St. Olaf Chapel Choir, St. Olaf Collage of the Lutheran Church of Minnesota.
“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
Sunday, December 22, 2013
 St. Olaf Chapel Choir, St. Olaf Collage of the Lutheran Church of Minnesota.
"In the winter time the Rat slept a great deal, retiring early and rising late. During his short day he sometimes scribbled poetry or did other small domestic jobs about the house; and, of course, there were always animals dropping in for a chat, ..."
It was time for this rat to get up!
I threw off my bed-covers, put on my slippers and dressing gown and went to the kitchen. The morning was bright, still and sunny (so common with deep Arctic fronts.) The temperature outside was minus 27 C! Brrr. Inside, the fireplace was cold and dark and the house had a chill. I would not be venturing out with my electric wheelchair to the church at the top of the hill.
My fellow-Christians who dared the cold this December morning would pray at the church that the Lord would hear our collective prayer:
"For the Church, called as Mary was, to give Christ to the world, we pray to the Lord:"
"For the world's children, born and unborn, signs of God's gift of life, we pray to the Lord:"
"For people in our midst who reach out for your love and our hope, we pray to the Lord:"
"For us, God's people gathered here, called to bring the presence of Christ to each other, we pray to the Lord."
I could not be with them in person, but I was in spirit. I regret not being able to receive Communion this morning, but Christ's presence is still with me.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Drop temperature, drop! Frost my windows for all I care. I'm cozy inside my little house on this longest night of the year.
(If you are unable to link below, try here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HItFqKBAQE )
|Mary visits Elizabeth|
In this tender and revealing passage of holy Scripture we are given, among other things, a divine glimpse into God's view of the child developing in the womb: In this case John the Baptist in utero. It is clear that God is present with him before he is born and that he responded to the spiritual state of joy at six months gestation (see Luke 1.36). He was human: And in a primordial way, was aware of God's presence with him in his mother's womb!
Liberal Christians who want to support abortion may say that most abortions occur in the 1st and 2nd trimester of pregnancy and John was more than six months gestation when this happened; the time the angel told Mary of Elizabeth's pregnancy until the two met would have been quite some time with primitive modes of travel.  I have heard this rationale.
But the Bible also says many startling things about human life developing in the womb. Almighty God is aware and actively involved in forming new human life even at its very genesis -- that point we call conception when the new life has started but is yet unformed (Psalm 139.15-16). It is God who creates life (see Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 5.2, Psalm 100.3, Isaiah 43.7.) Humanity is the work of God's hand (Isaiah 64.8, Job 31.15). God's loving hand formed us (Jeremiah 31.4) and sanctifies life in the womb (Jeremiah 1.4-5, Psalm 22.10b). God even mentions the unborn child by name! (Isaiah 49.1-2, 5.)
Biblical Skeptics are apt to respond by saying God was speaking about spiritual titans like Jeremiah, Isaiah and John the Baptist (I actually heard this comment). Did Peter not say that with God there is no partiality? (Acts 10.34). Did Paul not say that with God there no partiality? (Romans 2.11) Do we not all have one Father? (Malachi 2.10)
Liberal skeptics often say that unwanted unborn children will be abused. They don't know that. Do they really think that children who were wanted during pregnancy are never abused? Do you know that God himself addressed this issue?
God told Isaiah:
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you, see I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; ..." (Isaiah 49.15-16.)
The inscription of unwanted unborn children (and every other unwanted human being) are made on the palms of the hands of God-made-man by the nails of the cross.
That is how much value we all have to God. That is why He came to earth. Let us leap for joy like the unborn John within Elizabeth's womb when we sense the presence of Christ is near.
 Liberal Christianity is a bit of a contradiction in terms, particularly in modern applications. Liberal Christianity is really secularism dressed in religious vestments. Groups like Catholics for Choice are not really Catholic at all. The Catholic Church has opposed abortion since the first century; it is one the mortal sins worthy of excommunication. Catholics for Choice are, by definition, heretical. It is interesting to note that W.E. Vines EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS (Zondervon, 1981) says this about the origins of the word heresy:
"Heresy - HAIRESIS denotes a choosing, choice (from haireomai, to choose); then that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects, Gal.5:20 (marg., "parties"); such erroneous opinions are frequently the outcome of personal preference or the prospect of advantage ... ." Yup, that pretty much sums up Catholics for Choice.
