Soul Hunger • Spiritual Growth Resource Guide • Without My Shoes
God’s Greater Grace Air Force Chaplain Helps Christians Aim High
Encourage • Equip • Engage
I Kissed Dating Goodbye Under Attack
Dave and Ann Wilson
A Marriage That Points Heavenward
Total Living for Total Life
Reaching the Bay Area Exclusively on
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TODAY’S On the Cover: Dave and Ann Wilson, noted marriage counselors, conference speakers, and radio show hosts. Photo courtesy Pete and Kristin Pelletier
VOL. 57 NUMBER 4
Features 6 A Marriage That Points Heavenward
by Stephanie Rische Dave Wilson thought he had a perfect marriage — until Ann dropped the bombshell. Discover how this couple restored their marriage so completely that they’ve become sought-after marriage counselors and cohosts of FamilyLife Today.
12 God’s Greater Grace
by Pam S. Walker Brigadier General Ron Harvell, the Air Force’s Deputy Chief of Chaplains, and his wife, Marsha, have developed a powerful ministry to disciple Christians and train them to disciple others.
18 Soul Hunger: Satisfy Your Heart’s Deepest Longing
by J. Otis Ledbetter Hunger of the soul is just as real and unrelenting as physical hunger. Rather than trying to ignore those deep cravings, learn how to satisfy them according to God’s plan.
28 Spiritual Growth Resource Guide Find books to help you grow deeper in your faith.
30 A Closer Look at the ’90s Best-Selling Christian Book I Kissed Dating Goodbye
by Tim Bennett The book I Kissed Dating Goodbye earned rave reviews when it hit the bookshelves in 1997. It has sold more than a million copies since its release, but it’s now facing such severe criticism that it’s being pulled from the market. Learn the story behind the controversy.
10 Living in Wisdom
Faithfulness: Mirroring God’s Character
16 Ask Dr. Walt
Get the Skinny on Protecting Your Skin
The Fine Print
22 Daily Bible Connection 40 Laugh Lines 42 Quick Takes 44 Kids of the Kingdom
20 Live Right Now
Is it Okay to Be Nosy or to Intervene?
24 Dave Says
Preventing and Cleaning Up Debt
26 Turning Point
Bearing With One Another
38 Persecution Report
Heartbreak in Nigeria
46 Grace Notes
Without My Shoes
THE FINE PRINT
Jesus on the Frontlines
e’re constantly hearing news that the church is declining, but that’s a one-sided story. People are coming to Christ in large numbers around the world. While that may not be the case in Europe and North America, it is happening in some places here, such as in the military. For example, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, nearly 2,000 soldiers are reported to have made a profession of faith in Jesus in just five months. This is exciting, as each salvation represents the beginning of a new life that will impact numerous others. When Jesus moves in, you see the fruit. When my wife and I were living in South Korea and attending a small church near Camp Red Cloud, more than 100 soldiers came to Christ in a year. We saw a lot of lives drastically transformed. The gospel is alive and well in other areas of the military as well. For example, Air Force Brigadier General Ron Harvell and his wife, Marsha, have developed a highly effective discipleship program to help airmen and airwomen mature in their faith and learn how to shepherd others. Of course, the principles are equally effective with civilians as well. Learn about their work in “God’s Greater Grace” (pg. 12). Our servicemen and women have been experiencing heavy deployment schedules for nearly 20 years now. Those long stretches away from spouses put extreme stress on marriages. It isn’t just the troops who pay a price for their service. Their families do too. A healthy marriage is such a crucial part of spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being that it deserves a high priority. Thankfully there are faithful servants and ministries that focus solely on marriages and family. They include Dave and Ann Wilson, who cohost the FamilyLife Today daily radio show. They have firsthand experience with marital struggles but use that very difficult time in their lives to share what they’ve learned with other couples going through hard times. Learn about the Wilsons’ story in “A Marriage That Points Heavenward” (pg. 6). In this issue, we’re taking an in-depth look at a controversial topic. A Christian book on dating that was very popular in the late ’90s when it was released is now facing intense criticism for its advice. Our intent is to explore the issue from various perspectives to give a well-rounded treatment of the subject. Read “A Closer Look at the ’90s Best-Selling Christian Book I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (pg. 30). We welcome your thoughts and feedback. In Christ, Dan Brownell, Editor
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TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
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The Good News
A man accused of murder was brought before a judge. The man admitted to the crime, the guilty verdict was read, and the death penalty pronounced. Even though the guilty man was his own son, the judge could not dismiss the verdict or he would be a corrupt, unjust judge. So great was the judge’s love for his son that he decided to pay the debt for him. The judge stepped down from the bench, removed his robe, traded places with him, and was executed in his place. This is what Jesus has done for us. Jesus was sinless, but paid the penalty for our sin, dying on the cross in our place. This is called substitutionary atonement, but the atonement only takes effect if we are willing to accept this incredible gift; God won’t force His love on us. To receive this forgiveness, we must admit our guilt and sins and repent of them. If you have never done this, you can do it now. Tell God that you are sorry for your sins and want to turn away from them. If you truly repent, He will wash your sins away and give you a new life. He will send the Holy Spirit to live inside you and to change you from the inside out. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV)
GROW IN FAITH
MATURITY DEBOR AH J. NAYROCKER This is an excellent resource available for new and growing Christians. Ignite and renew your faith in God. Available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com softcover and ebook
Follow “The Landing” Blog Connect with Today’s Christian Living through our blog “The Landing.” Each post by our blogger, Joanna Sanders, will challenge and uplift you in your walk with Jesus. Read her testimony in her first post “My Roller Coaster Journey to Salvation.” Then discover how the blog name “The Landing” ties into her story. Joanna Sanders is a “disciple and bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” She’s a wife, mother, writer, and an active leader in women’s ministry. Her mission is to be a “doer” of the Word and to follow God’s lead. She’s a graduate of Villanova University with a bachelors’ in English, and has a degree in Biblical Foundation through Moody Theological Seminary. In addition, Joanna has completed additional course work through Manna Bible Institute and The Biblical Counseling Foundation. Besides blogging for Today’s Christian Living, she runs the Christian writing and editing service Colossians 4:6: Biblical Content Support, Writing, and Editing (http://colossians46.com). She has also been published by The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Qara.org, The Acton Institute, Sons Hub, The Christian Post, and is working on a book to be released September 2019. Sign up for Joanna’s blog newsletter at http://todayschristianliving.org. Follow Joanna on Facebook and Instagram at Colossians46. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
By Stephanie Rische
A Marriage That Points Heavenward: Dave and Ann Wilson Talk about the Secret to Vertical Relationships
TODAYâ€™S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Photo courtesy Pete and Kristin Pelletier
ave Wilson planned the perfect anniversary dinner to celebrate 10 years of marriage with Ann. As a pastor and a chaplain for the Detroit Lions, Dave had a busy life, but he thought things were going well, both in his career and in his marriage. In fact, if someone had asked him to rate his marriage, he would have said it was a 9.8 or even a 10. He was sure Ann would agree. But near the end of their evening out, just as he was moving in for a kiss, Ann uttered words that shook his reality and changed the course of their marriage: “I’ve lost my feelings for you.” For Ann, this feeling had been building for some time. Dave’s commitments — to their church, to ministry, to his job, and to countless other good things — had led her to feel isolated and disconnected. She knew she couldn’t continue their marriage the way it had been. Dave was stunned by Ann’s declaration. From a human standpoint, it seems like this should have marked the beginning of the end of their relationship. But as it turned out, that moment marked the beginning of a new — and ultimately redemptive — chapter of the Wilsons’ marriage.
right before his horizontal relationships — including the one with his wife — could be transformed. “At the time, I thought no one would ever hear about what happened,” Dave said. “I was embarrassed that our marriage was this bad and I didn’t even know it. But over the years, we started to tell this story at conferences and at churches, and we saw how much it ministered to people.” Dave and Ann soon discovered that they weren’t the only ones whose marriage had gone through such a breaking point. People were relieved to discover that even in the midst of a crisis, there is hope. “Eventually we realized that God wanted to use this for good,” Ann said. “We saw that people were hurting and desperate for change. We thought, We’re in a much better place now — maybe our story will give people hope.” Through their years in marriage ministry, the Wilsons have found that not many people are willing to be the first to share their own marital struggles. “We want people to know they’re not alone,” Ann said. “We thought that if we were real about our struggles, maybe they would see that the hills and valleys are a normal part of marriage.”
Hope for Marriages in Crisis
Dave and Ann explain that they felt fairly ill-equipped going into marriage. “When we first got married, I expected Dave to meet all my needs,” Ann said. “I expected him to be super romantic, to continue to pursue me, to engage in deep conversations with me, and to lead the boys spiritually.” For his part, Dave came out of a broken home, and although he wanted to create a different legacy for his own family, it wasn’t easy to rewrite the script he’d been given. “I watched my parents go through a painful divorce,” he said. “I was raised by a single mom, which was unusual in the ’60s.” When he and Ann were first married and started dealing with relational conflict of their own, he realized that while he didn’t have a choice about his family of origin, he did have a choice about what he would do with his past. “I think our pain can cause us to either get bitter or get better,” he said. “I wanted to allow God to use my painful past for good.” Ann’s parents have been married for almost 70 years now, and she’s grateful for the example of longevity they’ve left for her. Even so, Ann didn’t have much of a spiritual foundation to build on. “I didn’t grow up in a Christ-centered home, and my parents didn’t necessarily have an easy time.” The Wilsons’ early struggles in marriage resulted in a passion for mentoring younger couples. “We go through all these years of school and career-related training, but how many hours do most people spend learning to have a great marriage?”
What happened after Ann’s pronouncement took both Dave and Ann by surprise. Dave immediately got onto his knees in the front seat of their car and offered a prayer of repentance. He asked for God’s forgiveness for not being the husband and father God wanted him to be, and he surrendered his life and his marriage to the Lord. He knew that there was a foundational problem that couldn’t be solved by better communication or traditional marriage tips. He needed to get his vertical relationship with the Lord
Creating a New Legacy
The Secret to a Thriving Marriage
Photo courtesy Pete and Kristin Pelletier
The Wilsons believe that marriage is under attack in our culture . . . but there is hope. “The only way to get marriage right is to put Jesus first,” Dave said. “That vertical relationship has to be the priority. If we seek happiness, hope, joy, and purpose anywhere else but from our Creator, we’ll be disappointed.” Ann agreed. “It’s so easy to try to find happiness in our spouse or our kids or our job, but if we try to make anything except the Lord bear that weight, they become idols.” TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
Photo courtesy Brian Craig Photography
Based on their own experience, as well as the experiences of countless couples they’ve mentored, both through FamilyLife conferences and with Lions players and their wives, Dave and Ann believe that our only hope for transforming marriages is to go vertical. “We live in a culture where there’s too much pressure on marriage,” Ann said. “When our spouse doesn’t fulfill us the way we thought they would, we assume we married the wrong person.” When Dave and Ann hear someone say this, they reply, “You didn’t marry the wrong person; you’re looking in the wrong place.” As she looks back on the early years of her marriage, Ann said, “I can see that I glimpsed at God but gazed at Dave. It should be the reverse — I want to glimpse at Dave but gaze at God.” Of course, it’s possible to find happiness in marriage, but that shouldn’t be the ultimate source of our joy. If we put that pressure on any relationship, we will always come up empty handed.
