Freedom from the Bible Police

It is well over a decade now since I decided to “read” the Bible. I went to the library and got an audio version of the Bible on CDROM. I listened to James Earl Jones read the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

I suppose some will say I did it the hard way, but listening to Jame Earl Jones was a pleasure. I suppose some will also say I am getting old enough that the language in the KJV is like my native tongue. Not quite.
🙂

What did listening to the Bible do for me? It convinced me the story it tells is true. It compelled me to study the Bible.

Nevertheless, I did not know what version of the Bible to buy; I did not even realize how many versions exist. Hence, I was not particularly happy with the first Bible I bought. Therefore, I recommend this article and the gentleman’s good advice.

Here is one additional suggestion. If you are reading this, then you have Internet access. Check out these websites.
https://www.biblegateway.com/
https://www.bible.com/
http://www.biblehub.com/

Each of the above websites provides multiple translations of the Bible. We don’t have to go anywhere these days to find multiple translations. In fact, lots of people just download a copy of the Bible onto their favorite electronic device.

Note also that the notes and commentary within a Bible can be inserted independently of the translation, and the quality of the notes and commentary depends upon who provides those notes and commentary. So if you want a good study Bible, ask your pastor or someone you trust for a recommendation.

The Isaiah 53:5 Project

group-therapy-7-mixed-ages-races1I was reminded yesterday in a group counseling session how problematic selecting a Bible can be. A young woman was discussing her difficult experience in a small Southern Baptist church that imposed teaching from the King James Version (KJV) Bible as the one acceptable for the church’s congregants. Yes, in the Bible Belt of 2016 there are still pastors and elders that strictly require use of the KJV only, and are actually called “KJV Only” churches. While I love reading the King James English, I can certainly see how 400-year-old English can be a barrier to delivering the Gospel. We have many great translations that serve many legitimate purposes, and KJV Only hurts far more than it helps.

bibles_books_01 Which Bible To Buy?

Many different translations are available in your typical Bible bookstore, so I understand how there can be some confusion. My advice for believers shopping for a Bible is…

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31 thoughts on “Freedom from the Bible Police

  1. WOW….I’ve not been bothered by the Bible Police….much! Plenty of churches and versions out there! Sometimes, learning it one way will have value in unforseen ways later on! But your advice is sound. That’s why, between my wife and I, we have four or five versions or translations to compare. But yes…some churches can be awfully rigid in ignoring the fallaicies of their own pet version! Hence I’m sharing this—on Word Press!

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    1. The old KJV is trusted. The care of the people who put that translation together earned the trust of the people first read it. Even the Catholic Church admitted the quality scholarship. That eventually helped to persuade them to put together their own translation in English.

      Nevertheless, the language, beautiful though it may be is dated, and the point of translation is to allow is to understand the Bible. So the issue is find a translation we trust, and that comes down to deciding who we trust. I agree with you. Using multiple translation is a good solution.

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      1. Amen Brother! Also…when possible…listening to different teachers and judging for oneself and with Scripture (Bible ideas). I just finished a poem…THE UNITY QUESTION…what is your opinion of it?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. @Jonathan Caswell

          Pretty good. I enjoyed it. Certainly better than what I can write. I am a lousy poet. My father was good, but I missed getting that gene. So I am not the best person to ask.

          My prose is okay, I guess. What I have learned from writing that is that it helps to stay focused on your central point and to edit out the stuff that is not relevant.

          So if there is something about your poem that you want to improve, save the original and have at it.

          The only specific suggestion I have is that you consider 1 – 3 John. That scripture, perhaps more than any other, explains how to distinguish a believer from an apostate. Here John points us towards Christ and urges us to remember what it means to be a child of God.

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  2. Ah, the bible police. Yes, we’ve met. 🙂

    I love the KJV and use it mostly. Kind of funny, but the bible I write in and study with is actually an NIV. I can’t write and crinkle the pages of in a KJV because that’s A Real Bible! You can’t write in a real bible. Also, it’s the version Jesus Christ Himself used! Just kidding. 🙂

    I really enjoy consulting with multiple versions, mostly to fully grasp the meaning of words and translations. Oddly enough, when I was first married, I thought I understood what love meant, but later when I saw it written as “charity,” I was able to see how I really wasn’t all that charitable towards my husband at all. That’s happened to me many times in my life, scripture must be peeled like an onion, it will often reveal itself “precept by precept, here a little, there a little.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The BibleGateway.com that Citizen Tom mentions is a website that I’ve used often. But the version I’ve settled on for most purposes did not get a mention here or in the original post: Young’s Literal Translation. This one dates from the late 1800s, just before the start of the Progressive Era, and is reputed to be perhaps the most faithful of the “word-for-word” translations.

      Because the BibleGateway (like some others) allows for side-by-side comparisons as well as switchable commentary, it is easy, and sometimes surprising, to see how the changes affect the sense of some passages,

      The only version that I’ve read through, cover to cover, is still the King James Version. I was intrigued to learn of Shakespeare’s influence on that version, especially in the inversion of the formal and informal senses of “thee” versus “you.”

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had always assumed that thou/thee/thine were structurally similar to the second person structures in Romance languages where there was a distinction between formal address and more intimate or friendly address. Modern language lacks these distinctions (as it also lacks a distinction between second person singular and second person plural – perhaps “y’all” fills that need in certain areas), and I sometimes think that precision is lost without those nuances. French is the only language other than English that I know well. I was taught that the formal “vous” was to address persons one did not know well, persons in positions of authority or to show hierarchical respect. The familiar “tu” was for friends, children, animals, and God. Spanish, which I know much less well, has similar conventions, as does German. The thee/thou structure in Elizabethan English served the purpose of the French “tu” and was properly used for intimate address, including interchanges with the Deity. Thus the use of thou/thee in the majestic liturgy of the Church of England and in Shakespeare.

        Your comment re inversion makes me think that perhaps my assumptions on this point are not accurate.

        Scout

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Shakespeare’s influence on the use of “thee” versus “you” was significant. In one of his plays, a lady is being propositioned by someone we know as a bad guy. He starts out using the respectful form (you) but is annoyed enough during the conversation to start calling her “thee” instead.

          She, in reverse, is offput by his entreaties, calling him “thee” — but in the interaction, is swayed and starts calling him by the respectful “you.”

          Shakespeare did not invent this distinction, but he did much to solidify it, and it forms a layer of meaning in many of his characters’ interactions that most of us don’t pick up on.

          But while Shakespeare was alive during the editing of the KJV (and some say he was directly involved, like the Psalm 46 business), much of the KJV was lifted from the Tyndale work of eighty years or so earlier. (This person asserts that it was “90 percent.”)At that time, the convention was different, and “thee” was the respectful version. So that’s what wound up in the KJV, though the usage was already obsolete.

          This is a simplification, of course. Here’s a site discussing part of this convention change. He gets not just Shakespeare involved, but the Quakers too. Remember the commercial “Nothing is better for thee than me”?

          ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

          Liked by 1 person

        2. What people won’t do to history! Can you imagine a world where all the people who had ever lived were still around to defend what they had done while they lived.

          You are sitting there talking to a friend. You say something insulting about Attila the Hun. Before you know it, Attila’s ghost is standing behind you angrily tapping you on the shoulder.

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      2. Young’s Literal Translation does not seem to be one of the more popular. Don’t know why. Nevertheless, appreciate you mentioning it. One of the reasons I linked to those websites is to help get across the wide variety of translations.

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  3. The old Vulgate Bible is very interesting.

    It’s the original Bible first translated into Latin at the end of the 4th century by Saint Jerome at the behest of Pope Damasas I.

    Clearly an anachronism as scripture scholars work like bees to produce the latest, greatest translations.

    The New American Bible is popular among Catholics.

    An online Catholic Bible can be found at,

    http://www.newadvent.org/bible/gen001.htm

    It has Greek, English and Latin verse written out next to one another.

    All Catholic literature has the “Nihil Obstat” and “Imprimatur” stamps of approval and authenticity to assure the reader that the material has been approved by the Church.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The NAB is slowly going out of fashion for the more serious and critical readers and the NRV is more in vogue for its fidelity to literal translations and less vernacular idioms and phraseology as found in the NAB.

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  4. Good information especially on where to find commentaries of Bible verses that you can trust.

    ‘Consider the source‘ when someone uses a Bible verse to relate to their argument or position on a debatable issue.

    I cited one example of a misuse on the subject of abortion in the References in a previous post.

    One was Pro Life and one was Pro Choice. Both cited a King proverb out of context.

    https://rudymartinka.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/king-solomon-abortion-hemingway/

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am an AV – KJV user, not because I belief that the English Version is beyond reproach but because I am convinced that the manuscripts upon which the New Testament is based are superior to those which a majority of modern versions are based on. The multiplicity of footnotes, in the NIV for example, are indicative of the fact that it is based on manuscripts which contradict each other and are therefore unreliable. It is important that we know we have a pure bible. For more information you can read my blog on this issue at https://apmci.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/a-book-we-can-trust-part-4-2/

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    1. Thank you for coming by. I must admit I have not be introduced to this aspect of the controversy before. So I did a little research online and collected some references. I will have to sit down and read through what I have and digest it. Lord willing, then I will do a post. Even if the Lord is willing, I am afraid that process will take several weeks. Since I cannot read the Bible in the original language, I have to rely on what the experts say. That means I have to assess who know they are talking about, and that is always tricky and perhaps, in this case, beyond my capacity. Fortunately, we can compare the translations. Where the translations differ is where we can focus. The issue, after all, is the significance of the differences and why they exist at all.

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  6. A very interesting post. I agree with the many commenters here who acknowledge the value of using several translations.

    The part that puzzles me in the post is the basis on which the KJV only churches conclude that that particular translation is the be all and end all of scripture. It certainly has its points, and the language can be quite moving. Everyone who values the bible should have one. But there are so many other excellent translations, that I can’t understand why any church would take a hard line in favor of one particular version.

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  7. @Scout

    I doubt that it is an especially good idea to pick one translation and state that is the only one acceptable. Nevertheless, when there are people who will deliberately change the Bible to suit their purposes, we have to be wary of the translations we use. The differences between the translations, even those that claim to be literal can on occasion be very interesting.

    Consider.

    First some of the older translations.

    Isaiah 7:14 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

    14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    Isaiah 7:14 American Standard Version (ASV)

    14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    Isaiah 7:14 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

    14 Therefore the Lord Himself giveth to you a sign, Lo, the Virgin is conceiving, And is bringing forth a son, And hath called his name Immanuel,

    Now some of the newer.

    Isaiah 7:14 Good News Translation (GNT)

    14 Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’

    Isaiah 7:14 New English Translation (NET Bible)

    14 For this reason the sovereign master himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.

    Isaiah 7:14New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

    14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

    The newer translations do not all use the term young woman instead of virgin, and some use the footnotes to put in the thought that the young woman is a virgin. Nevertheless, stuff like that aggravates some readers. As you might imagine, it doesn’t take too many such differences to sour people on a Bible. In this case the accuracy of the prophecy is important to Jesus credibility as the Savior.

    Really, it is difficult to imagine a more difficult feat of scholarship than writing an accurate translation of the original manuscripts of the Bible. Unfortunately, translating the Bible involves more than just good scholarship. The translators must also set aside their personal biases. As readers of their product we have to figure out who succeeded both as a scholar and as an honest soul.

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  8. Re the Isaiah passages, I do not know Hebrew, but I can readily imagine that the word for “young woman” and “virgin” was the same in those times.

    A passage that has always intrigued me is at the start of the Flood narrative in Genesis. In my King James version, Genesis 6:2 says that, in those times, the “sons of God” started taking human women as wives and then, separately, says in Genesis 6:4 that the resulting issue were “mighty men”, “men of renown.” 6:4 also says, but without a direct link, that “there were giants in the earth those days.”

    My New English Bible, which I keep at the office and don’t have with me at present, translates the same passages as referring to “sons of the Gods”, that these beings were having “intercourse with the daughters of men” and is more direct in stating that the giants were the offspring of the couplings between the “sons of the Gods” and human women. It also gives a name to the giants – “Nephelim” – and then, in both versions, the story is dropped, although the New English Bible says that the giant Nephelim (vaguely Wagnerian sounding term, that), were the “men of renown”.

