Today's Christian Living October/November 2019

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Christmas Gift Guide • Valued, Cherished, and Loved • Writers Resources

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SPOTLIGHT DiAnne Mills Melanie Dobson Ann Spangler Allison Bottke



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Bodie and Brock Thoene’s historical fiction impacts readers around the globe

November 2019

t ’ n o w y e h t e l b i B the ! n w o d t u p o t t wan With 215 fast-paced stories and attentiongrabbing illustrations, kids go from just reading the Bible to experiencing it. Help them adventure through timeless truth and experience God’s Word as alive and active!

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6 Let Your Novel Go Into All the World

by Stephanie Rische Working as a research and writing team, Bodie and Brock Thoene have created riveting historical novels that have helped millions of readers see biblical themes through fresh eyes.

12 1st Place — Misery, Mercy, and Miracles

by Nicole Naranjo Nicole was a single mother of two at just 22 years old. Overcome with hopelessness, she sought solace in the bottle. But then she heard a message that turned her world around.

14 2nd Place — The Painful, Joyful Love of a Temporary Family

by Andrea Gordon The Gordons risked heartbreak when they took in two young foster children. Within weeks, their worst fear came true when they had to give them up. What drives this family to take this risk again and again?

16 3rd Place — A King of Hope

by Tara Lyle Tara and the other women in their correctional facility didn’t feel much hope until a new superintendent arrived with a listening ear to create a supportive Christian environment.

24 Author Spotlight

Leading Christian authors DiAnn Mills, Melanie Dobson, Ann Spangler, and Allison Bottke share what motivates them to write and how they bring their books to life.

14 30 Writers Resource Guide

You’ll find almost every service a writer could ever need here, including editing, proofreading, indexing, graphic design, translation, publishing, printing, marketing, and more.

40 Christmas Gift Guide

Looking for the perfect gifts for your loved ones? We’ve got something for everyone.

54 Original VeggieTales Returning With 18 New Episodes

by Dan Brownell When the Bible-based VeggieTales series ended in 2003, it was replaced with a secular version. But now Phil Vischer is back with new shows celebrating fresh scriptural truths through his zany characters.


Departments 4 21 35 38 53 60

The Fine Print Daily Bible Connection Laugh Lines Quick Takes Quips & Quotes Kids of the Kingdom


10 Living in Wisdom Valued, Cherished, and Loved 18 Ask Dr. Walt

Extend Your Lifespan by a Decade or More

20 Turning Point

The 10 Bibles

22 Live Right Now

Handling Family Challenges

28 Dave Says

Manage Your Money or It Will Manage You!

36 Persecution Report

Iraqi Christians Still Experiencing Persecution, Dwindling Numbers

62 Grace Notes

When Sinners Get Sick




The Power of Words


ongratulations to our writing contest winners: Nicole Naranjo, Andrea Gordon, and Tara Lyle! Thank you for sharing your moving stories with our readers. We look forward to seeing where your writing career takes you.

Writing Contest 2020

We would like to invite all our readers to enter next year’s writing contest. Look for an announcement in our March 2020 issue and on In the meantime, check out our Christian Writers Resource Guide at for the most comprehensive online list of Christian writer groups and conferences.

Stand Fast!

Whether we’re writing or speaking, our words have great influence and power, and God cautions us to use them wisely. Recently, two wellknown Christian leaders — author Joshua Harris and Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson — declared that they no longer believe in Jesus. Rejecting the Savior is impossible to fathom, considering the suffering and sacrifice He experienced on our behalf: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8 NIV). Even worse is that these leaders have so publicly denied Jesus, which may create an obstacle to those who are lost and a stumbling block to weak believers. Fortunately, truth isn’t established by celebrity status. Their abandonment of their faith doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is God. The resurrection proves that. It’s the bedrock on which Christianity stands, which Paul explains in detail in 1 Corinthians 15. Countless skeptics and atheists have tried their best to disprove the resurrection over the centuries. only to find that the evidence is irrefutable. In fact, Dr. Simon Greenleaf, one of the most famous legal scholars in American history, stated, “There is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.” The renowned Harvard law professor is the author of the three-volume set A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which has been called “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system still relies on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf. So it is the new skepticism that’s built on shaky ground, not the old faith that has withstood attacks for 2,000 years. In our next issue, we’re planning an article exploring the topic of people leaving their faith. In the meantime, remember that Christianity is based on fact, not fiction. In Christ, Dan Brownell, Editor Today’s Christian Living (ISSN 1944-6330) is published bimonthly by JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945. Periodicals Postage Paid at Iola, WI 54945 and at additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2019 by CrossLife LLC All rights reserved. Reprint permission must be granted in writing. Publisher assumes no responsibility for claims made in advertisements. Manuscript submissions are welcome but JP Media LLC assumes no responsibility for loss or damage thereto. Material accepted for publication is subject to such revision to meet the requirements of this publication and become the property of Today’s Christian Living. Subscription $19.95 per year. Single copy price $4.95 each. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Today’s Christian Living, P.O. Box 8551, Big Sandy, TX 75755-9766. Subscription problems and inquiries should be directed to (800) 223-3161.



Vol. 57

No. 6

President/Publisher Diana Jones Editor Dan Brownell Contributing Editors Dr. Sabrina Black Jerry Dykstra Walt Larimore, M.D. Dave Ramsey Jerry Rose Shirley Rose Sales Account Executive Jill Maggio 800-397-8161 ext. 5 Senior Graphic Designer Bill Kuffel Editorial Director Rocky Landsverk Bulk Circulation Nancy Pudroski 800-397-8161 Founder Kenneth N. Taylor Letters to the Editor: Write Today’s Christian Living, PO Box 282, Iola, WI 54945. Or e-mail: Individual Subscriptions: Visit or call 800-223-3161. Group Subscriptions for Churches: Expand and supplement your church’s ministry by distributing Today’s Christian Living to your congregation. Multiple copies of the magazine are now available in bulk rates to churches. For more information, visit bulk or call 800-397-8161. Today’s Christian Living reserves the right to accept or reject advertisements based on their alignment with its statement of faith, mission, and values. Advertising in Today’s Christian Living does not necessarily imply editorial endorsement, nor does Today’s Christian Living guarantee or endorse content in independent websites.

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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 graduate of Villanova University and Moody Theological Seminary. She’s also the founder and head writer of, which provides biblical content support, writing, and editing. Joanna is the coauthor and editor of the recently released DiscipleTrip by Dr. Joey Cook. Joanna’s first book, Fire Women is scheduled for release and publication this fall. Most importantly, she is wife to Geoff and mom to three godly menin-training. Her blog name “The Landing” comes from the account of the Ark resting on the mountain, creating a settled place — a landing — for man to start over, which echoes her new life in Christ. Sign up for Joanna’s blog newsletter at Follow Joanna on Facebook and Instagram at Colossians46. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


Authors h it w s e n e c S e Behind th Thoene k c ro B d n a ie d o B he

By Stephanie Risc


y any measure, Bodie and Brock Thoene are powerhouse authors in the world of Christian fiction. This couple — partners in both marriage and writing — has published more than 70 novels in the past four decades, and more than 35 million of their books are in print. Their writing has been translated into at least 30 languages, and they’ve won eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards. But to understand where God has brought them, it’s important to go to the beginning — to the prologue, if you will.

The Calling of a Writer

“My calling goes way back,” Bodie said. “When I was a little girl, probably about 8 years old, I had terrible difficulty in school. I told God, If you will help me learn to read, I’ll write a story for you.” Sure enough, during the summer between third and fourth grade, Bodie learned to read, thanks to the Lord’s help and the support of her parents. “I might have forgotten that promise or put it on the shelf, but God didn’t,” Bodie said. “He opened door after door for me as a writer, and I just walked 6



through each one. God has a long forever memory, and He loved the broken little girl who said, ‘I need help.’ He kept His promise to me, and He reminded me of my promise to Him.” Writing runs deep in the Thoenes’ veins. “My grandparents would tell family stories when I was growing up, and I’d hear those accounts over and over again,” Bodie explained. “Some kids might have been bored, but I loved it.” Looking back, she can see that it was the most natural thing in the world for her to end up as a writer. But natural inclination wasn’t the only factor; Bodie also learned her craft and worked hard to hone her skills. “I had journalism classes as early as junior high,” Bodie said. “As a teenager, I worked for a newspaper in California as a stringer. I covered what was happening in the seven high schools in the county.” In that context, she spent time in the newsroom alongside full-time reporters and writers. “This was excellent training for me, since it taught me how to keep a deadline and work hard,” Bodie recalled. “In the newspaper world, you can’t have writer’s block.”

Bodie went on to write for national magazines, including Western Horseman. In that capacity, she wrote a piece about John Wayne’s stuntman. “I found his story so fascinating that I kept digging deeper until it turned into a book.” John Wayne read the book and was so impressed that he hired her to work in his production company. “I’m so grateful — I was trained to write by the best Oscar-winning screenwriters,” Bodie said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. This is exactly what God has equipped me to do.”

The Soul of a Writer

Bodie and Brock have different stories of coming to faith, but God’s hand has been on both of their lives in unmistakable ways. “I was the proverbial kid who was in church nine months before I was born,” Brock said. He’s thankful for the spiritual foundation he was given, but that’s not the end of his story. “After Bodie and I got married, my faith went through some major changes. I had all the answers without knowing the reasons behind them. Then the Holy Spirit got hold of my life, and He showed me that this journey of faith is about much more than just facts. I needed to understand the application of the gospel to my life.” Bodie’s journey to faith began later in life. “We were a good family, but we didn’t really get the Christian life,” she said. “Then my mom became a believer through a Billy Graham crusade when I was in my teens. After that, my family became believers one by one, like dominos.” In high school and college, Bodie’s faith grew through Young Life and Campus Life. “I knew the gospel was true, and I asked the Lord into my life.” But even after she was saved, it took a transformative experience for Bodie to live in the love and grace of Jesus. She recalled standing over the crib of her first child one night. “What if God decides to take her to teach me a lesson?” she asked Brock. “Are you kidding me?” he responded. “God loves that baby even more than you do. And He loves you, too.” Bodie remembered being startled by this revelation of the depth of God’s love for her. “In that moment, the blinders came off,” she said. “Until that point, I’d had the principles of Scripture in my head. But knowing it’s true isn’t the same as knowing Him. It’s the best thing in the world!”

A Day in the Life of a Writer

It might sound like a life of leisure to write fiction for a living, but the Thoenes are quick to note that while they love what they do, it also requires discipline. “Both of us are up before the sun,” Bodie said. “We have coffee and talk through what we’re going to write about that day. Brock presents the historical research for the scene, and then we place the characters in the scene and discuss their motivations and the outcome of the scene.” Their goal is to write two or three scenes per day (each scene is about five pages). “After our lengthy discussion over breakfast, I hit the computer and keep working until a scene is finished,” Bodie said. At that point, she turns the draft over to Brock for feedback. Then, within an hour of finishing the first draft, she rewrites it. Brock reads it back to her, and they look for rough spots or repetition of words. “We don’t close our day until we meet our goal,” she said. “You can ask our kids — they watched us get up early to write and then work late into the night.”

Photos courtesy Robin Hanley.

The Thoenes have four grown children, and all are writers. “They sure didn’t get into it because they saw the glamor!” the Thoenes said with a laugh. “I suppose you could say story is the fabric of our family.”

The Inspiration of a Writer

Over the course of their writing career, the Thoenes have been asked, “Why fiction? Why not just report the facts?” But Brock and Bodie believe that fiction is biblical. “When Jesus taught, he gave people stories,” Bodie said. “If he had just told them the basics of the Christian life, it wouldn’t have captured their hearts. But His parables helped His listeners apply the principles in a way that connected with them deeply.” TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


The Impact of a Writer

The Thoenes also believe that stories provide a way to help readers learn from the past. Two of their series — the Zion Chronicles and the Zion Covenant — cover events leading up to World War II. “We felt strongly that we needed to write about that time because it seems that people have short memories,” Brock explained. “History repeats itself, and we don’t want to see a repeat of the extremism and anti-Semitism that occurred in Europe in the 1930s.” Their goal was to expose readers to a slice of history in the form of a story. “People learn when they’re entertained and engaged — and when their emotions connect,” Bodie added.

The Thoenes have received thousands of letters from people all around the world and all walks of life who have been impacted by their books. “We got one letter from a man in Israel. He met a group of American tourists and was surprised they knew so much about Israel, especially during the World War II era.” The man asked the group why they knew Israel’s history so well, and they showed him the books they’d read in preparation for the trip — the Zion Chronicles and the Zion Covenant series. When they left for home, they gave him the books. “He finished a book that talked about children who escaped Nazi Germany just before the war,” Bodie said. “He wrote us a letter that said, ‘I was one of those children. I got on a refugee ship, left my family on the docks of Hamburg, and never saw any of them again. I didn’t know anyone else in the world knew my story.’” Bodie and Brock are amazed to see the way their books can minister in places they may never go themselves. “We didn’t go to Israel to meet this man. But a group of strangers went halfway across the world, and our books went with them,” Bodie said. “Books are like children. You raise them up and hope they do well. You send them out with God’s blessing without knowing the impact they’ll have on the world.”  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 Her memoir, I Was Blind (Dating), but Now I See, recounts how God surprised her with his grace and love.


