Category Archives: Guest Blogger

What is Lament? And why Does it Matter so Much?

By Renee James

Very few pastors in my denomination knew what I wanted when I Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 12.00.18 PMasked if I they’d allow me to interview them for a Faith Today feature on why churches needed to recover the lost art of lament. “Lament? Could you explain that? I haven’t come across that word before,” the more honest of them would admit. This went on for over a year.

I stemmed my low-grade panic (it had been over a year!) by writing a study on lament for Canadian Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec’s 2015 resources package. I titled the program “Recovering Lament.”

Yes. The obligatory poetry, candlelight, darkness and quiet time for reflection made an appearance. But they wrapped a thesis I wanted our women to consider: lament as a prerequisite for authentic outreach. Here are some of the thoughts and questions I invited them to discuss and answer. I invite you to do the same.

Why is lament important?

Walter Brueggemann puts the question this way: What difference does it make to you and I to have faith that permits and requires lament – this particular form of prayer?

What happens when we lament?

When we lament:

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Don’t Slam The Door: When Jehovah’s Witnesses Come Knocking

By James A. Beverley

When Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on your door, you should keep the names of two women and two men in mind. All are former Witnesses who have dissented against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 6.56.36 AM

Barbara Anderson was a Witness from 1954–1997, including ten years as a researcher and writer at their headquarters in Brooklyn. She left largely because she thought the Society’s leaders were mishandling cases of child abuse in Witness congregations.

Candace Conti is one such case. Conti was molested by a man in her congregation in North Fremont, California, and won a multimillion-dollar settlement against him and the Witness organization in 2012.

Legalism and institutional blindness can affect any religious group, and Anderson and Conti give us the details particular among Witnesses.

Raymond Franz (1922–2010) and James Penton (b. 1932) highlight larger spiritual and intellectual failings. Both had given decades as faithful Witnesses, but slowly realized Society leaders cared more about image and loyalty than faithfulness to God.
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The Abyss of Forgetfulness: Learning From Alzheimer’s

By Ray Wiseman

I just can’t stop counting. Sixty-two days since we celebrated our fifty-ninth wedding anniversary. Four sons, one ‘adopted’ daughter, eight grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, thirteen local churches, and two intertwined career paths connecting with twenty-nine countries. 0028_qetcyp_fg

Ten years have passed since Anna’s memory loss became apparent. Seven years since receiving the diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s, thirty-some days since Anna entered the long-term care facility.

Now the trail of numbers has broken like a strand of pearls and scattered into a black hole of faded memories. Not just for Anna.

Now I too must find ways to crawl out of the abyss of forgetfulness.
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How to Read the Bible When You Don’t Know Where to Start

Faith Today‘s Sept/Oct feature “How to Read the Bible Well” touched a nerve with many readers, including Al Reimers, who shared his Bible reading plan with senior writer Patricia Paddey. She shared it with us. And now we’re sharing it with you.  And the rest is blog history! Or about to be. Straight from a Faith Today reader, comes an invitation to you for the New Year, to dip into Scripture anew, in perhaps a new way. 20140910-Feature5

By Al Reimers

So, here’s another Bible-reading plan.

Do we really need another one?

What makes this one worth recommending?

Well, I designed it for new Christians who don’t know where to start and who need to know why it makes sense to start in a Gospel rather than with Genesis.

It also works for those who are not ready for a “chapter a day” or other fixed-length assignments. Most of us like the freedom of deciding for ourselves how far we want to read at one sitting and how long we can spend reading.

The main feature that commends the plan is that there is a clear reason for each book’s place in the order of reading. A person who follows the plan will move gradually from the facts of Jesus’ earthly life to an appreciation of his claims to be the Son of God, and then on to understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
Continue reading How to Read the Bible When You Don’t Know Where to Start

The Beautiful Privilege: Standing With Persecuted Christians

by Floyd A. Brobbel

Persecution of Christians by the numbers, in the Nov/Dec Faith Today

It was a cold winter’s day when my wife and I stood in a cemetery, hand-in-hand with our dear friends, sharing in their grief. Underneath the frozen ground lay the body of a little one who never had the chance to take a breath, feel the warm sun on a bright summer’s day, or see the look of love on her parents’ smiling faces.

I stood transfixed as I witnessed a mother cry. I appreciated the beauty of this moment: shared sorrow combined with the hope that life in Jesus offers.

On another occasion, I sat with parents who years earlier had lost their daughter and her boyfriend in a horrific car accident. I was there when they buried their daughter, and I grieved with them as we went through that day. Now, years after the accident, they share the struggles and pain that remain even though life goes on. It’s amazing how easily the tears can flow long after the event has passed.

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Persecuted Christians Need Us To Be Aware

By Anita Levesque

This Sunday, Nov. 9 is International Day of image005Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). This global annual effort draws people together to remember and pray for people who are persecuted for their religious beliefs – those who live daily in torment, those who have lost their lives and the families left behind.

In a day and age where congregations nation-wide have many issues to address, I am grateful for the many churches across Canada that are taking time in an already full service schedule to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who aren’t sitting on comfortable padded pews.

They may well be worshipping on the cold stone floor of a damp, dark prison cell, or in a refugee tent in Syria or Northern Iraq. In too many nations, their choice to love and follow Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace – is considered a threat to their government, their neighbours and even to their families.

Because of this, freedom has been taken from them; a freedom we may too often take for granted at home in Canada.
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Check Your Phone Too Often? A Three Step Plan to Fight Technology Addiction

By Arthur Boers 

Technology is not neutral. It is hard to resist and – much like junk food –is designed to draw us into habits, some of them unpleasant if not nasty.

Redesign of Faith Today
Arthur Boers wrote the cover story for Faith Today’s relaunch. Check out the new magazine here.

Many devices are actually designed to be addictive. Anyone close to people afflicted with alcoholism say, would never call liquor “merely neutral.” And, finally, all of us have to deal with technology; no one can choose entirely to avoid using cars, phones, or computers.

Since technology is not neutral, it is important to have strategies to limit its hold on our life. I propose three.

First, consider the when of technology use. My father had a habit of daily first and lasts. Early in the day and late at night, he smoked. In many ways, smoking defined each of his days (and finally the end of his life). He did not just smoke at the beginning and end of each day, but all day in between too (as many as two packs a day). His smoking permeated his life figuratively and literally (as his clothes and car and our furniture and curtains all smelled of smoke).

Continue reading Check Your Phone Too Often? A Three Step Plan to Fight Technology Addiction

How Canadian Seminaries Go Global. Even at Home

When Global South Scholars Call Canada Home, a story in Sept/Oct Faith Today, examined the lives and mission of three Majority World scholars studying in Canada. Now the president of a seminary that hosts Global south scholars unpacks their significant impact — and what else Canadian seminaries do to go global

By George Sumner

Wycliffe College is on the campus of the University of Toronto

Seminaries and theological colleges in a financially pressed Church necessarily live betwixt and between.

The needs for ministry have increased and the budgetary means have, in many places, diminished. One area where this is clearly true has to do with the global dimension of education.

The great global shift which a scholar like Philip Jenkins shown us is not a subject of debate. Preparing men and women for the ministries to which they are headed requires some real experience of the Majority World Church.

This is more than the raising of awareness in a general sense. This global Church is already found in our global cities. In addition, we have a chance to see what Christian witness looks like in a post-Christendom world. Offering all students a semester abroad would be great, but it is more than we, and likewise most schools, can manage.

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Sand, Seaweed and Spiritual Growth: Insights From Sensible Shoes Author

There are many ways to read the Bible well. Sensible Shoes: A Story About the Spiritual Journey (InterVarsity Press, 2013) is a recent 4305novel that introduces some of those methods in a creative and compelling way. The novel is mentioned in the feature “How to Read the Bible Well” in the Sept/Oct Faith Today. We invited Sharon Garlough Brown, author of Sensible Shoes, to take us deeper.

By Sharon Garlough Brown

During chapel service this week at the seminary where I teach, the preacher invited students and faculty to enter into the story of Jesus calling some fisherman to leave their nets behind. “Take your shoes off,” he said. “Feel the sand and the seaweed around your ankles. Now imagine Jesus looking at you and saying, ‘Follow me!’ How do you respond?”

Being well-trained in methods of Scripture exegesis, many of the students find such an imaginative approach to be…well, unsettling. Too intimate. Too personal. Too confrontational, perhaps. Place ourselves in the narrative? they ask, eyebrows raised quizzically. Are we allowed to do that?

My characters in Sensible Shoes ask similar questions as they participate in a retreat to explore ways of deepening their relationship with God. Some of them have only ever read the Bible like a textbook: skim for main ideas and apply what you learn. But this way of reading, the retreat leader explains, does not give adequate time and space for the Word to descend from our minds to our hearts where it can penetrate and transform us. “Many people study the Bible without ever being shaped by the text. When we come to the Word with our own agenda, we put ourselves in the position of control. We may look for what we get out of it rather than ever allowing the Word to get into us. We so easily forget that reading the Word of God is meant to be a supernatural act of cooperating with the Holy Spirit. We’re meant to be listening to the Word with the ears of the heart.” (p. 102)
Continue reading Sand, Seaweed and Spiritual Growth: Insights From Sensible Shoes Author

With Love From Kenya to Canada: What Canadians Can Learn From the African Church

by David Tarus 

When I came to Canada more than a year ago, and having briefly lived in the USA, I was deeply saddened to see churches that have been shut down.

From Sep/Oct 2014 p.36
David Tarus studies at McMaster Divinity College. He is married to Jeane and they have a son, Berur Keitany.

Just across the street from my apartment in downtown Hamilton are two churches that have closed. The other two neighboring churches are struggling to stay in “business.” Who knows if they’ll be around in the next few years? This is disheartening.

Back home in Kenya the Church is growing exponentially. Bible schools cannot train pastors fast enough for the growing number of congregations. My dad just planted a church less than a year ago, and they have close to a hundred people now. The congregation is already thinking of planting another church nearby!

Continue reading With Love From Kenya to Canada: What Canadians Can Learn From the African Church