Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Guest Blog: Do NOT Mismanage God’s Affairs by Lucky Atugbara

Do NOT Mismanage God’s Affairs by Lucky Atugbara

Dear Readers,

Once upon a time, in the not-too-distant past, my husband and I lived for two years in Lagos, Nigeria. Some people pray, “Lord, I will do anything for You, but please don’t send me to Africa.” Being sent to Africa was one of the best things in my life. I needed to be there. God sent me there to learn some important spiritual lessons that I could only have learned from being there! I also met some lovely life-long friends during the process.

One of them was our driver Lucky. Like many people in Nigeria, two jobs are a reality. Lucky worked for us at a secular job as our driver, but his “REAL” job was that of a minister. Some people believe that pastors must have higher education. I agree that education is an excellent plus for pastors, but in some situations and some countries, that is not realistic. Lucky is a self-taught minister of the gospel, and he is good at it. Theologian A.W. Tozer sums it up when he says, “The thing that must really be understood is that our knowledge of God cannot be acquired simply through academic processes. What we really know about God is what He has faithfully revealed to us.” ¹

Lucky occasionally sends me his Sunday sermon messages. I devour them! God is using this man to preach the gospel in Lagos. Below is a recent sermon he sent me. Yes, I edited his “speech” a little—with his permission—to make it more readable to my blog followers. I hope you enjoy it, and as you read it, look for the main point. The main point is the essence of our walk with our triune God.

Patti Greene

  1. God will never allow spiritual growth if we do not manage our lives correctly. So instead of praying for something from God, we should pray for the spirit to handle our sin, guide us into His truth, and be responsible for what He has given us. God will not allow you to have something you have prayed for if you cannot manage them.
  2. God created men and women to worship Him—as God. He required a manager to manage what He made. Note that whatever you mismanage, God will not allow that area of your life to grow—until you can handle it.
  3. If we ask people why God created man, they usually say, “It is to worship God.” Correct, but we must worship Him with the right motives, the right desire, and glorify Him because He is God.
  4. Whatever you mismanage, you will most likely lose. Whatever is under your care, work diligently to protect and care for it. God cannot give you what you pray for if you do not manage what He has already given to you well. He can only provide you what you can handle. You pray for a new house. But God looks down on the apartment you have and sees it is not well-kept or clean. So, He says, “No! You have not managed the apartment I gave you, so you may not have a house.” He only gives you what you proved you could manage.
  5. Some people might get jealous of your ministry. They may not understand what is going on behind the scenes and making your ministry grow and flourish. If you do not manage your church or church assignments correctly, you may lose them, just like if you mangle your body, you might lose part of your arm, leg, or health. If you mess up your relationships, you might lose them. If you mishandle your children, it is possible to lose them. If you blow your money or bungle your business, you could lose them.
  6. To my pastor friends, I say, “So stop crying, Pastor. Don’t say, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me. Life does not give you what you deserve but for what you fight for. Start reading Philippians 4:6.”

Ask. Seek, Find

My dear friends, the only way we can defeat the enemy we face is to pray. We must appreciate and tell the people that God has blessed us in one way or another.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7 NASB).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6 NASB).


I hope you liked my sermon and have extracted something from this message.

In God’s Grace,


Bible Verse:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Colossians 3:23-24).


Dear Lord, I come to You today lifting my heart to You. I desire to work and serve You diligently. Please take away all my ungodly motives, my wicked spirit, and any desire to be “seen” for my works. Make me desire to live a life pleasing to You in grace, love, and humility. Remind me that my purpose in life is to understand the revealed truths You give me through Your Word. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

¹ Tozer, A.W. Delighting in God: True and Absolute Freedom is Found only in the Presence of God. New Delhi: General Press, 2020.

Verses are taken from The New American Standard Bible (NASB).

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Books by Patti Greene

  • Awaken Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Anchor Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Answer Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Christian Caregiving

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Are You A “Fan” of God? Guest Blogger Ellsworth Johnson

In many areas of life, there are different levels of “fandom.”

Texas and Football

For the better part of the last decade our family resided in Houston. When we moved there from Los Angeles in 2007 I had my stereotypical ideas of what Texas would be like, from watching King of the Hill reruns and recalling every visual and verbal caricature I ever encountered.

I was relieved to find out that most of my preconceived notions were way off the mark. I had imagined that parched, half-submerged cattle skeletons, bleaching themselves in the desert sun, would greet me as I drove across a vast no man’s land at the heart of the state, a domestic version of Australia’s Outback, but was instead pleasantly surprised by the many miles of lush greenness along I-10’s extremely flat landscape.

One thing I did have right about Texas, though: it is impossible to overstate its citizens’ love of football. That’s every level of football, especially high school and college. They tolerate the pros, and turn to the middle schools to wean the next generation. I’m sure they’d have elementary- and nursery-level tackle football there, too, if they were allowed.

Go to any college game in the state, and look around the stands. Never mind what’s happening on the field: today we’re more interested in the attending crowd. You can see various levels of interest, from the young woman in sundress, flip-flops and shades, clearly bored and dragged there by her boyfriend, to the weekend assistant coach, who knows all the players by name and bodily bawls out what call should have been made when the refs miss one.

But they’re amateurs when it comes to football fandom.

The real pro is Big Buford.

Believe me, you’ll know Buford when you see him. He’s the one who is shirtless, even on days when it’s less than sixty degrees outside and body-painted two colors which clearly clash. In one hand is a 22-ounce cup of something marginally flammable, and on his head are steer horns, a fish head or some other animal part.

He can probably stand to skip a couple of meals, too.

And if you can’t see him, don’t worry: even above the cheering aficionados in the stands you can hear Buford shouting encouragement to the home team, in good times and in bad.

In another place and time, he’d be the one to go out and yell for the hogs to come home.

Now, I’ve never gone that far for anything in my life. Well, actually I have, but in a quieter, more subdued (but no less intense) way. 

Today I am completely sold out for the kingdom of God.

But in my younger years, the television show Star Trek was my religion.

Star Trek and Fandom


In the early (circa 1970) Star Trek culture, there were two acronyms to describe one’s level of fandom for the show:

FIJAGH: Fandom Is Just A God-blessed Hobby

FIAWOL: Fandom Is A Way Of Life

Those in the FIJAGH camp liked the show and knew the basics, yes, but that was about it. They could take it or leave it; at the end of the day, it was simply another form of entertainment, just another TV show like “Mission: Impossible” or “Lost In Space,” albeit more intelligent and memorable than either.

FIAWOL, on the other hand, was a world unto itself. First, it was one’s imperative to know everything about the show: granular details of each episode, yes, but also the “universe” in which it existed. This included the history of the Federation, technical minutiae of starships and, for some, even creating a language for the Klingons. There is even a fan-written Star Trek Encyclopedia, where much of this gathered information resides.

The truly hard-core fans attended Star Trek conventions. These were major events held every year at large hotels in major cities around the country, which could expect to draw thousands of attendees. Many of the faithful were dressed up in Starfleet uniforms and outfitted themselves with plastic model communicators (which, it can be persuasively argued, were an inspiration for today’s cell phones) and phasers, to see and hear the show’s stars, writers and producers dish the behind-the-scenes details die-hard fans loved.


In my youth, I was one of those.

My knowledge of the show was encyclopedic, from the color of the planet Cestus III (lime green) to Captain James T. Kirk’s middle name (Tiberius). I watched the show almost every day, Monday through Friday, as it was syndicated in our city, so it took about four months to cycle through all 79 episodes. I did attend ONE Star Trek convention, in 1975… but I did not wear a uniform, and I left my toys at home.

And it does stick with you.

Many years later they came out with a Star Trek version of the board game “Trivial Pursuit”, and some friends made the mistake of challenging me to play it with them one Friday after work. I allowed that I “used to watch the show occasionally” (*smirk*) so I let them have three players on their team while I had one other person besides myself on mine.

We killed them.

So I let them have the other person, so now it was the four of them against me.

Still killed them.

Then I started drinking beer (I was not, and still am not much of a drinker) to level the playing field.

It didn’t help. Wiped them out again.

Finally, I had to visit the bathroom (all that beer!). I was going up the stairs to the facilities when my friend Kevin made his best attempt to stump me.