Brock and Bodie Thoene believe that writing is a calling, but it’s also a craft. “Writing has absolutes in terms of structure and plot and character development,” Bodie explained. “It’s a specific and learned skill. You don’t have to be someone of great talent to be an impactful writer. You just need to know how to do it. It’s a learned discipline.” According to the Thoenes, the most challenging part of writing Christian fiction is the sense of responsibility to get it right. “It has to be good — not schlock,” Bodie said. “We are called to be the best we can be, what God wants us to be, and to do it beautifully for Him. We don’t want to just slap something on paper. As followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility for excellence.” Despite the challenges, the rewards are worth it. “When we get a letter from people saying one of our books changed their life — that’s what it’s all about. We are so grateful when we hear that someone met Jesus or learned something that changed the way they look at the world or their relationships. Jesus called us to ‘go into all the world.’ In our case, that’s through books. We believe God can use books to change the world.” To find out more about the Thoenes and their books, visit 8



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By Jerry and Shirley Rose

Valued, Cherished, and Loved

I 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 10

t happened in an instant. Shirley missed a step on the stairs and fell full force, landing on the left side of her face on a hardwood floor. Our weekend with friends in Coronado, California, had been wonderful. We had enjoyed beautiful weather, great seafood, a walk on the beach, and spirited conversation around a fire on the patio. But the next morning as Shirley and I were packing for our trip home, an emotional tsunami swept away those pleasant weekend memories. It was early and Shirley didn’t want to make a fuss or wake our hosts. After all, it was embarrassing to fall down three measly steps. It screamed stupid…careless…old. She assured me she didn’t need to go to the emergency room. The bleeding lump on her head would require eight stitches, but being unaware of the seriousness of her injury, she insisted on getting on the road for the six-hour drive home. However, her severe neck pain continued to be a major concern, so we headed to the ER at the local hospital in El Centro. An MRI revealed three fractures to the C1 vertebrae, perhaps the worst possible place to break her neck. It’s an injury that brings to mind Joni Eareckson and Christopher Reeves. She had also damaged ligaments, nicked an artery, and had a small brain bleed. The local hospital was not equipped to treat Shirley’s injuries, so she was flown by helicopter back to UC San Diego Trauma 1 Medical Center, where she was in ICU for a week. We were told that paralysis and even sudden death were not uncommon with her injury and kept hearing, “You were very lucky.” The trauma team was deciding if Shirley should have surgery, have a “halo” device installed in her head, or if a brace would be sufficient. At first, Shirley had to lay flat with no movement. For the various tests, four staff members were required to move her from the bed to the gurney and turn her when she became nauseous. While her physical pain was excruciating, her immediate spiritual struggle was even greater. One misstep had turned our lives upside down, and we didn’t know what the future held. But we did know what it didn’t hold. Our upcoming anniversary trip to Hawaii would not happen. The little rescue puppy we had planned to adopt the following week would have to go to another family. Stupid….careless…old. During the night, though, something powerful happened. After a restless night in ICU, I awoke to find Shirley with her IVs, catheters, and more lying flat on her back staring at the ceiling. Her brace pre-


vented her from moving her head in any direction. But calling me over to her bed, I immediately noticed a sense of calm — even a smile on her face. She wanted me to know, in spite of the circumstances, God had given her a supernatural peace, and all would be well. When the reality of her injuries finally dawned on her, along with their impact on our lives for months to come, her most overwhelming emotions were guilt, shame, and regret. Satan’s attack was vicious. “Look how your carelessness ruined everything,” he whispered. “How many people are feeling bad and upset because of what you did?” Stupid…careless…old. But in the midst of Satan’s taunts, she heard the stronger voice of the Lord saying, “You are valued; you are cherished; you are loved.” And with those powerful words, John 14:27 came alive in her heart. “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Valued…cherished…loved. How could there be peace with a neck injury that could cripple her for life? Excruciating pain with the slightest movement? Months of painful recovery affecting every aspect of our daily lives? It was because her peace was a gift from God that the world can’t replicate. Shirley’s peace was a promise God has made available to all believers who are willing to accept it, and it was nothing new. It was part of her ongoing relationship with God. If you’re bumped while holding a glass of water, water will spill out of the glass because that’s what’s in it. We all experience bumps in life, some bigger than others. With those bumps, what spills out is what we had within us all along. For some the spill is panic, anger, fear, bitterness, or depression because that’s what’s there. Of course, we are human and our physical minds and bodies react. But the supernatural peace that spilled out of Shirley in her crisis is available to all of us. It will sweep away fear and anxiety even in the worst of circumstances. The apostle Paul describes it as a peace that defies understanding. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7 NIV). The next couple of months will have their own special challenges, but Shirley and I will face them together. We will have the prayers and help of friends and family. And most importantly, we will face them with the peace of God. After all, we know beyond any doubt that we are valued…we are cherished…we are loved. 

Good Hearts. Good Friends. Good Choice.

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M I S E R Y, M E R C Y, A N D M I R AC L E S


By Nicole Naranjo

efore I met Christ, I was a woman who was what some may call “unsavable.” I grew up in a nonChristian and highly dysfunctional home. My only exposure to God was through a believing aunt. So, on some obscure level in the far corners of my mind, I had the vague idea that there was some “being in the sky.” But that’s as far as any inkling of my faith went. From an early age, I learned all the wrong ways to think and behave, and by the time I reached high school, the dysfunction I faced every day grew into self-hatred, depression, anger, and a burning desire to just be loved and accepted. I began to act out in any way I could possibly think of — partly because I didn’t know any better, but mostly because I was angry. Angry at the life I’d been dealt, angry that I didn’t feel good enough, angry that I was angry! My mind was a constant battlefield of torment and chaos, and I wanted to make everyone around me feel just as miserable. Before I knew it, I was in my 20s and nothing had changed. Desperate to make up for my school days of being the outcast, I got involved with the wrong group of people. I dove into the drug and alcohol scene, where everyone seemed so happy and carefree and full of life. But little did I know that it was a life that held nothing but more pain and misery. By 22, I had my second child, yet there was nothing in me that knew how to properly love them. They were fed, clothed, had a roof over their head, and received some of my attention — but that was it. From the outside looking in, it looked as if I was a great mother. But I knew the truth. I knew that when I got upset, I yelled and cursed. I knew that I blasted those awful rap lyrics in their ears. I knew that I smoked around them — both in the car and the house. I knew that I would hide in my bedroom drinking my misery away. I knew that I pawned them off on the babysitter every chance I got just to go to the clubs to try to fill a void that had never been filled. My children were suffering. They were going to end up just like me. And that brought more pain than I could ever express. By my mid-20s, I had become everything a woman shouldn’t be. I was a liar, a cheater, uncaring, unfeeling, vulgar, lazy, manipulative, spiteful, bitter, angry, an untrustworthy friend — and desperately hopeless because I




Above and right: Three families that have come to Christ in Nicole’s city.

had absolutely zero desire to hear anything that had to do with God. I was a sinner. I knew I was going to hell and I was fine with that — or so I thought. What I didn’t know was that my Creator had been pursuing me the whole time. I often found myself sobbing uncontrollably wondering, ‘Who can save me from this misery and torment?’ The internal agony was so unbearable, most days I didn’t care if I died. But God knew what I needed, and He knew exactly how to reach me — through my children. In the summer of my 26th year, my children were invited to attend VBS at a little church in my town. Parents were invited that Sunday to watch their children perform all the cute little songs and verses they had learned throughout the week. All were invited to stay for the sermon that followed, which we did. I don’t even

remember what the message was about. I do, however, vividly remember feeling like everyone in the church was staring at me. I felt as though someone had been spying on me my whole life and had gone and told the pastor everything I had been doing. I was in the hot seat, but…it felt oddly comforting! I knew it wasn’t the words that were getting to me, it wasn’t the singing, and it wasn’t the decorations or lights. I was feeling something inside my soul I had never felt before. There was an awareness of a loving presence. It was warm, and inviting. I began to realize, and I mean really realize, that God was real. I don’t remember if it was that morning in church, that night, or sometime during the following week, but I could no longer dismiss the reality of who God was, and that He was very much alive and interested in my life. He gave me the revelation of who His son, Jesus Christ, was and what that meant for me. I realized the error of my ways and pleaded for His forgiveness and mercy. And the most miraculous thing in my entire life happened: He forgave me. The burden of all those years of sin and misery was suddenly lifted, and I had never felt more alive. I felt love, joy, and hope for the first time. I was completely overwhelmed by the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit began to empower me to lay down bad habits and work through all my anger and unforgiveness. The void that left me so agonizingly empty for all those years had entirely disappeared. Jesus gave my life meaning. He pursued me and fought for me, even though I had wanted nothing to do with Him. He pulled me out of the miserable pit of despair that I had gotten myself into. He showed me mercy when I surely didn’t deserve it. My days are now spent with the amazing husband the Lord blessed me with, doing all we can unto Him. God gave us a business of our own, which we use as a ministry to reach out to those who are still lost in the same kind of misery we once were in. We live in one of the top 25 counties in our state for drug overdose deaths and it’s only getting worse. But we have seen miracle after miracle of changed lives right before our eyes. People with 15- to 20-year drug addictions are being completely delivered and set free. Mothers who have lost their children due to drugs are being restored and getting custody back in record time. Children who would have headed down the wrong paths like we did are seeing their parents change, and it’s giving them hope for the future. In our small city in Ohio, God is doing something truly amazing every day. He is saving the “lost causes.” He is saving the “too-far-gones.” He is saving those who most wouldn’t waste their time on. The power of Jesus Christ is real — so real that it radically changes and transforms hopeless and desperately broken people. Jesus is every-

thing good in this world. Why wouldn’t I dedicate my life to Him? Why wouldn’t I spend every waking moment telling people about Him? Why wouldn’t I dive headfirst in devotion to Him? I have found the key to happiness and the answer to everything. I just want everyone else to find Him, too. Nicole Naranjo lives in Ohio and is a wife and mother to four children. She’s a stay-at-home mother and does the bookkeeping for her and her husband’s lawn care business. In her free time, she enjoys playing games and watching movies with her beloved children.




T H E PA I N F U L , J OY F U L LOV E O F A T E M P O R A R Y FA M I L Y By Andrea Gordon

The sun beats down on a group of us gathered near a mud hut in rural northern Haiti. A new mother speaking in Creole stretches out her 8-day-old baby to me. My heart leaps. I’m 14 years old, and I love holding babies! Before the child makes it to my arms, one of the local missionaries steps between us rattling something I don’t understand. She later explains the mother was asking me to adopt and take this child to the United States to offer a brighter future. Thoughts of sadness, confusion, admiration, and obligation swirl in my mind as I seek to make sense of that moment. God, why is this world so unfair and full of suffering? The need is great. Please look out for every person you’ve made by providing a path of life and hope. Many years pass and I’m sitting with my husband on our comfy couch one quiet evening after putting our two young children to bed. I explain why I still desire to adopt our next child. I’ve started looking into options, and going through the state seems like a possibility for us. It feels strange to him to go through such a long process to get a child we don’t know, but he agrees it would be good to attend an informational meeting. Father, you know we would help a child who needs us. Are we supposed to chase one down who has no connection to us? Would we even be able to provide what they need? Why would we invite unnecessary chaos into the world of the two children you have already given us? Are we strong enough for this?




My phone rings. We’ve just finished decorating the house for Christmas and are almost licensed as a foster-to-adopt home with the training and home study behind us. We’re waiting to hear that our paperwork has gone through after many months, but the words coming out of the social worker’s mouth surprise me: police...half-sisters...history with the department...judge... motel...can they come this evening? Less than two hours later the most adorable little girls arrive. The baby is 4 months old and takes Enfamil formula, and the older one is 2-1/2 and loves Frozen. That’s all we know about them. We’re strangers to one another and it feels that way for many days. Five weeks into this arrangement, just as things are resembling predictability, we’re packing up the older sister’s belongings so she can go live with her biological father. We have a little party with our families to bid her farewell, and the next morning she leaves. We experience a wide range of emotions from sad to hopeful, disappointed to relieved. Then life settles down a little as we adjust to our routine with just the baby. We still see the older sister every time she comes with the social worker, who takes the little one for visits with their biological family. She seems to be thriving, and we’re so happy for her. One beautiful May afternoon, during a visit, we’re asked if the older sister can return to us because she’s coming back into state custody — a saddening development in her story. The girls come back from the visit together, and as if nothing had changed, the big sister also jumps out of the car and heads into our home. Everyone is excited! We adults know enough to be a bit nervous about the transition ahead as well. With plenty of ups and downs, we face this new adjustment together and once again we become used to our loud, messy, chaotic, and beautiful daily rhythm.

Above and left: The Gordons have made their home a loving place for children in need.