    This is a short passage, but in either version, there is a heckuva story floating around. What the devil was going on there/then? Sons of the Gods or Sons of God hooking up with human women and creating a race of Giants? I’d love to know more. But the other story is how the two versions could be so different, albeit in small changes of language, but nonetheless with quite different implications. Did the KJV committee fuzz the polytheistic reference and outcome of the inter-species sexual activity, or did the NEB chaps at Oxford jazz it up? Were they working from different sources, or is there inherent ambiguity in the accepted Hebrew text?

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    1. Frankly, I don’t know exactly what to make of the term Nephilim. Numbers 13:33 uses the term Nephilim. Apparently in their fear the Hebrews confused the large men among the Anakites with the Nephilim, but the Nephilim, at least their progeny, would have ceased to exist after the Flood.

      We don’t actually have a point of reference. Whatever they were, the Nephilim as they were known before the Flood, have been gone a long time. I doubt if even you are old enough to remember seeing one.
      😉

      It would be interesting to investigate the Nephilim, but I don’t know where to start. Fortunately, understanding what the term means does not seem to be needed to understand the message of the Gospel. If the Nephilim were fallen angels, I suppose the fact we don’t detect them today (intercourse with demonic angels) serves as a strong indication of how much God apparently holds Satan and his horde in check. Yet I have to wonder why God would have ever allowed such intercourse. Since we don’t know what the Nephilim were, we don’t know if He did.

      My guess is that the reference to the Nephilim in Genesis 6 is there because it helps explain the term’s use in Numbers 13.

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      1. It is curious. KJV is pretty opaque about them. Other translations are a wee bit more illuminating. I have read some commentary that say that the “Sons of God” that were engaged in this Genesis-era rowdiness were standard issue angels, not necessarily fallen angels, but that one of the reasons the reference is in the Flood narrative is that it describes a reason God wanted to start over. The story smacks a bit of Greek (and other religions) polytheism (if one uses the translation that uses the term “Sons of the gods”, as opposed to “sons of God”. But the Nephilim in some translations are paired with the phrase “men of renown”, a generally positive term, I would think, in English.

        You make a good point about the cross-reference to Numbers, although we can’t have the Nephilim in Genesis 6 surviving the Flood.

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        1. Some people’s egos demand that they confuse their speculations with facts. Here is a humorous example.

          The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so. — Ronald Reagan

          Just as we can be misguided in our political beliefs, we can be misguided in our religious beliefs if we presume to know more than we do.

          The Bible tells us what we need to know, but it doesn’t tell us much more than than that. If a translator won’t accept that limitation — if he insists (to make his translation distinctly “better”) upon inserting his speculations as factual into his translation — then he risks adding to the Word of God. Definitely not a good idea, but it seems that some do find that temptation difficult to resist.

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  9. Quite right. But the problem is that different Bibles tell us somewhat different things. For those of us who don’t read ancient Hebrew (and, even if we did, the extant manuscripts of the Old Testament are no more ancient than the extant manuscripts of the New Testament) or the Greek and lingua franca Greek of the New Testament, we don’t know which translators or transcribers dropped the ball or embellished. Mark 16 is a classic example in the New Testament.

    As for the passage about the Nephilim, which is a minor, but intriguing, point, I have several versions saying somewhat different things. I go to Scandinavia on business fairly frequently. Last summer, I picked up a friend’s Norwegian Bible and looked at the passage in Norwegian. There, the translators had the direct reference to the Nephilim and the “sons of the gods” language. Why did the KJV writers leave that out, or, conversely, why did other translators embellish? Who got it right compared to the earliest surviving Hebrew manuscript text (which might have its own errors)?

    The point is the one you made, at least implicitly, in the post. Bible study really does require study, writ large, and we are all, unless we have a great command of koina Greek and Hebrew, somewhat at the mercy of translators and transcribers. One has to study a great deal to develop a reliable sense of discernment about these texts.

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    1. @Scout

      Well, I would not make too much of the problem. Always keep in mind God is the one who saves us. We are not saved by our works. So we can pray for the discernment we need.

      In fact, I think God has been helpful to those who want to know the truth. When I read the history of the the early church, I find little evidence that they had any real trouble deciding which books should make up the Bible. I suppose Ecclesiastes, because it is so unusual, caused the most concern.

      There has been a fair amount of publicity about various Gospels that the early church did not accept, but it is by writing such “gospels” that scoundrels then tried to add to the Bible. These were apparently rejected out of hand.