“OK, try this one: in the episode ‘Day of the Dove’, how many Klingons and Enterprise crew members were trapped above decks when the entity sealed the bulkheads?”

Without hesitating or breaking my stride, I shouted over my shoulder.


When I came back downstairs, the game had been put away, and the guys were watching TV.

“We give up,” Kevin droned, without looking away from the television.

What if our “fandom” for God and His Word was on that level? 

What would it be like to be driven by the same fervor, the same “need to know” that we put on non-eternal things?

The FIJAGH Christian

The “FIJAGH Christian” (just a hobby) gets it: we need a Savior, Jesus is it, and at a minimum that will keep us out of Hell. Good: that’s a start… yet it isn’t much more than that. Sure, there are lifestyle changes, frequent church attendance and a general tilt toward that which is good, but it stops short of the whole-hog “abundant life” Jesus offers us in John 10:10.

The FIAWOL Christian

For the “FIAWOL Christian” (way of life), this is only the beginning.

For starters, you would make it your mission to know everything possible about God, Jesus, the Bible, our place in it all, and how it all fits together. You’d quickly learn the main details of the books of the Bible: their names, locations, what they’re about and what happens in them. We quickly get a “feel” of who the main characters are (God, Adam, Noah,…), the book’s overall structure (Testaments, history, poetry, letters,…) and, most importantly, the wisdom and truths God wants to impart to us through His Word. 

We become voracious readers of the Scriptures and other resources, eager to soak up this information!

Once we do obtain this knowledge, do we keep it to ourselves? 

No way! 

We talk to other “fans” and compare notes at every opportunity. We consult other “fan publications” in print, on television and at the movie theatre. And we attend “conventions”: local ones every Sunday and Wednesday (church), while the truly hard-core can additionally seek out larger, more specialized functions which sell out arenas in major metropolises across the country and around the world.

Bringing your communicators and phasers is optional.

And… you won’t ever pass up the chance to talk excitedly about it to anyone who will listen, anytime, anywhere. You don’t care who knows you are a “fan of God”: you WANT them to know, you WANT to open the door for them to be a “fan”, too, and if they don’t want to be a fan, well, then, that’s on them, and you just move on down the road and don’t give it a second thought.

It was relatively natural and easy to get this worked up over a fifty-year-old television show. Why is it so hard to get behind something really exciting, like spending all of eternity with the Creator of the universe?

It is the nature of order to attract chaos, for beautiful gardens to invite weeds (and serpents!), and anything good and pure to be susceptible to contamination and perversion. Neither Star Trek nor Christianity could escape this fate.

What Happened with Star Trek

The show was on NBC for only three years, 1966-1969, and, despite a last-ditch viewer campaign to save it, was canceled due to low ratings. 

But then something truly amazing happened: the second-most-impressive “life after death” resurrection of all time took place (we’ll get to #1 a little later) as the series became more popular in syndication than it ever was as a weekly network program. Fan clubs sprang up nationwide as “Trekkies” tuned in daily in droves to local stations across the country to share the documented voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise

Many of those same fans began producing their own books, fiction, fan magazines and even short films based on the show, completely independent of Paramount Studios, the show’s owner at the time; they turned a blind eye as fans drove up their property’s value by creating additional content, with no monetary investment on the studio’s part. Billions of dollars of merchandise was created and sold worldwide by enterprising (*nyuk nyuk*) individuals. 

This explosion of aficionado interest culminated in the franchise being resurrected in 1979 with the first of six Star Trek movies based on the series.

Did it stop there? Not a chance. 

A second television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) came along in 1987, with a whole new cast, ship and universe (it was set about 80 years post-Kirk) and ran seven seasons in syndication; it surpassed the popularity of the original show, which was no small thing. Since then, TNG went on to make even more big-screen theatrical films (ten!), and there have been four more television series since then, including the currently-running Star Trek: Discovery, with yet another, Star Trek: Picard set to premiere in 2020.

Behind the scenes, though, Paramount and CBS decided to cage their golden goose and keep an ever-larger share of the eggs it lays for themselves. 

They have done this in many ways, but most prominently by strangling fans’ license to produce filmed entertainment based on the show, much of which puts the Hollywood studios to shame. 

Some of these fan-generated works are of such outstanding quality, depth and meticulous fidelity to the original source material that they often surpass the work of the professionals, and make it impossible to believe they descend from the labor of amateurs. There is little doubt that Paramount’s disastrous attempt to “reboot” the original series of movies, begun in 2009 and since run into the ground over ill-advised changes to the Star Trek universe, played a part in this decision, as did the likely jealousy raised as far superior and better-received entertainment was produced independently with only a fraction of the studios’ expended resources.

Paramount’s and CBS’ response? They did what arguably could have been done much sooner, but was not, as long as it served their interests.

They sicced the lawyers on their own fan community.

A published list of conditions, from placing a limit of 30 minutes on the length of these films to prohibiting use of the shows’ actors, technical personnel and other resources, has hobbled the makers of fan fiction to the point of being unable to compete with the studios.

More cynical thinkers might believe: that was the point.

The current owners of Star Trek have put their money-making plans into overdrive. Besides wiping out their biggest competition – the more productive part of their own fan base — they have put their new show, Star Trek: Discovery, behind the paywall of CBS All Access (interestingly named, since only those who fork over the cash gain this “access”), and, as mentioned earlier, have several new Star Trek series waiting in the wings to go the same route.

Increasingly, their attitude seems to be: “Thanks for loving the show and keeping it alive for the last 50 years, at your expense, but we’ll take over now… both the show itself, and the money it generates…”

What Happened with Christianity

Sadly, even the realm of the sacred is not immune to the corrupting capabilities of currency.

The 1984 translation of the New International Version Bible (NIV 1984) is beloved by conservative Christian denominations nationwide, who have standardized their teaching and preaching on its text. Since then, however, it has been subject to multiple continuing revisions, causing widespread dissension and controversy in Scripture-loving circles.

According to Robert Slowley’s analysis of the text differences between the 1984 and 2010 versions of the NIV Bible, only about 61% of the total verses remained intact. ¹

In the New Testament, Matthew far and away had the greatest number of changed verses (129), while these Old Testament books were the most heavily edited:

Paul’s letters, and the works of the Minor Prophets, were relatively untouched.

Zondervan is the commercial rights holder for the NIV Bible in North America. In 1988 Zondervan was acquired by HarperCollins, one of the five largest commercial publishers in the world.

HarperCollins is owned, in turn, by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a publishing and media empire which includes Fox News, the 20th Century Fox movie studio and The Wall Street Journal. The organization is notoriously, relentlessly driven by the desire to make profits at all costs, and is not above slanting its content to achieve that purpose. It is well known that its business decisions, such as how to edit and present a text under its purview (whether it’s news copy, a textbook or a Bible), are guided primarily by management’s political leanings and how any changes would impact sales; unimportant considerations, like fidelity to God’s Word, are brusquely and contemptuously cast aside.

After a decade of work, efforts of the first major “update” since the HarperCollins-NewsCorp. acquisition bore fruit. A revised New Testament was published in March 2002, and a completed Bible version was released in February 2005. This new version, dubbed Today’s New International Version (TNIV), featured down-to-earth phrasing, a complete purge of gender-specific language (no more “He” and “His”) and a greater emphasis on literal translation (translating words, rather than ideas and concepts).

TNIV was not well-received. A few denominations accepted it, praising its gender neutrality, but over 100 evangelical leaders signed a “Statement of Concern” opposing it. The Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention each passed resolutions against TNIV and other inclusive-language translations. In many cases the subtle meanings of some verses were altered in the name of readability.

Gender neutrality has been a hot-and-heavy battleground issue since the late 1990s, and rages on even today. In the period 1997-1999 alone there were five related articles in the Billy-Graham-founded evangelical magazine Christianity Today, with titles like “The Battle for the Inclusive Bible”, “Bible Translators Deny Gender Agenda” and “Hands Off My NIV!”

Some language changes in the TNIV opened up erroneous interpretations not possible with the 1984 NIV. An example of this is given in 1 Corinthians 14:28 where the subject is Paul’s instruction to the church about speaking in tongues:

NIV 1984: TNIV 2005:
If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God.


The original Greek has a masculine singular pronoun corresponding to “himself.” The TNIV has nevertheless converted it to plural, “themselves,” in English. The change is made in order to avoid using generic “he” in the form “himself.” The two wordings are similar in meaning, but not the same. 