Where is this all headed, Lord? The path looks daunting regardless of the outcome. Huddled around the Christmas tree the following season, we break the news to our four kiddos that this time as a family is coming to an end. A relative has done everything required for the girls to be able to go live with her, and one frigid January morning, we move them to her house. We’re thankful this loving relative can provide for them and raise them with their younger sibling. We’re also feeling a tad shattered as we try to begin letting them go. My Lord, will you make good out of this for everyone? How could you? There’s so much that’s broken and hurting in this situation. I wish their life circumstances had never required me to be their mom in the first place, and I definitely wish I didn’t have to stop now. I knew all along they might not stay, but somewhere else within I am struggling to accept this ending. Heal what is broken within me, within our family. Take care of these precious girls — may they always know Your love for them. Provide everything their new family needs. Bring healing to their birth parents. These prayers feel too big, but I cry out to You, the living God, to hear them. We’re praying with our two children one evening for the sisters they lost when suddenly our eldest begins to wail. She has held her pain in for months, feeling sick most days at school as well as at bedtime. Now she’s ready to talk and she’s furious. We hug her close as angry words slip off her tongue between

gasps and sniffs; I realize the healing is finally beginning for her too. We’re each uniquely stumbling our way to the other side of our hazy grief. We have no regrets. We had the opportunity, all four of us, to be very imperfect conduits of Jesus’ love to these girls. It came at a cost. I imagine that not walking this obedient road might have had a great cost as well. God, do we have what we need to do this again? There are so many children who need homes, but we can do so little to help. Show us the way. Varying beeps and hums resound as my husband and I walk into the NICU. A nurse walks us over to a crib, and our gazes settle on another beautiful little stranger. We are her foster parents, and we will adopt her if her case goes in that direction. Spirit, carry us through whatever is ahead. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”


Andrea Gordon is a mother of three in Massachusetts, where she and her husband, Dave, entered the foster care world in 2015. She shares her love for people, beauty, and justice through writing and original photography at TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



By Tara Lyle

“I was naked and you clothed me: I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” —Matt. 25:36 Upon first meeting Superintendent Ronald “Ron” King, one is taken in by his quiet yet strong demeanor. I still remember the first time I met him face-to-face. It was in 2014, and he had recently transferred to our facility, which houses men, women, and juveniles. In fact, it’s one of the largest facilities in the state. It’s the central hub because every offender sentenced in the state of Mississippi has to be processed here. By the time he arrived at our facility, I had been here for 11 years. I was just going through the motions of incarceration without seeing any real change, but change was long overdue. I did my time by working, staying productive, and staying rooted in the Word. I know several other women and I had been praying for change. I maintained communication with family and friends, but I knew there was more I could be doing in this setting. Having a face-to-face meeting with a superintendent Superintendent Ronald King. was something new — especially for female offenders. We had been used to not having a voice at our facility, so it was somewhat of an enigma for us to have this opportunity to speak with our new superintendent regarding issues. The first time I heard about his willingness to meet with and listen to offenders caught my attention. I was impressed that we could write his office, and if he deemed it necessary, he would set up an appointment to meet with us. It felt as though prayers were being answered and that change was in the air. I vividly remember writing Supt. King to welcome him aboard and share with him that he did have women offenders at our facility who were doing positive things and women who were seeking to get involved with positive programs. I shared with him the fact that I was a published devotional writer, and I sent him a copy of the last devotion that had appeared in a major publication. I didn’t ask for a face-to-face meeting, but shortly thereafter I was called




out to meet with him. The meeting was scheduled before I would have to go to my job at the chapel. At that point I wondered why he had scheduled to meet with me. I knew I hadn’t requested a meeting, so I was a bit baffled about what was going on. One of the questions Supt. King asked me was if I had ever thought about doing a chapel newsletter. That question caught me off guard and rendered me speechless for a moment. I told him I had not because women had not had a voice for so long that, over time, we had come to accept our silence and invisibility as normal. Some women even questioned if God could still see or hear them. When I realized Supt. King was serious about the newsletter, something instantly switched in my way of thinking. A light came on as hope and possibilities began to take root. By the end of the meeting, he had suggested that I start a chapel newsletter, and he would follow up with the chaplains to get the ball rolling. This would be a first for the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) Chaplaincy Department. When I arrived at the chapel to work and realized that Supt. King was very serious about bringing about change and opportunity, all I could do was praise Jesus for this unexpected blessing. Since that meeting in 2014, my life at this prison and the lives of many other women have dramatically changed. The day I met with Supt. King was lifechanging as far as my view on incarceration and my spiritual growth. He ignited a fire within me that reminded me that I could make a difference

within these walls. God brought him to our facility at a time he was most needed to inspire God’s people. Supt. King is one of the most supportive prison officials I have ever met when it comes to supporting Christian-based programs and educational programs for offenders. He has proven to us that he is interested in equipping us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. As a devotional writer and playwright, I know that the Jesus in Supt. King has motivated and inspired me to keep moving and to keep growing for the Kingdom. Supt. King is an example of Matthew 25:36. He not only manages the prison compound but also inspires offenders to participate in their own rehabilitation as well as to help others. Prisons all across the nations are in crisis with staff shortages, overcrowding, etc. We are no exception other than having a management team led by Supt. King, who leads by example. He is an everyday person with enormous responsibility who is making a difference in the lives of many prisoners. Tara Lyle has been incarcerated for nearly 16 years at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. She enjoys working at the chapel and encouraging others in the Word of God. She became a published devotional writer in 2011, and has written two unpublished devotional books. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



Five Habits to Live 10 Years Longer (or More)! Dear Dr. Walt,

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 Have questions for Dr. Walt? Email them to editor@


I read a news story that said something about some simple lifestyle changes that folks could consider that would allow them to live 10 years longer than normal. It almost sounds too good to be true. Any idea what they were talking about? —Looking for Longevity in Louisiana Dear Yearner for More Years, As I’ve told our readers for years, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. However, this answer will be an exception to that rule. In fact, what I’m going to reveal to you could result in far more than 10 years of extra life. In 2018, the Social Security Administration projected that about 25% of today’s 65-year-olds will live past 90, with approximately 10% living to be older than 95. I’ve had many a patient who has told me, “Doc, if I’d have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Researchers, using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, reported the life expectancy at age 50 was 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men who lacked five specific “lowrisk life-style factors.” In contrast, those who had all five low-risk factors projected a life expectancy at age 50 years of about 43 years for women and 38 years for men. That’s a life-expectancy increase of 14 years for women and more than 12 years for men, a whopping 48 to 49% increased lifespan for women and men! In addition, three-fourths of premature cardiovascular deaths and half of premature cancer deaths in the U.S. could be attributed to lack of adherence to the five low-risk factors; 1. Never smoking 2. A normal body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 (see to calculate your BMI) 3. 30 or more minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity 4. No or limited alcohol intake 5. A high-quality, nutrient-dense diet It’s clear from studies that the above factors are associated with a lower risk of premature mortality. But, you might argue, the life expectancy of Americans is going up all the time anyway. And that is correct. It has increased from about 63 years in 1940 to about 79 years in 2016. This increase is the result of a number of factors, such as improvements in living standards,


improved medical treatment, reduction in smoking, and a modest improvement in diet. But, unfortunately, national surveys show the percent of Americans adhering to a “low-risk lifestyle” is decreasing. During the last three decades, it has shrunk from 15% in the 1990s to 8% in the 2000s. A 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 23% of U.S. adults get enough exercise, whereas a 2017 study reported just one in 10 Americans eats sufficient fruits and vegetables. Therefore, the downward trend in “lowrisk lifestyles” is preventing life expectancy in America from being even higher. If you’re in the 8% of Americans who meet all five “low-risk factors,” congratulations! If you’re not, grab a copy of my newest book, Fit over 50: Make Simple Choices Today for a Healthier, Happier You, and learn the steps you can take to not only live longer, but to live healthier and happier. In biblical terms, you can wisely achieve both kairos (the quality of life) and chronos (the quantity of life).

Four Numbers You Need to Know Dear Dr. Walt,

Our granddaughter is in a health class and says that everyone in our family needs a health screening to determine if our “health numbers” are good or bad. She says good numbers will help us live better and longer. She’s got a lot of enthusiasm but is the effort worth it? And, what are “good numbers”? —Numerically Nosey in Michigan Dear Mathematically Motivated, The American Heart Association (AHA) created what it calls Life’s Simple 7 in 2010 to help track improvements in the health of Americans. The seven measures are tobacco use, diet, physical activity, BMI, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and blood sugar. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported the number of people with an ideal cardiovascular health score, based on seven lifestyle and biological measures decreased from 8.5 to 5.9% over the last 20 years. Researchers said the decrease was due to poorer scores for blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar (also called blood glucose), and BMI. The CDC reports 40 million Americans are living with uncontrolled high blood pressure (HBP), 39 million adults aren’t taking the recommended statin ther-

By Walt Larimore, MD

apy to manage their cholesterol, more than 100 million have poor blood sugar control (with diabetes or prediabetes), more than onethird (over 78 million) are obese, and 71% are overweight or obese. When it comes to these four risk factors, 13% of U.S. adults over 35 have not had blood pressure screening, 18% have not had cholesterol or lipid screening, and 36% have not had diabetes or obesity screening. Although you may know that each of these can increase your risk for disease and premature death — from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health problems, you may not know how they are linked together and how often you should be evaluated for each. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention, and AHA, along with other national groups, have a series of recommendations on what I’m calling, “You Need to Know Four Numbers.”

Blood Pressure

The AHA recommends that all adults 20 or older get their blood pressure checked at least once every two years as long as it’s below 120/80 mm mercury (Hg). If either the upper number (the systolic blood pressure) or the lower number (the diastolic blood pressure) is higher, check it more often. High blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication. The USPSTF recommends screening for high blood pressure at 18 years old. Both the AHA and USPSTF recommend abnormal tests be confirmed by obtaining blood pressure readings away from the doctor’s office — for example, with home blood pressure monitoring — before starting treatment. This is important because merely being in a medical facility raises some people’s blood pressure.


Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body uses to protect nerves, make cells, and produce certain hormones. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Your body also gets cholesterol directly from food (such as eggs, meats, and dairy products). But too much cholesterol negatively impacts your health. LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, delivers cholesterol to the body, whereas HDL, or “good” cholesterol, removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream. This explains why too much LDL cholesterol is bad, and why high HDL cholesterol is good. For example,

if your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. But if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL, you’re probably not at higher risk. You want your HDL to be high and your LDL to be low. The AHA recommends a lipoprotein profile be taken every four to six years, starting at age 20. This is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, each cholesterol type, and triglycerides. You may need to be tested more frequently if your healthcare provider determines that you’re an increased risk for heart disease or stroke. Like HBP, cholesterol can often be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication (particularly statin medications). The USPSTF recommends lipid testing and calculation of 10-year cardiovascular disease risk in all adults ages 40 to 75 years.

Blood Sugar

High blood sugar (glucose) could mean you have prediabetes or diabetes. Untreated diabetes leads to many serious medical problems, including heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight and you have at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor, you may need a blood glucose test. There are a couple of options. Your family physician can do a fasting or random blood sugar or a blood test called the glycated hemoglobin (or A1C) to estimate your risk of prediabetes or diabetes. The great thing about the A1C is that it can tell you your average blood sugar level for the previous three months. The American Diabetes Association recommends regular screening for diabetes starting at age 45, with repeated tests at least every three years. The USPSTF recommends screening for abnormal blood glucose as part of cardiovascular risk assessment in adults aged 40 to 70 years who are overweight or obese.


The Harvard School of Public Health says that of the leading preventable risk factors for premature death in the U.S., high blood pressure was number two on the list (after smoking), killing about 395,000 Americans each year. Overweight/obesity was number three (killing 216,000). Sedentary behavior (inactivity or inadequate physical activity) was number four (killing 191,000). High blood sugar was number five (killing 190,000), and high LDL (bad) cholesterol was number six (killing 113,000). The bottom line is that everyone should know these four numbers, which you can remember as “ABCD”: 1. A1C (or an FBS) 2. BMI 3. Cholesterol (or a lipid profile, especially LDL) 4. Diastolic and Systolic Blood pressure If you don’t have up-to-date numbers, get them ASAP. Your life may depend on it.  Adapted from Fit over 50. Copyright © 2019 by Walt Larimore and Phillip Bishop. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408. Used by permission. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



By Liz Nussmeier

The 10 Bibles

Liz Nussmeier became a Christian in 1998. She’s an artist, writer, Navy veteran, and contributing writer for The Northeast Polk Gazette. She lives in Winter Haven, Florida, and is currently working on her first book, Lizzies Psalms: A Memoir in Poetry and Prose.

If you have a turning point in your life you would like to share, email your story to editor@ 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. 20


n midsummer 2007, my older brother, Danny, was killed on his motorcycle. He had left a bar where he had been drinking with friends that night and, tragically, had died alone on the side of the road. During the visitation at the funeral home, my dad and the pastor asked me to speak at his funeral the following day. I was hesitant at first, thinking to myself how nervous I get when speaking in front of people and how I always end up crying when talking about anything near and dear to my heart. Reluctantly, I agreed. Looking back, I realize it was one of many opportunities God gave me to say yes to Him. That night I went to bed and lay awake for quite some time trying to think of what I would say at the service. Nothing came to me and I must have finally fallen asleep. I woke up at about 2 a.m. knowing what to share. God had laid it all out for me in my mind like an outline. Then He told me to get some Bibles and make them available to people at the funeral home. The next morning I told my sister how God had given me something to say at the funeral and that I needed to go to Walmart to buy some Bibles. On the way, I wondered how many I should get and decided on 10. I was thinking about how much money 10 Bibles could cost and that I didn’t have a lot of cash on me. God reminded me I had a debit card and removed that excuse. When I reached the Bible shelf, I found only three that suited me. I wasn’t sure that having just three at the funeral home would be appropriate, and I stood there several minutes debating whether to buy any at all, but finally I decided to buy them. On the way to the funeral home, I bought five more at a dollar store. That was a total of eight, not 10, but I figured it was close enough. My niece wrote inside the front cover of each Bible that it was a gift from the family in memory of my brother Danny. At the service, I shared what I felt God had given me the night before. I talked about Danny’s various relationships. He was a brother, a son, a dad, a friend, a nephew, and my own kids’ Uncle Danny. I explained that the most important relationship any of us can have is the one with our Heavenly Father and that we are all sinners and deserve judgment. But God made a way through


the death and resurrection of Jesus for us to have a relationship with Him. He offers forgiveness, a free gift when we turn from our sin and accept that gift. This is the Good News we are to be sharing. And I invited anyone who wanted one of the Bibles to take one. After the service, I was excited to see that all of the Bibles had been taken. I know for sure that his daughter got one, one of Dan’s girlfriends got one, one of his buddies, and a handful of others. Brenda, another of Danny’s friends, came up to me as we were leaving and asked me if any more Bibles were available because she wanted to get one but didn’t. I told her that was all we brought. Honestly, at the time I didn’t want to commit to it and all kinds of excuses were going through my mind, but I told her I would make sure she got one. A few days later, Mom was going to the dollar store and asked if I needed anything. I remembered the promise I made to Brenda and asked Mom to buy a Bible if the store had one. She came back with two. She didn’t know that would make 10, the original number I wanted to buy. She didn’t even know that it was me who bought the Bibles, but I told her all about it and how I woke up in the middle of the night, how God gave me the words to speak, and how He told me to buy the Bibles. We went to visit Brenda about some of Danny’s affairs and brought the Bible for her. While we were there, she told us about a couple who were friends of Danny’s who hadn’t been able to come to the funeral but also wanted a Bible. Because Mom had bought two Bibles, we had one left, and we gladly gave her the 10th and last Bible for the couple. I often pray for the people who got a Bible that day. I’m humbled that God would use someone like me, reluctant sometimes to do even the simplest little things He asks me to do, worrying about the cost, or the gas, or the time it will take. He has a plan, and most of the time I don’t see the big picture, but He’s using His people, even me, to reach others. To be a part of His plan, we must say “Yes” to the things He asks us to do, even when it takes us out of our comfort zone. When we say no we miss out on the blessing of being part of His work. 


