“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 10, 2017

TOWARD HOLINESS

Lord,
Keep us true in the faith,
proclaiming  that Christ is you Son,
who is one with you in eternal glory,
became man and was born to a virgin mother.
Free us from all evil
and lead us to the joy of eternal life.
From the book of
CHRISTIAN PRAYER:
The Liturgy of the Hours

Christ left eternity and entered time so we could leave time to enter eternity with Him. The Incarnation is the Creator's expression of perfect love for imperfect creatures endowed with the Creator's image and likeness.[1] He desires that we cultivate and develop that divine Image within us to become more like Him. Who is the Creator? Well, if the Bible is true and God-inspired (which it is), He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.[2] The triune God of the Bible: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.[3]  Who is the Son? The Son is Jesus Christ; He was preexistent to his birth in Bethlehem. We read in the gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[4] From my time governed, 3-dimensional physical world, it's hard to understand what the Apostle was referring to in this divinely inspired passage.

I have such a pea-sized, cloudy mind but let this layman go out on theological limp. I think of God as a Being rather like a divine eternal Thought; Christ is the Word that expresses that divine Thought.[5] The Spirit animates the Divine Thought. We find the Spirit of God animating the Thought of God in the creation account.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1.1-2, NIV, [emphasis added.])

Although some Bible translations use the word wind, other translations such as the New International Version above and the New King James Version use the word Spirit. The word Spirit of God is more appropriate to my analogy of trying to understand more about the Trinity.

If God can be liken to a being that is a Thought, what is the Thought? PERFECT DIVINE LOVE.[6]  Jesus Christ is the exact representation, the perfect imprint of God.[7] Even in human form He was Deity.[8] This is why Christ identified the greatest Commandment: "You shall the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets"[9] Later he expanded this Law of love by saying: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."[10] Divine love is expansive! Didn't the Saviour say this "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”?[11] Yes, that’s exactly what Jesus said. It is the very definition of expansive love!

God's love desires that we draw near Him and be conformed to the image of His Son. God longs jealously for the spirit he planted in us.[12]  The Apostle Paul said: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."[13] In another place the Apostle said of those who believe and follow Christ: 

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."[14]


It is the expansive, transforming love of God that gradually conforms us to the image of Christ. Divine love permeates the
Spirit of the Lord, and believers who are being conformed to Christ's image discover the liberty of Divine love; that which was temporal and worldly gradually transforms to that which is spiritual and eternal.  That is the reason for the Christian's pilgrimage toward the Celestial City.[15]


The crux of God's yearning is that we spend eternity with Him. God does not want any to be lost.[16] He wants to be loved just as we are loved by Him. The point of human existence is to love God and others who bear His image. But God will not force humanity to love Him and spend with Him. He is the Divine lover not a divine jailer. While it is true that God will accept a person in their broken and imperfect state, it is also true that He will not leave them that way. C.S. Lewis put it this way.

"We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable."[17]

A person who says "I can be a good person without being a
Christian" does not understand the point of life. God does not want us to be merely good, he wants us to be perfect. (When I use the word ‘perfect’, I mean ‘holy.’) Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."[18]

Our way to perfection is through Christ and continually being conformed to be more and more like Him. In Him we do not lose ourselves, we discover more fully who we are and why we were created. The image of God within ourselves becomes ever more evident and radiant The more we die to self, the more we become alive in Christ.

Have you ever noticed the dichotomies of Christianity? The first here on earth will be last in heaven: The last here will be first there.[19] In life we find death, in death we find life.[20] In spiritual rebellion we find spiritual bondage, in surrender to Christ we find freedom in Christ.[21] We live in a world that is upside down to the reality of heaven and spiritual truth. There is something in these dichotomies for you and me to grasp, but must we search ourselves to understand.

My example is this. I have been sick with incurable neurological disease and disability for more than 33 years – more than half my lifetime. What am I to make of it? I could have bitterly concluded that most of my life has been wasted, that there is no God or a cruel God. But I know there is a God -- I have met His Son. He is not cruel nor have I been abandoned. I took my queue to understanding my situation from the Bible: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”[22] I have come to understand that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the Glory which shall be revealed in us.”[23] I can let my situation be a tool to bitterness and defeat or a vehicle toward holiness and spiritual victory. Even disabled and sick, I am called to a Christian life, the perfection of love through a mystical, intimate union with Christ and the mystery of the Trinity. In myself I am nothing. Christ is my strength, justification and salvation. I must wholeheartedly devote myself to do the will of God and to love and serve my neighbour.

“The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.”[24]

By surrendering my life in trust to Christ, prayer, immersing myself in Scriptures, the sacraments, a daily taking up of my cross to follow Christ, uniting my suffering with Christ’s Salvific suffering – these are some ways that lay a path to holiness. Everything is animated by the Holy Spirit. Any holiness a wretch like me merits, comes solely from Jesus Christ. He is the Word that expresses the perfect and holy Divine thought of God. He is the Divine Word that is God.

MDP


[1] Genesis 1.26-27 & 5.1
[2] Exodus 3.6.
[3] I have heard critics of Christianity say that the Bible doesn’t refer to the Trinity. Not true. See Matthew 28.19. Cf. 2Corinthians 13.14, 2Corinthians 3.17, 1John 5.7.
[4] John 1.2, 17.5 & 24. Revelation 22.13. Cf. Micah 5.2b, Colossians 1.14-17.

[6] 1John 4.8b
[7] Hebrews 1.3.
[8] John 10.30, Colossians 1.15, 2Corinthians 4.4.
[9] Matthew 22.37-40.
[10] John 13.34-35.
[11] John 3.16.
[12] James 4.5
[13] Romans 8.29.
[14] 2Corinthians 3.17-18.
[15] John Bunyan's book Pilgrim's Progress From This World to That Which Is to Come" was written in 1678 as Christian Allegory. The term Celestial City was a synonym for the heavenly Jerusalem. Heaven.
[16] 2Peter 3.9.
[17] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) pp. 40-41.
[18] Matthew 5.48, cf. 2 Corinthians 13.11; Leviticus 11.44; Psalm18.30. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2012-2029) deals at length with Christian holiness.
[19] Matthew 19.30 & 20.16, Mark 10.31, Luke 13.29-30.
[20] Matthew 10.39, 16.25, Luke 9.24, 17.33, Romans 6.4.
[21] See Romans 8.1-13.
[22] Romans 8.28.
[23] Romans 8.18
[24] Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2015

Thursday, December 7, 2017

CHRISTMAS ART

My son Dean used the piece of charcoal he got in his stocking last year and drew Santa this year. See below.  Prints are available for purchase. Contact Dean on Facebook at Dean Pickup Art or email dpictcom@telus.net 



Saturday, December 2, 2017

PEACE ON EARTH ... BEGINS WITHIN

Peace on earth, good will toward men ... 

But peace is tenuous and good will fleeting. Violence seems to be everywhere. All violence begins in the human heart. War has its roots in inner violence. A person who is at war with himself will soon cause strife to those around him. Whether in families or nation against nation, inner violence needs an object for its outward expression. It only stands to reason.


Hearts on edge and troubled souls are fertile ground for jealousy, resentment, bitterness and grudges. Yes, all war has its origins in the human heart. Like angry false prophets who come in sheeps' clothing but underneath are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7.15), warmongers are known by their bitter fruits.

"Peace! Peace!" they cry but peace is illusive because peace in the world begins with internal peace. Without internal peace there is no real peace. A peaceful heart is where love, contentment, wisdom, generosity and kindness abide. Real peace is illusive for those who turn away from God and listen to worldly messages that promote greed, unbridled sensuality and endless acquisition. 

Greed promotes more greed -- usually at the expense of weaker parties. Unbridled sensuality promotes insatiable desire and lust. They do not achieve lasting satisfaction. The senses are only temporarily satisfied and the soul lacks lasting contentment and real internal peace.  

What is real peace? It is a divine order of the soul. In it most complete and sublime sense, it comes from Jesus Christ.

Jesus told his disciples that after his resurrection and ascension
into heaven, God would send them the Holy Spirit to teach them and of the things that Jesus told them. Christ then said, "Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." (John 14.26-27)


CHRIST'S PEACE 

This promise Jesus gave to his disciples extends to all who have encountered Christ's and put their hope in Him. I have experienced that peace just as millions of other Christians have experienced it for more than 2,000 years. Christ is our peace.

It is possible for a person to have internal peace even when they are
surrounded by violence, societal upheaval, poverty, sorrow or physical afflictions. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter from a dank and dirty jail cell. He wrote about the "peace of God that surpasses all understanding" being available to those who prayerfully petition God in Jesus Christ.

Paul learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself, whether in abundance or the humblest of circumstances. This was a direct result of Christ's presence within him.

We should be reassured by Paul's words and strive for the same; it is possible for all who trust in Christ and surrender their lives to him. Detachment from the things of this world, placing every fear and concern with Christ draws us ever nearer to him. He is the Prince of Peace.  

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

When our lives draw to a close, peace with God is all that will
matter. Only God's love and the truth of the cross, and how we have responded to them, will decide our eternal destiny. The things of this world will fade from view; all we acquired in life will be left behind. All that will remain will be our peace or enmity with God.

Christianity teaches that all who die in God's grace and friendship will live forever with Christ. That grace and friendship will come through faith in Christ and his sacrifice at Calvary. We will see God as He is.  Heaven is the culmination and summit of the deepest human longings and our ultimate happiness. 

The temporal is temporary, the eternal is permanent. Our real home is heaven, not here.   

Make Christ's presence and peace his gift to you this Christmas. He is the reason for the season. Authentic lasting peace on earth and good will toward all humanity is only possible through Him. Click below for Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells ...




MDP