The TNIV, with “them” in the plural, allows a corporate interpretation of the verse. It opens the door to the idea that the people who speak in tongues should go off in a private group where they can speak to one another. They speak “to themselves,” that is, to other tongues-speakers rather than to the general assembly of the church. The NIV, by contrast, unambiguously expresses the correct meaning: each person speaks only to himself and to God, not to the church.

The verse makes an important practical difference today, because people who speak in tongues want to know what sort of direction Paul is giving to them. And they cannot tell from the TNIV, whose wording can easily mislead them. 

There is a big cost here in loss of clear meaning because of the refusal to use generic “he.” ²

Even the Bible guardians themselves admitted their error. In a September 2011 editorial in the magazine Christianity Today, the NIV translators and publishers allowed as much:

“Some of the criticism was justified,” [International Bible Society CEO Keith] Danby said. “We fell short of the trust that was placed in us and we made some important errors on the way. . . . We let down our partners.”

“Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” said Zondervan president Moe Girkins. “So as we launch this new NIV, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV.” ³

So, it was back to the drawing board. A few years later, in 2011, another new version of the NIV was published (NIV 2010). Its aim was to redress many of TNIV’s perceived shortcomings. It restored some of the gender-specific language TNIV removed – yet it introduced several issues of its own.

Bible scholar Michael Marlowe offers this example from Psalm 1 of how different NIV editions render the same passage (color-coding of text differences by me):

1984 NIV Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
2005 TNIV Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but who delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
2010 NIV Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.


The change here was made in response to criticism of the TNIV which used this verse as an example of the loss of meaning that often happens when plurals are substituted for singulars. 

As I wrote in 2005, the substitution of plurals does significantly interfere with the sense here, because “the one man whose delight is in the law of the Lord is set in opposition to the many ungodly ones around him. But when the man is made to disappear into a group of genderless people, then a part of the meaning of this passage is lost.” And so the revisers have made it singular again. 

But we also see that they still refuse to use the word “man” or any masculine pronouns, leading to the awkward substitution “that person,” and the ungrammatical use of “they” with a singular antecedent. 

This continues to be objectionable, because the stylistic taboo against using the word “man” forces inaccuracy and clumsiness in the translation, and it has nothing to do with making the meaning clear. It is simply a “politically correct” avoidance of masculine terms. c

As with the TNIV, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution against use of NIV 2010. It was adopted at their annual meeting in June 2011, and passed nearly unanimously by a show of hands. Besides gender neutrality, their complaints against it included the alteration “of the meaning of hundreds of verses” and that the new edition “goes beyond acceptable translation standards.” 

Beyond disapproving of NIV 2010’s use, the resolution went on to urge LifeWay Christian Resources to ban sales of this version in its bookstores and encourage pastors to “make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the [2010] NIV”.

Zondervan has since published 20 editions of the new NIV Bible, and LifeWay currently sells them in their bookstores and online.

HarperCollins,  owner of Zondervan, itself created a website to explain the NIV, including the translation philosophy used for the 2010 version, and interviews with some of the translators themselves. That website can be found here:

An interesting comment by one of the translators reminds us that the edition is the New International Version. The aim, he said, is to make the Word accessible for English speakers the world over, not just in the United States. This was their professed rationale for making many of their translation choices.

The Forced Extinction of NIV 1984

The Assyrians were one of the most powerful, feared and hated military nations of Biblical times. After they conquered a nation, they would seek to weaken its fabric in two ways:

  1. Deport large segments of the population to Assyria (and, thus, a brain-drain on their homeland), and
  2. Bring in people from other parts of their empire to settle the conquered nation, in sufficient numbers to dilute the nation’s identity and culture. Over time, the nation no longer existed in its original form.

They did this to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Assyrian customs insinuated themselves into the dominant Jewish way of life to the point of dethroning the role of “Jewish-ness’” in Samaritan culture as the “only” or even the “preferred” way of doing things.

In later generations the Jews hated the Samaritans because of their mixed Jewish and pagan religious practices.

The publishers of the NIV Bible seem to have taken a page from the Assyrian playbook. They have locked the fairly traditional NIV 1984 translation behind a wall called “No Longer Available”, while sating current hunger for NIV Bibles with the semi-gender-neutralized 2010 edition. 

It is this edition which is being sold in Christian bookstores, used by denominations nationwide and shipped to third-world countries to which the word of God is being spread.

Over time, existing copies of  NIV 1984 will go out of circulation, never to be replaced, while NIV 2010 rushes in to fill the void. As a result, it will eventually eclipse NIV 1984 to become the dominant version.

Welcome to Samaria.

And there is something insidious about how International Bible Society (the translators, who have since renamed themselves “Biblica”), Zondervan (the publisher) and HarperCollins (owner of Zondervan) all march in lock-step in justifying the changes made to the NIV text.

The English language is constantly changing, they posit, and the Bible text has to change, too, if it is to be effective at communicating God’s message to mankind (ummm… I mean… “humanity”… ummm… “people”?).

There is something decidedly disingenuous about this. They act as if the Bible is completely unintelligible without these “updates”, and that the fundamentals of the English language have undergone a wholesale radical shift. Left behind, it is claimed, are large swaths of readers the world over who don’t have the benefit of staying up with the latest vocabulary trends. It is absolutely necessary to keep the Bible up to date, they say, so that people can understand what’s in it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, words have been added to the lexicon, and some have had their meanings augmented in various ways, but at its core English remains pretty much the same language which existed in 1984, when the last stable NIV edition was printed. 

Bible scholar Michael Marlowe is even less convinced:

The Preface of the revised edition explains that “updates are needed in order to reflect the latest developments in our understanding of the biblical world and its languages and to keep pace with changes in English usage.” 

This, however, is nothing but a piece of publisher’s boilerplate, found in all prefaces, and it is somewhat misleading, because there is little or nothing in the NIV revision prompted by “latest developments in our understanding of the biblical world and its languages.” 

After looking at the complete list of changes compiled by Robert Slowley, it seems to me that nearly all are trivial adjustments of the version’s phrasing which will be of no interest to Bible students. 

And the few changes that do involve different exegetical decisions are not really “updates.” The revision simply reflects in some places a shift in the balance of opinion among the current committee members, about options of interpretation which have been discussed by scholars for over a hundred years, without the benefit of any new information.

What HAS changed, though, are political sensibilities in some circles about gender, and a grim determination to eradicate all assumed and perceived “unconscious bias” by the original scrolls’ authors and the patriarchal societies in which they lived. 

A new NIV edition was the perfect opportunity to sneak in these edits and force the world to accept them by discontinuing previous versions.

They even removed the version number from the book’s cover, so that the less-discerning Bible shopper, looking simply for “a new NIV Bible,” would grab it off the bookstore shelf without a second thought, unaware that he (ah, that dreaded male pronoun!) has purchased a volume which is at the very least suspicious and controversial, and at most dangerously misleading.

Forget Samaria: welcome to Byzantium (literally, from where we get the word “byzantine”)!

For my part, I will keep using my NIV 1984 Bible until the pages fall out. At that point I’ll choose a different version, probably the New American Standard Bible (NASB), adopted by the first church my wife and I attended together after we got married, or the English Standard Version (ESV), because it is trusted by people I respect.

I would urge anyone shopping for a new Bible version to consult their pastor or church leaders, or simply use the edition those leaders themselves or the congregation use.

As for Star Trek, I’m pretty much through with it. I’ll watch the reruns and old movies every now and then, but the new stuff leaves me cold: it’s all so concocted and loaded with social nuances. Discovery has a homosexual continuing character; what would Captain Kirk, that interstellar womanizer of old with a girl on every planet, think? 

Plus, there’s a huge ongoing debate in the fan community over which version of events in the various shows’/movies’/books’ timelines is “canon,” i.e., real, and to be believed. Contorted explanations are trotted out to reconcile how the cool events in Film A can be reconciled with the even cooler but utterly incompatible happenings in Book B. Things like “people die”, “wars get fought”, “multiple copies of a person exist”,… it’s the same type of unscrambling which made Lost an ultimately unsatisfying experience, except this one’s still unfolding worldwide in real-time.

People born after, say, 1985 can be forgiven for not knowing that a much simpler world existed recently in place of this one. Back then, there was only ONE phone company (AT&T), ONE NIV Bible, and the starship captain always beat the bad guy, talked a machine to death (Kirk did this three times!) and/or got the girl (I lost count!). America was good, the Soviets were evil, and never the twain met.

But today we have cell phones, Facebook, Instagram. The United States is no longer the de facto world leader, and newly-resurgent countries like Russia, China and India are eating our lunch worldwide. There are now multiple phone companies.

And multiple Star Treks.

And multiple NIV Bibles.

Where will it all end?

To use the phrase: “God only knows.”


I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 145:1-3

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Galatians 5:9

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.

Matthew 21:12

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

Revelation 22:18

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Timothy 6:10

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:9-11

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes… And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.

2 Kings 17:6

2 Kings 17:24

All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise stated.


Father, give us the discernment to receive the pure truths of Your Word, and avoid the snares which would keep them from us. You know what our increasing complexities our future holds, and have already decided how we are to navigate them. Tell us, in ways we can understand, how to handle the troubles headed our way, and stand with us as we do so. You swore that you would never leave or forsake us, and through faith we stand on that promise in the midst of the coming storm. Bless Your name and that of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Works Cited

¹ Slowley, Robert.“NIV2011 comparison with NIV1984 and TNIV,” 8 July 2017. comparison/

² Poythress, Vern S. “TNIV’s Altered Meanings: An Evaluation of the TNIV.”

31 May 2012

³ Olsen, Ted.  “Correcting the ‘Mistakes’ of TNIV and Inclusive NIV, Translators Will Revise NIV in 2011.”  Christianity Today  September 2011 TNIV.

⁴ Marlowe, Michael  “The 2011 Revision of the NIV.”

*Guest blogs posted on the may or may not represent the views of this website.

Good Without God?

Good Without God?

Can you be “good” without needing a God? Think again.

by Ellsworth Johnson, Guest Blogger

1) Acts

It’s Christmas Day morning. A young boy bursts into the living room of his spacious suburban home, where a beautifully-decorated tree dominates its surroundings by the window. Under the tree are numerous presents bearing, among others, the child’s name. The parents who put up the tree and supplied the gifts are still comfortably asleep in bed, after spending all night preparing this wondrous setting.

The child runs to the tree and immediately begins opening his presents, ripping off wrapping paper and casting it aside. A race car! The latest video game! And finally… his own CELL PHONE!

They are good gifts. And he was a good boy all year, so of course he deserves them! After all, he wasn’t like Johnny Booker, shooting his neighbor’s dog with a BB gun and blinding it in one eye, or those older kids who regularly stole stuff from stores down at the mall.

He plays with the race car and begins to set up his phone. Nowhere in his thoughts of the moment are the parents who gave him the gifts, or that they chose to give them to him despite his ongoing tendencies to “talk back” to them, and not do his chores…


In the last decade there has been a push in the humanist/atheist community to establish a belief system where the value of morality is recognized and affirmed without having to attribute it, or anything else, to a divine Creator.

A manifesto for this way of thinking is a 2009 book by Greg Epstein, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.  In the book, Epstein does not seek to destroy traditional religion, but instead supplant it, positing that what is “good” about humanity does not depend on faith in a divine being.

In fact, the author is a great proponent of secular humanism, the principle that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without belief in God. It specifically rejects religious dogma and supernaturalism as means of morality and decision making.

An entire ecosystem has been built to bolster this viewpoint. Like-minded authors have come alongside Epstein with supporting works of their own. A Web site, Kids Without God, seeks to steer the younger crowd away from the need to rely on anything outside of themselves.

There is even  the Council for Secular Humanism, “North America’s leading organization for non-religious people” to “advocate and defend a nonreligious lifestance rooted in science, naturalistic philosophy, and humanist ethics and to serve and support adherents of that lifestance.”

The race car, given a good strong push, zips along its merry way along a flat surface. Soon, however, it comes to an incline and slows… and in fact rolls back down the way it came, almost back to where it started.


The attempt to claim life is “good without God” is similar to the above illustration with the toy car. You WILL occasionally and randomly get good pushes and zoom along for a while, but soon you’ll run out of your own power and stop, or hit a hill and roll back down. Worse, with no one all-seeing at the steering wheel, the car could easily hit a wall or go over a cliff.

Things may seem “good” for a while, in fits and starts, but that’s a pretty low standard compared to what’s available. How much better are the gifts that God gives — wisdom, discernment, comfort and guidance in times of trouble, and a peace which passes all understanding — than the perishable things we receive from this world?

Maybe it should be called “life has been OK so far, and doesn’t hurt too badly for me to complain, without God.” And if that’s good enough for you, enjoy that life for all it’s worth, because what comes afterward is guaranteed to be decidedly less pleasant.

The difference is that, with God, you are not limited to your own power, or the fickle vagaries of those in your sphere, but instead can depend on the inexhaustible resources of the Creator of the universe. Through Him, you keep getting pushed along by that mighty hand when you run low on momentum:

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:31

Now, in your own travels through this world, you’ll have to trust Him to take the wheel of your car and drive where you need (but not always want) to go, often not an easy thing for many of us to do. You will encounter some rough roads, sometimes travel by night and occasionally take some long detours, but the ultimate end of the journey is guaranteed to make that leap of faith worthwhile.

How much better than the “OK without God” life, then, would it be, instead of rolling back downhill, or getting out and pushing the car yourself, to instead glide over the summit and down the other side with someone driving who knows where He is going, and move along as needed just fine without energy or effort from you?

2) Judges

Unbeknownst to the young boy, the parents in fact are awake in their bedroom, aroused by the playful noises emanating from the front of the house. Dad is angry because the boy did not wait until the entire family was up before opening the gifts, as has traditionally been done in their household.

“Not even a ‘thank you’ from that ungrateful little snot!” he mutters. He wants to get out his belt and “teach that boy some manners”, but the mother’s patience permits cooler heads to prevail.

“Let’s go talk to him,” she advises. “Give him the chance to realize the error of his ways. We’ll think of a suitable penalty later, like no playing with the new stuff for a week.”

Dad huffs, his momentary wrath subsided. He really wants to confront his son about the boy’s impatience and lack of appreciation for the gifts provided, but realizes that the message will be lost unless delivered when the time is right…


Justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin in God’s economy. The father would be justified in giving the boy a good tanning with the belt, but relents when the mother suggests a different approach, which could have more-desirable long-term effects.

In the first chapter of the book of Romans, Paul lays out God’s unimpeachable indictment against humanity in the starkest terms: man failed to acknowledge God for who He is and the good things He provided, earning us His divine wrath. He gave man over to a Godless existence, mired in his own lusts and devices, the first steps on the road to an eternity in Hell.

The only “off-ramp” from that road is found in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross opened man’s only way back to God, by appropriating Christ’s righteousness for ourselves and, in the process, turning aside God’s well-deserved anger directed at us “while we were yet sinners”.

Just like the boy enjoying his presents, we are many times blissfully oblivious to the justifiable fury kindling elsewhere against us.

3) Lamentations

Finally, the last member of the family was awake.

“Dude!” the boy’s older sister exclaimed as she entered the living room. “You’re making enough noise to wake the dead!” Her protest landed on deaf ears as playtime continued unabated.

“I see that you couldn’t wait to open your presents,” she said sharply, rolling her eyes. She plopped down in a plush armchair near the Christmas tree and sat back, folding her legs underneath her body.

“Aren’t they incredible? I really hit the jackpot with Mom and Dad this year!”

“I’m sure they are nice, but I’m just as sure they would have loved to see your excitement as you opened your gifts.”

The comment registered for an instant, evidenced by a pause in pushing the race car around the floor, and a brief cessation of engine noises from the boy’s mouth.

“They’ll get over it,” shrugged the boy. He resumed pushing the car and making engine noises. The moment had passed.

Time to shift gears.

“You sure seem to take a lot for granted, especially on this day that we are to appreciate the things we have.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?” He did not look up when asking the question.

“Well, what about the fact that we have a nice big house? We could have a smaller one, like the Carluccis next door…”

“… or have that mansion on the hill, like Scott Hendel’s family has,” countered her brother.

“Or be living in a cardboard box on the street.” The reversal itself had been reversed, and her brother’s naked covetousness irritated her, yet something in her heart spurred her on.

“My friend Jenny, she and her family decided to forego giving each other gifts this year, and instead use the money to get stuff for other people in their lives. She decided to buy presents for her teachers at school. Her parents got stuff for their co-workers, and I think her brother surprised his basketball team with … whatever it is that basketball players like.”

The boy pondered that thought for a moment. “That was pretty nice of them. I’ll bet all those people were pretty happy to get all that stuff.”

“They were. And it made Jenny and her family feel even better to give it.”

The girl sighed. Another attempt to take flight had been allowed to fall back to earth. She had been awoken that morning not by the noise in the living room, but the need to bring her brother’s ongoing selfish behavior under repentance. So far, all her efforts had failed.

Then, finally, enduring inspiration struck.

“Remember when you tried to steal that candy down at Walmart?”

The boy hesitated for a moment. He had stopped playing with the race car and had started to configure the phone. “Yeah. That was probably wrong…”

“‘Probably’? The store clerk who caught you was pretty sure when she told Mom.”

“I could not go outside and play after school for a week,” he recalled. Then he smiled. “But that was OK: I stayed inside and played Halo on my Xbox. Even got a high score!” The boy was proud of himself.

His triumph, however, was short-lived.

“What about the second time, with Dad?”

The boy was stunned, enough so that he put down the cell phone.

“Aha!” the sister declared triumphantly. “You didn’t know I KNEW about that one, did you??? Mom told me what happened, as well as what Dad did about it.”

This was a less-sanguine memory. The boy had been with his father at a hardware store when he decided on a whim to steal a box of Junior Mints at the checkout stand. The store manager happened to be on the floor at the time and confronted the boy, who, at the manager’s behest, led him to the father. Dad was clearly embarrassed, and, the boy could tell, more than a little angry. Dad apologized to the manager, and made the boy say that he, too, was sorry.

Memories of the ride home, and the later beating, gave the boy chills. Dad didn’t say much beyond muttered threats, letting the dread of anticipation build. When they got home, Mom wasn’t there to shield him from the punishment; out came the belt and the boy got a thorough whipping.

“I had to write a letter to the manager, and deliver it in person,” recalled the boy, decidedly downcast. “I had to say that stealing is wrong, and I was sorry. It was quite embarrassing.”

“Sorry that you did it? Or sorry you got caught?”

“That I did it.” And then, in a flash, the boy became quite defensive.

“Just because you are thirteen doesn’t make you somehow better than me!”

“True, ” the girl replied pensively. “It does not. But it DOES make me ask questions, and think about things nine-year-old boys don’t.”

Embarrassed, the boy went back to playing with his car, but now in silence and with a lot less joy.


It’s true: the deep dark sins we commit in secret will all eventually come out. In fact, Jesus Himself declared this much in Luke’s gospel:

But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

Luke 12:2-3

God, of course, already knows all about our transgressions: He knew about them before they took place, and had a front-row seat when they actually occurred. It is also possible that others, unbeknownst to you, already know about them as well, tainting those relationships and coloring the judgments they make toward you, all without your knowledge.

4) Revelation

The boy’s remorse over opening his presents early had become oppressive. What should have been a morning of delight and celebration had instead for him become burdensome and guilt-ridden. He continued tinkering with the cell phone, but his heart and mind were elsewhere.

There was no “un-ringing the bell” here: what’s done was done, and the only question worth addressing was what to do next.

“If it were me,” the sister offered, “I’d go in and throw myself on Dad’s mercy.” By now she had settled into the armchair and slung her legs over one arm, sitting sideways. “That always worked for me: admit you made a mistake, promise that you won’t do it again and that you’ll do better in the future.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, yeah, but there’s one catch.”

“I KNEW it!” he declared triumphantly. “I knew there’d be one. That sounds WAY too easy! So, what is it?” A smirk had appeared on his face, as if he had uncovered a secret hidden truth.

“You have to mean it.”

The boy snorted his disbelief.

“It’s true,” his sister continued. “He knows when you’re just saying the words. Believe me, I tried just going through the motions a couple times. I still got lashed with the belt.”

“YOU? Miss Goody-Goody got a beating?” He found this even more incredible, that his apparently angelic sister had ever done anything meriting punishment.

“Yep. That was a long time ago, before I learned that is was good to be honest when you mess up, but even better to not do bad things in the first place. Believe me, I am not perfect, by any stretch, but I do try to be better every day.”

Now the boy contemplated his own situation: if he waited for Dad to come out of the bedroom into the living room, chances were he’d be carrying a strap of leather, and not for decoration, either. On the other hand, a heartfelt pre-emptive apology just might turn aside his father’s wrath.

“Maybe I should try that. It sounds a lot less painful that Dad’s belt.”

“Yes, it does work out better most of the time. But remember, you can’t just mouth the words. When I did that, it didn’t just make him a little angrier, but also very sad. The belt hurt, to be sure, but what I remember most is the look of disappointment on his face. That stung more than the belt did.”

Tears started to well up in the boy’s eyes. “I don’t want Daddy and Mommy to be disappointed in me!”

“I’m sure they don’t want that, either. But you need to tell them the truth about what happened, that you got too excited and forgot to wait for everyone else to get up before opening your presents. They deserve a sincere apology — remember, you gotta mean it. Think you can do that?”

The boy nodded in silence.

“Come on. Let’s go wish Mom and Dad a Merry Christmas.”

With that, they set out for the master bedroom. With a knock on the closed door met by a shouted “Come in!” the children burst into the room and leaped on the bed, squeezing and snuggling in the space between their parents, just as they used to do long ago. Their bodies may now be bigger, but, inside, a part of each was still the small child who felt safe, loved and secure when curling up with Mommy and Daddy.

The business of opening the gifts without the family present was handled gracefully. Heartfelt phrases were exchanged: “Thank you.” “I’m sorry.” “We forgive you.” The parents decided upon a fair nonphysical punishment.

With that out of the way, there was nothing left to do but to enjoy the moment on the bed, together, as a family.


What It All Means

The story is an allegory developed around the situation we as Christians face when confronted with an adherent of the “Good Without God” philosophy.

The brother is the obvious (and oblivious!) sinner who thinks he’s already pretty good, at least compared to other people, and does not need additional boundaries on his behavior. The parents represent the dual nature of God, with the father holding honest indignation over his wayward child’s “me first” rush to playtime, along with the desire to inflict punishment, and the mother tempering that judgment with patience.

Stuck in the middle of all this is the sister, who is clearly somehow enlightened to there being more to life than the self-centered focus her brother has, and is trying to get him to put their situation into a larger context. Twice she fails, but does not give up, finally finding an “in” when confronting him about how his actions probably made his parents feel. In the end, she leads him into the parents’ bedroom, where he honestly confess his “sin” and asks for forgiveness, which is immediately and lovingly granted.

In short… she evangelizes him!

In the ideal, our earthly parents mirror and model God’s love for us, but also His judgment and righteous anger when warranted. In the end, it is far more preferable to “come clean” and admit our transgressions to a God who made us, already knows our weaknesses and mistakes, and stands ready to forgive us in His Son’s name.

Have you given your life over to Jesus Christ? If you have, were you genuinely sorry for the sins you committed, or did you simply make a vain confession devoid of feeling? If you have not, there is still an opportunity to turn aside the eminently justifiable anger a holy God has against you, and exchange it for forgiveness and a place in His kingdom forever.

The Rest of the Story

At that moment, in a realm far away, the Creator was, in fact, looking in on this family.  He smiled, as things were progressing exactly how He had intended.

“This is how I roll!” He smiled to Himself, in ways far beyond our understanding.

Two more miracles were needed to tear the lid off this family’s godless paradigm once and for all, in a way which none of them could deny. The groundwork for each had already been laid, here and elsewhere, and in the fullness of time those happenings will point to the Source of All Things.

The Creator already knew whether and how each member of the family would eventually respond, for it had been ordained since the beginning of time.

The only thing left to do… was wait.


What is God waiting for each of us to do? Reach out to someone? Respond to Him in some way? Are there people around us who believe they are “good without God?”

Whatever it may be, we should be honored that we have been appointed to be part of His eternal plan to bring rightful glory to Himself, and share His love for His beloved children the world over.