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.




Ezekiel 39; Psalms 90


Ezekiel 46; Psalm 102


Daniel 5; Psalm 110, 111


Daniel 11; Psalm 119:25-48



Ezekiel 40; Psalms 91


Ezekiel 47; Psalm 103




Ezekiel 34; Psalms 83, 84


Ezekiel 41; Psalms 92, 93


Ezekiel 48; Psalm 104




Ezekiel 35; Psalms 85


Ezekiel 42; Psalms 94


Daniel 1; Psalm 105




Ezekiel 36; Psalms 86


Ezekiel 43; Psalms 95, 96


Daniel 2; Psalm 106


Daniel 6; Psalms 112, 113

Daniel 7; Psalms 114, 115

Jeremiah 50; Psalms 28, 29

Daniel 8; Psalm 116











Joel 2; Psalm 142


Amos 6; Luke 1:39-80


Jonah 3; Luke 8


Ezekiel 37; Psalms 87, 88


Ezekiel 44; Psalms 97, 98


Daniel 3; Psalm 107




Ezekiel 38; Psalms 89


Ezekiel 45; Psalms 99, 100, 101


Daniel 4; Psalm 108, 109


Daniel 9; Psalms 117, 118

Daniel 10; Psalm 119:1-24



Hosea 1; Hosea 2; Hosea 3, 4; Hosea 5, 6; Psalm 119:73-96 Psalm 119:97-120 Psalm 119:121-144 Psalm 119:145-176

NOVEMBER Hosea 9; Psalms 126, 127, 128



Hosea 10; Psalms 129, 130, 131


Joel 3; Psalm 143


Amos 7; Luke 2


Jonah 4; Luke 9


Hosea 11; Psalms 132, 133, 134


Amos 1; Psalm 144


Amos 8; Luke 3


Micah 1; Luke 10


Hosea 7; Psalms 120, 121, 122


Hosea 12; Psalms 135, 136


Amos 2; Psalm 145


Amos 9; Luke 4


Micah 2; Luke 11


Hosea 13; Psalms 137, 138


Amos 3; Psalms 146, 147


Obadiah 1; Luke 5


Micah 3; Luke 12


Hosea 14; Psalm 139


Amos 4; Psalms 148, 149, 150


Jonah 1; Luke 6


Micah 4; Luke 13


Hosea 8; Psalms 123, 124, 125


Joel 1; Psalms 140, 141


Amos 5; Luke 1:1-38


Jonah 2; Luke 7


Micah 5; Luke 14




Dealing With an Attitude of Entitlement

Q. My granddaughter, Sammie, is 16. We’ve

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 or call 612-888-LIVE (5483).

been able to give her the things she wanted until now. She just finished her drivers ed class and asked her mom and I to buy her a car. She has always been a good girl. We would like to get her a car, but we just can’t afford it. I’m on a fixed income and my daughter’s company has downsized and she lost her job, which has taken a toll on our savings. We’re still able to supply all of the needs of our household. We’re just not capable of purchasing a new car right now. My granddaughter is starting to act out because she thinks we just don’t want to purchase the car. We have always been close, but now there is this strained silence that’s driving a wedge between us. I think we should tell her about the changes in our finances, but my daughter doesn’t think we should. She never wanted Sammie to go without anything because her father is not with them. This is weighing heavily on my daughter. She feels she is a failure as a parent. We’re both Christians and raised Sammie in the church. I think she’s old enough to understand our situation. What should I do? —Signed: Financially Strained A. Dear Financially Strained, Tell Sammie the truth! John 8:32 says “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (NIV). Talk this over with your daughter and find out why she is reluctant to tell Sammie the truth. It seems that your daughter has been a good mother, and with your help has provided well for your granddaughter. Remind her that Sammie does not have to be given things to make up for her father’s absence. Giving a child everything they want is not always good for them. You and your daughter may have overcompensated for the absentee father. Your granddaughter needs to know the truth, and communication is key in any relationship. Sammie may have confused getting everything she wanted with being loved. Telling her will reveal your love for her and that you trust her to help with family affairs. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (KJV).



Blinded by Love

Q. My 21-year-old son has completely fallen in love with a girl a little older than he is. The age isn’t the problem. It’s her domineering personality. He’s working but he doesn’t make enough to completely take care of himself, so he still lives at home. She has convinced him that it’s his responsibility to take care of her. My son has always been responsible and paid what we requested on the household expenses but for the last three months he has been using his money to pay her bills and making excuses for not paying his part at home. What can we do? —Signed: She’s Not His Responsibility

A. Dear She’s Not His Responsibility, It can be hard for a mother to watch her son self-destruct in the name of love. At 21, a young man in love is difficult to reason with. Your son is blinded by what he believes is love and he can’t see anything wrong with the way she behaves toward him or anyone else. 1 Peter 4:8 tell us, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (NIV). The more you try to point out how controlling she is, the more he will believe you are trying to control him. Regardless, you aren’t required to take care of him so he can take care of her. Discuss his responsibilities at home, and if he continues to neglect paying his bills, you could ask him to get his own place, as soon as possible. Remind him that you let him stay with you to help him, not to help him take care of his girlfriend.

No Shame in Asking for Help

Q. My best friend’s mother has been bedridden

with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years. My friend Marge has been dutifully caring for her mother, but she missed most of the events we had planned for our lives. Since our last year in college, her life has been stagnant. I graduated, but she went home before graduation to be with her mom. Her mother was critically ill, and my friend nursed her until her health improved. She has two brothers, one older and one younger, but neither helped with their mother then or now. My friend loves her mother and has never complained about what she missed in life, but she’s depressed and socially withdrawn. Now that her mom is doing well, she needs her brothers to step up and give her a break. She doesn’t have any other friends and didn’t date during

By Dr. Sabrina Black

those years. Meanwhile, I’m happily married with five great children, a wonderful career, and a very full life. What can I say to help my friend without making her feel bad? Should I speak to her brothers about her health and their responsibilities to their mother? —Signed: Her Mom Is Living But My Friend Isn’t A. Dear Her Mom Is Living But My Friend Isn’t, Your friend is a very admirable person. As her best friend, try to get her to talk about what she is feeling. Holding everything in has probably led to some of her depression. If she can’t talk to you, help her to seek godly counsel. Loneliness, guilt, and resentment, if not resolved, can lead to deep depression. We aren’t designed to shoulder our responsibilities alone. As her friend for over 30 years, you have earned the right to speak into her life. Tell her that she has a right to live her own life and that expressing her feelings isn’t the same as complaining. Suggest that Marge ask her brothers for help. She may find that her brothers are willing, and that they just need to be asked and told what to do. Marge made her choice, and you’re not responsible for the way her life turned out. Enjoy your life and help your friend to find joy in her life because while there is life, there is hope, and where there is hope there is joy. Remind her that life has not passed her by. She just took a different path than yours. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Prov. 23:8 NIV).

Time for Immediate Intervention

Q. I recently found my 14-year-old granddaughter and

three of her friends in her room taking pictures of their breasts on their phones. When I asked what they were doing and why, they reluctantly shared that it was part of an initiation to a group they were trying to join. They were each supposed to send photos of their breasts to four boys

in school and see if they could guess who was who. My granddaughters’ friends said that lots of girls were doing it. I was absolutely mortified. It took everything in me to not scream and fuss. I tried to be the rational grandma and listen as they explained. Thank God photos had not been sent yet because they were still working on picking the best photos. The girls all agreed to not send any pictures to anyone for any reason. I’m still stunned and need direction on what to do now or next. Should I contact the school? Should I tell my daughter so she can tell the other girls’ mothers? Is this a new trend? —Signed: Absolutely Mortified A. Dear Absolutely Mortified, Our grandchildren are living in a culture that’s foreign to most of us, but the peer pressure is the same. Everyone wants to belong to the most popular group, and the desire to belong or be a part of the group is so strong that our children will do dangerous and sometimes criminal acts to be accepted by the group. Yes, you should contact the school, your daughter, and any parents who may be involved in what these girls were about to do. They were thinking of doing something that may affect their futures because they have no control over what happens to pictures or anything else they put on the Internet. Sexy pictures can end up in the wrong hands and open them up to sexual predators. Sexting can also get them in trouble with the law. Help them understand they may be doing it to have fun and be popular, but real friends will support and respect you for who you are. Those friends who want you to do things that are hurtful, insulting, or shameful to yourself or others are not friends worth having. Proverbs 1:10 has great wisdom for your granddaughter: “If sinners entice you, do not consent” (ESV). You can also share with her Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:11; and Exodus 23:2.  TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG




DiAnn Mills When and how did you decide to become a writer?

I’d written short stories and poetry since I was 8 years old, and my first book was on a Big Chief notebook with a No. 2 pencil. But I never had the courage to pursue my dream of writing until 1996 when my husband said, “Stop telling me you’ll one day write a book. Do it now. Quit your job, and I’ll give you one year to get anything published. And if you do, you’ll never have to go back to your other job.” I accepted his challenge, not knowing it could take years before a novel was sold. I looked at my writing as a real job and organized my day according to what I believed would achieve success. So I: • Wrote every day. • Read in the genre of my story and analyzed the books’ contents as if they were textbooks. • Read the how-to books repeatedly. • Researched the best writing conferences and planned to attend. • Searched for Christian writing groups. The result? My first book was purchased in 1997, and I never returned to my other job. My husband who challenged me? Now we work together in my writing ministry. He’s my superpublicist, nightmare editor, and best cheerleader.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

To pray for wisdom and guidance, and to follow the same five steps to publication above.

What motivates you to write?

A strong conviction that God has purposed me to write. I believe story is a non-threatening environment for others to be entertained, inspired, and encouraged. We all have family, friends, and neighbors who aren’t Christian and have no desire to attend church, a Bible study, or even visit our homes for fear we might say something about Jesus or prayer. But we can recommend a novel in which one or more of the characters solve their problems from a Christian worldview, and we plant seeds for the kingdom.

How do you come up with your ideas for plots, characters, and settings?

A . Through life experiences, media reports, conversations, dreams, observing people, and the belief people are impacted by story. My goal is for the plot to twist and turn in unpredictable but believable ways. I strive for characters who are three-dimensional with realistic (messy) backgrounds. 24



Settings are designed to be antagonistic, so the character is challenged to deal with yet one more way to change and grow.

How do you develop your plots? Do you outline them, knowing the end before you start? Do you let the plot develop as you go? Or do you use some other technique?

I’m an organic writer, which means everything rises from character. No, I do not outline because that process ruins my creative adventure. If a plot sails into unexpected waters, I want the surprise to be as huge for me as the reader. What matters most is characterization. Before writing chapter one, line one, I pose several pages of questions and exercises through an interview with my character. The psychological aspect is critical in establishing goals, fears, wants, and needs. This allows me to know my character as much as possible before beginning, but I learn more about the character as the story unfolds.

Do you have any unusual writing techniques or strategies?

I have a definite word count for each day and editing is done before moving on to the next scene or chapter. I’m most creative in the early mornings. I start my day in God’s Word, then grab my laptop, and head to my treadmill. The laptop props nicely, allowing me to exercise my body at the same time I’m writing. DiAnn Mills is a best-selling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She’s a storyteller and creates actionpacked, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is also a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson, where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. Connect with DiAnn at



Melanie Dobson When and how did you decide to become a writer?

The bookmobile was my special place as a child. After carefully making my selections, I would pedal home and spend the next week immersed in these stories. As I grew older, I began creating adventures and mysteries of my own, but I stopped writing fiction in college to pursue a career in journalism and ultimately public relations. Not long before my 30th birthday, God sparked the desire to pour out a new story, and it has been an incredible experience for me to grow this dream over the past 20 years.

What motivates you to write?

Writing has become a form of worship for me. Through this process, I revel in the creativity of our Creator and savor our sweet time together as the pieces of story mold into a novel that I pray will encourage and inspire readers.

How do you come up with your ideas for plots, characters, and settings?

Since I write historical fiction, most of my ideas are founded in a unique historical event or a person that intrigues me. As I was researching Memories of Glass, for example, I discovered an article about an unusual group of leaders who rescued more than 600 Jewish children from a Nazi deportation center in Amsterdam. These types of stories fuel my imagination, and it’s pure joy for me to uncover the facts about a heroic feat and then fill in the unknown details through fiction.

Do you have any unusual writing techniques or strategies?

