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INVITE ME to speak to your church or civic group! Email me at: [email protected] or visit my INVITE ME page for more info.

Available now! A BOATLOAD OF TROUBLE, the 2nd book in the Bargainomics Lady mystery series. Where can you buy it?

(1) You can order a signed copy directly from me by mailing $11 + $3.82 postage via check or money order to:

JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. Any extra you can include to cover mailing envelopes, labels, etc. is greatly appreciated. You can also pay with PayPal & order directly from me.

(2) A Boatload of Trouble is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook formats. It's clean, fun, and has a message.

Does the Book of Revelation intimidate you? This book recently had the honor of being the #1 selling new release in Amazon's Eschatology (end times studies) category. It walks you through the entire Revelation in easy-to-understand segments that can be read daily or straight through. (1) It's available on Amazon right now in Kindle (ebook) format for $2.99, & paperback for $11.99.

(2) You can also order a signed copy directly from by mailing $12 + $3.82 postage via check or money order to: JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. And any amount you could add to help cover mailing envelopes, labels, etc. would be greatly appreciated. You can also pay with PayPal & order directly from me.

(3) For multiple copies for a church or Bible study group, contact me: [email protected] 

Click HERE to see what The Baptist Paper's review of THE BOOK OF REVELATION UNLOCKED.

Although the Book of Revelation is one of the most significant books in the Bible, it is also one of the most misunderstood.... Living in these last days, there has never been a more critical time to fully grasp what God reveals to His people in Revelation. Judy does a marvelous job of helping us understand that revelation! – Dr. Kevin J. Hamm, Senior Pastor, Gardendale First Baptist Church

See what Publishers Weekly says about my very first Bargainomics Lady mystery, A Bargain to Die For.

A Bargain to Die For is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook formats. It's clean, fun, and has a message.

Where else can you buy A Bargain to Die For?

(1) You can phone, go by, or go online to Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million & have them order it for you.

(2) You can order a signed copy directly from me by mailing $10 + $3.82 postage via check or money order to: JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. Any extra to cover expenses like mailing envelopes, labels, etc. is greatly appreciated. You can also pay with PayPal & order directly from me.


“… [I]n Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, … and He has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God!’” (from 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, NET Bible).

Believer, do you realize you have been given the responsibility of spreading Christ’s “… message of reconciliation”? All who claim to be members of God’s family “… are ambassadors for Christ …”

And what’s an ambassador? Webster’s says it’s “a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government … as the resident representative of his or her own government …” Let’s take that definition apart a bit, shall we?

As an ambassador, we are “of the highest rank.” There is no higher rank or standing than to be a member of the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. And we’re “accredited to” or attached to or belonging to, “a foreign government”—Christ’s Kingdom, not this world.

We’re currently on Planet Earth, right? Each of us is “a resident representative of his or her own government.” In other words, we are here for a time and here for one purpose: to represent our King, Jesus, and give others the best possible impression of who He is and what His Kingdom is.

Lastly, like any ambassador, we won’t stay here when our assignment is over. As Hebrews 13:14a reminds us: “For this world is not our permanent home …” (NLT). Our permanent home is with Jesus. And He’s who we need to be striving to please and seeking to introduce to others. Based on your daily words and actions, how well are you representing Jesus and His Kingdom?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… [T]he people’s minds were hardened … so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ” (from 2 Corinthians 3:14, NLT).

Anyone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior “… cannot understand the truth …” of the Gospel. And some people, it seems, are far more “… hardened …” against hearing anything about it. So what do we do?

Keep witnessing. And believe me, your daily life is a huge part of your witness, and you’re being watched by those who do believe the Gospel and, even more so, by those who don’t. We live in a world filled with skepticism, and only a consistent Christ-like lifestyle is ever going to reach others with the Truth.

Which brings us back to witnessing. As I said, your daily lifestyle is certainly a big part of your witness, but it’s important to intentionally witness to specific people as the opportunities arise. Matter of fact, we should pray for those opportunities, times evangelist David Wilkerson called “divine appointments.”

Know someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus? What are you doing to show them He’s real? Our passage today goes on to say: “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him …” (2 Corinthians 3:16, 18a).

Every child of God through faith in Jesus Christ has had that “… veil taken away.” And that, my brothers and sisters, enables us to not only “… see …” but “… reflect the glory of the Lord.” So much so that we become “… more and more like Him …”

So many are walking in spiritual darkness, blinded, veiled, by their unbelief. It is your assignment to reach out to them. Others are claiming to belong to Jesus, yet living in ways that don’t remotely “… reflect the glory of the Lord,” let alone growing “… more and more like Him …” You’re also assigned to reach out to them.

Check your spiritual health. Do you truly know Jesus as Lord and Savior? If you do, you’re becoming “… more like Him …” Are you?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am filled with awe by Your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us …” (Habakkuk 3:2b, NLT).

When’s the last time you can honestly say you were “… filled with awe …” for the Lord? When’s the last time you looked around you and praised Him for His “… amazing works”? The same God who spoke the world into being, Jesus Christ, the Living Word, should be honored and praised every day.

And that’s what Habakkuk was saying. Habakkuk wasn’t tossing out a quick compliment to someone he rarely ever talked to. He was in regular communication with God. That’s why he knew he could call on Him “[i]n this time of … deep need.” That’s why he knew where to turn for “… help …”

Don’t wait until a crisis to call on the Lord. Talk to Him daily. Think about your friends or family members. Those you stay in touch with are the ones you feel the most comfortable calling on in your times of “… deep need …,” aren’t they?

Or look at it the other way round. Do you know friends or family members who only call on you when they “… need …” something? That’s not much of a friendship, is it?

Spend intentional time with the Lord every day. Read His Word every day. Talk to Him. And don’t merely talk. Listen. He has so much to say to you if you’ll only take the time to hear Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, BSB).

My husband Larry has always regularly exercised and this has kept him in great shape, especially now that we’re in our senior years. He’s oftentimes called on to help out with somebody’s project, and a lot of the time, Larry works rings around guys much younger than himself. How come? He stays in shape. (And that also makes him, in my very biased opinion, very easy on the eyes!)

I’m not as disciplined as Larry about working out, but I do try to watch my weight and do some form of exercise. I don’t do enough, but what I do helps. And as the Bible says, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.” When you first start exercising, you get sore. Muscles you haven’t been using get stretched and pulled and have to re-learn how to work properly. It hurts. But the results are worth all the effort.

Likewise, when it comes to spiritual discipline, you may have to make yourself read several chapters of the Bible. You may have to make yourself spend time in prayer. These disciplines aren’t natural, they’re learned. Thus the word “discipline,” which means TRAINING. Jesus’ disciples were trainees, as are we. And a good trainee learns from their Instructor.

When you spend time in prayer and the Word, it’s amazing how quickly a Bible passage comes to mind when you’re struggling with a decision or praying about something or for someone. And when you get into the habit of reading the Bible, there are days when the pages come alive and you find, rather than forcing yourself to complete X number of chapters, you’re breezing on through several, caught up in what’s happening, your spirit sensing the astounding power of the Living Word.

Whether it’s physical or spiritual discipline you’re working on, keep on keeping on. Better yet, work on both. Over time, that workout will become a discipline, a very healthy habit. Keep on reading and studying the Word and spending time in prayer. Over time, that will become a discipline, a really healthy habit. Habits you won’t want to break. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll grow closer to your Savior.

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, BSB).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8, NLT).

Eddy Diget is a 77-year-old who continues to work as stuntman, model, and personal trainer. He spent 22 years as an RN and is also a Shaolin Master (kung fu). He’s survived and thrived after colon cancer and is a rehab specialist, working frequently with cancer survivors.

Ida Keeling, a tough New Yorker, passed away in 2021 just shy of her 106th birthday. At 95, she set the world record for her age group in a 60-meter race: 29.86 seconds. In 2016, one month before her 101st birthday, she became the first woman in history to complete a 100-meter race at the age of 100.

These people are great examples of the physical health and accomplishments that can be achieved by senior adults who determine to take the very best care of their bodies. Certainly, serious health problems can prevent some people from doing these things, but a regular routine of physical exercise and healthy weight maintenance can make a world of difference in whether or not an aging adult ends up dependent on lift chairs, walkers, or worse yet, becoming bedridden. “Physical training is good,” for sure.

But being able to accomplish any physical feat at any age pales in comparison with being spiritually fit. The wise person will seek to do both, staying physically and spiritually healthy so they can accomplish the things the Lord sets before them to do.

Sadly, though, the majority of professing Christians have never read the entire Bible even once. A 2021 survey showed that only 11 percent of Americans read the Bible daily while the majority of respondents said they never read the Bible.

Folks, how can a person be an effective follower of Christ if they don’t know His Word? Would you go to a doctor who told you, “I think I can do this, but to honest, I never attended many of my classes. Sit tight. I just need to look this up on Google?”

We MUST be people of the Word if we’re to do the work Jesus Christ commissioned us to do (Matthew 28:19-20). No matter your age, get serious about improving your physical health and your spiritual acuity, with spending time studying the Bible your top priority.

"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better ..."

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“For God is not a God of disorder …” (1 Corinthians 14:33a, NLT).

Do you realize the word “discipline” comes from the same root word as “disciple” (which means "learner")? In other words, we are disciples of whatever discipline we follow. The Bible is loaded with passages about the importance of discipline. Why? Because it’s a form of training. It’s living the way you’ve been trained or have trained yourself to live.

Jesus only walked this Earth in human form for 33 years, but during that time, He lived out His Perfect Plan. Nothing He said or did was random. He was 100% organized. And we should strive to be organized too. While there’s nothing wrong with a spur-of-the-minute idea, that isn’t the way your whole life should be conducted. There needs to be order.

I read a survey that said that 70% of the average person’s stress comes from disorganization. Think about it: you let one thing go and, in no time, it seems the whole house has turned into a jumble. Don’t let it happen. It takes two to five minutes to make a bed. It takes five to ten minutes to load and unload a dishwasher or even wash dishes by hand.

If you’re a crafter or collector, set up a room for that. Don’t spread everything throughout the house so that the whole place looks like an explosion. Even if things aren’t spotlessly clean, keep your home picked up well enough that you wouldn’t be embarrassed for your pastor or any other person to drop by unexpectedly.

And put on clothes. I am one of the world’s worst to get up in the morning, start writing, and end up still sitting in my pajamas in the afternoon. And when I do that, I invariably get a call asking me to immediately hop in the car and go do something for somebody. Looking my absolute worst. And yet five or ten minutes spent on myself first thing in the morning would have me together enough to at least look human for the day.

If you’re disorganized, you’re stressed. And if you’re stressed, you’re not at your best. Not for yourself or anyone else, including the Lord. Talk to Him about helping you get a handle on the clutter around you. And one room at a time, or even one drawer or one closet a time, start to put some order in your home, beginning with your prayer and Bible study time. Don’t neglect it.

“She takes good care of her family and is never lazy” (Proverbs 31:27, CEV).

“I will not neglect Your word” (Psalm 119:16b, NIV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… [F]or Thou art with me …” (Psalm 23:4b, KJV).

Have you ever tried really hard to get a person to like you and gotten absolutely nowhere? I sure have. There are several women in my life—some I see fairly often and others I rarely ever see—who are more what I would consider acquaintances rather than friends. What’s the difference? Reciprocity, which basically means having a mutual relationship. With these ladies, there is no reciprocity. I may invite them to do things, but I get no invitations in return. I’m guessing some of you have a few of those relationships in your life as well.

So how do you handle it? What do you do? There are really three options: (1) Keep reaching out. If you can deal with this sort of one-sided friendship, just keep being you and enjoy the time you spend together without expecting any return invitations. Or (2), try talking to the person or persons, individually. Ask if you’re doing anything that causes them to keep you at a distance. It’s not likely you’ll get any straight answers, but at least if you move to Step 3, you’ll do so knowing you've done your best to understand why your friendship has never progressed. And (3), quit trying. After all, if you’re the only one making any effort and it’s causing you misery to keep unsuccessfully attempting to deepen your friendship, it may be time to stop. No, don’t be mean about it. Just stop being the one to invite and make contact. Leave that ball in their court and move on. If they do invite you to do something, go if you can. But quit pushing for anything more than a casual relationship. If the other party doesn’t want more, it’s not going to happen.

This may not sound very spiritual, but I know it’s a problem many people—particularly, women—struggle with. Put the whole situation in the Lord’s hands. And leave it there. While you’re straining to build a friendship with someone who has little interest in doing likewise, you could be missing out on a friendship with someone who needs and wants a friend like you.

Most importantly, don’t let friendships with other people cause you to neglect your friendship with Jesus. If you’ve got Him in your life, you’re set for eternity. Fill those lonely times with conversation with Him. Read His Word. Volunteer to help out at a women’s shelter, a soup kitchen, any place that could use a helping hand. I guarantee you’ll be needed, wanted, and appreciated. And remember: whether you can count all your close friends on one hand or it takes all your fingers and toes, there’s nobody who loves you like Jesus.

“But as for me, God's presence is all I need” (Psalm 73:28a, NET Bible).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“For everything there is a season … A time to be quiet and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b, NLT).

“One who withholds his words has knowledge, And one who has a cool spirit is a person of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27, NASB).

As the granddaughter of a red-headed Scotch-Irish couple with tempers like proverbial wildcats, I have to admit that a whole heap of that temperament got passed down to me. And making a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t instantly take away all that spit and venom. There were quite a few years of praying and discipline before my temper came under the control of the Holy Spirit.

A friend I’ll call Beth had something to say about everybody and everything. One day, I called her on the carpet about something she’d said about another person. Her response was, “Well, I can’t help it. My mother was that way, and I guess I’m just like her.”

No, Beth was who she chose to be. Hot-headed and mean-spirited. Like me—until I began daily giving my temper and critical spirit to the Lord. And it was no overnight change, but the more I prayed and the more I followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting, the less I flew off the handle and the more frequently I was able to bite my tongue before I let some hateful remark slip out.

“One who withholds his words has knowledge …” When you listen to the Holy Spirit, He shows you whether or not it’s the right time—or if there’s ever a right time—to say what you’re thinking of saying. “And one who has a cool spirit is a person of understanding.” When you refuse to lose your “cool,” you can deal with any situation far better. You also make a far better representative of the Savior.

Got a temper? Got a snarky mouth? Confess it daily—He already knows it anyway—and ask Him to remove those negative characteristics from your life.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… You are the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God. You faithfully keep Your promises” (Nehemiah 9:32, GWT).

“And you faithfully keep your promises …” (Nehemiah 1:5b, CEV).

“You always … keep Your promises …” (Daniel 9:4b, NLT).

“… Sovereign Lord, You are God; You always keep Your promises” (2 Samuel 7:28a, GNT).

Christians are people of the Word and, as John 1:1 makes clear, the Word is Jesus Christ Himself. When we realize this, it should be a wakeup call as to the urgency to be people who keep our promises. After all, if you belong to Christ, He, in the form of His Holy Spirit, lives within you. The Word indwells you. And being a person whose word can be trusted is critical to your witness as a believer.

Don’t be a procrastinator. Sometimes that’s just a roundabout way of saying a person doesn’t keep their promises. If you say it, make it so. Unless you are providentially hindered from fulfilling a promise you’ve made, gettin’ ‘er done should be at the top of your to-do list. After all, we’re to be like Jesus and the passages listed above show us over and over that God is the Ultimate Promise Keeper.

Whether you committed to help out with VBS or run an errand for a neighbor—no matter how trivial what you said you’d do may seem—make your word your bond. Fulfill your promise, and do it in as timely a manner as possible. As a Christian, you’re not only making your promise to a person, you’re also making it to and in the presence and hearing of your Creator.

“…don't be slow to keep your promises to God” (Ecclesiastes 5:4b, CEV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain….’ says the Lord …” (Isaiah 54:10a, NLT).

“I have loved you, just as My Father has loved Me. So remain faithful to My love for you” (Jesus speaking, John 15:9, CEV).

“For I wrote you … to let you know the depth of my love for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4, NIV).

You’ve probably heard the old joke many times about the wife who complained to her husband, “You never tell me you love me.” The husband replied, “I said so when I married you. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.” While that may be funny to some people, I know far too many couples who live in that situation. One close friend’s husband serves as a greeter at their church. He welcomes everyone with a broad smile and words of encouragement, then goes home and never tells his beautiful wife that he loves her or even that she looks nice. That’s not the way a marriage should be.

And as much as that wife wants to hear the words, “I love you,” multiply that a trillion times over and imagine how much God wants to hear the Bride of Christ, His people, the One True Church, tell Him, “I love you.” Why are we so selfish with those words? We can yammer on about how we “love” hot dogs or a car or a house or an outfit or a vacation spot. Countless things. Yet many of us rarely ever bother telling our Creator, Lord, and Savior that we love Him.

Do you tell your spouse you love them? Do you tell your kids and/or grandkids that you love them? If not, get started. And please, stop neglecting to say those words to the Lord. Jesus gave His life for you. If He never did another thing for you, that alone should be worth you loving Him through your actions and in words.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Jesus looked straight at him with love ...” (Mark 10:21a, GNT).

Yesterday I told y’all about a church with two very negative signs out front facing the roadside, and I said how important it is for us to be the people we are called to be: bearers of the good news (which means “gospel”) and not bad news. One comment I received wisely said: “Yes, but we must also warm the lost of their imminent danger.” And she’s absolutely right.

How did Jesus handle speaking to the lost? In the Mark passage above, He was talking to a rich young man who had shown an interest in what Jesus was teaching. Jesus didn’t say, “You’re going straight to hell if you don’t accept me as Savior.” No, He “… looked straight at him with love …” and very gently told him he couldn’t worship material wealth and possessions and worship Him too. And then He said, “… follow Me” (Mark 10:21b).

You don’t start out teaching a person how to drive a car by telling them all the things that could go wrong. You show them all the ways that car can benefit them. “You can drive yourself wherever you want to go” sounds a lot better than, “Hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and you could be killed instantly.” You want the person to look forward to becoming a driver.

Likewise, you don’t encourage a lost person to step through your church doors by telling them they’re toast without Jesus. You invite them. You lovingly welcome them. You pray for them. You let the Holy Spirit guide you in what you say to them, and you let the Holy Spirit do His work inside that person’s heart as they hear the pastor’s sermons and learn more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. You speak words of encouragement and love into their life.

I keep saying it, but it bears repeating in our ultra-negative world: we need to think, speak, and live positively. Lovingly. So many people are desperate for good news, the gospel, and we have been assigned to take it to them.

Be “… followers who can be trusted to tell others” (2 Timothy 2:2b, CEV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“People in other towns must hear the good news about God's kingdom. This is why I was sent” (Jesus speaking, Luke 4:43, CEV).

“Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world” (Jesus speaking, Mark 16:15).

The word “gospel” means “good news,” which is why you see the word “gospel” in some places in the Bible and the words “good news” in others. The coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was good news! And every single one of Christ’s followers has been tasked with the responsibility of sharing the good news with others. Are we?

I recently drove by a church with not one, but two, very negative messages on signs facing the roadside. A permanent sign read: “Will it take six men to bring you back into the church?” The sign included a drawing of six pallbearers carrying a casket into a church. The changeable sign between the name of the church and the pastor’s name read: “To live without God means to die without hope.”

Folks, Jesus plainly told us we’re to be people of the GOOD NEWS, not bad news. Jesus reached out to people in love. The only ones to whom Jesus spoke harshly were the holier-than-thous like the scribes and Pharisees who mistakenly thought their arrogant, judgmental attitudes were acceptable to God. Jesus told them what they really were: “…a bunch of evil snakes …” (Matthew 12:34a).

A person who lives contrary to Jesus’ teaching is lost. God’s people are to reach out to them in love, not condemnation. And even those who already know Jesus as Lord and Savior who are searching for a church home want to find a place where their fellow believers will rally around them and love on them. What about that church’s signs makes you say to yourself, “I believe that’s the church for me?”

I pray that none of us send such negative messages by the way we speak to or treat other people. Jesus loved people into His Kingdom. He is our One and Only Example. Do life His way. Love others and refuse to take part in put-downs and negative conversation.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“My mind and my body may grow weak, but God is my strength; He is all I ever need” (Psalm 73:26, GNT).

This passage may sound more familiar to you in the KJV: “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

The older we get, the more we realize the brevity and frailty of life. Our lives, as James 4:14b reminds us, are “… a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (NKJV). Should this depress us? It certainly can, but that depends on the attitude you choose to take.

Think of it this way. You’ve just begun a two-week stay at the vacation spot of your dreams. The first week flies by and, before you know it, you’re looking at the last two or three days before you have to return home. Do you sit down and mope because that’s all the time you have left there? No! You determine to squeeze every ounce out of those final days.

So should we here. Don’t waste your days sitting in front of a TV. Get up, get out, live, bless others, and thank Jesus for every day you’re able to do that. And when you’re no longer able to get out and about, thank Him for the things you’re still able to do. After all, why bless you with abilities you aren’t going to use? As the old saying goes, “Use ‘em or lose ‘em.”

Do your best to maintain your mental and physical health, and put your spiritual health at the very top of that list. Read the Word, talk to the Lord, and exercise your brain and body daily.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).

Not a one of us can afford to be unforgiving. Why? Because the Bible plainly instructs us to forgive “… just as in Christ God forgave you.” Knowing what God has forgiven me and knowing what my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did for me to make that forgiveness possible, how can I possibly refuse to forgive others?

Years ago, one particular lady I’ll call Dahlia spread lies all over my community about how I was taking advantage of an elderly friend of mine. Actually, I just didn’t mind our age difference and loved spending time with her. I didn’t care that she was far better off financially than I was. I don’t think either of us ever gave a thought to our differing financial statuses.

But Dahlia couldn’t imagine that I’d befriend someone decades older than myself unless I had an ulterior motive. And the more she talked about my relationship with my elderly friend, the more she added to her string of falsehoods.

So what did I do? I let it go. And I prayed for that lady. I figured anyone who knew me would know better than to believe such lies. Then, when I learned that Dahlia had become terminally ill, I let her know I was praying for her and would help her in any way I could.

The Jesus in me and the Jesus in you can help us do things we didn’t think we could do. Can help us let go of things we didn’t think we could let go of. And every time we let Him do that for us, it becomes easier to forgive and easier to be “… kind and compassionate …,” even to those who have shown us nothing but unkindness.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday, I said that any tool in the hand of a believer is a mighty weapon for truth and good when that person is listening to and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And then I asked a couple of questions: How about you? What tools has the Lord made available to you?

Fact is, “… each person has a special gift from God …” (1 Corinthians 7:7b, NLT). And every person is given talents and abilities to do different things. All of those can be used to bless others and point people to Jesus.

Are you a good cook? Take a meal to a sick or shut-in friend or neighbor. Talk to them about the Lord, or if you’re not ready for that step, include a note or card that lets them know you’re praying for them. And include a scripture verse.

Are you a good mechanic? Even if you only know the basics of changing oil or checking air in the tires, you can offer to do these things for a friend or neighbor. And before you leave, tell that person you’re praying for them.

Yard work? Housework? Sewing? Art? Photography? All these things and many, many more can be used to touch others with the love of Jesus.

Make a list of who you want to reach out to. Then use your gift to get your foot in that door. You can be used to lead another person into Christ’s Kingdom.

“Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11a).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV).

Years ago, I met a lady who absolutely spit venom when she talked about the internet. She thought it was the most evil thing she’d ever heard of. Truth is, though, it’s like everything else here on Planet Earth: we have the choice to use it for good or evil. And I choose to use it for good.

Any tool in the hand of a believer is a mighty weapon for truth and good when that person is listening to and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And albeit imperfectly, that’s what I’m trying to do.

How about you? What tools has the Lord made available to you? If you have your own Bible, that’s the best one to start with. You can use it to learn more about what God wants you to do, and can also use what you learn to talk to your family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others about the love of Christ.

You don’t have to be an in-your-face Bible thumper to talk about Jesus. Since Covid, the idea of anyone sneezing around you is scary, but even if you’re backing away as you say it, don’t merely say, “Bless you!” Say “God bless you!” If the cashier where you’re shopping asks, “How are you today?” don’t say, “I’m blessed.” Tell them Who’s your Blesser: “The Lord has blessed me.”

Create opportunities to put in a word about the goodness of God. Waiters and waitresses, cashiers, salespeople, and so many others spend their day dealing with people who aren’t always nice, and some who are downright nasty. And sometimes that nasty attitude rubs off on them and you may end up face-to-face with a surly employee. Don’t let their ugly attitude rub off on you. Be kind. Be encouraging. Be like Jesus.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… [E]very child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5, GNT).

Don’t let this ol’ world get you down. Read the Word and you’ll see that we who are believers in Jesus Christ already have “… the victory over the world …” because “… of our faith.” And as today’s passage makes perfectly clear, we are the only ones “[w]ho can defeat the world.”

If a Christian mopes around complaining and whining, what person would say, “Hey, I want what they have”? If all we find to talk about is the things that go wrong in our lives, where does that show others we believe we’re walking in victory? The answer is, it doesn’t.

Our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors—everybody we come in contact with—needs to see Jesus in us. And believe me, if you’re professing to be a believer and you’re not exemplifying a Christian lifestyle, they’re marking that down, for certain. Choose to live what you claim to believe. If you don’t, you probably need to back up and make sure you’ve ever made a commitment to the Savior.

Christians truly have “Victory in Jesus.” Live it. Live cheerfully. Joyfully. Hopefully. Encouragingly. Not only will that attitude lift up others, it’ll lift you up as well.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.… [O]ne of the … angels … showed me the holy city, Jerusalem…. I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter … but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:1a, 9a, 10b, 22-23, 27a, 27c, NLT).

Eternity isn’t going to be about sitting around strumming harps or floating around on clouds. Eternity will include the New “Jerusalem” and “a new heaven and a new earth.” Real, physical places where those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—in other words, “…those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life”—will physically exist in their new glorified bodies and live forever in a place where “… [n]othing evil is allowed to enter …

Absolute safety. Absolute security. No worries. No fear. Nothing to dread. Perfect health. Perfect peace. A place where there are no bickering denominations, but where “… the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” A place where “…the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.”

And there’s only one way to be a part of this wonderful place. You have to have your name “…written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Do you? Only by committing your heart, mind, and spirit —everything you have and are—to Christ Jesus and then living out that commitment daily, can your name be in that all-important Book. I pray it is.

If you aren’t sure your name is in “… the Lamb’s Book of Life,” there’s no better time than this moment to ask Him to be your Lord and Savior. And once you’ve done that, live like Jesus. Your changed life will be the proof of your commitment.

If you already know Him, think of what’s ahead of you! As Jesus said in John 4:36a, “What joy awaits …!”

(If you’d like a better understanding of the Book of Revelation, let me recommend you read my book, The Book of Revelation Unlocked: An Easy-to-Understand Walk through the Bible’s Final Message. It’s available on my website’s MY BOOKS page, as well as on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22, NLT).

In trying to remind people that Mother’s Day isn’t a fun day for everybody, I ended up with a ton of people sending me messages to comfort me because our only son and his family have no contact with us. I appreciate every sweet message and I hope that many of you reached out to others I mentioned, like those who’ve lost a child, those who have never been able to have a child, those whose children are choosing not to be a part of their lives, and those whose moms are choosing not be a part of their lives. We seem to find countless ways to hurt each other if we aren’t committed to Jesus.

While I had a spectacular day in spite of our son and family’s absence from our lives, others didn’t have a good day. One of my friends, unless she receives a miracle, celebrated her last Mother’s Day with her husband and family. Another friend, who has been a second mom to her sister’s children, spent her day preparing to start her second round of chemo on Monday. Yet another spent Mother’s Day with her sweet daughter and grandchildren, while her younger son sits in prison, and she copes with raising two granddaughters and the loss of their father, her older son, who was killed in a car wreck.

You’ve heard this umpteen different ways, but it’s so true: you don’t have to look far to see someone much worse off than you are. If you need a pity party, have at it. I’ve had ‘em. All God’s children have probably had one at some time or another. But when you’ve cried yourself out, get up, praise God, and move forward because “… a broken spirit saps a person’s strength,” and then you can’t do what you should be doing for yourself or for the Lord.

And if you’re in a good place right now, be sensitive to those who are hurting. Maintain “a cheerful heart” and be an encourager.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (1 John 5:21, NLT).

John, now getting on up in years, had learned a lot of valuable lessons and he writes to his “dear children,” those who belong to Christ Jesus, to urge them to stay on the right path. Why? Of course, to honor the Lord through obedience to His Word, but also to avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache.

What “… might take God’s place in your heart”? Money or the desire for money and material things. Spouses. Children. Grandchildren. It really boils down to two things: stuff and people. Neither should take priority over our love for Jesus.

When we truly love someone, we want to be with them, don’t we? We want them to know how much we love them. We don’t want to miss an opportunity to express our love in both words and actions.

The same goes for God. He loves us so much! His love letter to us was written in red—the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our redemption. Don’t you know He wants to hear His children tell Him they love Him? Don’t you know He wants to see His children express their love for Him through their lives in both words and actions?

So love Jesus first and foremost. Do that, and just as your love for Him will deepen, your love for your family, friends, and others will also grow much stronger.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning …” (1 John 5:18a, NLT).

Today’s passage ties directly in with what we looked at yesterday: “… we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world” (1 John 4:17b).

The only way to stand before Jesus without fear is to stand in the confidence that you tried your best to “… live like Jesus here in this world.” Sadly, so many people profess to be Christians with no proof whatsoever of that life change.

See, the word “repent” means to turn, to do a 180. Pre-Jesus, you were headed the wrong way. After committing your life to Jesus, you turned to follow the right way, the pathway to heaven. And that means living “… like Jesus here in this world.”

I recently looked at some writer’s list of “Christian” actors. The writer was as confused about what constitutes a Christian as were some of the people included in the list. One actor said that, when he reads the Bible, he replaces Jesus’ name with the word “love,” as a reminder of what the Lord stands for. Uh, excuse me, but there is no substitute for Jesus. Yes, He is love, but don’t blot out His name as if He’s merely some form of love. Don’t even get me started!

And then another actor compared Christianity to television, stating, with “… over 800 channels … I’m pretty sure that to get to Heaven, there’s got to be more than one route.” If that poor man would take a peek in a Bible, he’d see that Peter plainly said of Jesus Christ, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There aren’t multiple ways to heaven. There’s one way: through committing your heart and life to Jesus. And as I keep saying, that’s more than getting your name on a church role. It’s living like Jesus.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… we will not be afraid on the day of judgment …” (1 John 4:17b, NLT).

Yes, there is a Judgment Day coming, but those who have truly committed their hearts and lives to the Lord Jesus Christ have no need to fear. Revelation 21:27a tells us that heaven will be the eternal home of “… those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

So how do you get your name in the “… Book of Life …”? By surrendering yourself fully to the Lordship of Christ. And then, our passage goes on to say: “... we can face Him with confidence …” (1 John 4:17c).

“… face Him with confidence …”? How is this possible? By knowing, albeit imperfectly, that we live out the proof of our salvation: “… because we live like Jesus here in this world” (1 John 4:17d).

Claiming to belong to Jesus won’t get you into heaven. Saying “the sinner’s prayer” won’t get you into heaven. Being sprinkled with or submerged in baptismal waters won’t get you into heaven. Only a 100% commitment to Jesus will do it.

And when you truly give your heart and life to the Savior, you’ll do exactly what John says believers do: you’ll “… live like Jesus here in this world,” and that, my friends, means you’ll live WITH Jesus in the next one.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers” (1 John 4:20-21, NLT).

How many times have most of us been guilty of bad-mouthing “… a fellow believer …”? I reluctantly put my hand up. Shame on me. Because look what the Bible says: “… if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?”

I’m the 32nd and youngest grandchild of my paternal grandparents. I didn’t get to pick that spot. I didn’t get to choose who all I’m related to. I didn’t have one thing to do with what, when, where, or how I was born into the Woodward family. But I can tell you this: every time I run into one of my umpteen relatives, I’m thrilled to see them. And I pray for them, even though, in some instances, we hardly know each other. Still, they’re my family.

You chose the church you attend—at least, I hope you’re a part of believing congregation. But you didn’t get to choose who else is a part of that fellowship. And you didn’t get to choose who else became a part of it after you were already involved in it. No, you were all brought together as a part of God’s church, His family.

So you need to love each other. You need to pray for each other. And there is never, never, never a need for you to bad-mouth any of God’s family, including those who are members of other Bible-believing denominations. If you know of a serious issue in your church, pray about what to do. Then, if you’re sure you’re the one who needs to bring this problem to the church leadership’s attention, talk to your pastor or another church staff member or leader.

But don’t bad-mouth. Ever. Because being irritated with someone and then talking about it doesn’t resolve the issue—it makes you think about it more and build up resentment. And as our passage today makes clear, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar … Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.”

And speaking of love, how often do you tell the Lord you love Him? It should be every time you talk to Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“…who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5, NLT).

Every day, we’re subjected to temptation. It may be considering sticking that extra change in your pocket when a cashier undercharges you for your purchase. Or it could be thinking about stopping on that racy program you just happened to surf by on TV. Temptation comes in all sorts of forms, some subtle and some in-your-face. But however it comes upon you, the Bible makes it very clear that there’s only one way out of giving into it: call on Jesus.

But we can’t wait until we’re at that moment of temptation to start talking to Him. We need conversation—not monologue—with Jesus every day. Talking to the Lord should start our day, end our day, and continue throughout the day. No, I don’t mean you drop everything and do nothing but pray, but I do mean that prayer—as in conversation with your Savior—should be as natural as breathing.

See a beautiful sunset? Thank Him for it. Stuck in traffic? Use that time to talk to Jesus. If your friends and family like hearing from you, don’t you think the One who gave His life for you would like to hear from you? And not just when you want something.

Life can be hard. Trials can be grueling. But “… those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God …. can win [the] battle against the world …” Child of God, you’re on the winning side. Claim your victory!

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory” (Romans 8:17a, NLT).

Yesterday we looked at Romans 8:15-16 and learned that, because of God’s great love for us, we who put our faith in Jesus Christ are adopted into God’s family, even though Christ paid for us and we deserve to be nothing more than slaves. Christ’s purchase of us with His own blood gave us all the rights of blood relationship. Made us “… heirs of God’s glory.”

But the price for that adoption wasn’t cheap. And the responsibility bestowed on us through our adoption has a high price also. And that’s what I want to look at today

The last half of today’s passage brings the truth home: “But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering” (Romans 8:17b). A little more Greek today: that word translated “suffering” is sympaschomen, meaning, as you can see from the word’s beginning, to sympathize. More than that, it means to suffer right alongside. To take on the attitude, the willingness, to share in another person’s suffering. As believers in Jesus Christ, this is what we’re to do. We aren’t adopted to sit around the family mansion eating bonbons and being waited on. We’re to be working for the Kingdom and willing to endure whatever comes our way because of our belief in Jesus.

To the best of my knowledge, today’s passage is the only place in the Bible where you’ll find the Greek word sympaschomen. I believe Paul chose it with great purpose, for the believers he was writing to then and for us today to understand that, whether or not we suffer for our faith, we take on the attitude of willingness to do so.

So how about it? What’s your attitude about your salvation? Is it bought, paid for, and done with? Or do you realize every day that you owe everything to the One who bought and paid for you and then adopted you into His own family as His own blood relation? Salvation comes at a cost. Yes, it cost Jesus His very life’s blood. But it also costs the recipient. If you’ve received Christ as Lord and Savior, commit to live for Him, even if that means suffering.