The High Calling of Marriage
After three decades of ministry, the Wilsons believe that one of the biggest struggles couples face is the cultural expectations surrounding marriage. “We live in a consumer culture,” Dave said. “We can get something the next day, and if we don’t like it, we can return it and get something better. When marriage turns out to be
different from what we expected, we assume someone else would be better.” Ann agreed. “We live in a throwaway culture — unlike previous generations, like my grandparents, who lived during the Great Depression. Their motto was, ‘We’ll make it work.’” People often say, “I found the one” — as if that person has a magical quality. According to the Wilsons, however, “the One” is Jesus, and your spouse is number two. “If you get those out of order, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed. Once you have that right, your needs will be met and you will overflow what Christ has already given you.” Dave and Ann are passionate about cultivating healthy marriages — not just because they want couples to experience the joy and freedom of a healthy relationship, but also because they believe marriage represents an even higher calling. “Marriage shows the world what God looks like — it’s a mirror for God’s love. As the book of Ephesians says, marriage is a mystery — one that reflects the character of God to the world.” In other words, the purpose of marriage is for people to see God’s love through the love between a husband and a wife. “God’s dream,” the Wilsons said, “is to reveal His heart to the world through marriage.” When a husband and wife treat each other with genuine, Christ-like love, it’s a reflection of God’s love for all of us. “The gospel is lived out in a tangible way through marriage,” Dave said. “God calls us to treat our spouse the way Christ treated us. True, they don’t deserve it — but we didn’t either.” As Christian marriages reflect Christ’s love, they become a lighthouse in a dark world. “We believe that marriage is God’s No. 1 evangelistic tool — both now and in the future.” Stephanie Rische edits and writes in the Chicago area, where she lives with her husband and son. When she isn’t chasing down commas or a toddler, she blogs at stephanierische.com. Her memoir, I Was Blind (Dating), But Now I See, recounts how God surprised her with his grace and love.
In January 2019, Dave and Ann published their first book, Vertical Marriage. Filled with humor and vulnerability, along with profound truths from Scripture, this book serves as a guide to couples who want to build a vibrant relationship in every area, including communication, conflict, intimacy, and romance. They share an honest, sometimes hilarious, and at times deeply poignant narrative of their journey to reconnecting with God and discovering the joy and power of a vertical marriage. “On our wedding night, we prayed that God would give us a marriage that impacted the world,” Ann said. “In many ways, we believe this book is an answer to that prayer. We even went on the Today show to talk about our book, which surprised us, since Jesus is on every page!” As of March 2019, Dave and Ann became hosts of FamilyLife Today. They joined fellow host Bob Lepine after Dennis Rainey stepped down from his role as cohost. They’ve been teaching and mentoring couples since 1993 as featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember events. “When we got the phone call to consider being the new hosts, it felt like this was a call from God, out of nowhere,” Dave said. “We’ve seen the impact of FamilyLife Today and Dennis and Barbara Rainey for decades all around the world. It’s an amazing ministry that we’ve benefited from, applauded, and supported through the years.” In addition to their new role with FamilyLife, they are also cofounders of Kensington Church, a national, multi-campus church in Michigan that hosts more than 14,000 attendees every weekend. 8
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Photo courtesy Pete and Kristin Pelletier
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LIVING IN WISDOM
By Jerry and Shirley Rose
Faithfulness: Mirroring God’s Character
Y Jerry Rose is the President/CEO of Total Living International, an international Christian media ministry, and is the Emmy awardwinning host of the weekly talk show Significant Insights. He has also served as an associate pastor and is an active speaker, teacher, and author. His book Significant Living: A Road Map for the Second Half of Your Life, was written with his wife Shirley. Shirley Rose has been in ministry with her husband, Jerry, for more than 30 years. Her program Aspiring Women has received two Emmy Awards and has been named “Best Television Talk Show” by the National Religious Broadcasters. Shirley was also the executive producer and host of TLN’s Balanced Health and Significant Living programs. Jerry and Shirley enjoy travel and spending time with their 19 grandchildren, including four adopted from Africa. Find Jerry and Shirley online at tln.com. 10
ou have probably heard the story about a woman who saw a young boy with tattered clothes and worn-out sneakers standing nearly barefoot looking in a shoe store window. She watched him for a time as he stood shivering in the cold. Filled with compassion, she took the young boy in the store and bought him socks and a couple of pairs of new shoes. The young boy was in awe of what she was doing and finally asked, “Are you God’s wife?”
God’s Faithfulness to Us
Though a great story of compassion and kindness, you may wonder how it demonstrates faithfulness. It certainly does, but first let’s look at God’s faithfulness. In 1 Corinthians 1:9 when Paul spoke of God’s faithfulness, he used the Greek word pistos. “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (NIV). It’s a straightforward statement of fact. Paul was saying God can be trusted in everything at all times. He is absolutely dependable even in the difficult times, but I want to explore not only God’s faithfulness to us, but our faithfulness to God and others. The Genesis account of Joseph is an excellent example of both. Observing his early life, some could wonder about God’s faithfulness to Joseph. He went from being his father’s favorite son to being thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by his brothers. Then despite his innocence, he was unjustly imprisoned, but God had made a promise to Abraham and his descendants. Joseph was an integral part of that plan, and God not only protected him, but used Joseph to preserve the life of his family and much of that part of the world from starvation. Each cruel circumstance that Joseph endured moved him one step closer to the fulfillment of his destiny. God is faithful.
Our Faithfulness to God
Joseph’s story, however, is also an excellent example of man’s faithfulness back to God. We are reminded by Paul to be faithful to God. In 1 Corinthians 4:1–2, Paul uses the same word pistos to describe our obligation to be faithful stewards. “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (ESV).
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
In his book A Richer Life For You in Christ, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates points out pistos as meaning “possessed by the character of God, being trustworthy and dependable like God.” He goes on to write, “In the first years of Christianity the believers were called christophóroi, Christophers, which means “the bearers of Christ.” They were to bear the image of Christ himself. Paul gives us another measure of what the character of God looks like when he lists the fruit of the spirit. Notice one of those qualities is “faithfulness” (Gal. 5:22–23). As Christians, we are a reflection of God in the world. We carry His image and character, and people should see the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God in us. Joseph was loyal and dependable. He refused to be seduced by his boss’s wife. When asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he gave all the credit to God (Gen. 41:16). Joseph’s faithfulness was rewarded. Pharaoh realized there was something extraordinary about this lowly Hebrew slave, and it had to do with his God. Pharaoh declared, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the spirit of God?” (Gen. 41:38 ESV). Pharaoh had found his man, and Joseph became the second in command over all of Egypt.
Reflecting the Image of God
As Christians, we should reflect the very image of God as Joseph did. And what about the lady who bought shoes for the needy boy? Yes, her kindness and generosity looked made her look like Jesus. Let’s ask ourselves if people see genuine faithfulness in us. “Christ bearers” should be compassionate and giving. We should keep our word and strive for excellence in everything we do. Can the server at the restaurant recognize that character? What about the serviceperson who does repairs in my home? What about my family members? God will always be faithful to us. We can depend on that. Let’s live the kind of lives that mirror His faithfulness.
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God’s Greater Grace
Helping Christians Walk More Closely with Jesus
By Pam S. Walker
on and Marsha Harvell’s ministry life had already been extensive: serving as missionaries in the military for 28 years, providing spiritual care to more than 300,000 airmen and their families, leading over 100 Bible studies, serving together in 29 countries. But in 2014, God gave these humble servants and grandparents an even greater vision for ministry. One that would expand their mission field by equipping shepherds to feed their sheep, encouraging believers to pray more deeply, and pointing more people to God’s greater grace. The vision for their ministry, God’s Greater Grace, came while Ron and Marsha were living in Qatar and teaching military chaplains. Marsha was teaching on God’s covenants and had become passionate about the subject, having completed in-depth Bible studies and conferences on the topic that she said is the “foundation for understanding who God is.” She taught it to youth, young mothers, and pastors with doctorates in theology. People asked if they could get the material she was teaching in a book. She had never considered authoring a book. In fact, she said she was reluctant to do so. That was until one of the chaplains who was writing a book told her about a writing coach named Wendy K. Walters. The book needed to be completed in time for the conference in March, which was less than three months away. More than 100 women were expected to attend the conference, many of whom would be bringing non-Christian friends.
The Covenant Maker — A New Chapter of Ministry Begins
Through prayer and help from the coach, the book, The Covenant Maker: Knowing God and His Promises for Salvation and Marriage, was completed in time for the conference. Each lady received a copy, which shows nine elements of God’s covenants from the Old and New Testaments and Western marriage cer12
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Above: Dr. Ron and Marsha Harvell started God’s Greater Grace Ministries in 2014 to help Christians walk more closely with Jesus through faith-equipping resources and conferences. During their 28 years serving the military, they have provided spiritual care to airmen and their families, led over 100 Bible conferences, and served in 29 countries. All photos courtesy Ron and Marsha Harvell
emonies. A section in the book is dedicated to those who have failed to live up to God’s standards in areas of their lives and shows how God forgives and restores lives. In the chapter titled “God’s Forgiveness is Complete,” Marsha wrote, “God is so good to you that despite your past He wants you to live as a righteous and holy child in abundance of joy and love. God knows everything about you, and He still loves you and forgives you and wants to be in a saving intimate relationship with you.” This lifechanging truth is what influenced the name of their ministry, which comes from James 4:1–6, where God provides a “greater grace” than our sin.
Learning to Pray Daily Like a Watchman on the Wall
Also during this time in Qatar, military wives asked Marsha to write devotions. She felt God speaking to her to write about praying through His Word. When her two children were young, she had attended a ladies conference where one of the speakers led a seminar on praying Scripture over family. She fell in love with it and started practicing it daily. “Every day when I would do my quiet time, I would have index cards with the verses on them and would pray those verses over my family. I just saw how the Lord is so faithful to His Word and how He was answering those prayers from the time our children were babies until they grew up, got married, and are now honoring the Lord overseas as missionaries. It’s like, wow, God, You are faithful! And You really love it when we ask things according to Your Word,” Marsha said. Out of this inspiration came the devotional book, The Watchman on the Wall: Daily Devotions for Praying God’s Word Over Those You Love, that she co-wrote with Ron. The book gets people into an entire book of the Bible by having them read one chapter a day throughout the year. Each devotion is formed from that chapter and ends with a verse or two that can be prayed back to the Lord over yourself and loved ones. The name comes from Isaiah 62:6–7, which says that God has appointed watchmen who all day and all night never keep silent.
Above: Ron and Marsha have taught marriage conferences and led couples retreats all over the world, including one in India. Left: The Covenant Maker combines material from years of teaching on this topic that Marsha said is the foundation for understanding who God is. • The Watchman on the Wall series offers daily devotions for praying God’s Word over those you love. The entire series includes devotions from each chapter of the Bible.
Ron encourages men to become watchmen for their families, writing the following in the book’s introduction: “Men, take the lead in being a watchman on the wall praying for your family. I have witnessed the value of sentries on the walls in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are literally protecting those who live within the walls. Evil is real. And God is greater than evil. Most of you would physically die to protect your families from an outside intruder. I want to challenge you to die to yourself and your work for a few minutes of each day to pray for God’s blessings on those you love.” Knowing that she and Ron wanted to write a prayer devotional from each of the 1,189 chapters of the Bible, they continued the devotional series in Volumes 2 and 3 and are in the process of writing Watchman on the Wall, Volume 4.