My characters are quite chatty at times, especially when I’m driving or trying to fall asleep at night. I have bits of dialogue on an assortment of devices and random pieces of papers around my house, so my process is often as scattered as my brain. I drink gallons of hot tea as I work and take long walks to recalibrate. And often I forget which decade I’m living in. On those days, it’s tough being my husband and kids . . . .

How long does it typically take for you to write a book?

I usually take a month to brainstorm and research for a historical novel and about four months to write it. Once I complete my first draft, it still needs significant editing, so I like to have another month for revisions. In the end, it’s about a six-month process.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you work through it?

Fear is what blocks my writing. I begin to doubt my abilities and this gift of storytelling that God has called me to pursue. I love beginning a novel and writing the end, but the “messy middle” is extremely hard for me to push through. I have to pray against the doubts that I’m not really good enough to finish it, and then, by God’s grace, press through the middle one word at a time. The first round isn’t my best writing, but often a feast of words will follow the famine. I have this verse from 1 Chronicles hanging in my office: “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” As long as God continues to gift me with the beginnings of a story, I believe it’s my job to be faithful in completing this work.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

If God has given you a story, pray for persistence, courage, and the skills to pursue it. The journey may not be easy, but it will be an amazing, soul-inspiring one as you diligently listen and learn and write what He’s called you to write. Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of 19 historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including Hidden Among the Stars, Catching the Wind, Chateau of Secrets, and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Four of her novels have won Carol Awards, Catching the Wind won the Audie Award for inspirational fiction, and The Black Cloister won the Foreword magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year award. Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching writing and public relations classes. Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with work, the Dobson family has settled near Portland, Oregon. They love to hike and camp in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific Coast. Melanie also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned homes, helping care for kids in her community, and reading stories with her girls. Visit Melanie online at TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG




Ann Spangler What motivates you to write?

Two things primarily. First an idea that intrigues me because I know I will learn a great deal in the process of writing and also one that will meet a strong felt need in readers. Second, like everyone else, I need to pay my bills. At the deepest level, I hope my writing will connect people to God in transformative ways.

Where do your ideas come from?

I pray for guidance because I don’t want to go down rabbit trails, though I have certainly done so. I am also very aware of people’s needs. Sometimes those needs surface in the marketplace in the form of nascent trends. I don’t want to jump on bandwagons but to write in a way that uniquely meets strong felt needs. Many years ago I noticed that a rather dated book on women of the Bible was still selling well. At that time no one else was writing on this topic. It occurred to me that an updated book that familiarized people with these stories in a way that would encourage both prayer and Bible study might be useful. Out of that came Women of the Bible: A One Year Devotional Study, which went on to sell a million copies. Too bad all of my ideas don’t turn out that way!

When and how did you decide to become a writer?

I had been working as an acquisitions editor for a Christian publisher for most of my career. That kept me close to the marketplace. It wasn’t unusual for me to approach established authors with ideas for books that I hoped would draw them to my company. One day I got an idea for a book that I didn’t want to give away. It startled me to think that instead of pitching the idea to a well-known author, I might write that book myself. That set me on an entirely new course. I continued to work as an editor for a few years until the day I decided I could step out on my own as a writer.

Did you have any mentors when you started writing?

I have always been a voracious reader, so books have been my mentors. Working as an editor also helped to school me in the craft.

What’s your writing process?

My process is to focus all day every day as much as possible on researching and writing the book. It all starts with the title. Once I have that, I spend time researching the topic. Though I always draw up a proposal and chapter outline in advance of writing, I never outline chapters. I am usually so hyperfocused on writing the book that important things, like paying the heating bill, for instance, can sometimes fall through the cracks with unpleasant consequences.




Do you have any unusual writing techniques or strategies?

Not really. I just write and rewrite and keep rewriting until everything feels right. Then I put that piece of writing away for a few days and start on another section of the book. After a while I return to the earlier piece and go through the process all over again.

What’s the biggest challenge for you in writing?

Getting started. Every morning when I face my computer, I also confront a crisis of confidence. An inner voice tells me I am wasting my time, that I have nothing to say. That’s when I start praying, affirming the truth before God that I have nothing to offer unless He gives me something to say. Then I start writing, believing He will help me, and things usually begin to flow.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?

Ideas energize me, so I love developing the idea for a book. I love the insights that come as I research and write. There is a contemplative quality to spending all day writing about a topic that’s grounded in the Bible and in one’s relationship with God. What I dislike is how it tends to take over my life month after month.

How long does it typically take for you to write a book? The better part of a year for most books.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you work through it?

I had a very bad case of it when I was writing Praying the Names of Jesus. It was a difficult time in my life in which I was experiencing a lot of emotional turmoil, feeling as though God were very far away. I just kept praying and slogging through until I finished the book. It helped to know that I wouldn’t receive the second half of the advance until I turned in the manuscript. The book was late but not too late.

As you look back over your writing career, is there anything you would change or do differently?

I would write fewer books and would pray for more guidance before signing a contract for a new one.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

There are a lot of superficial books in the Christian market. I’d challenge aspiring writers to go deeper and take their readers with them. Platform is important but don’t fall into the trap of equating substance with platform. Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and the author of many best-selling books, including Women of the Bible, Praying the Names of God, and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.



Allison Bottke What are your goals as a writer?

I want to create work that brings glory and honor to God. In my genre of inspirational nonfiction, I also think it’s just as important to be authentic in connecting with readers as it is to be knowledgeable about your topic. The tagline for my weekly podcast sums up my goals for what I want to provide readers: “… help for today and hope for tomorrow!”

What motivates you to write?

Believing that God has a divine plan and purpose for everyone, I’m driven by an intense desire to understand what that means for me. Since coming to a place of faith in my mid-30s, I’ve processed just about every season of life through my fingers, either on a keyboard or a lined steno pad. I think and feel through writing; it’s cathartic, therapeutic, and spiritually enriching. I’m equally motivated by feelings of joy and contentment as I am sadness and fear. It’s a compulsion — I can’t not write. Additionally, while I feel incredibly blessed to make a living doing what I love, it’s not a hobby — it’s a job. As such, I’m also motivated by things like electricity, water, food, and keeping a roof over my head, as well as the necessary tools of the trade, like Wi-Fi, computer hardware, software, and office supplies. If I don’t work, the bills don’t get paid.

Where do your ideas come from?

They say to “write what you know,” and the foundation of my writing career is based on that. From the God Allows U-Turns compilation series to my newest Setting Boundaries series, I’ve felt called to address timely topics I’ve personally experienced that speak to the needs of readers. I came to faith late in life, at 35, and I think having a New Age secular worldview for so many years allowed me a perspective many lifelong believers didn’t have. It’s been almost three decades, but I still look at my work (as well as client editing projects) from both perspectives. As a writer who is a Christian, my faith has profoundly shaped my worldview. When a new idea comes to me, I ask myself, how I can affirm fellow believers and also be salt and light to those who might not share my faith? There are no new ideas — just new ways to approach an idea.

Do you have any unusual writing techniques or strategies?

I learned long ago that while it’s important to be passionate about the topic of a work-in-progress, it’s far more essential that the topic speaks to readers and fulfills their need first. It’s all about them, not me. Research what you’re passionate about and find a void — a felt need — and write to that need. For example, as a mother of a heroin-addicted adult child who was in and out of prison, I knew firsthand what it was like to get caught up in the drama, chaos, and crisis in my son’s life. I looked for books on the

topic from a mother’s perspective, and, after finding none, I wrote Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents.

What’s the biggest challenge for you in writing?

It takes tremendous self-discipline to be a freelance writer who works from home. I’ve struggled most of my adult life with ADD and the ease and frequency with which I get distracted poses unique challenges. Whether it’s yard work, gardening, housekeeping, or a DIY project in my garage shop, it seems there is always something other than writing calling my name. To meet deadlines, I need to be like a racehorse with blinders, focused on nothing but the finish line. I’ve also had to set firm boundaries regarding the time I spend on social networking, email, and even texting.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Here are my top five suggestions in ascending order: #5. You can’t please everyone — so don’t try. Learn to deal with rejection. #4. Write what you know, and if you don’t know it, learn it, research it, then do it. #3. Invest in your craft. Subscribe to writer’s magazines, build a library of writing/editing resource books (hard copies or digital), and refer to them often. Learn proper manuscript formatting. #2. Attend as many writer’s conferences as possible; you won’t be sorry. Last but not least, #1. Read! If you want to write you must read. Period. End of story. With over a half-million of her books in print, Allison Bottke is the author of more than 32 nonfiction and fiction books, including the acclaimed God Allows U-Turns compilation book series, the God Answers Prayers series, and the best-selling Setting Boundaries series. Book one in her current series, Setting Boundaries with your Adult Children, has hit #1 in the “Parenting” category several times, and after a decade is still being heralded as a landmark resource for parents and grandparents. A frequent guest on national radio and TV programs around the country, Allison has been featured on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, the Dr. Laura Show, and others. She is also a frequent guest on Good Morning Texas. Her SANITY Support with Allison Bottke Podcast will launch in late 2019. As a collaborative editor and ghostwriter, Allison has also helped over a dozen writers to become published authors of their own nonfiction books and memoirs. Allison lives in the DFW Metroplex area. For more information, visit TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



The Perfect Time?

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

Dear Dave, My wife and I are both 46, and we have two teenagers in middle school. We were told recently that now is the perfect time for us to buy long-term care insurance. How do you feel about this in our situation? —Thomas Dear Thomas, No, now is not the perfect time for you guys to buy long-term care insurance. Research shows there’s about a 1% chance of folks your age needing long-term care insurance, and I generally don’t recommend insuring against things that have such a miniscule chance of happening. Keep in mind that many factors, such as your current health and family history, could play into your decision of exactly when to buy long-term care insurance. However, I do strongly urge people to find a good long-term care policy no later than age 60. At that point, the chances of something unfortunate happening begin to rise each and every year. You could think of it as a gift to yourself and your family. Nursing home costs are astronomical these days, and care of that sort can deplete your nest egg very quickly! —Dave

First, Catch Up!

Dear Dave, I’ve had enough of living paycheck-to-paycheck. I’m going to start following your plan, but I have a question. Should I catch up on my past due bills before beginning Baby Step 1? —Simon Dear Simon, Go for it! You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and you’re going to get control of your money. I love it! First, make sure you’re up to date with necessities — food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and utilities. Next, get current or make arrangements for any other types of debt you have, including credit cards. You mentioned Baby Step 1, which is getting $1,000 in the bank for a beginner emergency fund. Baby Step 2, the debt snowball, comes next. Start paying off all debts, except for your home, from smallest to largest. Then, in Baby Step 3 you’ll save more and increase your emergency fund to a full three to six months of expenses. 28


By Dave Ramsey

Now, you can really start looking at the future. In Baby Step 4, you’ll start investing 15% of your household income for retirement. College funding for the kids, if there are any, is Baby Step 5, and Baby Step 6 is a milestone — pay off your house early! But the real deal is Baby Step 7. This is when all your hard work, sacrifice, and smart financial decisions put you in a place where you can build wealth and give with outrageous generosity. At this point, you’re securing your family’s future and helping others in a big way! —Dave

Above and Beyond

Dear Dave, The school system I work for puts 12% of my pay into a public teacher retirement fund, and they match this amount. I’ve seen where you tell people to put 15% of their income toward retirement. If that’s the case, should I put 3% into another retirement fund? I have no debt and very little in terms of expenses. Or, what would you think about the idea of opening another retirement account at a full 15% of what I make? —Patti Dear Patti, I wouldn’t go as far as to pour an additional 15% into a different retirement plan, but I would consider putting maybe 8 to 10% into a Roth IRA. I want you to have some money that’s separate from the school system account, just in case things go south with their retirement fund. It sounds like you’ve got a pretty good pension plan, but you never know what might happen. I’m not predicting bad things, but at the same time there’s no way I’d lean on the school system fund as my one and only source of retirement income. You should never put all your financial eggs in one basket! —Dave

Emergency Fund for Business?