Monday, December 16, 2013
It may seem that my past few posts have not had much to do with life issues -- at least on the surface. They do, however, deal with the overall richness in living. Perhaps this apparent departure in my usual writing is rooted in the festive Christmas Season that has captured my heart this cold and wintry Canadian December.
|Sir Eliot Gardiner|
Johann Sebastian Bach's music has been an important consoling influence in my 30 year journey with degenerative multiple sclerosis. At times, his music gave soothing articulation to my suffering, my pain and my grief in ways words could not. Bach experienced grief in his life and it is evident in his music.
At one point in the BBC documentary Eliot Gardiner said that a composer "can channel all the frustration and disappointment into music and Sebastian's music has this wonderful and uplifting quality to it. Most of all, Bach's music offers us a balm of comfort in bereavement." This touches upon what I mean a consoling influence and soothing articulation of my anguish.
More than grieving the loss of physical function and health, at a certain point in my grief journey, I had to come to grips with a horrible reality. This reality was the realization that my previous self was gone as surely as if he had died. A new self could emerge -- if I would allow it -- and if I was willing to explore and develop that new identity and let it grow in Christ. The growth of that new self cut to the center of my humanity and helped to identify who I was/am and define and refine my destiny as a man and as a child of God.
Someone else in the program observed in Bach's music an "overwhelming exploration of what it means to be a human being." Bach's depth is breathtaking in breadth, scope and beauty! I am astonished and grateful.
It was at the apex of my own suffering that Saint John's Passion spoke to me in a profound way about Jesus' suffering, and my own. I did not need to put up my guard because I knew of the composer's profound Christian faith was in his music and that he too had experienced the bitter anguish of loss, although in a different context. It was while listening to music like this and immersing myself in God's word and prayer that I discovered Christ was inviting me in my suffering into His redemptive suffering!
A person in the video said this about Bach: "He speaks with the voice of someone whose faith is absolutely rock-solid. It goes right to the roots of his being." This is true for Saint John's Passion (1723) as well as Bach's later St. Matthew's Passion (1729).
Abundant life is the substance of what Christ wants for his followers through faith and a personal daily relationship with Him -- not only in the hereafter but in the present too. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it for abundantly." The abundance of which our Lord spoke is a spiritual fulfillment in Him; it finds outward expression in our relationships with others and those things that make us grow spiritually such as healthy modes of expression in the arts.
There are many patterns and structures for this richness of life. The first is the Bible and worship of God through our relationships with Jesus Christ. For me, the second comes in the form of music and an intense personal culture (found internally and externally). This can cultivate growth and beauty within individuals and societies.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
|J.S. Bach (1685-1750)|
The video recording below is of Sir Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Click on the image, relax and enjoy this 2 hour and 22 minute performance.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
If you are one of those people I want you to consider this: The timeless One stepped into time to settle the problem of sin and evil that separates humanity from God. Why would a perfect and holy God send His son to do that? Because he loves you and wants you to spend eternity with him (see John 3:16). I happen to believe that he would have done that even if you were the only person in history who ever accepted His free gift of salvation. That is how much you are loved dear friend. Click below.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Attitude of gratitude
It's all a matter of how we look at life. If we look for the ugliness in all things we will find it: If we look for the beauty in all things, we will find that too.
I remember sitting before a panoramic view of snow-capped Canadian rocky mountains rising from behind an aquamarine blue lake. It looked heavenly!
A group of nursing home residents were gathered behind me looking at the same breathtaking scene. I heard an attendant say to an old woman sitting in a wheelchair, "Aren't those mountains beautiful, Mrs. Pewe?"
The old woman scowled and replied, "I don't see anything beautiful about them." She turned her wheelchair away from the scene. Mrs. Pewe was aptly named.
Mrs. Pewe was the most pitiable of people not because of her wheelchair or even that she was in ill health. She was pitiable because she refused to see beauty in anything.