“… don’t begin until you count the cost” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28a).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we got in a little seminary training and learned the difference between the Greek words doulos, meaning a male slave (as used in Romans 1:1 and James 1:1), and misthiōn, a hired hand or paid worker (as used in Luke 15:19). I explained that we weren’t hired by God to work for Him, but bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. We’re owned, which makes us slaves, not servants, as some translation incorrectly translate the word doulos.

And here’s where understanding the difference in those two words gets really exciting. In Romans 8:15-16, Paul says: “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (NLT).

Can we say, “Wow! and “Double wow!” That word translated “slaves” in verse 15 of the above passage comes from the Greek word douleias, meaning slavery. Then look at the first use of the word “children” in this passage: “He adopted you as His own children.” The Greek word used there is huiothesias. Meaning? The placing of a son into the family. Adoption. Remember: back in those days, women had no rights. Women were basically property. So I, in my humble opinion, believe Paul used this specific word to drive home the point that every believer’s adoption comes with all the benefits of blood relationship. Beginning to see the picture?

But it gets even better! Look at the second use of the word "children" in our passage: “…we are God’s children.” The Greek word there is tekna, meaning a descendant child. And this time Paul clarifies he’s addressing both males and females because he chooses this gender neutral term to say we are ALL God’s children if we’ve asked Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior.

He who paid for us with His own life, His own blood, chose not to keep us as His slaves—even though He certainly had every right to—but to call us His family members! He even says we have every right to call God “Abba,” just like Jesus. It’s a word many children in the world today use to address their fathers, and it simply means Daddy. Not some distant, formal, stiff Father, but Daddy. Real family. Real closeness. If this is a news flash for you, let me welcome you to the family. Remember: you have all the benefits of blood relationship, only because of Jesus!

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“For you are a slave to whatever controls you” (2 Peter 2:19b).

What controls you? Your temper? Your spouse? Your children? Your grandchildren? Your job? If anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ controls you, you’re either in or headed for trouble. As Jesus plainly told us in Matthew 6:24b: “You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord]” (Amplified Bible).

Whatever you concern yourself with pleasing more than Jesus is what you are a slave to. And Jesus makes it clear that He wants no part of playing second fiddle: “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also” (Matthew 6:33).

While many Bible translations use the word “servant” to refer to those who are committed to Jesus Christ, the truth of the matter is that we’re slaves—bought and paid for with the precious blood of our Redeemer. The apostle Paul opens his letter to the Romans, writing, “This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus …” (Romans 1:1, NLT). Likewise, James begins his letter with these words: “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1a). In both instances, the word translated “slave” (or in other translations, “servant”) comes from the Greek word doulos, meaning a male slave.

Why a “slave” rather than a “servant”? A servant could be a hired hand, as in the Prodigal Son parable Jesus tells in Luke 15. When he decides to return home, the young man hopes his father will take him “… on as a hired servant” (Luke 15:19b). The word used there is misthiōn, the Greek word for a hireling, or paid worker.

God didn’t hire us to work for Him. He bought us with the precious blood of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are His slaves. We belong to Him. And we need to think, walk, and talk like that’s exactly who we are. Humble, gentle, loving, and obedient to whatever He calls us to do.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials …” (2 Peter 2:9a, NLT).

In Genesis 13, we see that Abram (later renamed Abraham) and his nephew Lot had greatly prospered and needed more room for their flocks. To accomplish this, “… Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom …” (Genesis 13:12b). The Bible tells us, “… the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13).

In Genesis 19, we see that two angels came to Lot and warned him that God had reached His limit on tolerating the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and was going to destroy them. The angels literally “…seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city …” (Genesis 19:16b). You may remember what happened: Lot and his two daughters made it to safety, “[b]ut Lot’s wife looked back …” (Genesis 19:26a) and was destroyed, along with the two cities and everything in them.

There are countless lessons in those chapters from Genesis, but for now, I want to drive a single point home: God takes care of His people. Lot despised the wickedness of Sodom, but he needed the grazing land that was near there. It took the Lord sending angels to get him out of that soon-to-be-destroyed city. Today, we have the Holy Spirit doing the same thing for every true believer: warning us of danger and leading us away from it IF we listen to Him and obey.

Yes, “…the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials …,” but He won’t drag you away from your situation kicking and screaming. Be willing to listen and obey. He can and will show you a way out.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2, NLT).

Do you beat yourself up? Put yourself down? Feel unworthy? Feel like you’re less than others? The Bible has Good News for you: it just ain’t so! If you’ve sincerely asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and come into your life and be your Lord and Savior, He has done just that. He is inside you as the Holy Spirit and He is with you as your Guide and Comforter.

And because you belong to Him, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, who you were in the past, what you can’t undo about your past, all of that. Jesus Christ paid for your past mistakes, your sins, and the moment you asked Him to forgive you, He did. He took those sins away. And so now, my sister or brother, “… there is no condemnation for …” you, or any of “… those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

You see, “… because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Child of God, you are free. Free from condemnation. Free from shame. Free from your past. Free to love and serve and live for the One who gave His life for you.

Don’t let the enemy whisper lies in your ears. Tune your ears to the Word of God and live in the freedom, love, joy, and peace only Jesus can give you.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“… Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (Ephesians 3:17, NLT).

As I’ve said before, there are no magic words or actions a person can take to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation comes only through faith, “trust in Him.” Then and only then will Jesus “make His home in your” heart.

Then, as you acknowledge His presence as the indwelling Holy Spirit, you grow in faith. You grow in confidence that the Lord is there for you. As our passage today tells us, “Your roots [of faith and trust] will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

And when you are kept strong, you’re able to lift up others who are struggling. You’re able to move through your own problems and difficulties, knowing the Lord is in you and with you. You’re able to be the strong person Jesus has created you and called you to be—not strong in yourself, but strong in the power of His Spirit.

“… from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit” (Ephesians 3:16).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace …" (Romans 15:13a, NLT).

Can we see “hope”? Hebrews 11:1a says that “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for …” “Faith” opens our spiritual eyes and allows us to see the reality of “God, the source of hope.” “Faith” opens our spiritual ears so that we can have confidence in all of God’s promises. And this, my brothers and sisters, can “… fill [us] completely with joy and peace.”

But that complete filling “with joy and peace” is only offered, not forced on us. Like a car sitting at a gas pump, we won’t be refueled until we’re connected to the source. We need refueling on a regular basis. It’s not a one-and-done filling. We expend a lot of our “joy and peace” as we go through life’s daily problems and issues. We need to tank up, over and over again.

Which means reading God’s Word, praying—which is not monologue, but conversation—and spending time in fellowship with other believers. So many professing believers are going through life exhausted because they aren’t being refueled!

Which brings us to the last half of today’s passage. Let’s put the whole thing together, shall we? “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

“… because you trust in Him.” Folks, when we trust in Jesus with the very depths of our souls, we “…overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” And what happens when something overflows? It spills out on others. When we fully, deeply trust the Lord, we’re filled to overflowing with “joy and peace,” and that “joy and peace” shows all over us and we pour it out on those we come in contact with.

Your source of “joy and peace” is available 24/7. Fill up and pass it on.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV).

Yesterday I mentioned Christian counseling and said men should counsel with men and women with women. Why? Because we’re humans. And too many “counseling” sessions become love affairs. Too many people want to run to the opposite sex to seek advice, whether that’s at work or church or around their neighborhood or family.

Ladies, while it’s wonderful to sit under the teaching of a male Bible teacher or pastor, it’s never a good idea to have one-on-one meetings with a man who isn’t your husband or brother—and I’m not talking “brother” in the Biblical sense. Too many fires have been started by private meetings that began as perfectly innocent consultations.

Men, don’t counsel women. Send them to a woman who can talk with them. Women, don’t counsel men. Send them to a man who can help them with their problems. So many affairs have begun with the words, “My wife (or husband) doesn’t understand me.”

While Jesus indeed could be said to have counseled with the woman at the well—see John 4—first of all, He was God in the Flesh and, secondly, He didn’t counsel with her behind closed doors or in any private location. He talked with her in a completely public place.

We humans are weak. We fight temptation daily. And far too often, we give in to temptation. The best rule to go by is this: If you don’t want to give in to temptation, don’t put yourself in a position to be tempted.

“Run from temptations …” (2 Timothy 2:22a, CEV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” (Psalm 42:11a, NLT).

Ever been through a really sad time and you don’t even know why it’s happening? I have. With everything seemingly going fine, I fell into a depression that almost sucked the life out of me. And it took me a while to pull out of it. No, I wasn’t at the point of needing medical help, but I have no doubt I came mighty close. And let me say that if you’ve been there and sought medical help, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m just thankful there are people out there who are trained to deal with depression.

But medical help isn’t the first place we should turn. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should first look to Him. Read His Word. Pray. Share your concerns with one or more mature, trustworthy Christians—men if you’re a man, women if you’re a woman. (I don’t have enough time to expound on that topic today.)

But when your sadness simply won’t go away, and you’ve sought the Lord in every way you know how, search for a good Christian medical professional. Take medication if you need it, but be careful. Some physicians want to treat the symptoms and not the problem, and they may prescribe a pill and send you on your way. I hope you’ll read this eye-opening article I wrote several years ago about seniors and prescription medications:

To sum up, seek God first. If necessary, seek medical help. But know, just like the trials we looked at yesterday, that in spite of your difficulties, you have a Savior who loves you and is with you. Don’t give up. There is hope. And His Name is Jesus.

“I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11b).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6b-7, NLT).

God, the Bible clearly states, “… never tempts anyone” (James 1:13b). In John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11, Jesus calls Satan “the prince of this world.” For now, he has some power. He tempts people. But don’t miss this: the King of Kings never calls Satan any sort of king. No, Satan is nothing but a big dog on a short leash, and Jesus will soon turn that leash into a choke chain.

In the meantime, though, we experience “many trials,” things we simply cannot understand. Things the Bible tells us “… will show that [our] faith is genuine.” Doesn’t say it’ll be easy. Doesn’t say there’ll be an answer to “Why?” Just says “…when [our] faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring [us] much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

What!?! We’ll receive “praise and glory and honor”? You better believe it. Can you imagine hearing Jesus Himself, seeing Jesus Himself, looking you right in the eyes and telling you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:21b).

As the old hymn says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!” Remember that.

(To see all the words to the hymn, follow this link:

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time here as ‘temporary residents’” (1 Peter 1:18b, NLT).

A lot of professing Christians think they’re all set because they prayed “the prayer of salvation” and/or got dunked in a baptistery. Uh-uh. Unless that person truly repented of their sins and asked Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior, all they did was mouth words and get wet. Becoming a child of God means changing the way you think, talk, and act. It means becoming more and more like your Heavenly Father.

Which brings us back to today’s passage: “He will judge or reward you according to what you do.” While I don’t claim to understand all about this, I do know that the Bible teaches that there will be rewards in heaven. And those who live most obediently and faithfully will receive the greatest rewards.

What did Jesus do to save you? Died a horrible, tortuous death. Endured being spat on and beaten, and all the time He was completely innocent. Had never done one thing wrong.

How do you thank Him? By telling people you’re a Christian when they ask you, or by living it out as your lifestyle every day? Do you love and support a local church with your prayers, presence, and finances? Do you honor the Lord with what is said and done and watched and read in your home?

I firmly believe our time as “temporary residents” on this planet is coming to a close. When you stand before your Maker, will your life show Him your gratitude or your indifference? I pray you love Him and live for Him now, while there is still time.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (1 Peter 1:14b, NLT).

Amanda’s husband Blake had struggled with alcohol addiction from early adulthood. Before he and Amanda met, Blake realized he needed help and entered a clinic to “dry out.” Blake came out with steely determination not to drink again. A couple years later, Blake and Amanda met and were married a few months later. 

Blake was a faithful churchgoer, right alongside Amanda, and the couple brought two children into the world, built a nice home, and both worked hard at their professions. But Blake’s new job had him meeting with clients at bars and other social settings where alcohol was always present. Pretty soon, Blake began to have one little drink whenever he was with a client. After all, he’d been through the program. He knew how to handle alcohol. He no longer had a problem with it.

But Blake was wrong. Soon he was coming home late and, some evenings, not coming home at all. Amanda tried to reason with Blake, but he insisted he had everything under control. A few months later, his boss called Amanda. “Look,” he said, “Blake’s drinking is out of control. He’s losing clients, which means we’re losing money. If there’s anything you can do to convince him to get help, you’ve got to do it. We can’t keep him on while he’s ruining our business’s reputation.”

So Amanda begged, pleaded, and finally got Blake to go back into rehab. This time, though, he went to a Christian facility where he truly gave his heart and life to Jesus. He’s been sober for several years now and gives all the credit to His Lord Jesus. And he changed jobs, even though it meant a cut in pay—he knows he has to completely steer clear of every trigger that would put a bottle back in his hand.

It’s all too easy to let a bad word slip even ages after you've cleaned up your act. And if you let it slide without repenting, it becomes easier to do it again. Until the old habit is back. Any habit, any addiction, any sin, can latch onto you in a heartbeat unless you consistently stay away from all your old ways, even if that means steering clear of old friends too.

“But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. … [Y]our job is to obey the law … God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” (from James 4:11-12, NLT).

Let’s do a bit of self-examination. Truthfully answer these questions: How much of what goes through your mind is negative? And how much of what comes out of your mouth is negative? Being negative is a part of our natural nature. But see, we who have been transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ have a supernatural nature, a nature capable of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and refusing to be negative.

Being negative is a nasty habit. Like smoking, it’s not something most people can stop overnight. It takes determination. It takes willpower. It takes God in you, and it takes you willingly obeying Him.

If you’re a negative thinker, you’re a negative speaker. Stop. Ask the Lord to prompt your spirit every time you start to think or say anything that isn’t positive. As our scripture for today reminds us, “God alone … is the Judge.” You don’t have to bad-mouth an unpleasant person—they do that for themselves. If you see it, others see it too. Stop expending your time and energy spouting negatives. Christians are to be positive, encouraging, uplifting. Are you?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isaiah 53:6a, NLT).

I’ve never put a video clip in the middle of a Bible study before, but it’s only 25 seconds long and makes my point better than I could ever do in writing. Please click this link: and then come back and read the rest.

How often have all of us thought we knew what was best? How often have we, His sheep, heard and ignored His voice and went our own way? Just as you see in the video clip, we are sometimes rescued from one mess, only to find ourselves right back in another.

But here’s the amazing thing: our Great Shepherd keeps on rescuing us. What love! We’re smelly, dirty, disobedient, and He loves us! Loves us enough to die for us. Loves us enough to keep pulling us out of the scrapes we put ourselves in. If only we’ll follow His leading, we can sure avoid a whole lot of needless struggles.

“… He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice” (Jesus speaking, John 10:4b).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


I use a laptop computer a lot, and one thing I learned a long time ago is that I can forget checking my email or PM-ing a friend, or doing just about anything that requires the internet unless I’m in fairly close proximity to my router. Otherwise, it’s just one constant frustration after another.

Kind of like trying to live as a long-distance Christian. Our Heavenly Father wants His children close. And if we want our lives to be in alignment with His will, we have to stick close, read His Word, and worship and hang with fellow believers who will encourage us and keep us seeking to do God’s will.

The psalmist Asaph declared, “… how good it is to be near God!” (Psalm 73:28b, NLT). And He is absolutely right. When we’re distant from the Lord, we have poor communication and a whole lot of needless frustration and problems that may have otherwise been avoided.

James 4:8a reminds us: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” If there’s no closeness between you and the Lord, trust me: He didn’t go anywhere. But you did. Start taking steps in the right direction. Get back into your Bible. Get back into fellowship with other believers. Get back to talking to and depending on the Lord every day.

And remember: prayer is not a monologue. Sit still. Your Savior is speaking. Take time to listen.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all” (Ephesians 4:3-6, NLT).

Quite a few years back, I visited a friend’s church for a special meeting with a number of young preachers lined up to speak. During the course of one young man’s sermon, he spoke about the Antichrist and warned us to be aware of the enemy’s tactics. When he said this, an elderly man in front of me muttered very loudly, “Speaking of the Antichrist,” then nodded to the left.

You see, that little church stood in the shadow of a much larger church and that man, who had, I’m certain, never set foot in that other church, had just condemned it. I’ve frequently heard a person express a negative comment about a particular denomination, yet when asked if they’ve ever been inside one of those churches, their answer is, “No!”

While I don’t recommend visiting “churches” that are nothing but flat-out cults, I do think a person should visit other denominations before labeling or condemning them. Reminds me of what a friend asked me one time: “Is it true that your church makes people stand up in front of the whole congregation and confess their sins publicly?”

I was astounded. But I simply replied, “The day they start doing that is the day I find another church!” What a horrible thought, to be stuck in front of your whole church to ‘fess up everything you’ve done. Yet that was what someone had told my friend. At least she came to me and asked before going around telling other people what churches like mine were supposedly doing.

God didn’t create denominations, and there is no perfect church here on Earth. Why? Because it’s made up of imperfect people. Don’t waste time bad-mouthing other churches. Don’t waste time bad-mouthing your own church. Satan has more than enough volunteers tearing down churches. He doesn’t need the help of a professing believer. We who have committed our lives to Jesus are family, the family of God. Act like it.

“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2b, NLT).

When Margaret started slipping mentally, one of her problems was locking herself out of her house. I made duplicate keys and hid one outside her house, kept one for myself, and gave another to her next-door neighbor Freda. (I’ve changed the names of both ladies.)

One day Margaret called and told me she was at Freda’s and was locked out of her house. “Get the spare key I put in the utility room,” I told her.

“I looked there,” Margaret said. “There isn’t one.” She had already misplaced it.

“Okay, then,” I said, “Get Freda to open the door,” I told her. “She has a key.”

Freda snatched the phone from Margaret and barked into the receiver, “I don’t know where you get the idea that I have a key. I don’t have one.”

I gave up, got in my car, and drove to Margaret’s, walked next door to Freda’s, and went inside. Freda began immediately, “I told Margaret she’d lose her head if it wasn’t glued on. She was doing good to find her way across the yard to get here.” Poor Margaret just stood there in complete humiliation.

I walked over to Freda, lifted the necklace she had tucked inside her shirt, and said, “Here’s your key to Margaret’s.” Right where she’d put it the day I gave it to her.

A short time later, Margaret went to assisted living. A few months after that, Freda also found assisted living necessary.

Remember: There but for the grace of God go I. None of us know how we will fare mentally or physically in the future. “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults …” Why? “… because of your love.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV).

Remember my friend Lani from yesterday? Well, there’s more to the story. When my friend and I first arrived at Lani’s stunning historic inn in Natchez, we were on our way to our rooms when a tiny lady in work clothes greeted us in an unusual accent that I couldn’t quite figure out.

“Welcome,” she said. “My name’s Molly, and that there,” she added, pointing to a man painting a banister, “is my husband Ian.” The man waved his paint brush in our direction and kept on working. “I’ve already inspected your rooms and you’ll find a lovely gift basket in each,” Molly told us.

We thanked her, freshened up a bit, and then walked over to where Lani was waiting to have tea with us. Imagine our surprise when Molly showed up too! Turned out, Molly and Ian were friends of Lani’s and were visiting for a few weeks and wanted to be useful. They owned a home in Bath, England, which is how they’d met Lani—long story—as well as a sheep station (big ranch) in Australia (which explained their accents).

Lani, Molly, and Ian—all multimillionaires. Me—a blue-collar regular ol’ gal from Alabama. We were all perfectly comfortable together (except maybe my friend). No one was out to impress anyone. We were all simply being ourselves.

We can’t act uppity and expect to lead people to Jesus. Nor can we go around with our eyes to the ground, feeling like we’re not as good as other people.

If you’re prone to horn-blowing, cut it out. If you’re prone to putting yourself down, cut that out. You’re a child of the King. Remember that. To “… value others above yourselves” doesn’t mean to cow down. It simply means what Paul said: not to do things “… out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Seek to be kind, gentle, and welcoming.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Now that we’re aware of our built-in surveillance cameras—see yesterday’s study—let’s take a look at a little more of Paul’s teaching from Ephesians: “Always be humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2a, NLT). For today, let’s home in on just one word: humility.

Humility should never be thought of as being spineless or cowardly. Showing humility takes great inner strength. Humility isn’t cowing down. Humility is choosing not to set yourself above another person. Fact is, those who have to blow their own horn usually suffer from low self-esteem and, like a strutting peacock, use arrogance and a big display of material things to hide what they think is their own insufficiencies.

Years ago, while writing an article about the Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez, Mississippi, I and a friend were guests at one of the gorgeous historic inns, a sprawling antebellum mansion owned by a woman named Lani. My friend and I were invited to tea and, during our visit with Lani, she remarked on my flannel patchwork skirt. “I’d really like to have a skirt like that. Where did you find it?”

That’s when my friend started kicking me under the table. I could see desperation in her eyes. “Don’t do it!” her eyes said. But I moved my legs so she couldn’t continue whacking me and told Lani, “I found it in a thrift store for $3.” My poor friend was mortified.

Lani, however, was delighted. “If you ever find another one like it, buy it and send it to me and I’ll pay you for the skirt and the postage.” I told her I’d be happy to, and then we went on with our tea, scones, and conversation.

Turned out, Lani was born and raised in Beverly Hills and still lived there—she just flew back and forth to spend time in Natchez as often as possible. We bonded over two things: our faith in Christ and that skirt. Lani didn’t need to put on airs, and she certainly didn’t expect me to. And her wealth or my lack of it had no bearing whatsoever on our friendship.

Don’t pretend to be what you aren’t. Don’t use titles or material possessions to try to impress people. Be you. Be real. Be humble. Be like Jesus.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (Ephesians 4:1b, NLT).

Let’s suppose there’s a hidden surveillance camera in your home. You have no idea it’s there and you’re going about your normal day-to-day business. After a month of surveillance, you’re contacted by the owner of the camera. It’s God! And He says He wants to have a sit-down with you and go over what all’s been recorded. What would you do? What would He see and hear?

Fact of the matter is, folks, everyone who belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ is already under surveillance. By the Holy Spirit. He who said: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV) keeps His promise. He stays put. Within you. He doesn’t plug His ears when you go into a tirade. He doesn’t cover His eyes when you sit down to watch a racy TV show or movie or read a dirty book. And He doesn’t merely surveil you in your home—He goes with you everywhere you go. He sees all and He knows all.

And in spite of anything He sees or hears that doesn’t reflect well on His child or on Himself, He continues to love you and stick with you. Who would want to disappoint someone like that?

So don’t. Instead, make it your goal to “… lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” I hope you’ll think about your built-in surveillance camera every time you even begin to think, do, or say anything that would dishonor Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Let’s take another look at yesterday’s passage. In it, Paul tells us that trusting and growing in faith gives us “… the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is” (Ephesians 3:19, NLT).

“… all God’s people …” God’s love for me and God’s love for you are equally “… wide, … long, … high, and … deep …” As I said yesterday, He doesn’t play favorites. And that’s what I want to look at today.

If you have committed your heart and life to Jesus Christ, you are His child and your thoughts, speech, and actions are proof of your adoption into the Kingdom of God. So don’t ever think you’re less than any other believer. Don’t ever think God loves some other believer more than He loves you. Because it’s just not true. And here’s the proof, over and over in His Word:

“For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).

“… He has no favorites” (Ephesians 6:9b).

“… God shows no favoritism” (Acts 10:34b).

“… God has no favorites” (Colossians 3:25b).

“… God has no favorites” (Galatians 2:6b).

“And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites” (1 Peter 1:17a).

Let that sink into your heart and mind and spirit. You are loved “… with an everlasting love …” (Jeremiah 31:3a, NIV). Live a life worthy of what He’s done for you.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we made it to the second half of Ephesians 3:17: “Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (NLT). How does this happen? “… as [we] trust in Him” (Ephesians 3:17a), [our] roots … grow down into God’s love and keep [us] strong.”

Paul goes on to tell us that doing these things—trusting and growing—will give us “… the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is” (Ephesians 3:19).

Don’t miss the important statement in that last verse: “… as all God’s people should …” God doesn’t play favorites. Every person who commits their heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ has the same opportunities to grow and learn and understand God’s Word.

If you understand very little about the Bible, you aren’t spending much time in the Bible. And it is 100% impossible to grow closer to the Lord, or to grow into a trust that can carry you through every situation, unless you read His Word. Regularly.

A recent survey showed that more than half the U.S. population say they read the Bible somewhere between not at all and twice a year. If that surprises you, hold onto your hat. Another question in the survey was: Do you think our country would be worse off, better off or about the same without the Bible? One-third of respondents said it’d be about the same. Fourteen percent (almost 1 out of 7) said the U.S. would be better off without the Bible.

Folks, Satan ain’t playin’. He knows the time is drawing near when the Lord will call His people out of this world and those who haven’t already committed their lives to Him will be left behind to endure the horrors of the Tribulation. He’ll have his field day on those left behind, but meanwhile, he wants to hinder believers from strengthening their faith and knowing the Word, and, above all, he certainly doesn’t want believers leading other people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Think about those statistics I mentioned. How often do you read your Bible, not just a brief little devo like this one? Spend time in the Word. Grow in faith. Be empowered to lead other people to saving faith in Jesus.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at Ephesians 3:17a: “… Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.” As we learn to trust the Lord more and more, we develop a greater sensitivity to the presence of His Holy Spirit. It becomes easier to hear His voice and follow His guidance.

In other words, as Paul continued in Ephesians 3:17b: “Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Life can be tough, and we need supernatural spiritual strength to enable us to handle it.

Larry and I like to fish and, many times, we’ve been cruising along a lake or river and I look up to see a high rock wall with a pine tree growing from it. There’s hardly any soil where the tree is, and yet its roots have grown down into every crack and crevice, enabling that tree to withstand all sorts of winds and weather. No matter how precarious your perch may feel, when “[y]our roots … grow down into God’s love,” He will “keep you strong.”

Don’t ever think for a skinny minute that your Savior doesn’t know exactly what you’re dealing with, exactly what you’re going through. He’s there and He cares and, IF you “trust in Him,” He will “keep you strong.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him” (Ephesians 3:17a, NLT).

When I was a little kid, there was a swinging bridge in Cherokee, North Carolina that crossed a wide stretch of shallow, rushing river. The first time I set foot on it, I was terrified. It moved. It teetered. It creaked and groaned. It didn’t stay still like other bridges I’d been on. But I grabbed my Daddy’s hand, held on for dear life, and kept going. I may not have trusted that bridge, but I did trust my Daddy.

And I wanted to go where my Daddy was leading. It may have been scary, but I knew my Daddy was watching out for me, was with me. I knew, in spite of that bridge’s swinging, swaying, and feel of instability that it wasn’t something I needed to fear if that was where my Daddy was taking me. Why? Because I had absolute trust in my father.

We can find ourselves in some very shaky, scary situations in life, can’t we? But if we put our “… trust in Him …,” we can be assured that we will never walk into any situation without the Lord being with us, comforting us, encouraging us, and reassuring us of His presence. We can trust our Heavenly Father.

Don’t let fear keep you from trusting your Savior. Wherever He leads, follow. No matter how shaky or scary it may seem, there is no better place to be. Your Father will take care of you as you “trust in Him.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus Himself is the cornerstone. In Him all the parts of the building fit together and grow into a holy temple in the Lord. Through Him you, also, are being built in the Spirit together with others into a place where God lives” (Ephesians 2:20-22, GWT).

This is one of the best descriptions of the Church in all the Bible. It’s “… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” And “Christ Jesus Himself is the cornerstone.” Not only that, but we—believers—make up “… parts of the building …” and, as we mature in faith, the Church grows. And we are knit together into the One Body of Christ, “… built in the Spirit together …”

The Holy Spirit in every believer unites us into the Body of Christ, His Church. And folks, we need each other. We need the fellowship of gathering together. We need the sermons and lessons, and the Lord loves to hear His people lift up praise and prayers and worship. Yes, we can pray and praise and worship wherever we are, but corporate worship as the Body of Christ is something special. It’s not to be ignored or neglected.

Those people I mentioned yesterday who say they were saved twenty years ago, but have never gotten involved in church? I’m now seeing their third generation coming up knowing absolutely nothing about who Jesus is or what it means to be a believer. It grieves my heart to think of professing believers who may not know the Lord themselves and who are doing nothing to teach their children or grandchildren the urgency of committing their lives to the Lord Jesus before it’s too late.

If you haven’t been in church, make this the Sunday you change that. No church is perfect, but find the one that you feel most comfortable in and give it a try. And if you’re a regular churchgoer, please don’t neglect to warmly greet newcomers. And for pity’s sake, don’t gripe about somebody taking your seat—you might even want to get totally radical and move to the center of the pew so people don’t have to crawl over you.

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children (and I don’t think it’s a stretch to include newcomers to the faith in that description) in My name welcomes Me” (Jesus speaking, Mark 9:37a, NIV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“God's gift of undeserved grace is what saves you” (Ephesians 2:5b, CEV).

Recently I’ve spoken with at least four people who’ve told me about how they were visited by a pastor, prayed “the prayer of salvation,” and were saved. While that’s certainly happened to many believers, it goes back to what the Bible keeps teaching us: the proof is in the living. And not a one of these folks have hit a church door more than a handful of times since that pastor’s visit some ten to twenty years ago.

There is no magic phrase that guarantees a person salvation. The only way to become a member of the family of God, certain of your eternal home in heaven, is to have a change of heart. The word “repent” means to turn. To do a 180. A complete about-face.

Think of it this way. You look into your child’s bedroom and see toys and clothes scattered everywhere. “Clean up this room right now,” you say. And your little darling immediately says, “I will.” But hours later, you look in again and the room is still a wreck. That child’s actions, or lack thereof, doesn’t match the words that came from their lips.

So it is with many professing believers. Unless your profession of faith was preceded by sincere repentance, all you did was mouth words. True salvation is exemplified in a changed life, from the inside out.

While I fully believe a person can know the Lord and not be involved in a church, I believe the Holy Spirit within that person will continue to trouble them until they do find a church home. The Holy Spirit in you loves the body of Christ, the fellowship of believers, only found when we gather together as the family of God. And if that desire never stops you from sitting at home Sunday after Sunday, I believe it’s time to back up and reexamine where you stand with Jesus.

Let me also say that I realize there are many people who are unable to attend church due to health reasons. I’m strictly talking about those who are able but have no desire to go.

Don’t rely on empty words to get you to heaven. Know that you know the Savior. Time is running out. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

“Not everyone who calls out to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 7:21, NLT).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“You will harvest what you plant. If you follow your selfish desires, you will harvest destruction, but if you follow the Spirit, you will harvest eternal life” (Galatians 6:7b-8, CEV).

Paul couldn’t have said it any plainer. If a person chooses to “… follow [his] own selfish desires, [he] will harvest destruction …” The way to “… harvest eternal life” is to “… follow the Spirit …”

Everything in life is about choices. And those choices affect our present, our future, and our eternity. As we saw yesterday, a true believer will produce “fruit” (see Galatians 5:22-23) in keeping with the personality and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Walking an aisle or being dunked in a baptistery doesn’t mean you’ve been truly saved, born again into the eternal Kingdom of the Savior. The proof is in the living. If Christ lives in you, in the form of His Holy Spirit, you don’t do the things you used to do. You don’t think the things you used to think. Nor do you say the things you used to say. You’re changed. Transformed. You’ve become “… a new creature …” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Have you asked Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins and save you? If your answer is yes, how long ago has that been and how much more like Him have you become during that time? If a lot of the old you is still within you, make sure you’ve truly repented and asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior. And once you’re sure of that, get into a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church and learn His Word and grow in faith.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, .... What is important is faith expressing itself in love. … let the Holy Spirit guide your lives” (from Galatians 5:6, 16a, NLT).

Two huge points in these short excerpts from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: First and foremost, the most important thing a believer can do is demonstrate their faith by showing love to others. Secondly—and this goes hand-in-hand with the first point—they’re to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Note that little word “let.” The Holy Spirit is God, just as Jesus is God. We serve a Triune God, the Three-in-One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our Lord will never lead us astray, but He won’t force us to do right either. It’s always a matter of choice. If you want to reach out to others with the love of Christ, then you have to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. You must LET, or ALLOW, Him to be your Guide. He’ll never force His will upon you.

So following the Holy Spirit’s guidance does what? It makes us like Him. As Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And this isn’t a list to choose from. When we belong to Christ and we’re following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we get ALL of these! No, they won’t all manifest themselves right off the bat, but as we live and grow in Christ, the fruit (note that it’s singular) of the Spirit becomes more and more evident in us. We want less and less of the things of this world and more and more of Jesus.

Or as Paul said it: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24). Growing in Christ and listening to and following the Holy Spirit’s leading will change the way we think, talk, and act. IF we LET Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


I hope you were inspired and encouraged by our look at the last days of Christ’s life on earth before and after His crucifixion. Remember, He left us with the Great Commission, which says: “…go and make disciples of all the nations …” (Matthew 28:19b, NLT). His command (not suggestion) hasn’t changed and His message is clear. He is building a Kingdom from all peoples in all the earth: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13, Paul quoting from Joel 2:32).

Galatians is believed to be Paul’s first letter, written before Romans or any of his other messages. Who were the Galatians? The believers in the church in Galatia, a provincial territory of the Roman Empire in what was considered Asia Minor then and would be part of the country of Turkey today. As Paul makes clear from the beginning of his ministry: “God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:8b). And who were the Gentiles? Anyone who wasn’t Jewish.

In the short time since Christ’s coming, crucifixion, and resurrection, false teachers had crept into the Church and begun to teach untruths, such as requiring Gentile men to be circumcised as were Jewish men. This and other things they claimed were required for salvation made it clear that they were teaching a salvation of faith plus works. And that was and is a lie.

If what Christ did on the cross and through His resurrection was not enough to win salvation for every person who has ever or ever will put their faith in Him, then His death was a tragedy, not a victory. Christ’s death is, must be, sufficient as the only thing needed to bring salvation to all who will believe.

Yes, good works are the result, or proof, of a person having repented and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but works come AFTER salvation and are not a part of salvation itself. To say anything else is necessary for salvation other than faith in the Risen Savior is to say that His sacrifice was insufficient. And that, my friends, is false teaching.

As Paul reminded the believers in Galatia, he reminds us today: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are His heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” (Galatians 3:28-29).

One God. One Church. One Way. Be a faithful servant and messenger of Christ.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


With their Leader no longer with them, the disciples were unsure of what they were to do, so when Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing,” (John 21:3b, NLT) most of the other disciples decided to go with him.

They’d fished all night with nothing to show for it when Jesus appeared on the shore and called out, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat …” (John 21:6a) and “they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it” (John 21:6b). “This was the third time Jesus had appeared to His disciples since He had been raised from the dead” (John 21:14). And this catch of fish is so important: it showed the disciples that the Risen Lord was the same Jesus that had filled their nets when He first called them (see Luke 5).

Peter left the rest of the guys to manage the fish, dove into the water, and swam to shore to see Jesus. And that was when Jesus had a life-changing conversation with Peter.

Remember, during Jesus’ pre-crucifixion trial and torture, Peter had denied even knowing Jesus—just as Jesus had warned him he would. Now, ashamed and not feeling at all worthy of being a disciple, Peter had to wonder what the Lord was going to say. Let’s take a look at John 21:15-16.

“‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love You.’

“Then feed My lambs.”

Jesus repeated the question: ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love You.’

‘Then take care of My sheep.’”

Before we get to Verse 17, I want us to look back at Verses 15-16. We lose the whole point when this passage is translated into English. See, both times Jesus asks, “Do you love Me,” Jesus is asking, “Do you agape Me?” He’s using the word agape, meaning the all-encompassing love of God. Peter responds, “You know I phileo You,” using the word phileo, meaning the love between friends or brothers—as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

Peter wasn’t able to love with the kind of love that Jesus asked. Peter truthfully told Jesus, “I love you as a brother.” So what does Jesus do? A third time He asked him, "Simon son of John, do you love Me?” (John 21:17a).

