Category Archives: Current Events

Advent is a robust and demanding spiritual season

By Steve Bell

He came with love to Bethlehem; He comes with grace into our souls; He will come with justice at the end of the world. —Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalene

Advent simply means to come, (Latin: advenire, from ad-‘to’ venire-‘come’) and it is the forty-day liturgical season Christians have traditionally set aside to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, experienced as a season of attentive waiting. Of course, as with all waiting comes the inevitable agony of anticipation; so much so, that we are inclined to want to do something to make the waiting itself bearable and meaningful.

In this regard, Advent is an active season of mindful preparation as well.

Singer Songwriter Steve Bell helps us consider the spiritual rigour of Advent.

When a young couple discovers they are expecting a child, it is not enough for them to simply wait out the nine months and hope for the best. There will be necessary preparation. Perhaps they will clear out a spare room to create a nursery. Tough decisions will be made about what stays and what has to go. They will collect and purchase appropriate furnishings. They will seek advice. They will endlessly brood over a name; about the kind of birth-experience they hope for; about the joy, fears, and future of this new reality. And the preparation will not be meaningless because it’s about getting ready to fully receive the gift of the child who is coming.

So when we consider the Christian season of Advent, what is the content of our waiting? How are we to prepare? What makes this time more than just a season to endure before the fun starts? How do we ready our lives to receive the gift of Christ fully, and do so with meaning—with the deepest joy and reverential awe that we suspect ought to accompany such an astonishing event?
Continue reading Advent is a robust and demanding spiritual season

Today at the Supreme Court of Canada

There is a “Caution! Risk of falling ice and snow” sign outside the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, even though we’re not quite there yet in terms of pending danger. Any snow that has fallen hasn’t stayed for long, and there are no sharp icicles ready to fall from the roof of this beautiful, impressive building in the Nation’s capital, yet.

Today, at the Supreme Court of Canada. TWU appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada in its religious freedom case.

But, on the other side of those heavy wooden doors the media stand and wait and overflow observers sit on folding chairs outside of a packed court room and in side rooms. Head pieces are handed out by court staff for translation and to better hear the proceedings projected over the large screen TVs set up for this purpose. Trinity Western students cheerily handed out hot chocolate this morning to attendees, in a show of youth and good will.

It is inside that main, packed courtroom where the real action is happening today and tomorrow. These are Trinity Western University (TWU) days at the Supreme Court, where the Christian university is appealing the legal challenges that have been put in its way to opening a law school.

At the heart of this case is the place of religion in public life in Canada. Can regulatory bodies refuse to accredit or recognize Christian or other religious institutions that meet all other required standards? Is it discrimination for TWU to require students — who could attend any number of other law schools of their choice — to sign a community covenant that restricts their personal behaviour?

An overflow crowd watches the proceedings at the Supreme Court of Canada today. Canadians are watching and care deeply about the outcome of this case.

Much is at stake: The accreditation and recognition of religious institutions in Canada; the freedom of religious institutions (churches, schools, camps, missions, etc.) to maintain their religious character and purposes; the future of professional training programs run by Christian institutions.

First up today was Trinity Western and the various law societies. Next up are the interveners who care about the outcome of the case, including the EFC. If you are praying, please continue to do so.

Faith Today has covered the TWU case extensively in the past (e.g., Jul/Aug 2016) and there is lots of information on the EFC website

A prayer for South Sudan. A prayer for all of us.

By Dorothy de Vuyst

As my flight began its decent into Juba, South Sudan, and I once again saw the vast, dry, desolate land below me, my heart ached.  “God, help this land,” I prayed.  “Intervene in a way only You can. Bring peace and healing to this country that so needs You.”

I was travelling to South Sudan to visit a couple of humanitarian aid programs Samaritan’s Purse was implementing in the country.  This was not my first trip to what still remains the world’s newest country, which only a year and half into its independence from Sudan, erupted into a bloody, tribal conflict in December 2013.