Burdened to Feed His Sheep
Even before completing the Watchman on the Wall series, Ron felt burdened by another calling. Although he had introduced TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
LEADING A CHURCHWIDE CAMPAIGN WITH 50 STEPS WITH JESUS While the 50 Steps with Jesus materials are ideally designed for one-on-one shepherding, this ministry resource can also be used in small groups or on a broader scale. A “Ministry Leader’s Guide” located inside the 50 Steps with Jesus Shepherd’s Guide offers churches guidance on how to implement this teaching as an entire churchwide campaign. As stated in this section, congregation-wide participation “creates a churchwide enthusiasm for 50 Steps and increases the pool of members who desire to be shepherds.” The authors offer the following ideas that can help churches create a congregation-wide or ministry campaign for launching this New Believers program: • Have a season of prayer leading up to the launch. • Prior to the launch, preach or teach messages on the value of shepherding (Ps. 23; John 21:15–17; 1 Pet. 5:1–4). • Dedicate eight weeks for doing 50 Steps with Jesus. • Weekly sermons can be based on the Big Step themes discussed in the material. • Implement the Big Step themes in your ministry groups for the weekly curriculum. • Have members do their Big Steps in a group and then do the daily lessons on their own and be in contact each day with another member. • Have a celebration on the eighth week when you reach Big Step 50! • Have participants who feel led to participate in ongoing shepherding volunteer to become your lamb shepherd team. • Develop a plan for usage that is common knowledge to the entire congregation so they know whom to contact for support of new believers.
many people to Christ and baptized 500 new believers, he regretted not discipling them well enough. Contemplating the Lord’s commands to Peter in John 21:15–17 to feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep, Ron set out to develop discipleship material that would be easy to understand, while providing new believers a solid biblical foundation. Marsha shared the same concern for feeding new Christians, stating that “We just expect new believers to go feed themselves. We spend more time feeding our dog or cat than we do feeding fellow believers, especially new believers.” Partnering with Marsha and writing coach Wendy K. Walters, Ron wrote 50 Steps with Jesus: Learning to Walk Daily with the Lord, a seven-week spiritual growth journey that includes a “New 14
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Above: Marsha Harvell is passionate about teaching God’s Word and has led conferences in 8 countries and ministered to people in at least 14 countries. Here she teaches a Nigerian congregation in Qatar.
Believer’s Guide” and “Shepherd’s Guide.” The material is designed to match new believers with a “shepherd” who meets with them for seven weeks (face-to-face once a week and some form of contact other days), guides them through the basics of Christianity, and shows them how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. The first “lamb” they used the material with was a master sergeant named Marie. As Ron would write each lesson, Marsha would meet with Marie and get her feedback. They also tested the material with a life group in Colorado of older believers where the average Christian was over 50. As they practiced shepherding each other, they were drawn closer together, with many saying they wish they had gone through this as a new believer. In addition to producing faith-equipping resources, Ron and Marsha have built an extensive website, godsgreatergrace.com, which offers additional support for Praying God’s Word, and a 50 Steps Journey site that includes additional resources for new believers, shepherds, and ministry leaders. The Lord continues to expand Ron and Marsha’s ministry as evidenced through Ron’s promotion in August 2018, when the U.S. Senate confirmed his promotion from U.S. Air Force Chaplain Colonel to the rank of Brigadier General, becoming the Air Force’s 26th Deputy Chief of Chaplains. A Baptist Press article states he will “assist the Air Force Chief of Chaplains to provide guidance on the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel and their families. He will also be responsible for helping train and equip the Air Force Chaplain Corps and joins the United States Armed Forces Chaplains Board whose members advise the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on concerns related to religion, ethics, and morale.” In sharing about their new journey, which has brought them to the Pentagon, Marsha said, “We’re just thankful that the Lord has given us these opportunities. We’re never ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To have the religious freedom and to be able to encourage and share Christ with these young families, chaplain leaders, and senior military leaders, is just so exciting.” Pam S. Walker is the former national editor of Answers magazine, a publication of Answers in Genesis, and is a freelance writer living in the Cincinnati area, where she writes for various Christian publications. For more information, visit her website at pamwalkercommunications.com.
“Therefore go and make disciples ...”
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Learning to Walk Daily With the Lord This is a 7-week, daily contact ministry tool to guide your congregation to shepherd new or young believers through the simple truths of the Christian faith: 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
Who You are as a Believer How to Follow Jesus How to Talk to God How to Understand the Bible Being Part of the Church How to Worship Continuing the Journey
New Believer’s Guide with Companion Shepherd’s Guide—available in print for $10/ea. or as printable PDF download for $2.50. Reprint permission and bulk discounts provided.
Prayerfully consider using 50 Steps With Jesus as your ministry tool to fulfill Jesus’ command to “Feed My lambs ...” —John 21:15
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ASK DR. WALT
Common Types of Skin Cancer
Dear Dr. Walt, Everybody in our family has lumps and bumps and skin growths, but how do we know when one might be cancer? —Bumps in Missouri Walt Larimore, MD, has been called one of America’s best-known family physicians and has been named in “The Best Doctors in America” and “Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare.” He’s also an award-winning medical journalist and the best-selling author of 30 books. You can find Dr. Walt’s health blog and free daily devotional at www.DrWalt.com. Have questions for Dr. Walt? Email them to editor@ todayschristianliving.org.
Dear Lumps, Although there are many types of skin cancer, knowing the “ABCDE warning signs” of melanoma (the most dangerous skin cancer) can help you find not only early melanomas, but other skin cancers too: A = Asymmetry — one half is unlike the other half B = Border — an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border C = Color — is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black; or is sometimes white, red, or blue D = Diameter — melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller E = Evolving — a mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color Skin cancers need to be discovered and treated early to prevent them from spreading into and damaging surrounding tissues or spreading around the body. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you and your spouse do a head-to-toe examination of each other’s skin every month so you can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. Then, if you notice a spot on your skin that’s different from others, or that changes, itches, or bleeds, make an appointment to see your health professional or a dermatologist. Skin cancers are almost always curable when found and removed early. You can find a step-by-step guide to self-examination at tinyurl. com/SCF-SkinCheck.
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
Protecting Your Skin from Cancer
Dear Dr. Walt, We’re planning to hit the Jersey shore several times this summer and are finding all types of different advice on how to protect our skin and prevent skin cancer. Since skin cancer runs in my and my spouse’s family, count us interested. —Sun Seekers in New Jersey Dear Tan Your Hides, Reducing exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, including melanoma. The EPA estimates that the sun causes 90% of all nonmelanoma skin cancers, and other research links it to 65% of all melanomas. The CDC says you can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer using simple sun protection tips. This is important to know because the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations from the CDC to help protect yourself and your family (tinyurl.com/CDC-SunSafety): • Shade. Even though seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter gives relief from the sun, your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside — even when you’re in the shade. • Clothing. When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts, which can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet Tshirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well. • Hat. For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection. And, if you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, and by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
By Walt Larimore, MD
How Can I Get a Safe Sun Tan? Dear Dr. Walt, How can I safely get a suntan?
• Sunglasses. Sunglasses can protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the U.S., regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wraparound sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side. • Sunscreen. Each product is assigned a SPF number that rates its effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. Always put on broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says, “Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broadspectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays.” Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.
Are Tanning Beds Harmful?
Dear Dr. Walt, My wife and I are having a debate. I believe tanning beds are safe, and the salon I go to says so. She’s read that they’re not safe at all. Who’s right? —Tan in New York Dear Bronzed, A friend said, “When I married Ms. Right, I didn’t realize her first name was Always.” Chock another one up for the missus. When it comes to tanning beds or sun lights, I never recommend them, nor do dermatologists. According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), “Exposure to the ultraviolet light from tanning beds can impact the skin in a variety of ways — including wrinkles, sun spots, or freckles. And for one in every five Americans, this exposure can lead to skin cancer” (tinyurl.com/ACDS-CancerMyths). The use of tanning beds or sun lamps is risky because the UV radiation they deliver will damage your skin. Dermatologists warn people to not use tanning beds or sun lamps of any type, as there is growing evidence they increase your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.
—Pale in New Mexico
Dear Pallid, Simply put — and this may be a shock — but you can’t. The ASDS says, “There is no such thing as a healthy suntan. Any change in your natural skin color (caused by UV light) is a sign of skin damage. Evidence suggests tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer.” But, there is a safe and effective way to get a tanned appearance — and that is by using a sunless tanning product and not UV light. And, if you tried them in the past and hated the fakelooking bronze gleam they gave, don’t worry. The newer products are fabulous.
Maintaining Younger-Looking Skin
Dear Dr. Walt, I’d like younger looking skin. Is there an easy way to do this? —Young-at-Heart in California Dear Youthful, The basic answer is to avoid the UV light from the sun that can both harm and age your skin. Want proof? Look at your arm. The side on top looks older than the underside, correct? And, the upper side is one exposed the most to sunlight. Furthermore, your skin is exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays every single time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. So whether you’re on vacation or taking a brisk fall walk in your neighborhood, remember to use sunscreen. It takes at least 15 minutes for your skin to absorb sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn. I tell my patients to remember what I call the 20/20 Rule: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 20 or greater and apply it at least 20 minutes before going outside. I recommend to all my patients that they apply an unscented moisturizing cream with a SPF of at least 15 to their exposed skin each day before leaving home — every single day of the year. “Every day to keep skin cancer away,” I say. But not only that, you’ll look younger. In fact, in one study, daily sunscreen use reduced the effects of aging on skin by nearly 25%. The bottom line is that sunscreen protects the skin from harmful UV rays and helps prevent skin cancer, and it may also reduce premature wrinkles and benefit your beauty. Adapted from Fit over 50. Copyright © 2019 by Walt Larimore and Phillip Bishop. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408. www.harvesthousepublishers.com. Used by permission. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
SOUL HUNGER: Satisfy Your Heart’s Deepest Longing By J. Otis Ledbetter
hen’s the last time you were hungry? Truly hungry? Was it painful? Did you feel a tightness or contraction in your stomach? Were you dizzy or faint? Agitated or irritable? This is when you realize hunger isn’t a weakness — it’s a force! It allows no time to think of anything except the gnawing desire for food. This force drives a street person to rummage through trashcans. For the homeless or indigent, hunger is a brutal master. If hunger’s cruel pangs have hammered your belly, you know how it can drive you to do almost anything, to act in ways you never thought you would. Victor Hugo illustrated this in Les Misérables when hunger pushed Jean Valjean to steal a single loaf of bread, resulting in a lifetime of agony and danger. Thankfully, few of us are acquainted with that degree of chronic hunger, the kind that claws at your belly, assaults your mind, and refuses to let go. But we all know a different kind of hunger, one that’s universal. It tells and retells how our souls crave something far deeper and more important than physical food. At birth, each of us possesses God-given hungers, which we spend our lives trying to gratify. They gnaw at our psyche, begging to be satisfied. Though we may not be able to name any such hunger, it dogs us. Everybody is hungry for . . . something.
Two Lists — One Tale
In an ancient letter written 2,000 years ago to a people known as Galatians, two lists are embedded. Each list describes characteristics that are within the reach of human experience. One list speaks of good qualities, the other of aberrant behavior. One offers the best of times, the other the worst of times. After reading both, one list leaves us with a sense of inspiring freshness, the other the stench of a garbage pail.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Here’s one list the author wrote: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). To scan over these charac18
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
teristics elicits no fear, dredges up no past, and creates no emotional baggage. In fact, the author goes on to write, “Against such there is no law” (v. 23). There are no laws, whether national or local, that control the fruit of the Spirit. That’s because no laws are needed to impede the flow of such goodness from relationship to relationship.
The Works of the Flesh
All the laws on the books are, by contrast, made to impede the flow of what the author calls the manifestations of the flesh. Listen to his listing of these: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (vv. 19–21). Any inspiring words there? Hardly! Seems like just a pile of debris running over with human wreckage. One day in my office with an open Bible, I made a list of these works of the flesh juxtaposed with the fruit of the Spirit. I wrote them on large sticky notes and placed them on the wall opposite my desk. For days, I studied them to find answers to such questions as these: Why is anger only found in the works of the flesh? Where would that square with anger’s antithesis — with what the Spirit produces? Over time, after daily meditation on the two lists, clarity began to emerge. I began to see that the fruit of the Spirit was given to satisfy human hungers placed in us by God in a fashion benefitting everyone, while the works of the flesh — created by and strongly suggested by Satan — were only substitutes for what God intended us to experience. One list satisfied the eternal; the other is entirely temporal. The two lists on my office wall represent the righteous and unrighteous ways to relieve the many hungers of our soul. The true Father of lights had made the righteous ways available through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but the great masquerader — Satan — has provided almost twice as many unrighteous ways.