This time Jesus says, “Okay, Peter, if you aren’t yet capable of loving Me as I love you, do you truly love (phileo) Me as a brother?” To which Peter responds, “Lord, You know everything. You know that I love (phileo) You” (John 21:17b).

What a Savior! He meets us where we are. He didn’t give up on the repentant Peter. Instead, He commissioned him: “Then feed My sheep” (John 21:17c).

He hasn’t given up on you either. He’s still ready to meet you right where you are. He’s still ready to use you for His glory. All you have to do is be willing. Are you? Then tell Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


"That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again He said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you” (John 20:19-21, NLT).

There are many accounts of Jesus appearing to people after His resurrection, but as we read yesterday, the women’s account of their experience with two angels who announced Jesus’ resurrection “… sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it” (Luke 24:11). The women believed the angels’ announcement, but the men thought the whole story sounded ridiculous. Until they saw Jesus for themselves.

But “One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he replied, ‘I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.’ Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:24-27).

Thomas gets such a raw deal being called “doubting Thomas.” He had the same doubts all the other disciples had until they’d laid eyes on the Risen Savior. So when Thomas saw Him, how did he respond? With an immediate affirmation of his faith: “‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas exclaimed” (John 20:28).

And what was Jesus’ response? “Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me’” (John 20:29). Thomas wasn’t the only one who had seen Him—all of the disciples had.

Which means, brothers and sisters, we are “those who believe without seeing!” And as Jesus said, we’re “blessed!” And just as Jesus said to His disciples, we’re also commissioned: “As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.”

You have a job to do, Christian. You have a calling from the Lord Himself to spread the Good News that He lives! This isn’t only the message of Easter—it’s the message of every single day. Get out there and tell it.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. 

'The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day’” (Luke 24:1-7, NLT).

The stone that held the Lord inside the tomb had been rolled away? No, the stone that kept other people out of the tomb had been rolled away! Nothing kept Jesus’ body inside that tomb and “The Way” (John 14:6) certainly didn’t need a way out of it. But the women needed to be able to come into the tomb and see that “He is risen from the dead!”

When the angels spoke to them, “… they remembered that He had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell His eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened” (Luke 24:9-10).

Can’t you just hear Peter and the other disciples? “Silly women. Gotta love ‘em, but they’re clearly hysterical.” The Bible says the women’s “… story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it” (Luke 24:11).

John’s Gospel describes what happened next: “Peter and the other disciple (John) started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings ling there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first (John) also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead” (John 20:3-9).

Who unwraps a body to carry it off and steal it? Who could vanish out of a full wrap of linen bandages without disarranging them? And why set the face-covering cloth aside to itself? Every bit of this signaled the reality of the resurrection.

Jesus lives! And because He lives, we can too. Forever. With Him. In a place of perfect peace. Do you know Him? Don’t you want others to know Him? Then tell them.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… He said, ‘It is finished!’ Then He bowed his head and released His spirit. It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they didn’t break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.) These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and ‘They will look on the one they pierced’” (John 19:30-37, NLT). Here, John quoted from Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10.

Unlike us, the Jews counted a day from sundown to sundown, not sunup to sunup, so with evening approaching, they were in a rush not to have something like dead bodies spoiling their Sabbath, which began at sundown on Friday. So they asked the soldiers to break the crucified men’s legs, thus preventing them from being able to push upward, an act which helped ease the pressure on the diaphragm and allowed them to continue breathing. The soldiers did this to the men on both sides of Jesus, but the Passover Lamb had already died, so although His side was pierced, His legs weren’t broken.

“This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come)” (Mark 15:42-43).

All four Gospels record Joseph’s request for the body of Jesus. Imagine a member of the Sanhedrin—“the high counsel”—asking for the body of the very one they’d determined to put to death. Clearly, their illegal kangaroo court to try Jesus was held without the knowledge of Joseph or any other dissenters.

Only John’s Gospel records the presence of a second person with Joseph: “With him came Nicodemus” (John 19:39a). “Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body” (Mark 15:44-45).

“The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:41-42). Together, Joseph and Nicodemus carried Jesus’ body to the tomb.

Again, only John records what else Nicodemus did: “He brought along about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen” (John 19:39c-40). Nicodemus brought the burial spices; he and Joseph put them on Jesus and wrapped His body.

Mark’s Gospel goes on to say, “Then he (Joseph of Arimathea) rolled a stone in front of the entrance” (Mark 15:46). It’s unlikely that rolling a stone huge enough to seal the entrance to a tomb was a one-man job. Most likely, Joseph and Nicodemus performed this task together.

“Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid” (Mark 15:42-47, NLT).

Jesus’ mother was devastated by the death of her Son, but she also wanted to see that He received proper burial preparation. The rush job that Joseph and Nicodemus had done had been with the very best of intentions, but the two Marys intended to return as soon as the Sabbath was over and do a more thorough job of preparing the body.

Little did they know there wouldn’t be a body to finish preparing. Hang on, folks, ‘cause Sunday’s comin’!

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


The people had spoken. They’d made their choice—Barabbas set free and Jesus to die. “And they had Him nailed to the cross” (Matthew 27:35a, NLT). “Two revolutionaries were crucified with Him, one on His right and one on His left” (Matthew 27:38).

Jesus spoke seven times from the cross—the number seven signifying perfection or completion. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In indescribable agony, Jesus wasn’t thinking of Himself, but of others, including the very ones who had nailed Him there and those who had chosen Barabbas over Him.

Thirdly, while one of the crucified criminals scoffed at Jesus, the other looked at Him and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), to which Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Giver of Hope is always ready to receive the one who truly turns to Him for forgiveness.

I can’t begin to imagine what agony Mary was suffering as she watched her Son upon the cross. John, without referring to himself by name, records: “When Jesus saw His mother standing beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, ‘Dear woman, here is your son.’ And He said to this disciple, ‘Here is your mother’” (John 19:26-27a). In His final moments on the cross, Jesus entrusted the care of His precious mother to His disciple John. Jesus, again, was thinking of others. And still for believers today, this, my friends—thinking of others—is the surest indicator of true faith.

Jesus’ next cry fulfilled the very words of Psalm 22:1: “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. … Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned Me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46).

His life ebbing away, “Jesus knew that His mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture He said, ‘I am thirsty’” (John 19:28). Jesus’ words were a fulfillment of Psalm 22:15b: “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.”

Immediately after saying “I am thirsty,” Jesus made his sixth statement from the cross. “A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to His lips. When Jesus had tasted it, He said, ‘It is finished!’” (John 19:29-30a).

“And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands!’ And with those words He breathed His last” (Luke 23:45b-46).

Luke’s Gospel doesn’t paint as clear a picture as does Mark’s. When Jesus took His last breath, “… the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). Note that it “was torn … from top to bottom.” This was a 60-foot high curtain. No human hand could have reached up and ripped it from the top. But so what? Why was the tearing of this curtain so significant?

According to Exodus 30, the area inside the curtain, called the Holy of Holies, was so sacred that the high priest alone was allowed to enter it, and then only one time a year to make atonement for the people. Inside it was the Ark of the Covenant, atop of which was the bema, or mercy seat—see Exodus 25. Ladies and gentleman, “… our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down at the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Hebrews 10:12).

There was no more need for a blood sacrifice. As Jesus said from the cross, “It is finished!” All that’s left for man to do is receive the free gift being offered. Have you done that? Have you told anyone? How are you living to honor Him?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Only Peter and John followed Jesus to the high priest’s home when He was arrested in the Garden. John 18:15b records that John “… was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus” (NLT). John persuaded “… the woman watching the gate …” (John 18:16b) to let Peter in, too.

“The woman asked Peter, ‘You’re not one of that Man’s disciples, are you?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘I am not’" (John 18:17). “Just then, a rooster crowed” (Mark 14:68b). As Jesus was questioned and slapped like a common criminal, “Peter was standing by the fire warming himself …” (John 18:25a). That’s when the others gathered around the fire “… asked him …, ‘You’re not one of His disciples, are you?’” (John 18:25b), to which Peter immediately responded, “No, I am not” (John 18:25c).

But the crowd around the fire wasn’t buying it. “… one of the household slaves of the high priest … asked, ‘Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?’ Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed” (John 18:26-27).

What had Peter told Jesus? “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will” (Mark 14:29b).

And how had Jesus responded? “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know Me” (Mark 14:30b).

Never say “Never.” Until we’re actually faced with a situation, we don’t know how we would respond. Peter was so sure of himself. Yet Jesus had warned him. And Peter had failed miserably.

So God was through with him, right? Wrong. When the disciples, devastated over the loss of their Leader, decided to chuck it all in and go fishing, the Resurrected Lord appeared to them on the seashore. And of all the disciples to have this conversation with, He chose Peter. And what did He tell him? “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17b).

Child of God, you can’t mess up badly enough for the Lord to stop loving you. You can’t mess up badly enough for the Lord to not be willing to use you for His glory. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise. Remember: Jesus Himself identified the devil as “… a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). You can’t believe a word he whispers!

Your wounds can mean healing for others. Your mistakes can serve as lessons for others. Don’t listen to a liar. Listen to your Savior who loves you and wants you to glorify Him in all you think, say, and do.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


As Jesus finished His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. Then all His disciples deserted Him and ran away” (Mark 14:43b, 50, NLT).

The whole group may have run for the hills, but two of the disciples gathered up the nerve to follow. John doesn’t identify himself, but says “Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples” (John 18:15a).

Jesus’ trial was an illegal joke. None of the established protocols were followed. “The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed Him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on His head. Then they saluted Him and taunted, ‘Hail! King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him on the head with a reed stick, spit on Him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship” (Mark 15:16-19).

But they were just getting started. “Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. So the governor asked … ‘Which of these two do you want me to release to you?’ The crowd shouted back, ‘Barabbas!’ Pilate responded, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’ So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned Him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified” (Matthew 27:15, 21-22, 26).

The religious leaders had gone throughout the crowd, encouraging them to choose Barabbas to be released, and the people had bought into it. Did everyone there that day want to see Jesus crucified? I don’t believe that for a skinny minute. What I do believe is that those who wanted Jesus to be freed were afraid to speak up. In a throng of people passionately crying out for the release of a notorious criminal, fear for their own personal safety kept them silent.

Going along with the crowd is so much easier than opposing it, isn’t it? And when the crowd is wrong and we do nothing, we condone their actions. And when we condone their actions, we deny our Lord just as surely as those people did on that Friday.

Folks, if we prefer anything over Jesus, we’ve denied Him. Don’t let work, TV, books, activities, or even family keep you from time with the Savior. Most of us won’t neglect to eat today. Let’s not neglect our spiritual food either.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


After Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “… Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: ‘You will know which one to arrest when I greet Him with a kiss. Then you can take Him away under guard.’ As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. ‘Rabbi!’ he exclaimed, and gave Him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested Him” (Mark 14:43b-46, NLT).

Jesus had openly taught in Jerusalem and many other towns, but the religious leaders didn’t have the guts to make a public arrest. Instead, they, like Judas, did it in the sneakiest way possible: under the cover of night.

And how did Judas betray Him? “… with a kiss.” Why? This is only my opinion, but I believe Judas, in his own mind, wasn’t being two-faced. Instead, he was using the kiss to signify that he still loved Jesus. He was merely trying to help Jesus along in his plan to throw off the Roman government’s power over the Jews and instate Himself as ruler. See, Judas didn't love Jesus for who He was; he loved Him for who he wanted Him to be.

Folks, we need to be so careful about how we treat our Lord. He isn’t our magic genie. He isn’t our “on demand” provider. He’s God of the Universe. He’s in control. Even when, as in that night in the Garden, it looked like everything was total chaos.

See, who Judas thought the Messiah should be and who Jesus really was—the Suffering Savior—were complete opposites. And we, like Judas, often look at Jesus as someone we can manipulate or control. Don’t look at me all weird when I say that because you know it’s true. If we claim this verse and we do this thing, we’ll get what we want. Nope. Unless we, like Jesus, are praying first and foremost that the Father’s will be done.

Do you want things your way or His way? Having tried my way, I prefer God’s way. Even when I don’t understand what’s happening. Even when I don’t particularly like the state or situation I find myself in.

How can I say this? Because I trust Him. I know Father knows best. And I know He wants the best for me.

How about you? Do you trust Him enough to pray for every area of your life, “Thy will be done”? (Luke 11:2, KJV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


The Last Supper is over. Jesus has sent Judas away, telling him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do” (John 13:27b). He has spoken extensively with the other eleven disciples (as we’ve looked at in John 14-16) about the work of the Holy Spirit, the disciples’ responsibility as His representatives, and the importance of sticking close to the Savior. Now in the garden at the Mount of Olives, He prays to the Father:

“There He told them, ‘Pray that you will not give in to temptation.’ He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him” (Luke 22:40-43, NLT).

Knowing exactly what this meant, Jesus, God in the Flesh, prayed that the Father’s “will be done, not” His own. Even though He was fully God, He was also fully man, and as a man, He dreaded the suffering He was about to endure. Even so, He considered the redemption of mankind worth it.

So when Jesus prayed for the strength to submit to the Father’s will, what happened? “… an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.” Don’t ever think that this kind of comfort isn’t available to you today. Seriously? Yep. Look at a couple of verses that teach us about angels:

“What are all the angels? They are spirits sent to serve those who are going to receive salvation” (Hebrews 1:14, GWT). “For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go” (Psalm 91:11, NLT). Angels are active in the lives of believers. Does this mean nothing bad will ever happen to a believer? Of course not. But we’ll never know this side of heaven how many bad things didn’t happen because of the intervention of God’s heavenly warriors.

After the angel had come to Jesus “and strengthened Him,” “He prayed more fervently …” (Luke 22:44a). When we are desperately in prayer, we, too, are ministered to and strengthened by angels.

Can you imagine knowing in advance that you were going to be beaten, stripped naked, and nailed alive to a cross? Such horror is unthinkable. Knowing this is what lay ahead, Jesus “was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44b).

Ever heard the expression “sweating blood”? It’s for real. It’s called hematidrosis or hematohidrosis. In the human body, there are a lot of blood vessels around the sweat glands and, under extreme distress, these blood vessels constrict. When the distress passes, the blood vessels can dilate enough to rupture, causing blood to leak into the sweat glands and be excreted. Jesus, having prayed and submitted Himself to the Father’s will, sweated blood as He reaffirmed His commitment to go to the cross.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! Remember what He was willing to do for you and ask yourself: What am I willing to do for Him?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8b, NLT).

Yesterday I talked about how a true believer can’t sin without knowing what he’s doing is wrong. News flash: neither can an unbeliever. How is that? Because the Holy Spirit calls to all mankind. He “… convict[s] the world of its sin …” The Lord, addressing the church of Laodicea—which many Bible scholars believe represents the church today—warned: “As many as I love, I do convict …” (Revelation 3:19a, YLT).

How many does Jesus love? “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16a, KJV). But that same Revelation passages also says that God chastens—that is, disciplines. So where does that fit in? Hebrews 12:7-8 hold the answer:

“Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all” (NLT). (Check the King James to see an even stronger wording in this passage.) So there you have it: while God sends conviction to the world, He only disciplines those who are truly His.

Ever wondered why evil people seem to literally get away with murder while you get caught every time you take a wrong step? The difference is your family. Your Father loves you too much not to call you on the carpet when you disobey Him. And while you’re going to suffer the consequences of your wrongdoing in the here and now—and possibly even see the suffering of others affected by what you’ve done wrong—those who don’t know the Lord will spend eternity paying for their sin.

Which brings us back to Jesus’ conversation with His disciples. Jesus wanted the disciples and us to understand that people don’t go to hell because they’re bad. Let’s face it: we’re all bad. We all could be better, more obedient followers of Christ every day. The reason the world isn’t overrun with Christians is because the world is overrun with lukewarm Christians, as in that reference to the church of Laodicea yesterday.

So how does any person end up in hell? Because of one single sin: “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me” (John 16:9).

So what separates believers in the world from unbelievers in the world? The blood of Jesus. As Jesus said of His disciples as He prayed for them in His last moments before His arrest: “They do not belong to this world any more than I do” (John 17:16).

Child of God, you don’t belong to this world. You belong to Jesus. Live like it.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:7-8, NLT).

“… the Advocate won’t come.” Was the Holy Spirit not already in the world? Yes, but prior to Christ’s coming in the flesh, the Holy Spirit only came to specific people for specific purposes.

For example, First Samuel 16:14a says “… the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul.” Saul had been anointed as king, but he wasn’t following God’s leadership. So when the Spirit left him, what had just happened? “… as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on” (1 Samuel 16:13). The disobedient king was removed and a new king crowned—a king whose lineage would bring us the Savior.

But after Jesus went to the cross, died, and was resurrected, His Holy Spirit became available to all mankind—not merely on a temporary basis or to specific individuals, but as a lifetime presence within every person who accepts Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Which is why Jesus told His disciples: “It is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come.”

And what is the work of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said, “He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8b).

No truly born-again believer can sin without knowing it. No truly born-again believer has to wonder whether or not something is right or wrong. As the apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 10:21b: “You cannot eat at the Lord’s table and at the table of demons, too.”

There’s no gray area—it’s either right or wrong and the Holy Spirit lets us know when it’s wrong. We simply choose whether to listen and obey or ignore Him. And every time we ignore Him, we put a little more cotton in our spiritual ears. We put a little bit thicker dark glasses over our spiritual eyes. And it gets easier and easier to tune out His warnings.

So for anyone who’s ever said, “Who’s it going to hurt if I …”—and I’ll be the first one to raise my hand—Paul also said, “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.” Even if I can, with a clear conscience, do something that may cause another believer to stumble, I have no business doing it.

More on this tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re continuing our look at these words of Jesus: “I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (John 15:1-2, NLT).

“He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” What about bad or unhealthy habits or behaviors? The Lord will prune those out of your life—if you let Him. And no Christian who’s attuned to the Holy Spirit doesn’t know what needs to be pruned. It may take some time and prayer, but He’ll show you what needs to go and even help you release it.

Note, too, who gets pruned: “the branches that do bear fruit.” Believers are to be productive for the Kingdom. Matter of fact, Jesus says a true believer positively will be productive: “Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit” (John 15:5b, NLT).

And if a professing believer isn’t productive? “Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned” (John 15:6).

As I said yesterday, I’m not going to debate if there are limits we can push and still be saved. I believe Jesus makes it clear enough without having to expound on it. If a person isn’t producing fruit for the Kingdom, he isn’t saved. There, I said it! Can a true believer go through a dry spell? A time of questioning and unproductivity? I believe so. But the Lord will get that person’s attention and bring them back on track. It’s the professing believer who never changes that I have to doubt.

Fortunately, it’s not my job or yours to sort ‘em out—we’re just to love people like Jesus does. But you do need to examine your own life and decide if you’re growing the Kingdom of God. No Christian’s life is without an effect on the Kingdom: you’re either promoting it or embarrassing it.

Hebrews 4:12a reminds us that “The Word of God is alive and powerful.” “Alive.” Living things grow. Living Christians grow in the Lord, becoming more Christ-like and more productive in the work of the Lord. Likewise for living churches.

If you aren’t growing in the Lord, why not? If your church isn’t growing in the Lord, don’t complain about it—do something about it because you, my friend, are a part of that body and need to work to make it healthy and productive.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (John 15:1-2, NLT).

Jesus is hammering home to the disciples—and us—the urgency of sticking close to Him. He says His Father “cuts off every branch … that doesn’t produce fruit.” To understand this, we need to go back to what Jesus said earlier: “All those the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away” (John 6:37, NIV).

So did God the Father give Jesus some people to save while leaving out others? Don’t think that for a skinny second. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV).

God gave Jesus every person in “the world,” but only “whosoever believeth in Him” receives His free gift of salvation. The only way to miss out on Jesus is to refuse to accept Him as Lord and Savior.

“He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit.” Can a person lose his salvation? I’m not going to argue that point. Why? Because we don’t need to be looking for loopholes as to what limits we can push and still be saved. What we need to be doing is sticking close to Jesus.

And when we do, everything is rosy, right? Wrong. He tells us right here that “He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” We’re all works in progress—the operative word there being “progress.” If we’re truly seeking to live for the Lord, we’re going to change the way we live. We may not be doing anything bad, but we may not be using our very limited time on this earth for things that grow the Kingdom of God. We’re going to want to do a better job of working for Jesus.

There’s so much more in these two little verses that we’re going to continue our look at them tomorrow. Meanwhile, do something Jesus would do. Give up something you want to do for yourself and use that time to do something for someone who needs some encouragement.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as My representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again” (John 14:25-28a, NLT).

Jesus wants to assure the disciples of His continuing presence in the form of His Holy Spirit. In this brief passage, we see some of the functions of the Holy Spirit:

He teaches us. “He will teach you everything.” We don’t have to wonder whether something is right or wrong. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, He tells us. Which is why James could say with absolute certainty that “it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17). We’re not merely accountable for what we do. We’re also accountable for what we know we should be doing and are not doing. As we grow in Him, He teaches us to have more love and compassion. To be more like Jesus.

Jesus also told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would “remind you of everything I have told you.” We don’t have Jesus in the flesh speaking to us today, but we do have Him with us as His Holy Spirit, plus we have the Living Word, the Bible, and although we can’t learn it by sleeping with it under our pillow, the Holy Spirit will recall to us what we have read and studied—particularly on the very occasion when we need those words the most.

Then Jesus says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.” The Holy Spirit is that gift and He offers us absolute peace if we’ll only listen to Him and receive Him. But realize: a gift is offered, but must be accepted. And to drive this point even further home, Jesus adds, “And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.” When the apartment complex where I was illegally teaching pastors in China was surrounded by military police, I learned the truth of this incredible peace. Instead of being terrified, I had an overwhelming peace. And I will always believe that the Lord miraculously hid the door of that apartment since all the other ones were searched.

“So don’t be troubled or afraid.” We can have continual peace when we trust our Lord and Savior. When we cry out to Him, His Holy Spirit wraps us in His peace and comfort. But, being a Gentleman, He won’t force His peace and comfort on you any more than anything else He has to offer. His peace is a gift and you must willingly receive it. Have you? Will you?

He also makes each and every believer this promise: “I am going away, but I will come back to you again.” One day He’s returning for His bride, the Church, the blood-bought saints who have placed their faith in Him. Are you ready? I hope so. Meanwhile, live expectantly. Live lovingly. Live peacefully.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


f you love Me, obey My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him. But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you” (John 14:15-17, NLT).

Jesus had told Thomas and the other disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Remember, after warning Peter that he would deny Him, Jesus wanted to speak words of comfort to His closest followers.

“If you love Me, obey My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.” We can’t separate these two sentences because Jesus is making an important point: those who love Him obey Him, and those who love and obey Him are the ones who will receive the “Advocate.”

Who is this “Advocate”? Jesus provides the answer in the next sentence: “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” And then He continues with His explanation of the work of “the Holy Spirit”: “The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him.” People can’t find what they aren’t seeking.

But for the true believer, Jesus said, it would be an entirely different story: “But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.” Not only would the disciples receive Him, but Jesus said the “Advocate” was already right there with them!

What exactly did Jesus mean by “Advocate”? Our Helper. Our Paraclete (the one who stands alongside). Our Mediator. Our Intercessor.

Our Redeemer. Jesus was and is God. Jesus was and is the Holy Spirit. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are ONE—the Triune God. Imagine! Jesus was telling the disciples that the very Person who stood there among them would “never leave” them but would, instead, indwell them!

And He makes that very same promise to each and every one of us living today. When any person repents of his sins and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ Himself comes to live inside that person in the form of His Holy Spirit. “Immanuel”—God with Us—see Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23.

If you truly know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, He lives inside you. He never leaves you. He’s there when you lose your cool, and He’s there when you wipe a friend’s tears away. He’s there when you gossip, and He’s there when you read His Word and talk to Him.

Think about it this way: Let’s say your most Christ-like friend comes to live with you. You want him to feel welcome, don’t you? You won’t ignore him. You won’t spend days without talking to him. You won’t forget he’s there. No, you’ll be on your best behavior because you want him to see you at your best, don’t you?

I bet you’ll even change some of the books you read and TV shows you watch. Maybe even some of the websites you visit. After all, you want to make a good impression on your very dear friend.

But news flash, believer, He’s already moved in and it’s not your most Christ-like friend who’s come to live with you—it’s Christ Himself! When’s the last time you acknowledged this? When’s the last time you thanked Him for His presence? Thank Him and honor Him every day with how you speak, think, and act.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Chapter 13 of John’s Gospel ends with Jesus telling Peter, “… before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me” (John 13:38b, NLT). Having said this, Jesus moves to comforting the disciples:

“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:1-4, KJ2000).

Jesus says His house is enormous. And He says He left here to prepare it for us. And what’s the point of preparing it for us unless we’re going to get to live there? Which is why He says, “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am” (John 14:3, NLT).

Then He adds: “And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:4).

I love the honesty of Thomas, who is often unfairly called “Doubting Thomas.” See, Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when the resurrected Lord suddenly appeared to them. So when “They told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!" … he replied, ‘I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side’” (John 20:25). The other disciples believed because they saw. Thomas simply wanted to see too.

So here’s Thomas and the other disciples hearing Jesus tell them that they all knew how to get to where He was going. Thomas merely voices what they all were thinking: “‘No, we don’t know, Lord,’ Thomas said. ‘We have no idea where You are going, so how can we know the way?’” (John 14:5).

And that’s when Jesus gives us these wonderful words: “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

According to Jesus, “No one can come to the Father except through” Him. So either He was telling the absolute truth—which would be impossible not to do when you’ve just identified yourself as the living “truth”—or we may as well throw out every word He said. Yep, you read it right here, folks. Either Jesus is exactly who He says He is or He’s nothing. Nobody.

But if He is who He says He is, His statement leaves no room for debate. Faith in no one or nothing other than the Lord Jesus Christ will get you to heaven. And note too, He doesn’t say “through Me” plus anything else. It’s plain and simple: the way to heaven is Jesus.

Don’t argue with a person who tries to tell you there are other ways to heaven or that we’re all going to end up in the same place anyway or that getting to heaven involves believing in Jesus plus doing this or that. Instead, smile your biggest smile and say, “I can only tell you what Jesus did for me.” And then pray for that person. Pray that all who don’t know Him will turn to Him. And live a life that shows others that your faith in Him has made you joyously, wondrously different.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all jump from the upper room to the Mount of Olives immediately after Jesus tells Peter that he would be the one to deny Jesus when crunch-time came, John includes four chapters on what else Jesus taught and did before writing: “After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with His disciples and entered a grove of olive trees” (John 18:1).

Unlike Luke who calls this place “the Mount of Olives,” both Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 tell us they “went to the olive grove called Gethsemane.” I find it interesting that one of the Hebrew words from which we get the word Gethsemane means “a place for pressing oil or wine.” Olives were crushed in order to extract their oil. Like the crushed olives, Jesus was under the most tremendous pressure imaginable and His very lifeblood would be extracted as payment for our sin-debt.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary describes Gethsemane as “a small ‘farm,’ situated across the brook Kedron probably at the foot of Mount Olivet … about one-half or three quarters of a mile … from the walls of Jerusalem …” This peaceful place was apparently a favorite spot for Jesus because Luke says, “Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39, NLT). Note the words “as usual.”

Jesus was in the habit of getting away from the hustle and bustle of His ministry so that He and His disciples could have some quiet time together, and I suspect He frequently went there alone to spend time with His Father. We all need a place of rest where we can unwind and regroup. Do you have one?

No one can keep on keeping on unless they take time to relax and refuel. Don’t let Sunday become a day of meeting after meeting. (And church leaders who are reading this, please consider moving as many meetings as possible to another day, like Wednesday night.) By all means, go to church and truly worship, but use part of the day for downtime. Relax. Enjoy friends and family. Spend some alone time with the Lord. Remember, Jesus Himself told the Pharisees (who were criticizing Him and His disciples or picking and eating grain on the Sabbath) that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27b, NIV).

Our Creator made the Sabbath as a “day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 5:14a, NLT). Rest from your usual labors. Rest from your busy schedule. Thank the Lord for this “day of rest” and spend it accordingly.

We’ll begin a look at John 14-17 tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus has given the MANDATUM NOVUM, the New Commandment: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34b, NLT). Then He tells them that He is going to be leaving them. Peter immediately tells the Lord that he wants to go with Him, but Jesus tells him he can’t. Peter responds with, “I’m ready to die for you!” (John 13:37b).

But Jesus knew Peter far better than Peter knew himself, so “Jesus answered, ‘Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me” (John 13:38).

Peter couldn’t believe the words he was hearing. He thought he was ready to do anything to serve Jesus. But look at what Luke’s Gospel records Jesus saying at this point. I want you to carefully read it and then I’m going to Southernize it so we can get a better understanding of exactly what Jesus said in the original language.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to Me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

And now, the Southern version: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift y’all (plural) like wheat. But I have pleaded specifically for you (singular), Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you (singular) have repented and turned to Me again, strengthen your brothers.”

Satan was out to destroy the faith of every disciple, but of the eleven who were now with Jesus, the Lord knew which was going to blow it: Mr. Over-Confident, the one who said, “I’m ready to die for you!” Not that any of the other disciples showed any outstanding bravery—more on that another day.

But how wonderful that believers today have the presence of the Comforter! When we stay in the Word and maintain a regular line of communication with the Lord—as in prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, and honest-to-goodness worship—we hear from the Holy Spirit far more easily. I guess you could say that doing these things keeps the wax from building up in our spiritual ears.

Peter had to be humbled in order to be ready to become a leader among the disciples and among the Church that would be launched by these believers. And Peter was willing. God doesn’t force His will on anyone. What work will you allow God to do in your life to prepare you for His service?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


After Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet—including the feet of Judas—He identifies Judas as His betrayer, telling him, “Hurry up and do what you’re going to do” (John 13:27b, NLT).

“So Judas left at once, going out into the night. As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, ‘The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory, and God will be glorified because of Him. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples’” (John 13:30-31, 33a, 34-35).

Here we see the MANDATUM NOVUM, the New Commandment, Jesus gives the disciples on Maundy Thursday during the Last Supper. We also see the establishment of the Lord’s Supper (also known as the Eucharist or Communion): “He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this to remember Me.’ After supper he took another cup of wine and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you’” (Luke 22:19-20).

According to Luke’s Gospel, after all this is when the disciples “began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them” (Luke 22:24). Can you believe it! Instead of loving one another and considering himself a servant to the others, each disciple was defending his own belief that he should be the top dog.

If Jesus’ closest followers who walked with God in the Flesh could let their own egos get in the way of their servanthood, seems to me we might have the same problem among believers today. Brothers and sisters, until we’re willing to perform the most menial service in the Name of the Lord Jesus, we aren’t really doing anything for His glory—we’re doing it for our own.

Instead of refusing to help unless you’re in charge, be willing to do whatever is asked of you. Instead of making sure your name isn’t left off that list of volunteers who helped with that project, why not ask that it be excluded? Jesus plainly taught us what our attitudes should be when helping others:

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do …” (Matthew 6:1-2a).

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather stack up rewards in heaven than “treasures here on earth” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:19a). Let’s stop competing with and criticizing others—individuals, churches, and denominations—and work together as the family of God to show the world we truly are His disciples.

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we began our look at Maundy Thursday, the day on which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, also known as the Eucharist, or communion. It was also the day He established the MANDATUM NOVUM, or “new commandment,” which was: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34, HCSB). But what else took place in that upper room?

“It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God. So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:2-5a, NLT).

Don’t miss the timeline of these things, y’all. First, John tells us that “the devil had already prompted Judas … to betray Jesus.” Then he says that Jesus, knowing that “the Father had given Him authority over everything, … began to wash the disciples’ feet.” The Creator of the Universe, the One who, “In the beginning … already existed” (John 1:1a) and had all power, chose to humble Himself and “wash the disciples’ feet.” Why?

Knowing what lay ahead, He urgently wanted to impress upon His closest followers the importance of servanthood. Of humility. But that’s not all. Whose feet did our Lord and Savior wash? His betrayer’s. He didn’t wait until Judas had left to wash the disciples’ feet. He wanted to wash Judas’ feet too. Again, we have to ask, why?

Jesus had already begun teaching this very thing, as we see in Matthew 13, when He tells the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds. A farmer and his workers planted a crop of wheat, but during the night, the enemy came into his field and sowed weeds all among the wheat and, as the crops grew, the workers realized what had been done and reported it to the farmer.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:28b-30).

Jesus wanted the disciples to see that, as His followers, they were to minister indiscriminately to both believers and unbelievers, true people of faith and those who weren’t at all genuine. He wanted them to understand that while some professing believers were the real deal, there would always be some who were phonies. And what were they to do? Love them.

That assignment hasn’t changed. Believers today are to continue what Jesus taught: love everybody and let Him sort ‘em out in the end. If Jesus can wash the feet of the man whom He knew would betray Him, we have no right to discriminate in demonstrating His love to others.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them” (Jesus speaking, Luke 6:35a).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


The final Wednesday of Jesus’ earthly life is often referred to as “Silent Wednesday” since there is no conversation or teaching of Jesus recorded as having taken place that day. So now we come to Thursday, also called “Maundy Thursday,” one of the days we examined at the beginning of this study. Let’s do a little refresher.

What’s Maundy Thursday, besides the day before Good Friday? The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word MANDATUM, meaning “word in the ceremony.” Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ establishment of the Lord’s Supper and of the MANDATUM NOVUM, or “new commandment,” which was what? As they were gathered around the table, Jesus told His disciples:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34, HCSB).

It was on Maundy Thursday that the Lord established the Lord’s Supper, also known as communion or the Eucharist: “After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:17-20, NIV).

Note when Jesus says: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” It was after the breaking of the bread, which Jesus clearly identified as “My body given for you.” We aren’t merely to remember the Lord’s sacrifice by participating in the Lord’s Supper; we’re to remember it by being willing to be broken ourselves.

Christian singer/songwriter Steve Green so beautifully expressed this in his song of praise, “Broken and Spilled Out” based on the anointing of Jesus as recorded in Luke 7:36-50). I hope you’ll follow this link and listen and read all the lyrics: Especially notice the change of the words in the chorus. (You’ll have to put up with a brief commercial before the song will begin to play.)

Has your will truly been broken? Can you say, as Jesus did to the Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done”? (Luke 22:42b, KJV). Jesus paid it all, as another great old hymn reminds us.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


After an exhausting two-day stretch of teaching in Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples returned to Bethany. Meanwhile, “… the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill Him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or there may be a riot among the people’” (Matthew 26:3-5, NIV).

Matthew also records: “Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over” (Matthew 26:14-16).

What does Matthew record in between these two happenings? The second anointing of Jesus in Bethany. The first time, He was anointed by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus—see John 12:3. This time, Jesus and the disciples were dining at the home of Simon the Leper, or as Mark 14:3 words it, “a man who had previously had leprosy” (NLT)—if he were still diseased, he could not have been in contact with other people. Anyway, during the dinner, an unnamed woman comes in and anoints Jesus with oil.

“When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor’” (Matthew 26:8-9).

When Mary did the anointing, Judas is the only one recorded as complaining about the waste of the valuable perfume. This time, it seems the entire twelve were obviously displeased with Jesus' anointing with such expensive perfume. I find it interesting that Judas agrees to betray Jesus right after he sees the valuable perfume “wasted.” Remember, he didn’t object “… because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).

This thief was one of Jesus’ twelve closest supposed friends. This thief was the treasurer for the disciples. This thief ministered alongside the Lord Himself. This thief was someone Jesus still loved.

