I am mistaken, sweet child, that is the dream you sang about so beautifully that evening. It is made complete in Jesus Christ. God bless you and keep you in all you do. -- MDP

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQF-l9NBtX8 for Jackie Evancho singing Nella Fortuna (2012) -- with English subtitles.]


___________________________
[1] 1John 4.8.
[2]C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.
[3]  Fulton J. Sheen, LIFT UP YOUR HEART.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

CHRISTIAN WITNESS IN AN UNCHRISTIAN WORLD

My dictionary defines apologetics as a “systematic and logical 

defence of Christianity against its detractors and unbelievers” In 1 Peter 3.15, Christians are told to be ready to give a reason (apologia) for their hope in Christ.

Apologetics can draw people to Christ as we read in the Book of Acts with Saint Peter on the day of Pentecost. Peter’s sermon was a classic example of apologetics and drew 3,000 people to faith in Christ. Saint Paul’s witness in Athens was another example of apologetics at work. It is documented in Acts 17.17-34.

Apologetics does not always convert people. They must have an open mind and a seeking heart. The most brilliant defence of Christianity will not change the hearts of those who refuse to accept it.  Look at the events leading up to the Martyrdom of Stephen. We read in the 6th Chapter of Acts that he was “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (verse 5).  People who were opposed to his witness for Christ were not able to resist “the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”(verse. 10) How did they respond? The shocking answer is found in Chapter 7: They killed Stephen.

Stephen’s words cut deep into the hearts of an unreceptive group of religious leaders in Jerusalem. Anger toward Stephen by the crowd grew to a climax and they turned into a mob.  In what must have been a terrifying moment for Stephen, God gave him a serene vision of heaven.  Looking past the terror of his impending death, Stephen saw to the Glory of Jesus waiting for him.  He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Throughout the centuries, this has been the hope that dissolves fear for believers who die in Christ.)

Those words of Stephen the Martyr were too much for his accusers. They rushed and ceased him, threw him out of the city and stoned him.  As he was dying Stephen was heard praying “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” The stones continued to rain down on him. He fell to his knees and uttered his last words: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

What happened to the murderous crowd as a result of Stephen’s witness for Christ and his brutal death at their hands? We don’t know what happened to most of them but one was a man named Saul ― a terrible persecutor of Christians. He later had a dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. He became the great Saint Paul and went to his own death after years of witness for Christ and defending faith in Him (apologia).

Other examples of ancient apologetics include a defence of Christianity (Apologia) by Saint Quadratus of Athens to the Roman Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 130. Justin Martyr left two apologiae. In his book City of God, Saint Augustine defended Christianity against pagan allegations that Christians were responsible for the fall of Rome. Saint Thomas Aquinas defined apologetics as making known the truth of the Catholic Church.

In an era that is increasingly hostile to Christianity – such as the one in which increasing in North America – it is important that followers of Christ be ready to defend the truth of the Christian faith and be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within them. Don’t expect everybody to accept what you tell them but learn to systematically and logically defend your faith.

Always be prepared to share your faith in Christ at the right opportunity. You never know the impact your words and example will have on people. Your witness may not be the final link in the chain of another person’s journey to faith in Christ but make sure you’re not the missing link.

Like Stephen, there is a privilege in being given an opportunity to witness and glorify God in the face of great adversity. In some parts of the world that can mean death. Boldly express confidence in the reality that we will spend eternity with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, can be a powerful opportunity to witness to sceptics and unbelievers.

Personally, I have found more opportunities to witness for the hope
within me since becoming disabled and wheelchair-dependent than when I was healthy and able-bodied. It seems contradictory to a generation of people focused on youth and health.

My circumstances allow me opportunities to speak of faith that transcends physical limitations and focuses on eternal matters.

Use whatever circumstances you find yourself in to defend the Christian hope within you. -- Mark

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_omAMeVxH8  for "I am not shamed"



Friday, May 15, 2015

DISABLED WOMAN NEEDS YOUR HELP




Maria Victoria Venancio is a 29 year old Edmontonian who came from the Philippines to work in the service industry. In June 2012, she was struck by a truck on her way to work leaving her quadriplegic and unable to walk. Now, the government wants to deport her as a burden, knowing that she will never receive the help she needs in the Philippines. Let's be clear: Ms. Venancio was in Alberta doing a job most Albertans will not do.