Dear Dave, I have my own small business. My annual sales are just over $100,000, and I have a couple of months in administrative and general expenses set aside. Should I have an emergency fund for my company, too? If so, how much? —Taylor Dear Taylor, This is a great question! I like the idea of a small business having six months of expenses set aside in an emergency fund. A financial cushion like that provides peace of mind and options. Also, it eliminates the need for borrowing money. With that kind of cash sitting around, you basically become your own line of credit. When it comes to personal finance, I usually recommend setting aside an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses — depending on a person’s overall financial condition. But the basic idea is the same, regardless of whether you’re talking about personal finance or the financial health of your small business. An entrepreneur has enough to worry about on a day-to-day basis. Having a fully funded emergency fund for your business can turn a disaster into nothing more than a minor inconvenience! —Dave

It’s Only Temporary

Dear Dave, Should I still contribute up to the match to my 401(k) at work, like you recommend, if I’m in the process of trying to get out of debt? —Russ

Net Worth and Umbrella Insurance

Dear Dave, At what point, where your net worth is concerned, should you consider additional umbrella insurance? —Kyle Dear Kyle, You can buy an additional $1 million in liability insurance for your home and car for around $250 a year. Why would you want that? If you were a target. Why would you be a target? If you have a net worth of $500,000 to $1,000,000 or more. You might also be a target if you just have a really good income and make a lot of money. In either case, you’d want to pick up a liability umbrella policy. Good question! —Dave

Dear Russ, Some people disagree with this stance, but my answer is no. I understand how important it is to take the match in a situation like that, but one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge. In the short term, the power of focusing on changing your behavior and working hard to pay off debt will supersede the mathematics involved where your company match is concerned. In other words, if you stop saving temporarily, for just a year or so — and wipe out all your consumer debt — you’ll gain a tremendous amount of financial power. And this will be more beneficial to you than one or two years of your company match. I’d never tell anyone to stop investing, or taking advantage of a company match, for several years. However, if you put it on hold for just a little while and clean up your debt mess — then go back to investing for retirement — you’ll reap many more rewards down the road. You’ll permanently change your financial behavior, and you’ll be able to invest even more for retirement and other things. Good question, Russ! —Dave  TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


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It was clear from the outset that our directors and producers of Unplanned wanted to work with a publisher who would be flexible, affordable, and professional to help in the creation of the companion devotional for their movie. We found all this and more in Athena and her team. The level of enthusiasm for Planned from the Start: A Healing Devotional was so encouraging. The expertise and advise we received was spot-on—from editorial suggestions to layout design, from sales advice to distribution options—the team was quick to provide what we needed, when we needed it. The level of care and concern that was put into getting our devotional to the market exceeded our hopes and expectations. We highly recommend Athena and her team for your next book project. They will take excellent care of you!~Lorraine Marie Varela, author of Planned from the Start: A Healing Devotional (Redemption Press), Love in the Face of Isis and Powerful Moments in the Presence of God (Chosen Books)

Cynthia Cavanaugh

Live Bold: A Devotional Journal to Strengthen Your Soul Redemption Press has gone over and above what is expected of a publisher. They have delivered a beautiful one of a kind award-winning journal we can both be proud of. The expertise of the staff and the many options available to us made this partnership so easy. It has been a joy to work with Athena and Redemption Press and watch them take a dream and turn it into reality.~Cynthia Cavanaugh, co-author of Live Bold: A Devotional Journal to Strengthen Your Soul, author of Live Unveiled (Redemption Press), Anchored: Leading Through the Storms and Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive (New Hope Publishers)

Dawn Scott Damon

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I’ve been published by traditional publishers and have self-published, and often have to work with individuals who don’t seem to capture the heart and dream of the project. That’s why I was thrilled to find Athena Dean and Redemption Press. With advice, expertise, and responsiveness, Redemption Press made my publishing journey a delightful one. My book— The Freedom Challenge: 60 Days to Untie The Cords That Bind You—launched with tremendous success! I am excited to share in the great network of other fabulous Redemption Press authors and to be exposed to the vast number of connections and opportunities that come to me as a result of being part of the Redemption Press family.~Dawn Scott Damon, author, speaker, freedom coach, When a Woman You Love Was Abused (Kregel Publishers) When The Woman Abused Was You (Credo House Publishers), Telling: A Guide to Finding Healing by Telling Your Abuse Story (Amazon Digital Services)

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Unmothered: Life With a Mom Who Couldn’t Love Me Redemption Press is the publishing house for me. Since the very beginning, Athena and her staff treated me like a part of their family. Every question answered, every dream in my head coming to life. From the design of my book cover, to the excellent coaching from my editor, I felt confident that they understood the direction that I wanted for my first book, Unmothered. They also were wise enough to steer me in a better direction when they felt something wouldn’t be marketable. Without their guidance, this would just be another book on a shelf with no sales appeal. I look forward to many more projects through them, and I highly recommend Redemption Press as your publishing TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG partner.~Phylis Mantelli, speaker, blogger, mentor and author of Unmothered


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Face-to-Face Critiques for Word Weavers International, founded in March 1997, is a 501 (c) (6) organization of over 90 traditional and online groups. Word Weavers provides a forum for Christian writers to critique each other’s work in a face-to-face format so that members learn about and improve their craft. They provide education, discounts to select conferences, and writing opportunities. Writers of all levels are welcome.





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By Jerry Dykstra

Iraqi Christians Still Experiencing Persecution, Dwindling Numbers 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.


re Iraq’s Christians undergoing ethnic cleansing? Is Islamic State (ISIS) still a major threat to believers in Iraq and surrounding areas? Will the Christian population of Iraq continue to drop to startling numbers? The answer to all those questions seems to be yes, according to an expert, who has traveled to the still-dangerous areas of Iraq, and other reliable sources. “What Iraq’s Christians want from the West is to say the plain truth: that there is ethnic cleansing of Christians in the region and it is ongoing,” Dr. Tim Stanley told a meeting at the UK’s Parliament in July. The historian and columnist, working for UK daily newspaper The Telegraph, had just returned from a visit to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains. “If we don’t say what is really happening in the region, which is ethnic cleansing of both Christians and Yazidis, we allow Islamic State and other perpetrators to get away with it,” Stanley said. Since Islamic State was pushed out of the region, displaced Iraqis have slowly started to return to their communities, but continue to live in fear, and they continue to be vulnerable. Pockets of ISIS fighters are still active, and the group has said it started the fires this year that torched hundreds of acres of land and crops in northern Iraq that are “owned by infidels.” Meanwhile, Iranian-backed militias have moved into areas previously under ISIS-control, discouraging people to trade with Christians, Stanley said. Iraq’s Christian community has faced instability before. There has been a rapid decline in the Christian population in the country over the last two decades, beginning with the onset of the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Prayer Points: • That next generation of Christians in Iraq will find hope and security to remain in their country and spread the gospel. • For job opportunities for the unemployed in the Nineveh Plains. Since the war, Christians have lost their jobs and their businesses. • Thank God for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have been able to return to their villages and rebuild their homes in the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq.



The invasion sparked a wave of Islamist militancy in Mosul that led to many Christians fleeing. Many left the country for the U.S. and Europe. At that time, there were an estimated 1.4 million Christians in the country. Today, only about 225,000 Christian remain. In a survey of displaced minorities in Iraq conducted by the United Nations International Organization for Migration, Christians were most likely to say they do not plan to return home. Only 22% said they would go back, and 42% said they would most likely plan to settle abroad. Iraq is ranked No. 13 on the World Watch List of nations where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Joumana and her mother Jandark. Although they lost much to ISIS, they still radiate the joy of the Lord.

In a speech this spring, the Archbishop of Irbil, Rt. Rev. Bashar Warda, said Iraqi Christians face extinction. “Christians in Iraq, one of the oldest churches, if not the oldest church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.” Open Doors, an organization that tracks persecution of Christians, said: “The territorial defeat of ISIS reduced the level of persecution across the country. However, threats from extremist groups make it difficult for returning Christians to feel safe and secure from acts from persecution of Christians.” Even though many towns and cities have been liberated from ISIS, the situation remains very difficult, with many homes and businesses destroyed or in need of significant repair. Living costs are high and finding work remains a challenge. The financial impact on the families is huge, with many struggling to pay rent or purchase medicine. Many chil-


Children in front of bookshelves. The old Saint Shmoni’s library in Qaraqosh was burned and damaged by the Islamic State. Now it is restored and reopened with support of a local partner of Open Doors.

dren still cannot attend school. Even where there are schools, many are short-staffed and in a poor state of repair, needing even basic items like tables, doors, windows, and a heating system that works. In 2018, Open Doors local church partners repaired 1,051 houses in Iraq, but many Christians have chosen to remain in camps or other cities for now, too scared to return home. Todd Nettleton, host of The Voice of the Martyrs Radio, recalled: “I’ll never forget interviewing an Iraqi pastor during one of my visits to Kurdistan. As we closed our conversation, I asked how American Christians could pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. His immediate response has stuck with me: ‘Pray that God will call Christians to stay here!’ “He went on to explain that, yes, there were many reasons to flee the country and to pursue a new, safer life somewhere else. But who would share the gospel if all the Christians left? Who would be a lighthouse for Jesus to the Muslims all around us? I think of that pastor every time I read a story about Christians fleeing the Middle East. And I pray that God will call, equip and protect bold believers across the region to stay and be a witness for Him.”  Many of the remaining Christians in Iraq lack jobs, shelter, food, and medical care.

The night ISIS came, Jandark was reciting the Lord’s Prayer. She was praying over and over again through the familiar words. It was dark, and she could only see the lights of two or three other homes in her area of her hometown of Qaraqosh. The rest of the buildings were dark, left empty by the other Christians in Iraq who had fled the threat of Islamic State (ISIS). An hour later, she was on a bus, headed away from Qaraqosh. She left the doors unlocked, so ISIS wouldn’t break them down. She took with her a few family pictures and left behind a cross on the wall. The cross represented her only hope that ISIS might spare her home. As Jandark left, her daughter Joumana was nearing the end of her own journey. She had left Qaraqosh several hours earlier with her aunt, after the explosions she heard let her know ISIS was getting closer. She left her mother and home, hoping they would follow soon. She didn’t know what the future held. As she rode through the dark desert of northern Iraq, Joumana couldn’t know that the next time she would see her mother, it would be in a church in the nearby city of Akre, filled to the breaking point with Christians in Iraq who were also fleeing ISIS. “For the first three months when we were displaced, we stayed at the church,” Joumana recalled. “I lost my ability to feel. I don’t remember how we existed or what we ate or how the time passed; we were in shock for three months. I felt nothing.” Joumana and Jandark were soon able to move out of the church into a house. Joumana got a job as an elementary school teacher. They received help from Open Doors’ partners in the region. “We are very thankful, because they [Open Doors partners] helped us in Akre in providing food and heating oil,” Joumana said. “They also helped us pay rent on the house in Akra.” That helped them bide their time for two years until the news finally came: Iraqi forces had retaken Qaraqosh from ISIS, and it was somewhat safe to return home. Slowly, some Iraqi Christians began to come back. When Joumana and Jandark arrived back home, they saw what ISIS had done — a small taste of the brutal chaos inflicted on their city and the entire region. “How can I express my feelings?” Jandark wondered. “We lost [our] privacy. I took a step to the back and did not touch anything on the first day; I just stood for a half-hour to look at my house.” When she did bring herself to start going through her home, it was painful. “Kitchen furniture was in our living room and it was filled with rats…really deplorable conditions,” she said, visibly disgusted by the memory. “Our clothes were dumped into another room and they took all our electronics. The cross was broken into four pieces.” Joumana has returned to her job as an organic chemist and hopes to go on to earn her doctorate. Joumana and Jandark are finishing repairs to their home, with the help of Open Doors’ partners. And now, over one year later, the family has slowly rebuilt. Alongside their still-recovering city of Qaraqosh, they are standing strong for Jesus in the Middle East. Some families have returned home, churches are being resurrected, and kids are going back to school. But Christians in Iraq say there is still much work to be done. Following Jesus has also meant that for Christians in Iraq, rebuilding is coupled with forgiveness — even for the people who destroyed their home. “’But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you [Matthew 5:44],’” Jandark recited when asked what she would like to say to ISIS. (Open Doors USA contributed to this report) TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



NIV Starting Place Study Bible: An Introductory Exploration of Studying God’s Word [Zondervan] An introductory exploration into studying God’s Word, the NIV Starting Place Study Bible includes approachable, easy-to-use features that will guide readers while building their confidence and knowledge in the Scriptures. Features: • Complete text of the New International Version (NIV) • 88 Bible Characters: Explore the lives of the Bible’s most fascinating personalities • 282 Q&A Notes: Get answers to perplexing questions • 146 Context Notes: In-depth articles on the cultural and historical context of Scripture • 138 Bible Truths: Core Christian beliefs and their basis in Scripture • Book Introductions for a helpful overview of each book of the Bible • Over 6,000 study notes explain the text, verse-by-verse • Exclusive NIV Zondervan Comfort Print® typeface • 9.7-point print size

Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids: The Gospel in 52 FiveMinute Bible Stories By Phil Vischer [JellyTelly Press] Written by VeggieTales® creator Phil Vischer, this family Bible is more than a children’s Bible storybook . . . it’s a deep, engaging, gospel experience. The Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids will guide readers from Genesis to Revelation, retelling beloved Bible stories and tackling questions like “What is sin?” and “What is the Trinity? Each story is vividly illustrated, takes just five minutes to read, and includes a family connection to encourage family Bible study and help readers learn, talk, and pray together! Plus, bonus content connects the dots of each Bible story, making the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids a family devotional Bible that provides a big picture, applicational view of the Biblical narrative. Phil Vischer is an author, speaker, filmmaker, and voice actor, best known for the Christian children’s series VeggieTales, which he created in a spare bedroom as a 25-year-old newly married starving artist. Since then, Phil has continued to pursue innovative ways to integrate faith and storytelling through fun and practical resources for families. 38



Heavenly Rewards: Living with Eternity in Sight By Mark Hitchcock [Harvest House] Are you living in light of eternity? It’s difficult to imagine eternal life. But when you’ve got only one life and you know there is coming a day when you will stand before God, it’s important to consider whether you’re living each day like your life depends on it. If you’re a Christian, the good news is God’s judgment isn’t about determining your salvation — it’s about rewarding your faithfulness. Salvation cannot be earned — it’s already yours. In Heavenly Rewards, you’ll uncover fascinating truths about how you live your life now determines your life in eternity. You will… • Learn tangible ways to please the Lord in everyday living • Discover that your labor and sacrifices are never in vain • See the benefits of living faithfully and enduring through even the most difficult times Yes, your faithfulness will be rewarded. God knows the smallest details of your days, and He wants to acknowledge your every act you’ve done for Him. Living well with an eternal perspective really can change your life — for good.

Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters of a Perfect Father By Louie Giglio [B&H] What do you think about when you think about God? Our view of God is the most important thing about us. It informs everything about who we are and who we’re becoming. It is vital we understand this because if we have a flawed view of God, we’ll have a flawed view of life. What would it mean to us then if God’s desire was to be nearer to us — not a coach or a king, a genie, or a distant memory, but a Father — a perfect Father who never wants you to live a day without his blessing? In Not Forsaken, Louie Giglio points us to a God who isn’t absent or ambivalent, but available and affectionate, ready to shower us with his approval and love. This has radical significance for the very foundations of the Christian faith. When we take hold of this truth, we aren’t defined by our pasts but by the love of a perfect Father. Our hearts are transformed by Him and we are free to rest in the identity, value, and plan God has given us. You are not forsaken. You are loved. You are valued. You are cared for by the God of the universe whose arms are strong and whose heart is good.

Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More By Sharon Hodde Miller [Baker Books] What happens when we replace courage with compromise? What happens when we replace honesty with likability? What happens when we replace discipleship to Christ with a devotion to nice? God never called us to be “nice.” He called us to be faithful to His Word. Sometimes that means sharing or proclaiming unpopular truths, as Jesus and his disciples did. We live in a culture that prizes niceness as one of its highest virtues. Niceness keeps the peace, wins friends, gains influence, and serves our reputations well, but it also takes the teeth out of our witness and the power out of our faith. When we choose to be nice instead of faithful, we bear fruits that are bland, bitter, empty, and rotten to the core. In Nice, Sharon Hodde Miller explores the seemingly innocent idol that has crept into our faith and quietly corrupted it, producing the bad fruits of cowardice, inauthenticity, shallowness, and more. Then she challenges readers to cultivate a better tree, providing practical steps to reclaim our credibility as followers of Christ, and bear better, richer, more lifegiving fruits.

Obedience Over Hustle: The Surrender of the Striving Heart By Malinda Fuller [Shiloh Run Press] The world promises recognition and promotion if we “hustle harder,” but at what cost? Join the counter-cultural movement of choosing surrender over striving. Throughout Scripture, we encounter individuals who had to face the hard reality that their dreams and timelines weren’t God’s best plan. By exploring these biblical narratives alongside author Malinda Fuller’s personal story of radical obedience, we’re encouraged to respond to the questions God asks us: “Will you trust Me? . . . Will you do what I’m asking you to do? Thoughtful and transparent, Fuller’s testimony of letting go of a life she describes as “striving” reveals the lifechanging decision she made to trust and obey God despite great uncertainty regarding their family future and finances after leaving her career. Fuller’s challenge to all of us is to yield to God’s voice — no matter where He leads or what He asks, whether it’s complicated or straightforward, accepted by others or challenging to understand, and regardless of how it makes us feel (even if it appears foolish). May we have the courage to surrender to His plan and His timing — to choose obedience over hustle.

Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities By Gary Chapman, PhD and Jolene Philo, MEd [Northfield Publishing] The idea of showing abundant love to every member of your family can feel like a daunting task. Jolene Philo has been there. And in this wise, warm, practical guide, she and Dr. Gary Chapman show you how the five love languages can help strengthen your marriage and family life — whatever your needs. Sharing dozens of stories from parents of children with special needs children, they teach you how to: • Protect your marriage amidst the stress • Discover and speak the love language of your child — even if they’re nonverbal • Accommodate the love languages for children with special needs and disabilities • Show love to every member of your family when you have limited time, money, and energy Having a special needs child shouldn’t mean sacrificing a full family life. Learn to share love abundantly no matter your circumstances.

Fit Over 50: Make Simple Choices Today for a Healthier, Happier You By Walt Larimore and Phillip Bishop [Harvest House] In Fit Over 50, doctors Walt Larimore and Phillip Bishop provide accurate and trustworthy advice to help you separate fact from fiction and to counter common misconceptions. Following their expert guidance will help you improve your health in four key areas: Physical: Learn proven principles for effective weight loss, exercise, and nutrition Emotional: Keep your mind sharp and better manage your emotions Relational: Stay connected to others and build a stronger sense of community Spiritual: Improve your relationship with God Chapters include: • “Preventive Care” • “Get a Workout Buddy or Buddies” • “Enjoy the Rewards of Aging” • “You Need to Know Four Numbers” • “12 Steps for Spiritual Strength Training” When you apply these easy-to-follow and scientifically sound strategies, you’re more likely to reap the many benefits of living well and staying healthy. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


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Christmas Gifts for the Whole Family As fall and the holiday season approach, it’s a good time to start Christmas shopping. Getting a head start gives you more time to spend wisely, think carefully about what to get each of your loved ones, and avoid the stress, crowds, and traffic that come from procrastinating. The following gift guide provides a great range of spiritually enriching options for all ages, which you can order online from the comfort of your home. May the Lord bless your family as you spend time together celebrating the birth of our Savior!

The Birth of Jesus Advent Calendar and Nativity Scene

The Family Time Bible By Dr. Mary Manz Simon [Beaming Books]

By Agostino Traini [Beaming Books]

Assemble a charming nativity scene in the days leading up to Christmas with this wooden advent calendar that folds up for easy storage. ISBN: 9781506448596. Available at or wherever books are sold. 40



This beautifully illustrated devotional story bible by best-selling author Mary Manz Simon invites you to draw closer to your family and cultivate a love for God’s word with your children. ISBN: 9781506448558 Available at or wherever books are sold.

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The Picture Bible By Iva Hoth; Illustrated by Andrew Le Blanc [David C Cook]

Updated with interesting new features, including “Did you know?” fact pages, timeline, story listing, maps, and more, kids will love the great stories and action pictures. God’s Word will come alive for hours of family reading enjoyment.


The Advent Storybook: 25 Bible Stories Showing Why Jesus Came

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale By Angela Elwell Hunt; Illustrated by Tim Jonke [David C Cook]

This bestselling children’s book tells the story of three trees on a mountain who dream of what they wanted to become when they grew up. One wants to be a treasure chest, another an ocean-going boat, and the third a signpost to God. Their wishes come true in a way they never expected. Visit

Jesus is Born

By Laura Richie; Illustrated by Ian Dale [David C Cook]

These beautifully illustrated stories can be read aloud as a family each day in December, painting a picture of God’s plan to rescue broken humanity. Discover the beauty and grace of Jesus, who made everything good and new again. Visit

By Debby Anderson [David C Cook]

Teach your little ones about the angels, shepherds, and wise men — and show them why Jesus is the best Christmas gift we could ever receive! Accompanied by charming illustrations, Anderson’s simple text set to “Farmer in the Dell” introduces toddlers to the nativity story. Recommended for ages baby to age 3. Visit



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God Hears Her: 365 Devotions for Women by Women (PH949)

Moments of Peace for Moms: 365 Daily Devotions from Our Daily Bread (P0043)

By Our Daily Bread Ministries [Discovery House]

By Our Daily Bread Ministries [Discovery House]

This devotional collection from Our Daily Bread will reassure you that God is with you, God is for you, and God hears you. The personal stories, Scripture passages, and inspirational quotes lift you up and remind you that God is bigger than the trials you face.

You take care of everyone else. Let God take care of you. Take a break from the hectic activity of life to focus your heart on God. This devotional celebrates motherhood and addresses real-life issues. Rest without guilt, knowing that your heavenly Father desires to provide you with perfect peace.



Stand Strong: 365 Devotions for Men by Men (C7753)

My Utmost For His Highest (N021)

By Our Daily Bread Ministries [Discovery House]

By Oswald Chambers [Discovery House]

When pressure rises from the expectations of life, men need to know that they can stand strong in the power of the Lord. This collection of short meditations encourages you to grow in your relationship with God, live a life of integrity, and build a legacy of faith.

What motivates you to give your best in everything you do? Whether it’s your career, family, sports, or something else, you can be at your best when you’re completely devoted to God. This thoughtprovoking devotional will challenge you to be the person He designed you to be.






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Our Daily Bread for Kids: 365 Meaningful Moments with God (XG817)

Bible and Breakfast: 31 Mornings with Jesus By Asheritah Ciuciu [Moody Publishing]

By Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley [Discovery House]

Short and engaging children’s devotions, easy-toremember Bible verses, exciting facts, and fun illustrations make the Our Daily Bread for Kids devotional an excellent way for kids to learn about God. Perfect for children ages 7 to 10.

Bible & Breakfast by Asheritah Ciuciu is a beautifully designed 31day devotional, combining reflections on the Bible with easy and delicious breakfast recipes. Offering full-color photos, step-bystep directions, personal stories, and biblical insights, Ciuciu paves the way for readers to experience the joy of spending time with Jesus every morning.



You Can Trust God To Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence By Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Robert Wolgemuth [Moody Publishing]

In their first book together, best-selling authors Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Robert Wolgemuth share stories of brave men and women who have decided to trust God with their unfolding stories. Learn why you really can trust God to write your story — no matter what plot twists you may encounter along the way.


The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus By Daniel Darling [Moody Publishing]

The Characters of Christmas by Daniel Darling helps you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth, such as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, and Herod. Break free from the familiar, and discover untold treasures in the story you thought you knew.



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Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition

Inspire PRAISE Bible: The Bible for Coloring & Creative Journaling

[Tyndale House]

The Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition is the Bible for all times, regardless of life phase or circumstance. Study notes, Scripture application, and in-depth features bring eternal truth into everyday life. Updated interior adds additional color to more easily distinguish between notes and Bible text.

[Tyndale House]


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The gorgeous large print Inspire PRAISE Bible from Tyndale House Publishers features a very generous, nearly 11-point font; over 500 beautiful line-art illustrations to color; extrawide, lightly ruled margins for Bible journaling or creating original art; plus beautifully designed, colorful see-through vellum pages.

The Faithful Way: Remaining Steadfast in an Uncertain World

The One Year Adventure With the God of Your Story By Brian Hardin [NavPress]

By Cynthia Heald [NavPress]

The Faithful Way is a 31-day devotional by beloved Bible study teacher Cynthia Heald. Read daily, it will equip you to say, “I have remained faithful” as you learn to live intentionally to bring honor to Christ. A beautiful, inspirational gift. Available everywhere. Use code CYNTHIA20 at (through 11/30/2019).

The only devotional perfectly aligned with The One Year Bible. Brian Hardin, the creator and voice of the Daily Audio Bible, unpacks each daily reading of Scripture. Discover how the God of the Bible is unwilling to be left out of your story this coming year.






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Rings of Fire: Walking in Faith Through a Volcanic Future By Leonard Sweet with Mark Chironna, contributor [NavPress]

What’s next for Christians around the world? Len Sweet maps out more than 25 “rings of fire” that will define the future of the church in the 21st century. This is a benchmark book from a seminal leader of the modern evangelical movement, preparing you for what lies ahead. Get the book at

The Lord Is My Strength By Eric Kampmann [Beaufort Books]

The third book in Eric Kampmann’s devotional trilogy, The Lord Is My Strength, is dedicated to experiencing the Psalms day-by-day for individual/ group study. Passage from Psalms, original photograph, and short commentary speaks through words/pictures to the beauty, harmony, and mystery gifted to everyone who desires to see the glory of God’s creation.

God’s Word on Effective Prayer: Releasing God’s Mighty Power Next in God’s Toolbox Series (200,000 in print) By Jack Hartman & Judy Hartman [Lamplight Ministries, LLC]

God hears and answers prayer. Because of the price Jesus paid at Calvary, you are able to go directly to your Father anytime with absolute assurance that He is listening to your prayer. This resource contains almost 400 scriptural instructions pertaining to prayer.

Nationally distributed everywhere books are sold and at

30-Day Journey Series [Fortress Press]

Enrich each day with wisdom from our greatest spiritual thinkers, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and St. Hildegard of Bingen. Through brief daily readings and reflection questions, the 30-Day Journey series invites readers to be inspired and transformed. Visit

Nationally distributed everywhere books are sold and TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


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NKJV & KJV Large, Giant, and Super Giant Print Bibles [Thomas Nelson]

Invite your eyes to linger and engage longer in God’s Word with Large, Giant, and Super Giant Print Bibles from Thomas Nelson. Now featuring the exclusive NKJV and KJV Comfort Print® fonts, make sure you check out our top picks for this Christmas. Learn more at

Nerves of Steel: How I Followed My Dreams, Earned My Wings, and Faced My Greatest Challenge By Tammie Jo Shults [Thomas Nelson]

When you find yourself saying, “I give up!” that’s a great place to begin. In her new book I Give Up, Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter Laura Story shares her powerful story of finding blessing in her deepest pain. Readers will discover a deeper life of worship, a fuller life of joy, and a freer life of true surrender as they open their hands to God. Learn more at

No More Holding Back: Emboldening Women to Move Past Barriers, See Their Worth, and Serve God Everywhere

Many women feel conflicted about Jesus’s calling on their lives because a woman loving God beyond her heart and soul, with her mind and strength, can be thought of as crossing some line. In No More Holding Back, Kat Armstrong helps women discover the joy and freedom of being all-in for Jesus.


By Laura Story with Leigh McLeroy [Thomas Nelson]

By Kat Armstrong [Thomas Nelson]

Nerves of Steel is the inspiring true story of Tammie Jo Shults — from growing up the daughter of a humble rancher, to becoming one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots, to safely landing the severely crippled Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 and helping save the lives of 148 people.