Jesus loves the unlovable. If He didn’t, I wouldn’t be saved. He knew me at my ugliest and most sinful and yet He still loved me enough to die for me. And I made the smartest decision of my life by accepting His forgiveness.

If you aren’t 100% sure of your salvation, don’t let another skinny minute go by before you talk to Him and confess that and make your commitment 100% real. If He can save “a wretch like me,” I know there is no one beyond the reach of His love and forgiveness.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


During His final days, Jesus also told the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Let’s look at it in its entirety: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46, NIV).

Folks, you can make a jillion professions of faith; be sprinkled and dunked a thousand times; and get your name on a hundred thousand church rolls; but none of those things will get you into heaven unless you have truly given your heart and life to Jesus. How did James, the brother of Jesus, put it?

“… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:17b, 18b-19).

Jesus’ sheep know His voice – see John 10:4 – and they obey Him. If your community’s welfare and your church’s support were entirely dependent on you, what shape would they be in? Give Jesus your best. Give Him your all.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus, knowing His crucifixion was near at hand, continued to cram in as much teaching as He could, including the Parable of the Ten Virgins. I hope you’ll read Matthew 25:1-13. Here’s part of it:

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matthew 25:1-4, NIV).

Jesus begins by saying, “At that time.” What “time”? The day when everyone sees “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30b).

In Jesus’ day, marriages were arranged, often between the parents of the bride and groom or between the bridegroom and the father of the bride without the bride having any say-so whatsoever. Once this agreement was reached, the couple was officially engaged, a status so binding that it required a writ of divorce to break it.

With the engagement set, the bridegroom would begin preparing a home for himself and his bride. Depending on a number of factors, the bridegroom might be weeks, months, or even years away before returning to claim his bride and take her with him. Meanwhile, the bride’s responsibility was to, at all times, be prepared for her bridegroom’s return.

In Jesus’ parable, there are ten brides. Five are, as we would say, sitting on ready; the other five are in no way prepared. What made the difference? “Oil.” In this girl’s opinion, the “oil” represents the Holy Spirit. And what about the “lamps”? Note that all ten would-be brides had “lamps.” Every human is created with a void, a reservoir, that can only be filled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was saying that even though all are chosen (John 3:16), only those who accept the Holy Spirit are prepared to live with Him in eternity.

Why had only five of the ten filled their lamps with “oil”? “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” In other words, they procrastinated. They put off what they should have already done, just as many people do today. “Oh, I’ve got plenty of time to give my life to the Lord. I’ll do it one day.”

But that one day came and the five oil-less brides in Jesus’ parable weren’t ready to go with Him. So what did they do? They begged the prepared brides to “Give us some of your oil” (Matthew 25:8a). Folks, no one can get to heaven on somebody else’s faith. Your mama’s faith can’t save you. Your daddy’s faith can’t save you. Jesus is a personal Savior.

When the five oil-less brides realized they weren’t going to get any oil from the five prepared brides, they rushed off to find oil elsewhere. But it was too late. They’d missed out. The Only Source had come and gone. And “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10b).

What a horrifying picture – having the door of heaven slammed in your face! But the oil-less brides still tried to get in, pounding on the door and pleading for the bridegroom to open it. “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” Matthew 25:12-13).

That day is coming, y’all, and I believe it’s on the horizon. Are you ready? Who do you know who isn’t ready? Warn them before it’s too late.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—except the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is [coming]. It is like a man on a journey, who left his house, gave authority to his slaves, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert. Therefore be alert, since you don’t know when the master of the house is coming—whether in the evening or at midnight or at the crowing of the rooster or early in the morning. Otherwise, he might come suddenly and find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I¬ say to everyone: be alert!” (Jesus speaking, Mark 13:32-37, HCSB).

How can anyone read these words of Jesus and not sense the urgency with which He speaks? There are a lot of people who have, over the years, told people that the Lord revealed to them the day and hour of His return. And every one of these people have been proven wrong. If the Son of God had not been provided with this information, no mere mortal has a clue.

How, though, can Jesus be God and not know something? The same way He can choose not to remember our sins. Is He incapable of remembering our wrongs? Of course not—God can do anything, so He certainly can remember anything. Yet He chooses not to remember. And Jesus the God-Man chose not to know the time when the Father would send Him back for His children.

Food for thought here, folks. Just my opinion, mind you, but something to think about. Jesus walked the earth as fully God yet fully man. He loved His disciples so much that I believe it would have been tough not to tell them had He chosen to bring that information with Him. I believe that when this part of the Trinity, the Son, came to be born as a human, He left that information in heaven with the Father. Just a thought.

But let’s see what instructions He gave us. He says He left “his slaves” in charge—we are to care for our planet and all the resources God placed here, and we are to “work,” because He “gave each one [of us our] work.” What work? The same work He was doing when Joseph and His mother Mary looked for Him in the Temple: [His] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49, KJV).

It is my firm opinion that even though pastors and evangelists have leading roles in the spread of the Gospel, every single believer is a “doorkeeper,” and therefore, should always not only “be alert,” but also recognize the importance and urgency of the “authority” entrusted to every believer. What is it we’re to be “alert” to? Every opportunity to lead someone to the Door (John 10:9). Every opportunity to minister in the name of our “master.”

If your boss told you he’d do an inspection of your area at 4pm on Monday, would you sit around twiddling your thumbs or get ready? Thus the reason for snap inspections—no time for preparation.

Likewise, Jesus will be seeing us just as we are. (Hey, I think there’s a song in that somewhere.) And Jesus knows how natural it is for us humans to want to procrastinate, put off, get around to it, etc., etc. Must be why He camps out on that “be alert” message: “What I say to you, I say to everyone (in case we missed the point on the first round): be alert!”

Are your spiritual eyes wide open? Don’t fall “asleep” at the helm. Others are watching and waiting for you to guide them to Safe Harbor.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we took a peek at what Matthew recorded Jesus saying about His return. Let’s see what Jesus tells us through Mark: “Those days will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of the world, which God created, until now and never will be again! Unless the Lord limited those days, no one would survive. But He limited those days because of the elect, whom He chose” (Mark 13:19-20, HCSB).

Couple of things we need to be clear on: (1) When Jesus returns for His Bride, the Church, He will not set foot on Planet Earth—“we who are still alive,” as First Thessalonians 4:17 tells us, “will … meet the Lord in the air.” We will be instantaneously and miraculously “caught up,” the original text being a word from which we get “Rapture.” (2) When Jesus returns and does sets foot on the earth again, we, His Bride, will be with Him and He will be returning in judgment.

So do we need to live in fear of the “tribulation,” a seven-year period during which believers will be horribly persecuted? If you know you’ve accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, then no, I don’t believe you do. I believe we’ll be out of here before it ever happens. However, there are at least three views on the Great Tribulation: (1) that Christ will return before it; (2) during it; and (3) after it. A careful reading of Revelation, plus the vast majority of knowledgeable Bible scholars, support the view that Christ will return before the Great Tribulation. And I toss my humble opinion in with them.

So if the believers have been “raptured,” who are these Christians who will be persecuted? Those who didn’t accept Christ until after He has taken His Church out of this world. Yes, people will realize they missed the proverbial boat when it comes to the Rapture, and will repent and be saved; but they will pay a terrible price for their allegiance to Jesus.

And what’s this thing about “the elect”? People are so scared of that word! And some not-so-knowledgeable people actually teach that there are certain people destined to be saved, while there are others that are destined to be condemned to hell. If that were so, where does grace fit in? Too, if that were so, what difference would it make how we lived since our ultimate destination was decided before we were even created?

So let me give you my “duh” version of what the word “elect” means. Chosen. What does the Bible say? John 15:16 records Jesus as saying, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” On its own, that sounds as though Jesus really did pick out the ones He wanted to save, but that’s not what this verse is saying. Couple it with Jesus’ words in John 3:18 and you get a clearer understanding:

“Anyone who believes in Him [the Son of God—Jesus, speaking of Himself] is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the one and only Son of God.”

Who is “the elect”? Those who are chosen. Who is chosen? Those who accept Christ’s invitation. It’s really that simple. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16), and He is ready and willing to save each and every person who will call on His Name.

Have you called on Jesus? If so, you’re one of “the elect.”

When we think of the Great Tribulation, we don’t need to be concerned for ourselves, but for those who reject Him. And right now this minute, we should turn that concern into ministry, telling others what is coming and how they can miss out on the Great Tribulation.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Luke 21:20-24 next records Jesus’ warning about the coming destruction of Jerusalem: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! Those inside the city must leave it, and those who are in the country must not enter it, because these are days of vengeance to fulfill the things that are written. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (HCSB).

As strange as it may sound, the people of Jerusalem were for the most part excited to see the Roman army surround their city—they fully expected the Messiah to reveal Himself and lead them to an overwhelming victory against “the Gentiles.” Having missed the True Messiah, they hoped in vain for a victory that wouldn’t take place.

However, historians believe that the Christians, those who came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God during His earthly ministry and through the work of His followers after His death and resurrection, understood Jesus’ warning and left the city prior to Rome’s victory.

While Luke records Jesus’ warning concerning the near-future destruction of Jerusalem, he also touched on Jesus’ words concerning a time in the far distant future. Matthew and Mark shed more light on this. Matthew’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27).

This verse compares with the opening of the book of Revelation, where John explains what he has been given to write down: “The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place” (Revelation 1:1).

Did you catch that word, “quickly”? The actual word used here is the same word from which we get the word “tachometer.” While it definitely relates to speed, it doesn’t mean that the event is imminent, but that that whenever it happens, it will happen as fast as “lightning”! No time for repentance, no time for anything—you’ll be caught just as you are.

Which is a very good reason to be looking for His return and living as though you expected it at any moment. I really believe we don’t have long to wait. More on this subject tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at Jesus’ teaching on the “signs of the age,” we come to Luke 21:12-19, shorter versions of which are recorded in both Matthew and Mark. He’s already told the disciples that “nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” and that there would be “earthquakes in various places, and famines” (Mark 13:8, HCSB).

But as His disciples press for more detail, He adds a serious warning. Let’s back up a bit and pick up Luke’s version of Jesus’ warning about false messiahs:

“Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘the time is near.’ Don’t follow them. When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. Indeed, these things must take place first, but the end won’t come right away.’ Then he told them, ‘Nation will be raised up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name” (Luke 21:8-12).

Talk about your cheery news! On the one hand, the Lord tells His disciples that they will no longer be living when the worst comes to pass: “before all these things.” On the other hand, He tells them that they’ll end up on trial before “synagogues” and in “prisons.” What was the point to all this? Jesus tells them in the very next verse, Luke 21:13:

“It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness.” Shocking as this may seem, folks, this is the bottom line. Whether your trial is through marital difficulties, family struggles, health problems, work-related woes, or whatever, your job in the midst of whatever is happening is “to witness,” period. Note Jesus in no way suggests that we whine, throw a pity party, or otherwise focus on ourselves rather than on Him.

But how can we be expected “to witness” in the middle of our troubles? Here’s a news flash, people: life “is … full of trouble” (Job 14:1). But we who have accepted Christ’s free pardon for our sins are full of Jesus! And He, my brothers and sisters, is “more than enough” (Matthew 25:29) to combat and defeat any “trouble.” Which is why He tells us:

“Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:14-15).

And then He goes on to warn that: “You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. You will be hated by everyone because of My name” (Luke 21:16-17). Having been in a Communist country, I’ve seen and heard this firsthand. Which makes the next verse seem absolutely incredible:

“But not a hair on your head will be lost” (Luke 21:18).

Whoa! Jesus just got through saying to these guys: “You will … be betrayed … some of you” will be killed. So how do these two statements add up to Truth? They’ll kill you, but “not a hair on your head will be lost”?

Simple. Jesus thinks like He lives—in the eternal. And we need to follow His example. What it seems we lose here, if it’s dedicated to Jesus, will never “be lost.” It will go with us into eternal security. Nothing that is of real value can ever be taken from us. Nothing that is of real value even belongs to us, because it was bought, paid for, and surrendered to the True Owner, Jesus Christ, the moment we accepted Him as Savior.

So whatever your battle, hang in there. Whatever your obstacle, trust God to remove it, take you through it, or around it. Don’t give up. As He told His disciples, He also tells us: “By your endurance gain your lives” (Jesus speaking, Luke 21:19).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


As part of His teaching on the “signs of the age,” Jesus warned of the coming destruction of the Temple, an event that was fulfilled less than forty years later. It appears that He is speaking of this as He and His disciples are leaving the Temple complex. This is verified by the next passage, which shows them at the Mount of Olives:

“While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the Temple complex, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?’ Then Jesus began by telling them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and they will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:3-8, HCSB).

The HCSB notes that, after the word “famines,” many early manuscripts include the words “and disturbances.” September 11, 2001; the war in Ukraine; tensions with China; worries about North Korea; tsunamis and horrible “earthquakes” are all a part of the “birth pains” Jesus refers to in this passage.

“Birth pains” preceding what? The “new heaven and … earth” (Revelation 21:1) that will replace the old ones.

Look, too, at what Jesus says about all those false messiahs who would come along, “saying, ‘I am he.’” Throughout history people have appeared claiming to be the Christ, the Messiah, and have always managed to lead some or many astray. The website I referenced in yesterday’s study records another rebellion that occurred in 132AD, during which a man by the name of Bar Cocheba caused the deaths of more than a million Jews.

In more recent history, who have we seen? Jim Jones. David Koresh. Even Charles Manson. This very day there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, who claim to be the Messiah. Does that sound ridiculous? To you, maybe. But what about to those who’ve never heard the Truth?

Do you realize that, in today’s society, there are children growing up in households who have never seen anyone pray; never heard the name of Jesus—unless it was used blasphemously; never seen or read a Bible; and have no idea of the concept of sin or salvation? And I’m talking here in the U.S. and in countless other so-called Christian nations.

Jesus didn’t request that we spread the Gospel—He commanded it! What are you doing to advance the Kingdom?

“How can they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him?” (Romans 10:14a).

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


The next record of Jesus’ teaching is of the “signs of the age,” as written in Matthew 24:1-35; Mark 13:1-31; and Luke 21:5-38. In the first portion of these passages, Jesus warns of the coming destruction of the Temple:

“As Jesus left and was going out of the Temple complex, His disciples came up and called His attention to the Temple buildings. Then He replied to them, ‘Don’t you see all these things? I assure you: Not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down!’” (Matthew 24:1-2, HCSB).

The disciples were in awe of the magnificence of the Temple. The historian Josephus states that the Temple’s stonework was of pure white marble and that some of these stones were forty cubits long. A cubit is about 18 inches, which means that we’re talking single stones sixty feet long! He describes columns twenty-five cubits high made from a single stone. The disciples’ reaction is certainly understandable.

Note, too, that the Temple was far more than a single building, which is why the HCSB stresses it as “the Temple complex.” It consisted of not only the sanctuary, which contained the holy place and the holy of holies, but it also encompassed at least four courtyards—one for priests; one for Jewish men; one for Jewish women; and one for Gentiles—plus covered walkways and massive gateways—all enormous, ornate, and impressive. But Jesus told His disciples that “not one stone will be left on another.” What was He referring to?

Josephus is the author of an excellent account of this timeframe. In 70AD, the Temple was destroyed, just as Jesus had told His disciples it would happen. If you’d like to read further about this, a great webpage gives details at:

The condensed version of that account is this: The Zealots, a group of Jews who were more than willing to use violence to overthrow the tyranny of the Roman government, succeeded in running all the Roman forces out of Jerusalem. Roman emperor Nero didn’t take kindly to this, and sent forces to stop the rebellion. The Jews had completely missed the coming and purpose of the True Messiah, and continued to look for the kind of Messiah they thought they should have, one who would drive out the Romans and make Israel a power to be reckoned with.

So even as Roman soldiers surrounded the city and waited for the people to be starved into surrender, the Jews fought among themselves, dividing into differing factions and saving the Romans a lot of work by doing their bloodletting for them. In the end, the city fell to the Romans, the Temple was utterly destroyed, and over a million Jews died in the process.

In Mark 3:24-25, Jesus told His listeners: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

The United States of America has become a nation that no longer knows where it stands religiously. It is no longer a nation “under God,” and therefore, a nation no longer under His protection. We who know the only Answer to our needs should be fervently praying for a spiritual revival and awakening in our nation, and in every country on this planet.

The great evangelist, Gypsy Smith (1860-1947), was said to have often locked himself into a room to pray, calling out, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.” May we all pray likewise.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re continuing our look at the busy final Tuesday in Jesus’ earthly life. He has spent the day teaching in the Temple and has used the widow’s offering of faith as a valuable lesson for His disciples. In this same timeframe, the Bible records that Jesus fired off what is called the “Seven Woes,” – His repeated condemnation of the “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”—as we saw in Matthew 23:1-36. He then cries out this well-known passage:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under wings, yet you were not willing. See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 23:37-39, HCSB).

Jesus was letting His listeners know that He was leaving them, that He would no longer be seen in the Temple, and that He would very soon be leaving His earthly shell to return to His glory. He goes on to say that “you will never see me again until you say, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” the latter portion a quote from Psalm 118:26.

But did Jesus err? After all, the same people who saw Him in the Temple saw Him on the cross only days later. The same “scribes and Pharisees” saw His arrest and condemnation. But they never saw Him as the Son of God, did they? Again, He is addressing these “blind guides[‘] …” (Matthew 23:16) problem of spiritual blindness.

The Spotless Lamb of God was telling these unbelievers that they may not at the moment acknowledge Him as the Messiah, not see Him for who He really is, but that when He comes “with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7a), they will have no choice but to admit who He is.

Philippians 2:7b-11 lays it out plainly, saying: “And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 45:23 and 49:18. God had given His Word that every person—the religious leaders, the temple-goers, the Jews, the non-Jews, “every” person, will have no choice but to “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Note that death doesn’t exempt people from this confession. Unbelief doesn’t exempt people from it, either. Nothing will prevent any person who has ever drawn breath from confessing that Jesus is the Incarnation of His Father.

He who died for our sins now “lives to intercede” (Hebrews 7:25) for us in glory!

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday’s study gave us merely a hint of the burden of the manmade Jewish laws. Before I move on, let me just say that we all need to be very careful to examine our own churches’, our own denominations’ teachings, and be certain that nothing is ever added to or taken away from what the Bible teaches, particularly about salvation, which is totally and entirely by grace: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9, HCSB).

“Grace” wasn’t in the vocabularies of Israel’s religious leaders—it was all about ritual, money, works, and outward appearances. No wonder Jesus groaned as He looked at the people weighed down by those who should have lifted their burdens. No wonder He groaned as He looked at the city that should have been leading others to salvation.

But there is a bright spot in what Jesus witnessed on this very long Tuesday before His crucifixion: “Sitting across from the Temple treasury, [Jesus] watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning His disciples, He said to them, ‘I assure you: this poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the Temple treasury. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed – all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).

First, see who Jesus paid attention to: “a poor widow.” Jesus wasn’t impressed with the “rich people.” Secondly, notice that this person whom Jesus was impressed with was “poor.” Despite all the name-it-and-claim-it preaching we hear, the truth of the matter is that God does not bless with abundant money every person He loves. If that were so, we’d all be rich—John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world.”

Jesus looked at the contributors to the Temple’s coffers and saw one woman who “gave … out of her poverty.” She literally “put in everything she possessed.”

Was it this huge sacrifice that pleased Him? No. It was the attitude with which she gave it. I don’t believe that the woman was bargaining with God, as in “Okay, Lord, here’s all I have. Now do something big for me.” No, I believe the woman was down to her last two pennies, or whatever coins they literally were, and that didn’t prevent her from going ahead and giving as was her custom.

I seriously doubt this was the first time she’d ever done that—given the last of her money. I believe she regularly gave and never doubted the Lord’s ability to meet her needs. She saw with spiritual eyes the provision that wasn’t seen in the natural. And we need to see likewise.

Are you experiencing a serious illness? A serious financial setback? Marital problem? Any kind of problem? Follow the poor widow’s example. Trust Him with everything. Do this in the good times, and it becomes much easier to also do it in the bad times.

For you see, God doesn’t want our “surplus.” He wants our everything. Give it, not because you’re bargaining for a miraculous healing or financial turnaround or whatever, but simply because you love Him and trust Him with and in everything.

“Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b). What does He see in your heart today?

He lives! And because He does, we His children can, also. Live today passionately in love with and fully trusting in the precious, loving Savior.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we read the 36-verse passage in Matthew where Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Among His charges, everything fell into two basic categories: (1) Their concern with outer appearances rather than inner truth; and (2) their deviation from God’s laws to manmade laws that unreasonably burdened the people.

Over and over, Jesus calls these men “hypocrites!” He even goes so far as to refer to them as “Snakes! Brood of vipers!” By using both the term “snakes” and the word “vipers,” He was making the point that they weren’t merely evil (“snakes”), but that their teachings brought death (“vipers”).

Keeping the law couldn’t save a person to begin with, which is why sacrifices had to be continually made for the sins of the people. Having added literally hundreds of their own regulations to the law, they made what was already impossible to be absolutely unbearable.

I own a copy of “The Code of Jewish Law,” and in it are 221 chapters of rules and regulations which have somehow been turned into the clarification and detailing of the Law of Moses. God never put such a burden on the Israelites—their own people did. The leaders who were to show them the Light instead buried it under mounds of manmade regulations. As unbelievable as these will seem, this is how devout Jews are expected to conduct themselves, and this is only a handful of examples:

“… when a man is asleep, the holy soul departs from his body, and an unclean spirit descends upon him. When rising from sleep, the unclean spirit departs from his entire body, except from his fingers, and does not depart until one spills water upon them three times alternately. One is not allowed to walk four cubits (six feet) without having one’s hands washed, except in cases of extreme necessity” (from Chapter 2, “Hand Washing in the Morning”; references Psalm 26:6-7).

“If, God forbid, a fire breaks out on the Sabbath, our Rabbis, of blessed memory, were fearful that if the owner of the house and the members of his family were to engage in saving what they can, they might forget that it is the Sabbath and extinguish the fire, due to their being excited and frightened at the prospect of losing their property. They therefore, decreed that the owner is forbidden to save even those articles which may be handled and carried out into a place where it is permissible to remove them. Only that which is required for the day may be saved …” (from Chapter 85, “If a Fire Breaks Out on the Sabbath”).

“Meat and dairy products may not be eaten or cooked together … If, therefore, meat and dairy products happen to become mixed together, a rabbi should be consulted … Two Jewish acquaintances may not eat at one table, if one eats meat and the other dairy products … (from Parts 5 and 6 of Chapter 46, “Forbidden Foods”).

Imagine trying to keep 221 rules in order to be righteous. Incredible, huh? Now imagine trying to keep 221 chapters full of rules in order to be righteous. No wonder Jesus was so angry with the “scribes and Pharisees!”

On the cross of Calvary, our Savior literally became sin in order for sin to be put to death once and for all. See how Paul worded it in Second Corinthians 5:21 (HCSB): “He (God the Father) made the One who did not know sin (the Lord Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Because of Christ’s willing sacrifice, we are no longer under the condemnation of the law, but are free in Christ Jesus.

“God sent His Son … born under the law, to redeem those under the law …” (Galatians 4:4-5).

“If you are led by the Spirit (have received the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ), you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re still looking at the last week before Jesus’ crucifixion, and we’re still on Jesus’ busy Tuesday in the Temple. Today let’s see what Jesus had to say about the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. While Mark and Luke each devote three verses to Jesus’ warning, Matthew spends 36 on the same subject! I know this is really long, but let’s see what he said:

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you and observe [it]. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: they enlarge their phylacteries (small leather boxes containing Old Testament Scripture passages worn on the arms or foreheads) and lengthen their tassels (ornamentation on their robes). They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogue, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ (teacher) by people. But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’ because you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one father, who is in heaven. And do not be called masters either, because you have one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the Kingdom of Heaven from people. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and make long prayers just for show. This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte (convert to Judaism), and when he becomes one, you make him as fit for hell as you are! Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the sanctuary, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by his oath.’ Blind fools! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and everything on it. The one who takes an oath by the sanctuary takes an oath by it and by Him who dwells in it. And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by Him who sits on it.’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate monuments of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have taken part with them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ You therefore testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ sins! Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell? This is why I am sending prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town. So all the righteous blood shed on earth will be charged to you, from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and altar. I assure you: all these things will come on this generation!” (Matthew 23:1-36, HCSB).

Clearly Jesus was infuriated with the religious leaders’ concern for the outward appearance of godliness rather than their inner beings—their hearts, minds, and spirits. We’ll delve further into all of this tomorrow.

For today, remember what we’re moving toward, Resurrection Sunday, when Jesus Christ our Lord suffered and died on the cross for our sins, giving His own sinless life to ransom us from our sinful ones. Thank Him. Praise Him. Live for Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


We’ve been looking at Jesus’ handling of the scribe who came “to test Him” (see Matthew 22:35). Only Mark records the event in a way which enables us to see the scribe’s sincere interest in Jesus’ teaching, telling us that Jesus told the man, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34a, HCSB). But what does the latter half of that verse record?

“And no one dared to question [Jesus] any longer” (Mark 12:34b).

Folks, the Truth will silence any lie any time. And He will put an end to any questions. Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), answered every aspect of the scribe’s question so precisely as to cause those gathered around and listening not to dare open their mouths! Isn’t He awesome!

The next Tuesday event recorded about Jesus was as He turned the tables on His questioners: “While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he? ‘David’s,’ they told him. He asked them, ‘How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord:’ ‘The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet?’ If David calls him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his son?’ No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him any more” (Matthew 22:41-46).

Don’t you just love it? The Pharisees are, as my Daddy would have said, bumfuzzled! Mark tells us that Jesus began this discourse by asking, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?” (Mark 12:35). He also records that “the large crowd was listening to Him with delight” (Mark 12:37b). The arrogant religious leaders looked down on the common folk, so it had to be a tremendous “delight” to see Jesus giving them their “comeuppance.”

Jesus, of course, is quoting Scripture again—Psalm 110:1. How could “the Messiah be” David’s “son”? Looking in the natural, this makes no sense. But with spiritual understanding, we can see the Truth.

Isaiah 11:10 declares: “The Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will seek Him, and His resting place will be glorious.” Who is “Jesse”? David’s father—see Ruth 4:17.

The Lord speaks in Jeremiah 23:5, telling us: “I will raise up a righteous Branch of David. He will reign wisely as king and administer justice and righteousness in the land.”

Only “the Alpha and Omega … the one who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8), God Himself, can be both the “Root of Jesse” and the “Branch of David.” Jesus, the only One who could fit this bill, descended from the lineage of David as far as the record of His earthly birth (see Matthew 1:5-16), but preceded Him in that He has always been.

God in the flesh—what an astounding thought! Jesus the God-Man flabbergasted the religious leaders that Tuesday. But wait until Easter Sunday—they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


As we began to look at yesterday, in Jesus’ reply to the scribe’s question: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36), He quoted from three Old Testament passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Joshua 22:5, and Leviticus 19:18. We saw Deuteronomy; now let’s see what Joshua and Leviticus records:

“Carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you: to love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Joshua 22:5, HCSB).

“Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).

A scribe spent his life copying the Law of Moses and studying it. He also had the responsibility of interpreting the Law when it came to any sort of legal dispute. So when the scribe who approached Jesus “to test Him” (Matthew 22:35) ended up commending His reply (Mark 12:32-33), no doubt the gathered group of listeners, including the Sadducees and Pharisees, had to be impressed with this unique and wise Prophet.

Likewise, Jesus saw the heart of the scribe and told him: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). The Lord knows every person’s heart. Nothing is hidden from Him. And I believe that Jesus knew this man wanted to believe in Him as the Messiah. Bear in mind, I said this is my opinion; but the point is, He knows all our hearts. Yet only in eternity will we know whether or not this scribe ever followed through and trusted Christ as Savior.

Why do I bring this up? The difference between spending eternity with Jesus or totally separated from Jesus is in following through and trusting Him as Savior. Paul, who didn’t see his imprisonment as a negative but as an opportunity to share the Good News, told King Agrippa of his own experience and of how the Scriptures foretold of Christ’s coming. How did Agrippa respond? “Agrippa said unto Paul, ‘Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian’” (Acts 26:28, KJV).

Folks, “Almost” isn’t good enough! Partial commitment is no commitment at all. Can a person be “almost” faithful to his/her spouse? No! And neither can a person be “almost” a believer—he either is one, or he isn’t. And “almost” will never get any person into heaven. It is “by grace … through faith,”¬¬ not “almost” faith, that we “are saved” (Ephesians 2:8, HCSB).

But let’s take it one step further. To have “faith” is one thing; to be full of “faith” is another—it’s to be faithful. Be sure your faith is Rock solid in Jesus. Consciously and daily seek to be more than an “almost” faithful follower of the Savior.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus has just finished clearing up the Sadducees’ ridiculous question about marriage in the resurrected state. Matthew 22:33 concludes the account by saying: “The crowds … were astonished at His teaching” (HCSB).

Matthew recounts what happened next: “When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together to the same place. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ [Jesus] said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40).

Here’s how Mark records the same occasion: “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered [the Sadducees] well, he asked Him, “Which is the most important of all?’ ‘This is the most important,’ Jesus answered. ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to Him, ‘You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no else except Him. And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more (important) than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that (the scribe) answered intelligently, He said to Him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to question Him any longer” (Mark 12:28-34).

Jesus, the Living Word, knew the power of the Word. He answered the scribe directly from three Old Testament passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Joshua 22:5, and Leviticus 19:18. Let’s look at the first of these: “Listen, Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Moses spoke these words to God’s people. He went on in the next four verses to add: “These words I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

I hope you’ll go back and read at least Deuteronomy 3:21–6:9. The people are about to enter the Promised Land, and the mantle of leadership is being passed from Moses to Joshua. All the chapters to 34 are God’s instructions to Israel through Moses; then Moses’ death is recorded in Chapter 34.

Tomorrow we’ll look further into Jesus’ conversation with the scribe, but for now, please look back at Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and give yourself a spiritual checkup: How strong is your love for the Lord? Since He is the Living Word, I can assure you it’s in direct proportion to your love for His Word. Do you teach “your children” His Word? Do you share His Word “in your house”? “When you walk [or drive] along the road”? Does your day end (“when you lie down”) and begin (“when you get up”) with the Word? Is your life so wrapped up in, so focused on, the Word that people have no doubt Who you stand for and that your home is dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Tuesday is turning out to be one long day, isn’t it? Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ teaching about paying taxes to our governing authorities. So significant was this message that it’s recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

All three also record this next conversation. Following the troop of Pharisees and Herodians, the Sadducees decide to take the next shot at Jesus: “The same day some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up to Him and questioned Him. ‘Teacher, Moses said, if a man dies, having no children, his brother is to marry his wife and raise offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first got married and died. Having no offspring, he left his wife to his brother. The same happened to the second also, and the third, and so to all seven. Then last of all the woman died. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had married her” (Luke 20:27-33, HCSB).

These sarcastic hypocrites used this ridiculous story to poke fun at Jesus. They believed there was “no resurrection,” and so hoped He would be humiliated in trying to come up with an answer. But the Answer, as always, was ready for them!

“You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Verse 29). May I stop right here and say that, before we look down on the Sadducees, we remember how easily we can end up in the same boat? If we “don’t know the Scriptures,” and “the power of God,” we can be very easily “deceived.” The Word is our protection. Know it and use it.

Jesus continued: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God: ‘The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Luke 20:30-33).

Look at how He stuck it to these religious leaders: “Haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God?” The Sadducees couldn’t stand to lose face in front of the Pharisees, who were no doubt still standing by. And the Pharisees were probably loving this because the Sadducees had probably witnessed the Pharisees’ defeat by Jesus when they asked Him whether or not the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. No one stands a chance against the Almighty!

Which is why grace is such a wonderful gift from the Father. Only because of it do we stand a chance of getting into heaven. Ephesians 2:8 reminds us: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift.”

We can’t earn it; can’t buy it; can’t steal it. All we can do is receive it. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re still on the final Tuesday before Jesus’ crucifixion. We now come to the incident where the Pharisees and Herodians (political supporters of Herod) try to schmooze the Messiah. “‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for you don’t show partiality. Tell us, therefore, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’” (Matthew 22:16b-17, HCSB).

Can you hear the honey dripping off their tongues? They were sugar-coating every syllable, hoping to entice Jesus into speaking out against the Roman government. But what did Jesus tell them? “Why are you testing me, hypocrites? Show me the coin used for tax … Whose image and inscription is this?” (Matthew 22:18-20).

“‘Caesar’s,’ they said to Him” (Verse 21a).

“Then He said to them, ‘Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Verse 21b).

Jesus never tries to complicate things. Becoming a Christian isn’t complicated. It’s not faith plus works or anything else. It’s faith, period. The things that come afterwards are merely acts of obedience, ways of honoring the Savior. Neither did Jesus offer a lengthy discourse to answer these “hypocrites'” question.

What did Paul teach us in Roman 13:1-2? “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.”

Just as the above passage tells us, there is no authority without God’s permission. It may not be godly authority, but no one can step into a position of authority unless He allows it. And we are to respect our “governing authorities.” We can’t cheat on our taxes and honor God any more than we can withhold tithes and offerings and simultaneously honor Him. We must do both: “Give back to [our government] the things that are [its], and to God the things that are God’s.” To do otherwise is to dishonor the Savior.

Peter takes it a step further as he tells his readers that they should “honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). While that may not sound so earth-shattering, think about who he was referring to. Most scholars agree that, at the time in which Peter wrote his letter, Nero was “the emperor” in power.

And what sort of a person was he? He killed Christians for sport! He was ungodly, evil, and sadistic. And yet, because the Lord had allowed him to have a position of authority for that period in history, Peter told his readers to show him “honor.”

Incredible, isn’t it? Sure kicks it in the head that you don’t have to show respect to an arrogant boss or other authority figure, doesn’t it? It should also change the way we talk about all our politicians, preachers, and other authority figures. People, no matter how much we disagree with a person’s behavior or political stand, our job isn’t to criticize him—it’s to pray for him!

“More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of …

For what are men …

If knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer

Both for themselves and those who call them friends?”

(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


It’s still Tuesday, and only days before Jesus’ crucifixion. He’s in Jerusalem and still teaching in the Temple complex. He next tells the parable of the Wedding Banquet:

“The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come. Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: ‘Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them. The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city. Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore, go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’ So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both good and evil. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14, HCSB).

Who was the “wedding banquet for”? “His son.” Who was invited originally? Before you answer, “the Jews,” read John 3:16: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (Jesus speaking).

The original invitation was to “the world,” but the first “invited” guests were the Jews. What was their response? “They paid no attention and went away.” Folks, we’re either moving closer to Jesus, or away from Him—there’s no stopping point in this universe.

Jesus goes on in His parable to remind them how they treated the prophets that He’d sent to share His message, to foretell of His coming. And He gives His reaction: “The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city.” What happened only forty years after Jesus told this parable? The Roman army leveled Jerusalem to the ground.

Jesus says that “both good and evil” were invited. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Please don’t miss the significance here. We, Christ’s “slaves,” are to carry His invitation to “the world,” not judge who truly received Him or not. We are to deliver the Message—Jesus will sort it out from there.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Tuesday in Jerusalem continues and Jesus is still teaching in the Temple complex. His next parable is of the Vineyard Owner, one so significant that Matthew, Mark, and Luke record it for us. Get back into your visualization mode and remember the mixed crowd gathered around as Jesus taught them. Here’s how Mark 12:1-12 records Jesus:

“A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug out a pit for a winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went away. At harvest time he sent a slave to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from the farmers. But they took him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent another slave to them, and they hit him on the head and treated him shamefully. Then he sent another, and they killed that one. [He] also [sent] many others; they beat some and they killed some. He still had one to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenant farmers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the farmers and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected—this has become the cornerstone. This came from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes?’”