Father, let those who believe life is “good” without You be awakened from their slumber to all which is possible with You. Open their eyes, Lord, and their hearts to You and Your endless grace, and show them unmistakably that life is indeed “better WITH God”. You have a storehouse for each of us, filled with Your gifts and mercies, only a small fraction of which is ever claimed during our lifetimes. Help us receive what You have already set aside for us. I ask in the holy and precious name of your Son Jesus. Amen.

Bible Verses:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 1:26

” The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Psalm 14:1

“The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”

Genesis 6:5

“Without Me, you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

James 1:17 (NLT)

“I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’”

Psalm 16:2

Bible verses are from the New International Version (NIV) unless stated otherwise.


Hope and Encouragement From the Word – GUEST BLOGGER Shelley Jarl

Have you ever put thought into how much you appreciate the Word of God? Or, have you ever prayed to thank God for His Word or for the numerous benefits we receive from it? The writer of Psalm 119 certainly did.

With its 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. Many people attribute this Psalm to David although the author is not revealed.

The writer had an incredible appreciation for the Word of God. Throughout the Psalm, he uses many words to describe the Word of God, including; word, law, statutes, precepts, testimony, ordinances, commandments and judgments. All in all, the word of God is mentioned in at least 171 of the 176 verses.

It is evident by a few verses in this Psalm that the writer was dealing with some trials in his life.

  • Verses 86+87 “They persecute me wrongfully, Help me. They almost made an end of me on the earth.”
  • Verse 143 “Trouble and anguish have overtaken me.”
  • Verse 150 “They draw near who follow after wickedness”
  • Verse 157 “Many are my persecutors and my enemies.”

Although we find him in the midst of trials, he continues to live a life of faith as he leans on the Word for comfort, guidance, hope and more. He reveals trial and trust, seamlessly, one after another as though for him they were part of the same package. In verses 87-88 he says, “They almost made an end of me on earth (talking about his enemies), but I did not forsake Your precepts. Revive me according to Your lovingkindness . . . ”

Trials are inevitable; they are part of life. We often have no control over whether we will face certain trials. We do have control over how we respond to them. Sometimes we can get so caught up in a situation that our relationship with the Lord suffers. This writer didn’t let that happen.

How do you respond to trials? There is much we can learn about journeying through the storms of life by reading Psalm 119. I encourage you to read it on your own and underline any sections which stand out to you. Read it slow enough to enjoy the beauty of the language the writer uses to express his love and appreciate for God and His word. Notice the depth of understanding he has for the importance of the Word in his life, it’s truly remarkable.

While I read the Psalm, I took note of the things the writer did in his own life while dealing with trials. There are things he did to find hope in the Word of God and we can apply these examples to our own difficult situations to find hope ourselves.

Here are just a few of the things I found the writer did. There are many more examples, but I’ve only listed some of them.

Take Time to Praise God Even in the Midst of Trials

When we praise God we are taking the focus off our situation and placing it on the Lord. This serves to glorify God and can also serve as encouragement to others as they see a trust in God during the storms of life.

  • Verse 7 “I will praise you with uprightness of heart.”
  • Verse 48 “My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments.”
  • Verse 54 “Your statutes have been my songs.”
  • Verse 111 “For they are the rejoicing of my heart.”
  • Verse 162 “I rejoice at Your word.”
  • Verse 171 “My lips shall utter praise.”

Do Not Forsake the Practice of Praying and Meditating on the Word

During trials, it is very easy to skip your scripture reading or prayer time. Don’t let this happen. Reading the Word brings comfort and peace, and it uplifts you and can encourage you.

  • Verse 15 “I will meditate on Your Word”
  • Verse 23 “But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.”
  • Verse 27 “So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.”
  • Verse78 “But I will meditate on Your precepts.”
  • Verse 148 “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.”

Take Delight in and Hope on the Word

How exactly do we take delight in the Word? For me personally, this happens when I study a passage and apply it to my life. Or I delight in the Word, by having scripture posted around my home so I see it regularly and it encourages me on a daily basis.

  • Verse 70 “But I delight in Your law.”
  • Verse 74 “Because I have hoped in Your word.”
  • Verse 81 “But I hope in Your word.”
  • Verse 113 “But I love Your law.”

Memorize Scripture

Have scripture memorized so you can recall it when you most need it.

  • Verse 11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart.”

Continue to Share your Faith and God’s Word

Talk to others about God’s work in your life. Share scripture with others to encourage or bless them. This, in turn, will bless and encourage you as God’s Word saturates your life.

  • Verse 13 “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth.”
  • Verse 172 “My tongue shall speak of Your word.”

Be Careful Not to Backslide. Make Corrections When You Find Yourself Backsliding

Each and every person has certain things they struggle with. If you find yourself swaying off course in your walk with the Lord make corrections immediately.

  • Verse 59 “I thought about my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies.”
  • Verse 69 “But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.”
  • Verse 101 “I have restrained my feet from every evil way.”
  • Verse 157 “Yet, I do not turn from Your testimonies.”

Shelley Jarl, author of “The Humidity Makes My Hair Frizz and It’s Really Starting to Stink in Here”, is a mom, Christian, entrepreneur, business owner, author, and lover of all things creative. She strives every day to embrace the abundant life God has given her. As a self-proclaimed warrior, she has put on the armor of God numerous times to overcome tremendous adversity in her life. She can be found living down the end of a ridiculously long driveway, in the mountains of New Hampshire. As proof of her insanity, she owns Weimaraners. But, most importantly, she is a sinner saved by a loving Savior, Jesus.

Shelley can be found online at where she encourages people to find their God-given adventure, whatever that looks like for them and live out the abundant life God intended. She can also be found at where she helps Christians connect and get equipped to impact the world with their faith story.

Book Link:

The Humidity Makes My Hair Frizz and It’s Really Starting to Stink In Here

Social Links:

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Thank you, Shelley, for sharing these words of wisdom with us.

God Bless.

Bible Verses

But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:28)

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8)

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)


Dear Lord,

Please give me a heart that is pleasing to you. Give me faith, Give me a desire to study Your word. Give me hope. Thank you for being who you are. I love You. In Jesus’ Name.


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The Coumadin Confessional

From my lips, to God’s ear. He had His answer ready long before I even asked.

Guest Contributor Ellsworth Johnson

If you were raised Catholic, like I was, chances are you spent some time in a confessional.

When I was in the fifth grade, growing up deep in the boroughs of New York City, my mother put me in a program organized by our local church called “Release Time.” On Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. I, my brother and about 50 other kids from local elementary schools got to leave early, walk the half mile to Sacred Heart and spend the afternoon (and, often, into the evening) in classrooms being lectured by the nuns on various topics, attending services in the sanctuary and, occasionally, indulging in my least favorite part of the whole experience: going to confession.

Oh, how I hated the confessional! Not only did we have to wait in long lines, to visit one of what were essentially small closets built into the wood paneling which lined the sanctuary’s walls, but once there you closed the door behind you and, in the darkened space, had to bare your sins to the priest invisibly on the other side of the porous cloth partition.

I often found myself confused. Embarrassed. Fumbling for things to say to a perfect stranger about the bad stuff no one knew about but God and me (“should I mention THAT one?”).

I had forgotten that agonized feeling from my childhood — until last Tuesday, when it came back full-force.

The apostle Paul reminds us many times to trust that God already has things mapped out for us:

… for we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Currently, I am under medical care at home. Jackie, my nurse (not her real name), comes by once a week to take my vital signs and do a procedure called an INR, where she pricks my finger to draw blood and uses a portable device to test how well and how quickly it clots.

One of the medications I take is called Coumadin®. It is used to control the blood’s clotting ability. I had been prescribed to take one pill a day, but twice a week I had been advised to take an additional half a pill to further inhibit blood clotting.

Well, that was the plan, but… cut a pill in half? How on earth was I supposed to do that? With a knife? Scissors? Chisel? How do you keep the pieces from flying to Kingdom Come when you split the tablet? It sounded like a huge hassle, with the possibility of making a mess and chasing pill fragments all over the room, so I decided to just take an extra whole pill (instead of half) on those days and be done with it.

(DISCLAIMER: Do NOT try this at home, or anywhere else! This was a VERY BAD thing to do, and I thank God that it didn’t result in any medical harm. Always take your medicines exactly as prescribed!)