Ephesians 4:31-32 RELATIONSHIP TO GOD
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHERS
RELATIONSHIP TO SELF
Galatians 5:22-23 The Fruit of the Spirit Love
The Human Hunger Intimacy
Selfish Ambitions Dissensions
Heresies (“My Truth”)
Ascending to Contentment
Control Descending into
The Works of the Flesh Adultery Fornication
Galatians 5:19-20 LUST OF THE FLESH - “ME”
LUST OF THE FLESH - “ME”
PRIDE OF LIFE = “ME”
1 John 2:15-16 A Third List — Human Hunger
As I studied those two lists and saw that each side brings resolution for particular human hungers (although only temporarily on one side), I realized a third list was needed. I stuck another large sheet of paper on the wall between the original lists and began to write: • Intimacy • Happiness • Contentment • Justice • Control • Respect • Truth • Achievement • Pleasure A matrix began to take shape, and the light of Scripture began to illuminate my heart and mind. I began to appreciate that what was on the wall was the emergence of real hungers squeezed between two sides, each challenging the other over common ground, yet yielding opposing outcomes — even though both promised to satisfy those hungers. And we’re all forced daily to make a choice because the two sides are mutually exclusive. We may not be able to precisely articulate the hungers we feel, but they’re nonetheless undeniable. They’re born within us and burn within us even when we ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. Like physical hunger, the hunger will not go away until it’s fed. The hunger drives us to a choice. The longer we refuse to choose, the more intense the pressure becomes. And
eventually we will choose to satisfy our hunger either through the Spirit or through the flesh. The flesh — minus God — is marginalized for any long-term effectiveness to satisfy any of our hungers, even when at first they seem gratified. Perhaps this truth is what prompted Solomon to write, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 16:25 NIV).
Identify Hungers and Satisfy Them Through the Spirit
A key to making healthy, God honoring choices is to pinpoint the human hungers that we have — the things that ache within us until we feed those hungers and are satisfied. In Soul Hunger, you’ll find a survey for evaluating your hungers. The survey will help you better understand the hunger(s) you’re currently struggling with and trying to satisfy. The evaluation contains 31 questions, each with nine possible answers featuring groups of hungers. As you follow the instructions for the evaluation, the hungers you’re seeking will become obvious. An appendix at the end of Soul Hunger contains a thorough compilation of Scripture passages that parallel the hunger described in each chapter. Studying these Scriptures, along with some careful guidance I’ve included, will move you toward a more rewarding life of true fulfillment. Adapted from Soul Hunger: Satisfy Your Heart’s Deepest Longing by J. Otis Ledbetter, Copyright 2019 New Hope Publishers, an imprint of Iron Stream Media, Birmingham, Alabama. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.newhopepublishers.com. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
LIVE RIGHT NOW
Daughter Has Track Record of Broken Relationships
Dr. Sabrina Black is a professor, counselor, life coach, conference retreat speaker, and international humanitarian. She is the CEO of Abundant Life Counseling, founder of Global Projects for Hope, Help and Healing (GPH3), and author of Live Right Now. To contact Dr. Black or book her for a speaking engagement, visit www.drsabrinablack.com or call 612-888-LIVE (5483).
Q. My daughter has had a series of failed relationships. She is currently dating a much older guy who is unemployed. I just found out that she opened a joint bank account with him. I overheard her telling her girlfriend that a large sum of money was missing, and he lent it to his ex-wife. My daughter is heartbroken. What should I say to her? Signed: Another Failed Relationship A. Dear Another Failed Relationship,
There’s not much you can say if your daughter is an adult and has not confided in you. Just let her know that you’re there for her, as she needs your love and support while she’s hurting. Trying to approach the subject of her failed relationships now would only add salt to her wounded heart. Just love her, pray for, and comfort her. “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4 NIV). When your daughter is feeling better, you may be able to talk to her. She may be doing things while dating that should be reserved for marriage. Here are some basic principles about dating you can share: 1. Joint things like bank accounts, phone bills, car loans, and the marriage bed, should be reserved for marriage. 2. Breaking off a relationship isn’t a failure if the couple isn’t compatible, they don’t share the same spiritual values, there is no trust between them, or if the age difference is to great too overcome.
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
Upset About Being Ignored on Social Media Q. I’m 60 and still single. The guy I’m dating has an active social media account with lots of photos, but he has never posted a picture of me. We have dated for eight months and go out all the time. I have met his family and friends. Photos of all of them exist, but I’m missing from his posts. Following his lead, I have refrained from posting photos of us on my page, but I really want to. Should I be concerned? Should I ask him about it? Signed: My Missing Photo A. Dear My Missing Photo,
After eight months of dating, yes, you can ask
him about his social media account. You seem to spend time together, and you’ve met his family and friends. Social media is one of the major forums for life announcements, celebrations, and happenings. To be missing from his post may or may not have significance but would cause alarm for most people (especially women). Being posted is an indication of existence and acknowledgement. If you have not been friended, featured, or updated on his status, there may be a reason he wants to appear single online. Do know that peer pressure from your friends on social media can also have a negative impact on your relationships. Now is the time to communicate with each other. Share your feelings about his social media account. Tell him you would like to post pictures of the two of you on your page. It may be that he is waiting to follow your lead. Communication is the key to building a good relationship.
By Dr. Sabrina Black
How Can I Help My Friend With a Shopping Addiction?
How Much Should Be Shared About a Person’s Death? Q. My best friend has five sisters and they are all three years apart. Her youngest sister died recently, and she was only 38. No one has said why. She was an active young woman who loved God and His people. Her death was sudden and shocked everyone. Several of our friends have called to inquire about what happened. My response has simply been, “She died,” with no explanation. What is this need to know what a person has died from? It’s as if they are trying to determine how to respond based on the reason given. What difference does it make? The family is grieving. Signed: Does Death Need Details? A. Dear Does Death Need Details?,
Yes and no. It depends on how well or how close you are to the person who died. A close family member will almost automatically ask, “What happened?” People die from many things, and the living are always interested in knowing how and why it happened. It’s always a good idea to be gracious toward those who ask. They may want to know because it helps them understand and accept their loss. Others will ask just because they’re human and curious. Some ask because they fear facing their own death and want to avoid whatever may have caused this person’s death. Some think not asking what happened may seem as if they don’t care. Usually people don’t mind being asked unless their loved one died of an overdose, suicide, or in some other way they consider to be shameful. If someone asks what happened and the family is reluctant to talk about it, the person should be considerate and drop the subject, as it can be very painful for the family to relive the circumstances of a loved one’s death. If the family wants to share this information, they will.
Q. My friend has a serious shopping addiction. I didn’t think this was a real thing until recently, when I went upstairs in her home. I’ve known her for five years, but she just let me see behind the closed doors. What I saw was astonishing. She has boxes and bags of items she ordered online and late-night television. She justifies purchases by saying that some items are gifts and others were on sale and didn’t cost much. There were multiple copies of things. There was so much stuff that both of her guest rooms are filled. She said her plan was to return some of the things but had not gotten around to it. I don’t remember how I made my way upstairs in her home or why she chose to share this with me. But now that I know, I’m sad and confused. How does something like this happen? Is help available? Signed: Sad and Confused A. Dear Sad and Confused,
Yes, shopping addiction is a real thing, and it can happen to anyone at any time. It may develop after the loss of a loved one or a job or after a major disappointment. The shopping then becomes a way to fill the void, ease the pain, and avoid thinking about their issues. This emotional shopping can be triggered by joy and good news as well. There are no known reasons for this addiction, but it seems that some people are born with a genetic tendency toward addictive behavior. People with shopping addictions may seem normal in every other way, so don’t blame yourself for not knowing she had a problem. When a person has an addiction, they become very good at hiding it, and they even deceive themselves into believing they don’t have a problem. First you need to get her to see that she has an addiction. It’s possible that her shopping has become financially problematic and stressful, causing her to allow you to see behind her mask. This could be her cry for help. It’s a sad situation and can be very confusing for you and your friend. There are support groups, therapy, and counseling available to help your friend. The following Scriptures can help her see that her emotional needs can never be satisfied by things: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Eccl. 5:10 NASB). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19 NASB). “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6 KJV). TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
DAILY BIBLE CONNECTION
Developed by R. M. M’Cheyne and D. A. Carson
If you follow this reading calendar, you will read through the Old Testament in two years and the Psalms and New Testament in a year.
Isaiah 34; Revelation 4
Isaiah 41; Revelation 11
Isaiah 48; Revelation 18
Isaiah 55; Matthew 3
Isaiah 35; Revelation 5
Isaiah 42; Revelation 12
Isaiah 49; Revelation 19
Isaiah 36; Revelation 6
Isaiah 43; Revelation 13
Isaiah 50; Revelation 20
Isaiah 37; Revelation 7
Isaiah 44; Revelation 14
Isaiah 51; Revelation 21
Isaiah 38; Revelation 8
Isaiah 45; Revelation 15
Isaiah 52; Revelation 22
Job 30; 1 Corin. 16
Isaiah 33; Revelation 3
Isaiah 39; Revelation 9
Isaiah 46; Revelation 16
Isaiah 53; Matthew 1
Isaiah 40; Revelation 10
Isaiah 47; Revelation 17
Isaiah 54; Matthew 2
Isaiah 56; Matthew 4
Isaiah 57; Matthew 5
Isaiah 58; Matthew 6
Isaiah 59; Matthew 7
Isaiah 60; Matthew 8
Isaiah 61; Matthew 9
Isaiah 62; Matthew 10 SUNDAY
Isaiah 63; Matthew 11
Jeremiah 3; Matthew 17
Jeremiah 10; Matthew 24
Jeremiah 17; Mark 3
Jeremiah 24; Mark 10
Jeremiah 4; Matthew 18
Jeremiah 11; Matthew 25
Jeremiah 18; Mark 4
Jeremiah 25; Mark 11
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Isaiah 64; Matthew 12
Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19
Jeremiah 12; Matthew 26
Jeremiah 19; Mark 5
Jeremiah 26; Mark 12
Isaiah 65; Matthew 13
Jeremiah 6; Matthew 20
Jeremiah 13; Matthew 27
Jeremiah 20; Mark 6
Jeremiah 27; Mark 13
Isaiah 66; Matthew 14
Jeremiah 7; Matthew 21
Jeremiah 14; Matthew 28
Jeremiah 21; Mark 7
Jeremiah 1; Matthew 15
Jeremiah 8; Matthew 22
Jeremiah 15; Mark 1
Jeremiah 22; Mark 8
Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16
Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23
Jeremiah 16; Mark 2
Jeremiah 23; Mark 9
Coming to Theaters Fall 2019 “A must see for every student” Visit www.FreshmanYearMovie.com to learn more Freshman Year is a faith based college movie about coming of age. It is centered around CJ, an African American male, who grows up in a very protective Christian home and leaves home for the first time for UCLA. At school, he is overwhelmed by his new-found freedom and independence. He struggles with balancing his faith with the desire to fitting in and falling in love
ANCHOR STUDIOS PROUDLY PRESENT “FRESHMAN YEAR” A FILM WRITTEN. DIRECTED ANO PRODUCED BY JUDE OWKUDIAFOR JOHNSON. STARRING DIALLO THOMPSON. BENJAMIN ONYANGO. GREGORY ALAN WILLIAMS. NATALIA DOMINGUEZ ANO OESALENE JONES. PRODUCED BY GRITS CARTER. CASTING BY SALLY FORCIER. DIRECTOR Of PHOTOGRAPHY AARON LEONG. EDITOR JJ AKAU. SCREENPLAY BY TOBY OSBORNE ANO JUDE OKWUDIAFOR JOHNSON.
Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business, and CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on more than 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.
Get a Fresh Start
Retirement or Debt?