      The Bible was not actually translated into the day-to-day language that people used until after the the invention of the printing press. Until then, with a few exceptions like the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate scribes of various sorts just manually copied the ancient manuscripts. They did not translate. I think it is reasonable to say that the stature of those scribes depended upon their exactness. Parchment and ink were expensive.

      In fact, until recent times I think we would be hard put to find a serious dispute over what scripture actually says. Church leaders argued over the meaning of words, not the words themselves.

      So does our current concern over the integrity of the translations arise from the mere fact that scholars are now writing translations? I don’t think so. I think the issue is a bit more complex. I think the first translations were done by men who believed the Bible is God’s Word whereas the men who have prepared some of the more recent translations may or may not believe they are working with God’s Word. In addition, those scholars who prepared the first translations had little cause to be inventive. They were not in competition with 20 other translations.

      In fact the Douay–Rheims Bible and the King James Version used William Tyndale’s Bible and each other as references. The scholars did this knowing they were not in competition; each already had guaranteed audience. They were more concerned about getting scholarship right and not losing their heads.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douay%E2%80%93Rheims_Bible

      Anyway, even now I think most of the hanky-panky takes one of three forms.
      1. The founder of a new religion comes up with new scripture. To varying degrees, for example, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Muslims have their own books.
      2. A supposedly Christian Church discredits scripture as mythological.
      3. The notes and commentary within a Bible is at odds with the text of the Bible itself.

      1-3 John tells what to do about the three problems above.

      So what we do we do about a bad translation? When someone prepares a new translation, there are always people who are familiar with the older translations who will check it out. Before we consider using it, we can read the reviews. We can also make use of the advice in the article above. Finally, we can shop and compare. If we can find a decent house to live in or a good car to drive, we probably have the wherewithal to buy a reliable translation of the Word of our Lord.

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  10. I don'[t view it as a “problem”. I view it as in interesting historical issue related to one of the most ancient of writings in our possession, particularly an ancient writing that quite a large cross-section of the population has some familiarity with.

    It’s a quibble with your last comment, but I think there is plenty of information available indicating that the early Church authorities had a very difficult time deciding what to include and what to cast out in the Canonical texts of the New Testament. There are still disputes about this, as well as disputes (or different approaches) to passages such as the last bits of Mark 16. It took 300+ years to come up with the present western Canon. We know that there was considerable disagreement even in the fourth century about the weight to give to books like James, Jude and, particularly II Peter. Revelation presented some tricky problems also. Some of the disputes went to authenticity (II Peter), some went to how to group the books (does one intermingle accepted Paul-authored epistles (I Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians etc) with Paul-like documents written by others (e.g., the Pastorals)?

    None of this detracts from the value of the Bible, but knowing as much as we can enriches our appreciation of the Book.

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  11. @scout

    It took 300+ years to come up with the present western Canon.

    Here is a conservative Christian website that dates the books of the Bible. => http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA176/when-were-the-bible-books-written

    Revelation was one of the last books. So just writing the New Testament took up first hundred years. During the second and third hundred, Christians suffered persecution. So the church fathers never got together until the reign of Constantine. Can you imagine how the authorities would have reacted?

    Finally, Constantine told the church fathers to get together, and he told them to resolve their disputes. Then the church fathers promptly publish 50 copies of the holy scriptures => https://citizentom.com/2015/03/28/what-did-jesus-write/#comment-60921

    Nothing new here. You have seen that comment before. Unfortunately, I have never made a post of it. I suppose I ought to. I always have trouble finding it.

    Like

    1. The dates at that particular website seem pretty much in line with conventional wisdom for the New Testament books. Revelation is generally regarded as being among the latest written of the Canon, and the dating usually puts it around 100 AD.

      They seem to very liberally over-estimate the age of the early volumes of the OT, however. The historical events those books describe or allude to may have occurred as far back as the 13th century BCE, but I think mainstream scholarship would put the books themselves somewhere around the 8th Century BCE.

      I’m curious as to why you describe that site as “conservative”. I think of that term, particularly as it is used around here, as having political connotations. From the link, I’d say that they are fairly liberal, at least as far as their OT historiography is concerned. Perhaps they also get engaged in politics and I am just not aware of that aspect of their activities.

      Like

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