“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, June 20, 2019

THE OTHER CRUCIFIED CRIMINAL

I've always been intrigued by the two criminals
crucified with Jesus (Luke 23.40-42). One was saved by the skin of his teeth as he was dying. As far as we know a criminal was the first to enter paradise after Christ's crucifixion. I find that heartening.

The Gospel of Matthew (27.44) and the Gospel of Mark (15.32) record that both criminals reviled Jesus. "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Only the Book of Luke records that part way through the crucifixion process one of the criminals had a change of heart. We read:

"But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you
fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23.40-42)

In these words, we see a dying man's confession, repentance and conversion through faith in Jesus. I wonder why the change of heart in the second criminal? After all, he reviled Jesus earlier that day of their slow crucifixion process. 

Was it the realization that THIS WAS IT and he was about to enter that great unknown of death? Was it the horrible, full weight of the gaping abyss of death about to swallow him forever? 

Perhaps he caught a brief  but penetrating glance
from Him who was, and is, the Truth behind all existence that broke the criminal's heart in the light of his fatal circumstances? We do not know. Whatever it was, the second malefactor had a dramatic change of heart as his life slowly drained from him! Two sinners on either side of Christ: One dies lost in his sins while the other repents and is saved.

Things haven't changed. Each of us must decide which side of the cross we will die.

During Christ's ministry, He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John14.6) Christ's exclusive salvific claim is emphatic! There is only one way—not many ways—to God. Either Jesus was deluded and insane, a liar, or he was telling the truth and He really is the only way to the God of everything that is seen and unseen.  I believe the last possibility. The only way to God and salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. Period. (Also see John 10.7-9, Matthew 7.13-14, Luke 13.24, Acts 4.12.)

You must understand something: If you choose to
believe in Christ, you will be reviled. I know, it has happened to me. Our supposed pluralistic society of tolerance is intolerant of the Christian message and the Bible. Proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and the ultimate source of Truth and you will be decried, hated and maligned. Expect it.

I can not think of a better reason to be hated and reviled! After all, Christ was hated and reviled for you and me. By your witness for salvation through Jesus Christ, perhaps an occasional reviler may have a change of heart. You never know, stranger things have happened.

MDP

Thursday, June 13, 2019

AFTER A LIFE OF ADVERSITY I'VE DISCOVERED IT REALLY IS A WONDERFUL WORLD


After 16 years confined to an electric wheelchair with severe multiple sclerosis, the disease slowly began moving into partial remission. I was able to walk again. My early steps were shaky, uncertain and stiff—rather like walking on stilts. But it was a form of walking. As the weeks passed my withered, weak legs began to grow stronger. 

Now I am able to walk with two canes for short distances and only rely on a wheelchair for longer distances or when exhausted. After many years unable to write or hold a pencil with my right hand, or even cut my own meat at mealtime, I can now do both and have regained the use of much of my right arm and hand. Then something unexpected happened.

Rather than being ecstatic about regaining lost function, I became resentful that I have been seriously disabled for more than half my life. As I said in a previous post, I felt swindled by life. I will never know what I might have achieved in my career cut short and that ended when I was thirty-eight years old. I lost years of being active with children and grandchildren. I haven’t danced with my wife in over 30 years. One of the last things I did as a normal father—before the MS completely crippled my legs and right arm—was to struggle to walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Shortly after that, the ability to walk came to an end for me: Serious neurological disease dragged me through an internal, infernal hell on earth! 

Now, the fire seems to have subsided and the dust is settling. When the terror of MS was finally not staring me in the face at close range, I looked around and the full weight of the lost time came into full view. Multiple sclerosis robbed me of 36 years, my best years in the prime of life. What's left? I'm an old man! Was this trial really necessary? Apparently it was necessary. I think God is more concerned about my holiness than my happiness. God was always with me—even in my darkest days during all those decades. 