Dear Travis, You’ve got one thing right. You definitely need to get rid of the rental property. I’m not sure I’d jump at the offer you just received, but if I were in your shoes I’d slash the price way below value and sell the place. Right now you’re broke, and you’re still trying to play real estate investor. That’s not a good plan. I’d put a price tag of $100,000 on it, so you can move it fast and still see some equity in the deal. But sell it today! By doing this, you’ll have a nice chunk of cash in your pocket, and you can get something of a financial fresh start — one that includes living on a written, monthly budget and staying out of debt! —Dave
Dear Jamie, If you’re following my plan, the first thing you should do is set aside a beginner emergency fund of $1,000. That’s Baby Step 1. Next comes Baby Step 2, which means paying off all your debt except for your house. This would include your car. During this time, you should temporarily stop any kind of investing and retirement contributions. Once your mortgage is the only debt you have left, it’s on to Baby Step 3. This means you start saving money and growing your beginner emergency fund into a fully-funded emergency fund of three to six months of expenses. When that’s done, you can attack Baby Step 4 — investing 15 percent of your pretax income for retirement. In your case, that would mean re-starting the contributions to your 401(k). The rest of the plan goes like this. Baby Step 5 is putting money into your kids’ college funds, if you have kids, while Baby Step 6 is putting everything you can scrape together towards paying off the house early. After that comes the real fun. Baby Step 7 is the point where you build wealth and give like crazy. It may take a little time in some cases, but following these steps will lead you to financial peace! —Dave
Dear Dave, I got laid off a couple of months ago, and I’m behind on the payments for a rental property. I found a full-time job recently, but it doesn’t provide enough income to cover my other bills and the mortgage on this property. The other day, I received an offer from someone who is willing to buy it for what’s owed on the property. I’m not sure that’s the best thing, because I owe $70,000 and it’s worth around $150,000. What do you think? —Travis
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
Dear Dave, Do you think I should lower the amount I’m contributing to my 401(k) so I can pay off my house and my truck? —Jamie
By Dave Ramsey
Zero Percent Interest? Dear Dave,
I know you’re against financing purchases. However, is it okay to finance things like furniture at zero percent interest? —Detrick Dear Detrick, We just finished an extensive study of more than 10,000 millionaires. Not a single one of these folks said they became rich by borrowing money to buy things at zero percent interest. Since none of those millionaires gave credit for their wealth to zero percent interest financing, and since we know banks charge interest on loans, how is it you think these people are loaning money at “zero percent interest?” Is it possible the pricing of the item has the interest rate built into it? I think the chances of that are pretty high. If not that, companies offering this kind of financing have very accurate and highly researched data that tells them the vast majority of people who take out zero-percent loans don’t pay off the loans in the specified period of time. Do you know what happens if you don’t live up to the terms of those contracts? It becomes a regular loan, and they back charge you for the interest. So, on average you’re paying for it all. I don’t know why you’d want to play with snakes, Detrick. Snakes bite, and some of them can kill you. Avoid debt like the plague. It destroys your most powerful wealth-building tool — your income. —Dave
Close Up Small Business?
Dear Dave, I have a small business, and I love what I do. Unfortunately, things haven’t been going well the last several months. On top of that, I’ve committed a lot of money to advertising in the coming year. Recently, I got a great job offer from a company that would pay me twice what I’m making now. What do you think I should do? —Hugh Dear Hugh, If it were me, I’d want to keep my options open. Closing your business would mean giving up all your customers. I’m not sure that’s a good idea when the offer has just been made, and you know so little about the actual job. If you think this new job is something you might like, why not accept the offer and see if you can continue your other work on the weekends? That would help cover some, if not all, of your advertising commitment. Plus, it would keep some money rolling in if the new job doesn’t work out. If you find you like this new job, then you’ve got a great income and something you like doing on weekends that pays. If you keep your business open — even on a small scale — there’s always a chance it will begin to grow again. Who knows? It might give you the opportunity to jump back into it full-time somewhere down the road! —Dave
Let Her Take Care of the Payments Dear Dave,
My daughter is in college, and I’ve always warned her to stay away from credit cards. Recently, I learned she got a department store credit card despite my advice. She has stayed within her credit limit, but she has never made any of the payments. At this point, she owes about $3,500. She’s a good student, and I want to look at this as a young person’s mistake. Should I pay it off for her this one time? —Joseph Dear Joseph, You’re right, this is a typical young person’s mistake. Like a lot of mistakes our kids make, it’s one that’s bad and wonderful at the same time. It’s bad because, if she had just listened to dear old dad, she would’ve avoided a mess. It’s wonderful, though, because it gives you the opportunity to provide her with a real world, teachable moment. I understand you wanting to help her out “this one time.” It means you have a good heart, and that you care about your daughter and love her. There’s a reality here, though, I hope you won’t overlook. It’s her debt, not yours. She knew what she was doing when she signed up for that credit card. She knew what it meant, what was expected, and she is the one who should have to make good on the repayment. The entire deal is legal and fair. At this point, my advice is to put your arm around her, talk to her, and lovingly explain where she went wrong and why it was a bad idea. You can even help her find a part-time job if she doesn’t have one right now, so she can pay off her debt and get out of this mess. But leave the payments to her. My guess is by the time she finishes working her tail off to pay this debt she will have learned a lesson she’ll remember for the rest of her life! —Dave TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
By Ariana Stadtlander
Bearing With One Another Ariana Stadtlander, a lifelong resident of upstate New York, is a stay-at-home wife, mother, and freelance writer. A Christian for over a decade, Ariana is an advocate for ministry within the church itself. A mission of hers is to use the gift of writing to bless and encourage believers worldwide.
If you have a turning point in your life you would like to share, email your story to editor@ todayschristianliving.org. All submissions must be under 800 words. If we print your story, we will pay you $75. We reserve the right to edit for length and content. All submissions become the property of Today’s Christian Living. 26
My now-husband and I had just gotten engaged when our church was faced with the proverbial “kiss of death” for any congregation. Our pastor of nearly 10 years made the decision to resign. The members became disheartened by the news, but my fiancé and I chose to see this new challenge as a providential calling from God to push ourselves to serve sacrificially without receiving any personal reward for our efforts. Perhaps we were overzealous — especially me. After we were married, I worked hard to pick up any slack I could find in the church. Within the span of a few months, I was making the weekly bulletins, planning our monthly fellowship meals, and making sure the church directory was up to date. I was teaching Sunday School, assisting in planning the church’s annual youth ministry, and even hosting a ladies’ brunch. I was quick to jump at any opportunity to serve. Soon, though, I began to notice a pattern from the other members. Church wasn’t a priority for them. My devotion felt one-sided, unreciprocated by those I was trying to help. As I gave more and more of myself to the church, the more frustrated I became. I felt like I was pushing against a brick wall. Their old-fashioned ideals were unyielding amidst my efforts, and our church grew increasingly more stagnant. There was little outward ministry and even less inward discipleship. As a woman, I found myself craving the discipleship Paul encouraged in Titus 2, where young women are instructed to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers” (vs. 4 NKJV). I longed for an older woman to come alongside me to show genuine care for my spiritual well-being. To ask the deep, personal questions. To keep me accountable. To give me advice. This desire remained unmet. I felt alone and so discouraged because I was giving all I had for these people, and I was seeing no results. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a position much like this — where you’ve watched a church crumble before your very eyes. When in such a situation, it can be so hard to have a godly, Christcentered attitude. I know I didn’t always handle my emotions properly, nor did I always glorify God in my thoughts towards other members. Looking back now, I’ve come to realize three principles that, had I taken the time to implement
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
them, could have made my service towards the church much more fruitful. Stay humble. Develop patience. Pray hard. They sound simple, but the truth is, a lot of discipline and practice is needed to achieve them. The hard times that I faced compelled me to open my Bible and search out what God had to say. What I found was that no church in the New Testament was ever perfect. In fact, some churches were overridden with filthy sin. Yet never does the Bible say we should react with prideful anger or bitterness. Instead, the Bible always says the same thing: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2 NIV). Wow. That was definitely not what I was doing with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Reading that verse showed me that I was handling my trial in all the wrong ways, and after I realized that, I began to change. The hero complex I had developed disappeared. I no longer saw myself as someone the church couldn’t function without. I began to win the battle against the temptation I had to belittle members I disagreed with. I started to realize that God had equipped all of us with different gifts (Rom. 12:6) and that those gifts needed to be respected. With each prayer that I prayed, my anger and the frustration faded away. I asked God for humility, patience, and peace, and He answered me. I learned how to bear with my brothers and sisters and how to really love them. Once I did, I was able to help the church in ways I never had before, with an attitude that was fresh and radiant, and with a spirit that brought glory to God.
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A Closer Look at the ’90s Best-Selling Christian Book I Kissed Dating Goodbye New Documentary with Joshua Harris Explains His Apology for His Book and Takes an Honest Look at the Purity and Abstinence Movements By Tim Bennett
ost authors only dream of writing a book that sells a million copies, brings them fame and fortune, and changes the way people think about critical issues. For Joshua Harris, this dream became a reality at 21 years old when his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (1997), became a national best-seller and rocked the Christian world on its romantic foundations. Simply put, the book challenged Christian young people to stop dating, focus on God, get to know the opposite sex in groups, and only pursue coupling when ready for marriage. Many pastors, Christian leaders, and parents embraced his non-dating and courtship methods and passed them on to their youth.
Fast-forward 20 years and Harris’s book is no longer flying off the shelves but instead receiving a backlash of 30
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criticism and anger from some of these former younger people who felt subjected to his views by well-intentioned parents and Christian leaders. Surprised by the alarming number of new complaints surrounding I Kissed Dating Goodbye several years ago, Harris made an official request for comments from people who had read the book. He received 600. One tweet particularly impacted him. It read, “Your book was used on me like a weapon.” When he responded to the tweet with “I’m really sorry,” he noticed a sudden media storm of articles saying he had apologized for his book. But is that what he should do? Harris wondered. Apologize publicly for the biggest literary success of his life?
Left to Right: Joshua Harris, who at 21 wrote the 1997 landmark book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The book sold more than a million copies but is now facing intense criticism. • Christine Gardner, author of Making Chastity Sexy, shares her thoughts on the topic. • Dannah Gresh, who wrote Lies Women Believe, explains how she thinks the word “purity” has been misused. • Harris paying close attention to feedback. He has apologized for those who were hurt because of his advice. All photos courtesy DOCSology/I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye
A Documentary Digs Into the Controversy
In a new independently made documentary, I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye (2018), directed by Jessica Van Der Wyngaard, viewers follow Joshua Harris as he embarks on this journey of reassessing his most popular book. The film includes Harris talking about the circumstances leading up to the book; his personal convictions at the time; the Christian cultural events shaping it, such as the “True Love Waits” rally in D.C. in 1994 (with archival videos); and conversations with his critics face-to-face from around the world via Skype. Intermingled throughout are also interviews Harris conducted with authors of such books as True Love Dates; Lies Young Women Believe; Courtship in Crisis; Redeeming Sex; Making Chastity Sexy; and Revelations of a Single Woman. The idea for a documentary came from the director, Jessica Van Der Wyngaard, who became friends with Harris at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2015 when both were pursuing a Master of Theology degree. Van Der Wyngaard, a native Australian, had been curious to meet Harris because she had loved the book at 13 but had become disillusioned with it in her mid20s, when his formula didn’t work for her and she saw her friends dating, getting married, and having families. During a phone interview she said, “I found that people who the book appealed to were like Josh — popular, likable, outgoing, and charismatic. As a person who was shy, awkward, and self-conscious, I just accepted it because it gave me a choice to not date.” For a class at Regent, Van Der Wyngaard wanted to do a film on Christian dating, but when she found out Harris was revisiting his book, she and her school adviser thought it would make a more interesting story to have a single storyline. Harris agreed, as long as the documentary could be available for free (he receives no compensation from the film). If a public apology was upcoming, he wanted it to be as public as the book, he said.
Harris Explains the Change in His Views
In a podcast with Sam Hailie, editor of the UK’s leading Christian magazine Premier, in April 2019, Harris explained why he started the process of re-examining his book: “I saw the criticisms were coming from a broad spectrum of people…easy to write people off if they were no longer Christians talking about a Christian book…but I also got a lot of criticism from Christians, that wasn’t animosity, saying this was not helpful in these ways.” Harris said in the same interview that he had spent five tense years dealing with a lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries regarding a sex abuse case where the leadership (of which he was part) was slow to call the authorities. Harris said of this: “I noticed even well-intentioned leadership can have negative consequences for people — in my church, in my own life. Opened me up to evaluating my book. What do I do with that? How do you fix something that’s been out there for decades?...It took weakness and failure to get me to open myself up to the possibility of being wrong.” One author who Harris credits for changing his mind about courtship is Thomas Umstaddt (in the documentary) who, initially, was an ardent believer in Harris’s book. So much so, he wrote a blog called practicalcourtship.com. He learned over the years, TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
however, that courtship simply didn’t work for him, his readers, or anybody else he knew, for a variety of reasons. Finally, Umstaddt gave up on courtship altogether and boldly blogged, “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed” (posted in 2014). He said in a telephone interview that he received one million hits for this post alone. With that reader base, Umstaddt launched the book, Courtship in Crisis: The Case for Traditional Dating, with the financial help of a “Kickstarter” campaign.
The Problems With Courtship
In his book, Umstaddt stated that one of the problems with courtship is that it starts out too serious: “Women are refusing to go out for a cup of coffee because they think it means they are interested in marrying the guy.” He also said that requiring a would-be suitor to win the father’s heart before an official courtship is another flaw. “How romantic is that?” he wrote. Umstaddt personally knew of 10 perfectly good men who were refused by a girl’s father without ever getting a chance to know the young woman. Women then wonder, he said, what’s wrong with them because no one is showing interest. From his experience and from many others, Umstaddt wrote, “Modern courtship attracts dragon fathers who tend to be both unkind and ungentle.” Umstaddt is convinced that his “traditional dating” method, based on the dating practices of his grandmother (or the ’40s and ’50s era) is a better way to get to know people before marriage. The rules are simple: Go out with multiple people, don’t go out with anyone twice in a row, don’t go steady, and don’t stay out late. According to Umstaddt, the underlying motive for courtship is “for the purpose of marriage” and the motive for modern dating is “for the purpose of sex.” Both approaches, he wrote, put too much pressure on a potential couple, whereas the traditional dating’s motive “for the purpose of knowing you” is healthier and less stressful. In regard to maintaining sexual purity in dating, Umstaddt wrote in Courtship in Crisis: “Purity is important, but rules don’t make us pure. Human accountability is no replacement for the 32
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View the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye for free at isurvivedikdg.com.
Holy Spirit in our hearts, leading us in the path of righteousness… Depending on purity rules to keep us pure is like depending on the Law to make us righteous. It didn’t work in the day of the apostle Paul, and it won’t work today.” Stacy Cline, professor of Marriage and the Family at Elim Bible Institute in Lima, N.Y., for 40 years, saw the trailer of the documentary and said, “I never liked I Kissed Dating Goodbye because I thought it was a classic example of a single guy who didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t like the fact he included a lot of stories of bad experiences with dating and concluded that all dating was bad. What I established in my classes years ago, unless you want parentally arranged marriages, there has to be dating involved, but you have to define it. In other words, seeing dating as a way of building friendships initially, not for making any commitments except to being a friend according to 1 Corinthians 13. And, it is out of this friendship that the Word of the Lord starts to emerge, and you see if the friendship can take you further down the road — of course, incorporating the normal safety nets of church, friends, and family involvement. I thought his second book, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello To Courtship was more in line with my thoughts, whether you call it dating or courting. For my classes, however, I use Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and the book on relationships by Dean Sherman.”
A Distorted View of Purity
Other issues that come out of the I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye documentary is the way purity and abstinence were presented in the past and still are in some cases. Christine Gardner, author of Making Chastity Sexy, told Harris in the film’s interview, “During the ’90s, they had these big abstinence rallies in sports arenas with thousands of young people and there would be a footballquarterback-type guy and he would lead everyone in a chant: ‘Sex is great! Sex is great!’ and then with a coda at the end…‘that is in the context of marriage.’ So they would pump up everyone about
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In the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Thomas Umstaddt (left) speaks with Joshua Harris (right). Umstaddt was initially a strong supporter of Harris’ book. Over time, however, Umstaddt concluded that Harris’ theories about dating were flawed.
how amazing sex was to eventually tell them to say no.” Harris followed up on that statement with, “The purity movement was good, but it got people to focus on the wrong thing.” Another author, Dannah Gresh (Lies Young Women Believe), also featured in I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, objected to the way the word purity was used in the purity movement as a synonym for virginity because “That’s not the way the Scriptures portray it,” she said in the interview with Harris. “I work with a lot of girls who are technically pure according to this definition but who are very impure. They may not have had intercourse, but they are doing everything else. I work with other girls who have had sex, maybe with multiple partners, maybe even with other girls but they want to reset their lives and live according to God’s way and what is best for them. According to the Scriptures, they are ‘pure’ but that is not a word that our culture would use for them.” Gresh went on to say that some of the skits used in abstinence programs and the purity movement needed to change because they could give the wrong message to youth, especially those who had already been sexually active or abused. One such skit involves using chewing gum. A female presenter picks out a male student from the class and says, “You’re the one” explaining that she has been saving this gift her whole life and wants him to have it. The boy starts chewing. The presenter then turns to another boy and says, “You’re the one” and asks for the gum back from the first boy, which of course, the second boy does not want. The point of the skit is to point out that virginity is a gift that you can only give away once and that sex is not something to take lightly.
Shame Used to Shut Down Abstinence Programs
This linking of the gum skit to sex/shaming, however, is not shared by Gresh alone, but also by non-Christians looking for an excuse to remove abstinence programs from the public schools. 34
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One woman in one state started a precedent that had a domino effect that closed down a successful abstinence program that had reached 45,000 students and received excellent reviews by students and teachers alike for 20 years. The organization offered to remove the offending skit, but the skit was not the real issue. It was the fact that it was a Christian organization teaching the program. After the removal of the abstinence program in that school, another woman in a neighboring school district used the same tactic, but in this case, the school board claimed it was stopping the program because some teachers thought they could more effectively manage class time by teaching the class themselves. Yet this school board had also received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (a national non-profit atheist organization)* condemning the school for using a Christian-based organization. The superintendent said in his official remarks that they were having a lawyer send the FFRF a letter informing them of their decision to suspend the program.
Care Net’s Alternative SRA Program
Another abstinence education program still operating in 30 schools in the same area is one designed by Care Net, which is perhaps less didactic in its approach and is known as Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA), which strikes a balance between abstinence-only and Sexual Risk Reduction (SRR or Comprehensive Sex Education) programs. SRA is different from SRR in that it teaches how to avoid all sexual risks, as opposed to only reducing sexual risks like in the SRR. Hannah Strasner, the team leader for an SRA program, said in a phone interview, “We take the stand that once students are given the information, they can make an informed decision. Sexual Risk Reduction assumes that all the kids are having sex, which is not the case. According to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) website, only 39.5% of high school students are having sex, which means a majority are making the decision to wait.”
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THE HORNET’S NEST SERIES By Patricia Collier
Jacob Stuart and his friends are veterans of the American Revolution, rebuilding their lives in Wilkes County, the area in Georgia where the fighting was so vicious that it was called the Hornet’s Nest. Now Jacob is facing a task more daunting than fighting for freedom. He must inform his late friend’s niece, Taberah McGregor, that they must wed one another to inherit his land and property.
Duncan McBride is seeking a wife, and he thinks he may have found her in Susannah Brian. But why is he hesitating? Why has Molly Wilson Ferguson become such a distraction? What is Molly hiding?
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ginalized sexualities and genders in the Christian Church that they have the right to take up sacred space. They are who God created them to be.” The second woman, Linda Kay Klein, released her book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, in 2018. She makes it clear that she’s no longer a Christian and wrote that she can’t call God by a masculine pronoun. Director Van Der Wyngaard said in a phone interview,
I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye was nominated for “Best Documentary” at the 2019 Independent Christian Film and Music Festival in Orlando, Florida.
SRA Abstinence (Care Net’s Model)
In reference to abstinence teaching, Strasner continued: “We talk about abstinence, but we define it as a personal choice to avoid all sexual contact regardless of their past, and one you can make at any time. We are very intentional to emphasize that it is their decision and whatever they choose, they can always choose new ones. The fact that abstinence is the safest option to avoid STDs is even on the CDC website in several places. We also talk about how different hormones are released during sexual intercourse that bond you emotionally to your partner, which can make it difficult for you emotionally later if you’ve had multiple partners.” Strasner (29 and single) also watched I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye and said she could relate to many of the speakers. She came from a Christian family and was given a “purity” ring at 13. She confessed that she, too, like some of the participants in the film, put marriage too high on a pedestal when she was younger and selfishly looked at it as the ultimate thing in life. “I was 23 when God really got a hold of my heart and I saw that my relationship with Jesus Christ was the ultimate, and not sex and marriage. My attitude changed from wanting to save sex for marriage because it was the best for me, to wanting to have sexual integrity to honor God if I get married one day or not.”
Some Have Rejected Purity Altogether
Two other women (not in the documentary) who grew up in the purity movement reacted differently. Both now condone premarital sex and have written books that chronicle their new beliefs. Dianna Anderson released her book, Damaged Goods: A New Perspective on Christian Purity, in 2015. In it she wrote, “There needs to be a delineation where one can say that no this kind of premarital sex isn’t bad: it’s between two consenting adults who are maybe in a loving relationship.” As an introduction to her blog, Faith and Feminism, Anderson wrote, “My goal in Faith and Feminism is to tell women and people of mar36
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
SRR “Comprehensive” Model
Presents abstinence as the healthiest choice to avoid all sexual risk.
Emphasizes contraception over abstinence. Primary goal is to increase use of birth control.
Teen and casual sex can cause emotional problems. Pregnancy can occur even if protection is used.
As long as birth control is used, there are no potential emotional issues.
Teens can say no and can recommit to abstinence if they’ve already lost their virginity.
Teen sex is normal and expected.
“She (Klein) called probably the first day or two of the Kickstarter campaign and said that we should cease and desist from doing the project. Later, she sent a message to Josh, that I also received, basically saying that Josh had done enough damage and people did not want to hear what he had to say.” In her book, Klein shared her personal story and those of many others negatively affected by the purity movement and wrote that it took years to shake off the sex/ shame cloud that followed her into adulthood.
Love for Jesus Should Shape Our Behavior
Joanna Sanders, author of the upcoming book Fire Women: Sexual Purity and Submission for a Passionate Woman and blogger for Today’s Christian Living, saw the documentary as too heavy-hitting on Harris: “I think he’s taken too much heat and embraced too much of that negative outpouring. A large part of that negativity could be coming from a society that thinks that self-indulgence is the only way to go. Self-denial is Jesus’s message and it’s not popular today among Christians. God’s standard of holiness is unattainable. That’s why we need Jesus Christ. However, if we love Jesus, we’re going to do the very best of what He commands, which means staying on the
straight and narrow. My big concern with his apology and taking his books off the market is that he will be unintentionally sending the message that the biblical principles that were highlighted in I Kissed Dating Goodbye will also be thrown out.”
Regardless of your takeaway on the new documentary, I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and whether you agree with Joshua Harris’s apology or decision to remove three of his books — I Kissed Dating Goodbye; Boy Meets Girl: Hello to Courtship (2000); and Not Even a Hint (2003) — from the market, three things are certain. First, the author shows genuine humility in listening to his critics, without defending himself, and admitting he was wrong. Second, Harris is still bold and daring enough to ask us some tough questions about the way we do things as evangelicals. Third, ultimately, Christians are responsible to compare any teaching they hear or read to Scripture and to reject unbiblical ideas. Pastors, leaders, parents, teachers, and authors all have an enormous influence and are held accountable by God for what they teach. “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1 NIV). But each believer is also responsible for using discernment. “Do not conform to
the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2 NIV). *The Freedom from Religion Foundation was founded in 1976 by Anne Nicol Gaylor. Her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor and her husband, Dan Barker, are now the co-presidents of the organization. Both are avowed atheists. Gaylor wrote a book entitled: Women without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters. Dan Barker is author of The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life without God. Freelancing for over 30 years part-time, Tim Bennett’s articles have appeared in a variety of publications including Guideposts, Decision, Voice, Writer’s Digest, The Good News magazine, Writing!, and France Today, among others. Tim won first place and $10,000 in the 2000 National Amy Awards for the article “Saving Private Ryan: Saving Mankind.” He is the author of five books: To Uber or Not to Uber (ebook), With a Grain of Salt, Salt for the Supper Table, Zero to Sixty by Terry Bish (as told to Tim Bennett), and the novel Runaways based on his own testimony and his experiences living in France as a missionary for 10 years with Elim Fellowship/Youth With A Mission (YWAM). He also writes monthly reviews for moviesandmemoirs.org.
SCRIPTURAL INSIGHT INTO THE HEART OF GOD Few things can cause such deep and long-lasting emotional and spiritual damage as sexual sin. It can destroy individual lives and severely damage entire societies by carrying paralyzing guilt and shame into future generations. This was a highly charged topic in Jesus’ day. God had laid out clear laws for Israel in Old Testament Scripture, and the Jewish religious leaders wanted strict enforcement of those laws. But these leaders missed the true purpose of the laws, which was to protect people from sin and its destructive consequences before it occurred, rather than to punish them after the fact. The laws were a prescription to shield relationships, whereas discipline was to be carried out after the damage had already occurred to prevent further damage and to promote relational healing. Jesus revealed the intent of the Law when He was asked which commandments are the most important. He responded by summarizing them with a simple statement focusing on love: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself ’” (Luke 10:27 NIV). God wanted His people to live in freedom and joy rather than in bondage to sin. And He wanted those already trapped in ruined lives to be released from their prison of broken relationships, guilt, and shame, so He sent His Son to set them free. This is why Jesus told the Pharisees, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13 NIV). Jesus illustrates His desire for rescuing people from sexual sin through the encounter recorded in Luke: “Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman” (Luke 7:36–50). The woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears was clearly broken by her sin and repentant, so no discipline was needed. He didn’t label, judge, shame, or condemn her. He responded by telling her that her sins were forgiven. Obeying God’s commands would have prevented her pain and guilt in the first place, but because the damage was already done, His highest priority was healing her brokenness. That required her admitting and confessing her sin, which she did, wholeheartedly. She accepted that healing on His terms and demonstrated her love with great humility, a sign that she had truly been transformed. In fact, Jesus lifted her up as an example for the Pharisees to follow. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV).
By Jerry Dykstra and Open Doors By Jerry contributors Dykstra
Heartbreak in Nigeria:
Christians Face Extreme Persecution from Two Muslim Groups Jerry Dykstra is a past Director of Media Relations at Open Doors USA. After his graduation from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism, Dykstra spent two years as a combat photo-journalist in the U.S. Navy. Dykstra spent 27 years working as a sports and news reporter and editor at newspapers in Michigan. During more than 13 years at Open Doors USA, Dykstra met and wrote about persecuted believers in such countries as China, Vietnam, Egypt, and Latin America.
hen 23-year-old Nigerian student Blessing back the second time to check if some people were Kogi returned home on Sept. 27, 2018, she still alive. was full of joy. She was expecting to spend “They noticed two of my cousins were still alive; a restful evening with her family in their quiet, resi- they shot one of them in three places, but she dential neighborhood in the southwestern outskirts survived. One of them raped my other cousin and of Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau State. shot her afterward.” Twelve members of her family The assailants also collected were gathered that evening, inall valuables, including mobile cluding her grandmother, mothphones, before leaving the proper, three siblings, sister-in-law, erty. While bleeding, Blessing nephew, and three cousins. Her hid for more than an hour under father was still at work. It was a the bed. joyful atmosphere. But, accord“When I heard the voices of ing to World Watch Monitor, just some neighbors, I then came out after 7 p.m. as the family was havand was then taken to the hospiing dinner, armed men stormed In the fall of 2014, Islamist terrorists tal,” she recalled. the area and started shooting. The Boko Haram pushed through Ad“The assailants continued terrorists entered the Kogi family amawa state in northeastern Nigeria, their killing spree in my neighcompound, killing 10 members destroying churches, burning villages, borhood. In total, 15 people were of Blessing’s family. Only Blessing and killing Christians. Photo courtesy killed in my area: 10 in my house, and one of her cousins survived The Voice of the Martyrs three in another, and two elsethe attack, but they sustained injuries. where. They also injured five people, including three Speaking to World Watch Monitor, Blessing re- children, in another house, and the two of us.” called the dramatic moment she saw most of her famBlessing gave some details about the assailants. She ily wiped out by the invaders: said some were wearing army uniforms, while others “All of us were in our grandmother’s room. We were dressed in black. were eating when they suddenly came in and opened “The people wearing black clothes spoke Hausa fire. I fell on the floor and played dead, but one of and Fulani, while the others wearing army uniforms them still came to where I was lying down and shot spoke correct English,” she said. me twice — on my neck and shoulder. Blessing said that her father has been broken by the “When they went out, I noticed I was able to move, loss of his wife and other family members. so I got up and went inside the bedroom and I hid “He just needs prayers because since the attack he is under the bed. just confused. He cannot talk and cannot eat. I don’t “Two of my cousins also managed to hide under know what to do,” she said. the bed. But, unfortunately, the gunmen still came Blessing has recovered from her injuries, but she said she is still traumatized. She said no police or army personnel came to rescue them, although her Prayer Points: neighborhood is just along the road from the Rukuba Military Barracks. The Nigerian government has of• That Boko Haram and Fulani Muslim ten been criticized by Christian leaders for failing to herdsmen will stop killing and kidnapping step in to protect Christians from the violence. NigeChristians and peace will be restored. rian President Buhari is a Fulani Muslim. • That President Buhari and the government of Unfortunately, massacre of Christians is nothing Nigeria will bring justice and security to the new to Nigeria over the last decade. The Open Doors fractured country and corruption will end. 2019 World Watch List (WWL) of the world’s 50 worst • That the Holy Spirit will touch the hearts of persecutors reported that at least 3,700 Christians the violent extremist groups and they will were killed for their faith in the northern states and come to know Christ as Savior and Lord. Middle Belt of Nigeria in 2018. In fact, 90 percent of all
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
FULANI MILITANT ATTACKS GROWING IN INTENSITY
Above: After visiting this region to encourage Christians following yet another Boko Haram attack, a VOM worker said, “These acts are satanic and the situation horrific.” Photo courtesy The Voice of the Martyrs
Christian martyred in the Top 50 countries on the 2019 WWL list occurred in Nigeria, which is ranked No. 12 on the list. For Christians living in Nigeria, it’s a double-edged threat as they face violence from the terrorist group Boko Haram affiliated with ISIS in the north and the Muslim-dominated Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt. Christians in Africa’s most populous country make up around 46% of the population of 196 million and mostly live in the south, while a similar percentage of Nigerians are Muslims and mostly live in the north. The Middle Belt is half Christian and half Muslim. Boko Haram’s nine-year insurgency has been described by the United Nations as one of the most severe in the world today, with more than 20,000 people killed and more than 4,000 women and girls abducted. Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, told Breitbart News that Islamists have murdered an estimated 70,000 Christians in Nigeria over the last 20 years. The United Nations Refugee Agency reported that more than 2.4 million persons have been displaced due to Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria’s northern states. Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, a peace advocate living in Jos, stated: “Christians desire security above all else. Christians want to see Leah Sharibu, Alice Ngaddah, and the rest of the Chibok girls along with several others in captivity, Muslims and Christians alike, set free.” Yonas Dembele, a persecution analyst at World Watch Research, added: “Although the Nigerian government claims to have made headway against Boko Haram, it seems incapable of responding to the attacks on Christian communities by the militant Fulani Muslim herdsmen.” Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton told Mission Network News that there is a spiritual battle for the heart of Nigeria. “We continue to pray; we pray for the Church and for the Christians to be protected, but also for believers to be bold in their witness. We need to pray for Nigeria’s governmental leaders that that they will make wise choices and that they will pursue justice.”
In recent years, the conflict between Fulani mostly Muslim herdsmen and predominantly Christian farmers over land and cattle in Nigeria’s Middle Belt has become the country’s gravest security challenge and the source of killing of thousands of innocent Christians as well as the burning of their homes and churches. As reported by World Watch Monitor, attacks by herder militia occur with such frequency and apparent organization that the characterization as “local disputes over land and cattle” no longer applies. Open Doors has called the violence in the Middle Belt area as “religious cleansing,” and Nigerian Christian leaders have called it genocide. Violence attributed to Fulani militants is believed to have claimed six times more lives than Boko Haram in recent years. The Baptist Press and Barnabas Fund reported that in the first two months of 2019, nearly 300 Christians were killed and thousands more displaced. At least 32 people were killed in a Fulani attack on a Christian area of North-Central Nigeria on Feb. 26. The early morning assault on villages in and around Maro, in the Kajuru county of Kaduna State, came after a Feb. 10 herdsmen attack on Angwan Barde, in the same county, that killed 10 Christians along with an unborn child. In the attack in Maro, the Fulani herdsmen also damaged church buildings and property. A boarding school for missionary children in the town of Kufana has been closed, said the Rev. Bakari Ibrahim, director of the Evangelical Church Winning All Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). “Please pray for peace in Kaduna State. Hundreds have been displaced and hundreds killed by the Fulani jihadists,” he told Morning Star News in a text message. “We evacuated about 100 EMS kids from Kufana for safety. Many of our missionaries working among the Kadara tribe and some in the Katari areas have been displaced. Please keep praying for our nation.” The roots of the conflict are complex with “many intersecting issues polarizing society” involving economic, ethnic, and religious tensions but “dangerous speech and polarizing narratives around religion have fueled violence, discrimination, and segregation between Muslims and Christians for decades,” according to a United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
ecently, I bought a cartridge for my printer. It came in a box mounted on a card and wrapped in plastic. When I took it apart, I found that the printer cartridge itself was actually quite small, but they made the packaging unnecessarily large to make it harder to steal and to make the customer feel better about the high price. I pointed this out to my wife and mentioned how my weight gain over the years of our marriage should have the same effect: It made me seem more valuable and also made me harder for other women to steal. She’s still laughing. —From Mikey’s Funnies (www.mikeysfunnies.com) If you have a joke or funny story you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If we print your joke, we will pay you $25.