There were consequences, though.

“Your numbers are way up. They are about as high as they should be. We should look at lowering your dose.”

Oh no! My blood was way thinner than expected. Jackie was considering making medical recommendations under false pretenses, and I was the source of the falsehood!

The numbers from the INR test were at the upper end of the acceptable range, probably because of the additional whole Coumadin® pill I was taking instead of cutting it in half as directed.

Jackie was sitting in the chair across from me in my office, busily entering information into the tablet computer she brought with her to manage all my patient-care data. Should I tell her? She might freak out and get mad. On the other hand, it would explain the result, and allow us to make decisions based on reality and, hopefully, get the expected outcome.

Contemplating Confession

I stared out the window, flipping the issue over and over in my mind, evaluating possible eventual reactions (in increasing order of severity):

#3: Jackie getting mad

#2: any medical consequences

#1: wife clubbing me senseless

I took a deep breath. “Here goes,” I thought to myself.

I told Jackie what I did and braced myself for her response.

She did not even look up from her tablet.

Experiencing Grace

“That’s OK,” she said in an even tone. “I have an extra pill cutter out in my car. You can have it.”


She continued.

“I bought it for another patient some time ago. It turned out he didn’t need it, so I’ve been carrying it around in my car ever since. Here… let me go get it for you.” I watched her as she put down the tablet and left the room.

Can you say “grace”? The way it was all once explained to me involved blatantly speeding and a cop car pulling you over. “Justice” is getting the hefty ticket you rightly deserve. “Mercy” is overlooking the infraction, though you were obviously very guilty. “Grace” is where the cop says, on top of letting you slide, “Oh, and here are ten courtside passes to the next Lakers home game for you and your friends.”

My mouth hung wide open. Jackie’s calm and grace-filled reaction was TOTALLY unexpected! I was completely flabbergasted at the astronomical coincidence which had just taken place.

Rationalizing God’s Provision

My rational mindset about putting together the sequence of events which must have taken place in the non-specific past to bring this all about:

  • One of Jackie’s patients needed a pill cutter.
  • Jackie bought the pill cutter.
  • The patient ended up not needing it.
  • Jackie left it in her car until now.

Just as important are all the things that did NOT happen, each of which is entirely plausible:

  • Jackie could have, at some point, for any reason (or no reason) taken the pill cutter out of her car.
  • Another patient could have needed it.
  • Jackie could have forgotten it was there or remembered yet not mention it.

This is hardly a complete list, but only the more obvious things. “Less obvious” is that the car could have been in an accident and been unavailable, or even a different nurse than Jackie showed up at my house that day.

Or… I could have chickened out and not said anything.

Appreciating God’s Care

 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Yet again, I am amazed in my humanness that God had it all under control, and that all the pieces fell together as He had obviously planned. And, yet again, I remind myself that I shouldn’t be surprised, considering who God is and where He sits in the scheme of things.

He has the whole universe under His dominion, yet He saw fit to make sure that I, Person #3,975,467,002 on this one obscure rock out of a trillion planets, with nothing special about him and much worthy of condemnation, still got what I needed.

Not only did I end up getting it, but He also arranged events (and non-events!) in other people’s lives to bring it all about.

I should indeed not be surprised. That’s who He is.

And I praise His name forever.

Thanks for the pill cutter.


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Good Seed, Good Ground

Good Seed, Good Ground

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By Ellsworth Johnson, Guest Blogger for Greene Pastures

I remember my first airplane flight. I was seven years old and we were flying from New York City to Tampa, Florida to visit my grandparents. It was raining at departure time and overcast horizon-to-horizon, so I expected the drizzle to continue for the entire ride.

Imagine my surprise, though, as we penetrated the cloud layer after takeoff, and the sun was shining in a clear bright blue sky! The clouds were actually below us now, which is not how I was used to thinking of them — can you get out and walk on them?

Other, deeper questions came to my inquisitive young mind: Is God up here somewhere? Where is Jesus, all the angels, and everyone else? Is this part of heaven?

Doubts about God and religion had already set in by then. If heaven is directly above our house, which I believed emphatically that it was, is it also above my next-door neighbor’s house, too? What about across the house street, in the next town, in California, or a hut in Timbuktu? I knew the Earth was a ball… heaven couldn’t really be above everywhere at the same time . . . could it?

Somewhat less whimsical is the case of Steve Jobs, the prodigious, brilliant and ultra-rich Apple co-founder who died in 2011. The story goes that young Steve asked his local priest one day why God allowed such widespread suffering in the world if He is truly a God of Love. Alas, the priest miserably failed this fairly basic pop quiz by not having a solid ready answer of any kind to the question, and Steve’s faith was busted irretrievably to the point where he went off and eventually became a Buddhist.

I, on the other hand, was still being raised Catholic. Why? Because my mother, the driving force for such matters in our home, attended St. Therese, a Catholic church near our house. I learned, many years later, that this critical choice of faith owed to the sound theological reason that the services, without exception, were always exactly 45 minutes in length.

Every Sunday morning Mom would announce that it was time for her, my brother Dwayne and me to leave for Mass. On the infrequent occasions I objected, my father, invariably planted in front of the television set in his burnt-orange upholstered chair would jump up, point his finger at the door and start shouting words of reprimand for what seemed like an eternity. Oddly, I can never remember anything he said, less so any of it ever making sense. When he was done, he returned to his football or basketball game (depending on the season) as if nothing had happened.

For some reason, he never had to go with us. This, too, struck me as odd. If God wanted the three of us to go to church on Sunday, didn’t He want my father to go, too?

Maybe the TV was his own special form of worship.

Time and years went by, and this Sunday ritual was joined when I was 12 by Christian Children’s Doctrine (CCD) classes. These classes met at St. Therese on Tuesday nights. They were taught by one of the nuns, and went from 7:30 to 9:00, consisting entirely of a lecture on some obscure religious point. Few children in the class took it seriously: I sat in the back each week and passed the time with these two cut-ups who joked and fantasized about how I was really a bullfighter, and other such nonsense.

Ultimately, CCD was for me, a waste of time. I felt bad for the nun who led it: she was so sincere in what she was doing and yet, like my father’s Sunday diatribes (and unlike the bullfighter goofing), absolutely none of the substance of her words survived.

I endured it for grades 7 and 8; for ninth graders, however, CCD was no longer held at the church, but now instead at a local parishioner’s house. Apparently that change was too inconvenient for my mother, so, miraculously, I no longer had to go.

Many decades later, the real reason for the class’ ineffectiveness was unearthed: their messages were never reinforced at home.

Upon returning to my house after class each week I was never, not once in two years, asked about what we did or what I learned, let alone discuss it in any depth. Did they, my parents, even *know* this stuff already? Did they care? Was it important? Certainly nothing about the Catholic way of life was identified or practiced in the way we lived. Its doctrine was not reflected outside the church walls.

Another failure. More doubt.

Ritual Sunday Mass continued, though, all the way to the end of high school. Four days after graduation I was on a plane to Boston to begin a summer program at MIT. I was in college now, presumably in charge of my own affairs, and the first thing to go: no more church! It was forced on me throughout my childhood, never explained, its precepts ignored at home, and now I was finally free to drop it.

It would take fifteen years, a brain aneurysm and one man’s persistent faith to bring me back to Christ. And he did it simply by doing what no one had done up to that point.

He put the pieces together so that they made sense.

Plus, it was OK not to know, and to ask questions.

I was in my hospital bed at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego on that day in November 1992 and my friend Bob had come to visit me there. Four weeks earlier a blood vessel in my head popped and I was suddenly inches from death’s door. I had recovered to a pretty good extent, but I still needed surgery to finally repair the rupture. That surgery was scheduled for the following morning.

In the month I had been there, my mother had come to see me four times; on the other hand, this was Bob’s fifth visit. And this time, he brought his Bible.

Of course, I already knew the broad strokes, like who God and Jesus are, and about sin, heaven and hell. I also had the standard Catholic outlook on the after-life, which included Purgatory, and the mystical notion of needing to be somehow “good enough” in order to get into heaven.

What was missing were the details of how they were all related.

And, of course, everything else.

We talked for half an hour. My lifetime of lingering questions had all been answered, the wrong information had been righted, and for the first time I had a correct Biblical view of things. “Great,” I declared. “What do I do now?”

