Today's Christian Living January 2020

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When I Wished Upon a Star • Enduring Joy • Encouragement Resource Guide



Encourage • Equip • Engage

LION LAMB and the



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Animated videos show how all of Scripture points to Jesus


January 2020

Andrew Brunson

How God used a missionary hostage to begin a worldwide prayer movement

CAN’T MISS EVENTS IN 2020 WITH BETH MOORE WORSHIP WITH TRAVIS COTTRELL New Orleans, LA | January 17–18, 2020* Irvine, CA | February 21–22, 2020 San Antonio, TX | April 3–4, 2020 Wilmington, NC | April 24–25, 2020 Rapid City, SD | June 26–27, 2020* Amarillo, TX | July 24–25, 2020* Louisville, KY | August 28–29, 2020*


Wichita, KS | September 19, 2020* (Simulcast location) Des Moines, IA | November 6-7, 2020*

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West Monroe, LA | March 6–7, 2020

Irvine, CA I February 20-21, 2020 Hendersonville (Nashville), TN | November 12–14, 2020

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To register by phone, call 800.254.2022. Events subject to change.

TODAY’S On the Cover: Andrew Brunson, American missionary to Turkey, taken hostage and held for two years before being released in October 2018. Photo courtesy Patrick Robertson


Features 6 Andrew Brunson: Pastor, Hostage Missionary, by Stephanie Rische While Andrew Brunson was imprisoned



in Turkey on false charges, he sometimes wondered if God had abandoned him. But he eventually discovered that the Lord was accomplishing a mighty work through his ordeal.

12 The Bible Project by Pam S. Walker The Bible Project has produced more than 140 short, animated videos that show how all Scripture — from Genesis to Revelation — reveals a unified larger narrative that points to Jesus. 18 When Christian Celebrities Deny the Faith by Tim Bennett Several high-profile Christian leaders have recently recanted their faith. What does this mean for those who follow Jesus? 28 Encouragement Resource Guide Life can be complex and overwhelming, but we have Scripture and other resources to help us through difficult times. You’ll find comfort and direction in our encouragement resource guide. 30 When I Wished Upon a Star by Brandon Lane Phillips, MD, and Jeremy Miller When Growing Pains fan Brandon Lane Phillips met actor Jeremy Miller on set, the two had no idea that God had arranged for their lives to cross paths again years later in an amazing turn of events. 34 The Lion and the Lamb by Dan Brownell Artist Sally Hale sought to work out her questions about suffering and evil through a painting of Aslan the lion. After she finished, she was stunned to discover a figure in the painting that brought her great comfort.



10 Living in Wisdom Enduring Joy

4 15 25 33 38 42 44

16 Ask Dr. Walt The Best Diets 22 Live Right Now Dealing With Compulsion, Control, and Fear 24 Turning Point The Great Redeemer Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

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

26 Dave Says Money Management Strategies 40

Persecution Report Record Bombings in Sri Lanka Shake Christian Community

46 Grace Notes Sanctified Through Motherhood




Truth Is Eternal and Unchanging


ur country is engaged in a culture war that’s being fought over the nature of truth and who has the right to define it. But truth isn’t created or defined by citizens, politicians, or political parties. Truth exists independently of our opinions and stands in judgment of them, not the other way around. Just as the law of gravity is unaffected by our opinion, so are the rest of God’s laws. Truth is embodied by God and is revealed in His written Word and in His Son, Jesus Christ. When we ignore or rebel against His truth — which originates in His divine nature — we do so to our own peril. Because Jesus proclaimed and lived out truth so perfectly, He changed the world forever and provided mankind the opportunity to establish a living relationship with Him. The classic poem “One Solitary Life” summarizes the impact of Jesus’ life, which is the perfect fulfillment of truth:

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village, The child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, Where he worked in a carpenter shop Until he was thirty.

Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles From the place where he was born. He did none of the things One usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three When the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies. And went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross Between two thieves. While he was dying, His executioners gambled for his clothing, The only property he had on Earth. When he was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave Through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, And today he is the central figure Of the human race, And the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, All the navies that ever sailed, All the parliament that ever sat, All the kings that ever reigned, Put together have not affected The life of man on Earth As much as that One Solitary Life. —Dr James Allen Francis

Because Jesus lives and His truth is rock-solid and unchanging, we can live in peace when the storms rage around us. Merry Christmas! 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. US subscriptions 1-year $19.95; Canada subscriptions 1-year $42.95 (US funds); all other countries 1-year $54.95 (US funds). 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.



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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 Graphic Designers Bill Kuffel Elizabeth Krogwold 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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Andrew Brunson: Pastor, Missionary, Hostage How His Detention in a Turkish Prison Sparked a Worldwide Prayer Movement

By Stephanie Rische


he morning started out like most other days for Pastor Andrew Brunson. He was in his condo in Izmir, Turkey, where he and his wife, Norine, had lived for the past 23 years. This is where they had raised their children. This is where they had planted churches and reached out to refugees. This is the place God had called them to. But that morning while he was shaving, Andrew felt like God had a strange message for him: It’s time to come home. He didn’t know what that meant. After all, Turkey was their home. Was God warning him that his time on earth was nearing an end? A few days later, Andrew and Norine arrived home to find a notice on their door, instructing them to report to the police station. They assumed this was the approval they had been waiting for — the one that would grant them permanent resident status. Instead, to their shock, they were placed under arrest. 6



Photo courtesy Gabi Satola, Wheaton College

Behind the Bars of a Turkish Prison

It took several weeks to unravel the reason for their arrest, but eventually Andrew learned he had been falsely accused of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government. It didn’t seem to matter that there was no evidence implicating him or that he and his family had devoted their lives to serving the Turkish people. At first Andrew and Norine were held in prison together, but after two weeks, Norine was released. Norine remained in Turkey and immediately began to rally prayer support from other believers. Andrew, meanwhile, was placed in solitary confinement. “It was just me and a bed,” he explained. “There wasn’t even a chair.” But the physical challenges weren’t the worst part. Andrew bore the mental and emotional anguish of facing life in prison — in a country increasingly hostile to Christianity and a legal system where he was being used as a political pawn. “I didn’t know if I would see my family again,” Andrew said. “I felt overwhelming anxiety, fear, and grief.” Some weeks he was allowed a half-hour visit with his wife, but even that was through thick glass, over a telephone. At first he had a sense of God’s presence, but as the days wore on, Andrew faced perhaps the most difficult part of his imprisonment: God went silent. “Every way I had experienced Him in the past, I could no longer perceive Him. When I cried out to Him, it felt like calling to a wall.” Andrew hadn’t anticipated going to prison for his faith. But perhaps the bigger surprise was feeling abandoned by God. “I didn’t have a sense of His strength and joy the way I expected to, the way I’d read about in the biographies of spiritual heroes. Why, I wondered, in my darkest time, did I not have a sense of His presence?” Eventually Andrew was transferred to another prison. There he was crammed into a cell designed for eight prisoners that was packed with 21. “During that first year in prison, I just wanted to go to heaven. I kept thinking that heaven would be better than being in a Turkish prison indefinitely.”

in Turkey has changed in the past 20 years,” Andrew said. “It was Muslim then, and it’s still Muslim. Traditionally it’s been a place where people aren’t very responsive to the gospel.” But that trend has started to change in recent years. “The current government is becoming more and more repressive, and it’s doing so in the name of Islam. That’s prompting people to ask questions they wouldn’t have asked in the past.” According to the Brunsons, more people have started coming into churches, asking about Jesus. Many of them say, ‘I don’t know what I am, but I’m no longer Muslim.’” As openness to Christianity has grown, however, so has opposition from the Turkish government. Andrew always knew persecution was a possibility. But he wasn’t prepared for the toll prison would take on him — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

“Do You Really Love Me?”

“I thought I was stronger than I actually was,” Andrew said. “After all, I’d been a Christian for a long time and I was a seasoned missionary. I’d been at risk a number of times and persevered through difficulties. I think part of my struggle in prison was living with the uncertainty.” He didn’t know how long he would be in prison — or if he would be released at all. “I also experienced a high degree of spiritual warfare — I was constantly under attack,” he said. “In hindsight, I believe that was due to how much God was doing behind the scenes. But I couldn’t see that at the time.” Below: Photo courtesy Josh and Alexa Adams, Wheaton College

The Unexpected Call to Turkey

It had never been Andrew’s dream to go to Turkey. “Norine and I knew we wanted to be missionaries, and we were headed to the Arab world,” Andrew said. “Then our denomination asked us to go to Turkey instead.” As the Brunsons learned more about Turkey, they discovered that it’s one of the least evangelized countries in the world. “We went to Turkey with no expectations,” Andrew said. “But over the years, God grew in us a deep love for the people there.” Andrew and Norine were aware of the risks that came with being a Christian in a Muslim-majority country, especially as the government started to crack down on religious minorities. “The climate TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


When Andrew was forced to return to his solitary cell, he reached another breaking point. “I kept asking God why. As I was weeping in my cell, I opened my mouth to cry out to God. To my surprise, the words that came out were ‘I love you, Jesus.’ That moment felt like such a gift from God — it showed me what was really in my heart toward Him. Even in my moments of weakness — when I faced doubts, when I was tempted to end my life, when I couldn’t sense God — I still loved Him.” Andrew saw that proclamation as a turning point. “It was never God’s love or faithfulness that was on trial. I had been asking God all these questions, but it turned out that He had questions for me. Andrew, are you going to be loyal? Do you really love Me? It was my love that was being put to the test, not His.”

Preparing for a Great Harvest

After two years in prison, Andrew was released and returned to the United States. From a political perspective, one might assume the cause for his release was the intense economic pressure put on Turkey by the U.S. government, largely in the form of sanctions and tariffs. But as thankful as Andrew is for the U.S. government’s intervention, he believes there was a bigger story unfolding. “Ultimately, my release was the result of a prayer movement. By the time I was let go, there were millions of people praying all around


the world. At the right time, when I’d finished my assignment from the Lord in prison, He used people’s prayers to prompt the government’s actions.” Ten years ago, Andrew felt like God was telling him, “Prepare for a great harvest that’s coming to Turkey — a great move of God.” When he first went to prison, he thought his assignment was cut short. But now he can see that his time in prison was actually part of fulfilling that assignment. God used his experience to gather millions of people around the world to pray. The Brunsons believe that his imprisonment was part of the preparation for the harvest God has in store. “I rode a wave of prayer out of Turkey,” Andrew said. “But when I left, a tsunami of prayer crashed into Turkey.” Andrew’s book, God’s Hostage, tells the whole story of his imprisonment, his brokenness, and his eventual freedom. You can find out more at  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.


As foreign as it may seem to those living in the West, it’s the norm for Christians to be persecuted. In the United States, we have been spared that so far, and as a result, many people assume it won’t happen here. My expectation is that it will become increasingly difficult in our own country to stand publicly for Jesus and the truth the Bible teaches. As I see it, there are more and more attempts to marginalize and silence American Christians. The political, business, and media arenas are becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. We need to be aware that persecution is a possibility — that needs to be part of our mindset. If we don’t think it can happen to us, we will become overwhelmed when persecution hits and be more likely to compromise or run away in fear. The truth is that standing for Jesus may require paying a price. We need to determine ahead of time that He’s worth it and that we will be loyal to Him. It’s much more difficult to acquire that kind of perspective in the midst of suffering. We need to develop an intimacy with God now. We need to love Him and nurture our relationship with Him. If we love Him, we’re willing to pay the price. We need to gain an eternal perspective — to see from the viewpoint of heaven. What other people say about us doesn’t begin to compare with what God says about us. What really matters is that we’re going to stand before God someday.




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By Jerry and Shirley Rose

Enduring Joy

D 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

uring the holiday season, we have heard a lot about “joy” and “peace.” Joy to the world, peace on earth, goodwill to men.” However, according to national statistics, the season is less than joyful for many people. I have to believe that sadly, that includes many Christians as well. Even those who claim to know Christ personally fall prey to dissatisfaction, disappointment, and even depression. Perhaps part of the problem is the common cultural understanding of the word joy. Merriam Webster’s dictionary offers this remarkably shallow definition: “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” The inference is that joy depends completely on materialist values. While there is nothing wrong with feeling good, having success or good fortune, or getting something we’ve desired, that joy is temporal and fleeting. I felt great when I finally broke 90 on the golf course a few weeks ago. But the feeling lasted only until my next round of 97. Then it was disappointment and frustration all over again. Yes, the common perception of joy is rather like being strapped to an emotional rollercoaster for a wild and miserable ride. Real joy is something deeper, more powerful, and abiding. The angels experienced far more than fleeting, temporal joy when God announced to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10 NIV). God wants for His children the lasting joy that remains constant regardless of circumstances. You may wonder how that can that be. At best, life offers endless challenges and seasons of struggle and sadness. Yet joy is a part of the priceless legacy Jesus left us before He departed this earth. In John 14–16, Jesus is having a final, bittersweet conversation with His faithful friends. He knew that soon Judas would arrive to betray Him and wanted to give the others reassuring words of encouragement and promise. “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart…So don’t be troubled or afraid” (14:27 NLT). “These things I have spoken to you, that my


joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11 NKJV). Jesus faced an unimaginably painful death on the cross, but He knew the resurrection was just around the corner. The best was yet to come. The disciples, who were also facing persecution and death, needed to know God had provided for their eternal destiny. Jesus handed them several profound, lifechanging gifts: peace, joy, a promise of answered prayers, a home in heaven, and the Holy Spirit. The gift of joy must be understood in the context of its partner: peace. It feels almost impossible to rejoice when we’re in physical pain, experience betrayal, or lose a loved one. Yet, we can have peace. The two go hand-in-hand. Though their meanings are slightly different, we often use the words interchangeably. My wife shared with me one of her favorite quotes: “Peace is joy sleeping, but joy is peace dancing.” This perfectly describes the difference between the two. On our worst days, our joy may be sleeping, but “peace of mind and heart” will keep us until our joy awakes. I’m so grateful for both of these gifts that can keep our emotional ship upright in the most turbulent storms of life. I like the definition of joy in Theopedia much better than Mr. Webster’s: “Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope.” When Shirley experienced a traumatic, profound injury a few months ago, she was literally a hair’s breadth away from death or paralysis. Yet her peace never wavered. In that ICU room hundreds of miles from home, we weren’t celebrating. In the challenging weeks that followed, it wasn’t party time. Yet she demonstrated an unwavering peace, the “settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope.” Rick Warren says it well: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” This is the rock-solid foundation that defines the Christian life. If you’re struggling to find joy or even peace in your current situation, give God control and determine to praise Him anyway. Then wait patiently for the dancing. 

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Bringing God’s Unified Story to Life through Animated Videos


By Pam S. Walker

hen Bible scholar Tim Mackie and tech-savvy storyteller Jon Collins combined passions, they developed a visually stimulating narrative of God’s story from Genesis to Revelation delivered in short animated videos that all point to Jesus. What started out as two videos posted online grew into The Bible Project, a non-profit animation studio that has produced over 140 videos and 200 podcasts, all made available for free. Over the past five years, they’ve been viewed more than 100 million times across various media channels in more than 200 countries and have over a million subscribers worldwide. Tim and Jon not only wanted to make the biblical story accessible to everyone everywhere but had a “desire to help people understand the context of the Scriptures and to not just pull a single verse out but to understand the larger narrative from Genesis all the way to Revelation. They wanted to help show people that the Scriptures are one big epic narrative that leads to Jesus,” said Mike McDonald, The Bible Project’s director of strategic relationships.

The Bible as One Unified Story That Leads to Jesus

The Bible Project’s mission is to “help the whole world see the Bible as one unified story that leads to Jesus.” The vast video library is organized by categories: Series, Themes, Word Studies, Old Testament, and New Testament. The videos include a LukeActs miniseries, a full series on the Torah, wisdom, spiritual beings, and how to read the Bible. Themed videos include 18 topics such as God, Holy Spirit, Generosity, Heaven and Earth, and Holiness. Last summer, the team released its first digital devotional for busy moms. Videos on word 12



studies help viewers explore key biblical words in Hebrew and Greek to better understand the biblical language. Viewers can also download a yearly Bible reading plan and watch daily videos that correspond to the daily reading plan. From the start, The Bible Project has been committed to helping people understand the entire Bible and see how each book fits into the larger story, beginning in Genesis. “Too often, we grab verses or chapters or even books out of context and we don’t think we need the Old Testament. So we only read the New Testament, or we only read the words of Jesus, and nothing else,” McDonald said. “It’s impossible to understand who Jesus is, and who the church is, and who God is, if you don’t understand the beginning. And so, you’ll notice that we so often bring most of our things back to the beginning, back to the Garden.” Through the teachings of the Old Testament videos, viewers gain knowledge

about the origin of the Old Testament, how Jesus engaged with the Scriptures as a collection of scrolls known as the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, and how Genesis is the starting point of the whole epic narrative that leads to Jesus. “Jesus would teach from the Hebrew Scriptures and use them as His talking points. As His followers, we need to understand our Rabbi, our teacher, and need to understand where His teachings come from, and why they’re there,” McDonald said.

Photos courtesy The Bible Project



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The New Testament videos show how the New Testament is connected to the Old Testament and further supports how the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.

Taking a Deeper Dive Into God’s Word

According to McDonald, The Bible Project receives approximately 250,000 views a day from individuals, churches, and organizations that are watching the videos to help understand the Bible more. Many people are visual learners, and the responses the team has received from people around the world backs that up. This is an alternate way for people to learn, he said. “They’re seeing it visually, it’s helping with memory, it’s helping them understand the context, and it’s giving them a broader understanding of what they are about to read,” he added. The videos are not meant as a substitute, but as an encouragement, McDonald explained. “When you watch the video, you actually want to dive deeper into reading that text, whether it’s an TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


the impact they’ve made on her daughter. “Each time I go through these videos, I’m amazed by the team’s creativity in making the subject matter so clear and concise. It not only helps me, but also my six-year-old, who loves to watch them.” The organization has also received numerous testimonies of people coming to faith in Christ through watching the videos, which led them to picking up a Bible and actually experiencing who Jesus is in the midst of these stories.

Crowdfunding for His Glory

overview video, a specific book, or one of our theme videos that talks through bigger themes like justice, atonement, the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, and all these bigger themes that we see woven through the entire Bible.”

Many Uses for Multiple Ages

Churches use The Bible Project’s resources for small group study guides, in Sunday school classes, and for topical and thematic teachings in new member classes. Organizations such as Young Life and Campus Crusade are using their materials for discipleship. Christian leaders such as Francis Chan have embraced and endorsed the animated videos, even from their early days. McDonald said that Chan had reached out to the organization, stating that “he had learned more in five minutes of watching their video than he did in a year in seminary.” “Audiences of all ages from as young as six, all the way up to 90 are watching the videos,” said McDonald. “I have story after story of these nine-year-olds who are just so excited to come home and watch a Bible project video, which is really cool,” he said. “But then I’ve also got theology professors from Liberty University who are watching the videos and saying that they’re a great way to teach their masters or doctorate level theology students.” Parents also love using the videos at home with their children. One parent, Angel Antony, shared the following about

From the time they posted the first two videos online for free, Tim and Jon knew that making them available at no cost would be the best way to see their vision come to fruition. But they also knew they would need additional support if they were to continue producing quality material. Through the generosity of their patrons, McDonald stated that The Bible Project is at a point where they can fund the entire studio, produce 20 videos a year, and translate them into 54 different languages, thanks to the funds that people donate monthly. McDonald said he often tells people that the videos aren’t free, as they do cost a lot of money to make. It’s because of the generosity of their patrons that they can give them away for free on their behalf. “We have a library of 140 videos that are essentially like a $20 million library that we’re saying, ‘Hey, just use it.’ You don’t have to pay to sign up for a class. You don’t have to ask permission to share. You can use them in your church context, your ministry setting, or your family devotional. We just want people to experience the Bible in that way,” McDonald explained. Pam S. Walker is the former national editor of Answers magazine, a publication of Answers in Genesis, and is a freelance writer living in the Cincinnati area, where she writes for various Christian publications.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRONOLOGICAL TEACHING Just as The Bible Project teaches through their videos that the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus, starting with Genesis, other organizations such as Ethnos360 (formerly New Tribes Mission) have emphasized the importance of Genesis and chronologically teaching in their evangelism and missionary training and have seen much success. In the organization’s early years, their missionaries had started their translation or preaching efforts with the New Testament gospels, but found conversions among unreached people groups to be short-lived. But when they started telling the gospel from the Creation account of Genesis, and teaching the Bible chronologically, they saw lives being transformed. 14



Using their curriculum, Firm Foundations: Creation to Christ, missionaries teach from the beginning in Genesis, which presents a foundation for understanding Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection. Since its release in 1991, the curriculum has been taught on every continent and translated into many different languages. This Firm Foundations: Creation to Christ curriculum includes five teacher’s volumes on the following: Book 1: Chronological Teaching: Why and How Book 2: Lessons 1–12: Creation – Cain and Abel Book 3: Lessons 13–24: The Flood – Ten Commandments Book 4: Lessons 25–36: The Tabernacle – Plots against Jesus Book 5: Lessons 37–48: Jesus calms the storm – Ascension For more information, visit

Follow “The Landing” Blog Connect with Today’s Christian Living through our blog “The Landing.” Each post by 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” ( Following is one of her recent posts.

Quietly Storming Heaven

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Fervent 2.0, a night of worship in Ashburn, Virginia, with Priscilla Shirer and her brother Anthony Evans. While it was exciting to not only meet and interact with someone who I deeply respect and admire in ministry, I was once again moved at how God revealed Himself in many ways throughout the night. One of those ways was when Priscilla prompted us all to “storm heaven” with fervent prayers for one another.

One Heart, Two Requests

In addition to the prayer that took place right then, we were all prompted to fill out a prayer request card and drop it in a basket near the stage. Those baskets were then moved to the exits of the arena, where we were all instructed to take someone else’s card and pray “fervently” for their specific prayer request for the next seven days. As I was leaving, the basket near my exit had been emptied. Without giving it much thought, I made my way through the thousands of other women toward another exit. I was finally able to locate another basket that still had some cards. I took a breath, asked God to lead my hand, and that’s when I found Michele’s request. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t meant to find a card in that first basket near my exit because I was supposed to find Michele’s in the other one. We serve a mighty God who has prepared my heart to know how to pray for this sister. He’s so big, so purposeful in everything He does, that He saw us both there. He saw our hearts and arranged our divine appointment. So Michele, I want you to know that I’m specifically praying for you. I’m going to

write this next part to you and trust Him to put it in front of you somehow.

For You, His Confirmation

Michele, we share the same name. My middle name is your first name, and it’s spelled the same way — with one “l” instead of the typical two. My heart is also sometimes heavy in not knowing how to pray for my sons, and how to be the mom that God has called me to be for them. The prayer request you wrote for you and your husband aligns with the same heart I have for my husband. Some of the words that you used in your request were the very same words my husband and I used in our wedding vows. Michele, for three hours, we not only sat in the same room together, but we stormed heaven together, not knowing that we were being aligned for more than just one night. We have the same prayer request. The cry of your heart is also the cry of my heart. And I’m honored to walk with you through this. God saw us both, sister. And if you’re out there and He wants you to hear it and have that confirmation just once more, then, here it is. I’m quietly storming heaven for you. And if it’s again in the same room or on the other side of this life, I’m going to be anticipating fervently praising Him for the victory, once more together with you. 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 author of Fire Women: Sexual Purity & Submission for the Passionate Woman, as well as the coauthor and editor of DiscipleTrip by Dr. Joey Cook. Most importantly, she is wife to Geoff and mom to three godly men-intraining. 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 Connect with Joanna at and

When the World Turns,

God Remains Faithful

God’s Hostage is the incredible true story of missionary and pastor Andrew Brunson and his imprisonment, his brokenness, and his eventual freedom. Anyone with a heart for missions will love this tension-laden and faith-laced book. ANDREW BRUNSON is an American pastor. He holds a PhD in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Andrew and his wife, Norine, were involved in starting churches, training believers, aiding refugees, and operating a house of prayer in Turkey for twenty-three years until they were falsely accused of terrorism in October 2016. Following this, Andrew was held for two years in Turkish prisons. Due to a worldwide prayer movement and significant political pressure from the US government, he was finally sentenced to time served and dramatically released in October 2018.

B Available wherever books and ebooks are sold.




Eat Like a Greek!

Dear Dr. Walt, As we head for New Year’s, folks always start thinking about weight loss. What’s the best diet overall? Do any of them really work? —Overweight in Oklahoma 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@


Dear Weighty, Everyone has an opinion, but what do the experts say? My favorite answer to this question comes from the annual ratings published each year in U.S. News and World Report. The editors convene “a panel of food and health experts to rank [dozens of] diets on a variety of measures” such as “the diet’s ability to help a person lose weight in the short and long term.” So, what do the experts say is the best? What were the best diets? In 2019 (, the “Best Diets Overall” and “The Best Diets for Healthy Eating” were the Mediterranean Diet, followed by the DASH Diet, and the Flexitarian Diet. In “The Easiest Diet to Follow,” the Mediterranean Diet was tops, followed by a second-place tie between the Flexitarian and Weight Watchers diets. The best three diets for weight loss were, in order: the WW (Weight Watchers) Diet, followed by a second-place tie between the Volumetrics Diet, and the Flexitarian Diet. For the best “Heart-Healthy Diets,” the Mediterranean Diet and the Ornish Diet tied for first, followed by the DASH Diet. In the “Best Plant-Based Diet” category, the experts chose, in this order, the Mediterranean Diet, the Flexitarian Diet, with the Nordic and Ornish diets in a third-place tie. In the “Best Commercial Diet Plans,” the winners were the WW (Weight Watchers) Diet, the Jenny Craig Diet, and the Nutritarian diet. Quite frankly, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these. My current favorite nutrition plan to recommend is the Mediterranean Diet, followed closely by the Flexitarian and DASH diets. All three emphasize consuming lots of fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fatty foods like fish, nuts, and olive oil. The Mediterranean Diet is based on the general belief


By Walt Larimore, MD

that the people in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less chronic disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer than most Americans. There isn’t a specific Mediterranean diet. Italians eat differently from Greeks, who eat differently from the Spanish. But folks in these countries have a not-so-surprising secret: a lifestyle that is active combined with a diet low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, while high in produce, nuts, and other healthful foods. The American Heart Association (AHA) says, “Mediterranean-style diets are often close to our dietary recommendations, but they don’t follow them exactly. In general, the diets of Mediterranean peoples contain a relatively high percentage of calories from fat. This is thought to contribute to the increasing obesity in these countries, which is becoming a concern” ( The 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines say, “There are many ways to consume a healthy eating pattern, and the evidence to support multiple approaches has expanded over time. The Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern, which were developed by modifying the Healthy US-Style Eating Pattern, are two examples of healthy eating patterns individuals may choose based on personal preference.” You can find more on these at In fact, in a three-month randomized trial of 100 adults, two eating plans — (1) a vegetarian diet that included eggs and dairy and (2) the Mediterranean diet — were shown to be equally effective in reducing body weight, body mass index (BMI), and fat mass. The vegetarian diet was better lowering LDL (the “bad” or “lethal” cholesterol) and the Mediterranean better at lowering triglyceride levels; so, it was concluded, both protected heart health equally (

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, “the vast majority of Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables.” The CDC reported only about one in 10 Americans eat the daily recommended amount of fruit, while less than 9% ate the daily recommended amount of vegetables ( According to the Texas Heart Institute, “Working with the Harvard School of Public Health, Oldways, a nonprofit food think tank in Boston, has developed a consumer-friendly Mediterranean diet pyramid that emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; and saving sweets and red meat for special occasions” ( And a 2018 study reported, “People who followed this type of [Mediterranean] diet had 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the course of 12 years” ( You can find additional guidance at ( For more information about these healthful diet plans, including their health and nutrition effects, lots of recipes, dos and don’ts, and an expert review on each, here are some websites (in alphabetical order): 1. DASH Diet: 2. Flexitarian Diet: 3. Jenny Craig Diet: 4. Mediterranean Diet: 5. Ornish Diet: 6. Volumetrics Diet: 7. Weight Watcher’s Diet: What were the lowest-ranking diets? The panel’s bottom ten rankings, from lowest up, were: the Dukan Diet (#41), Body Reset Diet (#40), the Keto Diet tied with the Whole30 Diet (#38), the Atkins Diet (#37), Fast Diet, Paleo Diet, Raw Food Diet, Supercharged Hormone Diet (tied for #33), and the Alkaline Diet (#32). In January 2020, U.S. News and World Report will release its newest diet recommendations. Keep an eye out for them. But no matter which healthful nutrition plan you choose, combine it with staying physically active and the other tips you’ll learn in my book Fit over 50, and you’ll be on your way to better health.

Don’t Eat Like a Southerner!

Dear Dr. Walt, Those of us who live in Mississippi are told our diets are terrible. I kinda like the food down here and think the food is delicious. Any thoughts? —Marveling in Mississippi

Dear Hushpuppies Lover,

In my most recent book, Fit over 50: Make Simple Choices Today for a Healthier, Happier You, Dr. Philip Bishop and I wrote, “Let us suggest what may be the worst diet in America. (Know that we say this as thoroughly Southern boys! I’m from Louisiana and Phil’s from Alabama.) The most damaging diet, accord-

ing to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is the “Southern-Style Diet” — described as including “fried food, cheesy casseroles, and sweet, sweet tea,” as well as “high amounts of salt, sugar, and fat.” In fact, the authors describe the diet as “deadly, especially to African-Americans,” by increasing “blood pressure up to killer levels” ( Another 2019 study involved more than 100,000 women and showed that frequent consumption of fried foods, especially fried chicken and fried fish/shellfish, was associated with a higher risk of premature mortality — especially from cardiovascular causes ( How did my wife, Barb, and I change our Southern diet cravings? Knowing that the average family eats about 10 different dinners a month, we decided to keep a daily diary of what we ate for dinner. At the end of three months, we discovered we had eaten nine different dinners three of more times together. Barb picked up a couple of cookbooks that were chock-full of recipes for nutritious, healthy, and good tasting food. During the next three months we alternated picking recipes to try. Of the 30 or so we tried, we absolutely loved 12 of them. These 12 healthy recipes now make up the core of our family dinners. Not only do Barb and I love these delicious and healthy meals, so do our children, grandchildren, and friends.

Healthful Nutrition for Children Dear Dr. Walt,

My husband and I were reading about the obesity epidemic in America and were disheartened at just how many children are obese. What recommendations do you have for those of us with young children or grandchildren? —Feeding Kids in Kansas

Dear Protector of Progeny,

Most of the nutrition plans I mention in my first Q&A in this column are good for children. However, there’s a resource I wrote for Florida Hospital in Orlando (now AdventHealth Florida) that’s still remarkably timely. It’s titled, “SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat.” It has an 8-week and 16-week family health plan that included choices for families to make together about nutrition, physical activity, sleep, screen time, etc. In a small study that we did testing this plan, almost all of the parents and children improved their health together. You can find used copies of the book at multiple sites on the Internet. Also, the 8-week and 16-week family health plans are available at no cost at Just scroll to the bottom of the home page and look under “Health Tools for Parents.” There’s no charge for either.  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






ast summer, the Christian world was shaken by the news that two Christian celebrities — Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson — had renounced their faith in Jesus. Harris achieved national attention after he wrote the best-selling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, when he was only 21. He later served as lead pastor of the megachurch Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, from 2004 to 2015. Sampson, on the other hand, joined Hillsong, the internationally known worship group from Australia, at only 16. Later he wrote and recorded popular worship songs that are still sung in churches around the world today.

A New Level of Scandal

While scandals involving Christian celebrities over money and sex isn’t new (such as those surrounding Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard), high-profile Christian leaders turning from the faith because of unbelief is unchartered territory. Rank and file Christians are understandably upset, wondering how someone who has preached the Word of God for decades or someone who was in the vanguard of contemporary worship music, could simply walk away from God. After all, Jesus clearly stated that denying Him has consequences: “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But who18



ever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God” (Luke 12: 8–9 NIV). While Sampson’s unraveling faith is less documented (he first posted on Instagram that he was “genuinely losing his faith” and then in a following one gushed that he loved Christians but no longer considered himself one of them). Harris, on the other hand, gradually revealed his fall in stages through his official online statements and interviews in the media. First, he questioned what he wrote in some of his books, including I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Next, he was interviewed in the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, where he listened to mainly negative reader feedback on the book. Then he removed that book and two others from the marketplace. Following this, he announced his separation from his wife of 21 years and then divorced her. In his next public announcement, he admitted that he had fallen away from his faith in Christ: “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” Finally, to illustrate his new position, Harris officially apologized to the LGBTQ community and joined them in a gay pride march.

Harris’s Revealing Interview

Not long before Harris publicly announced his abandonment of Christianity, Harris did an interview with Sandi Villarreal for Sojourners magazine (July 13, 2019). In the interview, Villarreal asked Harris if, in reconsidering his views on premarital sex and homosexuality, he was actually ditching Christianity entirely. Harris responded, “In a way it’s almost easier for me to contemplate throwing out all of Christianity than it is to keeping Christianity and adapting it in these different ways.’” Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an article* about this interview. He said: “Many people have obviously wondered, ‘How did this [Harris’s worldview conflict] come out of the blue?’ But it didn’t really come out of the blue. There had been troubling signs for some time indicating that Joshua Harris was in a very significant worldview and spiritual transition…In this interview, very interestingly, Joshua Harris indicates the extent to which he has separated, not just from the argument of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but from the superstructure of biblical Christianity and, most particularly, its revealed sexual ethic.” Mohler concluded from Harris’s statements that “Joshua Harris understands that there are two absolutely opposed worldviews and they are basically not reconcilable. There’s no reconciliation possible between the biblical worldview and the modern secular worldview.”

Responses From Other Christians

Other Christian leaders have also responded to Harris’s and Sampson’s denial of the faith — some sympathetic and pleading in nature while others are more exhortative. Larry Tomczak, pastor of Christ the King Church in Atlanta, posted “A Personal Appeal to My Friend Joshua Harris” on YouTube where he recounts the history of his friendship with Harris and entreats him to reconsider his position. Franklin Graham, on the other hand, took a harder line on The Todd Starnes Radio Show when he was asked about what Harris and Sampson did. Graham said: “They’re in a very dangerous place to be out from under God’s protection. For whatever reason they have decided they’re going to turn their back on God and God’s standards.” Graham went on to say, “(God) warns churches that turn their back on Him and these young men who have renounced their faith have made it so public,” he said. “Why did they make it so public? I think they just want publicity. Otherwise, why didn’t they just leave their faith and just be quiet about it?” John Cooper, lead singer for the Christian rock group Skillet, also expressed his disappointment and anger with Harris and Sampson on Facebook: “…I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, ‘I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led


Unfortunately, because of the defection of two high-profile Christian celebrities and other negative reporting about the state of Christianity in general, one might assume that Christianity as a whole is faltering. But according to Glenn T. Stanton, author of The Myth of the Dying Church (2019), and other legitimate research organizations on the topic — both secular and Christian — this idea is flatly mistaken. Stanton says that liberal, mainline churches — those allowing worldly values to infiltrate into the church — are the ones losing members, not the theologically conservative ones faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing biblical truths and orthodox theology. Stanton also confronts the widely accepted idea that the youth are “leaving the church in droves.” He cites studies that show that more young adults attend biblically faithful churches today than 50 years ago. Mary Jo Sharp is a former atheist and author of Why I Still Believe: A Former Atheist’s Reckoning with the Bad Reputation Christians Give A Good God (2019). Unlike Harris and Sampson, whose faith failed under pressure and testing, Sharp explained in a telephone interview how the “deconstructing” of her faith actually strengthened it. “My problems after I became a Christian,” she said, “were the patterns I was seeing in the church of hypocrisy, selfishness, and judgmentalism…I began to doubt based on my hurtful church experiences and then it moved into questioning everything I believed. At one point, I even hoped the atheists’ arguments would be smarter and sleeker so I could just drop Christianity and walk away. As I got deeper and deeper into the research, however, I realized that the atheistic worldview wasn’t robust enough for me to move into it. I just could not commit to a universe, at base, that has no good or evil, no intentionality, no purpose, and no meaning.” Sharp has a MA in Apologetics from Biola University and is an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She founded the apologetics ministry Confident Christianity and is also a guest lecturer with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Mary Jo Sharp’s story echoes that of Lee Strobel, a former award-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who turned from atheism to Christianity after a two-year search for truth. He eventually became a pastor, leading Christian author and speaker, accomplished apologist, and like Sharp, has taught apologetics at Houston Baptist University. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



Christians know that belief affects behavior. That’s why reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible is so important. For example, 2 Timothy 3:1617 (NIV) says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” But behavior also affects belief. Our sin nature tempts us to adjust our beliefs and values so we can sin without being convicted. When we suppress and dull our conscience long enough, we can develop a seared conscience. Romans chapters 1 and 2 discuss the tragic consequences of this. When our conscience is in conflict with our desires or behavior, we develop what’s known as “cognitive dissonance.” The conflict makes us uncomfortable, so we’re forced to choose how to relieve that discomfort. Either we obey God’s guidance, or we change our beliefs to fit our desires. Changing beliefs is common among those who have professed faith in Christ, but are living in sin. They change long-held beliefs and adopt unbiblical doctrines that allow their sin. When leaders announce a significant change in beliefs to adopt unorthodox doctrines, that’s a red flag. Harris’s change in beliefs seems to mirror this very pattern, which Dr. Mohler points out in his article. generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it…therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people into my next truth.’ I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?” Cooper went on to write that Harris and Sampson were placing too much faith in their feelings as opposed to the Word of God. (Both Harris and Sampson had claimed that they felt happier and freer after renouncing their faith.) Cooper wrote: “It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.” 20



What Does the Bible Say?

Although it is good to get input from Christian leaders, the best place to get insight regarding “falling away” is from the Bible itself, which speaks directly to the subject. The book of Hebrews speaks of the deceitfulness of sin and unbelief. Hebrews 3:12–15 (NIV) says: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first. As it has been said: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion.’ ” The gospel of Matthew speaks of “trouble” or “persecution because of the word” causing some to fall away. “But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (Matt. 13:21 NIV). In John 15, Jesus tells His disciples plainly that they’ll be hated by the world like He was because they’re His disciples (John 15:18–25). John 16:1 states: “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away” (NIV). In other words, the world’s hatred can cause us to fall away if we don’t understand that it is part of discipleship. Jesus also said this in Matthew 24:9–13: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Dr. Mohler’s last paragraph in his article regarding all of the hubbub in the press about Joshua Harris — which could also apply to Marty Sampson — bears repeating. Mohler wrote that the falling away of these leaders “should lead us to a deeper understanding of the gospel and exultation of the gospel of Christ and simultaneously, an introspection concerning our biblical fidelity and the depth of our commitment to Christ and to biblical Christianity. But this heartbreaking headline also reminds us that we can place our trust in no sinful human being, but in Christ alone, the one who alone is worthy of our trust.” *“The Tragedy of Joshua Harris: Sobering Thoughts for Evangelicals,”, Aug. 1, 2019. Tim Bennett is an award-winning author and regular contributor to His novel, Runaways, is a suspense story based on his own life and experiences in France where he worked for the Christian organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) for 10 years. Bennett’s recent eBook, To Uber or Not to Uber, can be downloaded from Amazon.

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Fighting an Eating Disorder

Q. I’ve been struggling with my body im-

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).

age as long as I can remember. I’ve always been unhappy about my looks. I’m too fat and too tall. Then I read that tall girls could wear clothes better than short girls and that helped me think differently about my height. But no matter what I do I can never seem to keep the weight off. I’m 51 and I have tried just about every diet around. I started taking diet pills when I was 14 but had to stop for health reasons and the fat took over. I hate looking at myself in the mirror. My family and friends say I’m too small for my height and that I should stop dieting, but I know they say that to make me feel better. When I’m with them, I eat then throw up as soon as I can to stop them from worrying about me. The problem is that I’ve started eating big meals all the time and throwing them up. I know this isn’t normal, but what can I do? How do I stop this habit? Signed: I Know This Isn’t Normal

A. Dear I Know This Isn’t Normal,

You’re absolutely right. I’m glad you’re seeking help. You’ve developed some very unhealthy eating habits. Our culture hasn’t helped because it tells us that our value is related to our appearance, so we should strive to be beautiful and slim. But God says we are wonderfully made: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14 KJV). You need to know that God says about you is more im-

By Dr. Sabrina Black

portant than what the world has to say. When we feel beautiful on the inside, it impacts how we feel about the outside. You will need professional help to overcome the ingrained patterns of perception, years of dieting, and eating too much and purging. These eating habits can be dangerous, sometimes leading to severe illness and even death. But you’re not alone. Millions of women are experiencing what you’re going through. Help is available for you that has been used successfully to help others. Your family and friends are concerned about you. Accept their help and seek medical and psychological assistance from the professionals in these fields. They can also give you information about support groups that you may find helpful. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Prov. 15:22 KJV).

Too Much Control

Q. I’ve been married to the love of my life for five years. He’s a wonderful husband and father and we have two beautiful girls, ages 3 and 1. Kyle is a good provider and very loving when he’s not upset with me. But lately I seem to upset him a lot. Kyle always wanted me to himself while we were dating, and I was flattered because he loved me too much to share me with anyone else. After we married, I tried to interact with my family and friends, but he said we didn’t have time for them. I accepted that until I found out I was going to have our first child and I needed my mom. While he was at work I would visit my family. When he found out, he said he was all the family I needed, and that if I loved him as much as he loved me, that he would be enough for me. I’m so confused. What do I tell my mother? I really need her help and now I’m afraid. I still love Kyle and I want my girls to be with their father. We were so happy the first two years. Can we ever be happy again? Signed: Is This Love or Control?

A. Dear Is This Love or Control?,

Jealousy, isolation, and intimidation are symptoms of abuse. Relationships can be complex, but they should never be abusive or intimidating. A 22


A. Dear Concerned and Anxious,

marriage that’s based on love and understanding should bring joy and peace to both of you. 1 Corinthians 13 gives a description of the characteristics of real love. It seems you overlooked some red flags early in your marriage. Yes, your husband should be number one in your life, but not the only one. And God should be the ultimate fulfillment for both of you. He’s the one who can meet all your needs. Seek counsel to help set healthy boundaries for your marriage. Emotional abuse tends to escalate. Covering and hiding abuse will just make the abuser bolder. Get help before things get physical. You should also talk honestly with your mother about your concerns. As their grandmother she will be hurt if you keep the children away from her without an explanation. No doubt she already knows something is wrong if you can’t visit her. Sharing your struggle with her will help you to see your situation more clearly and will comfort you to know that you are not alone. Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.

It must be difficult to see your daughter struggle with this anxiety. While experiencing some anxiety is a normal part of life, your daughter has a heightened sense of anxiety that’s interfering with her ability to function. Her specific fear is called gephyrophobia (fear of bridges), which is one of over 100 phobias that lead to panic attacks and increased anxiety. Many who have gephyrophobia go out of their way to avoid crossing bridges. Those who do try to cross often experience high levels of stress and may even freeze up while driving on the bridge. People with fears of crossing bridges may also have a fear of heights, small spaces, or death. And the fear can also be symbolic of other difficulties or areas of life that she may need to overcome. Seek help from medical and counseling professionals. We have developed very effective treatments for various types of anxiety. Your daughter can learn to take baby steps through behavior modification, stress reduction techniques, and identifying triggers and debilitating thoughts. Don’t allow her to limit her life at such an early age. Encourage her to keep a journal tracking thoughts, feelings, and intensity. Find comforting songs to sing, meditate on Scriptures, and pray. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6–7 NIV). 

Overcoming Fear

Q. My daughter was always a nervous, high-strung child, but she loved school and playing with her friends. I’m concerned that she has become overly anxious about crossing the bridges in our town as I drive her to school and to other activities. She tries to map out routes that avoid crossing any bridges, which is very challenging because we live in a remote area filled with beautiful bridges. When I spoke to her about this, she started to shake and sweat. Then she said she would stay at home forever before she would go across another bridge. How can I help her? She is only 15 and her nerves seem to be getting worse. How can I help her to overcome this irrational fear? Signed: Concerned and Anxious TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



By Christina Ray Stanton

The Great Redeemer Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

Christina Ray Stanton is the short-term missions director for Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Timothy Keller, founder) and founder of the nonprofit organization Loving All Nations (www. lovingallnations. org), which helps the world’s poor. Learn more about Christina’s 9/11 story at christinaraystanton. com and in her book Out of the Shadow of 9/11: An Inspiring Tale of Escape and Transformation.

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. 24


n September 2001, my husband and I had been married a year. We had just moved back to New York City after living that first year in another state where Brian had been assigned a short project through IBM. Life back in NYC was exciting. Brian was looking into new job opportunities, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with my friends, whom I had missed greatly. We found a rental in the Financial District on the 24th floor of a building that featured a terrace overlooking the World Trade Center, which was just six blocks away. Everything about life seemed new and exciting, full of possibilities.

Tragedy Strikes

On the morning of 9/11, I was awakened by Brian screaming that a bomb had gone off in the World Trade Center. We rushed onto the terrace and watched the scene before us: people running across the highway to the Hudson river, the ambulances, fire trucks, and police speeding down the highway, as well as the fire that shot out from either side of the building. A few minutes later, a plane came streaking overhead — just 500 feet above us — and slammed straight into Tower 2. We were blown back into our building from that impact onto the floor of our living room. That was the start of the terrible day that changed our lives forever. Soon after we evacuated our building, the WTC buildings imploded, covering us in dust and debris. We spent the morning outrunning the black smoke in Battery Park that threatened to asphyxiate us. We eventually evacuated to New Jersey by boat. We later learned that boats had carried 500,000 people away from Lower Manhattan, making us part of the largest boat evacuation in history.

Our Recovery Begins

We made our way back to the city some days later, staying first with friends, then with a kind stranger. We were in shock and depression, made even worse by our dog becoming sick after licking the dust that covered him in an attempt to clean himself. The veterinarian explained that the glass in the dust had shredded his esophagus. Our landlord told us that we wouldn’t be able to return to our apartment for a while — or possibly never. The collapse of the towers had registered


on the Richter scale as an earthquake, so nearby buildings, including ours, had to be tested to determine if they were structurally sound. I became worried about the vet expense and other mounting bills while we were displaced. We weren’t used to asking for help, but a close Christian friend encouraged me to go to Redeemer Presbyterian Church for monetary assistance. She told me people from all over the world had donated to Redeemer and that I should apply to receive aid. Although I had attended Redeemer when I was single, Brian and I were still in the process of choosing a church. We weren’t members and had even set our sights on another church. She urged me to go anyway.

Grace Moves Us In a New Direction

The director of the division managing those funds handled things with dignity and grace and alleviated my embarrassment over being there. The church quickly produced a check that covered our bills, and we subsequently decided to make Redeemer our home church. A lot has changed for my husband and I since 9/11. It has caused us to re-evaluate our relationship with our careers, with each other, and with God. Through that indescribable event, God provided and revealed to us a new hope and a new future. Brian left his financial industry job and accepted a job at Redeemer as the chief financial officer. I run the missions department. Many congregants are among our closest friends, and we take our roles in the Redeemer ministry seriously. God was a present help and refuge through one of the worst days in American history and the worst day in our lives for sure. Because of that experience, we were molded more into His image, and we enjoy a deeper relationship with Him. We have the freedom to give away in increasing measure to others as a result. We now live with the assurance that through faith in Christ, we don’t have to fear anything and our brokenness is where He meets us in His strength. 


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.



Micah 6; Luke 15


Habakkuk 3; Luke 22


Zechariah 2; John 5


Zechariah 9; John 12




Micah 7; Luke 16


Zephaniah 1; Luke 23


Zechariah 3; John 6


Zechariah 10; John 13




Nahum 1; Luke 17


Zephaniah 2; Luke 24


Zechariah 4; John 7


Zechariah 11; John 14

Malachi 3; John 20

Malachi 4; John 21





Genesis 5; Matthew 5


Genesis 13; Matthew 12


Genesis 20; Matthew 19


Genesis 27; Matthew 26


Genesis 6; Matthew 6


Genesis 14; Matthew 13


Genesis 21; Matthew 20


Genesis 28; Matthew 27


Nahum 2; Luke 18


Zephaniah 3; John 1


Zechariah 5; John 8


Zechariah 12, 13:1; John 15



Genesis 1; Matthew 1


Genesis 7; Matthew 7


Genesis 15; Matthew 14


Genesis 22; Matthew 21


Genesis 29; Matthew 28



Nahum 3; Luke 19


Haggai 1; John 2


Zechariah 6; John 9


Zechariah 13:2-9; John 16



Habakkuk 1; Luke 20


Haggai 2; John 3


Zechariah 7; John 10


Zechariah 14; John 17



Habakkuk 2; Luke 21


Zechariah 1; John 4


Zechariah 8; John 11


Malachi 1; John 18



Malachi 2; John 19




Genesis 8; Matthew 8


Genesis 16; Matthew 15


Genesis 23; Matthew 22


Genesis 30; Mark 1



Genesis 2; Matthew 2


Genesis 9, 10; Matthew 9


Genesis 17; Matthew 16


Genesis 24; Matthew 23


Genesis 31; Mark 2



Genesis 3; Matthew 3


Genesis 11; Matthew 10


Genesis 18; Matthew 17


Genesis 25; Matthew 24



Genesis 4; Matthew 4


Genesis 12; Matthew 11


Genesis 19; Matthew 18


Genesis 26; Matthew 25


Genesis 32; Mark 3




Renter’s Insurance?

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, We just helped move our son into a cheap, off-campus apartment a few blocks from where he is attending college. We signed the agreement, and are paying the rent, because he makes very good grades. Do you think renter’s insurance is a smart buy? It’s less than $12 a month, but the minimum coverage I can get is $15,000, and he probably has less than $1,000 worth of belongings there. —Kevin Dear Kevin, I’d get renter’s insurance. My guess is it also comes with five or six figures in personal liability coverage, as well. That’s in case he’s out on the patio with his buddies, someone slips and falls, and they decide to sue because daddy’s on the lease. In a case like this, because there’s so little to start with, it’s not theft or fire taking the contents of the apartment that you’re worried about. It’s the liability portion of the coverage that makes it worth every penny of what you’d be paying. That alone makes it worth $10 to $12 a month just to make sure a slip-and-fall doesn’t mess with your life! —Dave

The Partnership, Not the Family, Is the Problem

Dear Dave, My two brothers-in-law and I have been thinking about going into business together as a side project in the real estate world. One of them is an architect and licensed general contractor, one has a successful painting

By Dave Ramsey

business, and I’m a chief financial officer with a CPA background. Plus, I had a lot of construction experience as a young man. I know you’re not a big fan of business partnerships, but how do you feel about a family business like this? —Dan Dear Dan, Going into business with family isn’t my big concern here. I’ve said many times that partnerships are the only ships that won’t sail, and I’m a firm believer in that philosophy. I would encourage you guys to set up a situation where one of you is the owner, then figure out a plan where the other guys get paid off the bottom line — as if they were owners. Trust me, anything with three heads is going to end up being a monster at some point. Here’s the thing about family businesses. When everyone understands their role and has the best interest of the company in mind, family businesses can be a lot more fun and more successful than non-family businesses. Statistics show the average family business lasts 60 years, while the average publicly traded company lasts about 15 years. So, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the family part of the equation. It’s the partnership aspect I’d stay away from. —Dave

Why Do I Need a Will If I’m Young?

Dear Dave, Why do I need a will if I’m still young and haven’t acquired a lot of wealth? —Laura Dear Laura, In a case like yours, you don’t need a complicated will. But you do need an inexpensive, basic will. The larger and more complicated your estate is, the more you’d spend on estate planning and a will in order to ensure everything is properly addressed — and to keep the government’s hands off everything. Let’s say you’re in your early- to mid-20s and single. You have a car and a bank account, and that’s it. In this kind of scenario, it’s going to be easy to work through your estate. But it’s going to take your parents — or whoever’s left — a whole lot longer to get those few simple transactions taken care of if you don’t have a will in place.



It’s okay to use apps like that. I’m not mad at them, and I don’t think they’re a rip-off or anything like that. What worries me about these kinds of things, in an investing sense, is they give the illusion that you’ve done something significant with your money. —Dave

You Don’t Fake Poor

The other thing you’ll always want to have in your will package is a healthcare power of attorney directive. This includes things like who’s going to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. As a part of this, you’d want to fill out the paperwork on whether to disconnect life support systems in the event of a coma. These things aren’t fun to think about, but doing it will take a huge burden off the people you love. And all this becomes even more important if you have children, because the state will step in and decide what happens to them if you don’t. Having these things laid out ahead of time, and sharing them with your family and close friends, is a very thoughtful and mature thing to do for those who would be left behind in the event of your death. They’re already going to be distraught and grieving, and you don’t want to make it worse by leaving them with a lot of important, difficult decisions to make. —Dave

Dear Dave, I’ve got a couple of friends who were advised by their financial planners not to open college savings accounts for their kids. Their planners told them this would count against their children’s ability to receive financial aid and assistance when it’s time for college. Apparently, these planners told them to put the money into their own retirement accounts. It’s my understanding, however, that both the child’s and the parent’s financial situations are looked into when determining financial aid. Can you please shed some light on this? —Jeanette

Micro Investing Apps?

Dear Dave, What is your opinion on micro investing apps like Acorns and Betterment? Are these good vehicles for building wealth in the long term, and are there any major drawbacks to these types of services? —Alex Dear Alex, I’m not saying there’s anything really wrong with Acorns or Betterment, but they do different things. Acorns is more of an invest pennies, round-up kind of program, where Betterment is kind of a robo-investing deal. Here’s the thing. Micro investing is going to create micro wealth. And the big downside is you’re going to feel like you did something important. The way you end up with money is by investing money. The way you end up with more money is by investing more money. You can argue all you want that using things like these create extra money. Yeah, but not really. The returns are still micro. An app doesn’t make two dollars turn into 20 dollars.

Dear Jeanette, So, if a financial planner told you not to get a job because then you can apply for welfare, are you going to listen to that person? What kind of moron gives financial advice like this? You don’t tell people not to save money for something, just so they can pretend they’re poor! Save whatever money you can, and send your kid to school. Why is that such a difficult concept to grasp? People need to stop looking for tricks and shortcuts, because there aren’t any that will be beneficial in the long run. I’m not going to pose as broke — fraudulently — to get financial aid for my kid. That’s ridiculous! I hope I wasn’t unclear.  —Dave TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


Encouragement Resource Guide

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“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2 ESV). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29 ESV) Although we live in world filled with pain because of the consequences of sin, we can live in peace through the storms of life because Jesus has promised to be with us and uphold us. God gives us many promises in His Word, such as these verses. We also have the uplifting of fellow Christians, both in person and through their ministries and writing. Following, for example, are resources that give the boost we so often need.

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Launch your family on an unforgettable adventure in making right choices! Daily readings and reflection questions may make you laugh or really think. Help your kids find joy and encouragement as they discover how to do the right thing during the ups and downs of daily life.

Available wherever books and e-books are sold.




The Good News

Two thieves were crucified with Jesus. Both taunted Him, but one stopped when he realized he was guilty. He said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:40 NIV). The thief also 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 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 someone 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 standing before 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: “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, He will wash away your sin 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, when the last grain of sand disappears, eternity is just beginning. “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).

Filled with articles and columns that encourage, equip and engage Christians of all ages!

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I n e h WWished a t S a n o p U


By Brandon Lane Phillips, MD, and Jeremy Miller

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jer. 29:11 (NIV).


t’s easy to trust God when we see His plan unfolding, isn’t it? It’s another thing entirely when what He is doing isn’t so crystal clear. Sometimes, though, you go through trying times and suddenly the lights come on, and it’s obvious that the plan for your life is exactly what it should be and it’s even better than you could have imagined! In 1989, I (Jeremy) was a co-star in a hit TV show, Growing Pains. It was a heady time for me as a kid. I was making $2,500 a week to start. Everybody knew me. I felt important, and I was having fun. I got to work with great co-stars, and I learned a lot. My own family life was not very much like my TV family. I really liked going to work because there was predictability there, and I needed that in the worst way. 30



The Beginning of a Lifelong Friendship

When a young fan named Brandon came to meet us on the set one day, I didn’t have a clue about how lifechanging it would be for both of us. I just knew I had made a new and very good friend from Louisiana. I wanted to stay in touch with him and I wasn’t really sure why. I had met a lot of people through the years because of the show, but this was definitely different. I had no idea at the time how different and how important this divine appointment would turn out to be. For me (Brandon), getting to go to the set of my favorite TV show was a dream. Up until then, I hadn’t had a lot of dreams — let alone had any come true. I was born in tiny Jena, Louisiana, with a heart condition that limited me in many ways. I didn’t do well in school at first. By the time I was 11, I was questioning God’s purpose for my life. After all, my family splintered on my fifth birthday.

Pg. 30 from left: Wish Day on the set of Growing Pains with actor Kirk Cameron (left) and Brandon Lane Phillips (right). • Jeremy’s first photo shoot with his Growing Pains castmates, Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Tracey Gold, Kirk Cameron. Pg. 31 from left: Kirk Cameron (left) Brandon (center) and Jeremy (right) on the New Orleans set of the second Growing Pains reunion movie. • Cast photo for the first Growing Pains reunion movie: Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Alan Thicke, Ashley Johnson, Joanna Kerns, and Jeremy Miller.

When Starlight Children’s Foundation called to tell me and my mother that they were granting me a wish, I only had one: I wanted to meet Jeremy Miller, the actor who played the younger brother on my favorite TV show, Growing Pains. Thankfully, Starlight was able to arrange the visit. That day on the Warner Brothers lot was magical. Jeremy and I hung out all day, “borrowed” a golf cart to drive around, jumped from a hayloft in the barn that was featured in Friday the 13th, and just generally had a wonderful time. I knew when I went back home that I had made a good friend. I also had a change in the way I saw the challenges in my life. I decided that if a kid from tiny Jena, Louisiana, could go all the way out to California to meet the Seavers and spend the day with them, then the sky was the limit. I had always wanted to be a doctor who cared for kids with heart defects. But I faced some major obstacles to that ambition. I was tested for special education in kindergarten and had failed the first grade. After I returned from my wish, I began to do really well in school. I put in a lot of effort, and my mom helped me study by calling material out to me. I eventually graduated from Tulane Medical School and ultimately learned my craft from the very physicians who had cared for me as a patient. Today, I’m a pediatric cardiologist with Ochsner Health Center for Children in West Monroe, Louisiana. I’m fulfilling my calling every day with great joy.

Jeremy: My Own Growing Pains

For me (Jeremy), the end of Growing Pains was the catalyst for some growing that I needed in my own life. The show ended, and I began to struggle almost immediately. Soon, all the money that I had made doing the show was gone, and I was

adrift in my personal life. I began to drink some and that began a downward spiral that nearly ruined my life. But, in spite of my issues and some bad decisions, God was still pursuing me. Apparently, God is not intimidated by our issues. I do think often about my own life and how many seemingly serendipitous things happened to bring me to the Lord and to a better life He had planned all along for me. After Brandon went home from the Growing Pains set back in 1989, we lost touch with each other once the show ended a few years later. But then in 2004, we reconnected when we were shooting a Growing Pains reunion movie in New Orleans. Brandon was finishing medical school there. That was no accident. We spent a good deal of time together while we were there filming, and I went back home to California thankful that we had rekindled our friendship. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


On the Brink of Destruction

Brandon is very perceptive, but I was able to hide my severe drinking problem from him for a while. Behind the scenes, things were going downhill in my life. After a night of hard drinking, my fiancée, Joanie, let me know that she was nearly done with me. I had one more chance to get sober or she would take the boys and leave me. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried putting down the bottle. I had attempted to stop drinking many times. But every attempt would end in panic, a depression, and a relapse more painful and crushing than the last. My fear of losing my family made me reach out to my mom, Sonja, for help. Sonja’s research led her to BioCorRx Recovery ( It was the answer she’d been looking for to save me. The company produced an implantable craving-blocking drug that was accompanied by a program involving coaching and counseling. The program also dealt with the emotional and spiritual side of addiction. The only problem was that it cost more than $10,000, and I didn’t have insurance. I knew in my heart this is what was needed, but it was way too expensive to be an option.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Mom would have gone on looking for other solutions if things hadn’t suddenly come to a head. In desperation, she wrote an email to Alan Thicke, Kirk Cameron, and Brandon pleading for their help. Brandon made a call to BioCorRx Recovery and asked to speak to the medical director about a potential patient. He vouched for me just as my mom had asked. He convinced the director to help me in exchange for my support and promotion of the program. I thank God for good friends. I have been clean and sober ever since I left the program in 2011, except for two short relapses.

His Sovereign Plan Fulfilled

Brandon and I are two people from very different backgrounds who have had the privilege of watching God’s plan unfold. Since my recovery, I have given back. I became a spokesperson for the program that saved my life. I’ve recorded testimonial ads that aired on radio stations throughout southern California, and I eventually worked directly with patients as a patient advocate. 32



From left: Brandon at the beginning of medical school. • Jeremy and Joanie. • Taken during Brandon’s residency at Texas Children’s Hospital with his heart surgeon (Dr. Denton Cooley) and his pediatric cardiologist (Dr. Tom Vargo).

I’ve helped people who suffered from alcoholism in much the same way that Brandon has used his knowledge and gifts to care for patients with congenital heart defects. Through the years, we’ve never discussed how much we’ve done for one another, although it has been significant. True love and friendship don’t keep score. It just pals around with hope and faith, looking for the next opportunity to give of itself. For two guys living totally separate lives, we’ve been able to help each other soar. We’ve taken our lives, broken in parts, and built a complete circle. That was God’s plan. And as usual, it worked to perfection.  Brandon Lane Phillips, MD, was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect shortly after birth. His medical challenges inspired him to become a pediatric cardiologist Many patients with congenital heart defects have learning disabilities, and even though Brandon suffered with a reading disability, he found ways to compensate, graduating valedictorian of his high school class. He was also awarded the 2004 Robert C. Baird Award from Tulane School of Medicine, which recognizes a senior medical student each year who embodies Dr. Baird’s ability to overcome hardship and exemplify excellence and achievement. In addition to his position on the board of trustees for Starlight Children’s Foundation, has also worked with Samaritan’s Purse on the Children’s Heart Project, even traveling to Mongolia in 2009 to help support the organization’s mission. Jeremy Miller is best known for his role portraying Ben Seaver on Growing Pains. After the show ended, he attended the USC School of Drama for a year before he found a second calling in the world of food. He enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena and soon after began working as a chef and caterer while still pursuing the occasional acting job. Jeremy’s deepest joy comes from helping others in recovery and spending time with his family and friends, usually cooking for them. He and Joanie have three adult children and live in southern California.


I want no Christmas without a burden for lost souls, a message for sinners, a heart to bring in the lost sheep so dear to the Shepherd, the sinning souls for whom Christ died. —John R. Rice If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth! —John MacArthur

Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man — His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God — when we present our bodies a living sacrifice. —Vance Havner The immense step from the Babe at Bethlehem to the living, reigning triumphant Lord Jesus, returning to earth for His own people — that is the glorious truth proclaimed throughout Scripture. As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, may we also be alert for the final trumpet that will announce His return, when we shall always be with Him. —Alan Redpath






The Lion and the Lamb By Dan Brownell

Not Safe, But Good

Back home, she immersed herself in her art, working in a room above her parents’ garage. Believing that the answers might come through painting Aslan, she decided to create a painting of him that combined both the holiness and love of God, attributes that, from our limited human perspective, can seem contradictory. As Mr. Beaver explains to Lucy in Lewis’s book The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Aslan isn’t safe. He is powerful and can’t be tamed. Yet he is also good.


ally Brestin Hale’s 2003 acrylic painting “Aslan”— depicting the Christ-like lion in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series —has been reproduced in prints and posters displayed in homes, churches, hospitals, prisons, retirement centers, and more, strengthening the faith of countless people around the world. The amazing work reveals the mystery of God’s sovereignty. While Sally was working on the painting, an image of a sacrificial lamb appeared on the canvas without her awareness. It’s hard to comprehend how God accomplished this through her while fully preserving her personality, autonomy, and creativity, but through the account of the painting’s creation, we get a fascinating glimpse of His guiding hand at work.

“Is — Is he a man?” asked Lucy. “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great Emperorbeyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”* Below: Sally, her husband, Philip, and their daughters, Sadie (9) and Claire (7).

The Great Paradox

The story behind “Aslan” begins with Sally’s struggle to understand how a good God can allow evil and suffering. “This is the universal question that man has asked since the beginning of time,” Sally said. Her inner conflict over the question was triggered by painful challenges in her life around 2000. Then the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack occurred, heightening her confusion and anxiety. At the time, Sally was pursuing a master’s degree in Poland. As she wrestled with the question of evil and suffering, she visited Auschwitz and other sites connected to the Holocaust. She felt the anguish deeply and personally because her Jewish grandmother Brestin had escaped Poland as a teenager but was forced to leave behind family members who died at the hands of the brutal Nazi regime. Overwhelmed by these experiences, Sally returned to America to seek answers. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG


Sally poses beside her painting at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, after giving a talk about the inspiration and creation of her painting. Sally is a graduate of Wheaton College and donated the painting to the Center because she wanted the public to be able to view it in person. The Marion E. Wade Center is home to a well-known resource and research center for renowned British Christian authors, including C.S. Lewis. It houses the original wardrobe that inspired Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, as well as many other artifacts related to the works of, as well as original manuscripts by, Lewis, Tolkien, and other authors who were their contemporaries. Below right are Marion E. Wade Center co-directors Crystal Downing and David C. Downing.





“Aslan” is a powerful work of art that has deeply affected viewers over the years. For instance, Dr. David Downing, co-director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, where the original painting is displayed, said he’s seen visitors moved to tears by it. Sally added that “a family told me after my talk at Wheaton that their house had been destroyed in a fire and they were living in a rental while it was rebuilt. A friend gave them a print of the painting, and the kids in the family kept it in their bedroom. The kids said that it helped them to feel safe because it reminded them that Aslan — Jesus — is watching over them.”

Reconciling the Great Paradox

The Lamb of God

Even after she finished, she thought it fell short of what she wanted to communicate. She could see the “not safe” aspect of Aslan, but not the “good” part. But when she displayed the painting at her church, a woman studying it said she could see another animal in it. “She walked up and outlined it with her finger,” Sally said, referring to the image of a lamb in Aslan’s mane. “This wasn’t just a sort of ‘vision in the clouds’ type thing. This was the real deal. It kind of freaked me out. I stepped back and focused in on it and then I could really see it all. The legs together. It looked like it was bound, like in Revelation, where it says, “Behold the lion of the tribe of Judah... Then I saw a lamb that looked as though it had been slain” [Rev. 5:5–6]. It gave me chills up and down my spine.”

Finding Peace in Him

The Lord had guided Sally’s brush, palette knife, and paint to create the symbol of goodness and love that had eluded her for so long. Although the lamb didn’t answer her question about why God allows suffering, it confirmed to her that He loves us and is willing to suffer on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins (1 John 4:10). And it comforted her to remember that He is a God who chose to enter our suffering, rather than staying outside and apart from it.

Sally began a painting of Aslan, but wasn’t satisfied. “I really worked hard on it for two weeks but wasn’t getting it.” So she decided to start over with a larger painting. This time, she constructed the canvas herself because she needed Divinely Guided one that was larger than local stores carSally thinks the lamb took shape near ried. She wanted Aslan to dominate the the end of the painting process. “I reviewers as though he were stepping down member doing the highlights with the out of the painting and they couldn’t espalette knife and the white,” she said. cape him. That would convey the idea that “And I was just finishing touches on the he wasn’t safe. But she wasn’t sure how painting and it was very quick, really she could simultaneously evoke a sense of just scraping the highest surfaces of the his goodness and love. The painting had painting with white. I don’t know exto capture both his powerful, intimidatactly when it happened, but somewhere ing presence as well as his gentleness and Sally (right), with her mother, Dee Brestin (left). there in the finishing touches. He had compassion, a seemingly impossible task. to have guided my hand. It started at the beginning when I As she began the painting, she thought, If I’m too much in conthrew down all the textural medium in the first stage. At the trol, I’m not going to give God any room to work. I’m going to lay my very end of the painting, I scraped the white paint over the canvas down and take textural modeling paste and throw it down, top of the medium without intending to create any particular bringing about the structure of Aslan’s body from what just kind of shape, and that’s what created the outline of the lamb.” happens spontaneously. That takes all the control off and He can do Watch video interviews with Sally at https://deebrestin. something with it. “I really wanted the painting to have a life of its com/aslan, where she shares more details about the story own. The only way I could think of doing that was to throw the behind “Aslan.” Prints and posters of “Aslan” are also availtextural medium down,” she said. able to order on the site. She knew she would need the Lord to guide her through the process, so before painting each morning, she spent time in Sally Brestin Hale is the daughter of well-known Christian prayer, asking Him to guide her hand and speak to her through writer Dee Brestin and the late physician, Dr. Steve Brestin. Sally the painting. was named after Dee’s sister Sally, who led Dee to the Lord many Sally continued working on the painting, but as she made progyears ago. Sally, her husband Phil, and their two daughters ress, she felt that while it was better than her first attempt, it still live in Albany, New York, where she works as a mental health hadn’t accomplished her goal. “I got the part that he wasn’t safe, counselor, often incorporating art therapy. but I didn’t plainly see His goodness in the painting. I couldn’t get the paradox in. I couldn’t paint both at one time. It was frustrat*From The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ing. I just heard this still, small voice say, ‘This is a special painting, Sally. You need to get this one right.’” (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1994). TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG




here was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer. When asked to define ‘great’ he said, “I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!” He now works for IRS writing tax regulations. —From Mikey’s Funnies (


he flight attendant on the trip was handing out plastic pilot wings to some kids. As the young man stepped forward, she playfully offered some to him. He passed, pointing to the Airborne wings on his Army uniform. He explained, “The last time someone gave me wings, I had to jump out of the airplane.” —From Mikey’s Funnies (

Visiting the aquarium was never the same for Johah after the Nineveh incident.




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By Jerry Dykstra and Open Doors By Jerry contributors Dykstra

Record Bombings in Sri Lanka Shake Christian Community

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.


n Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, millions of Christians around the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. But for Christians living in Sri Lanka, there were no celebrations in several churches. Only terror and death. Several terrorists set off bombs in three churches and three popular hotels resulting in over 260 deaths. There were also approximately 500 people wounded. Open Doors, a worldwide Christian agency supporting persecuted believers, called the attacks the worst mass casualty assault ever in South Asia. Hundreds have been arrested since April as the government issued an emergency order, as well as curfews and social media blackouts, to tighten security across the country and hunt members of two local Muslim groups it said were responsible for the attacks. Those groups had claimed allegiance to ISIS, although a Sri Lankan investigator said in July that the groups were inspired, but not directly linked, to ISIS. Sri Lankan authorities say all those directly responsible for the suicide bombings have either been killed or arrested. However, the Sri Lankan government has been strongly criticized for apparently having some prior knowledge of possible attacks. Sri Lanka, which has a population of 21 million, is located in the Indian Ocean, 34 miles off the southeast tip of India. According to Operation World, Buddhists comprise 70% of the population, Hindus 12%, and Christians (estimated at 1.9 million) and Muslims 8%. Sri Lanka is ranked No. 46 on the Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the top 50 countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians. Persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka has been increasing over the last few years, according to the

Prayer Points: • For the victims and their families as they try to cope physically and emotionally from the Easter 2019 massacre. Also, that Christian organizations will send additional trauma counselors. • For Christian students who often are required to attend Buddhist religion classes. *Name changed due to security concerns 40

• That God will guide the outcome and protect His people during Sri Lanka’s national elections scheduled for December 2019. • That renewed unity among Christian churches will continue.


National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka. Those who convert to Christianity from a Buddhist or Hindu background are subject to persecution, harassment, and discrimination by family and community, according to the World Watch List. They’re put under pressure to recant their Christian faith. Additionally, Christian churches are frequently targeted by neighbors. This repeatedly leads to mobs protesting against and attacking churches, especially in rural areas. In some of these villages, Christian converts are verbally abused and asked to leave their villages. On Sept. 9, 2018, a group of about 100 people stopped the worship service of a church at Beliatta in Hambantota District. They damaged a window and two motorcycles parked outside and removed religious symbols hanging on the front door. Some forcibly entered the premises and threatened to kill the pastor and his family. They also demanded that the churches stop gathering people for worship activities and that worshippers leave the village. Most state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism. There have been reports that children are forced to participate in Buddhist rituals. Todd Nettleton, host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio, said a recent conversation with a VOM staff member in Sri Lanka provided some positive news, even in the wake of the horrendous events on April 21. “Even though there was great loss, there are numerous stories of ways that God protected many and lives were saved. For example, in one of the bombed churches, the church van was parked on the property and ended up being between the bomber and a group of children, who were protected from the blast. Normally, on Sunday morning, that church van would not have been parked there, but in God’s providence that particular Sunday it was still on site. “Also, there is more unity within the Christian community of Sri Lanka since the bombings. And there is more openness to the gospel and to Christian people from a broad spectrum of Sri Lankans.” Open Doors partners working in Sri Lanka are providing trauma counseling and livelihood and educational support as well as prayer and encouragement for the hundreds of families impacted by the church bombings. 

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED, STILL SUFFERING FROM MASSACRE There were 136 children in Zion Church in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday 2019 during terrorist bombings around the country. Fourteen died. Six-year-old Peter, one of those who was killed, loved cricket. His cricket bat stands next to his portrait in the memorial his parents have set up in the corner of their sitting room. The framed photo leans on a wooden cross engraved with his name. It’s surrounded by toys — a teddy bear, a football, but also a cardboard hospital that Peter had cut and pasted together a few weeks before the bombing. “I’m glad that he’s with Jesus but it’s painful he’s not with me,” said Peter’s mother. “Peter didn’t just die. He died as a martyr,” his aunt added. “Even if you know that in your head, it’s hard to accept it in your heart.” Ten-year-old Nerukesh has shrapnel in his spine from the attack. He is still on strict bedrest at home. Sixteenyear-old Sujiv’s mother died in the church. He said, “She is with God now, and God is with us.” Senior leaders of Zion Church, Ramesh and Sasi, spoke to the suicide bomber in the church foyer. They stopped him from getting to the main congregation. Chrishanthini, Ramesh’s wife, said: “We were about five minutes into the worship when we heard a loud bang, but I didn’t know what happened at that time. We thought it was the generator.” Ramesh and Sasi died instantly. If the attacker had gotten into the main part of the building, 200 more congregants could have been killed. In the midst of her grief Chrishanthini is holding on to her faith: “Nothing happens without God knowing. And what I know is that God is love.”

Six-year-old Peter was killed in the Zion Church bombing. His parents created this memorial to him in the corner of their sitting room.

Twenty-year-old Hashi lost her aunt, cousin, and one of her neighbors in the blast in St. Sebastian’s Church in the city of Negombo. She ran straight in to look for her family. “The entire choir was sprawled on the floor,” she remembered. “Limbs were strewn everywhere. In the pews where people knelt I saw a body without a head, still kneeling with palms together in prayer.” She hasn’t been able to sleep since. At least 176 children have lost either one or both of their parents in the bombings at three churches, according to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo. Tala*, an Open Doors fieldworker who traveled to Sri Lanka shortly after the attacks, said: “Let us take heart. Jesus has overcome the world, and in Him, we are not helpless. We can call to our Abba Father to hold our family in Sri Lanka. We can be one with them. We can pray. We can weep with those who weep and journey with God’s precious remnant. We can choose to be a family to the suffering church at this critical time. It will be a long and difficult road ahead for our family in Sri Lanka, but God hears the cries of His people, and He answers our prayers in His beautiful time.”

This statue of Jesus was spattered with blood from one of the church bombings that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG



Jesus in Me: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion By Anne Graham Lotz [Multnomah]

In Jesus in Me, Anne Graham Lotz draws on her rich biblical knowledge as well as her personal journey — including her recent cancer diagnosis — to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is not a magic genie, a flame of fire, or a vague feeling. He is a person who prays for us, guides us in our relationships and decisions, comforts us in pain, and stays by our side at all times. In this seminal teaching, she explores seven key aspects of the Holy Spirit that will revolutionize how you understand and relate to this vital third person in the Trinity. As Anne wrote, “One of my deepest, richest joys has been discovering by experience who the Holy Spirit is in every step of my life’s journey. Each name that He has been given — Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, and Standby — reveals another aspect of His beautiful character and has provoked in me a deep love for the One who is my constant Companion . . . Jesus in me.” Discover how to better love and rely on the person of the Holy Spirit — and embrace how much He loves you through His presence, power, and provision in our daily lives.

The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture By Dee Brestin [Multnomah]

The day Jesus rose from the dead, He joined two grieving disciples on the road to Emmaus. Failing to recognize Him, the two conversed with Jesus about the events surrounding His crucifixion. This “stranger” then showed them how the Messiah and His rescue plan were hidden throughout all of their Scriptures (the Old Testament). Eventually, the two realized with surprise that they were in the presence of the Savior. Join beloved Bible teacher and author Dee Brestin in discovering the surprising places Jesus shows up in the Old Testament and the unexpected ways He speaks into our lives today. Offering a fascinating perspective on the historic, poetic, and prophetic books of the Old Testament, Brestin draws on her deep understanding of the full scope of the Bible to explore the timeless story of God’s quest to rescue each of us. She combines rich teaching, memorable storytelling, and an in-depth Bible study component to create a resource that shows readers how the story began (the books of Moses), how to live in the story (the poetic books), and how the story will end (the prophets).

The Faithful Way: Remaining Steadfast in an Uncertain World

When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom From Toxic People

In The Faithful Way, renowned Biblestudy teacher Cynthia Heald challenges believers of all ages to remain faithful to guard their hearts and be on the alert against temptation. Our goal, no matter our age, should be to follow Christ well and finish strong. The Faithful Way is a 31-day devotional study that both cautions and comforts as Cynthia leads readers through the lessons God has taught her through His character, His Word, and His saints. The Faithful Way will equip readers to face temptations, encourage them in an intentionally faithful life that brings honor to Christ, and enable them to say, “I have remained faithful.” Chapters include: • “Living By the Spirit” • “Trusting God’s Will” • “Accepting Correction” • “Temptation Aware” • “Faithful Fellowship” • “Abiding in the Word” • “Faithful in Prayer” • “Authentic Faithfulness” • “Hall of Faithfulness” • “Well Done!”

As Christians, we often feel the guilt and responsibility of meeting the needs of unhealthy people in our lives. Whether a sibling, parent, spouse, co-worker, or friend, toxic people frequently seek to frustrate our life’s calling. While you’re seeking first God’s kingdom, they’re seeking first to distract your focus and delay your work. Instead of attempting the impossible task of mollifying toxic people, it’s time we dedicate our energy to the only worthwhile effort: completing the work God has given us by investing in reliable people. It’s only when we learn to say no to bad patterns that we can say yes to the good work God has planned for us. When to Walk Away looks at biblical examples from the lives of Jesus, Paul, and Nehemiah. Drawing from years serving as a pastor, Gary Thomas shares practical examples for dealing with toxic people. You’ll discover how to: • Learn the difference between difficult people and toxic people • Find refuge in God when you feel under attack • Discern when to walk away from a toxic situation • Keep a tender heart even in unhealthy relationships • Grow your inner strength and invest in reliable people We can’t let others steal our joy or our mission. It’s time to focus on our God-given purpose and learn when to walk away.

By Cynthia Heald [NavPress]




By Gary L. Thomas [Zondervan]

Hand Lettering for Faith: A Christian Workbook for Creating Inspired Art

How and When to Tell Your Kids about Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Character

Follow along with Amy Latta’s Bible verse hand-lettering tutorials to nurture your relationship with God. If you’re new to lettering, Amy’s down-to-earth approach will give you the courage to jump in and create. And if you’ve already discovered your artistic connection to God, you’ll learn new skills for your Bible journaling. Each chapter includes Amy’s design for a verse, a few words of reflection, and step-by-step instructions for a new lettering font, technique, or embellishment. The thick, smooth art paper and beautifully bordered blank pages invite you to draw right in the book. By the time you’re finished, you’ll have 40 pieces of handmade faith-based art. In addition to instructions for lettering, the book also teaches how to create common Christian symbols such as the crosses, swords, and shields, crowns, churches, Bibles, fruit, doves, lions, lambs, and more. Chapters include: • “He Must Increase: Faux Calligraphy and Brush Script” • “Be Still and Know: Old-Style Calligraphy” • “Delight Yourself: Serif-Style Type”

How and When to Tell Your Kids about Sex is a newly updated version of the highly successful original 2007 release and belongs to the God’s Design for Sex series, which has sold more than a million copies. In this classic book, Stan and Brenna Jones help parents establish a biblical view of sexuality in their homes. Building on a biblical foundation, they discuss how to talk with your children about sexual issues and when it’s appropriate to tell them what. With stark honesty and practical suggestions, they address: • Building a Christian understanding of sex and sexuality • Developing a healthy dialogue with children about sexuality • How and when to explain sexual intercourse • Preparing for the physical changes of puberty • Preparing for dating: dealing with romance and sexual attraction • Encouraging a commitment to chastity • W hat to do if you’re getting a late start telling your kids about sex This revised version includes helpful material on the dangers of pornography, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

By Amy Latta [Page Street Publishing]

By Stan Jones and Brenna Jones [NavPress]

Replanted: Faith-Based Support for Adoptive and Foster Families

Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors

and Mike Berry [Templeton Press] Many people embark on the journey of adoption and foster care but are unprepared for the challenges that await them along the way. Replanted takes an honest look at the joys and hardships that come with choosing this journey and provides a model of faith-based support made up of three parts to help families thrive: Soil, Sunlight, and Water. Soil, or emotional support, addresses the need for gracefilled settings where families can connect with other families who understand their experience. Sunlight, or informational support, focuses on helpful training to raise children who may have unique needs or challenges. Water, or tangible support, deals with concrete resources such as medical care, childcare, and financial support. Throughout the book, the Replanted model is brought to life by stories and examples based on the clinical work and personal experiences of the authors. Their candid insight will serve families who are actively involved in adoption or foster care, as well as people who are eager to help support those families. Replanted affirms that with the right support system in place, parents can answer this sacred call not only with open hearts but also with their eyes wide open.

Sex is such an intimate topic historically wrapped in shame that when someone shares they were sexually abused, we may not know how to respond. Anne Marie Miller is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has shared her journey toward healing with audiences all over the world. After speaking with thousands of survivors and their loved ones, she saw the need for a fundamental and practical guide for helping supporters of sexual abuse survivors understand the basics of abuse, trauma, healing, and hope. Drawing from her own experience as a survivor and evidence-based research, Anne addresses these questions and more in Healing Together: • How does abuse wound the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of victims? • How can I help survivors? • Who are predators and how do they groom victims? • When and how should authorities be contacted? • What are the warning signs of abuse? Whether you’re a spouse, family member, friend, or church leader looking for easy-to-navigate resources to understand and support sexual abuse survivors, you’ll find answers and hope in these pages.

By Jenn Ranter Hook, Joshua N. Hook,

By Anne Marie Miller [B&H]





1. Publication Title: Today’s Christian Living. 2. Publication Number: 000-700. 3. Filing Date: 10/01/2019. 4. Issue Frequency: Bimonthly. 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: 6. 6. Annual Subscription Price: $19.95. 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication: JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. 8: Complete Mailing Address of Headquarters or General Business Office of Publication: JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. 9: Full Names and Complete Mailing Address of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor: Diana Jones, Publisher, Same as Office of Publication; Dan Brownell, Editor, Same as Office of Publication. 10: Owner: JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. Diana Jones, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees and Other Security Holders: Waukesha State Bank, 151 E. St. Paul Ave., Waukesha, WI 53187; Diana Jones, N7528 Aanstad Rd., Iola, PO Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945. 12. N/A. 13. Today’s Christian Living. 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: October/November 2019. 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: 2019 Average Single issue 12 Months Oct/Nov 2019 Total # of Copies 9110 9885 Paid &/or Required Circulation: Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions (3541) 2860 2859 Paid/Requested In-County Mail Subscriptions (3541) 0 0 Sales through Dealers & Carriers 0 0 Other Classes Mailed Through USPS 5572 5036 Total Paid/Requested Circ: 8432 7895 Free Distribution by Mail: Outside County (as stated in form 3541) 141 136 In-County (as stated in form 3541) 0 0 Other Classes Mailed through USPS 0 0 Free Distribution Outside the Mail 437 1682 Total Free Distribution 578 1818 Total Distribution 9010 9713 Copies Not Distributed 101 172 Total 9111 9885 Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation 93.58% 81.28%

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INDEX & WEB LISTING ACTS Retirement-Life Communities......... .........................5 Atherton.................................................... .........................................11 Baker Publishing Group............................ ...15, 28 Christianbook............................................ .......................48 Credo House Publishers............................ ..........13 DiViNE Purpose Publishing....................... ...39 Josh McDowell Ministry............................ .........................................28 Joyful Expressions..................................... .......................9 Lifeway Christian Resources..................... ....................................2 Morgan James Publishing........................ ..28 Palm Tree Productions.............................. www, ...............9 Rada Cutlery.............................................. ...........................11 Today’s Pastor............................................ ............................9 Total Living Network — TLN................... .........................................47 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 Viviana Spicer

Sanctified Through Motherhood

I Viviana Spicer resides in southern Ontario, Canada, with her husband, Lucas. Together, they have fostered more than 15 children and currently juggle a crazy life with four little ones. They enjoy long walks, coffee, and board games. You can follow their journey @TheSpicerTimes through Instagram or Facebook.


always thought I would end up in a mud hut, deep in the 10/40 Window. I was a missionary kid and headed to the U.S. for my university education, planning my layover just long enough to get a degree and then fly right back “overseas.” Then I met a man, fell in love, and ended up in southwestern Ontario. After several years of waiting on immigration paperwork, moving around, and a pregnancy, I was feeling aimless in North America, eager to “do” something. We stumbled into the world of foster care and over the last three years have been filled with uncertainty and everything trauma related. We had 14 children pass through our home those first two years. The revolving door was unpredictable and stressful, but in many ways, it also provided a shot of adrenaline — just enough to carry us through the end of the placement. If I’m honest, pride crept in as my husband and I stumbled into church, week after week, always surprising the nursery workers with our latest combination of kids. I could feign humility, as I pretended not to hear murmurs of “super mom” and “don’t know how they do it,” and I could sit comfortably in my smugness, judging bystanders for not stepping up and doing more. But in December 2018, I gave birth to a baby, and we entered a season with three children, ages 3 and under. Five weeks later, we were asked to take the younger sibling of one of our children. Driven by the desire to not separate siblings, and believing that the sacrifice would be worth it, we said yes, and so we plunged into a season of four children under three. The next many months were dark, as I wrestled with post-partum hormones, extreme parental fatigue, struggle bonding with our newest addition, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Sins that I believed to have put to death or had never struggled with in the past began to surface. Anger, hopelessness, and jealousy gripped my heart. And while I can pinpoint moments, days, and even weeks that


were positive and hopeful, as a whole, the last nine months have been difficult. The daily, mundane tasks of folding laundry, picking up toys, making meals, and reading books (over and over and over again!) began to suffocate me. I dreamed of a parallel universe where I imagined doing “something big” in some hard, remote area of the world. I longed to be there — anywhere, really — instead of being here, stuck in a toddler and baby world of poop, boogers, and potty breaks. I recently found a quote from Risen Motherhood, in which Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler reframe the ordinary, mundane tasks that seem to consume a mother’s day. They write: “It might be mundane to fold laundry, but it’s extraordinary to do it patiently with joy and a heart of love. It might be mundane to sit on the couch and read another book to a whiny 4-year-old, but it’s extraordinary to show kindness and mercy to an undeserving sinner. It may be mundane to fill the fridge with groceries, but it’s extraordinary to praise God for his provision. Our everyday moments might be ordinary, but when we accomplish them while displaying the fruit of the Spirit, they reflect our extraordinary Savior.” From the depths of my soul, I felt a surge, a lightbulb moment, if you will. The monotony had become a drudgery, and I had let myself forget that the gospel can (and should!) speak into every area of my life — including the mundane, ordinary moments. Parenting from a place of love, where I don’t wish away our moments, grimacing through the day, praying for naptime. Anyone can do laundry, but it truly is an extraordinary empowerment from the Holy Spirit that allows me to do it joyfully. Anyone can read a toddler a book, but it is a supernatural power that gives me the patience and intentionality to engage and love my children sacrificially, freely giving them my time and my attention. And through these mundane moments, deep in the trenches of motherhood, I can experience supernatural, extraordinary sanctification, one laundry load at a time. 

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