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The Wiersbe Study Bible: Be Transformed by the Power of God’s Word
Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons
A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible: Seeing and Knowing God’s Word
The Theft of America’s Soul: Blowing the Lid Off the Lies That Are Destroying Our Country
Warren W. Wiersbe, General Editor [Thomas Nelson] Now you can experience Dr. Warren Wiersbe’s lifetime of powerful Bible teaching in one place. Whether through his best-selling “BE Series” commentaries or his popular “Back to the Bible” radio ministry, Dr. Wiersbe guided millions into a life-transforming encounter with God’s Word. Now, in The Wiersbe Study Bible, you have access to his trustworthy, accessible explanations of Scripture’s truths and promises, through his comprehensive system of study and application notes. Features include: • Thousands of verse-by-verse notes by Dr. Wiersbe • Hundreds of Catalyst notes, which more deeply reveal important biblical themes and character issues to motivate transformation by the Holy Spirit through the Word • Book introductions with a “Be transformed” section in each pointing to the life-changing impact of that particular part of Scripture • Concordance, full-color maps, and cross references • NKJV Comfort Print®
By Tim Challies and Josh Byers [Zondervan] For a beautiful, approachable, informative presentation of the concepts and principles of Scripture, turn to any page of A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible and be instantly immersed in the visuals and teachings of God’s Word. For example, one page shows the detailed events of the Passion Week laid out in chronological order, meshing all four gospels into a cohesive overview. And a stunning spread shows the connection between 100 prophecies about Jesus and their fulfillment, revealing how He is woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible is not only a wonderful introduction to the Christian life, it’s a guide for living out your faith. You’ll see how the Bible is put together, why the authors wrote each book, and what all of it means for your life today. What’s more, you’ll learn why the Bible can be trusted and how to answer common criticisms of the Bible. A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible makes the deepest truths of the Bible accessible in a way that can be seen, understood, and experienced like never before. 42
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
By John Piper [Crossway] John Piper, a best-selling author and popular pastor who has preached to thousands around the world, claims no person other than Jesus Christ himself has had a greater impact on his life than the apostle Paul. In this book, Piper reflects on the ministry of this famous persecutorturned-missionary, drawing on the six decades he has spent “getting to know” Paul through the New Testament, which records his conversion, missionary journeys, and 13 letters he penned to churches throughout the ancient world. Offering readers 30 reasons why he loves the apostle Paul, this book will encourage readers to imitate Paul’s example of unwavering confidence in God’s grace and love toward others. Chapters include: • From Angry Killer to Apostle of Christ • Rigorous in Reasoning, Transparent in Feeling • Zeal for Gospel Accuracy, Slow to Take Personal Offense • Not a Conforming Chameleon, and Not a Ministering Maverick • Lover of God’s Sovereignty with Tears for the Lost • The Pursuit of Pure Doctrine, and Passion for the Poor
By Phil Robertson [Thomas Nelson] In April 1966, Time magazine’s cover featured the question, “Is God Dead?,” which captured the changing worldview of American society and highlights the spiritual chaos that still haunts us today. Phil Robertson, patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and one of the most recognized voices of Christianity in America, believes that little by little, generation by generation, America has allowed the lines of morality, decency, and virtue to be erased. Our values have disappeared as we began to believe lies — such as that virtue is outdated, truth is relative, and unity is impossible — that have brought discord, division, and protest. But Phil also believes that things can change. Writing with captivating storytelling and unflinching honesty, Phil shows how to make America a God-honoring nation once more by dropping the ten central lies that rule our day and taking up the ten truths that will bring peace of mind, harmony, and prosperity back to our country. The Theft of America’s Soul is a prophetic wake-up call for all who desire to see our nation thrive. And it is also an invitation to experience the life-giving, wholly transforming love of God.
Here and Now: Thriving in the Kingdom of Heaven Today
By Robby Gallaty [B&H Books] Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God more than any other topic, as it was central to His rescue mission to save us. But our salvation is far more encompassing than we realize. We can experience heaven on earth today, not walking on streets of gold, but living a fulfilled, abundant life Jesus promised, a life that — regardless of our circumstances — experiences a joy and peace that’s difficult to capture in human terms. We have been taught that salvation is getting man out of earth to live in heaven. But the Christian life is so much more than just a one-time decision to secure a place there. In Here and Now, pastor and author Robby Gallaty guides readers on a journey to uncover the nucleus of Jesus’ messages, which shows that God desires to bring heaven to earth through man. In three major sections, readers discover the characteristics of the kingdom in the Old Testament and Jesus’ time, how the kingdom operates in the church age, and how we can fulfill our roles. God didn’t intend for us to wait until we reach heaven to experience His presence and joy. Here and Now shows us how to live in that truth now.
Truth Plus Love: The Jesus Way to Influence
By Matt Brown [Zondervan] The stakes are high and the need is great for Christians to represent Jesus to a watching world. And today, we have more influence than ever before — for better and for worse. We are among the first generations to have access to a global megaphone through social media. But it’s not enough to speak truth louder to a noisy culture. To counter the reputation Christians have earned, our love must be just as loud. Christians today are facing a crisis of influence. In our rush to speak truth to today’s tensions, cultural issues, and trending controversies, it becomes all too easy to focus on proving our points rather than extending God’s grace. Conversely, when we seek only to love yet never proclaim a better way, we shortcircuit God’s plan. Truth Plus Love invites you to rediscover the biblical framework for engaging culture as ambassadors of Christ. Through biblical insight, cultural analysis, and practical principles, Matt Brown outlines how to champion truth without compromise, how to love unconditionally, and how to step into this great adventure of representing God to the world. It’s hard, it’s messy, and it’s the unfinished project of a lifetime, yet here we find our greatest, most challenging mission.
The Mountains Are Calling: Making the Climb for a Clearer View of God and Ourselves
By Jarrett Stephens [Multnomah] When praying over what to teach at a youth summer camp, Pastor Jarrett Stephens realized that many of the most important events and teachings in Scripture take place on mountaintops. This personal revelation led him to see that God uses mountaintop experiences to change our perspective of Him and to change our perspective of who we are. In The Mountains Are Calling, Stephens introduces readers to 10 mountaintop moments and describes how the events that took place (or will take place) affect lives today. Through his study of Scripture, Stephens realized that when God wanted to reveal a truth, command, or a commitment from his people or instruct them in a significant way, he would call his prophets or people to a mountain. Taking the reader from Mount Moriah in the Old Testament to Mount Calvary in the New Testament, Stephens teaches that we don’t need to climb a literal mountain to get to know God better. We just need to study His Word for insight and wisdom and to draw closer to Him.
Blind Spots: What You Don’t See Can Hurt You
By Tim Riddle and Fil Anderson [New Growth Press] We all know that blind spots are dangerous when we’re changing lanes at 70 mph on an interstate highway. But just as critical are the blind spots that block us from seeing the truth about ourselves and others. No one is immune to either kind. Blind spots are, by definition, invisible to us. No matter how often we are reminded to check our blind spots, we can’t — at least not on our own. Our only hope is for God and others to come alongside and help point them out. Coauthors Tim Riddle and Fil Anderson reveal how to recognize and avoid blind spots to become more like Jesus, remembering the Holy Spirit is the revealer and healer. By drawing on stories in Scripture and personal experience, they help us understand what blind spots are, why they exist, how to identify and remove them, how to keep them from returning, and how to point them out in others. Riddle and Anderson aim to lovingly guide readers toward spiritual growth to live fully and freely as God’s dearly loved, completely forgiven, and forever-free sons and daughters. Blind Spots helps us find concrete, biblical solutions to the problem of these shortcomings, cultivating a desire for godliness and a greater appreciation for the Spirit’s work in our own lives. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
KIDS OF THE KINGDOM
fter a worship service, a mother with a fidgety 7-year-old boy told me how she finally got her son to sit still and be quiet. About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered, “If you don’t be quiet, Pastor is going to lose his place and will have to start his sermon all over again!” It worked. —From Mikey’s Funnies (www.mikeysfunnies.com)
INDEX & WEB LISTING ACTS Retirement-Life Communities........ www.actsretirement.org .................................... 11 Anchor Media Group...................................... www.anchormediagroup.tv ............................. 23 Atherton............................................................... www.abh.org ........................................................... 35 Baker Publishing Group................................. www.bakerpublishinggroup.com ................. 28 Christian Bible College and Seminary.... http://cbcs-degree.site ...........................................9 Christianbook..................................................... www.christianbook.com .................................... 48 Credo House Publishers................................ www.credohousepublishers.com .....................5 Cruciform Press.................................................. https://cruciformpress.com .............................. 29 Gatekeeper Press.............................................. www.GatekeeperPress.com ............................. 35 God’s Greater Grace......................................... www.godsgreatergrace.com ........................... 15 Morgan James Publishing............................ www.morgan-james-publishing.com .......... 29 New Hope Publishers..................................... www.newhopepublishers.com ...................... 29 NewsMax Media............................................... www.newsmax.com ............................................. 27 Rada Cutlery....................................................... www.radacutlery.com ............................................9 Shell Point Retirement Community......... www.shellpoint.org .............................................. 33 The Lockman Foundation............................ www.lockman.org ................................................. 33 Today’s Pastor..................................................... www.todayspastor.org ........................................ 41 Total Living Network — TLN....................... www.tln.com ..............................................................2
If you have a joke or funny story you’d like to share, email email@example.com. If we print your joke, we will pay you $25. 44
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Tyndale House Publishers............................ www.tyndale.com ................................................. 28 Please note: The Advertisers’ Index is published as a convenience to our readers. While every effort is made to obtain accuracy and completeness, last minute changes may occasionally result in unavoidable omissions or errors.
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By C.R. Waters
Without My Shoes
C.R.Waters is a blogger, podcaster, and multi-genre author with two published books. Most importantly, she’s a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves the Lord and has been truly blessed with an incredible family.
was grateful to be heading out to dinner with my husband one early evening in November. It was a fairly normal outing for us, with a quick stop planned on the way home to grab a container of milk. I didn’t expect anything unusual at the store. I especially didn’t anticipate leaving without my shoes. As we were turning into the parking lot, a young man walked across the street in front of us. From a glance, I suspected he was in his late 20s, and from the looks of his ragged backpack, tattered clothing, and unkempt appearance, I suspected he might have been homeless. I was moved by his bare feet as he painfully made his way across the parking lot. It had been an unseasonably cold evening for southern California, and my heart sank trying to imagine walking without shoes across the chilly terrain. I got out of the car and headed in to get the milk, but I couldn’t get away from the increasingly strong sense that I wasn’t to ignore this man’s situation. God was pulling at my heart, and I certain it was Him prompting me to action. I couldn’t imagine what I could do, though. Was I to give this man the milk I was buying? Purchase a meal or something else for him? As I stood there in line, I said a quick prayer to ask the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do to help him. The unexpected answer came quickly and clearly, “Give him your shoes.” I stood there, in awe, knowing this answer couldn’t have come from me. In fact, my immediate response was the thought, My shoes will never fit him. I’m a woman. What if I offended the young man by offering him women’s shoes? It didn’t make sense to me, and yet I knew that if the Lord was directing me to do it, He would work it out. When I got back to the car, I told my husband what had happened and the answer God had given me when I prayed. My husband agreed that he didn’t think my shoes would fit the man. But as we talked more, we decided that since the Lord had always been faithful in making sure we had all we need, we should obey His prompting.
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
My husband drove over to the concrete pillar where the man had taken shelter from the wind. I approached him cautiously, not sure what to expect and not knowing what to say. I believed God would give me the words, but I was apprehensive. The man seemed happy to talk to me. I asked him if he had shoes. He told me he did, but they were too small and painful to wear. He reached in his backpack and pulled out a pair of very old and torn sneakers. They had holes on the sides and top, and the sole was flopping on one of them. Looking at the decrepit shoes, my heart broke, so I asked him if I could give him my shoes. He looked at me in disbelief. “Why would you give me your shoes? Don’t you need them?,” he asked. I couldn’t believe how humble and gentle he was. I told him that he needed them more than I did. I felt the Lord’s pleasure and sensed that in a moment His plan for our encounter would be revealed. I asked the stranger his shoe size. Size eight, he answered. My shoes were a woman’s size ten, the exact size he needed! I now knew what had prompted me to wear those particular shoes that day. They were a good pair of leather hiking boots. They had thick soles and were well made. I had only worn them one other time and had considered not putting them on that morning. God knew, though, that I needed to put on a pair of shoes this man could use. As I handed him the shoes, he looked at me with such joy and appreciation on his face. He thanked me over and over. All I could do was smile and say, “You’re welcome.” I told him to have a good night and parted with, “God bless you.” Now it was me taking the walk across the icy parking lot without shoes, but I felt great joy knowing that this was the man’s last walk that night without shoes. As I got back into the car with my husband, he looked at me and smiled. He put his hand on my knee and just squeezed. No words needed to be spoken because we both knew that the Lord had divinely directed what had just occurred. We quickly prayed together and then headed back home with the milk we had stopped for, grateful for the shoes I had left behind.
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TODAYâ€™S CHRISTIAN LIVING JULY 2019
VOL. 57 NUMBER 4 On the Cover: Dave and Ann Wilson, noted marriage counselors, conference speakers, and radio show hosts. Photo courtesy Pet...
Published on May 24, 2019
VOL. 57 NUMBER 4 On the Cover: Dave and Ann Wilson, noted marriage counselors, conference speakers, and radio show hosts. Photo courtesy Pet...