With your support, we can help Vicky stay and get the help she needs. I ask Alberta readers of this blog to write to their MLA and Premier-elect Rachel Notley to demand Ms. Venancio be allowed to stay. All readers (whether Albertans or not) can tweet Alberta Premier-elect Rachel Notley @RachelNotley and call upon her to allow Maria Victoria Venancio to stay in Alberta and restore her Alberta Health Care Number so she can receive the care she desperately requires. I want the new premier to know that North America is aware of how we treat people brought here to work in the low paying service industry and are hurt.

For more information about Maria Victoria Venancio's situation see http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-health-minister-denies-coverage-to-temporary-foreign-worker-1.3019954
"Alberta health minister denis coverage to temporary foreign worker", CBC News, 02 April 2015 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS IN NORTH KOREA

Although I usually write about urgent life issues like abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and disability, with this blog post I want to feature two videos about persecuted Christians in North Korea. They need our prayers and support. Further, write to your federal elected representatives to lobby North Korea to stop persecution of Christians and release those who are prisoners. I can not image such anguish!

The first video is 19 minutes and the second is 5:00 minutes.

Video 1: Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_trSJf7Zec


Video 2: Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHONVR1YfWo  (WARNING: It is disturbing.]




Sunday, May 10, 2015

'ASHTRAY ANNIE' PLAYS BEETHOVEN

Anne Fischer
(1914-1995)
Anne Fischer was a remarkable pianist who deserved much more credit that she received. At the bottom of this post you will find a 1987 recording of Anne Fischer playing Beethoven's Piano Concert No. 3 in C Minor. She was nick-named "Ashtray Annie" because she was rarely seen without a cigarette except when at the piano. For more about Anne Fischer see "'Ashtray' Annie Fischer was a piano giant. Why didn't more people know this?" The Spectator, (U.K.) 23 August 2014. http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/music/9292182/ashtray-annie-fischer-was-a-piano-giant-why-didnt-more-people-realise-this/

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWvfDC2oW6w for Anne Fischer playing Beethoven, Piano Concerto #3 in C Minor, 1987. 38:04 minutes.]


Saturday, May 9, 2015

BEETHOVEN AND MOTHER'S DAY

If you look on the mantle behind my picture at the top of my blog
Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
you will see a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven. I have mentioned this before but I keep it there to remind me of the capacity of human spirit to overcome adversity. Beethoven suffered from
 deafness that eventually became near complete and yet he is one of the greatest composers who ever lived! 

In many of my speeches throughout North America, warning of the perils of euthanasia and assisted suicide, I have often referred to Beethoven. There was a point in his grief journey, as deafness was shutting out his music, when Beethoven was driven to consider suicide. He mentioned this in a letter to his brother Carl. Imagine if assisted suicide had been accepted in his day as a legitimate way of dealing with disability or psychological pain; and imagine if he had given in to that temptation at a low point (with the full support of society and assisted by doctors ).[1] Think of the music we would have missed! 

One my favourite compositions by Beethoven is his Moonlight Sonata -- written in serious deafness. 


The grand piano at center stage
of arts centre named after my mother:
The Eleanor Pickup Arts Centre
My mother was a music teacher. When I was a child I remember a few her advanced students tackling and mastering Movement No. 1 and occasionally No. 2. To the best of my memory, I do not remember any student of my mother's becoming so advanced as to attempt Movement No. 3. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Although my mother has been dead for 9 years, I would like to dedicate Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to her memory, and to the concept of human dignity that remains despite adversity and suffering.

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsOUcikyGRk for Moonlight Sonata in C sharp minor, Op.27, No. 1,2,3. Pianist Valentina Lisitsa



__________________
[1] On 6 February 2015, the Supreme Court in my country of Canada struck down the nations laws against assisted suicide. In a unanimous decision the high court ruled that physician assisted suicide should be available for any "Irremediable" medical condition (including illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering and is intolerable in the circumstances of his or her condition."  This could encompass psychological pain. The high court felt that available treatments need not be be taken. If Ludwig van Beethoven lived today in Canada, can you see how he might be at risk of being assisted in his suicide? 
   