Mark ends his account with a sidebar comment: “Because they (the religious leaders) knew He had said this parable against them, they were looking for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd. So they left Him and went away” (HCSB).

Matthew relates Jesus’ audience’s answer to His question: “‘What will he do to those farmers?’ ‘He will completely destroy those terrible men,’ they told Him, ‘and lease his vineyard to others farmers who will give him his produce at the harvest’” (Matthew 21:40-41).

Bear in mind that their answer came before Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22-23 concerning the “stone that the builders rejected.” Once they heard it, they clued in as to who the “farmers” were, and they would have loved to have taken back their own answer!

Look back at our parable. All the property in it belongs to One Owner. Note secondly that there are two groups of people: the “farmers” and the “slaves.” What’s the difference? While the “farmers” were on His land, they weren’t His property. The “slaves,” however, belonged to Him just as much so as “the vineyard.”

The Jews were to be the Light to the world. The Lord entrusted them with His message and they failed to share it, even after He sent prophet after prophet to steer them in the right direction, to point them back to Jehovah.

Finally, He sent His own Son, and they “rejected” Him too. Even though His coming was foretold throughout these listeners’ lifetimes, their blind religious leaders were leading them into darkness—and they were following. Yes, some did open their spiritual eyes and ears, recognize Him, and receive Him; but the majority chose to turn away. These “farmers” would be replaced: “He will come and destroy the farmers and give the vineyard to others.” The Gentiles were given the opportunity to carry Christ’s message.

The Israelites spent forty years wandering in the wilderness by their own choice of disobedience. The Jews of Jesus’ time spent forty years from the time of Christ’s crucifixion until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman army.

Do you not think that God can raise up a new people to carry out His message if we choose not to? Remember what He said as He entered Jerusalem: “If they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!” (Luke 19:40).

If we “keep silent,” a new people will “cry out” His message. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be one of His messengers.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


It’s still Tuesday in Jerusalem and Jesus is teaching in the temple complex. Who could stop Him? The religious leaders had already questioned His authority and miserably failed at getting an answer out of the Messiah. Why do you suppose Jesus didn’t point-blank say who He was? Because even as He walked the earth as the God-Man, it required faith to believe who He was (and always will be and always has been). The religious leaders lacked that faith—they were quite literally the “blind leading the blind.”

What did Jesus teach on that Tuesday? I hope you’ll read all three of these passages: Matthew 21:28 – 23:36; Mark 12:1-44; and Luke 20:9 – 21:4. In these we learn these three parables:

(1) The Parable of the Two Sons (recorded only in Matthew)

(2) The Parable of the Vineyard Owner (recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke)

(3) The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (recorded only in Matthew)

The first parable, the Two Sons, goes like this: “But what do you think?” (Matthew 21:28a).

Before I go any further, this is what I ask you to do, and it’s what Jesus asked His audience to do: “think.” Visualize Jesus as the exciting, dynamic Teacher He was (and is). “Think” of the enthusiasm on His face; the love; the compassion. I can see intense expression in His eyes, indicating at times, humor; at other times, anguish; and at others, the righteous indignation only He can fully comprehend. I hope you see Him and hear Him as He teaches us through this parable:

“A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go. Which of the two did his father’s will? ‘The first,’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I assure you: tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you! For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him” (Matthew 21:28-32).

See the crowd gathered around Jesus. See the delight on the faces of the common people on whom the religious leaders looked down, and over whom they lorded themselves. See the faces of the priests and scribes and Pharisees as Jesus dares speak the truth—that “tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before” them. The scene is charged with electricity.

Who was the first son, the one who said, “I don’t want to” go work in the vineyard? Jesus said, “Later he changed his mind and went.” Do you know what the word “repent” literally means? To change one’s mind. This first son represents any person who, like all believers, first disobeyed and rejected Christ’s calling; “Yet later,” realizing his disobedience, repented and became a productive worker for the Kingdom.

And the second son? “‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.” Lip service. Like the religious leaders, he had voiced his own piety, his own willingness to serve, but he’d never done a thing to back it up. I think two groups could fall into this category: people who claim to have trusted Christ as Savior but have never truly asked Him into their hearts; and people who actually worship some form of religion rather than worshiping the Savior—they think they have all they need and don’t need Jesus.

In either case, Jesus spells things out quite clearly. Even delayed obedience is far better than lip service.

This very day, a great harvest is waiting for workers to come and gather it in. People all over the world, including hundreds upon thousands right here in the U.S. of A., need someone to tell them the Good News. They’ve heard of Jesus, but they’ve never been introduced to Him. Who will meet Him today because of your faithfulness?

“Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest” (John 4:35b).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


It’s Tuesday in Jerusalem and Jesus has returned to the Temple complex the day after throwing out all the moneychangers. Three of the Gospels record what the religious leaders had the audacity to ask:

“One day (Tuesday) as He (Jesus) was teaching the people in the Temple complex and proclaiming the Good News, the chief priests and the scribes, with the elders, came up and said to Him: ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’ He (Jesus) answered them, ‘I will also ask you a question. Tell Me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?’ They (the chief priests, scribes, and elders) discussed it among themselves: ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, “From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know its origin. And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’” (Luke 20:1-8, HCSB).

Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts are interesting in that these give a more vivid picture of what went on among the religious leaders: “They began to argue among themselves” (Matthew 21:25 and Mark 11:31).

Jesus was—and is—brilliant! Instead of trying to explain Himself to these pompous holier-than-thous, He simply asked them one question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”

And these self-proclaimed know-it-alls’ feeble response was merely to say, “We don’t know” (Mark 11:33). You see, these men were full of questions, but they didn’t know the Answer!

What had these same men said to John? “The Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him (John), ‘Who are you?’” (John 1:19). In Verse 24, John goes on to identify these “Jews from Jerusalem” by saying: “They had been sent from the Pharisees.” The entire religious hierarchy was clueless.

As they questioned Jesus in the Temple, they were looking into the face of the Answer and had no idea who He was. Look back over our entire Luke passage for today. What were these men so concerned about? Appearance. They weren’t so much concerned with whether they were right or wrong; or who Jesus was; or even who John had been. They just wanted to look good.

Brothers and sisters, we can learn so much from this one example out of the life of Jesus. When people question your faith or anything else about you, you don’t have to launch into some huge explanation—you simply need to stand firm, knowing that you have the Answer to every question.

Isaiah 53:7 says of the Messiah: “Like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth.” We don’t always have to have a reply. Sometimes our very best response is absolute silence. There’s a huge word in that for someone reading this today.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


Jesus cursed the fig tree on Monday. On Tuesday as the disciples and the Lord were returning to Jerusalem after spending the night once again in Bethany, they came upon the fig tree. Here’s Mark’s account: “Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Then Peter remembered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed is withered’” (Mark 11:20-21, HCSB).

Don’t miss the important point here, folks. “The fig tree withered from the roots up.” Ever heard people say that they intend to get to “the root of the problem”? That’s what Jesus always does. He knew the problem didn’t lie in the leaves or the branches, but in the root itself.

So when He cursed the tree, it died completely—it didn’t simply wither above the ground. It didn’t revive and put out fruit the next season. Jesus spoke to the tree in Mark 11:14: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And Verse 20 assures us that “no one ever” would.

Branches produce according to the health of their root. The root is the supply line, the anchor, and the base or beginning from which the rest stems. Think about all this as the Christian life and look at the beautiful picture of John 15:1 as Jesus says: “I am the true vine … a branch is unable to produce fruit unless it remains on the vine” (John 15:1, 4). “The root of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:10) is the One and Only “true vine.”

So let’s break it down into increments: (1) Jesus as the Supply Line. He “will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19); (2) Jesus as the Anchor. Hebrews 6:19 calls Jesus “a sure and firm anchor for the soul;” and (3) Jesus as the Base or Beginning. First Corinthians 3:11 reminds that “no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid—that is, Jesus Christ.”

What does all this have to do with the cursing of the fig tree? Folks, if the root’s bad, the whole plant is bad. And if your root, your anchor, your base, your supply line, is anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ, it isn’t going to last. So many people find pleasure in aligning themselves with temporal things, but often that pleasure is shorter lived than the things they once found so attractive.

In cursing the fig tree, Jesus wanted us to see that no “other foundation” will last. He wanted us to see how quickly the things of this world can be taken from us; how quickly the wellspring of anything a person is trusting in other than Jesus can dry up and vanish.

There is but One that is everlasting. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, and He tells us still today: “Whoever drinks from the water I give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life” (John 4:14).

When you stay rooted in Jesus, you find satisfaction that isn’t circumstantial or temporary. You find everlasting contentment in being His and using your life to bring glory to His Name.

“If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink!” (Jesus speaking, John 7:37).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


The cursing of the fig tree was a Monday event. What happened next during that final week before the crucifixion? We look to Matthew and Mark for our first answer:

“Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!’” (Matthew 21:12-13, HCSB).

Mark 11:15-18 adds more detail: “They [the disciples and Jesus] came to Jerusalem [having spent the night in Bethany], and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex. Then He began to teach them: ‘Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!’ Then the chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to destroy Him. For they were afraid of Him, because the whole crowd was astonished by His teaching.”

Jesus was sickened by the “business-as-usual” going on inside the walls of the temple. You see, it was nearly impossible for those who lived very far out from Jerusalem to lug an animal all the way to the temple and the poor creature make it there passable as “spotless” and suitable for sacrifice. But there was more to it than just this one problem.

Businessmen, seeing the need for conveniently purchasable sacrifices, set up shop within the temple complex to sell animals. Too, like going into a foreign country, the temple had its own coinage and it was necessary to exchange your own money for the temple’s in order to give your tithes and offerings in the proper currency.

These two needs—money and animals—made temple goers easy pickings for these shopkeepers. The coins would be exchanged at ridiculously exorbitant rates and the animals would be sold at prices much higher than their ordinary value. It was the ol’ business law of supply and demand in action, but the trade was going on inside the walls of God’s house, and the profits were far beyond anything reasonable.

For example, at the current exchange rate, I should be able to walk into any bank who handles foreign currency and exchange 20 American dollars for slightly less than 17 British pounds. At temple businessmen rates, my exchange rate might be more like 7 pounds—they were making a downright dishonest amount of profit, and using the temple as a place of commerce rather than worship.

Why didn’t the religious leaders put a stop to all this? Simple—they got a cut of the profits. And not only that, they were the ones who declared an animal fit or unfit for sacrifice. Most folks had learned that it was pointless to show up with their own animal anyway, because the priests were going to declare it unfit so that the person had to either forego his sacrifice—a thing he would never have done if he could possibly avoid it—or purchase another animal from the temple tradesmen.

Into this insane cacophony walked the Savior—and let Himself be heard above all the racket: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!” He was quoting Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

Note what He said: “a house of prayer for all nations.” First, the Jews had known from the get-go that they were to be the Light to all nations. Secondly, all this commerce was going on in the outer court, the court of the Gentiles, and non-Jews who wanted to worship Jehovah were expected to do so amid all that racket.

Finally, though, think back to the original problem I mentioned: “business-as-usual.” That’s what was going on inside the temple. No fervor of worship. No concern for the lost. No concern for the believer. No worship of the Creator. Just “church as usual,”—same old, same old.

Is the church today any different? Since the church is me and you, made up of each and every individual believer, your answer should be weighed according to your own worship—not mine; not your corporate church body’s; not anyone else’s but your little ol’ self. Jesus is never pleased or honored with “business-as-usual.” Make certain your worship experience is fresh and new every morning.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


There are at least 32 references to fig trees within the Bible. In addition to plenty of Old Testament passages, the New Testament speaks of the fig tree all the way from Matthew to Revelation. Let’s look at Jesus’ parable from the Gospel of Luke:

“A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ But he (the worker) replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6-9, HCSB).

Mark records another time when a fig tree was the topic of Jesus’ parable: “Learn this parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near” (Mark 13:28).

In Luke 21:29-30 we read Luke’s account of the same parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they put out [leaves], you can see for yourselves that summer is already near.”

James asks the rhetorical question, “Can a fig tree produce olives?” (James 3:12). The book of Revelation compares the falling of the stars at the opening of the sixth seal with “a fig tree drop[ping] its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind” (Revelation 6:13).

I said yesterday that the fig tree Jesus cursed represented religious Israel. Although the reference is to an olive tree rather than a fig tree, Paul’s statement in Romans 11:17 is relevant to today’s study. He says of non-Jews who have become believers in Jesus that they, “a wild olive branch, were grafted in.” There is only one body of Christ, and it is made up of believers, period, whether Jew or Gentile.

So let’s switch to post-resurrection. The only true worshipers of Jehovah are no longer the Jews, but those who have recognized Him in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, and have believed on Him as Messiah. Looking at the “fig tree” from this viewpoint, what do we see? (1) The accountability of every believer to produce “fruit,” and (2) the patience of the Lord in giving us opportunity after opportunity to get busy for His Kingdom.

Patience, yes, but not forever. Just as with the “fig tree” in the Luke 13 parable, Jesus may delay, but He will not ignore. He has and will continue to “come looking for” every believer’s “fruit.”

May I ask you a question: What is He finding in your life?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


We’ve covered the events of Palm Sunday and now we move to Monday. We’re going to look at two passages, one from Matthew and one from Mark:

“Early in the morning, as He (Jesus) was returning to the city (to Jerusalem after spending the night in Bethany), He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again! At once the fig tree withered (which may mean that, in retrospect, the disciples realized that the tree had immediately begun to die—see the Mark passage)(Matthew 21:18-19, HCSB).

“The next day when they (Jesus and the disciples) came out from Bethany, He was hungry. After seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, He went to find out if there was anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’ And His disciples heard Him … Early in the morning (on a later date), as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up” (Mark 11:12-13, 20).

What’s the significance of “the fig tree”? I’m not too up on horticulture, but this is one thing I’m familiar with. On the back of his house, my paternal grandfather built what he called “the wash room,” a glassed-in sunroom of sorts where my grandmother used to hang her clothes to dry. The concrete floor was apparently poured right over the stump of a fig tree and still today, that tough ol’ tree fights its way up out of the ground at the end wall of the wash room.

Right now it’s just a bunch of bare sticks. But as spring progresses, tiny knots will begin to develop along those branches. Soon those little nodules will be identifiable as miniature figs; and just as quickly, leaves will sprout around them to cover and protect them—rich green leaves that become bigger than a man’s hand.

You see, unless it’s past growing season—that is, the figs have already been harvested—if you’ve got leaves, you oughta have figs. Did Jesus really need to go and “find out if there was anything on” the tree? Hardly. What He did need to do was pump all the lessons He could into the disciples around Him in the limited time He had left to walk among them in human form.

See, that “fig tree” was a phony. If it “was not the season for figs,” then it wasn’t the season for fig leaves either! That tree had the appearance of productivity, but there was no “fruit” with which to back up its appearance.

“The fig tree” represented Israel. In 1948 when Israel was reformed as a nation, their national flag was emblazoned with a fig tree, although today’s flag features the Star of David. Couple this with Judges 9:11’s description of the fig tree’s “sweetness and … good fruit” and we can see the spiritual lesson in what the Lord did. He showed the disciples the fate of the person, the people, or the nation who did not bear “good fruit” for His glory.

Specifically, “the fig tree” represented “religious” Israel—the temple-goers and leaders who were so piously working their way to heaven through adherence to the stringent manmade regulations added onto to God’s instructions. These, Jesus told a parable about in Luke 13.

But did Jesus curse Israel? No. Jesus, after all, came to earth as an Israelite. We read in Romans 11:7 that “Israel did not find what it was looking for.” Nonetheless, the Door is still open for the Jews, or anyone who is lost, to be saved. Yet the choice still remains for every individual: choose blessing (Jesus), or cursing (reject Him).

We’ll look at more about this tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


And now we come to Palm Sunday. Let’s see what each Gospel has to tell us about this occasion:

“When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them’” (Matthew 21:1-3, HCSB).

Mark’s and Luke’s accounts are the same as Matthew’s, except they don’t mention the “colt” being with its mother. John is so enthused with what happened on Palm Sunday that he skips right over Jesus’ method of transportation and opens his account with: “The next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet Him. They kept shouting, ‘Hosanna! (a term of praise that comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘save’) Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!’” (John 12:12-13).

God is so awesome! These people, not even understanding who Jesus really was, quoted Scripture—Psalm 118:25-26—as they honored Him and hoped for His overthrow of Roman authority. All four Gospels record this.

After telling about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, John backs up and adds: “Jesus found a donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear no more, daughter of Zion; look! Your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt’” (John 12:14-15). Both John and Matthew remind their readers that Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was prophesied long before—see Zechariah 9:9.

So many wonderful passages are within the Palm Sunday records. John concludes by quoting what “the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see? You’ve accomplished nothing. Look—the whole world has gone after Him!’” (John 12:19). If only “the world” worshiped Jesus!

Dr. Luke adds what the Pharisees said to Jesus as the crowd kept up the ruckus: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples [meaning all those in the crowd who were worshipping Him] (Luke 19:39).

And don’t you just love Jesus’ answer: “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!” (Luke 19:40).

Folks, don’t let no rock get yo’ blessing! Thank Him for all He’s done. Thank Him for what He’s doing and going to do. Thank Him that you can trust Him with your now and forever.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we left off at Luke 19 where Jesus has told the Parable of the Ten Servants—see Luke 19:11-27. “After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of His disciples. As He came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, He sent two disciples ahead” (Luke 19:28-29, NLT). We’ll get back to that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in John 12:3, we see Lazarus’ sister Mary anointing Jesus in the home she shares with her sister Martha and with their brother Lazarus, the man whom Jesus had raised from the dead – see John 11. It’s important to note there are two accounts of a woman anointing Jesus. Jesus was also anointed in the home of Simon, also in Bethany, but on that occasion by a “sinful” woman who isn’t otherwise identified. Her act is recorded in Matthew 26:6-7, Mark 14:3, and also Luke 7:37-38.

When you combine all three passages, you see that two passages say the Lord’s head was anointed while one says it was His feet. Who’s right and who’s wrong? The Bible is inerrant. The woman anointed both his head and his feet.

At Lazarus’ home, what was supposed to be a peaceful dinner with friends with Jesus as the honored guest was disrupted by a group of rubberneckers. “… a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of Him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in Him” (John 12:9-11).

I have no doubt that Lazarus was the most dedicated believer you could ever imagine. He didn’t walk into the marketplace or anywhere else without shouting, “Let me tell you about my Jesus!” And his enthusiasm won him lots of friends, right? Yes and no. Clearly, Lazarus’ witness won many to the Kingdom, but it also incited so much jealousy among “the chief priests” that they actually “made plans to kill Lazarus,” as well as Jesus.

When you get serious about sharing Jesus, the enemy gets serious about stopping your plans. Problem is, most of us have so little impact for the Kingdom of God that the devil isn’t worried one bit about what we’re doing.

So how about we shake things up? Let’s worry more about serving God than keeping our names on the “A” list. Jesus didn’t just raise Lazarus from the dead. He raised me and you and every single person who believes on His Name.

“But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:4-5a, NLT).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


In the last two days, we’ve looked at Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts of what happened in the life of Jesus just prior to Palm Sunday. Let’s move on and see what Luke has to tell us.

If we look back, though, we see the correlation between the different Gospel writers’ timeline. Matthew 20:29 records Jesus meeting the two blind men “as they [He and His disciples] were leaving Jericho” (HCSB). Mark 10:46 skates over Jesus’ time in Jericho, simply stating: “They came to Jericho.” However, Mark’s account continues in the same verse: “And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples … Bartimaeus … was sitting by the road.”

Luke records a different occurrence in Jericho: “He entered Jericho and was passing through” (Luke 19:1). Not much in that, is there? But Luke goes on to say: “There was a man named Zaccheus” (Verse 2).

Anyone who spent any time in Sunday school as a child knows the song about the “wee little man,” Zaccheus. Too short to see over the crowd, he “climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus” (Verse 3). Zaccheus, a rich tax collector, performed this undignified act because his desire to see Jesus was greater than his concern for what people would have to say about his actions. Oh, that we had such a mindset!

When Zaccheus met Jesus, he immediately repented, and here’s where we read a familiar statement of Jesus: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Verse 10).

What next? Verse 11 says: “As they [the disciples and the crowd around them] were listening to this, He [Jesus] went on to tell a parable.” This “parable” was about a king who had ten slaves—and remember, the word “slaves” is far more correct than the word “servant.” How come? Because a slave is owned by his Master, and we who have been bought by the blood of the Lamb are owned by Him—read First Corinthians 6:19b-20a.

The king was leaving on a journey and, before going, placed into the care of each of his slaves a mina, a Greek coin worth about 100 days’ wages. He then instructed them to, until his return, work (turn a profit) with what he’d entrusted to them. He comes back, calls his slaves to him, and asks each to give an account of their management. Each slave has earned a different amount of return for their efforts, and each is rewarded accordingly.

Finally, the master comes to a slave who has done nothing to advance the king’s holdings, but instead says of his mina: “I have kept it hidden away in a cloth” (Verse 20). The master is furious, and removes the mina from the slave who had accomplished nothing, and gives it to the one who has earned ten minas through his diligence.

Of course, the Lord Jesus is the Master and believers are His slaves, so pay close attention to how Jesus concluded this lesson: “I tell you, that to everyone who has [proven diligent in his work], more [opportunities] will be given; and from the one who does not have [has not worked for the Kingdom], even what he does have [or thinks he has] will be taken away” (Verse 26). And He goes on in Verse 27 to clarify that there are those among His “slaves” who really aren’t His. He calls them “these enemies of Mine, who did not want Me to rule over them” and orders that they be “slaughtered.”

From this fiery apologue we see a shift back to Jesus’ and the disciples’ journey: “When He had said these things, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As He approached Bethphage and Bethany [en route to Jerusalem], at the place called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of the disciples” (Verses 28 and 29) ahead to bring Him the colt on which He would make His triumphal entrance.

So let’s recap thus far: Matthew tells us of two blind men; Mark focuses on one of these, Bartimaeus; and Luke recounts Zaccheus’ transformation upon meeting the Savior. After Zaccheus has repented, Jesus tells the parable of the Master and slaves, homing in on the requirement that slaves must serve their Master.

The blind men and Zaccheus immediately began to follow Jesus; and following is more than tagging along—it’s faithful service. How about you? God has entrusted you with His Kingdom’s work. Don’t deny, hide, or ignore the gifts and talents He’s given you. Develop them and use them for His glory.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


I hope by now you’ve read our starting background passages: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; and John 12:12-19. These are all accounts of Palm Sunday.

Yesterday we saw how Jesus, even as His greatest hour of suffering approached, wasn’t focused on Himself, but on others. We read Matthew 20:30, 34 which told us: “There were two blind men sitting by the road .... [M]oved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed Him” (HCSB).

But let’s now look at Mark’s account of the moments just before Palm Sunday. James and John had come to Jesus and asked, “Allow us to sit at Your right and at Your left in Your glory” (Mark 10:37). Obviously these two were still clueless as to what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus because He answered their request by saying, “You don’t know what you’re asking …” (Verse 38).

The Lord went on to give this explanation of discipleship: “… whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave [or servant] to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His lifea ransom for many” (Verses 44-45).

As much as we love to hear all the “name-it-and-claim-it” preachers, all the “God-wants-you-to-have-lots-of-stuff” promoters, the truth is, while God may bless you with abundant material possessions, His purpose in doing so is to provide you with more to use for blessing other people.

Moving right along, we come to Mark 10:46-52, the final verses before Mark’s account of Palm Sunday begins. It tells us, [Jesus and the disciples] came to Jericho… Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road” (Verse 46).

Jesus gave sight to Bartimaeus. Why? Please don’t miss these seven vital steps, folks: (1) He called out to Jesus: “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” (Verse 47). (2) He kept on calling: “Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more ..." (Verse 48). (3) His persistence paid off: Jesus responded, telling His followers, “Call him” (Verse 49). (4) Jesus’ disciples obeyed, calling—that is, going to “the blind man” and getting him to come to the Savior, the job He continues to assign to every believer even today. (5) Bartimaeus knew what he wanted, and when Jesus asked, Bartimaeus replied: “I want to see!” (Verse 51). (6) Jesus gave the man what he had requested: “Go your way … your faith has healed you” (Verse 52a). (7) Bartimaeus’ “way” became the “way” of Jesus. “Immediately he could see and began to follow [Jesus] (Verse 52b).

Imagine for a moment if Bartimaeus had used logic to solve his problem. “Hmmm. I’ll ask this Miracle Man to provide me with servants and money. Then I’ll no longer have to beg.” But Bartimaeus’ request was spoken in “faith,” believing that the Son of Man was indeed the Son of God, and that He had the power to heal Him.

Bartimaeus also came to the Savior because other believers obeyed Christ’s command and brought him to the Lord. We also see in comparing today’s study with yesterday’s that Mark’s account only covers one of the two blind men that Matthew records as being healed. And Mark’s account is the one that identifies one of them by name, Bartimaeus, which, by the way, means, as Verse 46 clarifies, “son of Timaeus”“Bar” meaning “son of.” (Read Matthew 16:17, in which Jesus calls Simon Peter, “Simon Bar-Jonah,” because Simon Peter’s father’s name was Jonah.)

Note, too, that the other blind man recorded in Matthew’s Gospel was saved just as was Bartimaeus. But, as in the Gospels’ accounts of Joseph of Arimathea requesting the body of Jesus after His crucifixion, only one—John—tells us that “Nicodemus also came” (John 19:39). We aren’t always going to receive any earthly commendation or notice for our work for the Kingdom, but I can promise you—and far more importantly, Jesus promises a reward: “Look! I am coming quickly [literally meaning, when He comes, it will be an instantaneous happening], and My reward is with Me, to repay each person according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

Whatcha been doing for Jesus? I pray this study is already blessing you. We’ll dig a little deeper tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


I realize that Easter Sunday seems a long way away, but there’s a whole lot of ground I want to cover before we get there. Let’s begin today with a look at the final week of Christ’s life on earth. We’ll be taking Scripture from all four Gospels and I would strongly urge you to read all four accounts.

Please make time today to read these four passages: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; and John 12:12-19. I know this is will take some time, but as we get further into our study, you’ll see how worthwhile your efforts have been.

All four of the aforementioned passages describe what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem only days before His Friday crucifixion. What was going on just before Palm Sunday? Let’s see what Matthew shows us: “While going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the 12 disciples aside privately and said to them on the way: ‘Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death’” (Matthew 20:17-18, HCSB). This statement is the third record in Scripture that Jesus foretold His death.

After this, beginning in Verse 29 of Chapter 20, Matthew records that “as they [Jesus and the disciples] were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. There were two blind men sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out .… [M]oved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed Him” (Verses 29-30, 34).

A couple of “foods for thought” here: All of us were spiritually blind before we were touched by the Savior. How come so often we don’t call out to Him until we fear He is “passing by”?

But look, too, at the fact that Jesus, having just told the disciples that He was about to be condemned to die, isn’t so wrapped up in Himself that He can’t hear the cries or see the needs of others. Even as He continues His journey toward the cross, His focus is not on alleviating His own suffering, but on being of service to others.

I’ve said many times that the Christian life is not about our comfort. Around this time several years ago, my dear friend Gwen entered her reward after many years of battling ovarian cancer. From the onset, her doctors didn’t give her a very encouraging prognosis, but she refused to quit. She showed up for her chemotherapy and chose to be a blessing to the other people who were there having treatment. She cheered and encouraged them and, in doing so, kept her focus off herself. And she may not have been comfortable, but she was comforted through the power and strength and love of God’s precious Holy Spirit.

I pray this day and this week, you’re an encourager. And as we focus on Jesus’ journey to the cross, I hope you’ll think less and less of your own comfort and more and more about the needs of the people that surround you.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Let’s add yesterday’s info to our review:

(1) Lent is the 40-day (not an exact number because Sundays aren’t counted) period from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday begins the final week before Easter, also known as Holy Week.

(2) The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word LENCTEN, meaning “spring,” and from the Latin QUADRAGESIMA, meaning 40.

(3) Holy Week, the final days up to Easter Sunday, begins on Palm Sunday. And Palm Sunday recognizes the Sunday on which, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey.

(4) The first Lord’s Supper—also known as Communion, or the Eucharist—was celebrated on Thursday during the Jewish Passover.

(5) Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ establishment of the Lord’s Supper and of the MANDATUM NOVUM, or “new commandment:” “… love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34, HCSB).

Which brings us to Good Friday. After the “Last Supper,” Jesus and His disciples went out to Gethsemane (which means “olive oil press”), a garden at the base of the Mount of Olives. There the Lord prayed, ending with the words of Matthew 26:42, a passage without which none of us could ever see the glories of heaven: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Jesus truly “loved the world” (John 3:16) enough to give “Himself—a ransom for all …” (1 Timothy 2:6).

So it was on this Friday that Jesus was arrested, taken to the cross, and crucified. What’s “Good” about that? He answers our question in His own words from the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

All that Jesus had come to do was complete! The bridge between fallen man and our Holy Creator had been completed! Then, on Easter Sunday, Jesus arose as the “guarantee” (see Hebrews 7:22) that every believer would live again in eternity with the Father; and, too, that each would experience a bodily resurrection. 

Let’s see how Paul explains it in First Corinthians 15:20-23: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, the people of Christ.”

What a time of celebration we’re about to enter! What a Great Savior we have to celebrate! Have you told Him today how thankful you are? Have you told anyone else what He’s done for you, and for all who will believe in Him?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Okay, a really brief review and then on to Maundy Thursday:

(1) Lent is the 40-day (not counting Sundays) period from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday begins the final week before Easter, also known as Holy Week.

(2) The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word LENCTEN, meaning “spring,” and from the Latin QUADRAGESIMA, meaning 40.

(3) Holy Week, the final days up to Easter Sunday, begins on Palm Sunday. And Palm Sunday recognizes the Sunday on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

(4) The first Lord’s Supper – also known as Communion, or the Eucharist – was celebrated on Thursday during the Jewish Passover.

So what is Maundy Thursday, besides the day before Good Friday? The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word MANDATUM, meaning “word in the ceremony.” Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ establishment of the Lord’s Supper and of the MANDATUM NOVUM, or “new commandment,” which was what? As they were gathered around the table, Jesus told His disciples:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34).

While different churches and denominations celebrate this day in different ways and some hold no special services for it, a frequent service is a reenactment of the washing of the disciples’ feet by the Lord Jesus. Why choose this particular act?

We read the account in John 13:12-17: “When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: a slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’”

Servanthood is what the Christian life is all about. We are to obey Jesus and “… do just as [He] has done for [us].” It’s not about US, folks – it’s about Jesus; and His focus was never on Himself, but on meeting the needs of others.

If you claim His name, you are His “slave” and His “messenger.” You are walking like Jesus, you are talking like Jesus, and you are loving like Jesus.

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


So what have we learned so far about Mardi Gras and Lent? Let’s review and then add more information:

(1) What is known as the Epiphany, or Little Christmas, is celebrated on January 6 in recognition of the wise men who were the first Gentiles to worship the baby Jesus—and incidentally, the exact number of “the wise men,” or Magi, and the exact timeframe in which they came to Jesus isn’t made clear in the Scriptures.

(2) The time from the Epiphany to Fat Tuesday—also called Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras—was a time of feasting and celebration which leads us to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) was the final and grandest day of feasting before beginning the self-denials and fasting of Lent.

(2) Lent is the 40-day (not an exact number because Sundays aren’t counted) period from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday begins the final week before Easter, also known as Holy Week.

(3) Now we come to “Lent,” which is a word taken from the Old English word LENCTEN, meaning “spring,” and from the Latin QUADRAGESIMA, meaning 40. This period has traditionally been a time when believers prepare their hearts, minds, and spirits for Easter Sunday. It’s a time when many people choose to give up something they enjoy—like a favorite food or activity—as a way of recognizing the tremendous sacrifice made by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Holy Week, the final days up to Easter Sunday, begins on Palm Sunday. And what is Palm Sunday? This day recognizes the Sunday on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies—see Matthew 21:1-9; Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9; and Psalm 118:25-26.

The first Lord’s Supper—also known as Communion, or the Eucharist—was celebrated on Thursday during the Jewish Passover. We see the account in Matthew 26:26-30 after we read that “… the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover” (Matthew 26:19, HCSB).

When is Passover celebrated by the Jewish community? It’s celebrated for eight days by most Jews, with the exception of those who live in Israel, the majority of Reform Jews, and some Conservative Jews—these celebrate for seven days. This year Passover will begin on the evening (sunset/nightfall) of Wednesday, April 5 and will last until the evening (sunset/nightfall) of Wednesday, April 12.

While all of Holy Week is often observed in some churches with special services each day, two days in addition to Palm Sunday are of particular note: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Tomorrow we’ll take a deeper look at Maundy Thursday.

For today I hope you’re thinking about self-denial and praying about what to give up for Lent. And I hope you’re using this time to consider the fact that our entire lives are to be lived preferring the needs of others to our own.

“Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them” (Luke 6:31, Jesus speaking).

Copyright © 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


I hope you’ll hang with me as we look at the period of Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter, and Passover—you’re in seminary class! Today I want to wrap up our look at Mardi Gras and then begin a look at the 40-day pre-Easter period known as Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is February 22, while Easter is on April 9. In the Old Testament, ashes were placed on the body as a sign of mourning. In Esther 4:1-3 we see the Jewish people wearing sackcloth and ashes as they wept over King Ahasuerus’ order that would annihilate them. In Job 42:6, Job tells the Lord, “… I repent in dust and ashes” (HCSB).

Some early churches—and many still today—saved the palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration and then burned these to ash for Ash Wednesday. These ashes would then be used to mark the sign of the cross on the forehead of the believers who participated in their Lenten observation.

If you count the days from Ash Wednesday until Easter, you’ll find there are actually 46 days (counting Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday) because Sundays aren’t counted since they aren’t days of fasting. Lent is considered a time to reflect on your relationship with the Lord, to prepare your heart to deeply celebrate the truth of Easter. It’s a time to especially examine your life, confess, and repent of any areas of sin, and focus on self-denial.

Since Jesus’ entire earthly life was one of self-denial, this is a wonderful time to choose one area in which to practice this. Many people give up a favorite food or activity, such as chocolate or watching television for the Lenten season. This self-denial is, of course, like any other religious practice, optional, but I can assure you that you’ll discover new growth and maturity through participating in this special time.

Think of something you would truly have a tough time giving up from Valentine’s Day until Easter. Then think of what Christ gave up for you. Let me challenge you to practice some sort of self-denial throughout the Lenten season. And every time you’re tempted to break your Lenten vow, think of Christ’s prayer to His Father in the Garden: “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Copyright © 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


I want us to begin a look at the time period between Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Day). We’re starting now so we can follow this same study all the way through to Resurrection Day. That said, I need to explain a little bit about Mardi Gras because, believe it or not, Mardi Gras actually began as a Christian celebration. The phrase “Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday,” also called “Shrove Tuesday.” Traditionally, this was a day of huge feasting and celebration before Ash Wednesday, which began a time of strict fasting for Lent, the 40 days (not an exact number, however, due to the changing date of Easter) leading up to Easter Sunday. But let me back up a little.

The first traditional celebration after Christmas is on January 6, the Epiphany, or Little Christmas, said to be the date when the three wise men found the baby Jesus. Of course, scripture doesn’t support an exact time for the Magi’s arrival, but says: “Entering the house, they saw the child" (Matthew 2:11). This indicates it may have been as long as two years after Jesus’ birth before the wise men reached Him. And Herod’s edict (see Matthew 2:16) adds credence to this, in that he ordered the murder of all male children ages two and under.