If she was blind to majestic mountains that towered up in front of her to declare the splendour of God's creation, how could she possibly see or even detect God's presence in life's daily routines? Her interior poverty was complete.
Does your attitude bring a stench or an aromatic bouquet to the lives of people you encounter or live with? How we respond to that question is like a gauge for the state of our spiritual lives.
Christ is the great liberator and man's ultimate source of joy. If Christ abides in us then joy can be present regardless of our physical state or station in the world. I have experienced this first-hand.
Joy is not dependent upon favourable circumstance or positive experiences. That's happiness. Happiness is a poor imitation of joy. Joy can exist within us despite miserable circumstances. Joy is rooted in our destiny and identity.
Adopt a joy-filled perspective
In his letter to the Romans,
Paul goes on to speak about God transforming us into the image of his Son. In other words, life's circumstances and experiences – be they positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant – can be used to transform the individual experiencing them to be more like Christ, if the individual loves and trusts God.
When we finally stand before him, and gaze upon his glory as it really is, we shall be overcome with continual and unrestrained joy.
It is easy for modern man to discount the prospect of joy because it's become such a rare thing in the world. But why wouldn't modern man discount the prospect of joy? He denies the very things that can bring real joy to humanity, such as confession and forgiveness of sin, or child-like faith and anticipation of heaven.
C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven." And so it is. I have discovered that there are inklings of joy in its anticipation. When we place our hope in Christ and anticipate being with him in the joy of eternity, we will soon discover ourselves looking for the beauty in all things, especially that which is eternal.
The eternal decision
Do not be afraid to acknowledge the existence of heaven and hell. Both Jesus and the Scriptures tell of their existence. In one we will find beauty in all things. In the other, we will find no beauty whatsoever. We have only a short time to decide which it shall be: Christ and heaven or the devil and hell. If you have not already, turn your eyes upon Jesus. He's only a prayer away.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Although I will still continue to deal firmly with critical Life issues such abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and other end of life issues, the HLM blog will also deal with matters of Christian faith. Our only hope as individuals and societies rests in Jesus Christ -- and Him alone. Therefore I will suspend further entries in my other blog http://markpickup.org.
THE IMAGE OF GOD
A spark of the divine exists within every human being: It is the image and likeness of God of which the Bible speaks. At the very beginning of creation God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, ..." (Genesis 1.26) The next verse says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female he created them." The fact that God spoke in the plural of "us" and "our" foreshadows later references to the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus referred to the Trinity just prior to his ascension: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28.19-20. Emphasis added. Cf. Acts 10.42. Also see 1John 3.23.) What were Jesus' commandments?
- "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13.34. Also see John 14.15-17, 21, 15.10 & 14.) And how did Christ love us? With a self-sacrificing love (see John 3.16 & 13.4-5, Philippians 2.7-8). Christ's love is inclusive in that all are invited to faith in him and reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in Christ. People may not like you for bearing witness of Christ but they will know you are his disciples. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22.37-39).
- He told us to forgive one another (see Matthew 11.25 and Luke 11.4. Also see Ephesians 4.32 and Colossians 3.13).
Our King is Christ. Prepare yourselves fellow Christians to stand for Him against the tide of secularism that is sweeping across the land and permeating our schools, universities and even the halls of power. Our loyalty is to Christ not the pluralism that is dismantling all that previous generations held dear. Let us respectfully and with love stand in firm unison for Christ and a return to a Christian culture. Catholics and Evangelicals please stand together. The hour is late and darkness is descending. Let the light of Christ within you shine forth.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
PBS' Sesame Street has broken ground in educational approaches since its beginnings 44 years ago. They made learning for young children fun. The creators of Sesame Street used every creative tool at their disposal including puppets, animation and music. If repetition or memorization was required they did it with humour, silliness and a spirit of engaging playfulness. Sesame Street was part of my own children's early education experience from 1978-1985.
Now, decades later, Sesame Street still creatively introduces very young children to counting, arithmetic, the alphabet, the natural world, etc. An example is the short segment below about the letter N. It is simple creative brilliance. (The voice accompanying the animation is that of my grandson).