South Sudanese women who are refugees in Uganda sort out their food allotment. You can read a story about the remarkable, difficult work happening in Uganda in the Sep/Oct Faith Today.

Now, four years later, the country which at one time had so much hope, was on the brink of imploding.  Four million South Sudanese people are displaced, with over two million of those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, most of those in Uganda.  Millions more lack sufficient food with the recent harvest doing little to ease the hunger so many faced.  Tropical disease and cholera outbreaks continue to claim lives.

As disturbing as those statistics are, perhaps the most heartbreaking are the stories of violence.  Women and young girls raped and beaten.  Young children forced to carry weapons and kill.  Villages pillaged and burnt because they belong to a different tribe.  Infants being drowned as their mothers hold them under water for fear of being seen by the enemy seeking to kill them.  Such anguish, injustice, and brokenness that at times is so overwhelming.

Earlier in the year I had visited the refugee settlements in Uganda, a country that had opened their doors to over a million South Sudanese refugees.  As I sat with women who shared their stories of trauma and loss, I desperately wanted justice and even revenge. I thought of the political leaders in South Sudan whose self-serving agendas have made life so difficult and painful for so many people. The hatred and anger of militant groups that rape and pillage innocent women and turn children into killers.

But as I reflected further I realized that being close to suffering and death and injustice doesn’t just reveal the brokenness of others, it also exposes my own brokenness.  My own need for mercy because of choices I have made, the people I have hurt.

This is the world that Jesus came into.  This is the world for which Jesus had so much compassion.  This is the brokenness that broke the heart of God. And not only the brokenness I see in countries like South Sudan and Uganda. Jesus has compassion on my brokenness as well. And knowing that in turn allows me to extend grace and compassion.

So I continue to pray.  I pray for a stop to the conflict.  I pray for courage and resiliency for those suffering.  I pray for tenacity in the midst of this fragile and complicated country.

But most of all I pray for God’s healing touch in the hearts and minds of this beautiful nation; that they will experience His mercy and forgiveness.  Because only when that happens will this country begin to see genuine and lasting change.

Dorothy de Vuyst is the Regional Director, Africa, for Samaritan’s Purse Canada. The Sep/Oct Faith Today has a story about this refugee crisis. 

The awful legacy of Hugh Hefner

by Sheila Wray-Gregoire

Yesterday I was Skyping with Ashley Easter, who is doing great work helping survivors of abuse within the church, and promoting healing. And we were talking about how being married to someone with a porn addiction can give a wife PTSD, and can be abusive, in and of itself, especially if he’s dehumanizing her and asking her to act out things that he sees. He’s not treating her like a person; he’s treating her like an object. That’s what abuse does, too. They have that in common. They say: You are a body to use.

So I’d just like to write today about some of the thoughts that have been running through my head about the recently deceased Hugh Hefner’s influence on our society.

Sheila Wray-Gregoire is an author and speaker. In this blog she considers the awful legacy left by Hugh Hefner, and the impact of pornography use.

When I was about 8, my best friend Christine showed me a stack of Playboys in her shed that her dad had stashed there. I’m thankful that we didn’t look too hard at them, but I know she and her older brother looked at them a bunch.
Continue reading The awful legacy of Hugh Hefner

Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

Alex Newman, the writer of the Sep/Oct Faith Today’s story on helping children after a divorce, takes us behind the scenes of her own story and her research.

by Alex Newman

I’m an eternal optimist. After the initial alarm over the bad stats on kids of divorce, I decided to look at the percentage of kids who did well. What happened to make them thrive and overcome the odds? It’s something I’ve discussed with my friend Esme Fuller Thompson, a social work professor whose research is precisely in this area. Although I’d done a ton of reading already, she was especially helpful in directing me to studies I would never have come across, like the Israeli one that shows when a mom and the paternal grandparents stay close, the kids do better.

Read “Stability is the Key” in the latest Faith Today.