Bob said that I needed to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He came to earth, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, rose on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father.

I looked at him and declared triumphantly: “I can do that!”

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Matthew 13:23

From there, the rest is history. As a result of the surgery the next day, I made a complete 100% recovery from my aneurysm utterly baffling my doctors. After leaving Scripps I quickly joined a Baptist church in San Diego and became a voracious student of the Bible and the Christian life. A month after getting out of the hospital, I was baptized correctly through full immersion in water — though I’m sure the sprinkling I received as a baby was cute.

Eight years later, with the arrival of the new millennium, I met the woman God had picked out for me and took her to wife. We were blessed in March 2005 by the arrival of our son Joshua. At Joshua’s baby dedication, where we gave him back to the Lord, a surprise guest showed up at the last minute:  my friend Bob, who had confronted me with the Word a decade and a half earlier in my hospital bed (evidently, I was “sick” spiritually too, as well as physically). He appeared on the scene with his wife just as the ceremony got underway.

And . . . I started going to church again every Sunday, the difference this time being that it was something I chose to do, because I wanted the knowledge that it brought… plus, it was the right thing to do. It made sense, and the spiritual reasons for doing so are far more real and compelling than the “because I said so” dictates of yore.

When the Man from Apple left this Earth, what I took to be that still small voice announced matter-of-factly one day out of the blue: “Steve Jobs is in hell, and will be there forever.” Pretty rough, to be sure, but if he remained a Buddhist and never accepted Christ while he was alive, is that not the expected outcome? His billions, his tech-savvy and his reputation (all God’s gifts, by the way!) ultimately could not save him from a Christ-less eternity.

I thank God for bringing Bob into my hospital room that day to share the Word. The time and place were right for me to receive it, take it in, and for it to blossom. If he had not stepped out on faith and done that, if something had gone wrong on the operating table the next day and I died in an unsaved state, I am positive I would have ended up joining Apple’s co-founder in his grim post-mortal experience.

As Christians, our lives continue to be on roller coasters, but with God along for the ride they stay on track, no matter how fast or slow we go, no matter how high the peaks or low the valleys.

The cloud-piercing experience was not the only important revelation to my young mind on that first flight day.

I learned also that the states in America, in fact, do not have their names written on them in giant letters which you can read from the sky.

-Ellsworth Johnson, a retired software engineer and math teacher. He lives in Katy, Texas with his wife Sonja and son Joshua. He is waiting expectantly to see what God, in His sovereignty and grace, has in store for the next phase of his life.

The policy of Greene Pastures is to respect the views of Christian denominations in its writing. However, essay references to denominations have been kept in Good Seed, Good Ground for author credibility and honesty in sharing an autobiographical story.

Bible Verses:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30

Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever. 1 Chronicles 28:8


Dear Lord, as I come to you this day, I ask you to let me hear and understand your Holy Word. Allow me to heed your holy words and apply them to my life. Give me wisdom in using the gifts and fruits you bestow upon me. Make me an instrument of your love. Allow my faith to share Jesus with those I encounter as your Holy Spirit is preparing them to accept you as Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Depression by Glory C. Odemene / Dedicated to Robin McLaurin Williams

Have you ever met someone and you instantly knew you liked that person. You just clicked! That happened to me not long ago – I met Glory and we instantly bonded. We have a lot in common, but we also knew we had a lot of differences. But, what’s this got to do with depression? Let’s see!
As I was putting the final touches on my recently released devotional book, God, It’s Me: 181 Days for Young Adults to Become Passionate About Prayer and Bible Study, I prepared myself to ask Glory if I could use some of her poetry excerpts in my own book. I made up a folder showing her exactly how her poetry would be used in the book along with her excerpts that I matched to my already chosen pictures. You know, after 18 years of being a librarian, I felt like I knew how possessive writers/authors/poets could be about their work, so I was understandably nervous when I asked her that one Sunday morning at church at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Lagos, Nigeria. While I was anticipating a possible “No” or a “Let me think about it,” I remember Glory’s big, brown eyes opening as wide as a raccoon. She was amazed that I was even asking her at all. She immediately said, “YES!” I was thrilled.
You see, Glory is the type of person who writes for the Lord. She gives him the credit and all the “glory.” She even encourages people to share her God-inspired poems.
It is in this spirit, I am sharing Glory’s most recent poem titled Depression. It is written for all who have or will ever encounter depression in their lives. As you read this poem you will see that the catalyst for this poem was the recent passing away of the well-loved comedian Robin Williams.
by Glory C. Odemene
Dedicated to Robin McLaurin Williams
Out there, it’s labeled bane of geniuses, cross of the consummate
Price for being bequeathed with exceptional talents: folks jump
As judges on the reckless wagon driven by this accomplished
Fellow who should know enough to be a role model but that also
Is an affliction; perpetual pressure to always smile, act nice and right
But hello this is reality not Broadway! Yet he contends crushing guilt
In lonesome cell whose innards scream, “Turkey!” at a dignitary.
Drained of joys for stellar feats, the global champion is whipped
A wimp in his own universe and unknown to the all-knowing world
The remote control is beyond his reach: he can’t predict how
His channels switch; no idea when dark days descend or duration
Of his sentence in that gloomy jail where struggle and strive all he
May, it seems he never can wear out that awful, unwanted skin.
Triggers range from tragedies to nothing, the sun suddenly goes south
In the middle of his day and like rag, the jewel is tossed into a hole.
He may appear surrounded and smiling but within he’s achingly alone
Flailing like a drowning man whose gasps show up as deviations on
The chart of trendy expectations. He grapples whatever his hands
Can find, seeking a reason, a means, to hope or not. A kind word
Could be the lifeline that keeps his head above, respiring when he
Would have been expiring, if aid’s arrival proves timely.
A bland-cold stare, mere rebuff that ignores his silent cries
Of desperation are sharp enough to cut that rope of hope.
It is not about privileges, positions, and possessions
It is a dreadful suit he wears all his life. Though glamor shields it
He yet feels it in those places where no other can see or tell.
Desperate for escape, he courts drugs, marries alcohol
Even changing locations appeal but fleeting thrills wane too soon
And he wakes to the revulsion of complicated addictions.
Experts and the ignorant diagnose and prescribe, tagging it
With tongue twisting labels that promise him no ease so alone
He either silently battles the monsters until end pays him a visit
Or he goes the way of bizarre and the world is shocked, more
By its perennial indifference than the fruits of his queerness.
The least to do today is exit the judges’ hub, extend kindness
To all you meet: you don’t know the monsters they are battling:
Just one word, one move, can make that difference between life
And death: everyone you meet is in warfare, your vote counts.
© Glory C. Odemene, 2014
(Dedicated to Robin McLaurin Williams)
Glory’s Comments:
I remember growing up. I used to have dark days. It carried labels like, “Melancholy,” “Depression,” among others. It is considered the blight of the talented and a norm. You didn’t have much choice but to live with it. And I did for many years until the LORD broke through and delivered me. Sometimes, it just happens and down you sink. At others, it may be just a look you are not comfortable with, an unkind comment, or even being ignored, that triggers it. You have no control over when it descends and how long it lasts. Until you wake up one day and the sun is up, and following that lead, you crawl out to discover that all around is cheery once again.
Recently, I went through tragedies and instead of the typical accusers that make you feel wretched despite your achievements or tend to strangle you with guilt for errors, I was invaded and besieged by fears. They showed up in everything, every time, and everywhere I turned. I looked like I do every day, smiled as usual but deep down were cries no ears could hear. My world was crumbling but to everyone else, I was the same. God helped me walk through without hitting that dreaded bottom. It has been 14 years now and counting and I have never set my foot in that pit of a prison.
We are often so consumed by our personal pursuits that we become inured to the travails of those around us. Just like love and encouragement have helped many conquer their battles, our indifference and insensitivity can complicate matters for the weak. If only we can learn to stop and think again before we shoot. Imagine how much difference that will make in a world where the broken are trampled on every day? From experience, I know of only one cure that delivers without side effects, no relapse, and not at bank-breaking cost: Jesus: And whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed.
Please feel free to forward/share this blog with your friends and family. And, we would love you to comment!
To read more of Glory’s poetry excerpts, check out . . .
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