Category Archives: Guest Blogger

John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book

By John P. Bowen

No book is read in a vacuum. You may kid yourself that you are “getting away from it all” to be quiet and simply read. But the “all” never retreats very far. And if the book is any good, it will follow you back into the “all” anyway. And there, the book and your life will find each and will tangle and fight and perhaps love, and nothing will ever be the same again.

This happened to me recently when I was part-way through reading Andy Crouch’s newest book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2016) for a group I belong to.

Author John Bowen’s recent health crisis brought a keen awareness of his weakness and God’s strength.

I had been diagnosed with stable angina, which degenerated a few weeks later into unstable angina. I was told to stay home for a week, until the cardiologist could arrange for an angiogram. The angiogram, on a Monday morning, revealed four major blood vessels in trouble, one of them 85% blocked, and an appointment was made for quadruple bypass surgery at 9 am two days later.

And then began the wrestling of Crouch’s words and my life. At the worst, it was as though his words began to curl off the page and meld into thin indestructible lines, tying down my life and making me horizontal for the better part of a week.

You know the kind of thing: an unbreakable plastic name band, tubes filling my body with various liquids, lines of nylon thread holding edges of flesh together, lines of metal staples like tiny telegraph poles bridging bloody gashes, oxygen tubes poking up my nose, a catheter to drain urine, a heart monitor with five coloured wires, and thin blue electrical wires poking out of my chest “just in case.” I knew how Gulliver must have felt when the Lilliputians tied him down with their silken cords.
Continue reading John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book

The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

Movie Review by Bruce Soderholm

It was pretty much inevitable that a version of The Shack, the bestselling novel by Canadian-born author William Paul Young, would find its way to the big screen.

Any book boasting worldwide sales numbering close to 20 million has, in the lingo of the publishing and film industry, a huge platform – a large base of people likely to want to see the film. That said, the motivation to bring this project to screen is much less about its money-earning capacity than the passion of its supporters. The fruit of that labour debuts this weekend in theatres across North America.

What follows is a review of the film intended to assess its merits as a film and not, as much as possible, to be an assessment of its theology or its utility as an outreach tool.

Continue reading The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

The difference crokinole can make to everyone: Can churches do better with our seniors?

Our writer, Lisa Hall-Wilson, takes us behind the scenes of her article, “Can churches do better with our seniors?” including extra material and the background story behind the pivotal “Mr. Brown,” the senior who had such an impact on the spiritual life of the writer as a young woman. Read on…

By Lisa Hall-Wilson

As a writer, often when I write these types of articles I search for a way to put myself in the shoes of the people I’m writing about. My desire was to really give seniors a voice through this piece. One of the things that I struggle with is feeling like I belong in Church. I know I have a unique place within God’s Kingdom, but the local church…not so much always. Over the years, I’ve attended a few different churches and denominations and this feeling has followed me from city to city.

Read this full story on churches and seniors at www.faithtoday.ca Or better yet…subscribe and receive your own copy of Canada’s Christian magazine.

At the very beginning of the article, I mention an intergenerational crokinole tournament that took place when I was in youth group. That’s where I met my prayer partner Mr. Brown. I was saved at 17 and my family did not attend church, so the whole church culture was completely foreign to me. It was my first year in the youth group that I participated in the annual youth and seniors crokinole tournament.

Almost every Sunday, when he wasn’t out working in the fields, Mr. Brown would make sure to connect with me and ask how I was. He sent cards and small gifts all the way through university and attended my wedding. I don’t think he ever knew how much those small gestures meant to a kid who never quite seemed to fit in.

I thought it might be interesting, like the extra features on a DVD, to read some of the interviews I did with the people from Cannington Baptist (I’m not sure that church is even open still) for this piece. In researching any article, I talk to many more people than I am able to quote. Here’s what the pastor and some of the youth (now married with children) had to say about that annual crokinole tournament.

I tracked down Pastor Mark Lowrie in Owen Sound, Ont., just a few days before his retirement. I asked him and his wife Margaret about why the seniors and youth integrated so well.

How did that annual crokinole tournament between the seniors and youth get started?

Margaret and I were leading the young people and I think we just thought this would be a good idea. Probably Margaret’s idea more than mine. The seniors loved it. I’ve seen it done since then. Probably read about it somewhere.

Do you think there’s value in connecting the age groups in church ministry? Have we lost something by segregating the age groups?

I think it’s invaluable to connect the seniors with young people and vice versa. I think there’s way too much segregation in our churches. We slot everyone into their age group and there’s very little mixing except maybe in worship services, and then many divide that up…We do too much dividing up and not enough bringing together.

Our youth guy had cards made up with the teens [pictures] and he partnered each teen with a senior who prayed for them for that year. I was recently looking at the Bible of a senior, and in her Bible was still that teen’s card she had prayed for and the process had discontinued for at least five years.

Michelle Raynor and Megan Elford were two of the 20 or so youth who attended the youth group and the crokinole tournament at Cannington Baptist. I asked them if the tournament helped them get to know the seniors better?

Michelle: Yes! It was a highlight for sure! I think it built relationships within our church…I sincerely did enjoy those evenings. The friendly competition it made it fun to meet the others and help us relate on Sunday mornings.

Megan: Yes, I remember that too! I really believe in intergenerational ministry, but it’s something we don’t see happening as often anymore. It was always an encouragement to know that we had all of these “Grammas and Grampas” that cared about what we were doing and prayed year after year for us. My mom attributed many of the blessings we [my siblings] experienced to the prayers of those surrogate grandparents. I think it probably was a good thing for the seniors too, in that they had a chance to connect with each of the teenagers and with what was going on in our lives.

Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer for the Canadian faith-based market, who sometimes writes for Faith Today. Subscribe now to keep stories like these coming, and help ensure print Christian journalism stays alive and well in Canada. 

The Saints of old and persecuted Christians today

By Patricia Paddey

The first time I told another Evangelical I was taking a course called “The Lives of the Saints: Then and Now,” the response to my enthusiasm for my subject was less than enthusiastic. An arched eyebrow. A slight tilt of the head. A look of mild distaste. And then, a one-word reply that communicated restrained surprise. “Really?”

1868223HighResI felt properly put in my place. Evangelicals don’t, after all, venerate Saints. We don’t invoke them, or ask them to intercede for us. I know that. But does that mean we have to ignore their role in Christian history? In our history? Particularly the shared part of Christian history –when all genuine believers were truly part of “one holy, catholic and apostolic church” (to put it in the words of The Apostles’ Creed) because there was only one church.

Long before East and West went their separate ways, long before the Reformation, long, long before there were Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists and Mennonites – there were just Christians. And Christians respected  saints.

It began with the Bible. While both Testaments refer to saints, context indicates different understandings of the term in the Old and in the New.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words used to denote a saint imply a person who is pious, holy or godly. If Jesus ever spoke of saints, the gospels do not mention the fact. Other New Testament writers, however, refer to saints frequently, and while the Greek word they use also denotes a person who is morally blameless, consecrated or holy, context suggests that the word is used to designate believers or Christians in general. The fact that all believers were called saints during the New Testament period says more about their standing as redeemed souls (due to the saving work of Jesus Christ) than it implies about any inherent goodness on their part.
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Why it’s so important to pray for the persecuted church

by Open Doors Canada

Many people today think of the persecuted Church as some foreign entity in a distant land. But the persecuted Church is the body of Christ – they’re a part of us.

A believer praying in Indonesia. "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV).
A believer praying in Indonesia. “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV).

When a pastor is thrown in jail for witnessing about Jesus, that’s our brother being imprisoned. When a woman is ostracised from her community for being a Christian, that’s our sister being rejected. When a young girl is violated for her faith, that’s our daughter being violated. And when a teenage boy has to flee his home for converting to Christianity, that’s our son fleeing.

So we want to invite you to join us in interceding for our persecuted family, during our International Day of Prayer (IDOP) on November 13, 2016.

Meet your brothers and sisters…

In Iraq

“Living as a Christian in a Muslim world isn’t easy. I have to hide my Bible, but the contact with my fellow believers makes me strong.” – Believer from a Kurdish Background.
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Faith Today writer shares what it’s like to have a sister in the Olympics

By Julie Fitz-Gerald

For three days straight, my computer was my lifeline to one of the most important events my family has experienced. A lifetime of dedication, faith, perseverance and training led my sister, Jessica Phoenix, to the Rio Olympics – her second Olympic Games and another roller coaster of emotion for our family cheering from home.

Julie Fitz-Gerald shares what it was like to cheer on her Olympian sister.
Julie Fitz-Gerald shares what it was like to cheer on her Olympian sister.

Jessie has competed in the equestrian sport of eventing since she was 11 years old. It’s the triathlon of equestrian sport, where horse and rider contest dressage, cross-country jumping and show jumping over three days. On cross-country day the element of danger runs high as horse and rider gallop across acres of fields jumping solid obstacles that make my blood run cold – think five-foot ditches, formidable banks and large drops into water. Crossing the finish line is a feat in itself, with a third of the contingent usually falling off or retiring on course. As her sister,  the number one thing on my mind is Jessie’s safety.
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What we might not know about the Amazon

By Kevin McKay

The Amazon basin, also known as the Green Window, is the hidden home to thousands of indigenous tribes and communities.  The people there live in what could be deemed primitive conditions and extreme levels of poverty, often struggling for survival.

pi-canada-marcio-garcia-interacts-with-local-villagerThe Green Window has also become home to riverside communities of Portuguese-speaking peoples living in similar conditions to the hidden indigenous tribes. Though they share the same obstacles to development, these Brazilian communities are often marginalized and have become vulnerable because they are not recognized and protected by the government.

Indigenous tribes do not self identify as Brazilians. They are usually hostile to outsiders and have their own unique culture and way of life. In recent years they have faced great risk from exposure to the darker elements of modern society. Drugs, alcohol and various other vices have reached these communities. The Brazilian government has wisely recognized the need to protect their culture and has developed certain rights and protections allowing local tribes a slightly better opportunity to avoid exploitation.
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“This is where the light went on for me…” Videographer Shares Experience in Aftermath of Fort McMurray Fires

by Kurtis Kristianson

In June and July I was asked to travel to Fort McMurray for three days at a time to connect with survivors of the wildfires and document their stories for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada.  Imagine you and 40 other people on your street have returned from an evacuation order a month earlier, and your homes are a pile of ash that could fit into the bed of a pickup truck. That is the situation I entered into with my camera this summer.

One of the shots captured by our blog writer this summer in Fort McMurray. One big lesson he learned? How to listen.
One of the shots captured by our blog writer this summer in Fort McMurray. One big lesson he learned? It’s important to listen.

As excited as I was for such an amazing opportunity, I soon experienced the reality of the situation and the level of destruction the people of Fort Mac faced. Even with 20 years experience in disaster response, fire fighting and highway rescue, I was not prepared for what I saw. And that is a large part of why it can be difficult working in disaster response: every new disaster brings with it a new set of challenges, and you can bet that the next one will be different again. Being in the response zone in a new communications role, I had to be flexible, open to learning as I went, and most importantly, rely on God to lead me in my task.
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Church Planting Report Reveals Differences Between Canadian and American Plants

by James Watson

Studying church plants is a bit like the “whack-a-mole” game at the local carnival. While you are getting a good look at the one that has just popped up in front of you, two more have popped up in different places and one has suddenly disappeared.

The “Pray, Equip, Share Jesus: 2015 Canadian Church Planting Survey” report is ground breaking in that it has collected information from 141 leaders involved in planting across Canada between 2005 and 2015.

This new study of Canadian church plants offers fascinating insights.
This new study of Canadian church plants offers fascinating insights.

While there are a number of different factors they examine, of particular interest for those of us who have been reading, listening and contributing to the ongoing drama of planting in Canada are comparisons made with the U.S.

The Canadian analysis parallels a 2015 American study also conducted by LifeWay Research. As a Canadian church planting catalyzer, it is refreshing to read in print that U.S. plants grow more quickly, have more first-time confessions of faith in early development and reach self-sufficiency more quickly. Not necessarily encouraging, but refreshing. It affirms some of the angst I feel when reading stories of American plants that seem suspiciously successful compared to what I experience as I work alongside Canadian planters.
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Why Colouring Matters

By Ann-Margret Hovsepian

Scrolling through my Facebook news feed one day, I saw a cartoon with the caption: “Colouring page for lazy people.” It featured a zebra, a panda and a penguin sitting together on a snow bank. I didn’t laugh out loud, but I couldn’t help grinning as I thought of certain friends who have not joined the adult colouring craze of the last year or so.

Subscribe to Faith Today in July/August to receive a free copy of Restore My Soul.
Subscribe to Faith Today in July/August to receive a free copy of Restore My Soul.

The cartoon also reminded me that, without colour, this world would probably be a stark black and white or grayscale landscape. When you stop to think about it, colour plays a crucial role in our lives. It has both practical and esthetic purposes. We constantly distinguish between colours—when we get dressed or apply make-up, when we cook, in our gardens, while driving. Colour choices have great impact in fashion, décor and marketing because colour affects our mood.

The two rooms I spend the most time in at home—my studio and my bedroom—both feature wood furniture and a homey, cottage-y look, but they have completely different colour schemes. My studio is bright with mostly red accents and splashes of yellow and green. My bedroom walls are vintage blue and the décor accents are white or beige. The colours in my studio stimulate and inspire me, which is perfect for the creative work I do. My bedroom colours help me feel restful.

What we sometimes forget, when we get caught up in our colour choices, is that God created colour! He made it an intricate part of our lives, not only in the natural world around us—think of the brilliant foliage we enjoy every fall in Canada or a bowl of ripe fruit—but also in everything we touch. Our books, furniture, bedding, cars, shoes and toothbrushes all had colours chosen for them before they were manufactured.
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