It’s all that research that is so challenging in writing a story like this, because it becomes almost impossible to condense it all into one article. I did my best but I’m afraid it only scratched the surface. Below all those studies are real people and real people can react in different ways and require different handling. So while there are some fundamental and foundational guidelines for helping your kids, there’s a lot of latitude depending on the child, the parents, the siblings, and so on.
Continue reading Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

That beautiful debate

It is a beautiful thing to have a debate about God and faith, right in the heart of the University of Toronto campus. That’s what happened just this past Friday night.

The topic of the debate was “Is God a figment of our imagination?” and the guests were Dr. Alister McGrath (the renowned Christian and prolific author) and Dr. Michael Shermer (the renowned atheist/skeptic and very popular author).

Dr. Alister McGrath and Dr. Michael Shermer at the “Is God a figment of our imagination?” debate, moderated by Faith Today’s Karen Stiller.

Faith Today was one of the sponsors of the debate, and I was the moderator, although I preferred the word “host,” and made sure I used it in the introduction. Words matter, after all. So, when I use the word “beautiful,”  here, I don’t mean what was actually said, but the fact that it was said at all. The dialogue was at times challenging, sometimes funny, at other moments frustrating. The guests were sometimes locked into each other’s points, sharing their insights, a smooth back and forth contrasting of ideas as befits two authors of their stature. At other moments, they talked past each other, which happens.

If you came into the debate a Christian, or even just a theist, I’d guess you left the same. If you entered Convocation Hall or tuned into the livestream as an atheist, you likely still think that way. Such is the nature of debates.

So, how was it beautiful?

In church yesterday, in that sacred space, with crying babies and communion, preaching and prayers, faith is nourished and nourishing. That matters. But in the debate arena, faith is stretched and challenged and survives. Yes, faith is strong enough to be debated. It is intellectual and rigorous. It is not a crutch. It has legs. And our atheist friends want to talk. They have good questions. There are good answers. They make good points and we should be bold enough to youtube and livestream how we respond to them for all the world to hear.

I like that Faith Today is a sponsor of the Religion and Society Series. I applaud Wycliffe College, the evangelical Anglican seminary on campus who started the whole thing and does the majority of the heavy lifting. I feel a solidarity with the other sponsors of the event, both Christian and non-Christian. These are people who aren’t afraid to talk, with no guarantee how it will all turn out. I really like that.

This is what Wycliffe says about the series: “The Religion and Society Series seeks to generate critical conversations on matters of faith, society and public interest. The purpose of the series is to play a catalytic role in helping shape discourse around topics that deeply matter to individuals and society.”

And that kind of talking really is beautiful.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. You can watch Religion and Society Series events online

It’s worth all the dirty laundry

Seven or so loads later, and the stinky, dusty dirty clothing and sleeping bags from a summer at camp have been laundered and folded. I was going to add “and put away” but a glance at my son’s bedroom floor tells me that is not the case, and maybe never will be.

All three of our kids (21, 18 and 17) spent the majority of their summer at a Christian camp, the same one they attended as campers during most of their childhood. This year they were all working there in various capacities: as an assistant camp director, as a section head, and as a chalet leader that included working with special needs or “inclusion campers.”

When our kids  were campers themselves, camp was a highlight of their year. It was fun. It built their faith and it resulted in great, strong, year-round friendships with other Christian youth.

We are grateful that we listened to the advice of a Christian leader years ago who told us to send our kids to camp even if we couldn’t afford it. That’s right. We went into debt to do it every single year. I’m not saying that’s what everyone should do, of course. But for us it was “good debt.” In fact, it was great debt. We knew it was an investment into our kid’s lives, and it has produced more valuable treasure than any other investment we have made, of that I am certain.

I can see the treasures in them now as they are stretched as leaders, while still receiving a level of spiritual support and challenge that I don’t think they would receive elsewhere. At camp, they have been loved and learned to love. They have been led and learned to lead.
Continue reading It’s worth all the dirty laundry

The passing of a great one: Haddon Robinson influenced many Canadian preachers

Years ago, I sat in a small room at the old campus of Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto and interviewed Haddon Robinson, who died last week. The scholar most recently from Gordon Conwell Seminary, known far and wide as one of the greatest living preachers, was in Toronto to speak at Tyndale’s President’s Dinner. I had already met Haddon because my husband was enrolled in a DMin program, with  Haddon as his supervisor. The one moment I remember clearly from the interview was Haddon growling, in his distinctive New York accent, that when he reads theology that is dense and incomprehensible, he just wants to “throw it against the wall.” That’s because he was a master of communication, and that’s what he expected from his students.

Like many, many Canadian preachers and church leaders over the years, Brent made a yearly trek to Boston to study under one of the greats. I would hazard to guess that this unassuming American preacher from a hardscrabble childhood influenced more Canadian preachers over the years than one could easily count. The Canadians in the program tended to drift toward each other, and that was no different in my husband’s group. Toronto church planter and writer Darryl Dash became a friend. I asked him, on behalf of the Canadian preachers who studied under Haddon, to share some thoughts.

Here’s Darryl:

I first met Haddon when I was assigned the task of driving him back to the airport in Toronto. His full name: Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, renowned professor of preaching, named one of “The 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World” by Baylor University.
Continue reading The passing of a great one: Haddon Robinson influenced many Canadian preachers

Six Habits to Enrich your marriage this Summer and beyond

The Jul/Aug Faith Today featured a story about Heart to Heart Marriage and Family Ministries, the new initiative by Ron and Ann Mainse to help build strong marriages. We asked Ron and Ann to write a guest blog on how to enrich your marriage. Thanks Ron and Ann!

 By Ron & Ann Mainse

We all know that good habits can help us feel better and live better…and that’s especially true in marriage!  Doing loving things every day can be like a daily dose of vitamins for a marriage, just what the doctor ordered for a long and healthy relationship.

Ron and Ann Mainse are co-leaders of Heart to Heart Marriage & Family Ministries. We welcome them as guest bloggers to Faith Today!

If you really think about it, you can probably come up with dozens of little habits that can help to strengthen your marriage, habits like picking up your shoes or replacing the toilet paper roll, but let’s just focus on some of the biggies…

Show gratitude.
Saying “I love you” goes without saying (meaning, it’s a given that you should say it regularly).  But what about regularly saying “thank you” …and meaning it!  That may seem insignificant, but when your spouse feels valued and appreciated on a regular basis, the groundwork is laid for deeper intimacy. I know it means a lot to me (Ann) when Ron thanks me for even the little things like doing the laundry and putting it away.  It may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference to me that he noticed.   And when I (Ron) come in the house tired, hot and sweaty after mowing the lawn, and Ann smiles and gives me a genuine, “Thanks, Honey, for doing that,” those words are like a cold cup of ice water for my soul.

Continue reading Six Habits to Enrich your marriage this Summer and beyond

What happens when you ask youth at a Manitoba Bible college some pointed questions about the future of the Church?

By Terry G. Hiebert

An EFC panel on the future of the Church in Canada recently provided an opportunity for Evangelicals in various spots across the country to reflect on the Church today. The EFC asked questions like ‘what in our experience gives us the most cause for concern and the greatest sense of hopefulness related to the future of the Church in Canada?’

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I took the opportunity to ask these questions of students at my college, Steinbach Bible College in Manitoba, and discovered their passion for the Church as they expressed concerns and hopes for the future. While students identified concerns about Biblical authority, evangelism, holiness, divisions, and individualism in today’s church, they expressed hope for the future Church as well. Students identified mentoring relationships as one of the hopeful practices in Church of the future.

Their response should not surprise us. Thom Rainer’s research in The Millennials (2010) stated that 60 per cent of millennials welcomed parental involvement and advice. This Father’s Day, one of our students preached in his church on the value of parental advice. His father had passed away just before he entered college two years ago. Now missing his father’s involvement and advice was one of his greatest regrets. I read the sermon and wondered how many aspiring preachers in my generation would have given this much respect to the advice of our parents.
Continue reading What happens when you ask youth at a Manitoba Bible college some pointed questions about the future of the Church?