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A BATTERING RAM OF LIBERALISM

Alberta's crest
(Try to ignore England's
St.George's flag at the top)
In Canada, the Alberta provincial Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fined a Calgary private school $26,000 for refusing to allow two Muslim students to pray on campus grounds. The AHRC tribunal declared that the Webber Academy caused the two fourteen year old students distress and loss of dignity. Neil Webber, President and founder of the Webber Academy, responded, “We are not discriminating against anybody on the basis of religion. We are a non-denominational school. We’ve operated on that basis for the last 18 years.” Apparently the school tries to create a learning environment that is free from religious influences. The tribunal thought otherwise.

The head of the human rights tribunal ruling stated: “Despite the respondent’s specifically stated goal of making people of all religious backgrounds feel welcome, its actions, objectively viewed, were not welcoming.” I am skeptical about whether 21st Century representatives of the state ― whether provincial, federal, judicial or quasi-judicial ― are capable of viewing things objectively.

In an era when Christian prayer has been banned from schools, municipal council chambers, and government officialdom of any sort, it is revealing that Muslims’ right to public prayers would be defended. Remember at about the same time as the AHRC ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled against Catholic prayers in Quebec municipal meetings.

If it causes stress and loss of dignity to stop the Muslim’s prayers in a public place, can’t the same be said about stopping Christian public prayers? Someone may say there is a difference between a private school and municipal council meetings, and that is true. The consistent thread, however, is that secular government bodies were passing judgments on matters of faith ― from a perspective of predetermined, arbitrary ideas of pluralism and multiculturalism.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the balances of multicultural pluralism have been weighted.

There’s something much larger at play than legal or policy decisions. In a larger societal context, we are witnessing increasing intolerance of Christianity (and the Bible) and tolerance of other religions and no religion. We do not have genuine multiculturalism. What we have is an entity called multiculturalism used as a battering ram against western civilization in general and western Christian civilization in particular.

American Judge Robert Bork wrote about this within an
educational context in his book Slouching Toward Gomorrah:

“A curriculum designed to foster understanding of other cultures would study those cultures. Multiculturalism does not. … Instead the focus is on groups that, allegedly, have been subjected to oppression by American and Western civilization … The message is not that all cultures are to be respected, but that European culture, which created the dominance of white males, is uniquely evil.”

A radical judiciary and government bureaucracy, media elitists, and select pseudo-experts in education and culture are leading the multicultural attack against western civilization and the Judeo-Christian foundations that made it great. 

We must face a hard truth. Christians will increasingly face hostility. We are seeing this throughout Canadian and American society. Christianity and Christian morality are anathema to many who wield power. Professing faithful Christians will be eliminated from public service by subtle and clever ways. We are already seeing this being played out in the political arena. For example, Canadian federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has declared that all Liberal candidates in the next federal election must support abortion rights. This action will effectively stop many Catholic and evangelical Christians from running for the Liberal Party.  The liberal media regularly mock evangelical Christians and attack their beliefs as oppressive and dangerous to liberty, in what one television executive called a “licence to overkill”.  In other words, the liberal media can overstate anything and get away with it.

In a horrible legal ruling, the Canadian Supreme Court recently struck down Canada’s laws on assisted suicide. Many Christian physicians are afraid if they refuse to participate in helping suicidal sick people kill themselves, they may face persecution. Already, Saskatchewan physicians are worried about whether conscience rights will be respected and some have voiced their fears to me.

Do not take this lightly. All I hold dear is crumbling before my eyes. The sanctity of every human life and the previous Christian moral consensus that governed western culture for hundreds of years, and even the foundations of the family are being swept away. I fear we are at the threshold of a New Dark Age.


What are faithful Christians to do? Remain faithful and witness for Christ even in the face of withering opposition. Ultimately there is no neutral ground between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, or good and evil. Remember, our Lord warned his followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15.18) The servant is not greater than the master. If we do not stand for the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, who will? 

Mark

[This posting was republished with permission by Stephenson County Right to Life, Rockford, Illinois. See http://prolifecorner.com/a-battering-ram-of-liberalism/]