From the date of the Epiphany until Fat Tuesday, celebrations were—and are today—abundant, and one thing you’ve probably seen during this time of “Mardi Gras” is colorfully iced ring-shaped cakes called “King” cakes. Hidden inside the cake is a tiny toy baby, so that one of the people eating the cake will find him. Although most people today have no idea what’s behind all this, the cake is called a “King” cake because the baby inside the cake represents Jesus, and finding this Baby represents the Magi, the first Gentiles, discovering the Savior, which is what the Epiphany recognizes.

And the circular shape of the cake? It signifies the connectedness, the oneness, of the family of Jesus Christ. The one who discovers the Christ Child has a responsibility to share Him with others. Thus the tradition that whoever finds the Baby brings the cake the next year.

How about that! So when “Mardi Gras” gets here, I hope you’ll use it as an opportunity to teach the truth about the celebration and King cake. In Mobile, Alabama (which is the original home of Mardi Gras—Mobile’s celebration kicked off on Feb. 3 & continues through Fat Tuesday, Feb. 21) and New Orleans, Louisiana, Mardi Gras parades and activities abound. This year, why not bring a King cake to work or Bible class—or you could even have a cake and coffee get-together at your house—and explain the story behind the tradition.

See, when a person “discovers” Jesus, he’s to share Him with others—bringing the King cake. And when another person discovers Jesus—finds the Baby—it then becomes his responsibility to share Jesus, as in bringing the next year’s cake. The message of the King cake is simple enough for even small children to understand.

“… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Jesus speaking, Mark 10:43b-45, HCSB).

FYI: The colors of Mardi Gras are also significant: purple = justice; green = faith; gold = power. Jesus, the Righteous Judge; Jesus, the Savior; Jesus, the All-Powerful God.

Copyright © 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live” (Ephesians 4:30a, NLT).

As most of you know, Larry and I have been waiting for waaaaay over a decade for our son and his family to be a part of our lives. He and his wife live no more than 50 miles from us and have two young daughters we’ve never laid eyes on. Were it not for God’s peace “that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, AKJV), Larry and I would both probably be in the loony bin.

So what does our situation with our son have to do with today’s Bible passage? The apostle Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, as in believers. And yet he’s warning them not to live in a way that grieves the Holy Spirit. Hang with me and I hope to tie all this together.

I can’t judge the spiritual state of my son and his family. I only know that our son made a profession of faith as a young fellow and lived a Christian lifestyle in front of me and his dad. But now, as an adult, his treatment of us as his parents is inexcusably wrong. And if he’s a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is most assuredly bringing “sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit.”

And who is the Holy Spirit? None other than God Himself, the third part of the triune Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Which brings me to my next point: if, as shown by our passage for today, Christians can grieve God by the way they choose to live, I can only imagine how much it hurts the Lord to see so many people flat-out reject Him.

So why doesn’t He just force them all to be saved? God doesn’t work that way. He gives every person a choice. And that choice, my friends, brings me to my final point for the day: we can pray and pray and pray until we feel like our prayers are going no higher than the ceiling because our prayers aren’t being answered. (And some prayers are being answered with “No” because they aren’t prayers that accord with God’s will—see yesterday's study.)

But when we are praying for something completely in God’s will—such as the salvation of a person’s soul—He is certainly not saying “No” to your request. He’s simply giving the person you’re praying for a choice: accept Me or reject Me.

But every time you pray for that person, the Holy Spirit speaks to that person’s heart. So keep praying. Keep trusting. Rely on God for peace and comfort as you wait. As I’ve said before, Larry and I prayed for 20 years for Larry’s dad’s salvation. And the Lord answered the moment Larry’s dad chose to obey. I hope this an encouragement to the many of you who are praying for lost or wayward loved ones.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours”
(Jesus speaking, Mark 11:24, NLT).

So there really are name-it-and-claim-it passages in the Bible? Sorry to disappoint, but they’re not in there. And that brings up another question: did Jesus really say what we just read? Absolutely. However, we have to couple that with more Scripture, particularly First John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (NIV).

“… according to His will …” This is what Jesus was talking about. This is what the apostle John was talking about. And this is also what James meant when he said: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2b). “… according to His will …”

Believers’ prayers should be: (1) specific; and (2) in accordance with God’s will.

A short time ago, I received a call from a panicked mom whose son Mark was serving a jail sentence for drug possession. Mark was only weeks away from going into a halfway house when, suddenly, he received word that, instead, he was being sent to the state penitentiary. Needless to say, the mom was beside herself.

As I prayed for Mark, I specifically asked that, if it was God’s will, that the terrible news about going to the penitentiary would somehow be a mistake; that Mark would still be given an opportunity to start over in the halfway program. But whatever happened, I asked that it be according to God’s will for Mark’s life.

Only a day later, I received a second call from Mark’s mom. And here is what she said: “It was a mistake. There were two young men in that jail with the same last name. Mark received the news that was intended for the other guy.”

“… according to His will …” It definitely wasn’t in God’s perfect will for Mark’s life that he wind up on drugs and doing jail time. But just because Mark has messed up big-time doesn’t mean God has given up on him. He still has a plan for Mark’s life, and He will fulfill it despite all circumstances, if Mark will only submit to His leading.

What are you praying for? Who are you praying for? If you’re praying for God’s will be to done, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!”

(from the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus)

God didn’t create us to carry our own burdens. Psalm 55:22a reminds us: “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you” (NLT). First Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” Jesus Himself told us, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

There is rest and peace in the Lord that can be found nowhere else. Not in a pill or a party or a person. Only in Jesus.

But note this: God may not have created us to carry our own burdens, but He’s never going to pry them out of your hands if you refuse to let go of them. How many times have I laid a worry at the foot of the cross only to get off my knees and take it right back with me?

Folks, we have to learn to first and foremost “carry everything to God in prayer.” Secondly, we need to heed the words of another great old hymn: “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there” (from the hymn Leave It There).

Remember learning to float? I do. I’d lie back in my daddy’s arms and, just before I got all the way stretched out, I’d pop up like a cork. Terrified. Afraid I would go under the water. But he kept reassuring me, “I’m not going to let you go.” And eventually, I was floating, and it was the most amazing freedom. I simply had to learn to trust my instructor.

Learning to rest in the Lord is a lot like learning to float. We have to learn to trust our Instructor. He’s not going to drop us. He’s not going to let us go. He’s going to keep us safe. We just have to trust Him enough to let go of everything and let Him handle it.

What are you holding onto? What do you need to take “to the Lord and leave it there”?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11, NLT).

According to an article published in Christianity Today some years ago, one in four American women takes a psychiatric medication for depression. In round numbers, that comes to 12 million women. 12 million! Obviously, the author of today’s passage had some personal experience with depression: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?”

Sometimes our circumstances beat us down until we find ourselves in the proverbial dumps. At other times, we’re just sad. Don’t know why. Can’t seem to pull out of it. But there it is. How can a believer wind up in such a condition?

First, let me say that clinical depression is a much bigger issue than simply having a “down” day. In many instances, medication is something to consider. The trouble, however, is that we’re quicker to run to the medicine cabinet than to the Savior. And that, my friends, is a big part of the problem with our country’s prescription and illegal drug epidemic.

Before you start taking any medication for depression or anxiety or panic attacks or anything like that, call on the Lord. Read His Word. Ask Him to deliver you. And don’t do that once and expect everything to change. Keep on asking. Keep on praying. Stay in the Word and stick close to fellow believers.

If you still feel like you simply can’t cope with life, see your doctor and follow his recommendations, even if that means starting on medication. And I would urge you to make sure your doctor is a serious Christian, especially when it comes to a psychiatrist or psychologist. You need a Christian’s perspective as to your problem, one that firmly believes in the power of God and the power of prayer.

Everyone—me included—goes through seasons of sadness or depression. That’s not the time to throw a pity party or complain to everybody who’ll listen. That’s the time to dig into the Word and draw closer to Jesus.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced clinical depression. I’ve never had to take medication for depression or any other such issue. Many times, though, I’ve found myself sinking into sadness. And the Lord has delivered me. And He will deliver you.

“I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ [Jesus asked]. The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’ The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:26-29, NLT).

An “expert in the law” (v. 25—some translations say “lawyer”) had all the right answers but had clearly never applied them to his own heart. When, “to test Jesus” (v. 25), he asked, “who is my neighbor?” he never dreamed Jesus would also throw down his own test.

Jesus told this “expert” about a man who was attacked, beaten, and robbed and then left by the roadside, ignored by every passerby, including “a priest” (v. 31) and “a Temple assistant” (v. 32). The only person who stopped to help him was a Samaritan, a despised Jewish mixed-breed—the last person Jesus’ listener would ever have expected to be the good guy in Jesus’ teaching.

The Samaritan not only gave the man first aid, but he put him “on his own donkey,” “took him to an inn,” and “took care of him” (v. 34). When the Samaritan had to continue his own journey, he paid the innkeeper to take care of the injured man, and even told the innkeeper he’d stop back by and pay him any additional money that was owed (v. 35).

And then Jesus hit the expert right in the heart with His next question: “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” (v. 36).

“The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same’” (v. 37).

Samaritans were considered total rejects of society. Nobody liked them. Nobody had anything good to say about them. Yet Jesus showed that it wasn’t one’s nationality, or the color of one’s skin, or upbringing, or education, or wealth, or poverty that made a person one way or another. It was the heart.

Every person on this planet is your neighbor. How do you treat the people you come in contact with? How do you treat the people who are different from you? Jesus loves indiscriminately. His children are to “go and do the same.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out!” (Galatians 5:14-15a, NLT).

Love. It’s who God is and it’s who He expects us to be: “God is love” (1 John 4:8 & 16). Christians are to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Repetition is a way of impressing something into the life of the hearer or reader, and you’ll find this 5-word command in Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8. Think the Lord might be trying to tell us something?

Also in today’s passage, what do we see right alongside this command? “But if you are always biting and devouring one another …” It is 100 percent impossible to simultaneously love and criticize, gossip, or backbite.

All of us have a tendency to be critical, but how much we are that way depends on how much we feed that negative habit—sin, if we want to be honest and call it what it is—and how much we listen to the Holy Spirit when He warns us to cut it out. I can definitely speak on this because I have a terrible bent toward criticism. It’s something I struggle with more often than I care to admit.

Today’s passage wraps up with two words of warning: “… watch out!” If we continue to allow a critical spirit to control our mouths and attitudes, we’re going to lose friends, make enemies, and displease our Savior. And in the process, we position ourselves to be judged more harshly—see Matthew 7:2 and Mark 4:24. And who wants that?

Listen to your words. Examine your attitude. Make sure your positive words and actions far exceed your negativity. Ask the Holy Spirit to put a check in your spirit each time you exhibit a critical remark or behavior. He’s already been doing just that, but could be you’ve learned to tune Him out. I’m ashamed to say how often I’ve ignored Him.

God loves us so much. Love Him by loving people. Strive to be a positive in this far too negative world.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘You have said terrible things about Me,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against You?’ You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying His commands …?’” (Malachi 3:13-14a, NLT).

“What’s the use of serving God?” Ever heard anyone actually say that? I have. During a difficult time, we can sometimes wonder if God’s even out there. We can wonder if He is aware of what we’re going through. We can wonder if there’s even any point in trying to live according to His Word.

And the amazing thing is, He’s okay with our questions. If you don’t believe that, take a look at what Job asked: “Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?” (Job 3:23). Job had a lot of troubles and a lot of questions, but in the end, when Job had fully submitted himself to his Redeemer, “… the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning” (Job 42:12a).

So what’s the difference in Job’s question and the question asked in Malachi? The people of Malachi’s day were offering half-hearted worship, giving the rejects of their possessions (weak, lame, sick livestock, etc.), and then whining about God withholding His blessings. God was withholding because they were living in disobedience. God was waiting on them to repent and put Him first.

“What’s the use of serving God?” If you’re doing it half-heartedly or simply going through the motions, as were the folks of Malachi’s time, there’s no use whatsoever. But if you’re doing it because you love Him and truly want to please Him, there is no end to the reasons to serve Him. Keep serving. Keep trusting. He has so much good in store for you.

“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success” (2 Chronicles 26:5b, NIV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you … are not already destroyed” (Malachi 3:6, NLT).

Let me ask a very serious question: if God kept us as His own only when we were in complete obedience to Him, how long would it take until most of us were “destroyed”? For me, some days would take about two seconds. I’m so thankful that even when we break our commitment to God and break His heart, our Heavenly Father continues to love us.

Which is why He makes us this promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5b, NIV—see also Hebrews 13:5).

Some people foolishly mistake God’s grace for a ticket to heaven and a pass to live as they please here on earth. A day is coming when those folks will learn how wrong they are. Receiving God’s grace leads a person to live thankfully, humbly, and rightly, not against the teachings of the Bible. But even if we do get off track, being a loving Father, He’s going to do whatever it takes to get His wayward child back.

With the unsaved, God gives opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him. “… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b, NIV). He finds no pleasure in the thought of any person spending eternity in hell. And yet not He, but that individual person, chooses that fate if he rejects Christ’s invitation of salvation.

Think about my first question and personalize it: if God kept you as His own only when you were in complete obedience to Him, how long would it take before you were “destroyed”? Aren’t you thankful that He doesn’t break His promises even when we break ours? He’s such a loving Savior. Commit anew to live to please Him.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“The Name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NLT).

So much meat on this seemingly little bone. First, note that the word the NLT translates as “godly” shows in some other translations as “righteous.” Both words refer to a person who is striving to follow God’s commands and teachings. With that under our belts, let’s look at a couple other translations and then break down this passage a little.

“A tower of strength is the name of Jehovah, Into it the righteous runneth, and is set on high” (Young’s Literal Translation).

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe” (AKJV).

Note the word “LORD” in all caps. When you see that, it always means “LORD” has been substituted for YHWH, the letters for what eventually became written as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” Early believers thought God’s name too holy to even speak or write. But that’s another lesson entirely.

Back to the NLT passage. What exactly is a “fortress”? A fortified structure. “A strong tower.”  “A tower of strength.” The old hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” opens with this line: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing …” What’s a bulwark? A protective wall. When we are IN Christ, we are withIN His protective boundaries. However, God’s walls are not a prison. We’re free to come and go and, unfortunately, many believers choose to spend a lot of time outside God’s protection by living contrary to how He says we must. And when they do, they suffer needlessly.

Life has plenty of problems simply because we live in a fallen world. We can lessen those problems by choosing to live righteously.

Speaking of righteousness, today’s passage goes on to say “the godly run to Him and are safe.” Like a runner preparing for the Olympics, those who are walking daily with the Lord are spiritually ready to “run to Him and are safe.” Their situations may not even improve, but God’s peace surrounds them regardless. Those who aren’t spending daily time with the Savior aren’t spiritually able to “run.” Instead, these folks tend to go into panic mode.

Life is lived at high speed. I highly recommend preparing for the Olympics.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“But for you who fear My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2, NLT).

I live out in the country, and one of the pastures I pass on a regular basis has quite a few new little calves right now. I so enjoy driving by and watching them. Those youngsters run and play and bounce around like puppies. Not a care in the world. And when I see them, today’s Bible passage comes to mind.

Can you imagine living forever in a place where “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain”? A place where “All these things are gone forever”? (Revelation 21:4). That’s what the Lord promises to those who “fear [His] Name.”

What does it mean to “fear” God? Not to be terrified of Him whacking you every time you turn, like a cruel Father. He isn’t like that at all. It’s to have a healthy respect for Who He is and what He says. It’s to love Him so much that you never want to hurt or disappoint Him. It’s to love Him so much that He’s truly your “first love” (Revelation 2:4, KJV).

Just like the young calves frolicking in the pastures, many people are skipping through life, totally oblivious to what’s ahead. Unlike those calves, human beings have been created in the image of God and given a Book of Instruction to live by. And those who refuse to obey those instructions will enter eternity, as Romans 1:20 warns us, “… without excuse.”

The day is coming—and I believe it’s very near—when “the Sun of Righteousness will rise” and all who belong to Him will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52, KJV). Don’t wait until it’s too late to live for Jesus.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His Name. ‘They will be My people,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’” (Malachi 3:5, NLT).

Is your name written on the “scroll of remembrance”? The Lord says those whose names are on it will be spared on the Day of Judgment “as a father spares an obedient child.” Are you “obedient”? The Lord will reward those who are, but things won’t look so good for those who disobey Him.

Certainly we all disobey at some time. We all sin at some time. But there’s a huge difference between messing up from time to time and living daily without putting God first.

Look at it this way. As a believer, you’re married to Christ—after all, the church is the Bride of Christ—see Second Corinthians 11:2. He should be the One you try to please above all others. He should be the One you live for.

If you have an earthly spouse, how faithful are you to that person? How faithful does that person expect you to be? Unless one of you has a screw loose, there can be only one answer: 100 percent. No one wants a cheating spouse. And God certainly doesn’t.

Be faithful. Talk to God daily. Walk with Him daily. Pray, give, and live with Him as the center of your focus. I guarantee He won’t be the only one that notices the difference.

“Then you will again see the difference between … those who serve God and those who do not.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“The purpose of My covenant … was to bring life and peace” (Malachi 2:5a, NLT).

What exactly is a “covenant”? A mutual agreement between two parties. Both parties make specific pledges and, should one party break his pledge, the other party is no longer obligated to keep his. Since the Lord is never going to break His Word, the only reason we humans aren’t bathed in “life and peace” is because of sin. We humans who promise to faithfully follow Jesus aren’t so faithful. Why is that?

Too often, we take the attitude that, once we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our part is done. We’re saved. We’re heaven-bound. End of story. But that’s just not true. Why’s that? Because the Bible makes it very clear that true salvation is exemplified through righteous living, albeit imperfectly. If we’re alive in Christ, we’re productive Christians. Or as Jesus put it: “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:20).

Not only do we sometimes take the attitude of having a done deal once we’re saved, we also tend to believe the Lord is somehow obligated to bless us simply because we claim His Name. Fact of the matter is, He isn’t obligated to do anything. And unless we align ourselves for His blessings through obedience to His Word, we’re in for a heap of unnecessary heartache and problems instead of a bunch of undeserved blessings.

Life dishes out enough trouble simply because we live in a sin-sick world. Why make bad matters worse by not living as the Bible tells us to?

God is the Ultimate Good Father, and He loves His children far too much to allow them to live contrary to His Word. He will get His child’s attention. Gently, at first. Then more severely if that child continues to ignore Him. And in the most severe of cases, I believe He reaches the point where He says, “Child, you’re not going to stay here and continue to embarrass Me.”

Tired of troubles? Don’t wait for the Lord’s discipline. Repent now. Obey now. And see new blessings unfold before you.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3, NLT).

When Jamie was 24 years old, she flew to Tanzania with $2,000 in her pocket, planning to stay and do mission work until her money ran out. One day at the church she was a part of there, she met an 8-year-old with a tiny baby strapped to her back. When Jamie asked the girl about the baby, she told her the baby’s mother was too sick to take care of him.

Jamie’s heart went out to this pitiful, malnourished child and she began buying formula and caring for little Junio herself. His mother, she learned, was dying with AIDS. (Through other events that can only be described as miracles, Junio didn’t contract AIDS.) Jamie fell in love with the child. When she visited the birth mother, the woman told her, “I have heard how you are caring for my son. I’ve never known such love. I want to be saved.” Jamie was able to lead her to Jesus, and that dear lady died knowing she would one day see her son again in heaven.

The next hurdle came when Jamie decided to adopt Junio. Tanzania didn’t allow international adoptions. But as Jamie prayed, she learned that she could claim residency in Tanzania since, at that time, she’d already been there over six months. By the time Jamie finished the adoption process and mounds of paperwork to be able to bring Junio to the U.S., she’d spent 18 months in Tanzania.

Since that time, Jamie has gotten married and given birth to two daughters. For several years, she and her family were living in Tanzania and working with Wycliffe translating the Bible into several African languages. Today, they’re in Canada and continuing their ministry with Wycliffe. You can read more about the Langs and Wycliffe at:

Great things for God can be small things in the eyes of man. Few people have heard of any of the people we’ve looked at the last few days. But God knows every one of them. And He’s blessing their lives and their work as they dedicate everything to His glory. I hope you’re inspired to do more for the Kingdom. When God’s on your side, you’re unstoppable.

“If what they are planning is something of their own doing, it will fail. But if God is behind it, you cannot stop it anyway, unless you want to fight against God” (Acts 5:38b-29a, CEV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9a, NLT).

Simpson Rebbavarapu’s parents left him at an orphanage in India when he was around age 4—they were too poor to feed another mouth and they hadn’t even bothered to name him. While still pregnant with Simpson, his mother had taken herbs other village wives had offered her so she would abort the baby. This didn’t work. Then she went to a clinic to have a doctor perform an abortion. That day, the doctor failed to show up. Simpson, like every baby God creates, was meant to be born.

Today, Simpson is a busy guy, helping run an orphanage he began and also working to bring audio Bibles to the illiterate in India and other Asian countries. Simpson has never married. He is totally devoted to the work of the Lord. He accepts no salary, simply stating that having to constantly depend on God for his provision keeps him in prayer.

Simpson could have decided to make his life all about “poor, poor pitiful me.” He could have dwelt on his past as a child given up by his own parents and blamed that trauma for never getting anywhere in life. Instead, he chose to look at the miracle of his life. He chose to give thanks for his years in the orphanage and use that as motivation to help other orphaned and needy people.

I’ve never experienced the kind of hardships Simpson has, but I have been in circumstances that showed me I had nowhere else to turn except to Jesus. And always, always, He’s come through for me. And He will for you, too.

“We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us” (2 Corinthians 1:10b).

For more information about Simpson’s ministry, visit

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“I was sick and … you did not look after me” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:43b, NIV).

Several years ago, I listened to the audio of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. If you’ve never read it or listened to it, I highly recommend it. In it, Chan encourages believers to actually act like Jesus: care more about others than ourselves; help others instead of ourselves; give more than we keep. He offers several examples and, over the next few days, I want to look at some of those, starting with Nathan Barlow.

Nathan was a doctor who learned about the horrible suffering of people with mossy foot, a debilitating disease scientifically known as podoconiosis, found in people who work in volcanic soil. It can cause such horrible deformity and pain that people with mossy foot are shunned like lepers. Dr. Barlow spent his life treating and working with the people of Ethiopia who were suffering from mossy foot.

When Barlow’s own health began to fail, his daughter brought him back to the U.S. so she could care for him. He was so miserable that, within weeks, she ended up flying back to Ethiopia with him so he could spend his last days with the people he had grown to love in the place that had become his home.

Earlier on in his work, Barlow had developed a toothache so painful that it became necessary for him to fly to a dentist who could help him. While there, he told the dentist to go ahead and pull all his teeth and make him false ones. He said he didn’t want to be hindered from God’s work by another tooth problem.

Not many people have ever heard of Nathan Barlow or mossy foot. But Nathan wasn’t in it for recognition. He was in it to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a neglected and needy people.

What are you in life for?

Dr. Barlow is now in heaven, but his mission work continues. Read more at: Warning: the photos of some of those afflicted with mossy foot are heart-wrenching.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘Listen, you priests—this command is for you! Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor My Name,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘or I will bring a terrible curse against you’” (Malachi 2:1-2a, NLT).

Two things to note right off the bat here: (1) The Lord is addressing the priests. Who are the priests? First Peter 2:9a tells us: “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests …” All who belong to Jesus Christ are “royal priests” with Christ as “High Priest” (Hebrews 9:11). I don’t think it’s any stretch at all to identify modern-day believers as priests addressed by Malachi’s warning today just as the priests were warned in Malachi’s lifetime.

(2) Over and over in the book of Malachi, the Lord identifies Himself as “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies”—literally, “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Why that particular title? It shows His might; His realm—all heaven and earth and all creation; His power; and His victory. God is making the point that He takes it very seriously when His Name isn’t properly honored.

Yesterday I posted the study about not cheating the government or the Lord. Several years ago, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in ages. As we talked, he told me he had retired but was doing odd jobs to make a little extra money. Then he went on to astound me: “And this,” he said, “is what I call ‘free money.’ All cash. I don’t even have to pay tax on it.”

Uncle Sam will probably never find out about all his side jobs. But who does know? God. I wish I’d never had that conversation with my friend. I’d always thought of him as a dedicated, 100% honest Christian. It grieves me to realize that he or any other believer can not only be dishonest, but think so little of it as to be perfectly comfortable talking about it. My Bible tells me that “All wrongdoing is sin” (1 John 5:17a, ESV).

Folks, Jehovah Sabaoth ain’t playin’. He’s patient, but He won’t withhold His hand forever. If you’re His child and you’re doing anything wrong or failing to do what you know is right, your Heavenly Father will get your attention. Best to repent and make things right before He has to take you to the woodshed.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


For the past several days, we’ve looked at the importance of putting God first. One of the passages we read yesterday was Matthew 6:33, in which Jesus says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV).

What “things shall be added”? Philippians 4:19 answers that question: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When you are faithful to the Lord in both your giving and living, He will bless you.

Does being blessed by God mean a trouble-free, wealth-filled life? No, but it means giving and living to honor Him aligns you for blessings you would otherwise miss. Case in point: Larry and I had to pay $266 in income taxes. Why? Because we report every cent we receive, even if it’s only a few dollars someone insists on Larry taking for helping with a repair job. After all, Jesus instructed us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17a). I’m not going to cheat my government or my Lord.

Which brings me back to the amazing, unexpected, undeserved blessings of God. Within days of finding out what we owed on taxes, Larry received $25 from a friend he’d helped with some yard work. During that same time, I received two unexpected checks: one for $50 and one for $174. That money covered all our taxes except $17. What a blessing!

Let me make a couple of things clear: (1) God’s blessings aren’t necessarily financial; and (2) God’s children still have problems. But when our intentions are to live for Him, and we back that up with entrusting Him with the “firstfruits” (Exodus 23:19) of our labor, we’re under the spout. We’re positioned to receive whatever blessings He chooses to add to all the goodness He’s already poured over us.

I don’t know about you, but the day He saved a wretch like me was far more than I ever deserved if He never did another thing for me. When’s the last time you thanked Him for lifting you “from the pit of destruction”? (Psalm 40:2b, ESV).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all’ asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘and I will not accept your offerings … you dishonor My Name with your actions. You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at My commands,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Malachi 1:9, 10b, 12a, 13a, NLT).

God doesn’t want our leftovers. Not of our time. Not of our money. Not of our thoughts. He says and means, “… seek ye first the Kingdom of God …” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33a, KJV), or as the NLT words it: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else …”

If all God gets from us are our leftovers, He can’t be first in our lives. Over and over we read in His Word that He must be first: “Bring the best of the firstfruits … to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a, NIV). We may not be farmers, but we all have incomes from one source or another. When those deposits hit our wallets or our bank accounts, “the firstfruits” of those paydays belong to the Lord.

Just how serious is He about being first? Look at Revelation 3:16: “… since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (NLT). That little word translated “spit” (or “spew” in some translations) is actually a picture of projectile vomiting. It turns God’s stomach to see His people treating Him as less than Who He is.

I can’t sit here and tell you that I put the Lord first in all I say and do, but that is my desire every day. Tithing and giving offerings has become a wonderful discipline for me and Larry, and we wouldn’t think of not giving the Lord our “firstfruits.”

But honoring the Lord is about much more than money. It’s about giving of ourselves; dedicating our lives to honoring Him and setting an example that draws others into the Kingdom. It’s not “too hard to serve the Lord.” Don’t “turn up your noses at [His] commands.” Obey Him in your giving and living and see Him “pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in!” (Malachi 3:10b).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


You have a neighbor you know is really struggling financially. You’re cleaning out your fridge and find some items that have been in there long enough to grow fur. You load them into a nice little gift bag and walk over to your neighbor’s. “Here,” you say, “I thought you might be able to salvage something edible out of all this. Bon appetit!” You wave and toddle back home.

Don’t you know your neighbor is thrilled by your generosity? No, she’s more likely hurt, humiliated, and insulted. After all, in essence, you just told her she was only worthy of the things you no longer deemed fit to consume yourself. Guess what? Our Heavenly Father isn’t pleased when we treat Him that way, either. Look at what He says in Malachi 1:6b-7: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your Father and Master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for My Name! But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for Your Name?’ You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar. Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect” (NLT).

While we no longer need to or bring animals to church as sacrifices, what we are still required to do is bring our tithes (10 percent of our gross incomes) and offerings—and as the Bible makes very clear, an offering is a gift given above and beyond the tithe. When we withhold from the Lord what is rightfully His, we’re treating Him exactly as our neighbor in the scenario above: “Here, God. This is how much you mean to me.”

In today’s society the Lord receives little “honor and respect”—none from secular society and pathetically little from those who claim to be His own people.

When we take the attitude that the church isn’t going to get “our” money and we can take it or leave it in every other way, we are “saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect.” The house of God deserves our best. It’s the family home. Don’t neglect it. Love it and support it.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26, King James 2000).

This has probably been one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Why? Because of one word: “hate.” You see, the word translated “hate” is actually a word meaning “to show less favor to,” or “love less.” We see this same word used in Genesis 29:31: “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”

Jacob certainly didn’t hate Leah, although she wasn’t his first choice for a wife and he was actually tricked into marrying her—see Genesis 28-29 for the whole story. Jacob simply loved Rachel more.

God doesn’t want us to hate anyone, either. What He does want is to be our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Our love for Jesus Christ is to be above all other loves in our lives, including “father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters.” Which is why the NLT (New Living Translation) renders a better understanding of Luke 14:26: “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.”

Jesus says our love for ourselves and all these others should dim “by comparison” to our love for Him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t honestly say I have that kind of love for my Savior. I’m learning to. I’m growing in my faith. But I have a long, long way to go.

But here’s the thing: He knows that. And He understands that. We are works in progress—the operative word there being PROGRESS.

Your Heavenly Father knows exactly how you feel about Him. He knows exactly how your love for Him stacks up against your love for everyone and everything else. So simply confess the truth to Him. Ask Him to help you love Him more every day. Then do your part by staying in His Word and regularly spending time in prayer and fellowship with other believers.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“And may the Lord reward you for your kindness …” (Ruth 1:8a, NLT).

Kindness is a scarce commodity these days, and Christians, of all people, should be the quickest to dish it out in our actions and in our words. Likewise, we should respond to acts or words of kindness with, at the very least, a sincere “Thank you.”

First, we should daily thank the Lord for His abundant goodness. Secondly, we should make certain we express our gratitude for every kindness shown to us by anyone, whether family, friend, or total stranger.

Some time ago, I was in a drive-through line at McDonald’s. As I placed my order and started to pull forward, a car pulled out in front of me from the second drive-thru lane. It was a close call, but we didn’t exchange any paint. When I reached the window to pay for my order, the cashier told me, “That car in front paid for yours.” I looked up in time to see the car pulling away from the pick-up window and I could see the driver’s face in his rear view mirror. I threw up a hand and waved, mouthing a “Thank you.”

I may have been a split second ahead of that other guy going toward the window to pay, but what happened between our two cars was no big deal. Certainly nothing to warrant him paying for my food. And yet this man wanted to make sure he apologized for this very small incident. And I wanted to make sure he knew I appreciated his kindness.

No matter how busy you are, there’s no excuse for failing to thank people. That card you got in the mail? Give that person an actual phone call or text message or online message. Let them know that kindness meant something to you. Did someone let you over on the crowded interstate? Wave a big “thank you.” Don’t just pull over and keep going.

And please, please, please, teach your kids and grandkids to say “thank you” and actually send thank-you notes, or at least a text or phone call. If a person sends an invitation, it’s a request for a gift (except on the rare occasions when one specifies “no gifts”). So if a person has asked for a gift, they should show appreciation for that gift. Otherwise, don’t ask.

If we are Whose we say we are—that is, members of the body of Christ—then we need to be the most gracious people on the planet. Make “thank you” a major part of your vocabulary. Use it generously. When someone holds a door for you. When someone stops to allow you to cross a busy parking lot. At every opportunity. Consciously look for reasons to say “thank you.” That simple act of kindness can make a big difference in someone else’s day.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38, NLT).

For months before my Daddy went home to be with the Lord, he was physically unable to get around very much. He also suffered from the early stages of dementia. But some values were so deeply ingrained that even that horrible disease didn’t take them away from him. And one of those things was his tithing.

When Daddy’s retirement and Social Security funds hit the bank, he wrote out his tithe. When he could no longer write his own checks, he had me or my stepmom make out his check. Even when he couldn’t remember what day of the month it was, he’d ask, “Is it the first? I need to pay my tithe.” Just because he could no longer physically attend his church didn’t mean he wasn’t just as dedicated to supporting it.

My Daddy’s love for Jesus couldn’t be killed by poor health. It couldn’t be killed by dementia. When I read the New Living Translation of Romans 8:35, 37, I can almost see my Daddy standing and proclaiming its words: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Don’t be stingy. Be a giver. You are blessed to be a blessing, not to hoard it away. Remember: “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put Me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse … Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing” (Malachi 3:10, CEV).

Nowhere else in the Bible will you find a passage like this one, where the Lord actually invites believers to test His faithfulness. Christians should support their churches—“the storehouse”—financially, and tithing 10 percent of your gross income is what the Lord asks. In return, He makes this promise to tithers: “I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.”

“Oh, that church isn’t interested in anything but money,” I’ve heard many people say. But without exception, I’ve found the person making that statement is someone who either doesn’t go to church at all, or sporadically goes, and gives little or no money.

What a lot of folks don’t realize as they drop their two dollars in the offering plate is that they aren’t giving an offering, even though that may be what they call it. See, an offering is something given above and beyond the tithe.

Wanting to collect on the blessings of God may not be the right reason for becoming a tither, but the Bible clearly promises blessings to those who tithe. The Lord goes on in the very next verse to explain one blessing bestowed on tithers: “I will also stop locusts from destroying your crops and keeping your vineyards from producing” (Malachi 3:11).

While most of us don’t depend on agricultural crops for our income, it’s easy to grasp the meaning of this passage: when you trust God with 10 percent of your income, He blesses you and wards off a lot of the problems you might otherwise have. That old clunker will just keep right on humming. That major roof problem will turn out to be a simple need for some caulking.

Until we can trust God with our finances, we certainly aren’t capable of trusting Him with the other areas of our lives. For the next 90 days, take the tithing challenge and see the faithfulness of God like never before.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… it is love that strengthens the church” (1 Corinthians 8:1b, NLT).

Imagine calling your doctor’s office and being told that your doctor will meet you at Burger Buddy. You think that’s a little weird, but, hey, you need to see him. So you walk in and slide into the other side of the booth, a puzzled look on your face. “Why are we here?” you ask.

“Oh, I got burned out on going to the office. I don’t do that anymore.” He opens his medical bag, takes out his stethoscope, and says, “What seems to be the problem?”

Are you going to tell him? Are you going to submit to an exam in your burger booth? I don’t think so. The minute that doctor told you he didn’t go to his office anymore, his credibility with you was completely shot.

Likewise with a professing Christian who rarely or never attends church. Folks, it is imperative that we practice what we preach. If you love Jesus, you must love His church. No, no earthly church is perfect, but with hundreds within easy driving distance, there’s no excuse for not settling into a church home, unless you are physically unable to get out and about.

And may I add here that I know many dedicated believers who are pretty much homebound. But on the flip side of that, I know a bunch who say they can’t sit through church or walk well enough to attend church. However, these same people go tearing through Walmart on scooters or anywhere else they want to go.

As I’ve been saying since the start of all this Covid and flu weirdness, you can stay home and still be an active participant in your church, through watching online or on TV, and through giving online or by snail mail.

It was love that kept Jesus on the cross—love for me and you. And “… it is love that strengthens the church.” Love Jesus; love His church. Support it with your presence, and support it financially.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“… your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, GNT).