I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life

Learn more at NOVEMBER 2019

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NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, Polar Exploration Edition [Zondervan]

Take your kids on an arctic adventure through God’s Word with the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, now in a polar exploration theme! Written at a 3rd grade reading level, this Bible includes icy illustrations, polar-themed pages, and frosty features throughout. Highly recommended by Christian schools and churches! Visit

Daily Guideposts 2020: A Spirit-Lifting Devotional [Zondervan Books]

Daily Guideposts, America’s best-selling annual devotional, is a 365-day devotional from the editors of Guideposts that will help readers grow in their faith every day of the year. Each day, readers will enjoy a Scripture verse, a true first-person story told in an informal, conversational style that shares the ways God speaks to us in the ordinary events of life, and a brief prayer to help focus the reader to apply the day’s message. Available everywhere books are sold. Visit

Faith Forward Family Devotional: 100 Devotions By Ruth and Patrick Schwenk [Zondervan]

In Faith Forward Family Devotional, Ruth and Patrick Schwenk help you build a legacy of faith with devotions you can do at your own pace as a family. Each one of the 100 devotions features a Bible passage, a teaching that’s applicable for kids of any age, questions to spark family discussion, and a prayer. Visit

Bible Gateway Do you wish you knew your Bible better? A Bible Gateway Plus membership gives you access to a complete digital Bible study library, integrated seamlessly into the Bible Gateway website and mobile app. It’s easy to use and will change the way you read and study Scripture! Get the most understanding out of your personal study of the Bible with Bible Gateway Plus. To start your free 30-day trial, go to TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


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Summer on the Black Suwannee: An FCWC award winner

In Search of the Beloved By Marian Rizzo [WordCrafts Press]

By Jennifer Odom [WordCrafts Press]

“If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” —John 1:22 What if John the apostle never died? In this Amazon best-selling novel, newspaper reporter Julie Peters travels to Patmos in search of an old sage. What she finds changes her life forever.

So Mom didn’t need to pray about this creepy Suwannee River retreat? Emily’s resentment turns to horror as the 15-yearold discovers the deadly truth about their counselors, the mysterious child’s clothes, and her raging illness. Can she communicate these dangers to Mom in time to get them out alive?

Available at and

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Frog’s Rainy-Day Story and Other Fables

Manny the Lamb By Rick Lancaster with Delores Kight; Illustrated by Dave O’Connell [EA Books Publishing]

By Michael James Dowling & Sarah Buell Dowling [Carpenter’s Son Publishing]

Within the pages of this beautifully illustrated picture book, children will discover the delightful story of Manny, an adorable lamb who wanders away from the flock, and Jessie, the faithful shepherd who rescues him.

These eight imaginative and thought-provoking fables create a catalyst for honest family conversations about today’s confusing culture. The lively characters will become fast friends and everyday teachers of sound biblical values and life lessons for the next generation. Includes glossary and access to study guide for children and adults.

Available online at and everywhere books are sold.

Available nationally everywhere books are sold and at




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Love’s Way: Living Peacefully with Your Family as Your Parents Age By Carolyn Miller Parr & Sig Cohen [Hendrickson Publishers]

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Anything is a blessing which makes us pray. —C.H. Spurgeon Fasting is abstaining from anything that hinders prayer. —Andrew Bonar

We are not saved in order to be a blessing to other people — you will be that inevitably — but primarily we are saved in order to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. —Alan Redpath

The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches. —Charles Hodge Nothing will enter your life that God does not either decree or allow. And nothing will ever enter your life that, if you are willing to trust in him, he cannot work out for your good. —Chip Ingram

God grades on the Cross not on the curve. —Adrian Rogers The inconsistency is not in the Bible, but in your life. —Billy Sunday TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


l a n i g i r O

By Dan Brownell


eggieTales fans can rejoice! Sixteen years after losing Big Idea Productions in bankruptcy, original creators Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki have reunited to create 18 brand-new episodes of the original blockbuster show. The two creative geniuses have teamed with Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to return the series to its original Bible-focused teaching. VeggieTales is currently owned by NBC Universal, but the new series is being created through an agreement with TBN. The new VeggieTales episodes will be available at on DVD and digitally through Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Vischer’s company, Big Idea Productions launched the VeggieTales series in December 1993 with the release of the video “Where’s God When I’m S-Scared?” A total of 58 episodes of VeggieTales were produced between 1993 and 2015. Big Idea went bankrupt in 2003 after it became financially overextended. In 2004, Classic Media took over the company. At the request of NBC, which wanted to air some episodes, it edited out references to God for broadcast versions. A few years later, Dreamworks Animation bought Classic Media, and produced another secular VeggieTales series for Netflix called VeggieTales in the House. Then in 2016 NBC/ Universal bought Dreamworks Animation, which opened the door for the new series.

Solid Content, New Format

While the new show will return to its biblical roots, it will feature a new format. “With the new series, we’re going back to the feel of the original I wrote 54



Returning With 18 New Episodes

back in the 1990s, which were shorter, sillier, and focused on a lesson and a story from the Bible,” Vischer said. “The difference is that while the old shows were hosted from the kitchen countertop with trips into imaginary worlds, our new shows are set in a theater, and Bob and the veggies attempt to tell all their stories as miniature, all-vegetable stage musicals. So the new show has a similar feel to my all-time favorite childhood show, The Muppet Show. This means we get to see what’s going on behind the scenes as Bob tries to wrangle his friends to put on a good show.”

Back to the Bible

Vischer is determined to restore the scriptural focus of the series. Of the 18 new shows, nine will cover the fruit of the Spirit, and the remainder will focus on Bible stories. The first, scheduled for release in October, will be Christmas: God With Us. “I’ve worked hard to add as much spiritual depth to those lessons as I can while still keeping things simple enough for young kids,” Vischer said. “Some of my other projects, like What’s in the Bible? and the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids are more focused on taking kids really deeply into their faith. “Quite often when we teach kids the Bible, we focus only on the stories that are the easiest and most fun to tell, typically involving animals and no one dying. Unfortunately, kids end up with a very limited picture of the Bible — just a few happy stories with no connective tissue. So with What’s in the Bible?, I tried to give kids the big picture. Even the tricky stuff. Because a partial view of the Bible leads to a partial understanding of faith, and that doesn’t do anyone any good at all. My new kid’s Bible is an extension of that. The whole Bible, from creation at the beginning to

the new heaven/new earth at the end, summarized and simplified to make it accessible to kids. Our kids really need to have an understanding of the story they’re in — the entire macro-arc of Scripture. That’s what we’re doing with the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids.”

The Voices Behind VeggieTales: A Peek Behind the Scenes

So how are the VeggieTales voices produced? Vischer explained that unlike the high-tech magic that takes place with animation, the characters’ voices are essentially just a version of his own voice, developed through practice. “Most of the VeggieTales character voices are sped up ever so slightly to make them a little higher and cuter. Other than that, it’s just me messing with my voice, which I’ve been doing since I was a little kid watching Sesame Street and trying to imitate the puppets.” This leads to some humorous situations because people recognize his characters in his voice when he’s talking. “I’ll go somewhere to speak, and I’ll tell my story, trying to be very serious. Afterwards I’ll almost always have someone come up and say, ‘All I could hear was Bob the Tomato!’”

Phil Vischer’s Other Projects

Over the past few years, Phil has developed several projects to help kids internalize biblical principles. They include the following. • JellyTelly is a streaming service offering hundreds of hours of Christian television programming for kids. It features 124 shows and 2,300 episodes. • What’s in the Bible ( is a DVD series featuring Buck Denver, a puppet who teaches the Bible in-depth in 13 episodes. • Galaxy Buck ( is s story, available on DVD or streaming, that emphasizes putting the Bible into practice. The main character, Buck Denver, dreams of carrying God’s love to every corner of the Milky Way. Mission to Sector 9 is a galactic adventure that teaches kids a powerful lesson about trusting God with everything. • Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids: The Gospel in 52 Five-Minute Bible Stories guides readers from Genesis to Revelation, retelling beloved Bible stories and tackling questions like “What is sin?” and “Who is the Trinity?” Each story is vividly illustrated, takes just five minutes to read, and includes a family connection to encourage family Bible study and help readers learn, talk, and pray together! Plus, bonus content connects the dots of each Bible story, making it a family devotional Bible that provides a big picture, applicational view of the biblical narrative.  TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


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The Good News

Two thieves were crucified with Jesus. Both taunted Him, but one stopped when he realized he was guilty. He said to the other thief, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:40 NIV). The thief who was sorry realized that Jesus was God and asked for His forgiveness. Jesus assured him that he was forgiven and that he would join Him in heaven: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). Jesus’ forgiveness was an act of pure mercy because the thief couldn’t do any of the things many people think will bring them eternal life, such as goods works, baptism, confirmation, or joining a church. Jesus made it clear that only He can wash away sin and bring them into a right relationship with God: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). What is your relationship with God? Imagine seeing your life on a movie screen that shows every deed, every word, and every thought of your past. Do you feel confident in your righteousness before God? Or do you want to hide? Like that thief, when we honestly face the ugliness of our sin and our hopeless state, we realize that we can do nothing but plead for Jesus’ mercy. He is eager and waiting to grant it and to remove our heavy burden of guilt and shame: “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Now is the time to turn to Jesus. No matter how bad your sins, if you turn to Him with a sincere change of heart, and ask Him to forgive you, He will wash away your sins and make you a new person. But don’t delay. This is the most important decision of your life. You don’t know how much time you have left. Life is short. Eternity is long. How long? If a single grain of sand is removed from Mt. Everest once every billion years, eternity is just beginning when the last grain of sand disappears. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (Isa. 1:18 NASB).




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INDEX & WEB LISTING ACTS Retirement-Life Communities ......................................... 9

DiViNE Purpose Publishing..........................................................50

Memories in Writing .......................................................................32

Adirondack Editing .........................................................................30

Dorrance Publishing.......................................................................34

Moody Publishers............................................................................43

Adoration Bath Co. ..........................................................................51

EA Books Publishing.......................................................................48

Atherton ..............................................................................................11

Exodus Design...................................................................................34


Beaming Books ................................................................................40

Fortress Press......................................................................................45

Beaufort Books .................................................................................45

Glorystar Satellite Systems ............................................................ 5

Bible Gateway....................................................................................47

Hendrickson Rose Publishing............................................. 35, 49

Carpenter’s Son Publishing..........................................................48

Instant Publisher...............................................................................33

Christianbook ....................................................................................64

Josh McDowell Ministry................................................................51

Christian Editing Services ............................................................33

Joyful Expressions.............................................................................. 5

Color House Graphics ....................................................................34

Judson Press ......................................................................................50

Credo House Publishers................................................................57

Lexham Press......................................................................................49

CrossLink Publishing.......................................................................32

Lamplight Ministries, Inc. .............................................................45

David C. Cook Publishing.........................................................2, 41

Lisa Bell..................................................................................................33

Word Weavers International........................................................34

Deep River Books.............................................................................32

Making Memories Tours................................................................52


Discovery House Publishers.................................................42-43

Mascot Books.....................................................................................51

Zondervan / HarperCollins Christian Publishing...............47

Purpose Driven Tours......................................................................51 Rada Cutlery.......................................................................................11 Redemption Press............................................................................31 The Lockman Foundation............................................................55 Thomas Nelson / HarperCollins Christian Publishing .....46 Today’s Pastor.....................................................................................56 Total Living Network — TLN.......................................................63 Tyndale House Publishers............................................................44 WordCrafts Press...............................................................................48

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 Rebecca Ashbrook Carrell

When Sinners Get Sick

I Rebecca Ashbrook Carrell wakes up listeners throughout Dallas/Fort Worth every morning as the co-host of Mornings With Jeff & Rebecca on 90.9 KCBI. She lives in Flower Mound with her husband and two children.


had just crossed over from rest to sleep when my phone rang. I knew immediately that it was either one of my kids, one of my kids’ schools, or my husband because the Do Not Disturb feature on my phone would catch anyone else and send them to voicemail. Sure enough, my daughter’s number flashed on the screen. Abandoning all hope for a much-needed midday nap, I tapped “answer” and said, “Hey, honey. Are you okay?” In what sounded like a cross between a cough and a croak, my daughter pitifully pleaded for me to pick her up — a nurse-approved decision, since she had a slight fever. I signed her out, hoisted her backpack on my shoulder, and gently led her to the car. The same bug that had taken out a few of her friends had flirted with her all week and finally settled in her chest and her sinuses. She couldn’t have picked a worse time to be sick. 90.9 KCBI, my place of employment for the last nine years, ceases regular programming for a week-and-a-half twice a year to fundraise — typical for a noncommercial radio station — and we were right in the middle of it. This means longer shifts and twice as much talking, leaving me exhausted by the end of each day. On Friday, I planned race to the airport after I got off the air to lead a three-day women’s retreat in Nebraska. I simply couldn’t afford to get sick, so I did what any mom would do. I took her home and gave her some cold medication. I wrapped her up in a blanket, situated her on the couch, and snuggled in beside her. I kissed her feverish forehead and then pulled her into my arms. The next day I got sick. I stayed sick through the remainder of the fundraiser and throughout the weekend in Nebraska. But I didn’t care because that’s what moms do. They don’t run when things get messy and yucky and snotty. They enter in and sit beside their sick children. Just like our Heavenly Father. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (you know, the one from which God commanded them to refrain), they came down with something much worse than an infection. They were immediately consumed by a sin-fection. You might say they were sin-fested with something for which no cure existed. And God did not recoil or run. He pursued them. He questioned them. And, in an act of


oft-overlooked grace, he sent them away from the Garden of Eden to block their access to the Tree of Life. As punishment? No. As protection to keep his children from living forever in their sin-sick state. A casual glance through the gospels shows a Savior who doesn’t shy away from our sin-fested, selfish selves. He touched lepers, dined with hookers, and dallied about with tax-collectors — all things that, according to the religious leaders, should’ve made him as unclean as his questionable company. He didn’t care. Because that’s the kind of Savior he is. You see, God doesn’t look at us in our unloveliness and draw back in horror. He presses in all the more. Our sin-fection so thoroughly corrupted us that the only possible way forward was a death leading to new life. We have that in Christ. Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians and gave them a new framework on death: “So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42–44). Dear Christian, the next time you fall and find yourself covered in the muck of your mistakes, don’t turn away from your Father. He knew you would make a mess. He paid the price on the cross and has already made you clean in Christ. 

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