For me to ask God why more than half of my life has involved sickness and disability is to presume it should have been different. But why should I presume my life should have been without adversity or suffering? Throughout the centuries suffering has been part of the human experience. As for the answer to my Why of suffering, it may be found where I least expected to find it.

There are questions for which there no answers, only
understanding. They are questions that focus on the deepest meaning of life or eternity. The understanding they bring usually involves tears before joy, then, perhaps both, or at least consolation.  This is something those who have not yet suffered are unlikely to comprehend.


C.S. Lewis once wrote: 

“Can a mortal ask questions that God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow round or square? Probably half the questions we ask―half our great theological and metaphysical problems―are like that.” (A Grief Observed)


When I first encountered Christ in the early days of 1980, all I asked was that He would make me more like him and less like me. That was all that mattered back then. Is that all that matters now? I must believe that is what God had been doing: making me for like Christ. It is a huge task for someone as base and vile as me. Major spiritual surgery has been required. I cannot say “Make me more like Christ” then question the major overhaul when it starts to occur. If a purifying fire is required, who am I to complain about the heat?! I must trust there is a purpose to suffering.
Pope John Paul II was acquainted with various types of suffering. He said this:

“In order to perceive the true answer to the “why” of
suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists. Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery: We are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations. Christ causes us to enter into the mystery and to discover the “why” of suffering as far as we are capable of grasping the sublimity of divine love. In order to discover the profound meaning of suffering  . . . we must above all accept the light of revelation  .  .  . Love is also the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. The answer has been given by God to man in the cross of Jesus Christ.”


Throughout my decades of disability journey, I have slowly discovered the profound truth in Pope John Paul II’s words of his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering).

Should I desire happiness or holiness? My answer to that question will not answer why I have had a life marred by chronic illness; it will identify the state of my spiritual condition. At a certain point in spiritual journeys, we all may discover the only real happiness is found in holiness. That happiness will become an eternal joy. At its foundation rests the divine love of Jesus Christ. As John Paul II alluded to, I must seek the spiritual maturity to grasp the sublimity of Christ’s divine love. 

It is in the interior life where the truth of His love is
revealed.  It is there that my will is surrendered to his will. It is in surrender where I encounter a child-like sense of wonder and a beautiful enchanted encounter with Jesus. I begin to understand Christ’s point when he said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18.17) It is through the Son of God we can become children of God.

What is the purpose of my life? What is the purpose of your life?  Each of us takes different paths but surely the purpose is the same: To become more like Christ. 

Finally, as an old man, I see beauty all around me. What a wonderful world God created for you and me.




Sunday, June 2, 2019

SONS, SEX AND LOVE

You will see this blog has a link to the Human Life Review online magazine, based out of New York. An excellent publication that I recommend you subscribe to for thoughtful, quality scholarly reading. I read a great article by Dr. Ross Blackburn entitled We Need Men.

Dr. Blackburn describes a difference between men, women and sex:
"Men’s sexuality differs from women’s sexuality. Yes, I know that not all men are the same, nor are all women, but generally speaking, men and women see and experience sexual relations differently. In short (and, again, generally), men are more apt to emphasize the sex, women more the relationship."

You and I know this generally true. It's also why we must bring up our sons to respect women above their own raging hormones. I know this is extraordinarily difficult in our pornographic culture. Hollywood promotes a message of casual sex as the norm. I believe that is a reason so many movie stars 'toe the line' for Hollywood's power mogul's who overwhelmingly support abortion (it's good for actors' careers). It's also hard for our sons to remain virgins until marriage, in a hook-up culture and ready access to pornography on the internet.  Nor does it help that the covers of many women's magazine send subtle messages to our daughters to display themselves like meat in a butcher's window. What happened to the 1970s feminist movement correctly calling out society's sexualizing and objectifying of women? 

I've often wondered if the sexual revolution that started in the 1960s was orchestrated by men for men. During those heady years, I noticed that mantras
such as "If it feels good, do it" and "free love" were usually touted by men. Free love meant freedom from responsibility for one's behaviour. But "free love" was a misnomer. Free love espoused sexual freedom removed from love. Lust replaced love. What we really meant was freedom to satiate lust without the responsibilities of love or the children casual sex might produce. And that is a great poverty of our age. Sex has been separated from love.  That was the high price of "free love" — not to mention rampant sexually transmitted diseases!

Lust is all about me. Love is about you. Or, as Dr. Blackburn so eloquently states, love is about the beloved, the other:
A man needs to learn how to love. He needs to learn to invest deeply in a woman, for her sake, not for what he can get from her. Men who are able to get sex apart from love simply confirm in themselves a selfishness that pervades all areas of life. It is interesting to me that our cultural conversation concerning sex speaks much of rights, but little of love. Rights are about what I am entitled to. Love is about what I give for another.
We are not mindless sexual creatures helplessly led about by our hormones and impulses. Human beings are so much more than their bodies. We have minds and a will and the Image of God to remind us there is a spark of the Divine within us. The dance pole needs to be replaced by roses and romance and seeing the beloved as beloved and sex as sacred. To invest in another person—at a deep emotional and spiritual level—is the beginning of a true understanding of eros.  It raises a man above behaving like a back alley tomcat to a human being capable of understanding the beauty of love and corollary concepts of nurture, care, protection of the beloved. A proper attitude comes from this understanding that places sex in its proper place which is the structure and security of marriage.

Nuptial language proclaims this security of understanding a deeper and fuller love. 


"I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."


It is within this fuller understanding that sex has its proper place and expression in the exclusivity of the marriage bed. The marriage bed is sacred and pure. It must not be defiled or betrayed, it is ordained and blessed by God and must always be open to the prospect of new life: Family. Children should come into the world within that foundation of nurture, care and protection. That's how it's supposed to be. That's God's plan and God's way is always the best way. 





Sunday, May 26, 2019

IT IS BETTER TO LOSE FOR WHAT'S RIGHT THAN WIN FOR WHAT'S WRONG

Does it bother me being a
loser? Yes, but I would rather
lose at something right than win at
something wrong
Unless God tells me otherwise, I have reached the end of my public speaking days. A couple of years ago, someone asked if it bothers me always being a loser?  Here was the post I wrote in response to that question.
https://www.humanlifematters.org/2017/03/someone-asked-if-it-bothers-me-being.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR0ySooi-b3lLbT6529u00Yzq0uKiF7wth0HoZs9m4T_ts2dh6D_b9X27kc

Mark

Thursday, May 23, 2019

EMBRACE THE SANCTITY, DIGNITY AND EQUALITY OF ALL HUMAN LIFE



Many years ago I was given a task: Tell whoever would listen that every life is sacred and deserves protection, care and love. I took that message across North America. I believe that simple task was my life's work. For whatever reason, God put me in a wheelchair to deliver it. That message has been given and now I'm tired. In one of my last speeches, I summed up the message:

“I am convinced that, if a society does not embrace the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life (and North American society does not), any barbarity is possible. A truly civilized society includes in its tender embrace every human life—every child developing in the womb, every person with a mental or physical disability, those with terminal conditions, derelicts, the old, and people who are not wanted or even loved by anyone. Impossible, you say? Perhaps, but I’m a sucker for hopeless causes. Maybe it comes from having what many consider a hopeless disease. Love is what defines an enlightened and civilized society. But love needs the divine. The brotherhood of man needs the Fatherhood of God. Love without God becomes selective, coercive, and arbitrary—turning the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable into hell on earth. Yes, I am convinced that human enlightenment is impossible without God.”


Leonard Cohen wrote a song called "Anthem." In many ways, it is an anthem for the past 25 years of my life. Love is a choice—it is the last chance for survival of our dying western Christian civilization.