When we do a good deed, speak a good word, or do anything whatsoever to help or in any way benefit or encourage another person, that word or action should do one primary thing: lead others to “praise your Father in heaven.” If all I accomplish by writing books, posting devotionals and Bible studies, and telling folks about bargains is to create a following for Judy Bates, I have miserably failed. But if I point people to Jesus and help them to draw closer to Him, then and only then is the Lord pleased with what I do.

How about you? Do you love to get that pat on the back, that compliment on what a hard worker you are, your name in the church bulletin or program? Human nature loves being seen and known, but Christians aren’t to point to themselves, “Look at me!” They’re to point to the Savior.

I’ve written several drama skits and full-length Christmas programs, none of which have ever been performed with my name on the program. Why? Because I asked that my name not be published. I don’t want people complimenting a person. I want them talking about how the Lord got their attention or touched their hearts through the presentation.

A lot of the good you do will never so much as earn you a “thank you.” A lot of the good you do will never be acknowledged or reciprocated. But don’t let that discourage you or stop you. The One who really matters sees everything you think, do, and say and, whether anyone on earth ever notices, He will one day tell you, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21a). And that, my friends, will be worth everything.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 11:18a, 19, NLT).

Do your kids, grandkids, other family members, friends, and neighbors hear you talk about Jesus? If not, why not? Perhaps it’s because you’re afraid one of them will ask you a question you can’t answer. If I let that stop me, I’d be in big trouble. There are so many questions I can’t answer.

Don’t let the enemy intimidate you into silence. Jesus said in Matthew 10:33, “… everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” Refuse to be a silent Christian. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, simply say, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up together right now.” Then start digging—even Google knows the Bible!

Talking about Jesus should be as natural as breathing—after all, He’s the One that made those lungs you’re using, and the air you’re breathing. Also, if you’re going to talk about Jesus, be a faithful follower. Your attendance and support of a local church is vital, even if during this season of Covid, flu, and more, it’s by internet or TV, and by giving your tithes and offerings via snail mail or online.

Your attitude toward church is a direct reflection of your attitude toward the Lord. After all, the church is the Bride of Christ for whom He was willing to suffer and die. I’ve talked to so many people who say they don’t go to church anymore because someone offended them, or because they’re waiting for their spouses to go with them. Honey, if church means diddly-squat to you, you’ll find another church to be a part of. You’ll go with or without that spouse.

Let me ask you a serious question: If Jesus were as faithful to you as you are to Him, would you be okay with that?

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

In his book Full Surrender, J. Edwin Orr talks about the time he was in the audience at Oxford when Bishop Stephen Neill told about hearing a Christian evangelist from India tell the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15): “The evangelist pointed out that when the prodigal … walked his weary way home, … he could not have understood the enormity of his offence. Even when his father rushed out to meet him, even during the welcome-home banquet, he did not fully understand. It was not until some days afterwards that the prodigal noticed that his father’s hair had turned white in his absence. Then he appreciated the cost of forgiveness.”

Loving other people can be painful. Emotional hurt can be as agonizing as a knife in the heart. Worrying about a person you love can make you older than your years.

I never doubted my parents’ love for me, yet how many gray hairs did I give them? How much emotional hurt did I cause them? I could say I wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t all that bad, either. But truth is, every time I disobeyed, I hurt them.

Every time I disobey my Heavenly Father, I hurt Him. And hasn’t He already been through enough on my behalf? He didn’t deserve to be spat on or beaten or mocked. He didn’t deserve the humiliation of being nailed naked and bleeding, in agony, to a cross. He didn’t have to do any of that. But He considered ME worth it. He considered YOU worth it.

Jesus said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask My Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly?” (Matthew 26:53). Our Savior had an easy out. And He’d done absolutely nothing wrong. He was perfect in every way. He was fully God yet fully man. But He stayed on the cross, experiencing every moment of suffering just as any other human would have, because as the Only Perfect Sacrifice, only He could once-and-for-all pay the sin-debt that we owed. That, my brothers and sisters, is Perfect Love.

It was no small thing He did for us. So live to thank Him. How? By treating others the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). By loving others so much it hurts (John 3:16). By not giving up on those who’ve gone astray or have never come into the family of God (Luke 15:20). By being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). By being a faithful follower on Sundays and the other six days of the week also (Ephesians 5:25).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12b, NKJV).

Let me pose a couple of questions for you: if you are on a first-name basis with your hair stylist or barber, would you add his or her name to your checking account? If you use the same mechanic for all your vehicle maintenance, would you hand him a set of keys to your house? Unless one or both of those folks are close family members, I’m bettin’ your answer to both questions is “No!”

See, unless there’s that close kinship or friendship, what you have with those people is simply a casual relationship, an acquaintance. But to entrust someone with your bank account or your home requires a much greater level of relationship. It requires a commitment.

Let me put it another way. Do you want a spouse who has a relationship with you—sticks around most of the time and is fairly reliable—or do you want one who is 100% committed to being your faithful lifemate? As the Bridegroom of the Bride, the Church, Jesus Christ wants, expects, and even demands 100% commitment. Dare we give Him any less?

“I choose the path of faithfulness; I am committed …” (Psalm 119:30a, NET Bible).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“… I jealously guard My holy reputation!” (Ezekiel 39:25b, NLT).

What exactly is a “reputation”? It’s the estimation in which a person or thing is held. Do you value your reputation? If you do, then you wouldn’t appreciate someone throwing your name around in a crack house or beer joint, would you? If that would upset an imperfect mortal such as you or me, how much right does the Lord have to be indignant when He hears His Name being used in places and phrases of anything but respect or honor?

The Lord Himself says He “jealously guard[s] [His] holy reputation!” When we read His Word, we can be sure that everything it says about Him is true. And we can also be assured that everything He says He will do is going to be done. Over and over from the Old Testament to the New, we read passage after passage declaring, “He is faithful.” To name just a few: Isaiah 49:7; Psalm 33:4; First Corinthians 1:9; First Thessalonians 5:24; Hebrews 10:23; and First John 1:9.

Our Faithful Father and Savior deserves a spotless reputation because He’s the Spotless Lamb of God. And since He never does anything in any way wrong, the only way He can get a “spot” on His reputation is through the negative examples set by those who claim to be connected with Him—His followers, His people, His children.

Every day your life is helping others form an opinion about Jesus. Do as He does: carefully “guard [His] reputation” by honoring Him with your every word and action.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“How gracious and merciful is our Lord! What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has! Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey Him” (Psalm 111:4b, 9b-10a, NLT).

“How gracious and merciful is our Lord!” Boy, that’s a mouthful! When I think of all He’s done for me and forgiven me, I am astounded that He calls me His own.

“What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has!” The names of God—Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Christ, and many others—are all “holy” and should never be used in any way that isn’t honoring to Him. As I’ve said about “Oh, God!” I say the same about “Jesus!” If you use either of those phrases, you better be calling on the Lord because, otherwise, you’re dishonoring our Savior.

“Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.” Our conversations about the Lord should never be flippant. The more we grow in the Lord, the more we realize what an awesome God He is. Revere—that is, honor and respect—Him. Consciously avoid any thoughts, talk, or behavior that would embarrass His name or grieve Him.

“Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey Him.” I want us to especially note how these two sentences tie together. “True wisdom” comes from having “reverence for the Lord,” and “true wisdom” is rewarded. How do we know we have “true wisdom”? When we choose to “obey” the Lord. And there is no way to disobey the Lord if we truly have “reverence” for Him.

How obedient a child of God are you? Your answer tells you how much you truly have “reverence” for Jesus.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“The Name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NLT).

So much meat on this seemingly little bone. First, note that the word the NLT (New Living Translation) translates as “godly” shows in some other translations as “righteous.” Both words refer to a person who is striving to follow God’s commands and teachings. With that under our belts, let’s look at a couple of other translations and then break down this passage a little.

“A tower of strength is the name of Jehovah, Into it the righteous runneth, and is set on high” (Young’s Literal Translation).

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run into it, and is safe” (AKJV).

Note the word “LORD” in all caps. When you see that, it always means “LORD” has been substituted for YHWH, the letters for what eventually became written as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” Early believers thought God’s name too holy to even speak or write. But that’s another lesson entirely.

Back to the NLT passage. What exactly is a “fortress”? A fortified structure. “A strong tower.” “A tower of strength.” The old hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” opens with this line: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing …” What’s a bulwark? A protective wall. When we are IN Christ, we are within His protective boundaries. However, God’s walls are not a prison. We’re free to come and go and, unfortunately, many believers choose to spend a lot of time outside God’s protection by living contrary to how He says we must. And when we do, we suffer needlessly.

Life has plenty of problems simply because we live in a fallen world. We can lessen those problems by choosing to live righteously.

And speaking of righteousness, today’s passage goes on to say “the godly run to Him and are safe.” Like a runner preparing for the Olympics, those who are walking daily with the Lord are spiritually ready to “run to Him and are safe.” Their situations may not even improve, but God’s peace surrounds them regardless. Those who aren’t spending daily time with the Savior aren’t spiritually able to “run.” Instead, these folks tend to go into panic mode.

Life is lived at high speed. So when it comes to spiritual training, I highly recommend preparing for the Olympics.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don't be alarmed! These things must happen, but they don't mean that the end has come” (Jesus speaking, Mark 13:7, GWT).

War is raging in Ukraine. China is claiming almost zero deaths from Covid while those in the know estimate the death toll at somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 people per day. The U.S. and Japan are preparing to send anti-ship missiles to Marines stationed on Okinawa as what they hope will be a deterrent to China’s and North Korea’s growing threats. And, due to unspecified threats by Al-Qaeda, a worldwide alert has been issued for U.S. citizens traveling abroad. How’s all that for good news?

Scary things are happening. The world seems in chaos. But you know what? God is still in control. He knows everything that’s going on, and He tells us, “… don’t be alarmed!” Or, as He said in Matthew 6:27, “Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying?” While we’re not to stick our heads in the sand like a bunch of silly ostriches, we’re also not to get into a tizzy worrying over things that we have absolutely no control over. Instead, we’re to “Turn all [our] anxiety over to the Lord …” (1 Peter 5:7a).

Let’s say you’re at the beach and you’re standing, watching the waves roll in and out. It’s nice at first, but then you begin to tire, and the sun is starting to beat down unmercifully. Along comes a man who offers you a beach chair with an attached umbrella. “It’s free. No charge,” the man tells you. Do you accept it or keep standing there, baking and growing weary? If your brain’s in gear, you jump all over that offer!

But let’s say you’re one of those folks who’s suspicious of everything. “No, thank you,” you tell him. And you keep on standing there.

Like the man on the beach, the Lord doesn’t force us to accept anything He’s offering, and He will never force you to rest in Him. If worrying is what you want to do, He’ll let you keep right on fretting, while you miss out on wonderful blessings—like the chair for your tired legs and the umbrella to protect you from the heat.

Whatever’s going on in your life, your family, your neighborhood, your country, or your world has certainly not taken the Lord Jesus Christ by surprise. He’s fully aware of everything, including the times we live in. So don’t waste time worrying. Pray, then leave your worries with the One who can handle them.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 11:19, NLT).

You gotta know something to teach something, right? How many conversations have you ever had with your children—including adult children—or your grandchildren or great-grands about the Bible? How many conversations have you had with the Lord about the Bible? After all, prayer isn’t supposed to be a monologue—it’s conversation, two parties communicating with each other.

Your actions speak volumes as to what you believe about the Bible and the truth of Jesus Christ, but your words are also important. Folks, I sincerely believe with all my heart that we are running out of time to get others on board the highway to heaven. If you truly love your family, your friends, your neighbors, you need to be busy telling them what’s ahead.

And how can you tell them what’s ahead if you don’t know? The same Bible that speaks of “the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) also speaks about “the throne of judgment” (Proverbs 20:8). Only those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be standing before that “throne of grace.” All who have rejected His free offer of salvation will be standing before “the throne of judgment.” I pray everyone reading this will be receive His grace. Explain this to your loved ones while there’s still time.

As Jesus said to Paul, so He says to each of us His children: “I am sending you … to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Me” (Paul quoting Jesus, Acts 26:17b-18, NLT).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates 


“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness” (Psalm 130:3-4a, NIV).

What God forgives, He forgets. How do I know this? His Word tells me: “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12, NLT). How far east can you go before you begin going west? How far west can you go before you begin going east? God’s Word clearly shows us that when Jesus Christ removes our sins, it is impossible to retrieve them—they are gone forever.

Matter of fact, you could bring them up yourself and all He’d have to say is, “What sin?” How do I know this is true? Hebrews 8:12: “For I will be merciful regarding their wrong deeds, and I will never again remember their sins” (ISV). And here’s a passage that’s a quote from a wonderful promise found in Jeremiah 31:31-34, where the Lord says: “I will make a new covenant” (verse 31).

That new covenant was written in the blood of the Lamb. At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup and told His disciples, “… this is My blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

That new covenant is in place because Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection means that He entered “… the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12b, NIV).

We who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have “eternal redemption” and have been given the right to “… keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, ISV). We can bring our needs to Jesus anytime, anywhere. We have the awesome privilege of “coming boldly to the throne of grace” only because of the precious blood of Jesus.

“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness” (Psalm 130:3-4a, NIV). Aren’t you thankful!

Let me encourage you to begin 2023 prayed up, ‘fessed up, and ready to serve the Lord will all you’ve got for as long as you’ve got.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


"That whole generation ... died, and the next generation forgot the Lord ..." (Judges 2:10a, GNT).

Amber's mom, Valerie, was brought up and involved in all the activities of the church. As Amber grew to adulthood, she made her own commitment to Jesus Christ. Later, when she married, Jessica came along, and Amber shared her faith with Jessica.

But when Jessica married, she and her husband, Todd, preferred camping on weekends, and church became less and less of a priority in their lives. They didn't entirely drop out of church, but their involvement was mainly showing up on an occasional Sunday morning. When Jessica and Todd's son, Marc, reached college age, he refused to go to church with his parents even on the sporadic occasions when his parents decided to go.

When that happened, Jessica and Todd tried to talk to their son about the importance of church and a commitment to Christ. Marc's reply? "It's never been any regular thing for y'all. And I'm fine without all that church and Jesus stuff."

One generation can lead a family toward heaven or destruction. Whatever you're doing, you're influencing your own generation and the ones coming up after you--your children, your grandchildren, your great-grands. If your participation in church is nonexistent or sporadic, you're sending a clear message that worshiping Jesus Christ isn't important. And if you're a regular churchgoer, your words and actions in and outside the church should exemplify a Christ-like spirit, whether you're talking to your family or total strangers.

Take the slightest peek at the news headlines and it's hard to argue with the probability that our time here on Earth is drawing to a close. Christ is returning for His Bride, and only those who have truly received Him as Lord and Savior will be included. Now's the time to live your faith, share your faith, and do all you can to insure that all your loved ones are a part of His Kingdom.

Further reading: Matthew 6:33; Luke 4:16; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25; Psalm 150:1-6

Copyright 2023
Judy Woodward Bates


“Give in proportion to what you have” (2 Corinthians 8:11b, NLT).

Since our recent studies have included the topic of giving, let me point out that sending money to a TV or radio evangelist is not putting money into “the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) because “the storehouse” is specifically the local church. When there’s a need in your community, it’s the local church who helps out, not the folks on TV or radio.

Is it okay to send these folks money? If the Lord prompts you to do so, then do it. But also do your homework. Know to whom and what you’re giving. Peter Popoff had been around for years and years and, even after being exposed as a complete charlatan, still managed to keep a TV program going and money pouring in, though the writer of a 2017 GQ article notes that when he signed up for Popoff’s “miracle water,” the constant flow of mail he began to receive from Popoff’s ministry always included in big, bold letters: “REMEMBER YOU MUST SOW THE LARGEST BILL YOU HAVE OR THE LARGEST CHECK YOU CAN WRITE.”

I was a young adult when my mom went to heaven, but while she was still with us, she made regular contributions to at least two TV evangelists. These gifts were in addition to her and Daddy’s tithes, and neither of these ministries promised her miracles or prosperity. She simply wanted to have a part in what they were doing to spread the Gospel. There’s no better or less selfish reason for giving.

But first and foremost, give your tithe. If your monthly income is $1,000, give your local church at least $100. The Lord doesn’t expect us to all give the same amount; that’s why we’re told to tithe: “Give in proportion to what you have.”

What may be a drop in the bucket for one person may be a real sacrifice for another. Giving 10 percent, even if your income is minimal, is a way of stretching your faith and allowing the Lord to show you how He fulfills His promises – see Malachi 3:10.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:17, NLT).

A true believer in Jesus Christ has faith, right? So if you already have faith, why do you need church? To answer that question, let’s first take a look at Luke 17:5. Christ’s apostles may not have had the full picture, but they did have faith. Yet what did they say to Jesus? “Show us how to increase our faith.” Seems to me if the apostles who walked right alongside Jesus needed a little help in that department, we might need help also.

Which brings us back to our verse for today. When you attend church, you hear “the Good News about Christ.” Yes, you can read and should read your Bible and pray at home, but your pastor is called and equipped to add to what you are learning at home, and so are the leaders of your Bible study classes.

So guess what? The more you hear about Jesus, the more you learn about Jesus. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you love Him and want to serve Him and live for Him. And part of living for Him is taking the time out of your busy week to worship Him as part of a corporate body of believers.

I can’t count on all my fingers and toes the number of people I dearly love who profess to be Christians but never set foot in church and never contribute a dime toward a church’s financial support. Those same people are now seeing one and two generations growing up behind them and following in their footsteps.

If Christ thought you were worth dying for, surely He’s worth living for. Believe in His church. Visit, visit, visit until you find the one that seems right for you. Then dive in and become an active part of that body. Set the kind of example you want your family to follow.

“… as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her …” (Ephesians 5:25b).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Most of us have heard and read this verse many times: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

There are any number of excuses for not attending church, and let me say up front that I am in no way being critical of those who are physically unable to get out and go. But what about all the other excuses? I want to take a look at three popular ones:

“I’m not getting anything out of it.” What are you putting into it? Do you fly in late and run out during the invitation or do you pray for the service and your own attitude before you get there and for those who are making decisions and asking for prayer?

“Those people are such hypocrites.” Every church has ‘em, but why pull out and let them take over? Instead, be faithful. Set a Christ-like example. Your attitude toward those “hypocrites” may just lead one to a real change of attitude. And remember: you ain’t perfect, either.

“You have no idea how badly someone at church hurt me.” I’ve been insulted in a grocery store parking lot. Did that stop me from buying groceries? Nope. Didn’t even stop me from shopping the very same grocer. Put on your big girl panties (or big boy briefs) and move on, whether that means simply letting go of the hurt and giving it to God or literally finding a different church to serve in. There are plenty of churches to choose from. Don't let a bad experience in one church sour you on all churches.

A recent survey shows that only 20 percent of Americans attend church on any sort of regular basis. And because of the lack of support both in attendance and finances, somewhere around 4,000 churches will close their doors this year alone. What part will you play in keeping your church open or seeing it shut its door for good?

First and foremost, “church” isn’t about US. It’s about HIM. This is our opportunity to set everything else aside and focus on thanking and praising God for His goodness and mercy. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about God’s Word and hear a message of hope and motivation, as well as do just what our passage today tells us: “…encourage one another …” It’s not only about what can be done for you, but about what you can do for others.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


In the past three days, we’ve looked at nine of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. (7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. (8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. (9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances.

(10) Determine to live within your income. Trust God as your Provider and refuse to create credit card or any other unnecessary debt. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11b).

(11) Begin to eliminate all credit debt. Concentrate on paying off credit cards, focusing first on the one with the lowest balance. Romans 13:8a says, “Do not owe anyone anything …” Pay your debts on or before their due dates.

(12) Faithfully tithe to your local church and trust God’s Word for His provision. Like a bucket under a spout, tithing aligns believers to receive God’s blessings. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


In the past two days, we’ve looked at the first six of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff.

(7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. Until you find that perfect fit, just serve wherever and however you can. You’re far more likely to find shoes that fit by trying them on rather than by staring at them through the window. “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

(8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. The day you accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, you volunteered for service in the Army of God. And that means active duty—you’re on assignment: “… in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

(9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances. Everything we claim as our own is simply on loan to us from the True Owner. Commit to follow His guidance in managing all that’s been entrusted to you. Only through the leadership of the Holy Spirit can we properly manage money. “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? You can’t be slaves to both God and money” (Luke 16:10, 12, 13b).

I hope you’ll go back over today’s and the past two days’ studies and evaluate where you stand on the nine topics we’ve covered so far. We’ll wrap up with the final three tips tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at the first three of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. The first three were: (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. And now we come to the next three:

(4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. The Living Word wants you to spend time with Him. Remember that prayer is a two-way conversation; don’t just talk to God—sit quietly and wait for Him to speak to you. “Happy is the man [whose] … delight is in the Lord’s instruction … he meditates on it day and night” (from Psalm 1:1-2).

(5) Attend church regularly. As a member of the family of God, it’s important to spend time with and worship with fellow believers. “… not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other …” (from Hebrews 10:25a).

(6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. According to a survey of 1,050 pastors conducted by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, 802—that’s 71 percent—respondents stated they were burned out and struggled with depression and fatigue on a weekly and even daily basis. There is no end of volunteers to criticize pastors; be one of the rare few who encourage them. “Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a).

We’ve covered half the tips already. Look over them. Pray over them. And I’ll have three more to add tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


As we enter 2023, I want to give you my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Today, I’ll give you the first three:

(1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. God wants more than a relationship; He wants a total commitment. “Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).

(2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. Only when Christ has first place in your life can the rest of your life be in right order. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33).

(3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. If we look at the life of Jesus, we realize that our time on earth is not about personal comfort, but about being a comfort to others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 10:45a).

Voila! You have the first three tips. I hope you’ll mull these over and truly examine yourself to see what areas need the most improvement. I’ll just go ahead and put my hand up and say I need improvement on all three. I’ll have three more for you tomorrow.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


Before we begin a new Bible study, I want to start this year off with a question: What do you believe? I have friends and relatives who are devout Christians, agnostics, and even flat-out atheists—the full range of belief and unbelief. Some of the professing Christians never attend church or talk about the Lord or the Bible, yet they’ll swim a flood-swollen river to get to their grandchildren’s ball game or ballet recital. Folks, if we believe Jesus is the only way to heaven, why aren’t we living it and teaching it?

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” How can we expect the upcoming generations to put their faith in Christ when we aren’t showing them the importance of —let alone the urgency of—doing just that? If we truly believe, it has to matter whether or not our children and grandchildren believe too. If we believe we’ll spend eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ because we’ve put our faith in Him, don’t we realize no one else will get there who doesn’t do likewise? This year, more than ever before, love your children, grandchildren, and all your friends and family enough to tell them the truth about Jesus.

And for those who say “I don’t know what I believe” or “I don’t believe that stuff anymore,” my question for you is: Where do you believe that precious parent or grandparent who put their faith in Christ is, now that he or she is no longer living on this earth?

You can’t have it both ways. Either heaven is real or it isn’t. Before going to the cross, Jesus told His followers, “I am going away to prepare a place for you … so that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2b, 3b, HCSB). If Jesus said it, I believe it. I know it to be true in my heart and in my soul. So many people I dearly love have gone on before me into heaven. When I leave this mortal body, I’ll be with them. I have that promise in writing: Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ “… will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17b, NIV).

But we also need to understand that if heaven is real—and it is—hell is also real. Many a person has asked, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” The answer is: He doesn’t. Jesus Himself makes it absolutely clear that hell is “… the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41b, NLT). So how does a human being end up there? The answer is found in Revelation 20:15: “… anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

So how do you get your name in the Book of Life? By committing your heart and life to Jesus, as in admitting you can’t fix yourself; confessing your need for a Savior; and asking Him to be the Lord of your life. And when you truly do that, your priorities change. Stuff, material possessions, etc. are no longer so important. Making sure the people you love know Jesus becomes an urgent desire or, as the prophet Jeremiah worded it, “… His word burns in my heart like a fire” (Jeremiah 20:9b).

I pray that you and I will use 2023 to live and love more fully like Jesus. I pray that the burning desire of our hearts is to see everyone we know and love come to Jesus. And let’s not stop with those we love; let’s do our part to get the message out to those we don’t even know. To the whole world. You, my friend, are one candle. Light where you are and where you go with the love of Jesus.

Copyright 2023

Judy Woodward Bates


This is the last study in our Through-the-Bible series. Tomorrow I’ll begin a new study. Thank you so much for allowing me to share these passages and thoughts with you this year. I hope you’ll make reading through the Bible an annual practice. May Christ be your total focus in 2023.

Talk about heaven on earth! Revelation 21 opens with a look at the New Jerusalem:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then He said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And He also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be My children” (Revelation 21:1-7, NLT).

God has never and never will create anything bad or evil. Every bad thing is a perversion of God’s intent and purpose. Our Perfect Creator has never made a mistake, and to do away with the earth or all mankind would be to suggest that He had. That’s why we see “… a new heaven and new earth …,” cleansed from the corruption of sin and purified as a dwelling place for Christ Himself and His holy people.

How was the residency of this “… new heaven and earth …” determined? By the records in the Book of Life:

“And I saw a great white throne and the One sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from His presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

Eternity’s a long time, and there are but two choices of destination. I pray you’re ready for heaven!

“‘Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.’ He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’” (Revelation 22:7, 20).


Want a deeper understanding of the Book of Revelation? Order my book, THE BOOK OF REVELATION UNLOCKED, in Kindle (eBook) format or print. Click on the MY BOOKS at the top of this page.

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth” (Revelation 12:3-4, NLT).

Isaiah also speaks of this event: “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! (Or “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”—KJV) You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-13a, 14).

Most Bible scholars agree that, in the Revelation scene above, John not only witnessed what was to come, but also what had already taken place. The dragon, representing Satan, took “… one-third of the stars …”—stars being a term frequently used to refer to angels—with him when he was cast down to the earth. This is the rebellion in which a holy angel of God tried to elevate himself as an equal to God. Satan convinced other angels to join with him and this entire group experienced the warping, the perversion of God’s will and purpose, that sin always causes. Sin changed them from holy angels to unholy demons.

No wonder Satan hates mankind so much! No wonder he hates God so much! While Jesus Christ extends grace and mercy to a humanity who is always flawed and often faithless, angels were not extended such unfathomable privilege. Having seen the splendors of heaven, having seen the very face of God, they chose to turn against Him. And this He would not and will not tolerate.

We’re wading into some deep waters here, but hang with me for a few more minutes. See, even after being cast from heaven, Satan is called “… the prince of the power of the air …” (Ephesians 2:2, NASB). Though barred from the heavenly kingdom, he still has access to the heavens or heaven above the earth’s atmosphere. But John sees the time when all of that is about to change:

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels” (Revelation 12:7-9).

Looks who’s doing the fighting: “Michael and his angels … against the dragon and his angels.” Michael, a holy angel of God, leads the battle against Satan and his unholy minions. Some not-so-bright scholars have suggested that Michael is actually Jesus Christ. How absurd! The Living Word who spoke the world into existence need do nothing but speak again to put an end to a flea like Satan and his army.

The key, my friends, is preparation. Whether Christ returns today or in a thousand years, whether His Bride endures or avoids the time of Tribulation, we need to be prepared for whatever happens next.

And we need to help others prepare. No, we don’t need to scare people into believing by telling them the horrors to come for those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior. We need to follow His example and love them into the Kingdom.


Want a deeper understanding of the Book of Revelation? Order my book, THE BOOK OF REVELATION UNLOCKED, in Kindle (eBook) format or print. Click on the MY BOOKS tab at the top of this page.

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Before we move on to today’s passage, I want to add a couple of important notes about the earlier chapters of Revelation. In Christ’s message to the church of Laodicea, the church largely believed to represent the church of today, Jesus extends this well-known invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him …” (Revelation 3:20a, KJV). Jesus is standing OUTSIDE the church, asking to be let into the hearts of modern men and women. Far too many churches are made up of people who are going through the motions, merely “… having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5a, NIV).

Revelation 4 begins with these words: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven …” (verse 1a, KJV). “After this …” After what? Many Bible scholars believe this is the point at which the True Church is removed, or raptured, from the earth. From this point forward, we see no mention of the church on earth. And John’s perspective also changes—in his vision, he is taken into heaven and looks down upon the things taking place on earth.

Chapters 4 through 19 are mainly concerned with God’s judgment of the world prior to Jesus’ earthly reign. For today, let’s look at this one heavenly scene from Revelation 7: “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:9-12, NLT).

Here again we see the phrase “After this …” After what this time? John has witnessed an awesome heavenly scene, the worship of “… the One Seated on the Throne …” (Revelation 4:9, The Message). In His hand is a scroll—see Revelation 5:1—but it was sealed with seven seals—see Revelation 5:5—and “There was no one … able to break open the scroll and read it” (Revelation 5:3, The Message). John, overwhelmed, burst into tears until “One of the Elders said, ‘Don’t weep. Look—the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree … He can open the scroll …” (Revelation 5:5). And when the Elders said this, John “… looked, and there, surrounded by Throne, Animals, and Elders, was a Lamb, slaughtered but standing tall” (Revelation 5:6). Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, “… the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8b, NIV). Jesus’ birth as the God-Man and His death, burial and resurrection were always God’s plan for man’s salvation.

So who is this “… vast crowd …”? According to Revelation 7:14, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation” (NLT). So either the church endures the tribulation or many unbelievers repent and turn to Christ during this time of horrific persecution. Just prior to the scene of the worshiping crowd, we see “… the seal of God [placed] on the foreheads of His servants” (Revelation 7:3b).

All of this takes place after the sixth seal has been opened and before the opening of the seventh seal. Chapter 11 concludes with “The Twenty-four Elders seated before God on their thrones [falling] to their knees, worship[ing], and [singing], ‘The time has come to judge the dead, to reward your servants, all prophets and saints, Reward small and great who fear your Name, and destroy the destroyers of earth” (Revelation 11:16, 18b, The Message).

A very real time of judgment is coming to this very real Earth on which we live. What are you doing to be ready? What are you doing to help others be ready?


Want a deeper understanding of the Book of Revelation? Order my book, THE BOOK OF REVELATION UNLOCKED, in Kindle (eBook) format or print. Click the MY BOOKS tab at the top of this page.

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


And now we come to the Book of Revelation, with chapters so deep and intense that a full year of study couldn’t do them justice. Note that REVELATION is singular, not plural. John opens this book by saying:

“This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to His servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1-3, NLT).

There is a blessing for reading Revelation. Yes, it’s hard to understand; but the more you read, the more the Holy Spirit reveals to you. Ask Him for wisdom—see First Corinthians 1:30—as you begin to read these chapters.

John then tells us how this revelation came to him:

“I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. It said, ‘Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.’

When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword [see Hebrews 4:12] came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.'

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:9b-19).

John saw the glorified Christ and His appearance was so overwhelming that John “… fell at His feet as if … dead.” The Lord stood amidst “… seven golden lampstands” and “… held seven stars in His right hand …” In verse 20, John is told: “This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels [or messengers] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Many Bible scholars believe each of the seven churches represents a church age, with Laodicea representing the church of today. In Revelation 3:15, Jesus says of Laodicea: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth!”

Folks, now’s the time to make up our minds about serving God. If Christ lives in you, you grow in Him. Jesus isn’t pleased by “… lukewarm …” Christianity. Time is running out. Make it your life’s goal to serve God like never before.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot” (Jesus speaking, Rev 3:15a, NASB).


Want a deeper understanding of the Book of Revelation? Order my book, THE BOOK OF REVELATION UNLOCKED, in Kindle (eBook) format or print. Click the MY BOOKS tab at the top of this page.

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and He has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:5-9, NLT).

John lays it out for us, plain and simple: “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and He has commanded us to love one another …” Where did God tell us to do this? Jesus said it Himself in John 13:34: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Note that the love Jesus is speaking of is God’s kind of love, not conditional human love. We are to love those who don’t love us. We are to love those who are difficult to love. Matter of fact, we are even to “… love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute …” us (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:44, NASB). There is no place in the body of Christ for hatred or bickering or envy.

John also addresses the problem with “… deceivers …,” self-proclaimed preachers who go so far as to “… deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body.” Is it really a big deal to believe that Jesus had a flesh and blood body? Absolutely! Christ died AS man FOR man. He came, lived and died as the Only Perfect Man in order to satisfy the sin-debt of humanity.

Know your Bible and know it well. As John puts it, “Be diligent so that you receive your full reward” because “Anyone who wanders away from [the truth] has no relationship with God.”

I’ve said this a lot lately, folks, but it bears repeating: the proof is in the living. And the living reproduce. How many people know Jesus because of your witness?

“You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 7:16-17).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments. If someone claims, ‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love Him. That is how we know we are living in Him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.’

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. If anyone claims, ‘I am living in the light,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness” (1 John 2:1-7, 9-11, NLT).

We fallible humans mess up. We sin. So we should be continually thankful that “… we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ …” How we access this advocacy? Confess our sins. The indwelling Holy Spirit is God. When we pray, the Holy Spirit hears and delivers our prayers to our Advocate, Jesus, who intercedes on our behalf with the Father, standing in our stead so that we are seen spotless and blameless through the perfection of Christ.

And the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is God Himself, inhabits every true believer, which means that whatever sin a believer commits—in thoughts, words, action, or inaction—is committed in the very presence of God Almighty. How can we possibly think any sin goes unnoticed? If we could only latch onto the reality of God’s constant presence, I truly believe we’d find it a lot harder to mess up.

John moves from the good news of our Advocate Jesus Christ to a warning about people who claim “‘I know God,’ but [don’t] obey God’s commandments …” John tells it like it is: any person who says one thing and lives another “… is a liar …” The proof, my brothers and sisters, is in the day-to-day living: “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”

Some years ago, I heard a prayer request for an elderly woman, a professing believer, who is at the point of death. She and her family had a falling out some years ago and her brothers and sisters would have nothing to do with her, or she with them. I gotta tell you: if you can hold a grudge like that, I seriously wonder if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior. And John point blank says you don’t.

If you have any broken relationships in your life, do your part to try to mend them. As most of you know, Larry and I have no communication with our son and his family; but it absolutely isn’t because of any lack of effort on our part. If you are holding any grudges, confess them and let them go. Close this year and begin the new one with a clean heart and spirit.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight” (2 Peter 3:8-14, NLT).

God’s timing is definitely not my timing. I want everything yesterday. I dislike waiting on anything. Thankfully, the Lord isn’t impatient. But as Peter points out, “… some people think …” that God isn’t serious about bringing this world to an end since He isn’t getting in a rush to do so.

Satan wants us all thinking we have plenty of time to live as we please and then get busy for the Kingdom just before it’s too late. That whole attitude is coming from the wrong perspective. Peter says that because we don’t have a clue when Christ will return for His Bride, the church—me and you—“while [we] are waiting for these things to happen, [should] make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight.”

“… Pure and blameless …” That’s more than innocent do-nothings—that’s hard-working, Christ-like daily living. When I think of Jesus’ words from Matthew 12:36, it really prompts me to check my walk and talk. He says that all believers “… will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (NIV). If our very words will be judged that closely, imagine how our thoughts, actions, and inactions will also be judged.

Are you consciously deliberately seeking to live a peaceful life? Are you careful to examine your walk and talk and make sure your focus is Jesus? If you are, then you can look “… forward to the new heavens and new earth …”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT).

Anyone reading this passage would have to be in major denial to say we’re not living “… in the last days …” Never has there been a time when people are so in love with “… themselves and their money.” Never has there been a time when people are more “… boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful.”

We live by the motto of “To thy own self be true”—phooey on others and their problems. We make a lot of money, but instead of being content, we just want more. We get a new car and we want a better one. Our self-image is all about what we have, not whose we are. And the sad thing is, this is talking about professing believers.

I never thought I’d live to see the day when rejecting Christ and making fun of all things “… sacred” would be absolutely common. I still remember the horror I felt when, years ago, Joan Osborne’s voice blasted through the TV speaker in my hotel room singing (and my apologies to you and to my Lord for even printing this): “What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us …”

I fully expected a bolt of lightning to strike the whole room. I was sickened. And yet poor ignorant lost Joan Osborne was half right: God was one of us! Jesus Christ came to redeem us from our sins and to change us into His likeness.

And we need to realize that God is no more disappointed or upset with Joan Osborne for singing those lyrics than He is by those who sit piously lost in their church pews. Lost is lost, folks, whether you’re lost in church or lost in a back alley crack house.

And while God “… wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), I can’t imagine anything that could grieve Him like seeing His own children behaving as though they weren’t His.

Don’t get caught up in worldly living. Don’t just “… act religious …” Serve God and “… know the power that [can] make [you] godly.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:5b-11, NLT).

The writer of Hebrews opens this passage quoting Proverbs 3:11-12 and then expounds on what it means to be disciplined by the Lord. And here’s what I don’t want you to miss: “The Lord disciplines those He loves …” My Daddy was, in my opinion, the greatest daddy in the world. The fact that he meted out discipline whenever it was necessary didn’t make me love him less, but love him more—just not at the time, mind you. But I learned that any discipline I ever endured was for my own good. I owe a great deal of who I am today to my parents who loved me enough to make me mind them or suffer the consequences, and who lived out what it meant to be believers in Jesus Christ.

But my childhood wasn’t perfect. I ended up with the measles. I got the mumps. Yep, chicken pox too. Gashed my foot wide open on a broken glass bottle while wading barefoot in a stream. Fell off the bed and had to have my chin sewn up. All bad stuff; but were any of these discipline or punishment inflicted by my parents? Of course not!

And neither are all the negative health issues or events in your life the result of God’s discipline or punishment. We live in a fallen world with the prince of darkness roaming around “… looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b). Until Christ redeems all creation and reveals “… a new heaven and a new earth …” (Revelation 21:1a), this world will have problems. Sickness. Diseases. Sorrow. Cruelty. Hunger. Poverty. And on and on the list could go.

Remember not to blame every problem on God. Some of our troubles are totally avoidable and are simply the result of our own poor choices. Others are like my childhood maladies—stuff that just happens.

When your Heavenly Father disciplines you, you know it. You know in the very depths of your being when you’re receiving divine discipline. And if you’re smart, you learn from it. The Perfect Parent only does what is necessary and for our “… own good.”

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today I want to look at one of the scariest passages in the Bible. First I want us to see it in one translation and one paraphrase and then I’ll add a few comments:

“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume His enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us” (Hebrews 10:26-29, NLT).

“If we give up and turn our backs on all we've learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! If the penalty for breaking the law of Moses is physical death, what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit? This is no light matter. God has warned us that he’ll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: ‘Vengeance is Mine, and I won’t overlook a thing’ and ‘God will judge His people.’ Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me” (26-31, The Message).

Can a believer quit on God? I’m merely showing you what the Bible has to say—I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. But here’s the biggest point I want to get across: when Christ saves you, He changes you. Yes, we’re works in progress until we draw our last breath here and first breath in eternity—the operative word there being PROGRESS. We are to grow more and more like Christ and less and less like the world.

Too many people have been to the altar, made their professions of faith, and been baptized without ever having truly received Christ as Lord and Savior. How do I know this? Because the proof is in the living. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20: “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” I made a profession of faith and became a church member at age 10. I was baptized at age 21. I was saved at age 23—and then I was scripturally baptized.

As a young adult, I did all the right things, including teaching classes, but with an emptiness that never went away and with difficulty and exhaustion that I came to realize was because all my efforts were done in my own strength. As Galatians 5:16 puts it, when we “… let the Holy Spirit guide [our] lives, [we] … won’t be doing what [our] sinful nature craves” (NLT). There was no joy in my service because I wasn’t serving God. There was no peace within me because I didn’t have the Holy Spirit inside me.

Be certain you know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Love others enough to tell them how to know Him. There are no “good” or “bad” people—only saved or unsaved; and the same fate awaits all who reject Jesus.

“There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume His enemies.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


I don’t know about you, but I have to write things down in order to remember them. Once Larry and I pulled to the curb and asked a man for directions. As we drove away, we simultaneously asked each other, “Which way did he say to turn?” Neither of us was sure what’d been said.

Far more importantly is remembering what God’s Word says. If your only contact with it is what you hear or read from others, you could find yourself uncertain of what’s really in the Bible. Which is precisely why the writer of Hebrews warns believers to “… listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1, NLT). Back then, nobody had a personal Bible to carry around. Nowadays most people have Bibles on every shelf. But having them on shelves is like sleeping with one under your pillow—your proximity to the Book isn’t going to cause you to learn it by osmosis! The only way to learn the Word is to read the Word.

Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:4 reminding us that our Heavenly Father “… sees what is done in secret …” (NASB). The writer of Hebrews adds: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:13).

We don’t have to confess our sins to another human being in order to be forgiven. We don’t need another person to ask our forgiveness for us—we must ask for ourselves. Hebrews 4:14-16 holds some great news for all believers: “… since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Through Jesus Christ, we can “… come boldly to the throne of our gracious God!” And when we do, we can expect to “… receive His mercy, and … find grace to help us when we need it most.” God is so good!

Speaking of confession, let me add that I’m not knocking Catholic believers. James 5:16 says that we are to “Confess [our] sins to each other …” Having an accountability partner is a healthy way to help keep your life free from habitual sin.

Read the Book. Live the Book. Share the Book.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Peter’s first letter is written “To God’s chosen people who are temporary residents in the world and are scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (from 1 Peter 1:1, God’ Word). And of course, Peter’s message was left for believers of today to learn from.

First Peter includes one of my very favorite passages of Scripture: “… remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites” (1 Peter 1:17a). If you ever feel like you’re not good enough or smart enough or holy enough for God to listen to, this verse refutes all your worries! And to back that up, there’s Romans 3:23, reminding us that “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” (NASB). And thanks be to God, First Corinthians 1:30 tells us that “… Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (NIV). In other words, if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and have direct access to God’s throne. You, child of God, stand on level ground with all who have accepted His free pardon from sin.

So what makes the difference in some people’s prayers? The best answer is a word I have to admit I invented: ‘fessedupness. A person who keeps his sins confessed, as in ‘fessed up, prevents hindrance to his prayers. If you want unobstructed access to your Heavenly Father, make sure there’s no unconfessed sin in your life.

Which brings us to the next part of First Peter 1:17: “He will judge or reward you according to what you do.” Sometimes we live as though the only part of our lives that God sees or hears is the part we share with Him in prayer or the time we spend—supposedly with Him—in church. And that, my friends, is 100 percent wrong.

Your Heavenly Father “… sees what is done in secret …” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:4, NASB). We need to latch onto the fact that there is nowhere that God isn’t. You can’t slip off from Him. You can’t catch Him not looking. You can’t think, say, or do anything that He isn’t aware of. And if the things you think, say, and do are pleasing to Him, “He will … reward you …” If not, you’ve positioned yourself so that “He will judge … you …”

And speaking of our thoughts, words, and actions, Peter addresses married couples, first admonishing wives to show their husbands respect and honor—not necessarily because they deserve it, but because it’s the right thing for wives to do as followers of Jesus Christ. Peter then moves to the husbands: “… you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

You can’t disrespect your spouse and expect the Lord to honor your prayers. Do you praise your spouse or put him or her down? If you don’t want “… your prayers … hindered,” become a blessing to your husband or wife.

And single or married, make sure you practice ‘fessedupness daily.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them. Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive” (Titus 3:1-2, 9-11, 14, NLT).

Seems that Paul has several recurring themes in his messages. As he writes to Titus, he again says to “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers.” Unless a law overrides what you know to be the Word of God, you are to obey it. And if a government official is not a believer, your assignment is to pray for his salvation; if he is a believer, you’re to pray for him as your brother in Christ.

Christians are to “… avoid quarreling.” We’re to “… be gentle and show true humility to everyone.” We’re “… not [to] get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual …” matters. If the devil can keep us focused on everything that’s wrong and nothing that’s right, he’s inflicting a serious wound to the church, damaging it within and without—its effectiveness to minister to those who come inside its doors and its effectiveness to show the lost world that Christ can free people from worldliness and transform them into instruments of peace and blessing.

Shocking though it may be, some professing Christians would rather argue than eat. And they’ve been at it so long that they don’t understand the difference between argument and discussion. I’m all for discussing religious beliefs and differences, but I won’t waste a skinny minute arguing. Search the New Testament and find a place where Jesus criticized or condemned any person into believing. You won’t find it because it’s not there. Jesus LOVED people into the Kingdom and set the example for us to do likewise.

Which is why Paul wraps up with stern advice about “… people … causing divisions among …” believers/churches. He says warn them once; warn them twice; and if they still want to be critical and argumentative, “… have nothing more to do with them.” Nothing unclear about that, is there?

And why does he say we should steer clear of these divisive self-proclaimed believers? Because “… people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.” Note it’s “… their own sins [that] condemn them.” Not me. Not you. Refuse to argue. No one can argue with an empty room. Simply walk away.

Instead of wasting time on petty people and petty bickering, use your time wisely: “… do good by meeting the urgent needs of others …” If we’ll get at it, that’ll keep us all plenty busy.

“Each of us is given a pocketful of time to spend however we may. We use what we will. We waste what we will. But we can never get back a day.” (Roger Wilcox)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do” (1 Timothy 2:1-6, 8-10, NLT).

In this letter from Paul to Timothy, Paul covers several important bases in the passage above. He first says we’re to “… pray for all people.” We’re to “Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” And lo and behold, we’re even to “Pray this way for kings"—or dare I say presidents—“… and all who are in authority …” Turn from criticism OF public officials to prayer FOR them.

Anyone can criticize, but only believers have access through the blood of Jesus directly to the throne of God to intercede for change. First Peter 2:17 reminds us that we are to “Show proper respect to everyone …” and that includes “… honor[ing] the king” (NIV).

Next thing you know, Paul goes all Pentecostal on us – he says we’re to “… pray with holy hands lifted up to God …” We’ll lift hands in a stadium, at a concert, or on a ball field; but when it comes to lifting them in honor of Jesus, the devil has convinced many of us that such a display of emotion would be unfitting or undignified. What’s more important—your image or His? While no one should make a spectacle of himself in worship, neither are we to “… stifle the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, NLT).

Lastly, Paul hits a target that I so wish more pastors had the nerve to address from the pulpit: “… decent and appropriate clothing …” While my swimsuit cover-up may be appropriate for the beach, it’s not something I’d wear to church; but I’ve often seen women wearing outfits that have even less fabric! And when I say this, I’m not only talking about teenagers—I’m talking about the mothers and sometimes even grandmothers of these teens.

Ladies, if you see cleavage when you look in the mirror, so does everyone else who sees you in that outfit. And if you sit down in a dress or skirt that reveals far more than it should, you don’t do this in ignorance. Set a godly example. “For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control” (Philippians 3:17-21, NLT).

Paul’s letters were written to believers, the one we’re looking at today having been written to the church at Philippi. He opens this passage with a plea for the congregants at Philippi to “… pattern [their] lives after …” his. Bold words. I would be terrified to suggest that anyone pattern his life after me. How about you? Yet Paul was so totally submitted to the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, he could confidently tell others to follow his example.

But look at the second sentence in this passage: “… I have often told you before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” Who is Paul writing to? The church. Who is he talking about? Church members. People who claimed to be followers of Christ.

Look at the wording again: “… they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” There would be zero need for the word “… really …” in that phrase unless Paul was referring to people whose speech said one thing while their behavior said another. While claiming to be believers, their “… conduct …” showed otherwise.

Folks, you can hit the church doors every service and still be as lost as the proverbial ball in high weeds. You can have your name on the church membership roll and even teach and preach the Good News of Jesus. But I can tell you from personal experience that none of that means squat unless you know in the very depths of your being that you have repented of your sins and asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of your life. Because only then can you live, teach, and preach in the power of the Holy Spirit. And only then will your eternal destination be heaven.

Your Monday through Saturday life has to line up with your Sunday one. I greatly fear that a big percentage of people sitting in church every Sunday “… are headed for destruction.” I was—until I truly saw the Light. Please make certain you’ve given your heart and life to Jesus.

Let’s live “… eagerly waiting for Him to return …” Are you ready?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:1-5, 8-9, NLT).

Now and always, we who have received the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ have much to be thankful for. Paul says that before we accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, we were “… just like the rest of the world …” Past tense, folks. Now that we know Jesus as Lord and Savior, we’re to be different—sanctified, as in consciously, willfully, set apart to honor and serve God.

Are you serving God? Because Paul also makes it clear in today’s passage that “… those who refuse to obey God” are being controlled by the devil. Can a Christian be controlled by Satan? You better believe it. Until we check out of this world, we’re susceptible to the disease of sin just as we’re susceptible to the common cold.

How do we avoid being played by the devil? Stay full of Jesus. Look back at how Paul describes Satan’s manipulation of humans. He says “he is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” Can a believer “… refuse to obey God”? No doubt about it. I’ve chosen my own way over God’s way more times than I care to admit. And each time I’ve done that, I’ve disobeyed God—ergo, who have I obeyed? The same is true for all of us believers.

We need to stay tanked up on Bible study and prayer. You’ve heard the adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If we expend our time on worldly things, we’re going to think and act worldly. But if we invest in the Kingdom of God, Christ-like words and actions are going to flow from us.

Thank God for His amazing gift of grace. Serve Him wholeheartedly and leave no area of your life in a state of disobedience to the Father.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things” (Colossians 2:18a, NLT).

When I think of “… pious self-denial …,” I think of a woman I’ll call Agatha. Not once do I recall seeing a smile on her face. Not once do I recall hearing her giving anyone a compliment. She was one of the most unpleasant and unhappy people I ever met.

Agatha, a professing believer, never missed a church service, although she came and went with the same sour expression on her face. She firmly believed that complimenting a person could cause him to commit the sin of vanity. She believed that life, like faith, was to be taken seriously and lived sternly. Poor Agatha never realized that she herself had a problem with piety. In her misguided religious fervor, she became what I thought of as the poster girl for “why I wouldn’t want to be a Christian.”

While we’re certainly to take our faith seriously, we’re also to take to heart what the Bible says about the Christian life: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4, AKJV). Believers in Jesus Christ should be the most joyful, encouraging people on the planet!

The second half of today’s focal passage talks of “… the worship of angels …” The craze of angel worship is widespread and dead wrong. Over and over in the Bible we see admonishments not to worship angels. When John fell at the feet of an angel, the angel immediately told him, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you … Worship God!” (Revelation 22:9).

First Peter 3:22 reminds us that Jesus “… has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities, and powers in submission to Him.” Angels are servants, messengers of God. They don’t have the power or authority to do anything of their own accord. They are in total “… submission to …” Jesus. And so should we be.

One and only one Person is to be worshipped, and that Man is Jesus Christ. We’re to worship the Creator and not any part of His creation, including the angels. And we are to worship and live in the joy of the Lord.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Paul and everyone else headed to Rome were shipwrecked during a storm and ended up on the island of Malta. Needing to get warm and dry out, they built a fire; Paul helped collect the wood. “As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, ‘A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.’ But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god” (Acts 28:3-6, NLT).

Isn’t it interesting how quickly people are judged by their circumstance? When the snake bit Paul, he was immediately assumed to be receiving justice for his evil life. But when the snakebite didn’t kill him, the opinion totally reversed—suddenly “… he was a god!”

Just as with Paul and his imprisonments, shipwrecks and beatings, bad things do happen—even to God’s own children. And when we see these things take place, what should we do? Wonder, like the disciples when Jesus healed the blind man, “Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2b). No!

Don’t spend time worrying about what “caused” a person’s difficulty—life causes difficulty! We should pass no judgment whatsoever. What we should do is minister to that hurting person. Second Corinthians 1:4a says that the Holy Spirit “… comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” It’s our job, our assignment.

Remember, too, not to look up to anyone simply because his life looks well-to-do or problem-free. Many a big brick mansion hides a broken heart and pain that no amount of money could ever fix.

Look at people as Jesus looks at them: every one equally deserving of being loved and respected.

“In judging others a man laboreth in vain; he often erreth, and easily falleth into sin; but in judging and examining himself he always laboreth to good purpose.” (Thomas Kempis)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


It all began when Paul arrived in Jerusalem. “… some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him” (Acts 21:27b). Were it not for the swift action of the Roman soldiers, they would likely have killed Paul. But getting arrested allowed him the opportunity to speak to the crowd in the hearing of the soldiers and share his personal testimony about Jesus Christ.

The mob didn’t respond positively to Paul’s message, so the soldiers kept him under arrest and brought him before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council, where he again testified about Jesus. This meeting also ended in an uproar, with a group of Jewish men vowing to kill Paul. This threat prompted the Romans to send Paul to Caesarea where he became the prisoner and responsibility of the governor, Felix.

Acts 24:24 tells us that “… Felix came … with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus.” From the synagogue to the Roman soldiers and even the Sanhedrin, Paul’s arrest gave him unique opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus. Being moved Caesarea gave him access to a whole new audience, including the governor himself.

“After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus” (Acts 24:27). Over that time, only the Lord knows how many Roman officials and their servants were divinely given the chance to listen to Paul’s message. And when King Agrippa and his sister Bernice came to visit Festus, they, too, wanted to hear for themselves what Paul had been telling.

As Paul was speaking, “Agrippa interrupted him. ‘Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?’ Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.’ And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar’” (Acts 26:28-29, 32).

What these men didn’t understand was that Paul was already free! Chains or walls didn’t make him a prisoner. His eternal life had already been guaranteed by his faith in the Lord Jesus. This jail was merely Paul’s new territory in which to spread the message of salvation.

Difficulties are as much a part of life as breathing. And it’s in the darkest moments that even a little light is most appreciated. If you have Jesus, you have the Light of the World. Through good times or bad, shine for His glory. Brighten someone’s day today.

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” (Henry J. Kaiser)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—His church, purchased with His own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out!” (Paul speaking, Acts 20:28-31a, NLT).

How do we “… guard [ourselves] and God’s people” against false teaching? By knowing the Word and by sharing it with others.

Denominational differences are not what we’re to be concerned about—we’re to be concerned about those things that, “… like vicious wolves …,” seek to destroy “… God’s flock—His church …” What sort of things? Anything that can’t be confirmed by the Word of God.

Years ago one divisive evil woman I’ll call Thelma almost destroyed a local church. Stirring up malicious untruths about the pastor’s beliefs and comments, she sought out the weakest members of the flock who would be most likely to buy into her baloney. In one poor man who was in the early stages of dementia, she found her perfect pawn.

As the pastor stood and began his sermon, this man, a pathetic misguided zealot, stood and literally cursed the pastor. Tears streaming from his face, that godly preacher closed his Bible and silently walked out the door, his family trailing behind him.

And the entire church rushed out to apologize and stop him, right? Wrong. Even though the outburst embarrassed and shocked the congregation, far too many had bought into Thelma’s gossip. And in doing so, they had also bought into Thelma’s sin—they were as guilty as she was.

This church, the oldest one in its community, has dwindled to a handful of congregants. One bad apple, folks. That’s all it takes. “Watch out!” From without and within, Satan will use any available—the operative word there being AVAILABLE—person to “… rise up and distort the truth …,” to wreak havoc on a church and its reputation.

The key is knowing the truth. Turn a deaf ear to gossip and know your Bible so that any distortion of the truth can be easily recognized and refuted.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jesus speaking, John 14:6a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive His approval. We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. For even Christ didn’t live to please Himself” (Romans 14:1, 4, 15:1, 3a, NLT).

I grew up in a Methodist church. I married a Baptist. At our wedding, my maid of honor was the daughter of a Church of Christ pastor. When Larry and I bought our first home, we became lifelong friends with our next-door neighbors who were members of the Church of God. One of my closest writer friends is a devout Catholic. Another close friend and former co-worker is a Catholic priest. And I have other friends who are Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians. I could name quite a few more, but you get the picture.

My friends and I can even discuss the Bible and matters of faith without any anger and without any arguing. We all agree that no single denomination has been singled out as “the church.” God never planned on having denominations in the first place—like the Pharisees and their tacked-on legalities, believers allowed differences of opinion to drive them into separate places of worship and factions who have even bloodily fought to destroy one another.

There is no perfect church here on earth. Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, will perfect the True Church, the Bride of Christ, in eternity. But here on earth, the church, being people, is flawed. If for no other reason at all, it’s flawed because I’m a part of it—I know how terribly imperfect I am.

Don’t criticize other churches. Don’t criticize other people. Matter of fact, don’t criticize at all. If you stop, there are more than enough volunteers who’ll pick up your slack, I assure you.

Imagine, if you will, how it sounds to an unbeliever when he hears a professing Christian tearing apart a fellow believer or church. As Paul so wisely says in today’s passage, “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants?” Every true believer is a servant of God, whether or not he worships the way you think he should. It’s God’s job to convict or correct any errors.

Only Satan could have been slick enough to create denominations; to pull the church into warring factions that spend more time tearing each other down than reaching those who don’t know Jesus. Don’t waste a skinny minute slamming someone else’s church. Life is short. Hell is real. People are dying. And we need to use our time to tell them about Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another” (Romans 12:1-2, 13:1-2, 8a, NLT).

There’s a lot of important teaching in today’s passage, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve narrowed it down to three points:

(1) “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Christians are commanded to stop straddling the non-existent fence and take a stand for Jesus Christ. We’re not to imitate the “… behavior and customs of this world …”—we’re to imitate Christ. And that means living in purity inside and out—clean thoughts and clean lives. When you do that, you listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading. “Know[ing] God’s will for you …” isn’t difficult. It’s simply a matter of doing what Jesus would do. And as you serve Him as best you can, He’ll continue to lead you until you find the perfect place to use your gifts and talents.

(2) “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” Some of the crudest jokes and comments I’ve seen in a long time have come from Christians slamming political leaders that they disagree with. Folks, the Bible is clear: whether that person is there by God’s perfect will or submissive will, God allowed him his position of authority. Our job is not to criticize those we don’t see eye-to-eye with; our job is to pray for them. No Christian should present an attitude of unkindness or hatred or resentment toward anyone.

(3) “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another.” Of all people on this planet, believers should be the ones who are the best money managers. After all, it’s God’s money, His blessings, which have been entrusted to us. Stop using credit cards to stretch out payments on things you can’t afford. Whatever you owe, pay it; and pay it on time. And work toward owing nothing “… except your obligation to love one another.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. [So] you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.) What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:1-3, 9, 31 NLT).

With such Good News throughout the pages of the Bible, why are so many professing believers down in the dumps? Statistically, the holiday season is when depression and suicides peak. Here at the time of year when we remember and honor the birth of the Savior of the World, many people find themselves in their bluest state ever. Why do you suppose that is?

I believe it’s planned that way. Ephesians 6:12 plainly teaches that we aren’t in “… a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world” (God’s Word).

By increasing his attacks on believers now, Satan accomplishes a great deal—if we allow him to: (1) He takes our focus off the One we’re to honor. When we’re wrapped up in our own worries, our focus is inward, not upward. (2) He destroys our witness. I mean, if a Christian can’t be joyful during Christmas, who can be? And what can Christianity possibly have to offer if its followers still live in misery?

One of Satan’s favorite weapons is condemnation. Every time a believer seeks a closer walk with the Lord, Satan throws his fiery arrows: “I know you. I know how you used to live. Do you honestly think God can love someone like you? Who are you kidding? Nobody can love a person who’s done the things you’ve done.” On and on he goes until the unprepared believer lies broken and bleeding, dismal and defeated.

How does this happen? By looking back. Lot’s wife (see Genesis 19) was safe until she turned her back on her Savior. As God led them forward, she looked back. That’s all it takes. Why? Because our defensive equipage, “… all of God’s armor …” (Ephesians 6:11), is designed to protect the front! It’s for charging into battle, not running in retreat.

Have you ever thought about this? When you turn your back on God, you expose yourself to the enemy; and his goal is to quash God’s plans and people. Face the enemy and remind him that his efforts are all in vain because Christ has already given you the victory!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 5:1-5, 6:19b-23, NLT).

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you do, you stand in a “… place of undeserved privilege …” God has redeemed you from your sins and brought you into His family. And even though we’re now His children, Paul speaks of us as “… slaves …” Why? Because Christ bought us—bought our freedom—with His own precious blood. What an enormous price to pay, but He loved us enough to pay it.

The day He saved me and the day He saved you, He gave us His Holy Spirit to live within us, filling us with the “… confident hope of our salvation” and the “… strength of character …” to endure “… problems and trials …”

How can we repay such a gift? We can’t. But receiving that gift OBLIGATES us (binds or obliges us morally or legally) “… to do right.” We are to expend our entire lives doing “… those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” And if a professing believer doesn’t? I’d say that person needs to back up and consider whether or not he truly knows Christ as his Savior.

Second Corinthians 3:18 (NIV) says that “… we … are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Jesus Christ is alive and well and He, “… the Lord, who is the Spirit,” lives within each and every believer, continually working to transform us “… into His image …” In other words, the longer you know Him, the more you become like Him.

Does your life focus on Jesus? If not, why not? Now is the perfect time to reevaluate your priorities; put God first in your life; and live as the hands and feet of Jesus ministering to a lost and hurting humanity.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in Him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son. For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith” (Romans 1:8-9, 16-17a, NLT).

While we should express our love and appreciation of others all year long, the Christmas season seems to be the time when we especially take time to do this. In today’s passage, Paul tells the believers in Rome how thankful he is for them. What reason does he give for his thankfulness? He says he’s thankful because their “… faith in [Christ Jesus] is being talked about all over the world.”

Your faith—or lack thereof—is also being talked about. If you’re a strong witness for the Kingdom of God, people see it. And they talk about it. Wherever you go and whatever you do this holiday season and always, honor the Lord in your words and actions.

And consciously do as Paul was doing: “… [spread] the Good News about [God’s] Son.” Can you imagine having the confidence in Christ at work in your life to the point of being able to say “Imitate me”? Paul did. In First Corinthians 4:16 and 11:1 and in Philippians 3:17, he uses those very words: “Imitate me.”

Why was Paul worth imitating? Because he was following the example of the life of Jesus.

Paul had no dependence on his heritage or his education or anything else other than “… the power of God at work …” in him. Paul, a former persecutor of believers, knew that everything he had done had been accomplished by Christ working in him. He knew that all he’d become had been “… accomplished from start to finish by faith.”

How about you? Don’t be “… ashamed of this Good News about Christ.” Live it and tell it.

“… you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27, NLT).

Paul, a dedicated believer and servant of Jesus Christ, went through some really rough times. While many of today’s televangelists would have you believe that giving your heart and life to Jesus means receiving a trouble-free life in exchange, the apostle Paul would beg to differ!

Matter of fact, the Lord Himself would beg to differ. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Who are we going to believe—the name-it-and-claim-it preachers or the Living Word?

I recently heard a prominent seminary professor make a very thought-provoking statement concerning all these professing believers who say their lives are without problems: “If you haven’t met the devil, maybe it’s because you’re both going the same direction.”

Kind of reminds me of the time years ago—before cell phones—when one of my relatives I’ll call Joe got a job in Memphis. He was really nervous about driving there from Birmingham, so my husband Larry offered to drive Joe’s car while I followed in my car. Somewhere along the way, I blew my horn, flashed my lights and pulled off at a service station.

Larry missed that entire performance.

As the miles clicked along and Larry still didn’t see me in his rearview mirror, he decided that I must have passed him without his realizing it. So what does he do? He speeds up, hoping to catch me. Meanwhile, I’m miles behind him, trying to catch up with him! We were almost in Memphis when Larry stopped for gas and we finally reconnected.

Why was it so tough for us to cross paths? We were both going the same way.

When you’re focused, truly living for Jesus, you’re headed in the exact opposite direction of the enemy. And somewhere along the road, you’re going to meet up. Be ready for battle.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20b, NLT).

Margaret had been a Christian since she was a grade-schooler. Now in her 70s, she stood in the hospital room of her husband Charles and watched the life ebbing from his body. A soft knock on the door was followed by the appearance of her pastor, Brother Nelson. Seeing him, Margaret quickly motioned him back into the hallway where she joined him.

“Oh, preacher,” she said, taking the pastor’s hand. “I’m so glad you’re here. I was afraid you wouldn’t get here in time.”

“You mean,” Brother Nelson began, “that the doctors have given up on Charles?”

A tear slid down Margaret’s cheek as she nodded affirmatively. “They say he probably won’t last through the night,” she sniffled. “And I need you to tell him about Jesus.”

For over 50 years Charles had watched Margaret read her Bible, prepare her Sunday school lessons and load her car with food for Wednesday night suppers. But in all those years, not one time had Charles ever heard Margaret ask, “Can I talk to you about Jesus?”

“We …”—not just our preachers and church staff members—have been “… given … this task of reconciling people to [Jesus]. … He gave us this wonderful message …”

So don’t hide it under the proverbial bushel and don’t wait until the eleventh hour. Tell it now. Yes, by all means, tell it through your lifestyle. But tell it in actual words, too. It doesn’t have to be long or flowery or complicated. Just sincere.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you’ve “… become a new person.” And the moment you accepted that invitation to be made anew, you accepted your assignment to tell the “… wonderful message of reconciliation.”

What’s the message? That “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.” Jesus, the Suffering Servant. Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb of God. Don’t squander your opportunities to declare His salvation.

“… we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT).

Larry and I have never lost a child. Even though our son chooses to be estranged from us, we live with the confident hope that God will restore our family the moment Mickey surrenders to Him. But for those parents who’ve gone through the death of one of their children, this is no comparison. We can’t imagine what it feels like to know that, this side of heaven, we’ll never see our son again.

Larry and I, however, have both lost our parents. Whenever we talk with someone who has lost or is about to lose a parent to death, we can truly say, “I know how you feel.”

God can and will redeem every pain that we suffer on this earth. Even the ones that seem absolutely impossible to imagine surviving. At age 14 my young friend Teri was brutally assaulted during a home invasion and endured unspeakable horrors from her captors. When the men were later apprehended, it was learned that they had attacked a number of women in Teri’s community. But not one survivor was willing to testify against her attackers. Only little Teri. She bravely took the stand and told her entire ordeal and sent those men to prison.

But that’s not all she did. She said, “God allowed me to survive this for a reason.” She began a ministry to survivors of sex crimes. What could have killed her spirit, her testimony, and her faith in God, instead, became the catalyst for an enormous outpouring of love and comfort to others.

“God, our merciful Father …,” is indeed “… the source of all comfort.” And He will work through you or around you. Had Teri chosen to bottle up her pain and her story, He would have ministered to those other hurting women without Teri’s involvement—in other words, He would have worked around her. But since she was willing to surrender her nightmare to her Heavenly Father, He was able to work THROUGH her to touch countless lives with peace and comfort.

Whatever your sorrow or negative experience, give it to God and ask Him to use you to bring comfort to others. In doing so, He will overwhelmingly comfort you.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Paul wraps up his first letter to the Corinthians with these important words: “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NLT).

Some years ago on family vacation, we stopped for a boat tour of Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. As we bought our tickets, the guide pointed to a display of small plastic bottles to the right of the gateway. “If you didn’t bring insect repellent, we highly recommend you pick up one of these.” We opted to buy one.

Out on the water, we quickly found out how badly we needed that bug repellent. Biting flies, mosquitoes and gnats descended on us in a thick black cloud. But true to the lady’s promise, my family was bug-proof.

If we’d stayed in our car, we wouldn’t have needed insect repellent. But because we were out in insect territory, we needed protection. Likewise, as believers; until we reach heaven, we’re in enemy territory and we need protection. If we weren’t in a battle, Paul wouldn’t have wasted ink in Ephesians 6 telling us to “… put on the whole armor of God …” (verse 11, AKJV). Daily and moment by moment, we must “Be on guard” against the attacks of the enemy.

Note the progression in Paul’s closing message to the Corinthians. First things first: suit up in every piece of armor—read the entire list in Ephesians 6:10-19. Because when you’ve done that, you’re “… on guard …” and able to “Stand firm in the faith.”

And once you can “Stand firm in the faith,” you can “Be courageous.” You can “Be strong.” Because when you stand in the strength and armor of the Lord Jesus Christ, you know that “No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed” (Isaiah 54:17a, God’s Word). You can “… be bold for Christ …” (Philippians 1:20).

And all that firmness; all that strength; all that courage; is to be tempered “… with love.” We’re to “… do everything with love.”

As we looked at yesterday, “God is love” (1 John 4:8 & 16). And if we’re to be like Him, we must love like Him.

“This is my command: Love each other” (Jesus speaking, John 15:17).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT).

The apostle John gives us some wonderful words to accompany today’s passage: “… anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4:8, 16b). Your commitment to Jesus Christ can be measured by your love level.

The Word of God says that “Love is patient …” Are you patient with others?

“Love is … kind.” Do you display kindness in your speech and actions?

“Love is not jealous …” Do you struggle with envying others?

“Love is not … boastful or proud…” Do you have a tendency to toot your own horn?

“Love is not … rude.” In the rush of the holidays, make certain you’re courteous, regardless of how impolite others around you may behave.

“Love … does not demand its own way.” Be willing to give. It’s not all about me and it’s not all about you.

“Love … is not irritable …” Are you grumpy? Overly sensitive? Easily provoked? “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7b). Give of yourself without complaining.

“Love … keeps no record of being wronged.” Whatever’s been done to hurt or disappoint you, let it go. When Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, He said we’re to pray: “… forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4a). You and I cannot afford to hold grudges.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful …” When you love someone, you don’t give up on them. And that includes loving God. Keep praying and keep believing.

“Love … endures through every circumstance.” Don’t let any person or situation put a damper on your Christ-like love.

“… may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another (fellow believers), and for all people …” (1 Thessalonians 3:12a, God’s Word).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, NLT).

(In order to tell this, I’ve changed the names of all the people.) Many years ago I was with a group of friends who’d gathered to encourage and support a mutual friend, Beth, whose husband Greg, a pastor, had left his family after being caught in an affair with a member of their church. After we’d prayed together, one friend, Melinda, nodded her head firmly and added, “You know, I may have to worry about a lot of things, but this much I know: my husband Nick would NEVER cheat on me!”

I vividly recall Beth’s response. “Melinda, please don’t say that. Say you hope and pray it never happens.”

Why was Beth so adamant about this? Because her husband Greg had stood in the pulpit on multiple occasions and vowed that sexual sin would never have a hold on him. As Beth put it, “It’s as if he told the devil, ‘Here’s the one place you can’t touch me.’ Give it your best shot.”

None of us stand strong except through the power of God. And none of us dare say, “Never.” We need to daily pray for strength to resist temptation. And we need to add to those prayers a lifestyle that avoids tempting situations.

If you’re confiding in a friend, neighbor, or coworker of the opposite sex, cut it out. Find someone of your own gender to talk to.

And take no pride in standing on your pedestal thinking or remarking on those you’ve seen fall. You have zero staying power on your own. You—and I—are one hundred percent dependent on the indwelling Holy Spirit to keep us living in obedience to the Word of God. And He, being God and a Gentleman, isn’t going to force His will on us. He’ll warn us and warn us, but He will also let us know make our own choices.

Stay close to God through daily prayer and Bible reading and a lifestyle that avoids anything dishonoring to Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates