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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.


“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


“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you … When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin …” (1 Corinthians 5:1a, 9-11a, NLT).

Sexual immorality was a problem in Paul’s day and it’s an even bigger problem today—and as Paul makes clear, we’re talking WITHIN the church. The average child becomes sexually active at age 12. Countless adolescents and teens, as well as adults, are caught up in sexting—sending sexually explicit photos of themselves or others via text messages. What has happened to cause this horrendous increase in sexually focused appetites?

Sin. Advertising, yes, but who makes you watch it or read it? TV, yes, but if it’s immoral, why do you have it in your home? We, like Flip Wilson I recently mentioned, can’t blame the devil—we choose what we encourage and exemplify through our lifestyles.

Parents, grandparents, sitters, and daycare workers lounge alongside kids from toddlers to teens and watch soaps, talk shows, and other programs with R-rated sex scenes and hair-raising language. Unmarried adults think nothing of living together. And the fastest growing group of live-togethers? Senior adults.

But lest we forget who we’re talking about, “… I meant … anyone who claims to be a believer …” The example set forth by untold numbers of professing believers is leading the world to believe we’re no different than they are. And guess what? In so many cases, they’re right!

The Bible calls believers “saints”—see Ephesians 1:1 as one of many examples. Saints are “sanctified,” as First Corinthians 1:2 teaches, “… in Christ Jesus and called to be holy …” We, brothers and sisters, have been set apart as the Bride of Christ. Set apart from what? The world. The unsaved. We’re to be different. We’re not here to fit in.

Churches, we need to love the lost who come through our doors, but we need to “… speak the truth in love …” (Ephesians 4:15) when it comes to professing believers who continue in sexual immorality.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction on all of us for our own sins and shortcomings. Pray for all believers to repent and seek to live Christ-like lives of absolute purity.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NLT).

Paul gives a very clear description of immature Christians: They “… are still controlled by [their] sinful nature.” They “… are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.”

Years ago, the comedian Flip Wilson did a comedy skit with the line, “The devil made me do it.” New flash, folks: Flip lied. My Bible tells me that while temptation is a part of living in this fallen world, “God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist” (from 1 Corinthians 10:13, God’s Word). In other words, if you give in to temptation, it’s by choice, not because of irresistible force.

Which brings us back to Paul’s comments about bratty little believers being jealous of each other and fussing and fighting with each other. Is jealousy resistible? Absolutely. If you rebuke envy the minute it raises its ugly head, it can’t grow. Ditto for fussing and fighting. You can’t argue with an empty room. If you can’t keep your mouth closed, simply walk away.

“God … will not allow you to be tempted …” into jealousy or arguing or immorality or pornography or drugs or criticism or overspending or gluttony or any other sin. True, in your own strength, you’re helpless; but when you rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, you have unlimited “… power to resist” any temptation that comes your way.

Think about it this way: If you saw a 20-year-old unable to walk, crawling around in diapers, you’d know something was very wrong with that person. When God sees someone who’s been a professing believer for years and years who knows little more about his Bible today than he did the day he was saved, or who continually finds himself in a tangle of sin, I have to wonder if the Lord sees a genuine believer. Only He knows the answer to that.

But it’s my opinion that becoming a believer means becoming a lover of God’s Word and God’s people. You want to grow in your knowledge of the Bible and you want to spend time in fellowship with the family of God. And you even want to please God more than you want to please yourself.

“It is both dangerous and wrong to substitute personal preference for biblical principle, to place pleasing self above pleasing God.” (Alistair Begg)

“You are only young once, but you can be immature for a lifetime.” (John P. Grier)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy” (Acts 18:24-25a, NLT).

I look forward to meeting Apollos in heaven. Even though Priscilla and Aquila had to add to Apollos’ knowledge of the Good News about Jesus (see Acts 18:25b-26), what he did know he was enthusiastically telling everyone who would listen. And what he did know he taught “… with accuracy.”

All believers need to know the Bible. But just because you can’t quote it word for word from cover to cover is no reason to assume that your responsibility to share the Gospel can be pawned off on someone else. I mean, when your lost friend or relative is critically ill, don’t call the preacher to come pray for him or witness to him until you’ve done so yourself.

What about the “… accuracy” part? Simply tell what you know. Maybe your story’s a lot like mine. I was doing all the right things—going to church, reading my Bible, yet I knew something was missing in my life. Nothing I tried to fill that hole with helped at all. Then one night I sat up praying and God finally got my attention. I realized that my “faith” had been in the things I was doing, not in Jesus. I was still in control of my life. On the outside, things looked great; but on the inside, I was empty. Then and there, I confessed my sins and my need for a Savior. And He answered me and saved me and filled me with His wonderful joy, peace, and presence.

How about you? What’s your story? Who have you told it to? Tell it, and tell it like Apollos—with enthusiasm!

Speaking of which, “enthusiasm” is made up of two Greek words,” EN and THEOS. When you’ve got enthusiasm, you’ve got “God within!”

If Jesus Christ lives in you, tell somebody!

“Enthusiasm is as good a thing in the Church as fire is in a cook stove.” (Billy Sunday)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God … God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live” (1 Thessalonians 4:1a, 3, 7; 5:12-13, 16-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12a, NLT)

Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica are filled with wisdom that comes only from a close walk with the Savior. Paul urges believers to “… live in a way that pleases God …” And then he reminds them that holy living means “… stay[ing] away from all sexual sin”—as if that wasn’t a duh thing. But was it? Is it?

All too frequently I meet professing believers who think that their lives are exceptions to the rule: “I know he’s married, but he and his wife have been separated for a long time.” “Yes, we’re living together, but we plan to get married; and we are going to church.” News flash, people: God’s rules haven’t changed. And sin has earthly and eternal consequences.

Paul issues another important warning in this passage: “… honor those who are leaders in the Lord’s work.” Don’t bad-mouth your preacher. Make it really simple for yourself and just don’t bad-mouth, period. If you have a problem with your pastor or any other person, give that concern to God and let Him deal with it; He doesn’t need your help or your comments.

Which brings us to living “… peacefully with each other.” This, my friends, is a choice. One person can’t argue. Refuse to be the second party that allows differences of opinion to become disputes.

“Always be joyful.” Happiness and joy aren’t the same. Happiness is totally circumstantial. Joy, like peace, is an inward decision. Life may be dealing you some tough material, but the Holy Spirit can still fill you with joy and peace with which to handle it.

So “Never stop praying.” Above all other things, prayer changes YOU. The more you pray, the better you get to know your Father.

Lastly, commit your life to doing good. Jesus Christ will “… give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” And when that happens, “… the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live.”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First & Second Thessalonians

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about” (Paul speaking, Acts 17:22b-23, NLT).

Listen to or watch a talk show and it won’t take long to hear someone say, “I’m a very spiritual person.” Or “I’m deeply religious.” Yet when the poor misguided person attempts to elaborate, it immediately becomes clear that he’s clueless as to exactly who or what he believes in.

Likewise, having Christian parents no more makes you a Christian than having chicken pox makes you a chicken! Your faith has to be YOURS. While Christian parents, other relatives and friends may be great influences to lead you toward a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, you and you alone can make that decision; and you and you alone MUST make that decision.

Jesus Christ is a personal God. He’s the Only True God. Do you truly know the One you profess to believe in? Whether or not you can name a specific date and time, can you look back and recall a precise moment when you knew that you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? I know I sure can. I can’t tell you the date, and I can’t even be exact on the year; but I vividly remember the overwhelming certainty that God had heard my prayer of repentance and faith and had totally transformed me.

We no longer have to leave America to see all sorts of shrines, just as Paul saw in Athens. Matter of fact, we Americans have gotten really good at creating new shrines all the time: our houses, cars, clothes, jewelry, positions of power, and on and on the list goes.

Whatever’s most important to you is your god. Make sure Jesus Christ is first place in your life. And be ready to testify to that fact at every opportunity.

“A good witness isn't like a salesman; emphasis is on a person rather than a product. A good witness is like a signpost. … it has to point the right direction and be able to be understood. We are witnesses to Christ; we point to Him.” (John White)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates



“What is important is faith expressing itself in love. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 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! So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. … the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another” (Galatians 5:6b, 13-15a, 16, 22-23a, 24-26, NLT).

In today’s passage Paul tells us what’s really important in our Christian walk: “… faith expressing itself in love.” Are you a loving person? Does your life exemplify the compassion of Christ? If not, this is a crucial area that must be developed.

How? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “… follow the Spirit’s leading …” Perform deeds of kindness simply because you know they’re the Christ-like thing to do. Do this faithfully and the compassion will come with the doing.

After all, Paul also tells us that the indwelling Holy Spirit produces in EACH AND EVERY TRUE BELIEVER all—not some or one—of these Jesus attributes: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Go over that list of attributes and score yourself on each one. How are those things developing in your life? The Holy Spirit has given you all this; it’s up to you to grow and use these for God’s glory.

With the holiday season upon us, what better way to honor the Savior than to love others as He does?

“A human being … experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion …” (Albert Einstein)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed” (Galatians 1:6-9, NLT).

How were the members of the church at Galatia “… turning away …”? According to Scofield, they were teaching that: (1) a person wasn’t justified/saved simply through faith in Jesus Christ, but that salvation was gained through a combination of faith and obedience to the law (of Moses as handed down through the Jewish religious leaders); and (2) the justified/saved believer was made perfect by keeping the law.

The Galatians added their own personal twist to their church’s teaching on salvation. And when they did, they departed from the truth. Anytime we put manmade rules on the level with God’s commands, we sin.

When we observe the Lord’s Supper, my church serves grape juice instead of wine. Is there anything wrong with that? No. So what about churches where Communion includes wine? They must be wrong. No. Here, as we looked at yesterday, is a place where we need to peacefully go our separate ways. Neither abstaining from wine nor including wine is contrary to the Word of God. The choice is simply a matter of opinion.

Let me put it another way: if your neighbor builds a two-story and your home is one level, is one of your houses more appropriate than the other? No, it’s simply a difference of opinion. Don’t confuse differences of opinion with disobedience to God’s Word. Don’t criticize any person or church or organization that is helping to spread the Biblically accurate Gospel of Jesus Christ. ALL believers are our brothers and sisters. Love them; pray for them; and never criticize or make fun of them—Father doesn’t take kindly to anyone picking on His children, including His other children.

But in order to know what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s opinion and what’s Word, you have to know the Word. Do you?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“After some time Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.’ Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and … went first to Derbe and then to Lystra” (Acts 15:36-40a, 16:1a, NLT).

Where do we first meet John Mark in the Bible? In Acts 12. King Herod Agrippa had thrown Peter into prison, but an angel of the Lord had set him free. Peter “… went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer” (Acts 12:12b). In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he identifies Mark as “… Barnabas’s cousin” (Colossians 4:10). In First Peter 5:13, Peter calls Mark his son (in the faith). John Mark’s mother (who was apparently widowed) opened their home as a gathering place for believers where Mark, the author of the book by that name, heard first-hand accounts from Peter and others who’d been with Jesus.

Suffice it to say that John Mark was highly respected by all the Christians. So much so that he was invited to accompany Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey. However, for reasons we aren’t given, “… at the port town of Perga … John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13b). Paul didn’t want to take a chance on a repeat performance, so when he and Barnabas agreed to make a second trip, Barnabas’s insistence that Mark come along ended up in Paul taking Silas and going in one direction while Barnabas took Mark and went another.

What can we learn from all this? (1) That God’s the God of Second Chances. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement” (see Acts 4:36), gave Mark a second chance to help spread the Gospel. How I thank God for the people who were willing to take a second chance on me! (2) That what Satan intends to do harm, God uses for good—look at Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 50:20. (3) That true believers don’t let disagreements or disappointments stop them from “… teaching and telling the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:42, God’s Word).

Petty people that we can sometimes be, we’ve foolishly allowed controversy to break up friendships; shut down programs; and stop worthwhile ministries. When discord threatened Paul and Barnabas’s plans, they didn’t quit—they agreed to disagree. And so can you. If you can’t work together, pray for each other and work apart!

This life isn’t about little ol’ you or little ol’ me—it’s about leading lost people to Jesus. Don’t let the enemy get you sidetracked.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few …” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 9:37, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2-4, 12, NLT).

Both Paul (see Galatians 1:19) and the historian Josephus identify James as the (half-) brother of Jesus. The other James, who had been a part of the Lord’s inner circle of Peter, James, and John was no longer living: “King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword” (Acts 12:1b-2).

Seems like Jesus’ brother James picks up right where we left off in Acts. Apparently James hadn’t heard the sermons about trouble-free Christian living that today’s name-it-and-claim-it prosperity-promising televangelists love to deliver (which is not to say that the airwaves don’t also include many wonderful sincere preachers of the Gospel). No, James tells us that life on earth is going to involve painful times. Times of minor difficulty and times of—were it not for the Mighty Indwelling Comforter—unbearable sorrow.

Whatever the trouble, though, James says we should “… consider it an opportunity for great joy.” Huh? No, that’s no misprint. What kind of trouble is he referring to? “… when your faith is tested …” It’d be insane to be joyful over a diagnosis of cancer. You’d be stark raving mad to be joyful about losing your job. But to be harassed, made fun of, picked on, and yes, even persecuted for your faith? That, brothers and sisters, is a reason to rejoice! Because “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.”

Most of us haven’t the foggiest notion what it’s like to truly suffer for our faith. But when it comes to abuse and mistreatment in the workplace or elsewhere, I’ve learned that it’s never the mediocre believer who gets picked on. No, it’s always the one who’s serious about what he believes. The one who doesn’t compromise. The one who stands out as pure and wholesome even when those around him are foul-mouthed, dishonest, or disgusting.

But what if the suffering we’re going through has nothing to do with our Christianity being challenged? Are we to be joyful about that? No! We’re to be joyful in the knowledge that we aren’t alone in our troubles. We’re to be joyful that, when this life is over, we “will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

You’ve heard it said that suffering either makes you bitter or better. I think Oswald Chambers said it much better: “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it is not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person … the one who accepts the call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Are you going through a rough patch? If so, what’s it doing to your attitude? Your spirit? Your mouth? I pray that you’ve fully submitted yourself and your situation to the loving hands of the Lord Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra preaching the Gospel when “… some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up …” (Acts 14:19-20a, NLT).

Nowhere in the Bible does God promise believers a problem-free easy life here on this earth. Nowhere does He say that those who faithfully preach the Gospel will be able to avoid troubles, either. Matter of fact, what does He say?

“You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are My followers” (Jesus speaking, Mark 13:9).

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (Jesus speaking, John 16:33).

But I’ve only given you part of Jesus’ words in both those passages. Yes, He said in Mark 13:9 that believers would be beaten and arrested for their faith—I’ve been to China and talked face-to-face with those who’ve suffered horrendously because of their faith in Jesus. Was there any Kingdom purpose in allowing such things to happen? Again, yes! Jesus said, “… this will be your opportunity to tell them about Me” (Mark 13:9b).

And look back at John 16:33. Jesus says our earthly lives will include lots of difficulties. But that’s not all! He tells us: “… take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b, NASB). If you belong to Jesus, you share in that victory!

The only way to a problem-free life is eternal life through faith in Jesus. Meanwhile, we go through long and short periods of trouble. Sickness. Loneliness. Job loss. Rebellious children. Aging parents. Unfaithful spouses. The list goes on and on.

But when we look with eyes of faith, we can see that every struggle is an opportunity. An opportunity to trust God more fully. An opportunity to cease our self-reliance. An opportunity to show others that our faith holds up in the face of trials.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” (Albert Einstein)

“Perhaps God brings us to the end of our resources so we can discover the vastness of His.” (Neil Anderson)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. ‘You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!’ they said. Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. ‘I was in the town of Joppa,’ he said, ‘and while I was praying, I … saw … something like a large sheet … let down by its four corners from the sky. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of small animals, wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’ ‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’ ‘But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. … we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’ ‘As I began to speak,’ Peter continued, ‘the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as He fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?’ When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life’”
(from Acts 11:2-18, NLT).

When Jesus came, He came for all mankind. When He died, He died for the sins of all those who would believe in Him as God’s Only Son. The Jews knew the Messiah would come through their people. Throughout the Old Testament, they were told of Jesus’ coming and mission, a mission in which they were to share:

Isaiah 42:6: “… you will be a light to guide the nations.”

Isaiah 49:6: “I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 60:3: “All nations will come to your light …”

Still, knowing all this, they didn’t like Peter fraternizing with Gentiles—until they realized this was God’s intention. Change is never easy. It had to be one awkward gathering the first time the Jews and Gentiles got together. Kind of like the first time a person who looked or talked or was in any other way different walked into your church.

Are you welcoming of those who are not like you? The Jews had a long-standing history of separation from all other peoples; and yet Peter’s testimony about God’s salvation among the Gentiles was enough to turn those early Jewish Christians from criticizing to praising.

As my Mama always said, “You’re as good as anybody and better than nobody.” Share the Gospel with whomever and wherever you have opportunity.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


In today’s passage we see the conversion of Saul, who became known as Paul. (For the sake of consistency, I’ll stick with the name Paul.) Devout persecutor of followers of “The Way” (Christianity), Paul was dedicated and dead wrong. So while Paul was on his way to Damascus, the Lord got his attention:

“… suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:3b-5, NKJV).

What was a “goad”? It was a sharpened stick that was used to keep for control when driving a troublesome ox or donkey. In addition to a hand-held version, rows of pointed goads would sometimes be placed behind the harnessed oxen to keep the animals from kicking with their back legs. To make contact with a goad was to feel pain.

God told Paul that what he was doing was “… kick[ing] against the goads.” Paul had been doing what he was doing ever since he’d heard of this Jesus movement. He saw no reason to change. Why? Because he hadn’t looked at the evidence that showed there was a need to change. knowing the Scripture and knowing that the Messiah was to come, Paul fought against the very One in whom he and all Israel supposedly placed their hope.

Have you ever found yourself kicking “… against the goads”? Sometimes we do something a certain way simply because that’s the way we’re used to doing it. That’s the way it’s always been done. And sometimes it gets harder and harder to keep on keeping on. Why? Could be it’s time for a change.

The Lord has many ways of getting our attention and one way is to allow us to become uncomfortable or even miserable in what we’re doing or how we’re doing whatever we’re doing. Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now.

How do you know if it’s the Lord trying to get your attention? Look at the evidence. Read His Word. Fervently pray. He’ll show you what needs to change—whether it’s you or the work that you’re doing.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Great stuff into today’s passage. We first meet Stephen in Acts 6. The disciples needed reliable men to help with the distribution of food among the believing widows. Acts 6:3, 5 says that they chose “… seven men … known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom,” one of which was “… Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit …” (NLT).

In today’s passage we see him boldly testifying before the high priest that Jesus is the Messiah. For this, they stoned him to death—see Acts 7:57-60.

Who was right there watching the whole thing? “Saul, … and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” (Acts 8:1a). Saul, who becomes known as Paul, watched this fearless saint martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. Surely this was one of the glimpses of God that led him toward his Damascus Road experience—see Acts 9.

What effect did Stephen’s stoning have on the church? “A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1b).

That which was intended to kill the church strengthened it! The believers scattered to other areas and carried the Good News with them. And they didn’t merely carry it in their hearts—Acts 8:4 says that “… the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.”

And not all the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. Acts 8:5-6a records that “Philip … went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear …”

New believers were sprouting up faster than kudzu as Philip preached to bigger and bigger audiences. Clearly Philip was destined to have his own mega-church and TV hour.

Amazingly, though, that’s not how God chose to use him. Instead, at the height of his preaching success, an angel of the Lord appeared to Philip and sent him out into the desert! Go figure. You work and work to build a name for yourself as an evangelist and you get sent off to Podunkville.

And while Philip was there, he got to preach to one single solitary soul. One. No throngs. No packed pews. Just one Ethiopian guy headed home from Jerusalem. The Scripture says he was “… the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the … queen of Ethiopia” (Acts 8:27).

Philip, obedient to God, left his booming ministry and hit the dusty trail. And at the appointed time and place, he led one man to the Lord who was able to carry the Gospel back to an entire country.

Don’t worry about the size of your ministry; remember the size of your God. And trust Him to do great things in you and through you as you obey Him.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12a, NLT).

And because of these miracles, (1) “… more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women” (Acts 5:14); and (2) “The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy” (Acts 5:17).

How did the religious leaders respond? “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail” (Acts 5:18).

But the Lord intervened: “… an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, ‘Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!’” (Acts 5:19-20).

The high priest and other leaders were stunned to learn that the apostles were no longer in jail but were right back in the Temple preaching just as when they’d been arrested in the first place. They had the apostles re-arrested and brought “… before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. ‘Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in [Jesus’] name?’ he demanded” (Acts 5:27b-28a).

“But Peter and the apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority’” (Acts 5:29).

“When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. Then he said to his colleagues, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! … my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them’” (Acts 5:33-35, 38-39a).

Difficulties, opposition, and confrontation didn’t stop the apostles from doing what they knew the Lord had called them to do. And neither should any of these things stop you. If you’re doing a work the Lord has given you, no one or nothing will be able to stop you. Stand firm and keep on keeping on.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


”All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47, NLT).

The early Christians devoted themselves to:

(1) “The apostle’s teaching” – Many of the early Christians knew the Old Testament, but the New Testament was in the process of being written. Meanwhile the apostles were passing along everything Jesus had taught them.

(2) “Fellowship” – They spent time with each other. It wasn't a matter of showing up for church and then going their separate ways. They became a family and they treated each other accordingly.

(3) “Sharing in meals” – The early believers pooled their resources and ate together, “including the Lord’s supper.” People who had little were willing to bring what they had and share it with others and people who had plenty generously brought much to these communal dinners.

(4) “Prayer” – The early church members spent their time in prayer. Prayer wasn’t a five-minute chore. It was a joy. It provided the strength they needed and helped to build the bond of love the believers shared.

What was the result of these believers’ faithfulness? (1) “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” (2) They all enjoyed “the goodwill of all the people.” (3) “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”

While most churches today are thrilled to see one person come to faith in Christ each year, the early church was seeing miracles. They were seeing new believers come into the fellowship every day.

If you and I began to pattern our own lives more closely to those of the early Christians, what would change in our personal lives? What would change in our churches?

New believers “… were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all” (Acts 2:41).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus has been crucified and has risen from the dead. Seven of the disciples had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing. As dawn arrived a man on the shore instructed them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They obeyed and were rewarded with an enormous catch of fish. John immediately realized, “It’s the Lord!” (John 21:7, NLT) and Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore ahead of the boats.

Jesus served them breakfast—don’t skate over that detail. You have to meet the physical needs before you can work on the spiritual needs. These men had been out all night and were probably ravenous; so Jesus took time to fill them with physical food before moving on to the spiritual.

Remember, just before Jesus was crucified, Peter had denied even knowing Him. Now here he was, face to face with Him. The two seem to have had a private conversation at this point. Since the English language has one word that means “love,” we miss the depth of this passage, so I’m adding the original language to show where the words AGAPE (the all-encompassing love of God) and PHILEO (the love of a friend) were used.

“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you AGAPE Me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘You know I PHILEO You.’ ‘Then feed My lambs,’ Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: ‘Simon son of John, do you AGAPE Me?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘You know I PHILEO You.’ ‘Then take care of My sheep,’ Jesus said. A third time He asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you PHILEO Me?’ Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I PHILEO you.’ Jesus said, ‘Then feed My sheep’” (John 21:15-17, NLT).

What do we see in this exchange? Peter honestly tells Jesus that he hasn’t grown to have the agape kind of love that Jesus has. Jesus, instead of putting down the guy who’d already denied even knowing Him, says in essence: “Peter, if friendship love (phileo) is truly the best you’ve got to offer, I’ll take it.” And then He entrusted Peter with the awesome opportunity to follow Christ’s example and “… feed [His] sheep.”

If you want to be a strong witness for the Kingdom, you must give Jesus your best. And that means being willing to meet the physical needs of not only your brothers and sisters in Christ, but those who have yet to know Him.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus had been arrested, mocked, tormented, beaten, and crucified. His dead body had been removed from the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb. The women had gone to the tomb on Sunday morning and found the tomb to be empty! And an angel had told them, “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there” (Matthew 28:6-7a, NLT).

And see Him they did: “… the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. Jesus came and told His disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16, 18-20).

Jesus rose from the dead with a message for all His followers: “Go and make disciples …” and “Teach [them] to obey all the commands I have given you.” Literally, Jesus said AS YOU ARE GOING.

Going where? About your daily business. As you are at work. As you are at home. As you are at school. As you are at the shopping center. The grocery store. The dentist. The doctor. The gym. The salon. Even church!

We, my brothers and sisters, we, not just the eleven disciples to whom Jesus appeared in our passage today, have been entrusted with the greatest news ever announced: Jesus saves!

Who have you talked to about Jesus today?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Pilate said to the people, ‘Look, here is your King!’ ‘Away with Him,’ they yelled. ‘Away with Him! Crucify Him!’ ‘What? Crucify your King?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shouted back. Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by Himself, He went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they nailed Him to the cross. Two others were crucified with Him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. And Pilate posted a sign over Him that read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it. Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, ‘Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’ Pilate replied, ‘No, what I have written, I have written’” (John 19:14b-22, NLT).

Who’s shouting, “Away with Him”? “… the leading priests …” The religious elite were the ones who led the crowd in shouts of, “We have no king but Caesar!” And at that, John tells us that “… Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.” Even though the Jews, living under Roman authority, couldn’t personally issue a death penalty, Pilate loaned soldiers to the Jewish leaders to carry out the crucifixion that they so desperately wanted to take place.

But even seeing Jesus on the cross in the horrible throes of His final agony didn’t give the religious leaders the relief they’d hoped for. Because there, emblazoned in every major language was His title: “The King of the Jews.” And nothing they said to Pilate convinced him to change what had been written. The truth was there for all to see.

“The King of the Jews” suffered and died for me and you. As Christmas approaches, focus on Whose birthday we’re to celebrate. And remember not only the Beautiful Baby, but the Suffering Savior who “… came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Jesus speaking, Mark 10:45b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus has been arrested, mocked, tormented and beaten. He’s been humiliated before the religious and political leaders. Mark tells us how Pilate presented Him to the people.

“Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual. ‘Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asked them, ‘Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’” (Mark 15:6-13, NLT).

Influenced by the religious leaders, the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus. Scripture records that even Pilate could clearly see “… that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.”

Have you ever envied anyone? I have. But I’ve learned that envy gives me a very one-sided and negative view of whomever I’m jealous of. This was the same problem the religious leaders had concerning Jesus. They knew the Scriptures. They knew that Jesus fit the prophecies concerning the Messiah. But envy blinded them to everything except finding a way to eliminate the Man who was stealing their limelight.

When you think of the word ENVY, I hope you’ll keep this in mind: N.V.—NO VALUE. Envy is N.V.—no value. Envying anyone or anything has no value. It doesn’t honor God and it doesn’t advance His Kingdom. Follow Barney Fife’s advice and nip it in the bud the minute you sense it creeping into your spirit.


Copyright 2022

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. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. 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. But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father” (John 15:1-8, NLT).

Repetition is a teaching method. Jesus used the same key words over and over throughout this passage in order to drive home to His listeners in the Garden and to those of us who read His message today their significance. We see that the word “… remain …” or “… remains …” is repeated seven times in this passage. Why?

To emphasize the importance of our sticking to Him. At this critical juncture in His ministry, knowing He was nearing the cross, He wanted the disciples to grasp this lesson. And He wants us to latch onto it, too.

Also note that He uses the word “if.” “… if you remain in Me …” Can a believer walk away from his faith in Jesus or is the Lord referring to those like Judas who serve Him temporarily and with no real faith? Those are answers the Holy Spirit will have to speak to your heart. The big point here is that you should never treat your faith as something that no longer requires anything of you.

News flash, folks: all you were required to do wasn’t taken care of the day you accepted Him as Savior. The requirements for your life BEGAN the day you made that commitment. No, nothing you do can make you more “saved,” but what you do definitely determines how seriously you take your commitment.

Imagine planting watermelon seeds. Some produce absolutely nothing. Some produce watermelons the size of peanuts. What would you say about that batch of seeds? They were bad. They weren’t any good. They weren’t productive. When a professing believer produces no fruit for the Kingdom, what does Jesus say about such a person?

“When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples” (John 15:8a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end. 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, drying them with the towel He had around him. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.’ ‘No,’ Peter protested, ‘you will never ever wash my feet!’ Jesus replied, ‘Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.’ Simon Peter exclaimed, ‘Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!’ Jesus replied, ‘A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.’ For Jesus knew who would betray Him. That is what He meant when He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’ After washing their feet, He put on His robe again and sat down and asked, ‘Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them” (John 13:1-17, NLT).

Just before the Last Supper; just before His arrest; Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. Why? Because He wanted to teach them a vital lesson.

Note the timing of the foot washing. Jesus didn’t wait until Judas had left the room. No, He washed the feet of the very one who betrayed Him. Oh, my brothers and sisters, if we could grasp an inkling of what He wanted us to see in this picture! We are to humble ourselves not only before the Lord but before others. We aren’t to care only for our family of faith—we’re to care for the unloved and unlovely.

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Jesus speaking, Luke 6:31, 35b-36).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The disciples have shared the Last Supper and the Lord Jesus has instituted Holy Communion. He has told the disciples what was about to take place—His arrest and crucifixion—and that they would desert Him when it happened. Peter, of course, passionately responded, “Even if everyone else deserts You, I never will” (Mark 14:29, NLT).

All four gospels record Jesus’ warning to Peter: “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 14:30).

Peter couldn’t believe what he was hearing from Jesus! “’No!’ Peter declared emphatically. ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will never deny You!’ And all the others vowed the same” (Mark 14:31).

But what happened? Armed men entered the garden to arrest Him, and Matthew 26:56b tells us that “… all the disciples deserted Him and fled.”

John 18:15 shows us that two of those who ran away didn’t stay hidden: “Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard …” Without identifying himself by name, John shows us that both he and Simon Peter were present at Jesus’ mock trial before the high priest.

Luke 22:54 doesn’t mention John at all, but simply notes that “Peter followed at a distance.”

And following “… at a distance,” my friends, is how Peter got into so much trouble. He first denies having been with Jesus and the other disciples. Then he denies being a disciple. And finally he says of Jesus, “… I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” (Mark 14:71).

Sin is always progressive. Sin, like an evil seed, grows. Being from the South, I think of kudzu—or as my daddy rightfully called it, mile-a-minute. Ignore a tiny shoot of kudzu and you’ll have a yard full in no time. The only way to get rid of it is to dig it out root and all. Likewise with sin.

As you stay close to Jesus, the fire of the Holy Spirit burns brightly in your heart and life. But if you allow even the smallest sin to go unconfessed, that sin serves as one step of separation from Jesus, spiritually cooling the fire of passion for God’s word and God’s service. And that one step away makes it easier to take another and another and another.

If you’re experiencing spiritual coldness, it’s time to turn back to the Source.

“Do not put out the Spirit's fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed Me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite Me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give Me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit Me.’ Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?’ And He will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:31-46, NLT).

James 1:22 speaks directly to the lesson Jesus was driving home in today’s passage: “… don't just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” In other words, don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk. If a person’s walk and talk don’t match up, there’s a strong possibility that there’s a goat in the sheep pen. And while he can fool many or all the people, he can’t fool God for a single heartbeat.

Our actions, attitude and behavior reflect the condition of our hearts. When any person is lacking in compassion, Jesus Christ who is Compassion Incarnate isn’t enthroned in that heart. Can a person be truly saved and still lack compassion? New believers, like newborn babies, need time to grow and learn; but anyone who’s been a professing believer for years and still exhibits little or no compassion may need to back up and reexamine his commitment to Christ.

True enough, as Ephesians 2:9a plainly words it, “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done …” because if it were, salvation could be earned through works, good deeds. And that’s impossible. Why? Because if Christ’s death was anything less than full payment for all who will believe on Him, then His sacrifice was in vain.

Works don’t get you into heaven, but they are a natural response to a supernatural change in your life. When the Holy Spirit is in charge of your life, you absolutely ooze compassion! On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your compassion level?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 24:45-51, NLT).

“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.” Pastors are certainly to feed Christ’s sheep. But don’t think for one skinny minute that all that responsibility is on their backs. It’s also on yours; and mine. If we are to fulfill what God has called us to do, we must be busy reaching the lost with the Good News and serving our fellow believers. The one who does this work will have “… done a good job …” and “… there will be a reward.”

“But what if the servant is evil …”? Can a servant of God be a partyer, a drunk? I believe any person is capable of sin, but I also think that the Lord Himself clears up any doubt about the condition of the person he’s referring to: “The master will … assign him a place with the hypocrites.” In other words, he won’t be entering heaven.

Why “… with the hypocrites"? Why not simply say “with the lost”? Jesus was making an emphatic point that there are many, many phonies among God’s people. Satan has done a superb job of convincing people that being in church or being baptized or going to confession gets you a ticket into heaven, when the fact of the matter is that NOTHING gets you into heaven except the blood of Jesus.

Without sincere repentance and true faith in Jesus Christ as the Sacrificial Lamb of God, no person will ever spend eternity with Him. Be absolutely certain that you know Jesus in your heart and not merely your head.

And if you’re a pew-warmer, get up and get busy. “The fields are already ripe for harvest” (Jesus speaking, John 4:35b) and “... night is coming, and then no one can work” (Jesus speaking, John 9:4b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch” (Jesus speaking, Mark 13:34-37, The Message).

After Jesus was crucified, He appeared to His disciples, blessed them and gave them the Great Commission. Afterwards, “… He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19b, NIV). Jesus represented Himself as the “… man who takes a trip …” in the Mark 13 passage. Jesus Christ, God in the Flesh, returned to heaven and left His followers, His servants, “… in charge, each assigned a task …”

The day you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was the day you were called into service. And service, by the way, isn’t what you sit through on Sunday morning—it’s what you do with your life every day.

What did Jesus leave? Most translations say “… home …,” which is a poor translation of the actual word He used. A more appropriate wording would be “… leaving His family …” The God-Man Jesus Christ left His family to return to His Father and to “… go and prepare a place for [us] …” (John 14:3, NASB). And He left us, His family, “… in charge …” with specific assignments for each one of us.

He also commanded “… the gatekeeper to stand watch.” Who is this referring to? Certainly to pastors and evangelists, but to all Christian leaders. The more we know, the more accountability we have to share the Good News and warn the lost that the time to repent is before Christ’s return.

“You don’t want him showing up unannounced …,” do you? Your friends, your family, your co-workers, your neighbors, and every person God places in your pathway needs to know that Jesus is coming back for His Bride, the church. Are you telling them?

Don’t be “… asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“While Jesus was in the Temple, He watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Luke 21:1-4, NLT).

There is so much more in these four verses than any casual glance will ever show us. First of all, what was being given? “… gifts …” Not tithes. What’s the difference? The tithe is ten percent of your total pre-tax pre-expenses income. It’s a requirement, a command of God.

And Jesus said in Luke 17:9, [The Master] doesn’t thank the servant for following orders” (God’s Word). Yet in the area of tithing, we are promised a blessing for obedience—see Malachi 3:10.

But what are “… gifts …”? Financially speaking, this is what’s given in addition to the tithe. And unlike the tithe, this isn’t required giving; it’s giving for the sake of expressing your love and gratitude. To whom? To whomever the gift is given. And when a financial gift is given to the church, it’s to express to the Lord how thankful you are for His love, faithfulness and goodness.

The “… poor widow …” was clearly a tither or she couldn’t have given a gift. And her gift was so extravagant that Jesus pointed her out to the disciples, saying, “… this poor widow has given more than all the rest … For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she … has given everything she has.”

Second Corinthians 9:7 describes how we should give, just as this precious widow did: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (NASB).

I believe the widow Jesus saw in the Temple was doing what she’d done many times before. She didn’t know Jesus would be watching. She didn’t expect anyone to be impressed by her giving. She simply wanted to love on the Lord.

And she knew she could trust Him to provide her needs. I see her coming to that Temple just like coming to a dear Friend’s house. She felt comfortable; she felt safe; she felt loved. She had peace about where her next meal was coming from and whatever other need came along.

How about you? How many times have you refused to give because “money is tight"? When are you going to trust God enough to give Him the first of your income? Hey, if you’ve really trusted Him with your eternity, how can trusting Him with your money (which is already His – see First Corinthians 6:19b-20a) be so hard?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a King who prepared a great wedding feast for His Son. When the banquet was ready, He sent His servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come! So He sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests He had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized His messengers and insulted them and killed them. The king was furious, and He sent out His army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And He said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, He noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. ‘Friend,’ He asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. Then the king said to His aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:1b-13, NLT).

In this parable, Jesus explains how the Jews were first invited into the Kingdom of God, but “… refused to come.” Their refusal, however, to be “… a light to the Gentiles …” didn’t close the door for non-Jews. Why not? Because God’s plan never fails.

As the guests gathered at the banquet, the King saw “… a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding.” Asked to explain himself, “… the man had no reply.” And the King had him cast “… into the outer darkness …”

All this over improper clothing? What did it mean? In Jesus’ time, it was customary for the wedding garments to be provided by the host. If someone was sitting at the wedding banquet improperly clothed, it was through no fault of the Host, but due to the fact that the person was an uninvited guest.

You can trot in and out of church until you draw your last breath. You can get your name on all the church rolls you please. But nothing but a genuine faith in Jesus Christ gets you an invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb. God can spot an imposter from much farther than a mile away and He won’t allow them at His table!

God the Father invites all who will to come to His Son, the Bridegroom. And all who accept the invitation become a part of the Bride, His church. As Revelation 3:5a words it, “All who are victorious will be clothed in white.”

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Many people did believe in Him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders” (John 12:42a, NLT).

Is it possible to be a secret disciple of Jesus Christ? I know believers in Communist countries who, to the uninformed, might be called secret disciples; however, the truth of the matter is that they aren’t silent about their faith. In fact, even at risk of their very lives, they use every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. No, being a secret disciple is being no disciple at all.

So what was the problem with “… the Jewish leaders …” who believed in Jesus? “… they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God” (John 12:42b-43, NLT). I’ve said it a thousand times, folks: life is about choices. And my Bible says we have to choose—see Joshua 24:15.

Jesus Himself said, “Everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). I think Jesus made Himself quite clear, don’t you?

So what about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus? Were they believers? The proof was the day of Christ’s crucifixion when both “… acknowledge[d] publicly …” their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. John 19:38-39a tells us that “… Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus …” How much more public could these men have made their professions? Two religious leaders asking for the body of the Man whom their own people had demanded crucified.

It’s impossible to truly know Jesus and for that fact to remain a secret. Nicodemus couldn’t stay silent and neither can you. If you’re embarrassed to talk “church” or Bible around your family or co-workers or friends, maybe you need to re-think the whole idea of where your faith lies. Because if it’s in Jesus, you’re not going to be ashamed to tell others you love Him and believe in Him.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …” (Romans 1:16a, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“A Nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned King and then return. Before He left, He called together ten of His servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for Me while I am gone.’ But His people hated Him and sent a delegation after Him to say, ‘We do not want Him to be our king.’ After He was crowned King, He returned and called in the servants to whom He had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested Your money and made ten times the original amount!’ ‘Well done!’ the King exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested Your money and made five times the original amount.’ ‘Well done!’ the King said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’ But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid Your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because You are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t Yours and harvesting crops You didn’t plant.’ ‘You wicked servant!’ the King roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t Mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit My money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ ‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’ ‘Yes,’ the King replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away” (Jesus speaking, Luke 19:12-26, NLT).

Much like the parable of the talents we find in Matthew 25, Jesus tells about a King going away and entrusting what is His to be wisely invested by His servants. Upon the King’s return, He finds a servant who has multiplied ten times that which the King entrusted to him. Another has seen his holdings grow to five times what he’d been given. To both of these servants, the King says, “Well done!”

But to the third servant, the one who did absolutely nothing with what the King entrusted to him, He says, “You wicked servant!” And then orders, “Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten …” To the other servants’ protests, He responds, “… to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”

There are several ways to look at the King’s conclusion, but suffice it to say that the Lord gives nothing to be used for nothing. Everything He’s blessed you with, He’s entrusted you with. And He expects you to do something with it. The Christian life isn’t passive; it’s active. What are you consciously intentionally doing to reach others with the love and message of Jesus Christ? What are you consciously intentionally doing to help your fellow believers at home and across the world?

“God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!’ The blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He healed them. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David.’ But the leaders were indignant. They asked Jesus, ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ ‘Yes,’ Jesus replied. ‘Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give You praise’” (Matthew 21:12-16, NLT).

There were a lot of activities going on in the Temple, but none of them were God-honoring. What was the problem? The money changers were swapping regular money for Temple money but at a rate that was exorbitant. This is totally my imagination, but let’s say people were handing over one-dollar coins and getting quarters in return. The people coming to the Temple had no choice but to use these money changers and the religious leaders were fully aware of how the people were being taken advantage of, yet did nothing to put a stop to it.

Likewise for the dove sellers. Those unable to bring a sacrifice with them had to buy it at the Temple. Plenty of people who did bring sacrifices were told by the priests that their sacrifice was unfit, which forced these people to buy “acceptable” sacrifices from the sellers in the Temple. The sellers and religious leaders were getting rich off the people who came to worship.

Infuriated with the dishonesty and commercialization He saw within what was supposed to be His Father’s House, Jesus handled business in order. He cleansed the Temple of the evildoers and then He began to heal “the blind and the lame …”

And who got the glory? “… even the children in the Temple [were] shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David.’” When God’s at work, no human gets the credit—it’s all about Him.

Jesus Christ wants to see His Father’s House pure and holy, fully dedicated to its Owner. Wonder what Jesus would do if He walked into some of our churches today? Wonder what He’d do if He walked into your house today? If you're His, He's already with you in the form of the Holy Spirit. What does He think as He looks at your life today?

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Jesus called [His disciples] together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45, NLT).

“But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 19:30, 28a).

Developing a servant mentality requires going against everything this world teaches. While commercials, articles, books, and many motivational speakers—including some so-called preachers—tell us we’re to be successful; have whatever we want; drive the best cars; live in the finest houses; and blow others out of the water with our accumulation of material possessions. Jesus said the exact opposite!

In many Native American cultures, it’s considered a disgrace to have more than any other of your family members, including very extended family. In Jesus’ teaching, ditto! We’re not to flaunt what we have. In fact, we aren’t to even have to the point of ridiculous abundance. Yes, meet your needs. Yes, fulfill a few wants. But stop obsessing on having more stuff and start looking at how you can live on less and do more for others; because until you start thinking like that, you aren’t like Jesus.

Having spoken in a lot of churches and attended seminary, I’ve become acquainted with a lot of pastors and I’ve learned that the truly great ones are the truly humble ones. They don’t let their “success” in the ministry turn them into religious snobs. They don’t use their success to pile up material wealth but to launch new ministries and quietly behind-the-scenes bless countless people.

If you’re struggling financially, hang in there; wisely manage what God’s entrusted to you; and trust Him to provide. If you’re doing well financially, be an equally wise manager and use that excess to help your brothers and sisters in the faith and to reach those who don’t yet know Jesus.

“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: ‘Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank You, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give You a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NLT).

Notice who Jesus told His story to: “… some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people” (The Message).

One man came in and used what he was considering prayer to blow his own horn aloud. The other man came in and humbled himself, caring not one bit what anyone thought of his behavior or his confession—he was confessing his need for forgiveness to the only One who could forgive him. No long flowery speech. No excuses. Just complete humility.

But let’s look back at the Pharisee, the religious leader, for a moment. Did he realize what a holier-than-thou snob he’d become? I don’t think so. He’d been in a prominent position and looked up to for so many years that he just assumed his righteousness.

Sometimes we church folks of today can do the same thing, can’t we? We look over at Sue who rarely hits the church doors and we silently give ourselves a gold star for not being like Sue. Jim sits in Bible class and asks a question that a 5-year-old would have known the answer to. Again you give yourself a point—when it comes to the Bible, you know a thousand times more than Jim.

We just love to compare ourselves with others, don’t we? But who are we supposed to compare ourselves to? Jesus. And when we do that, we come up short every time.

Be careful not to give anyone the impression that you’re a religious snob. Make eye contact with those you pass in church and elsewhere. Smile. Greet them. Your face is a reflection of the condition of your soul. What is it telling others about your spirit?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out … Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. ‘What are we going to do?’ they asked each other. ‘This Man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow Him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in Him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.’ Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one Man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world”
(John 11:43-44a, 45-52, NLT).

Jesus raises a dead man to life and the religious leaders fall down and worship Him, right? Wrong. They make one of the most ridiculous statements ever spoken; “If we allow Him to go on like this …” These deluded holier-than-thous actually believed they had enough power and authority to control Jesus.

What were they so worried about? “… the Roman army will come and destroy our Temple and our nation.” Was that really what they were so concerned about? Maybe. But I suspect that plain ol’ jealousy had a lot to do with their hatred of Jesus. They were accustomed to being the revered ones and now someone was outshining them and even pointing out—horror of horrors!—these leaders’ faults. And they didn’t like it one bit.

Caiaphas, however, reminded them that it was One Solitary Man—not the whole Jewish nation—causing such a stir. If anyone was going to be blamed for trouble among the Israelites, it was Jesus. And if anyone was going to “… be destroyed,” it was going to be Jesus. As Caiaphas prophetically stated, “… it’s better … that one Man die for the people …”

And that He did. Jesus took on the blame of all sin for all time. “… not only for [Israel], but …” for all people of all races and nations who would believe on Him as the Son of God.

Do you believe? It has been wisely said that there are 18 inches between heaven and hell—the distance between having head knowledge and having heart knowledge of Jesus. Knowing of Him and knowing Him as personal Lord and Savior are two completely different animals; one leaves you lost and one means you’re saved. Unsure? The proof is in the living. Your life exemplifies the one you serve.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Jesus speaking, Luke 16:9b-13, NLT).

What’s the purpose of having money? To meet your own needs, to fulfill some of your wants, and “… to benefit others …” Most of us have gone so far beyond fulfilling a few wants until every dime we can scrape together goes toward fulfilling another want. And another. And another. Where’s the money to “… benefit others …”? “We just can’t afford to help right now.” How many times has that statement come out of your mouth? Yes, there are times when you don’t feel led to give, but if you’re listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you know when you’re to give and you know to be obedient. If He says, “Give,” He will meet your every need even if He urges you to give away your whole paycheck. God is faithful.

But it’s back to what I’ve talked about so many times: positioning. When we aren’t even “… faithful in little things …,” we certainly aren’t going to “… be faithful in large ones.” And when we’re “… dishonest …” at all, we’re “… untrustworthy …” And why should the Creator of Heaven and Earth trust someone who’s “… untrustworthy …”? The answer is, He won’t.

God is your Supplier, your Jehovah-Jireh. And if you trust Him to meet your needs, then you trust Him to guide you about giving. You tithe in obedience to His Word and you give offerings above and beyond the tithe because you know you can trust your Provider and you know that your obedience in these areas positions you to be blessed with heavenly abundance. A loaded bank account? Not likely. But an abundance of what you need and the peace that comes only from living to bring honor to the Father.

Who’s your master—Jesus or money and material things? Whichever you expend the most time and energy on is your real master. Money and stuff won’t last, but the love of the Lord Jesus Christ will carry you right on into eternity.

If your priorities have gotten a bit mixed up, now’s the time to straighten them out. Tell the Lord you want Him to be the First Love in your life and then follow through with a lifestyle that backs up your commitment. You’re gonna make your Father very proud of you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28-30, NLT).

In case you haven’t noticed, life is a very serious project. And we “construct” a great deal of our lives through the choices we make each day. Jesus emphasized the importance of “… count[ing] the cost …” Yet in our society today, that’s something we’re constantly being told not to think about, let alone worry about.

Sure, you can handle a $900 a month house payment, but for how long are those payments? If you were 35 when you bought the house, do you really want a 30-year mortgage? Do you want to be 65 years old when your house is paid for? Don’t just consider what it’s going to cost you in the present, but also how long it will continue to cost you.

Which brings us to the major point of Jesus’ statement. What had He said before His “… count the cost …” statement? “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. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

There is a cost for following Jesus and He says you should realize that up front and weigh your decision carefully. Becoming a Christian isn’t just walking a church aisle or praying a prayer of faith or submitting to believer’s baptism. It’s committing anew EVERY DAY to live for Jesus. It’s committing to, like the “good Samaritan,” put others’ needs ahead of your own. It’s about dying to self so that Christ and Christ alone lives and works in and through you.

People of today have great difficulty just counting the cost of their financial decisions. What about the cost of unfaithfulness to your spouse? What about the cost of unfaithfulness to your Savior? How many people do you know personally or have seen on TV who were once all about serving the Lord and then one day that’s over—they’re back in the world and giving the impression that living for Jesus is something they can take or leave. No big deal. Doesn’t necessarily have to last. Just a phase they were going through. I pray that none of us reading this today ever gives anyone the idea that living for Jesus is less than a life and death decision, because that’s exactly what it is.

Before you make any decision, “… count the cost …” Determine for every area of your life to reflect and honor Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, He’s the one to fear. What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Jesus speaking, Luke 12:4-7, NLT).

The phone rings and we receive word that a family member, church member, or friend has been in an accident or diagnosed with a terrible disease. What do we do? Start praying! And that’s the right thing to do. But why is that when we look around us and see the millions of people who are suffering from terminal lostness that we don’t feel that kind of urgency to pray for their salvation? If we could only get a real grasp of the truth of eternal life, our prayers lives would drastically change!

And we worry, don’t we? We worry about crime around us. We worry about all sorts of things. And we sometimes even think that God doesn’t take an interest in one little ol’ person’s individual needs. Yet what does Jesus tell us?

“… the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” For some folks, that wouldn’t take a lot of counting, but God even remembers the hairs that used to be there! Just as Jesus said about the sparrows, “… God does not forget a single one of them.”

You are so loved! And so should you love. Pray. Pray for the sick. Pray for all the needs you know of. But make your prayer priority to pray for the salvation of those who have yet to come to Jesus.

“… I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, He’s the one to fear.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ 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?’  

'Jesus replied with a story: ‘A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’’ Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ Jesus asked. The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same’” (Luke 10:25-37, NLT).

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a familiar story to most believers. But sometimes its familiarity is what causes us to skate over it rather than carefully study it. When the religious leader asked Jesus, “… what must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked for one reason: “… to test Jesus …” And Jesus’ response was to tell him the parable, using “… a despised Samaritan …,” a Jewish mixed-breed, as the good guy.

What was the point of making the Samaritan the hero of the story? You’ve heard me say this a zillion times and ways: positioning. Jesus was teaching that it’s not WHO you are, but WHOSE you are. It’s not your money or title or anything else that causes you to be used of God or blessed of God. It’s your positioning. Only a person who is submitted to God’s will is positioned to be used by God and blessed by God.

The Samaritan was willing to set aside his own plans to care for the needs of a total stranger. And not only did he expend his time and energy on this man, he also spent his money.

Jesus says, “The world is your neighbor.” And those who love with His love show mercy indiscriminately. Who will you share His love with today?

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Luke 10-11; John 10:22-42

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So for the second time [the religious leaders] called in the man who had been blind and told him, ‘God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.’ ‘I don’t know whether He is a sinner,’ the man replied. ‘But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!’ ‘But what did He do?’ they asked. ‘How did He heal you?’ ‘Look!’ the man exclaimed. ‘I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples, too?’ Then they cursed him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this Man comes from.’ ‘Why, that’s very strange!’ the man replied. ‘He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where He comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but He is ready to hear those who worship Him and do His will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this Man were not from God, He couldn’t have done it.’ ‘You were born a total sinner!’ they answered. ‘Are you trying to teach us?’ And they threw him out of the synagogue.

‘When Jesus heard what had happened, He found the man and asked, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man answered, ‘Who is He, sir? I want to believe in Him.’ ‘You have seen Him,’ Jesus said, ‘and He is speaking to you!’ ‘Yes, Lord, I believe!’ the man said. And he worshiped Jesus. Then Jesus told him, ‘I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’ Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard Him and asked, ‘Are You saying we’re blind?’ ‘If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,’ Jesus replied. ‘But you remain guilty because you claim you can see’” (John 9:24-41, NLT).

Jesus gave sight to a man who had been born blind and, naturally, the religious leaders went into a tizzy, questioning the man and even going so far as to call Jesus “… a sinner.” When the man who’d been healed was thrown out of the synagogue, Jesus went to him and told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

This was said in the hearing of the religious leaders who immediately responded, “Are you saying we’re blind?” Jesus answered them, “… you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”

Every person must confess his spiritual blindness and ask the Light of the World into his life. Until he does, he is guilty. Guilty of every sin he’s every committed and, most importantly, guilty of the sin that will condemn him for eternity: rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior.

There is no darkness more severe than that of spiritual blindness. My job, your job, is to lead the lost to the Light.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning He was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and He sat down and taught them. As He was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger. They kept demanding an answer, so He stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then He stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more’” (John 8:1-11, NLT).

Every Bible scholar would love to know what Jesus “… wrote in the dust …” that day. If you’ll allow me a bit of imagination here, let’s say the accusers—“the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees”—were a group of five men, ranging from 30 to 75 years of age.

The oldest, Azel, looks in horror as Jesus begins writing, “Stole money from his grandmother.” “He knows!” Azel’s panicked mind screams. And then the list grows longer, with Azel identifying himself with every line Jesus’ finger scratches into the dusty soil.

Azel becomes silent, but the others “… kept demanding an answer …” from Jesus, so He told them, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” Then He’s right back at it, writing in the dust as this time Jeuel, the youngest member of the group, chokes back a cry as he sees Jesus begin a list of sins that looks all too familiar to him.

His face crimson with humiliation, Azel drops the stone he’d held clinched in his fist and stumbles through the crowd away from Jesus; Jeuel quickly follows suit. The others, who by then have also seen themselves in Jesus’ list of accusations, flee right behind the first two.

Would you have wanted to be one of those guys? The very thought of Jesus showing a list of my sins to me alone—let alone to a whole crowd of people—is too horrifying for words. But praise His Holy Name, because of what He did for me at Calvary, He remembers my “sins no more!” (Hebrews 8:12, NASB).

Now if we could just let go of other people’s sins the way Jesus has let go of ours. When it comes to looking at other people’s wrongdoings, there’s no better advice than what we find in today’s passage: “… let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” That sure disqualifies me. How about you?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 18:15-17a, NLT).

Today’s passage includes a very serious topic: how to handle it when “… another believer sins against you.” Before we look at that aspect, though, why do you think Jesus didn’t include instruction for when an unbeliever sinned against a believer? Because we need to understand that unbelievers are totally different people from believers.

Anyone who knows Christ as Lord and Savior is, according to Second Corinthians 5:17, “a new creation.” Not so for those who don’t know Him. So stop getting so bent out of shape when unbelievers act like unbelievers.

But what about a believer who wrongs another believer? We’re to tell everybody we know what happened, right? Wrong. And right here’s a good spot to add that we should NEVER bad-mouth believers or churches to unbelievers. Churches are the family of God; don’t air the family’s business to outsiders.

So when a believer wrongs another believer, we’re to “… go PRIVATELY and point out the offense.” And I may interject here what I firmly believe is a given in this situation: we’re not to go anywhere or do anything until we have prayed and thought things through. As shocking as it may be, the other party might not be the one in the wrong.

Let’s say you’ve prayed and thought and are certain you’re the wronged party. What then? Do as Jesus said: “… go privately and point out the offense.” And in doing so, choose your words carefully so that you are as inoffensive as possible. Then, “If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” Meaning that you’ve not only salvaged a friendship; you’ve helped that person restore right fellowship between himself and his Savior.

But let’s say he denies the whole thing. That’s when you let everybody know how rotten he is? No, that’s when you “… take one or two [fellow believers] with you and go back again …” to talk to that person. And if that doesn’t work, you then involve the church. You speak with your pastor or another trustworthy person of authority within your church and ask them to help resolve the situation.

First and foremost, pray. Pray for wisdom. Pray for a peaceful resolution. And remember the words of Romans 12:18: “… as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve disciples over to Him, and said, ‘Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.’ Then He put a little child among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes not only Me but also My Father who sent Me. If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck” (Mark 9:35-37, 41-42, NLT).

Jesus’ teachings are totally different than the world’s, aren’t they? While the world tells us to succeed at all cost—no matter who we have to run over or run down in order to do it—Jesus says just the opposite: “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

And Jesus didn’t just teach this kind of servanthood; He lived it. Likewise, we are teaching by our examples. Which is why Jesus told His disciples, “… if you cause one of these little ones who trust in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.” The life you live as a professing believer either draws people to Jesus or repels them. And for those who are new to the faith, “… these little ones …” are especially vulnerable; be sure that your words and actions are encouraging them to grow closer to the Lord.

Can a person with a servant heart be successful on the job? Absolutely!

But a far more important question is: how successful are you at your mission? Because if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, the most important job you have is that of reaching others for the Kingdom.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9:28-62

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“When they (Jesus and His disciples) arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged Him to touch the man and heal him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid His hands on him and asked, ‘Can you see anything now?’ The man looked around. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.’ Then Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly” (Mark 8:22-25, NLT).

So many great lessons in these four short verses. First, how did the blind man get to Jesus? “… some people brought …” him. This, folks, is the job of every believer: to bring to the Savior those who need Him. Will all come? No. But we are to bring all who will.

Once they got the “… blind man to Jesus,” what did these people do? “… they begged [Jesus] to touch the man and heal him.” Never neglect and certainly never underestimate the power of intercessory prayer. Do you have a prayer list? If not, why not? I can’t go to the grocery store for four items and come back with the correct things unless I write down what I need. Write down what you need to talk to the Lord about; and be sure to include: (1) whatever you need to confess and ask forgiveness for; (2) praise for Who He is; (3) thanksgiving for all He’s done and is going to do; (4) the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of others; and (5) your own needs.

What happened when Jesus touched the blind man? “… he could see everything clearly.” Knowing Jesus opens our spiritual eyes so that we see the entire world in a whole new Light.

Physical blindness is a terrible affliction, but spiritual blindness can have eternal consequences. If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, He’s healed your spiritual blindness. Thank Him!

“Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped” (Isaiah 35:3-5, NASB).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 16; Mark 8; Luke 9:18-27

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked Him, ‘Why don’t Your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.’ Then He said, ‘You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others’” (Mark 7:5, 9-13, NLT).

In Jesus’ time some Jews used a manmade custom called “corban” to avoid providing for their aging parents. An adult child could say any of his money that would be used to care for an elderly parent had instead been dedicated to the Lord, making it unavailable to spend on the parent. No timeframe was set for presenting this money to the Temple, so it was not necessarily ever given, but merely verbally promised in order to slide out of the obligation to care for the parent.

As Jesus told His listeners, this was “only one example among many others”—places where the Jews “cancel[ed] the word of God in order to hand down [their] own tradition.”

Churches and individuals need to be careful to adhere to the word of God and not to allow themselves to stick to anything simply because it’s tradition. “That’s always the way we’ve done it” is not a good reason for continuing something that may even be contrary to Scripture.

Know why you personally—and your church—believe what you believe and do what you do.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


As does Matthew, Mark and Luke, John records Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 (which was the count of adult men—this didn’t include their wives and children who were also present). John’s is the only account that tells us from where the five loaves and two fish came that Jesus chose to use in His miracle:

Andrew tells Jesus, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9, NLT). Notice the boy’s name is never mentioned and that three of the four Gospel accounts don’t even mention the boy’s existence. I can guarantee you one thing, though: this young fellow is known by name in heaven! It’s not about getting your name in print or being seen or getting credit—it’s about submitting your life and all you claim as your own to the Lordship of Jesus.

This young man gave all he had to Jesus. The result of his surrender was that thousands and thousands were fed. Are you beginning to see the real picture here?

When your life and all you call your own is surrendered to Jesus, not only will your own life be provided for—“…they all ate as much as they wanted” (verse 11)—but many other lives will also be touched through what you allow the Lord to work in and through you.

And it just keeps getting better. “After everyone was full, Jesus told His disciples, ‘Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.’ So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets …” (verses 12-13a). What the boy allowed Jesus to use fed the assembled throng and went on to provide for even more.

Did that young man expect his offering to be used in a miracle? Most likely, he wanted to see that Jesus got to eat, even if it meant giving up his own lunch for that to happen. You can’t begin to imagine how much God can do with your fully surrendered life. Step out in faith and get ready to see His power like never before.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


In today’s passage, all three writers record Jesus walking on water and feeding the 5,000. Let’s take a look at Mark’s account of the latter miracle:

“Late in the afternoon His disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.’ But Jesus said, ‘You feed them.’ ‘With what?’ they asked. ‘We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!’ ‘How much bread do you have?’ He asked. ‘Go and find out.’ They came back and reported, ‘We have five loaves of bread and two fish.’ Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, He kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves!” (Mark 6:35-44, NLT).

The disciples had no clue how to feed the huge crowd that had followed them and Jesus out to this remote place. But what did Jesus tell them in response to their suggestion to “Send the crowds away so they can … buy something to eat?” Jesus said, “You feed them.”

Don’t miss what happened next. Jesus asked them to take an inventory of what they had. And they came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” Not much, considering the crowd was likely in the 10,000-20,000 range or even larger. Did Jesus need this bread and fish as “starter” for His miracle? NO! He needed the disciples to see that He could do anything with anything that was fully submitted to Him.

People often ask me how I got started as a speaker or writer or TV personality. I always give them the same answer: “If God can give speech to a donkey (see Numbers 22), He can use me.” Folks, it’s not about ability—it’s about availability. It’s not about having a ton of resources or talents—it’s about totally surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Jesus.

Give Him all your life. Fully submit and commit to serve Him and watch Him do miraculous things in and through your life.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you love your father or mother more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 10:39-40, NLT).

Whatever you love more than God is your god. Jesus plays second fiddle to no one. Are you to love your parents? Deuteronomy 5:16 says you certainly are. What about your children? Psalm 127:3a says that “Children are a gift from the Lord.” However, no one or nothing is to take precedence over Jesus.

But what about taking up your cross? What does that mean? To answer that question, let me first pose another one: what was the purpose of a cross? It was an instrument of death. Paul said in First Corinthians 15:31b, “I die daily” (NASB). Every day every believer should make the conscious decision to die to self – put aside selfish desires – and take hold of the opportunities the Holy Spirit places before him.

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” As we’ve looked at before, the Heavenly Father tells us in Jeremiah 29:11a, “For I know the plans I have for you …” (NIV). The Bible doesn’t focus on the fact that God knows OUR plans. He knows them, for sure. But our plans aren’t what’s important. Only when our wills are totally given over to His can we know real life, real fulfillment, and victory in Jesus.

Do you wonder what you’re here for? Do you hate your job? Is there an aching emptiness inside you? If so, first make sure you know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9-10 says: “… if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (NASB). Until you know Jesus, nothing in your life can bring you peace, joy, contentment and purpose.

If you’re sure Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, then it’s time for a checkup. Is there any area of your life that isn’t fully surrendered to His Lordship? Now’s the time to confess that for what it is – sin – and give it to Jesus. If you’re unfulfilled in your work, start praying for the Lord to lead you to what He would have you to do. He’ll either lead you to a new job or change your heart about the one you’re already doing.

Wondering what your purpose is? It’s to glorify God, regardless of your job, age, status or anything else. Use every gift and talent and moment He’s given you to bring Him honor.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey Him!’” (Matthew 8:23-27, NLT).

“That evening, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus along in a boat just as He was. Other boats were with Him. A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. But He was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke Him up and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to die?’ Then He got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, ‘Be still, absolutely still!’ The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm. He asked them, ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?’ They were overcome with fear and asked each other, ‘Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (Mark 4:35-41, God’s Word).

This passage from Mark 4 is one of my favorites. In it Jesus tells His followers, “Let’s cross to the other side.” So here they go, obeying the Lord and what happens? Even with Jesus right there with them, they find themselves in a storm.

That’s life, folks. Even with Jesus with you, you sometimes find yourself in a storm. But the great thing is you’re not alone—He’s with you. And He’s even placed other believers around you who are going or have gone through tough experiences of their own and can now tell you how the Lord took care of them.

In today’s passage, we see Jesus calm the storm. Yet in John 6, Mark 6, and Matthew 14, we see Jesus coming to His followers THROUGH the storm. Sometimes our greatest troubles or sorrows are the times when Christ seems the nearest. Why is that? Because these are the times when we’ve given up dependence on all but Him.

Believers, we’re all headed for “the other side.” Trust Jesus to go with you and take you to your eternal destination.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 8:14-34; Mark 4-5

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Please take the time to read today’s entire passage—so much great teaching! I pulled out this one gem:

“One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear Him: ‘A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!’ When He had said this, He called out, ‘Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.’

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. ‘This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest’” (Jesus speaking, Luke 8:4-9, 11-15, NLT).

Jesus explained to His disciples that the seed of the Gospel was to be sown, regardless of the response. Just as in the parable, some people—those “… on the footpath …”—will reject the message. Others will temporarily embrace it, but “… fall away when they face temptation.” Others will momentarily accept it and then let worldly desires— “… the cares and riches and pleasures of this life”—take precedence over the things of Jesus Christ. And then there are those who will “… cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest” for God’s glory.

Your responsibility, child of God, is not to sort out the saved and not saveds—it’s to tell the Good News, to sow that seed of the Gospel. How many people have you told about Jesus?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” (Jesus speaking, Luke 11:9-13, Amplified Bible).

The passage above teaches us at least two very valuable lessons: (1) Be persistent. Don’t give up. The Amplified Bible makes the meaning of Jesus’ words so much clearer as we see that everything He said was about keeping on keeping on. Larry and I are fervently praying for the salvation of many friends and family members. This is far too important to pray about and then drop. We must keep on praying. And (2) realize that what the Heavenly Father wants to give us most is more of Himself, the Holy Spirit. God desires to give us His very best if we will only align ourselves through repentance, trust, and faith to receive His blessings. The deeper your walk with the Lord, the more the Holy Spirit expands and fills your life as you surrender more and more areas to His Lordship.

Note that Matthew 7:11 is similar to Luke 11:13; but look at the difference in the wording: “… how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (NIV). Some people read this passage without looking at the Luke passage and assume it to mean stuff, material possessions. While the Lord may choose to bless you with material things, His greatest desire is to bless you with the things of His Spirit.

Another misunderstood and often mis-preached (if there is such a word) passage is John 16:24, where Jesus says: “… ask, and you will receive …” (NASB). Ditto for John 15:7: “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (NLT).

Doesn’t Jesus mean what He says? Yes! But in order to understand the Word, we have to know the Word—the Living Word Jesus Christ and His written Word that He left us to teach us. When we also know what First John 5:14 says, we can put all these passages into proper context: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (NASB).

“… according to His will,” folks. That’s what it’s all about. The more we know Jesus, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we’re like Him. The more we’re like Him, the more our desires are His desires. And this, my friends, is what aligns us to receive His blessings and see our prayers answered like never before.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 12:22-50; Luke 11

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“At that time Jesus began to say, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [and I acknowledge openly and joyfully to Your honor], that You have hidden these things from the wise and clever and learned, and revealed them to babies [to the childish, untaught, and unskilled]. Yes, Father, [I praise You that] such was Your gracious will and good pleasure. All things have been entrusted and delivered to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son deliberately wills to make Him known. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good – not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne’” (Matthew 11, 25-30, Amplified Bible).

Having been a seminary student myself, I value a good Christian education; but no amount of education makes up for the urgent need for childlike faith. When it comes to matters of faith, that’s where so many want to analyze and categorize and then lay aside everything they can’t completely figure out.

Yet how many of us refused to learn to drive because we didn’t know everything about cars? I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of my dad’s truck and he let me circle around our house as he showed me how the gears, clutch, brake and gas pedal all worked. Now, after having been a driver for years, I don’t even think about all those things—I just get in and drive. Never do I walk up to my car and say, “Oh, I just hope I can remember how all this works.”

Why can’t we have that same kind of comfortable confidence in God? Because most of us haven’t spent nearly as much time getting acquainted with Him as we’ve even spent learning to drive our cars. We’re more relaxed with and confident in a hunk of machinery than with the Creator of the Universe.

A word of warning: don’t wait for a crisis to learn to trust Jesus. Trust Him daily and then, when the hard times come—and they will—you’ll already know how much you can rely on and rest in the Savior.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today’s passage shows us Jesus healing a man of leprosy; healing the sick young servant of a Roman soldier; raising a widow’s son from the dead; and being anointed by a woman of ill repute. Plucking a couple of gems from all these great accounts, let’s look at:

Matthew 8:1-3: “Large crowds followed Jesus as He came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached Him and knelt before Him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared” (NLT).

Notice how Jesus doesn’t have a “blanket” approach to every person. In the case of the man with leprosy, what did He do? “Jesus reached out and touched him.” Who would touch a leper? Only One who loved him. Jesus set the pattern: we are to reach out to the outcasts and unloved. Are you following His example?

Matthew 8:5-8, 10-13: “When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with Him, ‘Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.’ Jesus said, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have You come into my home. Just say the word from where You are, and my servant will be healed.’ When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. Turning to those who were following Him, He said, ‘I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world – from east and west – and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites – those for whom the Kingdom was prepared – will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, ‘Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.’ And the young servant was healed that same hour.”

How did Jesus deal with the Roman officer’s request? He offered to go to the sick servant, knowing that the man had strong enough faith to deem Jesus’ going unnecessary. This Gentile responded by telling Jesus, “Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.” And he was.

The lesson Jesus taught the crowd through this experience? It’s not your birth that sets your status for eternity – it’s your re-birth. Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way any person will ever see heaven.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


More rich teaching in today’s passage. Here we see Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where His topics include the Beatitudes; salt and light; the Law; anger; divorce; vows; revenge; adultery; loving your enemies; helping the poor; money and possessions; and so much more. Let’s hit the highlights of a few of these and other subjects from this passage:

Salt and light: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” (Matthew 5:13a, NLT). Ever tried eating an unsalted egg? Such is life without Jesus. But Jesus in you, the Holy Spirit, makes it possible for you to enrich the lives of those around you. Is that what you’re using your life for?

“You are the light of the world … No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14a, 15-16). Jesus didn’t come into your life so you could keep Him a secret – He came so that you could share Him with others. You do that by verbally declaring the Good News and by a lifestyle of deliberate actions that demonstrate the reality of Jesus in and through you.

Loving your enemies: “… love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44). If we’re to be like Jesus, we have to be so different as to be willing to forgive and love even those we know despise us. Ephesians 5:8a reminds us, “… for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord …” Or as James 4:4 words it, you were once an “enemy of God.” He loved and forgave you, His enemy; and your acceptance of that forgiveness obligates you to extend that same kind of forgiveness to your own enemies.

Put God first: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33). Do you trust Him? Then put Him first. In doing so, you align yourself to receive His provision.

Fervent prayer: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The more you pray, the more you spend time with the Father. The more you spend time with the Father, the more your life conforms to His will. And as you live according to His perfect will, His Holy Spirit teaches you to pray according to His will. As James 5:16b reminds us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


So much great teaching into today’s passage; please take the time to read the whole section. If you’ve been following along since we began our chronological walk through the Bible, you’re very close to having read the entire Bible cover to cover!

Here again Jesus is in trouble with the religious leaders for healing on the Sabbath. Mark and Luke also record the choosing of the twelve apostles; and you’ll note one difference between the two lists – Mark lists Thaddeus while Luke lists a second person named Judas (not Iscariot). These two are one in the same, the apostle designated as St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes.

Mark 3 records Jesus’ mother and brothers coming to a house where He was speaking and asking that He come out to talk with them. Jesus addressed the crowd saying, “‘Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?’ Then He looked at those around Him and said, ‘Look, these are My mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33-35, NLT). Those who believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are the family of God.

Luke 6 is absolutely loaded with critical teachings of Jesus, three points of which I’ll close with for today:

(1) “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). How do you treat other people? Is it dependent on how they treat you? If so, you’re following the world’s teachings and not that of Jesus.

(2) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Or as Jesus’ statement is worded in Matthew 7:2: “… you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” How critical are you of others? Do you really want your own life judged by those same standards? Do you want forgiveness? I need it every day. Determine in your heart to forgive anything you’re holding a grudge about and consciously work at criticizing less and complimenting more.

(3) “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 6:39). Are you a generous giver? When God says give, He also promises to bless and provide in return. Trust Him in the area of giving of your time, money, and possessions and see Him pour His blessings into your life.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 12:1-21; Mark 3; Luke 6

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


John 5 opens with Jesus’ healing of a man who had been crippled for 38 years. The religious leaders, though, weren’t pleased over the man’s healing because Jesus had done it on the Sabbath.

While these holier-than-thous went to the extreme with their added-on rules and regulations, the Sabbath – which most Christians celebrate on Sunday – has become just another day of the week, for the most part. We may or may not attend church; and we use the rest of the day as a catch-up time for grocery shopping, errand-running, etc. But what does the Bible say? “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). “Holy” means set apart, different, separate. We need to make a deliberate choice to slow down and spend more time every day, especially on the Sabbath, focusing on the Lord and His Word.

Because Jesus had healed the crippled man on the Sabbath, “… the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, ‘My Father is always working, and so am I.’ So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill Him. For He not only broke the Sabbath, He called God his Father, thereby making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18, NLT). Which is exactly who He was and is. But these guys just didn’t get it. So Jesus said to them:

“Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent Him. I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear My voice – the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live” (John 5:23b-25).

Physical death is a temporary state. Spiritual death, however, is an eternal state not of nonexistence, but of separation from God. To physically die without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is to spend forever in, as Daniel 12:2 puts it, “… disgrace and everlasting contempt” (NASB). To physically die with Christ as your Savior is to know the truth of Christ’s words in our passage today: you “… will never be condemned for [your] sins, but [will have] already passed from death into [eternal] life.” First Thessalonians 4:17b words it this way: “... we shall always be with the Lord.” True life begins the moment you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior; and that life lasts throughout eternity.

Do you know Him? Who around you doesn’t? Will you tell them?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that He was back home. Soon the house where He was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While He was preaching God’s Word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above His head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus” (Mark 2:1-4, NLT).

Picture this scene: a small tile-roofed house packed to overflowing; people milling about all around it, straining to hear or see Jesus as He stood inside and taught. To put it in a modern perspective, think about the crowd pushing into a college football stadium just before game time. Amid all this come four guys carrying a fifth man on a sickbed, a mat.

The crowd didn’t deter them. Even having to come up with a rather unique alternative way to get their friend in front of Jesus didn’t deter them. Why? Because they were determined to help their friend and they knew that getting him to Jesus was the only way to do that.

What about you? Do you have a friend or family member who’s lost? Reprimanding him (or her) about his bad habits isn’t going to change him. So often when I hear someone talk about a lost person’s drug problem or marital problem or habit of lying or whatever it is, I want to shout, “That’s not his problem! His problem is that he’s lost!”

Folks, lost people act like lost people because that’s what they are! A drug addict doesn’t need you to tell him how to kick drugs – he needs you to tell him how to know Jesus. (And may I add right here that believers are also susceptible to drug addiction.) Whatever a person’s problem, the answer is Jesus.

If you’re truly determined to help your friend or family member, talk to him about how you came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Tell him how loving and forgiving Jesus is. And if he hasn’t already accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, tell him how he can do that.

“Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked …” (Mark 2:5, 12a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today’s passage opens with Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Next we see Him clearing the moneychangers from the Temple and meeting with Nicodemus who wants to know how it’s possible for a grown man like himself to be born again. And that’s not even close to all that happens in these three chapters. Wonderful reading, so I hope you don’t miss any of it.

I want to home in on John 4:1-42 which opens with Jesus arriving in the Samaritan village of Sychar and sitting at Jacob’s well at noontime while His disciples go into town to buy food – see verses 5-8. Verse 7 tells us that “Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Please give me a drink’” (NLT).

The woman is startled by Jesus’ request because Jews avoided Samaritans. And the very fact that this woman had come to the well in the middle of the day rather than early in the morning when other women would also be there to draw water tells us that this woman was an outcast even among her own people. But what was she to Jesus? Someone He loved enough to die for.

Jesus tells her, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you living water” (verse 10). “‘Please, sir,’ the woman [replied], ‘give me this water!’” (verse 15).

And what was Jesus’ response? “Go and get your husband” (verse 16). To which the woman said, “I don’t have a husband” (verse 17a). Jesus answered, “… you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now” (verse 18).

Jesus didn’t speak these words in condemnation; His compassion was so evident that the woman continued to talk with Him, soon hearing the most wonderful words she’d ever heard: “I am the Messiah” (verse 26).

Reaching out in love, Jesus touched and changed the heart of a disreputable woman – so much so that when she returned to the village, she did what every believer is commanded to do: she told others about Him. And the Bible records that “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus …” (verse 39).

It all started with one woman whom most of us would have shied away from. No one is beyond the reach of the love and grace of Jesus. And as His instruments, no one should be beyond ours, either.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Before we move on, I want to add one important point from part of yesterday’s passage, Luke 3. In it we see another genealogy of Christ, but unlike the one we read in Matthew 1 (which traces Joseph’s ancestry), it’s the genealogy of Mary, even though she isn’t named in it.

Today we come to Matthew 4 and Luke 4, which both open with the temptation of Jesus (and was in Mark 1 of yesterday’s reading). Note when the temptation occurred: immediately after His baptism. Satan tried to foil God’s plan, a task at which he has never and never will succeed. But that doesn’t stop him from trying.

Folks, anytime any believer takes a step of faith, the devil is going to try to stop it. And the stronger your faith and the stronger your testimony and outreach, the harder he’ll work to hinder your progress. James 1:2 reminds us: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds …” (NIV). Why? Because the enemy doesn’t bother believers who are accomplishing nothing for God’s glory.

Luke 4:14-30 then tells us of Jesus’ rejection in his own hometown of Nazareth. When Jesus declared His deity, the church (synagogue) goers were so furious that they actually attempted to push Him off a cliff!

Next we see Jesus casting out demons, healing and preaching; and then He calls His first disciples, Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Matthew 4:18b says that, “they fished for a living.” Likewise James and John who are introduced in Matthew 4:21. And yet what did these men do?

Verse 20 says that Simon and Andrew “… left their nets at once and followed Him.” Of James and John Verse 22 says they “… immediately followed Him, leaving the boat and their father behind.”

Nothing in your life can have a higher value than Jesus, or else He isn’t your Lord. What are you willing to give up to serve Him? How and what are you willing to change?

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 4; Luke 4-5; John 1:15-51

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today’s passage from the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all begin with John the Baptist’s ministry. Mark opens his book, saying:

“This is the Good News (Gospel) about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: ‘Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, and He will prepare Your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for Him!’’ This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven” (Mark 1:1-4, NLT – see also Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3).

Note the purpose of John’s baptism: “… to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.” They weren’t baptized in order to be forgiven and John certainly had no authority to forgive those being baptized. He was simply preparing the way for the One who was to come.

“When the crowds came to John for baptism …,” (Luke 3:7a) he wasn’t thrilled by the big turnout; instead, he realized that many were merely getting in on the latest new movement, foolishly thinking that the outward act of baptism could change a person who had made no change on the inside. John told them: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8a). Smart advice for all of us.

“Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John” (Matthew 3:13). Why would a sinless Man need to be baptized? Because Jesus taught by example. Jesus told John, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15a).

Is baptism important today? If it was significant enough for Jesus to submit to, then it’s certainly important for every believer. If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your next step of faith should be baptism. If you haven’t been baptized, talk to your pastor and take care of that immediately.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Matthew 2 introduces us to the magi, or wise men, who came to worship the Baby Jesus. They had followed a special star in the sky which had led them to Bethlehem, but they went to King Herod to find the exact location of the “newborn king” (Matthew 2:2).

When the panicked Herod consults the religious leaders and asks where this new king is to be born, they quote from Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.”

When the magi head for Bethlehem, the star leads them directly to “… the place where the Child was. They entered the house and saw the Child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:9b, 11). Note that the magi enter a house, not a stable, and they see a Child, not a Baby – it could have been two years or more since Jesus’ birth.

Next, an angel warns Joseph to take his family to Egypt because Herod is going to slaughter “all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance” (Matthew 2:16b). Herod wanted to make sure that no Child King was going to endanger his reign.

Matthew 2:14-15 quotes the prophecy from Hosea 11:1: “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the Child and Mary, His mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’”

Matthew 2:17-18 includes the Messianic prophecy from Jeremiah 31:15: “Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A cry was heard in Ramah – weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead’” (Matthew 2:17-18).

When the Lord let the family know that it was safe to return from Egypt, they settled in the town of Nazareth. Luke 2:40 says that “… the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on Him.” And then Luke 2 shows the family at the Passover festival in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph discover the now 12-year-old Jesus is missing from their traveling group:

“Three days later they finally discovered Him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions” (Luke 2:46). Chastised by Mary and Joseph, Jesus told them, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49b).

Jesus was born as Man for a foreordained purpose and so were you.

“For I know the plans I have for you …” (Jeremiah 29:11a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Before we look at today’s passage, who was Matthew? He was the same person known as Levi who was one of the twelve apostles. In Luke 5:27 and Mark 2:14 we see him identified as a tax collector. When Jesus invited Matthew/Levi to follow him, Luke 5:28 says that he “… got up, left everything, and followed Him.” Without hesitation, Matthew traded what was very likely a financially lucrative life for a life of servanthood.

Matthew 1 traces Jesus’ lineage through Mary’s husband Joseph, showing that this family connection tracks right through King David. Matthew then tells us of the angel appearing to Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, telling him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

We also see in Matthew 1:23 a reminder that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Isaiah 7:14’s prophecy that “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Luke 2:1 tells us that “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken …” Don’t ever think man is in charge. Augustus ordered a census taken, which necessitated Joseph and his family of Mary and her yet-to-be-born Child traveling to Joseph’s ancestral hometown, Bethlehem, “… because Joseph was a descendant of King David …” (Luke 1:4a). God’s timing is always perfect.

So the couple traveled from Nazareth (thus, Jesus the Nazarene) of Galilee (He was called a Galilean) to Bethlehem, where the shepherds heard the Good News and came to worship the tiny baby born in a humble manger. And eight days later when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, Simeon and Anna were able to see and recognize the Holy Infant.

Eyes of faith. That’s what it’s all about, folks. If we would only see with our spiritual eyes the wondrous things God puts in front of us daily!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Can you believe we’ve made it to the New Testament? Today we take a look at a bit of John and Luke, with Luke being the only Gentile to write a portion of the New Testament – the books of Luke and Acts. Luke is mentioned in Second Timothy 4:11, Colossians 4:14, and Philemon 1:24 and is identified as a companion of Paul and a physician.

Luke opens with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. (Note: John the Baptist didn’t write any of the New Testament books – these were written by the apostle John.) Zechariah, an Aaronic priest and his wife Elizabeth were old and childless; but Zechariah is visited by the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1:19) who says that Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to be parents and that their child “… will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth” and that “He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord” (Luke 1:15b, 17b, NLT).

“… even before his birth …” the Lord had a plan for John. Likewise for you, as God proclaims in Jeremiah 29:11a: “For I know the plans I have for you …” And speaking of plans, what a plan He had for the young virgin Mary, as Gabriel appears to her and tells her, “You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32a).

Only days after the Holy Spirit had placed the baby Jesus within Mary’s womb, she went to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth. “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her …” (Luke 1:41a). The yet-to-be-born John knew he was in the presence of the Holy One! Two babies, yet to be born, were aware of each other’s presence. Imagine! Two babies – a prophet of God and the Son of God!

And then we come to John 1, where we see more of the amazing truth about Jesus: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him” (John 1:1-3).

If you’re reading this, you’re alive; so guess what? “The Word…,” Jesus Christ, gave you life! Are you using it to bring Him glory?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The book of Malachi speaks of God’s love for His people and His desire for them to live in obedience to His commands. The people of God weren’t offering their best and, therefore, God was not able to violate His own Word and bless a disobedient people. So He warns them: “‘Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of (unacceptable) offering, why should He show you any favor at all?’ asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Malachi 1:9, NLT).

He also reprimands them for marrying unbelievers – see Malachi 2:11. And that command hasn’t changed. Paul reminds Christians of this in Second Corinthians 6:14a: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers …” (NASB). And this isn’t just talking marriages, either – it’s about dating as well as business partnerships and other close relationships.

And then the Lord hits another target – unfaithful spouses: “Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because He pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, ‘Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?’ I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife (or husband) made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her (or him), though she (or he) remained your faithful partner, the wife (or husband) of your marriage vows” (Malachi 2:13-14, NLT).

Do you see a pattern here? One kind of disobedience emboldens a person to step out of God’s will in another area; and then another; and another. God’s people were even robbing Him of the tithes and offerings He commanded them to bring. And because they chose to live apart from His will for their lives, He was unable to bless them as He desired to.

Only in the area of tithing – giving ten percent of your gross income – does the Lord invite you to test Him: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse (local church) … If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!’” (Malachi 3:10a).

Now I don’t know about you, but I like those kinds of blessings! Are you living an abundant life? Do you have the peace and contentment and provision that can only come from a right relationship with the Savior? He wants to bless His children; but it’s up to you to align yourself with His will so that “… the windows of heaven …” will be opened “… for you.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5, NLT).

The people of Jerusalem had listened attentively as the Book of the Law of Moses was read to them. Nehemiah 8:9b says that “… the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” Realizing all that they had neglected, they confessed and repented of their disobedience and made a new commitment to obey what the Lord had commanded them.

What happened next? All of Jerusalem celebrated. The people’s physical labor resulted in the completion of the rebuilding of the physical wall around Jerusalem. Their spiritual labor of confession and repentance resulted in the return of the spiritual wall of God’s protection and favor upon them. And that, Nehemiah 12:43 tells us, resulted in a “… joyous day … [because] God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.”

Psalm 126 is designated as “a song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.” The Feast of Shelters (or Sukkot) was one of the feasts for which many Jews made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The exiles had joyously celebrated this festival (see Nehemiah 8:13-18) after hearing the words of the Law. And their tears were transformed into “… shouts of joy!”

Child of God, you can experience this same kind of transformation. The tears you shed in repentance will result in a “… harvest … of joy.” Likewise for those tears you shed in prayer and concern for others. God’s Word promises you a “… harvest with shouts of joy.” Keep on praying and believing.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Nehemiah 11-13; Psalm 126

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5-6, NIV).

The Israelites wanted to reestablish a right relationship with the Lord. They gathered “… as one …,” having asked Ezra to read to them “… the Book of the Law of Moses …”

Note how long they listened: “… from daybreak till noon …” Note, too, what they did during this time: “… the people all stood up.” Not only that, but they “… lifted their hands …” and as “… Ezra praised the Lord …,” they “… responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’” and “… they bowed down and worshiped the Lord …”

Somehow we modern day believers think we can sit in our padded pews and listen to the Bible being read. We don’t stand, let alone respond with lifted hands, voices of praise or by bowing in worship. If your church doesn’t stand for the reading of the Word, talk to your pastor about instituting this practice. Set an example. Stand and honor the Lord, even if you’re the only one.

And when’s the last time you hit your knees or lifted your hands in worship? It’s high time Christians chose to concern themselves more with what the Lord thinks of their worship than what others may think of seeing them kneeling or raising their hands.

“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:2).

“Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Those who didn’t want to see Jerusalem rebuilt kept trying to distract Nehemiah from the work God had called him to do. Repeatedly these men tried to get Nehemiah to stop work and come meet with them; but Nehemiah continually refused. Nehemiah tells us:

“Four times they (Sanballat and Geshem) sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, and this is what it said: ‘There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.’ I replied, ‘There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.’ They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination” (Nehemiah 6:4-6, 7b-9, NLT).

Note what the enemy used: “… an open letter …” Important correspondence was sealed and delivered to the recipient so that no one could read the document except the person for whom it was intended. But these underhanded men wrote a pack of lies and had it delivered “open” so that it was undoubtedly read by anyone who made contact with it before it made it to Nehemiah. In other words, they subtly let the letter do their lying for them.

This could have been the final straw for Nehemiah. He could have let this get him down. But instead, he says that he kept right on working and that the only effect the letter had was that it gave him “… even greater determination” to see the work of the Lord completed.

Don’t let the enemy discourage you. Every arrow fired at you simply tells you you’re on the right track; because there’s no reason for the enemy to bother an idle or misdirected believer. If you’re under attack, keep working and keep trusting. God is faithful.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious …” (from Nehemiah 4:14, NLT).

Nehemiah served as cupbearer to Artaxerxes. Upon hearing the condition of Jerusalem, he was heartbroken and wanted to go and help rebuild the city and the Temple of the Lord. Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission and even gave him letters to present to insure his safe travel and to obtain timber to be used in the reconstruction.

But as is always the case when God’s people start doing anything for the glory of God, the enemy showed up and did all sorts of things to discourage the people who were doing the work. Nehemiah, however, refused to be defeated and wisely told the people to “Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious …”

Maybe you’re trying to do a work for God’s glory and you seem to be hitting a wall every way you turn. First, make sure you’re prayed up and ‘fessed up. Next, make certain you’re following the Holy Spirit’s guidance in whatever you’re doing. And thirdly, once those first two things are settled, keep working and “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious …”

“Faithful is the God by whom you were called into fellowship with His Son Jesus the Messiah, our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, ISV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, is described as “… a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses …” (Ezra 7:6a, NLT).

King Artaxerxes gave a letter to Ezra, giving him and other exiles the opportunity to return to Jerusalem. Ezra 1:11 says that “… the following letter [was given] to Ezra, the priest and scribe who studied and taught the commands and decrees of the Lord to Israel.”

In the letter Artaxerxes gives these instructions: “And you, Ezra, are to use the wisdom your God has given you to appoint magistrates and judges who know your God’s laws to govern all the people in the province west of the Euphrates River. Teach the law to anyone who does not know it” (Ezra 7:25).

Do you realize that a far greater King has also given you instructions? He’s told you “… to use the wisdom God has given you” and to “Teach the law to anyone who does not know it.”

Think about Ezra. Were the king’s instructions to him suggestions or commands? Had Ezra decided to ignore them, what would have happened to him? The king also included that information in his letter: “Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment” (Ezra 7:26).

We willingly obey a lot of manmade regulations. Be smart enough to obey God’s laws, too. “… use the wisdom your God has given you” and “Teach the law to anyone who does not know it.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


As we saw yesterday, Esther had become queen “…for just such a time as this…” (Esther 4:14, NLT).

Esther used her appearance in the king’s court to invite the king and Haman to a banquet, so impressing the king that he tells her that he will honor any request she makes. She merely invites them to another banquet for the next evening. At this point Haman is strutting like a peacock and, as he leaves the palace, is infuriated to pass Mordecai who neither stands nor bows to show Haman the respect Haman demands. Furious, he orders the construction of a gallows on which he intends to see Mordecai hanged. (NOTE: Some translations describe this as an impaling pole rather than a gallows.)

And now we come to today’s passage – pretty exciting stuff, huh? After that first banquet the king is restless and ends up reading a book of his empire’s history where he reads a reminder that Mordecai was the person who uncovered the eunuchs’ plot that could have ended in the king’s murder – see Esther 6:1-2.

This prompts the king to think on ways to properly honor Mordecai. He calls for Haman (who is in the outer court with a request of his own – see Esther 6:4) and asks him, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?” (Esther 6:6b). Haman, who is certain the king-pleaser is himself, replies that the king should royally robe the honoree, put him on one of the king’s own horses and have him led around the city by a royal official who calls out, “This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!” (Esther 6:9b).

The king loved the idea and ordered it carried out immediately. Imagine Haman’s shock when he finds himself walking in front of the horse while Mordecai does the riding! (See Esther 6:10-12.) Scurrying home in total humiliation, Haman’s wife and friends tell him, “Since Mordecai – this man who has humiliated you is of Jewish birth, you will never succeed in your plans against him. It will be fatal to continue opposing him” (Esther 3:13).

And fatal it was. Haman ends up put to death right where he intended to watch Mordecai die. But the edict of the king was irrevocable, so what happened to all the Jews who’d been sentenced to die? You’ll have to read the rest of today’s passage to find out.

Things looked bleak for Mordecai and Esther and all their people. But look again at the wisdom of Haman’s wife and friends: “…you will never succeed in your plans against him.”

No matter how dark the situation may seem, the Light of the World is ever present with His children.

“And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth [there will be] distress (trouble and anguish) of nations in bewilderment and perplexity [without resources, left wanting, embarrassed, in doubt, not knowing which way to turn] at the roaring (the echo) of the tossing of the sea, men swooning away or expiring with fear and dread and apprehension and expectation of the things that are coming on the world; for the [very] powers of the heavens will be shaken and caused to totter. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great (transcendent and overwhelming) power and [all His kingly] glory (majesty and splendor). Now when these things begin to occur, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption (deliverance) is drawing near” (Jesus speaking, Luke 21:25-28, Amplified Bible).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today and tomorrow we’re looking at the book of Esther. Who wrote it? That answer is debatable, but as you’ll see in tomorrow’s reading, Esther 9:20a says that “Mordecai recorded these events” (NLT), so it’s possible he wrote the entire book.

Who was Mordecai? Mordecai, according to Esther 2:5-7, was “a Jew … a Benjamite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem … He was bringing up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter” (NASB).

In other words, Mordecai was Esther’s cousin and adoptive father. Esther 2:7b says of Esther: “… the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.”

Esther was the Persian name given to Hadassah who was chosen as the new queen for the Persian ruler called Ahasuerus in the KJV, NASB, and some other translations and called Xerxes (pronounced ZURK-SEEZ) in the NIV, NLT, and some others.

The king had no idea that he had married a Jewess and Mordecai advised Esther to keep it that way: “Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known” (Esther 2:10).

The book of Esther is a real page-turner, so I hope you’ll read the entire passage for today and hang onto your seat for tomorrow’s. After Esther became queen, Mordecai learned that two of the king’s eunuchs were plotting to kill the king, so Mordecai informed Esther, who then informed the king, who then dealt swiftly with his would-be betrayers.

Next we find the king appointing the underhanded Haman to a position of authority (see Esther 3:1) which he uses to con the king into signing a death warrant for the Jews (see Esther 3:2-14), all because Haman was angry with Mordecai.

Upon learning of the proclamation, Mordecai and the rest of the Jews go into deep mourning, fasting and weeping. But not without hope. Mordecai sent a message to Queen Esther (remember, the king didn’t know she was Jewish): “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NLT).

Esther then begins fasting and preparing to put her life on the line by appearing before the king uninvited – an act which could meet with instant death. Esther gets her audience with the king and uses it wisely – read today’s passage to see what she said to the king.

Let me close by focusing on Esther 4:14: “… for just such a time as this …” God, who isn’t even mentioned by name in this entire book, has a perfect plan for every one of His people, if we will only listen and obey. You, child of God, were born at just the right time in just the right place to do great things for the glory of God the Father. Be an Esther; step out in faith. Lay your all on the altar for the sake of the Kingdom.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


I want us to see some more of the prophecies concerning the Messiah found in the book of Zechariah. Note the New Testament fulfillment follows each one:

PROPHECY: “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9, NLT).

FULFILLMENT: "As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. ‘Go into the village over there,’ He said. ‘As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.’ The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to Him and threw their garments over the colt, and He sat on it” (Matthew 21:1-3, 6).

PROPHECY: “… they knew that the Lord was speaking through my actions. And I said to them, ‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to. So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:11b-12).

FULFILLMENT: “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:14-15).

PROPHECY: “And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ – this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:13).

FULFILLMENT: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he declared, ‘for I have betrayed an innocent man.’ ‘What do we care?’ they retorted. ‘That’s your problem.’ Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. The leading priests picked up the coins. ‘It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,’ they said, ‘since it was payment for murder.’ After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood” (Matthew 27:3 8).

Don’t think for one skinny minute that anything is out of God’s control. He’s already walked through all time and has written the end of the Book!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


I’d like to touch on two wonderful portions of today’s passage:

“Anyone who harms you harms My most precious possession. I will raise My fist to crush them” (Zechariah 2:8b-9a, NLT).

Never forget that if you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, your Father is looking out for you; and you don’t mess with His children and get away with it. You are God’s “most precious possession.” Don’t even think about getting even with people who do you harm. Instead, pray for them; because unless they repent and turn to Jesus, God will deal with them, whether in the here and now or in eternity.

Next we see a beautiful prophecy about the coming of Yeshua, Jesus, the Holy One:

“Then I (Zechariah) received another message from the Lord: ‘Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah will bring gifts of silver and gold from the Jews exiled in Babylon. As soon as they arrive, meet them at the home of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Accept their gifts, and make a crown from the silver and gold. Then put the crown on the head of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out from where he is and build the Temple of the Lord. Yes, he will build the Temple of the Lord. Then he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne, and there will be perfect harmony between his two roles’” (Zechariah 6:9-13).

The Lord has Zechariah symbolically crown the high priest’s son as “the Branch,” the one who will “build the Temple of the Lord.” Only Jesus (in Hebrew, Yeshua or Jeshua as written in the NLT) could fill the role of both King and High Priest. Only Jesus has the right to “receive royal honor and … rule as King …”

The people of Zechariah’s time needed hope and the Lord encouraged them with a message about the One to Come. You, believer, are “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 6:19) and you were built – reborn, made holy – by the cleansing blood and power of Jesus Christ. The One who saved you is coming again. Be ready. Be at work in the Kingdom. And be encouraged!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The people of God had returned to Jerusalem, started on rebuilding the Temple, and then let discouragement from the enemy bring construction to a halt.

“Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: ‘Why are you living in luxurious houses while My house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: ‘Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!’ This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: ‘Look at what’s happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild My house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because My house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. I have called for a drought on your fields and hills – a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get” (Haggai 1:3-11, NLT).

God’s people grew discouraged trying to work on the Temple, so they quit. But nothing stopped them from building their “luxurious houses” to live in.

What happened? They ignored the eternal and focused on the temporal. And because they put themselves ahead of God, they lost His blessing on their lives. Because whatever is ahead of God in a person’s life is that person’s god. Only when Jesus Christ is first in a life is He Lord of that life.

Are you experiencing a drought on your finances? Do you see “Your wages disappear[ing] as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes”? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then let me ask you another: Are you a tither? If you aren’t giving at least ten percent of your income to your local church, you’re robbing God. (Hey, don’t take my word for it – read His in Malachi 3:8-12.)

Tithing positions believers for blessings that can be obtained no other way. God Himself says, “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10b, NIV). And our God is faithful!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the Lord, the God of Israel. Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. Years later when Xerxes began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, the enemies of Judah … sent a letter to Artaxerxes …” (Ezra 4:1, 4-7, NLT).

Folks, there’s no new enemy. Just as “the enemies of Judah and Benjamin” wanted to discourage them from rebuilding the Temple, that same enemy wants to discourage us from building a strong faith in Jesus. Oh sure, be Christian – what harm can that do? But don’t get all serious and wrapped up in it!

When God’s people get serious about serving Him, the enemy gets serious about stopping them. Having problems? Praise God, you’ve also got the Victor over those problems!

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1, God’s Word).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy He had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: ‘This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build Him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are His people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you!’ Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord”
(Ezra 1:1-3, 5, NLT).

“… the Lord fulfilled the prophecy He had given through Jeremiah.” What prophecy is Ezra referring to? (1) Jeremiah 25:11: “This whole country (Judah) will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” And (2) Jeremiah 29:10: “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.’”

How did the rebuilding of the Temple come about? God. “He stirred the heart of Cyrus …” and “God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders …”

God hasn’t changed – see Malachi 3:6. He still stirs the hearts of those who are listening for His Word and willing to obey Him.

In today’s passage, we see a captive people set free to worship. God is still in that business. If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, He’s set you free to worship. Are you? Worship isn’t merely showing up for church whenever the doors are open. Worship is what we are to do with our lives every day. Worship is consciously focusing on who God is and how much we owe Him – our everything.

When’s the last time you can truly say God stirred your heart? As the old saying goes, we make time for the things that are important to us. Is your commitment to Jesus Christ important to you? If it is, get alone with God and tell Him you’re willing to listen and obey.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people. Then he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way.’ Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’” (Daniel 10:5-6, 12-13a, 18-19a, NLT).

The “man” Daniel saw in this vision is described as looking like the glorified Christ. But this isn’t the Lord Jesus – this is a heavenly messenger, an angel sent “in answer to [Daniel’s] prayer.” Why do heaven’s angels look so much like Jesus? Nowhere in the Bible is it written that angels were created in God’s image – only man was: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our [the Holy Trinity’s] image, according to Our likeness …’” (Genesis 1:26a, NASB). In this girl’s humble opinion, angels look like Him because they spend so much time in His presence. Spiritually speaking, believers experience this transformation as they focus their lives on the Savior. If you know anyone whose spirit and attitude remind you of Jesus, there’s only one reason: that person spends a lot of time with Him.

Another thing we see in today’s passage is that warfare in heaven is real. Satan sends his minions to do the impossible: defeat the power of prayer. Yes, they can hinder it: “for twenty-one days the spirit prince … blocked my way”; but they can’t stop it. God will answer. So keep praying and keep trusting.

And no, you may not get the answer you want; but your Heavenly Father loves you enough to give you the answer you need, even when that answer makes no sense whatsoever this side of heaven. So listen to God’s words sent to Daniel and take them to heart for your own life and situation: “Don’t be afraid, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


In today’s passage Daniel begins to see visions of a future time, some of which are still yet to come. But what I want to focus on is Daniel’s prayer. “I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes. I prayed to my Lord God and confessed …” (Daniel 9:2-4a, NLT).

And we’ll take a look at part of Daniel’s prayer in just a moment. First, let me remind all of us that intercessory prayer is more than praying for individual needs – it’s confessing the need for God’s mercy on our city and country and world. As you read this excerpt from Daniel’s prayer, make it your own. Daniel prayed for a people in spiritual ruin and a city in physical ruin. While your city may not be in physical ruin, how is it spiritually? How our cities and nations and world need Jesus! Pray for your city; pray for your country; pray for the world. We serve a merciful God who sees, hears, and acts when His people pray.

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill Your covenant and keep Your promises of unfailing love to those who love You and obey Your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against You and scorned Your commands and regulations. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open Your eyes and see our despair. See how Your city … lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of Your mercy. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For Your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for Your people and Your city bear your name” (Daniel 9:4b-5, 18-19).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


I don’t think there’s a novel or true suspense story out there that could rival the action in these first chapters of Daniel. Already we’ve seen Daniel interpret one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams; Nebuchadnezzar build a statue of himself to be worshiped; and Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to the statue. We’ve also seen the Fourth Man deliver them unharmed from the midst of the furnace. (Daniel had been “promoted to a high position” – see Daniel 2:48 – and was not present at the time or he’d have undoubtedly been in the same situation as his friends.)

In today’s chapters Nebuchadnezzar has another dream that Daniel interprets, telling the king that his pride has angered the Lord and that he would soon find himself a mindless animal, wandering the fields on all fours and eating grass. The Lord brought this about just as Daniel was told; and Nebuchadnezzar praised the One True God when his sanity was restored.

Years passed and a new king came into power, Belshazzar. One day he ordered the gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem brought out to drink from during a drunken party. Daniel 5:4 says that “While they drank from [these holy vessels], they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone” (NLT).

That’s when things got interesting: “Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand” (Daniel 5:5). The king was so scared that his knees buckled and began to knock together and his face “turned pale with fright” (Daniel 5:6a).

None of the occultists that were called in could interpret the handwriting, but God told Daniel exactly what the message meant: The Lord had given Belshazzar all the opportunities to repent that he was going to get.

“That very night Belshazzar … was killed. And Darius the Mede took over the kingdom …” (Daniel 5:30-31).

God is patient, but continued rebellion against Him necessitates that He respond. Don’t wait for the Lord to get your attention. If you’re harboring any pet sins, He already knows it. Get rid of them before He has to deal with them.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The book of Daniel opens with a look at four young Hebrew men who were from the upper crust of Judah and had been brought to Babylon along with the rest of the captives. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered their names changed, not only removing them from their native land, but hoping to erase even the slightest reminder of their heritage. Thus Daniel became Belteshazzar; Hananiah was renamed Shadrach; Mishael was called Meshach; and Azariah was given the name Abednego.

These four were among a group of young men taken into the king’s palace to be trained in the language and literature of Babylon. They were also to eat from the food prepared in the king’s kitchen and would, after three years, be appointed to ruling-class positions.

What an opportunity! Who in their right minds would pass this up? Not many, since we read that only one spoke up as a representative for himself and his three friends: “Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods” (Daniel 1:8, NLT).

Refusing to obey any order from the king could have easily resulted in a death sentence, but Daniel – along with his three friends – was more concerned about eternal life than temporal death. Note that “Daniel was determined …” In other words, getting a “no” to his request wouldn’t have changed his mind about refusing the king’s food, even though he fully knew the probable penalty. Would that we were this firm in our beliefs and values!

See, too, how Daniel handled the situation. He didn’t tell the king’s chief of staff, Ashpenaz, “Now you listen to me, mister. Do you know who you’re dealing with here? We’re Hebrews, God’s chosen; and we’re not eating this heathen food!” Daniel knew the truth of Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Daniel demanded nothing. He merely “asked the chief of staff for permission.” There’s a lot to be said for humility and gentleness, folks. Before you respond to any situation, remember Proverbs 15:1 – it could save you a lot of needless unpleasantness.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants – men and women alike” (Joel 2:28b-29, NLT).

In Acts 2 we see the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost: “… tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them (the believers). All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:3b-4, NIV).

When this had happened, Peter stood up and told the assemblage: “… this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16); Peter then quoted Joel 2:28-32.

The coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell those who put their faith in Christ Jesus was a life-changing spiritual, physical, visual, audible event. And as Joel’s prophecy makes clear, it wasn’t limited to the Jews: “I will pour out My Spirit on all people.” And it wasn’t limited to the men: “Your sons and daughters will prophesy … men and women alike.”

The Holy Spirit was and always will be life-changing. Have you received the Holy Spirit? If so, how has your life changed? Is your walk different? Is your talk different? Are you continuing to grow in your faith?

“God makes the seed grow. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:7b, 9b, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now he brought me back to the entrance to the Temple. I saw water pouring out from under the Temple porch to the east (the Temple faced east). The water poured from the south side of the Temple, south of the altar. He then took me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the gate complex on the east. The water was gushing from under the south front of the Temple. He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet. By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through” (Ezekiel 47:1-5, The Message).

“… leading me through water that was ankle-deep.” “… leading me through water that was knee-deep.” “… leading me through water waist-deep.” “By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through.”

People of God, I wish I could camp out for a solid week on this passage. Please spend some time reflecting on these five verses. And as you do, consider these thoughts:

(1) Christ does the leading. And the longer and closer you follow, the deeper in love with Him you’ll become and the deeper your walk with Him will become. (2) Even when life takes you to that which is overwhelming sorrows – “over [your] head” “no one could possibly walk through” – He’s leading. And He’s with you. And the God of the Impossible makes all things possible, including making it through those deepest darkest stormiest waters.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I looked and saw that the glory of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord, and I fell face down on the ground” (Ezekiel 44:4b, NLT).

Paul tells us in Second Corinthians 6:16: “we are the temple of the living God” (NIV). We who? All those who have been redeemed through faith in the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We, my friends, are like the Tent carried through the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings – portable temples housing the Creator of the Universe. Boggles the mind to think about it like that, doesn’t it?

But that’s why Jesus came. God didn’t want to be unreachable or untouchable. He wanted to be Immanuel, God with Us. And so He is.

And since you and I who know Christ as Lord and Savior carry Him everywhere we go, let me ask us a couple of questions: (1) When’s the last time you’ve literally fallen “face down on the ground” in awe and worship of Jesus? (2) When’s the last time the Lord has filled YOU, your “Temple of the Lord,” so much so that you were speechless with the reality of His nearness?

My church choir has sung the praise hymn, “God Is Here” many times, but I never tire of hearing its message:

He is here, God is here

To break the yoke and lift the heavy burden.

He is here, God is here

To heal the hopeless heart and bless the broken.

Immanuel. God with Us. Here to cleanse us of a stain that was impossible for us to remove. Here to encourage us. And even carry us. Be still before the Lord and praise Him for His awesome Presence.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of His coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with His glory” (Ezekiel 43:2, NLT).

As Ezekiel’s vision continues, he experiences “the sound of [the Lord’s] coming,” which was “like the roaring of rushing waters.” Where else can we see similar descriptions of God?

Ezekiel had heard this sound before. He begins to record his experience by saying, “I saw visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1, NASB). He describes the four living creatures as shining “like burnished bronze” (Ezekiel 1:7) and “the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army” (Ezekiel 1:24a, NIV).

Revelation 1:15 describes the Risen Savior with “feet … like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” John says in Revelation 14:2a: “And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder.”

He goes on in Revelation 19:6: “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.’”

Have you ever thought about this? When John says “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2), it’s not just appearance – it’s from the inside out. Our voices will praise Him with a “sound of rushing waters” and “loud peals of thunder.” If you’re expecting heaven to be quiet, better bring your ear plugs.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“On April 28, during the twenty-fifth year of our captivity – fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem – the Lord took hold of me. In a vision from God He took me to the land of Israel and set me down on a very high mountain. From there I could see toward the south what appeared to be a city. As He brought me nearer, I saw a man whose face shone like bronze standing beside a gateway entrance. He was holding in his hand a linen measuring cord and a measuring rod.

'He said to me, ‘Son of man, watch and listen. Pay close attention to everything I show you. You have been brought here so I can show you many things. Then you will return to the people of Israel and tell them everything you have seen’” (Ezekiel 40:1-4, NLT).

As one of the exiled Jews forced to live in Babylon, Ezekiel needed hope, and He needed to share that hope with the people of God. So “In a vision, God took [Ezekiel] to the land of Israel” and showed him “a city.” There he “saw a man whose face shone like bronze.”

Who was this “man”? Scholars don’t all agree on whether or not this is Jesus Himself or an angel or simply Ezekiel’s own idea of a heavenly being. Whoever he was sounds to me an awful lot like Jesus. Look at Ezekiel’s description from an earlier vision: “From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me” (Ezekiel 1:27-28).

“This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me.” Who is God’s glory? Look at Hebrews 1:3a: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory” (NIV). This is only my humble opinion, but I think Ezekiel was given a glimpse of Jesus. But in what way? First, I think Ezekiel sees Christ Himself, but I also believe he’s given a second glimpse of Jesus, but in a way he can relate to and understand. What do I mean? Jesus as the Holy Temple of God. What do I mean? John answers that question in his own vision: “I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22), NLT).

There’s so much symbolism here and I wish I could expound on a lot more of it, but let me simply point out one thing: there’s a gate for the temple Ezekiel saw. Jesus said: “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). And if that’s not plain enough, Jesus said in John 10:7 and 10:9, “I am the gate.” There’s only one way, and His Name is Jesus.

All those who truly know Jesus serve Him and honor Him. Jesus never beat around the bush about the difficulty of the true Christian life: “… the road is difficult and only a few ever find it.”

“O Lord, I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in!” Don’t you?


Copyright 2022

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 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27, HCSB).

The Lord promised that those who turned to Him in repentance would receive “a new heart” and that He would also “put a new spirit within” them. Whenever I read this passage, I can’t help but think of my father-in-law Travis. For twenty years Larry and I prayed for his salvation. He was a hard man and one who expressed little emotion – unless you got on his “bad side.”

And then one evening his grandson Jason invited him to church. He went! What none of the rest of us had been able to accomplish, little Jason did. And that very night Travis was gloriously transformed into “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ISV). The Lord “remove[d] [his] heart of stone and [gave him] a heart of flesh.” When he went to be with the Lover of His Soul, my father-in-law was one of the most loving, tender-hearted people I’d ever met.

Never give up on any lost person you’re praying for. Every prayer you pray; every loving word you speak; every Christ-like action you perform in front of that person is used by a Holy God to touch and soften that cold, unyielding heart.

And when that “heart of flesh” receives Christ as Lord and Savior, He “place[s] [His] Spirit within” that person and “cause[s] [that person] to follow [His] statutes and carefully observe [His] ordinances.”

How about you? Has Jesus Christ given you “a new heart”? Has He “place[d] [His] Spirit within” you? If He has, then you are to be living in obedience to His teaching.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Once again a message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman. When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives. But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths. Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 33:1-9, NLT).

Just as Ezekiel was called as “a watchman for the people of Israel,” the Lord has called each one of His children today to be equally faithful watchmen. Jesus Christ gave us the Great Commission, commanding us – not requesting or suggesting – to tell people about the Kingdom; to warn people that not accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior isn’t simply making a different choice – it’s rejecting the Only Way to salvation.

Watchman, are you on the job?

“Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit …” (Matthew 28:19, ISV).

”So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, God’s Word).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel will again live in their own land, the land I gave My servant Jacob. For I will gather them from the distant lands where I have scattered them. I will reveal to the nations of the world My holiness among My people” (Ezekiel 28:25, NLT).

Surely God’s faithfulness to Israel is a picture of His faithfulness to those who call on His Name. In spite of my sins; in spite of my messes; He remains faithful to His promise to “never leave [me] nor forsake [me] (Hebrews 13:5b, ESV).

Believers today who try to live with one foot in the Kingdom and the other in the world suffer many needless sorrows. Likewise, Israel’s disobedience caused them to reap tremendous misery that could have been avoided. But because of His own great faithfulness, the Heavenly Father followed through with His promise: He “reveal[ed] to the nations of the world [His] holiness” through Israel: Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

The Suffering Servant; the Lamb of God; the Lion of Judah; the Root of Jesse; the Branch; the Bread of Life; our Wonderful Counselor; Emmanuel; the Light of the World; the Rose of Sharon; the Lily of the Valley; the Great Physician; the Prince of Peace; the Resurrection and the Life; the Good Shepherd; the Sun of Righteousness; the Vine; our Master; our Advocate; our Friend; the Living Water came to save us. God in Flesh, the Risen and Living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will never fail you, mislead you or mistreat you. You can trust Him with your everything.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


GOD’S MESSAGE TO AMMON: “I will raise My fist of judgment against you …” (Ezekiel 25:7a, NLT).

GOD’S MESSAGE TO MOAB: “In the same way, I will bring My judgment down on the Moabites” (Ezekiel 25:11a).

GOD’S MESSAGE TO EDOM: “… I will raise My fist of judgment against Edom …” (Ezekiel 25:13b).

GOD’S MESSAGE TO PHILISTIA: “I will raise My fist of judgment against the land of the Philistines” (Ezekiel 25:16b).

GOD’S MESSAGE TO TYRE: “… I am your enemy, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you …” (Ezekiel 26:3b).

Why was the Lord so angry with all these people?

“… you (Ammon) cheered when My Temple was defiled, mocked Israel in her desolation, and laughed at Judah as she went away into exile …” (Ezekiel 25:3).

“… the people of Moab have said that Judah is just like all the other nations …” (Ezekiel 25:8).

“… The people of Edom have sinned greatly by avenging themselves against the people of Judah” (Ezekiel 25:12).

“… The people of Philistia have acted against Judah …” (Ezekiel 25:15).

“… Tyre has rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem …” (Ezekiel 26:2).

God chose the Jews to share the Good News with the world. God set the Jews apart as His own. He chose to bring His Only Son into the world by miraculously placing His Holy Seed into the virgin womb of a young Jewish woman named Mary.

And despite their sin; despite their rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah; God’s plan for the Jews has not ended. And any nation who harbors animosity toward the Jews can expect divine retribution. What does God say we are to do?

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem …” (Psalm 122:6a, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Son of man, the people of Israel are the worthless slag that remains after silver is smelted. They are the dross that is left over – a useless mixture of copper, tin, iron, and lead” (Ezekiel 22:18, NLT).

When metal ores like silver or gold are heated to extremely high temperatures, the pure metal is separated out and the dross, the useless impurities, sink to the bottom of the melting pot.

Out of all the peoples in His creation, the Lord chose Israel to be His special messengers, to proclaim the truth of God’s love and holiness. Instead of maintaining their purity and sharing the Good News with others, they set themselves above other nations while, in their rebellious foolishness, adopting the ways and false gods around them. This was never God’s intention for Israel.

And it’s never God’s intention for a believer today. The Lord wants His children to be pure, holy, Christ-like, delightfully different. He, as Paul so plainly tells us, doesn’t want us to be “… conform[ed] any longer to the pattern of this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s] (Romans 12:2, NIV).

God loves you and me too much to allow us to live impure lives. If you’re harboring “secret” sin, it’s no secret to your Heavenly Father. And I guarantee He’s warning you to repent and get rid of it. Don’t wait for the Lord to use His furnace of affliction to empty you of all that isn’t of Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… when I have brought you home …, you will know that I am the Lord. You will look back on all the ways you defiled yourselves and will hate yourselves because of the evil you have done” (Ezekiel 20:42-43, NLT).

Thank God that He refuses to remember what the devil won’t let us forget! When a person comes to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He not only forgives, but He amazingly chooses to forget our past sins. And once a person becomes His child, He continues to forgive and forget the sins that we confess and ask forgiveness for. Ain’t God good!

But what about the person’s own memory? Speaking for myself, I can still remember so many things I’ve done wrong. And I so wish I’d never done them. Yet even knowing that I’ve been forgiven doesn’t stop me from recalling them – sometimes in all too vivid detail.

Whenever your past sins pop up in your mind, know that it isn’t the Lord doing the reminding. Rebuke the evil one who wants to keep you beaten down and feeling unworthy, then claim the righteousness of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30) that is rightfully yours as a believer in Jesus.

And as an old preacher wisely said, “‘Fess ‘em as you does ‘em.” Don’t ignore any sin in your life. Daily ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart; then specifically ask forgiveness for every wrongdoing – or sin of omission – that He brings to mind.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12, quoted from Jeremiah 31:34, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness” (Ezekiel 18:20, NLT).

In Ezekiel 18:2 the Lord asks why the people of Israel kept quoting this old saying: “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (NIV). In other words, the fathers sin and the children pay the penalty. God said this was not true because “The person who sins is the one who will die.”

The Lord continued, saying, “The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins …” There’s a big difference between SUFFERING because of a parent’s sins and being PUNISHED for a parent’s sins. The child of an alcoholic may suffer greatly because of his parent’s addiction. Likewise the child of a thief or murderer. Or the child of an immoral mother or father. But God looks at the heart of the individual and judges accordingly.

Which is why He goes on to say: “Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness.” Who is righteous? In Romans 3:10, Paul reminds us: “No one is righteous – not even one.” So how can the Lord declare any person righteous? The answer, my friends, is Jesus. First Corinthians 1:30b: “… Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (NIV).

Death, in the real sense, is eternal separation from the Father; and this is the fate of any person who dies without knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The person who “dies” having accepted Christ’s free pardon and salvation is merely translated from this world into eternal glory.

Every one of us has an appointment with our Maker. Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? If you do, that meeting is going to be a grand and glorious celebration!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take a branch from the top of a tall cedar, and I will plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. It will become a majestic cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter in the shade of its branches” (Ezekiel 17:22-23, NLT).

This passage speaks of the Messiah. Through Ezekiel the Lord declares that, despite what things looked like at the time, His people were far from finished as a kingdom. His plan and His promise would be fulfilled. Jesus Christ, the Branch, the “majestic cedar,” would come through the kingly lineage of David and [send] forth … branches and [produce] seed.”

Meaning what? Christ’s followers would go forth as “branches” and the “seed” of the Gospel would produce a harvest of souls gathered into the eternal Kingdom of God.

“Birds of every sort will nest in it …” Every nation will be represented in the Kingdom.

“… finding shelter in the shade of its branches.” And all those who submit their lives to Christ will find security and salvation in Him alone.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, suppose the people of a country were to sin against Me, and I lifted My fist to crush them, cutting off their food supply and sending a famine to destroy both people and animals. Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, their righteousness would save no one but themselves, says the Sovereign Lord’” (Ezekiel 14:12-14, NIV).

Years ago I visited the home of a fifth grade girl who’d filled out a card during Vacation Bible School saying she wanted to know more about Jesus. My smiling face was met at the door by her mother who, upon hearing why I’d come, said, “I’m a member of your church and my daughter doesn’t need anyone to talk to her about anything.”

The woman’s attitude seemed strange to me, so I asked, “When did you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” Her response? “I’ve been in church all my life.” “Yes, but,” I persisted, “when did you ask Jesus into your heart?” This time her answer was, “My mother and father were founding members of this church!”

My great-granddad was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher. My paternal grandmother and grandfather were dedicated believers who loved the Lord and exemplified Him in every area of their lives. My mom and dad hauled me and my sister to church every time the doors were open, and I spent many a night doing homework on a church pew while waiting for something my parents were involved in to wrap up.

But guess what? I didn’t know Jesus! I was a young wife and mother before I came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

How about you? Church membership doesn’t save you. Having Christian parents or grandparents doesn’t save you. Receiving Jesus Christ into your heart is the only way to know salvation.

“Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, their righteousness would save no one but themselves, says the Sovereign Lord.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. They will be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 11:19-21, NIV).

Despite Israel’s sin, God loved her. Despite our sins today, God loves us. But a Holy God cannot and will not ignore sin – “those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols” can be certain that He “will bring down on their own heads” the righteous punishment for their sin.

But look at His great mercy:

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them.” The closer we draw to Jesus, the more we become like Him. The less our attention is drawn to the things of this world and the more we desire the things of the Kingdom.

“I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” One people. One heart. The Bride of Christ will be made up of many people from many nations and denominations, but they will be as one in their love for their Lord and Savior.

“Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.” The proof is in the living, folks. If you love Jesus, you obey Him.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘This is an illustration of what will happen to Jerusalem. I placed her at the center of the nations, but she has rebelled against My regulations and decrees and has been even more wicked than the surrounding nations. She has refused to obey the regulations and decrees I gave her to follow.’ Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘You people have behaved worse than your neighbors and have refused to obey My decrees and regulations. You have not even lived up to the standards of the nations around you. Therefore, I myself, the Sovereign Lord, am now your enemy. I will punish you publicly while all the nations watch’” (Ezekiel 5:1-8, NLT).

What a terrifying message Ezekiel delivered to the Israelites! God has yet and never will issue a judgment that He cannot fulfill. Never has the Lord punished any person or nation without first issuing warning after warning; giving opportunity upon opportunity for repentance.

America is loaded with “gods.” According to many current surveys, our fastest growing religions are Islam and Mormonism. The other rapidly growing group is those who want no affiliation with any religion whatsoever. Christianity is considered “old school thinking,” “Grandma and Grandpa’s beliefs,” not something for the modern-minded individual.

If we want Christianity to be our country’s belief, it must first be our own belief. And we must live our faith in a way that leaves no doubt as to Christ’s reality and power.

“Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.” (Elton Trueblood)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Ezekiel was a contemporary (lived at the same time) of Jeremiah who, as a young man, began his ministry during the reign of young King Josiah. Ezekiel was among the exiles brought down to the rivers of Babylon. The captives were settled along the great canal that came off the River Euphrates and Ezekiel’s ministry was among these people.

“‘Son of man,’ He (the Holy Spirit) said, ‘I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against Me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen – for remember, they are rebels – at least they will know they have had a prophet among them’” (Ezekiel 2:3-5, NLT).

Just as the Lord commissioned Ezekiel to speak to the people of Israel, His Son Jesus Christ commissioned each and every one of us who claim Him as Lord and Savior:

[The resurrected] Jesus came and told His disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Great Commission is not for the chosen few – it’s for ALL followers of Jesus Christ. And guess what? It’s a COMMAND, not a suggestion. How are you getting your job done? Remember, it’s not your job to get anyone “saved” – it’s to tell them about Jesus.

“And whether they listen or refuse to listen – for remember, they [don’t know Jesus] – at least they will know they have had a [Christ follower] among them.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But Lord, you remain the same forever! Your throne continues from generation to generation. Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (Lamentations 5:19, 21, NLT).

Whether the writer is Jeremiah or someone else, this person was clearly in Jerusalem to see the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people. Through eyes of faith, he sees beyond his present circumstance and recognizes the absolute sovereignty and trustworthiness of the Almighty.

As today’s passage and many other passages remind us, God doesn’t change. If we need to be brought “back to [God] again,” it’s not because He deserted us, but that we deserted Him – maybe not intentionally; and most likely, in tiny little increments. No believer can live with inner peace unless his life is in fellowship with the Lord Jesus. If there’s no closeness, you moved and you need to return to your Father.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


NOTE: Jeremiah has always been credited with the authorship of Lamentations. In recent years more Biblical scholars are putting it down to “unknown authorship.”

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline” (Lamentations 3:20-27, NLT).

The writer of Lamentations, seeing the horrors of war all around him – death, deportation, and the destruction of the city and the Temple – didn’t lose his confidence in God. If you’re going through a rough patch, think about this man’s response to his situation; then choose to have that kind of trust in your Savior.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

(Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge! The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make, for their carefully shaped works are a fraud. These idols have no breath or power. Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies! On the day of reckoning they will all be destroyed. But the God of Israel is no idol! He is the Creator of everything that exists, including His people, His own special possession. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is His name!” (Jeremiah 51:17-19, NLT).

Jeremiah, in spite of the captivity of the people of Judah and in spite of the coming destruction of the Temple (see Jeremiah 52), continued to trust the Lord. As he received God’s message about the coming judgment against Babylon, Jeremiah simply had to stop and praise the Lord for Who He Was and Is.

Notice what Jeremiah said about “the idols [men] make …” He said they’re “worthless … ridiculous lies!” While most of us today don’t bow down to or pray to an image that we truly believe is a god, we’ve sure made plenty of things into our “gods.” Our homes. Our jobs. Our cars. Our jewelry. Our clothes. Even our children. Folks, whatever it is, if you love it more than you love Jesus Christ, that person or thing has become an idol in your life and it’s time to get your priorities straight.

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are one of “His people, His own special possession.” And He deserves your utmost love and loyalty.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Israelites are like sheep that have been scattered by lions. Therefore, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘… I will bring Israel home again to its own land… to be satisfied once more … In those days,’ says the Lord, ‘no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah, for I will forgive the remnant I preserve’” (Jeremiah 50:17a, 18-19a, 19c, 20, NLT).

A few years ago, an article mentioned a Gallup poll where almost 52,000 people in 57 countries were asked “Are you a religious person, not a religious person, or a convinced atheist?” Fifty-nine percent of respondents classified themselves as religious, while 23 percent said they were not religious, and another 13 percent claimed to be atheists.

But here’s an even more surprising part of the survey: the Jews were the least religious of any people surveyed. Only 38 percent of responding Jews saw themselves as religious, while 54 percent said they were not religious, and another two percent identified themselves as atheists.

Folks, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the kind of mess this world is in. I believe with all my heart that the Lord still has a special plan for the “remnant” of the Jews God has preserved. But I also believe in spiritual Israel, or as Paul put it in Galatians 3: “The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God” (verse 7). I believe, too, that “the real children” are only a “remnant” of those who claim the label of Christian.

It is absolutely sickening to read some people’s Facebook pages and see a beautiful Bible passage and then a string of profanity and criticism from the very same person. James 3:10 addresses this very thing: “… blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”

If your faith is in God, your walk and talk honor God. Are you really concerned about the lost in your family? Friends? Neighborhood? Church? Country? The world? The Lord could, and I believe will, come back at any moment. Don’t wait until it’s too late to talk about the importance of faith in Christ. And make sure your life is a consistently positive witness.

“Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (Genesis 7:6b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


In yesterday’s passage, we see Jeremiah carried off to Egypt after having warned Johanan and the remnant of Judah to stay in their own land. When they arrived in Tahpanhes where the pharaoh made his home, “… the Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, ‘While the people of Judah are watching, take some large rocks and bury them under the pavement stones at the entrance of Pharaoh’s palace here in Tahpanhes. Then say to the people of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will certainly bring my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, here to Egypt. I will set his throne over these stones that I have hidden. He will spread his royal canopy over them. And when he comes, he will destroy the land of Egypt” (Jeremiah 43:8-11a, NLT).

And as always, the Lord did exactly what He said He would do. “Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, and his army were defeated beside the Euphrates River by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon” (Jeremiah 46:2b).

The country to which Johanan and the rest of Judah scurried for protection became the place of their doom. You know, it’s a very good thing that the Lord doesn’t allow any of us to be God-for-a-day. If He did, I don’t think any of us would remotely have the patience that He has!

Let’s say you’re driving down the road and you suddenly see flashing yellow lights and a road barricade ahead. What do you do? Drive straight into the barricade? Look for a way to swerve around it? No! If any of your brain cells are functioning, you slam on the brakes and come to a halt. You stop. You recognize the probability that the barricade was put there to keep you out of a dangerous place.

When the Lord issues a warning, it’s for the same reason. He loves His children and wants to keep them out of danger.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah governor over the remnant of people left behind in Judah, but a man by the name of Ishmael murdered Gedaliah and took the remaining people captive, intent on carrying them off to Ammon. However, Johanan heard what had happened, caught up with Gedeliah, and freed the people. Johanan and his men then intended to take everyone with them to Egypt where they believed they’d be safe from Babylon’s officials.

Before heading out, they consulted Jeremiah, who told them just as he had told Zedekiah, “You sent me to the Lord, the God of Israel, with your request, and this is His reply: ‘Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. For I am sorry about all the punishment I have had to bring upon you. Do not fear the king of Babylon anymore,’ says the Lord. ‘For I am with you and will save you and rescue you from his power. I will be merciful to you by making him kind, so he will let you stay here in your land.’ But if you refuse to obey the Lord your God, and if you say, ‘We will not stay here …’ This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and live there, the very war and famine you fear will catch up to you, and you will die there” (Jeremiah 42:9-13, 15b-16, NLT).

And then all the people rallied around Jeremiah and thanked the Lord that they would be able to stay in their own land, right? No, Johanan and his men responded by saying, “You lie! The Lord our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt!” (Jeremiah 43:2b).

Asked and answered, but not with the answer they wanted to hear. I can recall far too many times when I’ve asked the Lord for an answer, received it and then said, “Yes, Lord, but …” And then I would figure out some ridiculous way to feel “righteous” in doing what I wanted to do all along. Folks, we can misread, misuse, and deliberately ignore the will of God; and all we’ll get for our effort is misery upon misery.

There’s no peace outside the will of God. There’s no one or nothing you can trust like the Lord Jesus. Learn to listen and obey.

”Even though Jesus was God’s [perfect and sinless] Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God’” (Habakkuk 2:4, NLT).

Look at Verse 4 in a couple of other translations:

NIV: “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous will live by his faith ...”

NASB: “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.”

Pride is a dangerous thing. Sure, it’s okay to be proud of your kids or proud of your work or even proud of your home. The problem begins when pride becomes trusting in yourself rather than relying on God. That sort of pride perverts God’s intent for your life.

Doesn’t the Lord want you to have nice things? Success? Good kids? What did Jesus say? “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ISV). If having nice things or success or good kids aligns your life with the will of God and brings glory to Him – because this is what life is about – then He’s all for it.

But what is God against? “The proud.” Those who are “puffed up.” Proverbs 16:18 reminds us: “Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” (God’s Word).

The people of Judah thought the Lord would just keep letting them get away with living however they pleased. And warning after warning was ignored.

Live like God says to. He’s given us a whole Book filled with warning and instruction so that, when our time of judgment comes, we will be “without excuse” (Romans 1:20b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


In yesterday’s passage, Jeremiah 38 recorded how Zedekiah had gone to Jeremiah in secret and had asked Jeremiah to tell him what was going to happen. Jeremiah told him, “This is what the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down. But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape!’” (vv. 17-18a).

So what did Zedekiah do? “By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. Then a section of the city wall was broken down, and all the soldiers [along with the king] fled. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, they waited for nightfall. Then they slipped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden and headed toward the Jordan Valley. But the Babylonian troops chased the king and caught him on the plains of Jericho, for his men had all deserted him and scattered. They took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where they pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:3-7, NLT).

Not exactly a Good News-packed passage, is it? But here’s the deal: in spite of the evil Zedekiah had personally committed and, as the leader of Judah, had led the people under his influence to commit, God was willing to extend mercy. He and his family would be allowed to live if he would obey the Lord and surrender to the Babylonians.

Our sins can set some terrible things into motion. But we can only imagine this side of heaven what additional horrors would have occurred had we not repented and obeyed the Holy Spirit. Zedekiah was given a clear choice, albeit not the best of situations. Yet even in Babylon the Lord could have brought good to Zedekiah, had he only listened and surrendered.

Wherever you find yourself today, God can and will bring good from or in spite of your circumstance if you’ll only trust and obey.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 24-25; Second Chronicles 36

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah had been telling the people. He had been saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life. They will live!’ So these officials went to the king and said, ‘Sir, this man must die! That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people. This man is a traitor!’ King Zedekiah agreed. So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.

'But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. … so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with [the king]. ‘My lord the king,’ he said, ‘these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.’ So the king told Ebed-melech, ‘Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.’

'So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing. He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope. Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.’ Then when Jeremiah was ready, they pulled him out” (Jeremiah 38:1-2, 4-5a, 6a, 6c, 7a, 8-13a, NLT).

In Biblical times the king wielded unimaginable power. If you so much as entered his presence without permission, your life could be in danger. Yet look at this one man Ebed-melech. Hearing what had happened to the prophet Jeremiah, Ebed-melech put his own life on the line in rushing to the king – who had gone along with the request to put Jeremiah in the cistern – and pleading for Jeremiah’s life.

In other words, Ebed-melech stuck his neck out. He took a brave step to do the right thing. Had you or I been there, what would we have done? Passed by the well (cistern) and whispered down, “Jeremiah, I’m so sorry about this.” “Jeremiah, I’m praying for you.” “Here, Jeremiah, I’m dropping a crust of bread. Hope you can find it before it sinks in the mud.”

People who’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb should have a holy boldness to do the right thing even when the right thing puts their lives in jeopardy. Even when the right thing isn’t the popular thing. Even when the rest of the world doesn’t see the right thing as the right thing.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Jeremiah 38-40; Psalm 74 & 79

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is the message the Lord gave Jeremiah when Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah: ‘Go to the settlement where the families of the Recabites live, and invite them to the Lord’s Temple. Take them into one of the inner rooms, and offer them some wine.’ I took them to the Temple, and … I set cups and jugs of wine before them and invited them to have a drink, but they refused. ‘No,’ they said, ‘we don’t drink wine, because our ancestor Jehonadab son of Recab gave us this command: ‘You and your descendants must never drink wine. So we have obeyed him in all these things. We have never had a drink of wine to this day, nor have our wives, our sons, or our daughters.’

‘Then the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: Go and say to the people in Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Come and learn a lesson about how to obey Me. The Recabites do not drink wine to this day because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to. But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to obey Me. Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, ‘Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.’ But you would not listen to Me or obey Me. Therefore, this is what the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Because you refuse to listen or answer when I call, I will send upon Judah and Jerusalem all the disasters I have threatened’” (Jeremiah 35:1-2, 4a, 5-6, 8, 12-15, 17, NLT).

First Chronicles 2:51 names Salma as the founder of Bethlehem and one of the sons of Caleb’s son Hur. It goes on to explain that these families “… were Kenites who descended from Hammath, the father of the family of Recab” (1 Chronicles 2:55b). Thus the people known as Recabites or Kenites are one in the same.

Because their ancestor Jehonadab had instructed them, among other things, not to drink wine, none of them did. And yet the Lord Himself repeatedly told His people to “Turn from [their] wicked ways, and … stop worshiping other gods …” and the Israelites refused to obey Him.

Are we any different? If our employer says to be at work at 8am, are we there? If we’re to work until 5pm, do we do it? We obey our employers’ requirements because we want to please our bosses. How much more respect and obedience does the God of Heaven deserve?

If there’s any area of your life where you are knowingly ignoring God’s commands – including a personal word He may be speaking to your heart – repent now and do as He says “so that you might live in peace …”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I will certainly bring My people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in My fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be My people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship Me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship Me, and they will never leave Me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land” (Jeremiah 32:37-41, NLT).

Through His prophet Jeremiah, the Lord issued a message of hope for His downtrodden people. And like so much of God’s Word, this is a message that His children living today can still cling to.

God is going to judge the earth and a terrible time is coming. For those who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, the horrors will extend into forever. As for God’s people – those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ – we will spend eternity in the New Jerusalem where, at last, we will all have “one heart and one purpose: to worship [the Lord] forever.”

Twice in today’s passage the Lord speaks of “doing good for” His children. But you don’t have to wait until eternity to experience God “doing good for” you. If He’s saved you, what greater good could ever be done for you?

A recent study showed that 1.8 million children die each year from diarrhea caused by unclean drinking water and lack of even the most basic medical help. Within the Third World (also called the “developing world,” the nations less economically and technologically advanced), there are 1.9 billion children, 640 million of which have no or inadequate shelter – that’s 1 out of 3. If you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food in your stomach, how blessed you are! Time to stop complaining.

We’re very quick to ask for what we need or want, but we’re sometimes slow or completely forgetful to thank Him for what He’s already done. Today is the perfect day to make a list of all God’s blessings.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But now this is what the Lord says: ‘Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,’ says the Lord. ‘Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. There is hope for your future,’ says the Lord. ‘Your children will come again to their own land. I have heard Israel saying, ‘You disciplined me severely, like a calf that needs training for the yoke. Turn me again to You and restore me, for you alone are the Lord my God. I turned away from God, but then I was sorry. I kicked myself for my stupidity! I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days’” (Jeremiah 31:16-19, NLT).

No matter how great the storm around you, there is always hope. Even though the Lord punished His people severely for their repeated waywardness, He still wanted them to know that He had not and would not abandon them and that a better day was coming.

While God gives every person the freedom to make their own choices, He also moves in response to the prayers of His people. Every time Larry and I pray for our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters, we firmly believe that He sends His Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts and draw them to Him. Will He make them submit to His will? No.

But He won’t stop reaching out to them as we continue to pray. And whether or not Larry and I see it in our lifetimes, I believe with all my heart that my son and his family will serve the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) says to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Or as the NLT words it: “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

Some years ago I listened to the testimony of a new believer, a man in his late 60s who had spent his entire life doing anything and everything contrary to the word of God. As he stood at the podium, he told his audience, “But I never forgot the prayers of my mother, and not a day went by without my knowing that what I was doing was wrong.” He, like so many of us who now know Jesus, can look back and be “thoroughly ashamed of all [we] did in [our] younger days.” Thank the Lord that He forgets what we still remember!

God is faithful. How old is “older”? Only God knows. Keep praying for all those you want to see come to Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord gave Jeremiah instructions to make himself a visual image of what was about to take place: “Make a yoke, and fasten it on your neck with leather thongs. Then send messages to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon through their ambassadors who have come to see King Zedekiah in Jerusalem. [Tell them:] So you must submit to Babylon’s king (Nebuchadnezzar) and serve him; put your neck under Babylon’s yoke! I will punish any nation that refuses to be his slave …” (Jeremiah 27:2b-3, 8a, NLT).

Not exactly good news, huh? And bad news is never popular; so along came “Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet from Gibeon” (Jeremiah 28:1b) who proclaimed a false message, supposedly the words of God, saying, “I will remove the yoke of the king of Babylon from your necks. Within two years I will bring back all the Temple treasures that King Nebuchadnezzar carried off to Babylon. And I will bring back Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the other captives that were taken to Babylon. I will surely break the yoke that the king of Babylon has put on your necks. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 28:2b-4).

Jeremiah, no doubt, was about as popular as his message of doom and gloom, so how did he respond to Hananiah, who, in front of the entire Temple assemblage, “took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it in pieces” (Jeremiah 28:10b)? No public rebuke. No I’m-the-real-prophet-here speech. He simply said, “… a prophet who predicts peace must show he is right. Only when his predictions come true can we know that he is really from the Lord” (Jeremiah 28:9). And then “… Jeremiah left the Temple area” (Jeremiah 28:11b). We can learn a lot from the way Jeremiah handled his public humiliation.

Jeremiah waited on the Lord and, as always, the Lord answered. He gave Jeremiah a message for Hananiah, which I believe Jeremiah delivered in private and in sorrow: “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, but the people believe your lies. Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘You must die. Your life will end this very year because you have rebelled against the Lord’” (Jeremiah 28:15b-16).

And God carried out His judgment: “Two months later the prophet Hananiah died” (Jeremiah 28:17).

When we are living in God’s will, He is our Defender. No matter how or by whom you are wronged, wait on the Lord to deal with the situation. He is faithful.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘For the time is coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be His name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6a, NLT).

In spite of Judah’s and Israel’s sin; in spite of the false prophets, the enemy armies and a host of other serious problems, God gave Jeremiah Good News: I’m sending you a Savior.

If we will only look at the history of Israel, we’ll see a clear picture of God’s love for His people and His faithfulness to them. Does He make them live according to their covenant with Him? No. Does He allow them to live as godlessly as any other people? Yes. But because He chose them out of all the nations of the earth, He never gives up on them. Never.

Likewise with spiritual Israel. God doesn’t give up on His children. “The Lord Our Righteousness” came to set us free from the bondage of sin, but He still allows us to make our own choices. I pray that your choice today and every day is to faithfully serve the Lord Jesus.

“… you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, ‘Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.’ So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: ‘… can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand’” (Jeremiah 18:1-5, NLT).

In the early 1900’s Adelaide Pollard believed the Lord was calling her as a missionary to Africa. But try as she did, the money to make this possible didn’t materialize. Bewildered at the failure of her efforts, Adelaide sought comfort at a prayer meeting. As the group began to pray, she heard an elderly woman saying, “It’s all right, Lord. It doesn’t matter what You bring into our lives; just have Your own way with us.”

Those words sank deep into Adelaide Pollard’s heart and a much encouraged believer went home and penned the words of this familiar old hymn:

“Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.”

Pliable clay can be molded as the Potter sees fit – it’s the hardened, the unsubmissive, clay that must be broken. And being broken is painful. But it’s so often a necessary process in order to become what the Lord wants us to be. Submit to His loving will and know the joy and peace of being exactly where and what He wants you to be.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Lord says: ‘… blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit’” (Jeremiah 17:5a, 7-8, NLT).

God Himself describes “those who trust in the Lord,” “those who… have made the Lord their hope and confidence”:

“They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” When a believer sticks close to the Living Water, he becomes deeply rooted in his faith and nothing can shake him. He is continually positioned to drink from the Well.

“Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.” While tough times may cause others to crumble, the deeply rooted believer continues to stand.

“Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” How can you tell a dead tree from a live one? A live one puts out green leaves and produces fruit. A healthy oak tree produces leaves and acorns. A healthy apple tree produces leaves and apples. A healthy tree keeps growing. Get the picture?

If you’re serious about serving Jesus, you’re going to stay close to the Living Water. And that, my brother or sister, will keep you spiritually healthy and abundantly productive for the Kingdom. How’s your crop level?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, NIV).

Have you ever given serious thought to the fact that “a man’s life is not his own”? Whether or not you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your life is being directed by a spiritual power. As the Bible teaches over and over, all of life is about choices; and man’s choice today is the same as it was in the Garden: good or evil.

“It is not for man to direct his steps.” Every human being is following spiritual guidance, and that instruction comes from one of two places. Can a believer be following Satan’s directing? Most assuredly. When Peter drew Jesus aside to reprimand Him for speaking about His impending death, what did Jesus say to Peter? “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matthew 16:23, NLT). If the apostle Peter could act on wrongful guidance, so can any other believer.

So let me ask you this: who is directing your steps? Is it Jesus? I pray it is, because there is always a spiritual force guiding your pathway. Stick close to Jesus and make sure you’re following His leading. Your decisions today will affect the choices of your future and future generations.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Lord says: ‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again? When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back? Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?’” (Jeremiah 8:4b-5a, NLT).

Would a person leaving Atlanta driving to San Francisco head east? Even if he did so accidentally, wouldn’t he correct the problem the moment he realized he was going in the wrong direction? Such is the question posed by the Lord. Every person is pointed in a direction that’s either leading him closer to Jesus or farther away.

If you know the things going on in your life are putting more distance between you and Jesus, “why [would you] stay on [such a] self-destructive path?” No child of the King is going to be allowed to continue to wander – the Father will get his attention, whatever it takes.

And no person who isn’t God’s child can escape self-destruction. Unless what? Unless he surrenders to the Lordship of Jesus Christ so that he can be adopted into the Kingdom.

In Matthew 25:41 Jesus talks about the Final Judgment, clearly stating that hell, “the eternal fire [was] prepared for the devil and his demons.” God has not and never will send a person to hell – the person who rejects Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior chooses for himself that eternal destination, that “self-destructive path.”

Check-up time: are you closer to the Lord today than you were last week? Last month? Last year? If you “discover [you’re] on the wrong road, … turn back”!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. Have you no respect for Me? Why don’t you tremble in My presence? I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. But My people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned Me.

'They do not say from the heart, ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God, for He gives us rain each spring and fall, assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’ Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things” (Jeremiah 5:21-25. NLT).

God told the people of Judah that soulless creation was more obedient to Him than the creations He made in His own image. And note particularly Verse 24: “They do not say from the heart, ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God …’” With their mouths the people were saying, “Let us live in awe of the Lord our God,” but the Lord knew that what came out of their mouths didn’t match what was in their hearts.

How many blessings have been missed because of our refusal to be singly focused on Christ! The Heavenly Father plainly says that it is [Our] sin [that] has robbed [us] of all these good things.”

Throughout the Bible we see the Lord refer to the people’s “heart” – one heart. If we want to see the power of God in our lives, churches, families, countries, and the world, then we have to stop bickering among ourselves, set our minds and hearts on honoring Jesus Christ, and live with a singleness of purpose both individually and corporately as the body of Christ.

“All the believers were united in heart and mind …” (Acts 4:32a)

“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them” (Ezekiel 11:19a).

“And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship Me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants” (Jeremiah 32:39).

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord gave me this message: ‘I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.’ ‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.’ And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!’” (Jeremiah 1:4-8, NLT).

Was Jeremiah’s calling unique? In the sense that he was called to serve the Lord as His prophet during the reigns of Josiah and his sons Johoiakim and Zedekiah, yes. In that he was born for a specific purpose, no, his calling was not unique. Why? Because God has a specific plan for every life He has created. And there is no person or thing that wasn’t created by Him.

Will He force you to live out your life according to His will? No. But He’ll most assuredly bless you if you do. Don’t let your age – be it young or old – or inexperience or any other excuse keep you from living a life obedient to His calling.

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

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

“‘What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,’ says the Lord. ‘You make plans that are contrary to mine’” (Isaiah 30:1a, NLT).

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:11, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Gather together – yes, gather together, you shameless nation. Gather before judgment begins, before your time to repent is blown away like chaff. Act now, before the fierce fury of the Lord falls and the terrible day of the Lord’s anger begins. Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow His commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly” (Zephaniah 2:1-3a. NLT).

If you’ve never tried a Little Debbie cake, you’ve missed a fabulous treat. Let’s suppose I unwrap one, extend it toward you and, just inches before reaching your fingertips, inadvertently drop it into a very shallow mud puddle. I quickly scoop it up and hand it to you, saying, “Enjoy! I don’t think it got all that dirty.” Would you eat it? Didn’t think so. Why not? It’s dirty! It’s unacceptable.

Ah, are you beginning to see the picture? We can’t live with one foot in the church and one foot in the mud puddle of the world and then claim to be clean. Living as a “fence-straddler” is unacceptable. If you’re God’s child through faith in Jesus Christ, Judgment Day’s a-comin’ and you need to be ready. Matter of fact, even if you’re not His child, Judgment Day’s a-comin’ and the only way you can get ready is to get Jesus.

God doesn’t want excuses – He wants faithfulness. “Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow His commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly… before judgment begins, before your time to repent is blown away …”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right. During the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David. Then in the twelfth year he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 34:1-3a. NLT).

Josiah was an eight-year-old child “when he became king.” And who was Josiah’s father? Let’s backtrack a bit: When Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh succeeded him as king. Upon Manasseh’s death, his son Amon took the throne. And upon Amon’s death, Amon’s son Josiah was made Judah’s ruler.

Second Kings 18:5 says, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.” But of Manasseh and Amon, the Bible speaks quite differently: [Manasseh] did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Chronicles 33:2a). [Amon] did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Manasseh, had done” (2 Chronicles 33:22a).

And then along comes little Josiah. People of God, there is no end to the godly influence we pass along. I firmly believe Josiah’s interest in the things of God can be attributed to three things: (1) the prayers of his great-grandfather Hezekiah; (2) the prayers and influence of the God-fearing people who were members of the royal household; and (3) Josiah’s own choice.

Josiah chose to seek God. Are you?

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 22-23; Second Chronicles 34-35

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him. But he will sweep away His enemies in an overwhelming flood” (Nahum 1:7-8a, NLT).

The little three-chapter book of the prophet Nahum states God’s indictment against the people of Nineveh. What and where was Nineveh? It was a huge city and the capital of the Assyrian empire. It was the very city to which Jonah was sent to warn of the Lord’s impending destruction.

But in the midst of Nahum’s warning from God is a breath of fresh air, a reminder of the grace, mercy, and goodness of our Creator: “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him.”

Nahum, like Jonah, is warning a heathen nation and yet there’s still that message of hope. Always, always God gives hope.

Another important point to see in today’s focal passage: He is “a strong refuge when trouble comes.” Not IF “trouble comes,” but “WHEN trouble comes.” Yes, we’ll have problems; but we’re guaranteed final victory.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jesus speaking, John 16:33, NIV).

“He,” my brothers and sisters, “is close to those who trust in Him.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 32:24-26a, NLT).

Yesterday we read about the miraculous sign Hezekiah was given to confirm the Lord’s healing of his sickness. Can you imagine the buzz around the palace? “Not only was Hezekiah miraculously healed by Jehovah, but He gave Hezekiah a sign – He caused the shadow on the royal sundial to go backwards! You should have seen it!”

Perhaps people began to attach a greater significance to, as Perry Mason’s writer would have put it, “The Case of the Backward Shadow” than to the healing of a dying man. And perhaps Hezekiah began to thoroughly enjoy leading a throng of admirers out to the sundial so he could show them, “Yes, this is where it happened.” However it came about, Hezekiah became afflicted with a serious case of “pride.”

Did Hezekiah heal himself? Did he cause the shadow of the sun to move backwards across the sundial? Of course not! And yet he began to take great pride in the fact that these things had taken place. And he was pretty proud of all the wealth that well-wishers had heaped on him when they heard about his “sundial miracle” and astounding recovery.

Pride is such a dangerous thing. And it’s highly contagious. The people of Judah began to think of themselves as “the subjects of the miraculously healed king who got the sundial miracle.” Instead of living in awe of the Miracle Worker, they were enamored with themselves.

Whatever the Lord has done for you, don’t let it become a thing of pride. Every one of God’s children is His absolute favorite, so get over the idea that you’ve been singled out for special treatment. Over and over He warns us that He is “a jealous God” – see Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19; and Nahum 1:2 – and that He “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The prophet Isaiah had delivered the Lord’s message to the godly king of Judah, Hezekiah: “… Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die” (2 Kings 20:1b, NLT). But Hezekiah wept and prayed and the Lord heard his prayer and sent Isaiah to deliver His message: “I will add fifteen years to your life …” (2 Kings 20:6a).

When Isaiah delivered the good news, Hezekiah asked for a sign: “What sign will the Lord give to prove that He will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the Lord three days from now?” (2 Kings 20:8).

“Isaiah replied, ‘This is the sign from the Lord to prove that He will do as He promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?’ ‘The shadow always moves forward,’ Hezekiah replied, ‘so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.’ So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and He caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!” (2 Kings 20:9-11).

Has the Lord stopped giving His people signs when they ask for assurance? Absolutely not. However, it takes a great deal more faith to simply believe than it does to ask Him for a sign to prove that He’s actually going to fulfill whatever He’s promised. Too, we have to remember that Hezekiah and the other believers of his time didn’t have the continual presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit as do God’s people today.

When Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms, he turned to Mary and Joseph and told them: “He has been sent as a SIGN from God …” (Luke 2:34). Don’t get hung up on asking for signs every time you pray about something. Remember that New Testament Christians have already received Him.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“The Lord says, ‘I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on My Name. All day long I opened My arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes. All day long they insult Me to My face … I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at My Word. But those who choose their own ways … I will send them great trouble – all the things they feared. For when I called, they did not answer. When I spoke, they did not listen. They deliberately sinned before My very eyes and chose to do what they know I despise’” (Isaiah 65:1-3a, 66:2b-3a, 4, NLT).

Today’s passage is loaded with great spiritual truths, the first of which is that you can’t find what you’re not looking for. Sounds like a pretty “duh” statement, doesn’t it? But fact is, there are countless people struggling frantically with the troubles in their lives and looking to drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, material possessions, professional prestige, and the like, hoping to lift themselves above the pain or maybe even sink down into it and accept it.

God’s not hard to find. He’s ready and waiting to answer any person who sincerely calls on His Name. But here’s what I don’t want you to miss: in today’s passage He’s speaking to people who claim to be His!

Believers, we need to get past the attitude that once we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, everything is a done deal and we don’t have to worry about anything from that moment onward. A person who’s been genuinely transformed by the saving power of the Holy Spirit is not going to live a life that shows zero evidence of His presence. A person who’s been genuinely transformed will not live a sinful lifestyle. Having Jesus inside you is like having an elephant in your living room – if He’s there, you can’t hide Him.

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:1-3a, NLT).

After Jesus had spent forty days being tempted in the wilderness, He returned to the region of Galilee and began to teach in the synagogues. Returning to Nazareth, He stood in the synagogue and opened the scroll containing God’s message through the prophet Isaiah; and He began reading the passage written in the paragraph above – see Luke 4:18-19. Then He told the people, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

How’d that work out for Him, since this was His hometown? Luke 4:28-29 says that “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.”

Even though the Lamb of God had no flaws, no sins, He still was met with outright hatred when He proclaimed His rightful title. Hometown crowds are the toughest. When it comes to me or you – especially me – we have flawed pasts. And the hometown crowd is the one that knows all about it. No matter how much we’ve changed and matured, they remember how we used to be.

Good News! God doesn’t remember. What we confess, He forgives and FORGETS. He didn’t come to keep us in the prison of our guilt – He came to free us. He came to give us “blessing instead of mourning” and “festive praise instead of despair.” He’s offering you blessing. He’s offering you a “festive [spirit of] praise instead of despair.” Sound like a good trade? Then receive it.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


In Isaiah 58 the Lord lays out His complaint against the “religious” crowd. As you read this portion of today’s passage, I hope you’ll examine your own heart and see if there’s any area that hits home with you, especially about how you spend your Sundays. If so, repent and allow Christ’s healing forgiveness to blanket you with His love and urge you to do greater things for His glory. (I added bracketed text in the first sentence.)

“… they act so pious! They come to [church] every [service] and seem delighted to learn all about Me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask Me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near Me. ‘We have fasted before You!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t You impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and You don’t even notice it!’ ‘I will tell you why!’ I respond. ‘It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with Me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want:

‘Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ He will quickly reply. Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I, the Lord, have spoken” (Isaiah 58:2-10a, 13-14a, 14c, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


As I said a few days ago, the salvation of the world has always been God’s plan. Isaiah 42:6 proclaims God’s call to Israel to “be a light to guide all nations to [Him].” In today’s passage we see exactly how He intends for this to be accomplished:

“… the One who formed Me in My mother’s womb to be His servant, who commissioned Me to bring Israel back to Him. The Lord has honored Me, and My God has given Me strength. He says, ‘You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and You will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Isaiah 49:5a-6, NLT).

Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant and Savior, has always been God’s plan. He has always been God’s “salvation to the ends of the earth.”

There are so many religions out there today who blend a little of Jesus with a little of this and that. We need to be very careful to do our own studying and know that whatever we’re hearing in Bible class or from the pulpit is being correctly taught according to the Word of God. Do you know your church’s doctrinal beliefs? You should.

You also need to be careful about taking the attitude that your church is “the one.” Of all the true Christ-teaching churches, God has not singled out any one church or denomination as the “right” one. Since churches are made up of people, they’re flawed. Maybe you’ve never thought about this before, but whole church groups aren’t going to be taken in the Rapture – individuals will be taken; which means that in churches everywhere, there will be people left behind who got all the head knowledge but never let it into their hearts. The One True Church that Christ Himself will gather will be made up of individual blood-bought believers from all over the world, regardless of what sort of church they’re affiliated with. As the old hymn says, make sure you know you’ll “be in that number.”

Revelation’s song to the Lamb: “… your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had invaded Israel and was about to attack Jerusalem. His chief of staff gave Sennacherib’s warning to the people of Judah:

“Don’t let [your king] Hezekiah deceive you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord … Choose life instead of death! Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’” (2 Kings 18:29a, 30a, 32b, NLT).

“When King Hezekiah heard [Sennacherib’s message], he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz” (2 Kings 19:1-2).

Hezekiah and the other leaders humbled themselves, praying and mourning for Judah. And God heard and saw their desperation. Isaiah sent this message from the Lord:

“Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against Me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I Myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’ That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords” (2 Kings 19:6b-7, 35-37a, NLT).

When God promises His protection, He gives it. When He promises destruction, He fulfills it. And as with King Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem, when He is on your side, there is no such thing as insurmountable odds – the victory is already His.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 18:9-19:37; Psalms 46, 80 & 135

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let all the world look to Me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by My Own Name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on My word: Every knee will bend to Me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to Me. The people will declare, ‘The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength’” (Isaiah 45:22-24a, NLT).

The salvation of the world has always been God’s plan. As yesterday’s passage told us, the Lord called Israel to “be a light to guide all nations to [Him] (Isaiah 42:6). I’ve heard people say, “Look at all the religious people who believe in a higher power or authority. Even if they don’t acknowledge Jesus, surely God isn’t going to condemn them.” News flash, people: Jesus is God. And if you don’t know Jesus, you don’t know God. And I might also add that God condemns no one – He simply gives them a choice: choose life in Me or death apart from Me.

Look again at today’s passage: “For I am God; there is no other.” A person may not want to accept the fact that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, but the Bible plainly warns that “Every knee will bend to [Him], and every tongue will confess allegiance to [Him].” Think about it: even those who are going to miss out on heaven will do so having first seen Him and having first recognized Him for Who He Is.

“He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised Him up to the heights of heaven and gave Him a Name that is above every other name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:7-11).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior’” (Isaiah 43:1-3a, NLT).

Today’s passage is loaded with Good News, but I chose three verses to focus on because they contain such a great message of encouragement. You, child of God, are loved so very much by “the Lord who created you.” And I believe it’s no misplacement or displacement to take the words of this passage and apply them directly to believers who are struggling today:

“Do not be afraid.” Why? Because Jesus Christ has “ransomed you.” He’s paid for your pardon and your freedom.

God has “called you by name; you are” His! The Creator of the Universe not only calls you by name but calls you His own!

“When you go through deep waters, [He] will be with you!” Even “when you go through rivers of difficulty, [He] will not [allow you to] drown.” No matter how deep the trouble or sorrow, the Comforter is with you and encouraging you and supporting you.

And though you may find yourself “walk[ing] through the fire of oppression,” the Victor who has already won the war will intercede for you and bring you victoriously through.

He is “the Lord.” He is “the Holy One of Israel.” But the Almighty brings it to a personal level: He’s also “YOUR God” and “YOUR Savior.”

Celebrate His faithfulness today!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“… Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.’ When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.’ Then he broke down and wept bitterly. Then this message came to Isaiah from the Lord: ‘Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life …’” (Isaiah 38:1-5, NLT).

Does God still heal? Absolutely! Does God still answer prayer? Most definitely! Hezekiah was sick with an illness that was going to take his life – God’s own prophet Isaiah confirmed this to be true. But when Hezekiah prayed, God granted him 15 more years of life! Prayer is powerful!

But here’s what I don’t want you to miss: Hezekiah didn’t seek the Lord as a last-ditch effort – he was already serving Him. And Hezekiah didn’t claim or demand the right to be healed. He simply prayed, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you …”

God’s choices don’t always make sense to us. He gives one person earthly healing and denies it to another. But short of the Rapture, any person He chooses to heal is still going to die at some point. However, the person who receives SPIRITUAL healing will NEVER die.

None of us are in a hurry to get out of this world, and none of us want to lose a friend or family member to death. But what we need to be most concerned about is making sure that all of our friends and family know the One who can give them spiritual healing and eternity in His heavenly Kingdom.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display His glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.’ And when He comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways …” (Isaiah 35:1-8a, NLT).

Isaiah told the people that their Messiah was coming; and when He came, He “open[ed] the eyes of the blind” and He “unplug[ged] the ears of the deaf.” “The lame” walked and “those who [could not] speak [sang] for joy!”

All those miracles were wonderful, but what was His chief purpose in coming? “To save you!” Jesus Christ came, bringing salvation to all who would believe in Him. He’s still in the saving business today, and each one of us who already knows Him as Lord and Savior has an assignment, a mission, to tell others the Good News.

“With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear …’”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“Look, a righteous King is coming! And honest princes will rule under Him. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a Great Rock in a parched land” (Isaiah 32:1-2, NLT).

When Christ returns for His Bride, He will set all things right. And amazingly, He will allow US to rule and reign WITH Him as “honest princes.” How can we possibly achieve such an honor?

We can’t. But what we can do is latch onto the full truth of what Christ has already done for us. Suffered unimaginable torture so that we don’t have to. Paid the penalty for our sin simply because He loves us.

Let’s say you have one child. That child grows up to be a man that makes you so proud to call him your own. And that child does nothing but good everywhere he goes and everywhere he turns. Then one day as he’s walking by a bank’s doorway, he sees a robber holding the employees and customers hostage. Your son, your one and only child, bangs on the door and yells to the robber, “Take me, and let these other people go free!” The robber agrees and your son walks into the bank as the robber releases his captives.

How would you feel? Would you prefer the robber take someone else? Would you prefer the robber keep everybody else and let your son go free? Wouldn’t you rather your son just stay out of it completely and let those other people deal with their own problem? Why, you’d almost wish anything on anyone if it kept harm from coming to your child!

But see, that’s just the point. It wasn’t your choice. It was his. He volunteered.

And so did Jesus. He saw the choice before Him and saw the price we’d have to pay, and chose to pay it for us. How can you not love a Man like that?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“And so the Lord says, ‘These people say they are Mine. They honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. And their worship of Me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.’ How foolish can you be? [The Lord] is the Potter, and He is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, ‘He didn’t make me’? Does a jar ever say, ‘The potter who made me is stupid’? This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved.’ Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken” (Isaiah 29:13, 16; 30:15a; 28:16, NLT).

Throughout history the very people who claimed to belong to the One True God have been unfaithful; and yet the Lord has over and over proven His absolute faithfulness. What love He has for His people!

We who claim to be His today need to be very careful to keep our worship truly worship. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than parking your Chevy in a luxury car showroom will transform it into a Maserati.

Where you physically are isn’t remotely as important as where you spiritually are. Yes, the Bible absolutely tells us that we should regularly gather together with fellow believers to worship, pray, and learn together – see Hebrews 10:25. But doing any of those three things – worshiping, praying and learning – requires that your heart and mind be in the same place that your body is.

Go to church. But go prepared to worship. And when you get there, worship. And when you can’t be there, worship where you are. Your life should be lived as an act of worship to the One and Only One you can securely build your life on.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called My son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from Me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with My ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I Myself stooped to feed him” (Hosea 11:1-4, NLT).

If you’ve ever had children, you’ve probably experienced something similar to what I have. I recall trying to shop with my son Mickey when he was a toddler. The moment I let go of his hand, off he’d dart into a rack of clothes. If I stooped to get him out, saying, “Come to Mommy,” precious child that he was, he would take off in the opposite direction. Much like the problem the Heavenly Father experienced with His people Israel and much like He still experiences with His children today.

Why is it that we, like stubborn little children, want to ignore the very One who calls us, loves us enough to die for us, teaches us His ways, leads us along the right paths with “kindness and love,” carries our burdens, and feeds us spiritual food that we can’t get anywhere else? Because we’ve still got a lot of growing up to do.

The more we mature, the less we stray. Had a faithfulness checkup lately? How’re you doing?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“I will make you My wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you Mine, and you will finally know Me as the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20, NLT).

The prophet Hosea married a woman who was unfaithful, and the Lord used Hosea’s situation to portray the unfaithfulness of Israel. He used Hosea to portray His own faithfulness despite the behavior of His chosen people.

Look again at the words of today’s passage as the Lord speaks through Hosea. Even though the people dishonored the Lord in countless ways, still He continued to love them and rescue them each time they turned to Him. He hasn’t changed, you know. He loves His own today just as He did in Hosea’s day.

If you’ve been unfaithful to God, He hasn’t stopped loving you. However, if you’re His child, He loves you far too much not to discipline you. And what it takes to get your attention depends on how long and how far you want to keep wandering away from Him.

The Holy God of Heaven promises you, “I will be faithful to you …” Make that same promise to Him. And then keep it.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. He said to them, ‘Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and His dwelling place; they turned their backs on Him. They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel. That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that His fierce anger will turn away from us” (2 Chronicles 29:3-10, NLT).

Hezekiah didn’t have a godly father. He was brought up in a country filled with evil practices and people. And yet he wasted no time putting things in order when he began his reign as king of Judah. He cleaned up the mess his father Ahaz had made, reopening the Temple and restoring the daily sacrifices and proper worship of Jehovah. Second Kings 18:5-6a says that “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything …”

Hezekiah didn’t let his past dictate his future. Instead of wallowing in the sins of his father, Hezekiah saw the devastation it had caused his family and his nation; and he chose to walk a different path. Maybe you didn’t have godly parents. What you do have, though, is your own choice to make.

“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped … and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14, NIV).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 18:1-8; Second Chronicles 29-31; Psalm 48

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


You know, we can claim to love Jesus and even claim to be one of His children, but the proof, as the old saying goes, is in the pudding. That very phrase, “the proof is in the pudding,” is actually a shortened version of a very old expression or proverb, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Meaning what? That the pudding can look right and even smell right, and still be a bad pudding. Tasting it is the way to know its real value.

Perhaps that’s what Isaiah was saying when he wrote the words of Isaiah 26:8: “Lord, we show our trust in You by obeying Your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify Your name” (NLT).

Plenty of genuine Christians have been in the Kingdom so long that they’re just ticking along, waiting on their ride home. They look good and, hopefully, smell good; but they’re actually as stale as old toast – living on past works and depending on their past confessions. Folks, we can’t afford to live IN the past or ON the past!

The Christian life is a daily life. It doesn’t matter if you gave your heart to Jesus at age 9 or age 90 – if He’s left you here, He’s left you here for a purpose: to obey His laws and glorify His name. And that’s impossible unless you’re committed to serving others.

“… all we have accomplished is really from You. O Lord our God … You alone are the One we worship” (Isaiah 26:12b, 13).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse. But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep. You feast on meat and drink wine. You say, ‘Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” (Isaiah 22:12-13, NLT).

As we saw with Israel in yesterday’s passage, God’s warning to the people of Jerusalem was included with warnings to the Gentile nations. Why? If God’s people chose to act like the people around them, then God would treat them as He would the nations around them.

Isaiah had been given a vision of the Babylonian army coming against Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem fortified the city walls and hoped for the best. Some fatalistically decided, “Hey, let’s just live in the moment.” They partied hearty, knowing or fearing that they were soon to be destroyed.

The one thing they didn’t do? “… weep and mourn …” Repent. God’s own people had strayed so far from Him that calling on the Lord didn’t even occur to them. God Himself spoke through Isaiah, telling them: “… you never ask for help …” (Isaiah 22:11).

We need Jesus every day. As the old hymn says, “I need Thee every hour.” We don’t need to go through good times or bad ones without Jesus as the center and focus of our lives. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you’re His child. And what Good Parent doesn’t want to be there for His child? Depend on Him for everything.

“My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me” (Psalm 62:7).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


In today’s passage, Isaiah issues the Lord’s warning about impending disaster for Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, and Damascus. And then He moves on to Israel, stating precisely why this devastation would take place:

“Why? Because you have turned from the God who can save you. You have forgotten the Rock who can hide you” (Isaiah 17:10, NLT).

So often it takes hardship or tragedy for people to be willing to turn to God. But for those of us who have learned from these difficulties, we know there is nowhere else to turn and no one else who can help us. We cry out with Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68).

Don’t wait for a crisis to come into your life to turn to Jesus. Stand daily on the Solid Rock.

“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9b, NIV).

“Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer look to their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made” (Isaiah 17:7-8, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“At that time King Ahaz of Judah asked the king of Assyria for help. The armies of Edom had again invaded Judah and taken captives. And the Philistines had raided towns located in the foothills of Judah and in the Negev of Judah. The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord. So when King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria arrived, he attacked Ahaz instead of helping him. Ahaz took valuable items from the Lord’s Temple, the royal palace, and from the homes of his officials and gave them to the king of Assyria as tribute. But this did not help him. Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, ‘Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.’ But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah. The king took the various articles from the Temple of God and broke them into pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s Temple so that no one could worship there …” (2 Chronicles 28:16-18a, 19-24a, NLT).

A nation’s leader points the people in either the right or wrong direction. Ahaz was a leader that clearly pointed Judah away from God. But before we start looking at the political figures in our country, let’s look at our own lives. Every one of us is leading someone. Every one of us has someone watching and even following our example.

And that example will either draw people into the Kingdom of God, or it will repel them. What is your life teaching others about Jesus?

“Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

“… each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, NIV).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Chronicles 28; Second Kings 16-17

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has made this promise!” (Micah 4:3b-4, NLT).

For those who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is coming a day when Christ’s eternal reign will mean living in total harmony with one and all, with “nothing to fear.” Bad news – sickness, wars, physical and financial catastrophes – will be nonexistent. Worry will be a forgotten thing of the past.

How can we be sure of this? “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has made this promise!” How can we be sure we’ll be a part of this eternal kingdom? Acts 16:31 tells us how: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (NIV). But we need to be very careful about stopping at merely believing – after all, James 2:19 plainly reminds us: “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

True belief in Jesus Christ leads to true and complete commitment to Him. As Jesus Himself said it, “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:18-20).

If you are fully surrendered to Jesus, your life is dedicated to serving Him. You’re consistent in your walk. You’re consistent in your talk. Your focus is on Christ and on others.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish” (Jesus speaking, John 10:27-28a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 

(SEE JULY 13 BELOW THIS STUDY.) Note: I wrote 2 studies covering Amos 1-5 & accidentally skipped what should have been the BIBLE STUDY for JULY 10. Here it is below:

“Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you judge between Me and My vineyard. What more could I have done for My vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did My vineyard give Me bitter grapes? Now let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are His pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead He found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead He heard cries of violence” (Isaiah 5:3-5, 7, NLT).

Nowhere in the Bible does God issue a warning of impending judgment without carrying it out except where we see the people come together as one and ask for His forgiveness and then live according to His Word. America cannot be a strong Christian nation unless it is filled with strong Christian people.

God’s hand is either for us or against us. What are you doing to seek His favor?

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).



Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of His word, and one breath from His mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment” (Isaiah 11:1-5, NLT).

Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, followed his friends’ foolish advice which led to the division of the tribes of Israel into two nations – Judah, the Southern Kingdom consisting mostly of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel consisting of the other ten tribes. Instead of ruling all Israel, Rehoboam ruled only over Judah.

But God was and always will be faithful to His promises. Psalm 89:3-4 reminds us of what He had said concerning David’s descendants: “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations’” (NIV).

Yes, the realm of David’s family had been greatly diminished, but out of that “stump,” the nation of Judah, grew the “shoot,” the “Branch” that said to His astounded audience, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58, KJV). He who “was with God in the beginning” (John 1:2, NIV), the Living Word, fulfilled His Word, coming to earth to be born of a virgin in the lineage of the house of David.

We are to be like Jesus, and His delight is “in obeying the Lord.” Honor the Father by serving the Son.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Chronicles 27; Isaiah 9-12

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ I answered, ‘A plumb line.’ And the Lord replied, ‘I will test My people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins’”
(Amos 7:7b-8, NLT).

Amos sees a vision where the Lord is holding a plumb line and standing by a wall. First, what’s a plumb line? It’s the tool that was used in olden days as a level. A string with a piece of metal on the end was dropped, causing the string to drop straight down and hold taut. If whatever the string was dropped alongside – such as a wall – was straight, then the string would be equidistance from the wall all the way down, top to bottom.

But in this passage the Lord says He’s going to test His people with HIS plumb line. What does He mean? He means that the people are out of excuses. They know what’s right and what’s wrong. And God knows they’re not going to measure up to His standard, His plumb line. The people are crooked, not aligned with God’s will.

Remember, Amos has been given these words before Jesus came to pay our sin-debt. How much more can these words be applied to those of us who know the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and still ignore Him? God’s Plumb Line, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the One Perfect Man, and only through faith in Him can we ever measure up to God’s standard.

Measuring up is more than giving your heart and life to Jesus. It’s growing and continuing, just as the branch in the Vine Jesus talked about in John 15. God is patient and God is loving, but He is also the One Righteous Judge. Live for Jesus while there is yet time.

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:12-14).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates



“Come back to me and live! Don’t worship at the pagan altars at Bethel; don’t go to the shrines at Gilgal or Beersheba. Come back to the Lord and live! Otherwise, He will roar through Israel like a fire, devouring you completely. Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed. Hate evil and love what is good; turn your courts into true halls of justice. Perhaps even yet the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will have mercy on the remnant of His people. I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:4a, 5a, 6a, 14-15, 21, NLT).

As I’ve said many times, going to church doesn’t make you a believer in Jesus Christ. Matter of fact, going to church doesn’t necessarily do anything for you. What do I mean? You get no more OUT of church than you put INTO it. If you waltz into a service expecting nothing, you’ll leave with nothing. And if you mistakenly go thinking you’re fulfilling your Christian duty, you are wrong, wrong, wrong, my dear brother or sister.

Taking yourself to church is like taking your car to the service station – you go in order to be filled. And you must be emptied in order to need filling.

If you’re filled with the clutter of the world, you’re not filled with Jesus – there isn’t room for both; and only repentance can empty you of worldly clutter. If you’re filled with Jesus, you, like your car, are filled in order to be emptied as you serve the Lord faithfully as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Coming to church without expecting the Lord’s presence is like pulling up to the gas pump and refusing to open your gas tank. You, my friend, must be open, ready to receive whatever the Lord wants to give you, to speak to you. Pray for your spiritual eyes and ears to be open. Pray for a receptive heart and mind.

What are you expecting the Lord to do in your life? Trust Him for great things. He will never disappoint you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


Amos was a shepherd who was called from tending sheep to spreading God’s warning to the people of Judah and Israel, as well as to the surrounding nations. And in Amos 3:3, he asks a simple but very profound question: “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (NLT).

The answer, of course, is a resounding “No!” Why? Because it’s completely impossible for two people to walk “together” if they aren’t both determined to travel the same pathway. Are the light bulbs coming on right about now?

We are to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Every true believer on the planet has Him living inside them. And He truly will guide your steps IF you listen and obey. And since He, as God Himself, is the One in Charge, you can’t be the leader. He will stay with you and go with you wherever you wander off to, but He will never force you to follow His guiding, even when that means allowing you to leave “… the right path …” (Psalm 27:11b).

There is only One Way to do things right, and that’s to do it God’s Way. Follow Jesus. Stay on His pathway. Read His Word and you’ll find all the instructions you need. Read His Word and you’ll grow more and more willing to “... walk together …” with Him and be in full agreement with the direction in which He is leading.

If your life’s in a mess, stop and ask yourself whose guidance you’re following. If the answer is anyone’s – including your own – other than God’s, you’ve “left the true road and have gone down the wrong path” (2 Peter 2:15a, CEV). Turn back. Turn to Jesus. No matter how far you’ve wandered, our loving Lord will always allow you to U-turn.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Bible isn’t put together in chronological order, as in the timeframe in which a portion was written. Instead, the Old Testament is divided into categories, beginning with the Torah, Pentateuch (“penta” means five), or Books of Moses – the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. These books are considered the Law portion of the Bible.

The next section of the Old Testament is History, spanning from Joshua to Esther. After that comes Poetry and Wisdom, which covers Job to Song of Solomon. The final books of the Old Testament are the books of the Prophets, with the Major Prophets first – Isaiah to Daniel – and the Minor Prophets (not because what they had to say is less important, but that their writings are shorter) – Hosea to Malachi.

Today we’re looking at a passage from Isaiah. Speaking to the nation of Judah about 700 B.C., Isaiah delivered a message that still rings true today and can easily be seen as an indictment against America. Look at the condition of Judah as the Lord speaks (first sentence) and Isaiah describes them:

“‘My people don’t recognize My care for them.’ Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him. Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever?” (Isaiah 1:3b-5a, NLT).

We are given warning after warning about God’s judgment. As Numbers 14:18 tells us, “The Lord is slow to anger …,” but His patience should never be mistaken for inaction. When He has had a bellyful of anyone’s wrongdoing, He will do whatever it takes to get that person’s or country’s attention. And I believe America has pushed its luck for a long, long time.

Now is the time to be sold out to Jesus. Now is the time to put a Godly example in front of your family and friends. The hour is late. Reach out in love to everyone you can. Someone may be about to miss out on their final opportunity to choose Jesus and eternity in heaven. Please be the one who will give them that chance while there’s still time.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


You may be familiar with the name of Uzziah, since Isaiah 6 begins with, “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord” (NLT). “Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years” (2 Chronicles 26:3a). Uzziah, in other words, was the king over Judah. (NOTE: He was also known as Azariah, not to be confused with Amaziah.)

And he was a good king. This same passage goes on to say that, “… as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success” (2 Chronicles 26:5b).

Our understanding of the word success generally equates with becoming wealthy. But there’s a lot more to success than merely financial prosperity. Think about the poor little rich girl, Christina Onassis. She was the only daughter of mega-wealthy shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Her only sibling, Alexander, died in a plane crash at age 24. About a year later, Christina’s mother passed away. A year after that, Christina’s father also died. The lonely and unhappy Christina died at the age of 37.

None of the Onassis’ money kept them from experiencing problems and even death. In some ways, their vast wealth may have even contributed to a lot of what happened. Money, as the Beatles sang, “can’t buy [you] love.” Or, as the old saying goes, “Money can’t buy you happiness.”

So where did Uzziah’s successes come from? Seeking “… guidance from the Lord …” Sure, everyone wants to have enough money to make ends meet, and yes, a little more set aside for emergencies and other extra expenses. But having money can’t be the end goal for a believer. Seeking and following “… guidance from the Lord …” needs to be every believer’s aim because being in God’s will is the only way to truly find peace, joy, and purpose.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 15; Second Chronicles 26

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


Jonah’s adventure began with a call to go preach to the people in the city of Nineveh. But Jonah didn’t want to go preach to a bunch of hated heathens, so instead, he hopped aboard a ship heading in the opposite direction. That decision didn’t work out well for him.

The ship ended up in a life-threatening storm, but Jonah did at least ‘fess up to the crew, admitting “… he was running away from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:10b, NLT). And when things got so bad that the whole ship was going to go down, Jonah told them, “Throw me into the sea … and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault” (from Jonah 1:12).

Disobedient Jonah ran from God. But God loved Jonah so much that, even in his state of rebellion, “… the Lord … arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah” (Jonah 1:17a). Doesn’t sound like much of a rescue, does it?

But sitting inside that fish gave Jonah three days and nights of contemplation about how he’d ended up in such a terrible situation. And you know what Jonah decided to do? Praise the Lord.

“But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone” (Jonah 1:9).

Even though he was running from God in absolute rebellion, the Lord didn’t desert Jonah. Nor will He desert you, or any one of His children. If you, like Jonah, are in a storm of your own making, Jesus is still with you and still loves you. Praise Him. Admit you got yourself into a mess, and ask for His deliverance.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:2, NLT). Or, as Seconds Kings 14:3 words it, “Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not like his ancestor David. Instead, he followed the example of his father, Joash.”

What was the problem with Joash? If you read yesterday’s through-the-Bible passage, you already know the answer: “All his life Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight …. Yet even so, he did not destroy the pagan shrines …” (2 Kings 12:2-3a).

Joash didn’t participate in pagan worship, but he left the door open for it. And in so doing, his son Amaziah took the attitude of, “Hey, if Dad didn’t think the pagan shrines were any big deal, then I’m not going to bother them either.” But one step in the wrong direction led to another:

“When King Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought with him idols taken from the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down in front of them, and offered sacrifices to them!” (2 Chronicles 25:14).

If not, as Barney Fife would say, nipped in the bud, sin is progressive. Joash let the pagan shrines remain and allowed them to be used for worship. Amaziah also kept the shrines around and ended up bringing in more pagan idols of worship and even bowing down to them and sacrificing to them.

Don’t be a halfway Christian. A little bit of Jesus ain’t good enough. He gave His all to save us, and He demands our all in return. Too many lost people are out there, and too many of them see professing Christians who don’t look much different than the rest of the world. I gotta say: if you don’t look much like Jesus, you’ve either got a lot of growing in the faith to do, or you probably don’t really know Him. Turn to Jesus and know that you know that you know.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 14; Second Chronicles 25

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“When Elisha was in his last illness, King Jehoash of Israel visited him and wept over him” (2 Kings 13:14a, NLT).

Years ago when my father-in-law Travis was diagnosed with cancer, the pastor of his church – I’ll call him Pastor Williams – continually preached and encouraged him to have faith that the Lord would heal him. Travis had lived a rough life, to say the least, and when he surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, he was gloriously transformed inside and out and was one person who truly had faith “like a little child” (Mark 10:15, NIV).

Pray as he and we all did, Travis’ cancer worsened until his condition was heartbreaking. As he lay on his hospital bed one evening, he turned to his family and said, “I’ve seen heaven and I want you stop praying for my healing. I want to go home.” And in a very short time, that’s exactly what happened.

Afterwards, Pastor Williams continued to teach that, “had Brother Travis only had enough faith, he would have been healed.” What that well-intentioned pastor failed to understand was that Travis had indeed been healed and had been healed in such a way that he would never again have to worry about being sick or worry about anything else whatsoever – he had received ultimate healing.

Some years later Pastor Williams himself was diagnosed with cancer. He claimed his healing. He proclaimed he was “walking in victory.” And yet his cancer continued to worsen. Although his physical battle had become severe, his spiritual battle was even greater. This man truly had great faith. This man truly trusted the Lord with all his heart. But he still grew sicker and sicker.

One Sunday morning he tearfully stood before his congregation and said, “I’ve been wrong. God doesn’t always choose to give physical healing.”

Yes, God still heals. But He and He alone chooses when and how He will do it. Sometimes He allows earthly healing; but even for those who are healed, there is no way out of this world alive – short of the Rapture. And sometimes He chooses ultimate healing – He allows the sufferer to leave this world and go on to his eternal home, where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4a, NLT).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Kings 12-13; Second Chronicles 24

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“When Jezebel, the queen mother, heard that Jehu had come to Jezreel, she painted her eyelids and fixed her hair and sat at a window. Jehu looked up and saw her at the window and shouted, ‘Who is on my side?’ And two or three eunuchs looked out at him. ‘Throw her down!’ Jehu yelled. So they threw her out the window, and her blood spattered against the wall and on the horses. And Jehu trampled her body under his horses’ hooves” (2 Kings 9:30, 32-33, NLT).

Jehu, anointed by a prophet of God, was to take the kingdom of Israel from Joram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel. As Jezebel arrogantly perched in the palace window, Jehu’s call prompted her servants to throw the evil queen mother to her death.

Jezebel’s husband Ahab ruled Israel for 22 years, followed by their son Ahaziah who ruled for 2 years; after that, another son, Joram, ruled for 12 years. While Ahab was still king, what had the Lord spoken concerning Jezebel? Through the prophet Elijah, God said to Ahab:

“I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! … for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin. [And] Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel” (from 1 Kings 21:21-23).

What God says, God does. And we need to remember that. Like the rest of God’s warning to Ahab, Jezebel’s death didn’t occur instantaneously – it was years before Elijah’s message was fulfilled. But fulfilled it was, as will be everything God has spoken.

Our heavenly Father is patient and loving, but we mustn’t forget that He is also the God who “will judge everyone according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6). What have you done for Jesus?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


Although Naaman suffered from some form of contagious skin disease considered to be leprosy, he was still allowed to hold the position of commander of the Aramean army. A captive young Israelite girl who served as Naaman’s wife’s maid told her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:4, NLT).

Naaman’s wife saw genuine faith in the young Israelite girl and told Naaman what she had said. This prompted Namaan to go to Elisha, along with an entourage of soldiers and horses:

“But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: ‘‘Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.’ But Naaman became angry and stalked away’” (2 Kings 5:10-11a).

Naaman was used to the royal treatment and Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to meet him. Naaman fumed, “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel?” (from 2 Kings 5:11-12).

Angry with both Elisha’s lack of respect for his position of authority and for his absurd-sounding instructions, Naaman left in anger. But the men who had accompanied him asked him, “‘Sir if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it?’ So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times … And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s …” (from 2 Kings 5:13-14).

God’s way is the only way. Naaman could have dipped himself in every puddle of water between Elisha’s house and his own and still not have been healed. Why? Because that’s not the way God said to do it. There is but one way to be healed of sin. It isn’t complicated, but it is specific: the Way is Jesus.

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (Naaman’s words from 2 Kings 5:15).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


Today’s passage includes the amazing account of the prophet Elijah leaving this world for eternity. Unlike the rest of mankind – with the exception of Enoch (see Genesis 5:24) – Elijah didn’t experience physical death:

“As [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11, NLT).

What an exit! But as we read about Elijah, what we need to remember more than his departure from this earth is his life while he was here. Elijah honored the Lord and faithfully served Him. And because his life was a consistent testimony of service to God, he taught others to do the same.

Elisha had served as Elijah’s personal assistant – see Second Kings 3:11. Day after day he had watched Elijah and learned from his example. So when Elijah was taken into heaven, Elisha was ready to serve in Elijah’s stead.

What is your life telling others about your faith? Is your example teaching others to faithfully serve Jesus?



Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“The day is near when I, the Lord, will judge all godless nations!” (Obadiah, verse 15, NLT).

How do you end up with a godless nation? Fill a country with godless people. Over and over God warned His people to obey Him or suffer the consequences; and over and over they turned away from Him and chased after false gods and materialism. And every time they did, God punished them.

Nothing has changed about God. He still expects obedience and He still disciplines His children when they disobey Him. Each one of us was assigned the fulfillment of the Great Commission the moment we gave Jesus Christ His rightful place of Lordship over our lives. I am and you are to “… go and make disciples …” and we are to teach “… them to obey everything …” God’s Word says (from Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).

Based on your own performance, how are we doing? How many people have you shared the love of Jesus with today? In all the time since you became a believer, how many people can thank you for telling them how to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

A recent study concluded that less than 20 percent of America’s 118 million people are in church on Sunday. Not even one out of five, although the vast majority of U.S. citizens consider themselves Christians.

Somehow we’ve softened Christianity into something we can take or leave, depending on what day of the week it is or how we feel. We somehow think that a little bit of religion is “good enough.” Trust me, it ain’t.

“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!” (Jesus speaking, Revelation 3:15-16, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Jehoshaphat received word that “the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites [had] declared war” against Judah. The Bible goes on to say that “Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance” and that “he also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting” (from 2 Chronicles 20:1-3, NLT).

“As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, the Spirit of the Lord came upon … Jahaziel …, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph. He said, ‘Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s’” (from 2 Chronicles 20:13-15).

Knowing that these mighty armies were bearing down on them, what did King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah do after hearing God’s message? Verses 18 and 19 tell us that they bowed with their faces to the ground and worshiped Him! And then the Levite praise army cut loose “with a very loud shout.”

And this passage just keeps getting better! When the army of Judah marched out, who led the way into battle? The singers! “… singing to the Lord and praising Him for His holy splendor” (verse 21a).

And then what happened? “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped” (verses 22 & 24).

People of God, we serve the mightiest Warrior of All. When the going gets tough, praise Him! When the odds seem insurmountable, praise Him! “The battle is not yours, but God’s!” And He will bring you through victorious.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. Then during the third year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to visit King Ahab of Israel. During the visit, the king of Israel said to his officials, ‘Do you realize that the town of Ramoth-gilead belongs to us? And yet we’ve done nothing to recapture it from the king of Aram!’ Then he turned to Jehoshaphat and asked, ‘Will you join me in battle to recover Ramoth-gilead?’ Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, ‘Why, of course! You and I are as one. My troops are your troops, and my horses are your horses.’ Then Jehoshaphat added, ‘But first let’s find out what the Lord says’” (1 Kings 22:1-5, NLT).

Even though the Israelites were divided into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, they were still one people in the heart of Jehoshaphat. When asked to help Ahab in battle, he readily agreed, but with a caveat: “first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

All the suck-ups (can I say suck-ups in a Bible study?) had told Ahab what he wanted to hear – “Go for it. You can defeat Aram’s forces.” But the prophet Micaiah was more concerned with pleasing the King of Kings than with pleasing King Ahab. He warned Ahab not to go to war; but Ahab refused to listen and paid with his life in just the way the Lord had forewarned him – see First Kings 22:29-38 and First Kings 21:17-19.

Don’t jump into anything without first praying and then waiting on the Lord to answer. Many a heartache could be avoided by refusing to put the proverbial cart before the horse. We can’t plan and then ask the Lord to bless our already-made plan. We can’t act and then ask the Lord to bless our actions. His guidance must be sought and obeyed.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 22; Second Chronicles 18

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“(No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done – the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites)” (1 Kings 21:25-26, NLT).

King Ahab ruled over Israel. And what is he remembered for? Being the one person most “… completely sold [out] to … evil …” And how did he arrive at such a sorry state? By following “… the influence of his wife Jezebel.”

There isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t have some type of influence, be it good, bad, minimal, or substantial. And the influence of a spouse is nothing short of enormous. A husband or wife can be the driving force that brings a wayward spouse into the kingdom of God or he or she can be the force that drives that spouse away.

Years ago a dear friend of mine I’ll call Susan told me she wanted her husband Phil to go to church with her so badly. “I don’t like going by myself,” she often complained. “I just wish he’d go with me.” But Phil was never interested. So guess what? Susan stayed home.

One day when she was again on this subject, I plainly told her, “Why should Phil be interested in going to church when it’s obviously not important enough for you to go without him? Show him what it means to you and then he might start going.”

And you know what? It was no overnight change, but after Susan had consistently gone to church alone for several months, she prepared to leave for church one Sunday morning, walked into the living room to pick up her Bible, and there sat Phil, dressed and ready to go! “I believe I’ll go with you this morning,” was all he said.

Years have passed since that day, and Phil is now a vital growing believer who faithfully serves his and Susan’s church in several capacities. Don’t underestimate your influence on others. People are watching. And they want to know if the body of Christ is really all that important to you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


Today’s passage covers one of my favorite accounts in all the Bible – the showdown between the God of the prophet Elijah and the god of Israel’s King Ahab. The Lord sends Elijah as His servant against 450 prophets of Baal who were intent on showing the power of their false god Baal.

So here they are on Mount Carmel. Elijah was to call down fire from God to accept his offering and the prophets of Baal were to do likewise. Elijah tells the Baal followers to take their best shot and they launch in, crying out to Baal “… from morning until noontime …” (1 Kings 18:26, NLT), at which point Elijah begins mocking them, going so far as suggesting that Baal may be too busy “… relieving himself …” (1 Kings 18:28) to hear their pleas. This sends the Baal prophets into a futile frenzy while Elijah calmly waits his turn.

As you’ll see in First Kings 18:30-38, Elijah took the time to rebuild the altar of the Lord – he wouldn’t offer a sacrifice to the True God on anything pagan. He then dug a trench around it, piled the altar with wood and put the sacrifice on top. And then what? He had the whole thing soaked 3 times with so much water that it even filled the trench around the altar. After which he prayed “At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice …” (1 Kings 18:36a). The result?

“Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, ‘The Lord – He is God! Yes, the Lord is God!’” (1 Kings 18:38-39).

Was Elijah worried while Baal’s prophets were screaming and dancing and cutting themselves? Was he afraid that Baal was going to answer them? Of course not! He had absolute confidence that he was serving the One and Only God. And so should you. Never doubt the power of the Lord God Almighty. He’s “… the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Jehoshaphat his son succeeded [Asa] as king … The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father (actually, ancestor) David had followed. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord ….” (2 Chronicles 17:1a; 3a; 5-6a, NIV).

Asa broke out of the mold set by his preceding generations; and his son Jehoshaphat continued the God-honoring lifestyle that Asa had chosen to follow. Was Asa perfect? Hardly. But what he did do in seeking to live for the Lord put an example in front of Jehoshaphat that influenced him to live his life accordingly.

Your family’s past or present doesn’t have to dictate what your future will be; but it will undoubtedly be a powerful influence – as will your own choices. Choose to honor Christ in the way you live. Set the example before your children and your children’s children. Make this your prayer: “O Lord, let them see Jesus in me.”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 15:25-16:34; Second Chronicles 17

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“When Abijah died, he was buried in the City of David. Then his son Asa became the next king. There was peace in the land for ten years. Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:1-2, NLT).

“Like father, like son.” How many times have you heard that old saying? Solomon’s son Rehoboam learned a lot from his father’s mistakes – he learned to repeat them. He turned his back on the Lord and his son Abijah followed the same pattern.

But then along came Abijah’s son Asa, and look what the Bible has to say about him: “Asa did what was good and pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” Asa saw his grandfather’s and father’s lifestyle and chose a different pathway.

When I was in elementary school, one of our little town’s families had several children attending my school – one was in my class and one was in my sister’s. These two and their siblings always came to school dirty, smelly, and unkempt. Except for one.

This young boy whom I’ll call William came to school each day wearing a perfectly clean, well-ironed shirt and jeans (you know it was a long time ago if jeans were ironed), himself clean, and his hair neatly combed (another sign of how long this has been).

Why was William different from the rest of his family? William chose to be different. William came home and washed his own clothes and hung them up to dry. He got up early on school days so he could iron his clothes. And every Sunday William walked to church all by himself.

Today William pastors a church, has a wife who is beautiful inside and out, and children who are also serving the Lord Jesus.

William made a choice that made his life radically different from his siblings’. What about you? Your choices are writing your future.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 15:1-24; Second Chronicles 13-16

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. ‘What is your advice?’ he asked them. ‘How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?’ The young men replied, ‘This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” (2 Chronicles 10:8-11, NLT).

Rehoboam had become king in his father Solomon’s stead and had quickly put his buddies into places of authority. Spurning what the older and more experienced advisers had to say, he foolishly listened to his immature, arrogant friends who gave him the errant counsel one would expect from the prideful inexperienced.

It’s so easy to ask advice from the people we think will tell us what we want to hear. Be careful who you go to for advice. Believers should first seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit and then the counsel of mature and trustworthy Christians.

“The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong” (Psalm 37:30).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“When the people of Israel learned of Jeroboam’s return from Egypt, they called an assembly and made him king over all Israel. So only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the family of David” (1 Kings 12:20, NLT).

Remember the passage we looked at a couple of days ago? “… Solomon has abandoned Me and … has not followed my ways and done what is pleasing in My sight. He has not obeyed My decrees and regulations as David his father did. For the sake of My servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed My commands and decrees, I will keep Solomon as leader for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you. His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign, shining like a lamp in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name. Because of Solomon’s sin I will punish the descendants of David – though not forever” (1 Kings 11:33-36, 39).

There is no idle talk when God speaks. What He says He will do, He does. Whether blessing or discipline, He’ll carry it out.

Has God warned you about anything? Heed Him. There may not be obvious imminent danger, but His warnings aren’t without purpose and, as Solomon’s family had to learn, the consequences of ignoring what God says are disastrous.

On the flip side, has God made you a promise? Hold onto it because its fulfillment will come to pass.

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“She is energetic, a hard worker, and watches for bargains” (Proverbs 31:17-18a, LB).

The Living Bible paraphrase of Proverbs 31:17-18a is the passage from which I coined the word “Bargainomics,” which is simply money management God’s way. Among the Proverbs 31 “virtuous” woman’s many good qualities (and I don’t think it’s a stretch in any way to say that these are certainly great attributes for men too), she was “energetic.” Nobody appreciates laziness – nor should they. I’ve personally known bedridden individuals whom I could have described as “energetic.” They didn’t let their limitations prevent them from doing all they could do in service to others.

The Proverbs 31 woman is also “a hard worker.” You know, a person can be “energetic” and never accomplish a cotton-pickin’ thing. But when you’re attuned to God’s call, you know what you’re supposed to be doing – being His hands and feet to a lost and dying world – and you’re doing it. It’s not about being busy – we’re insanely busy all the time; it’s about being busy for the Kingdom. It’s about accomplishing things that will bless others and bring glory to God.

Lastly, the Proverbs 31 woman “watches for bargains.” One thing this says about a God-focused woman is that she’s not a last-minute gal – she’s constantly planning ahead and staying ahead of the less motivated crowd. When you don’t wait until the last minute to plan for what you need, whether it’s a major purchase like a car or simply a gift item or a loaf of bread, you have time to do your homework; save ahead if needed; and locate the best buy for your dollars, understanding that all you have belongs to the One who bought and paid for the very life you claim as your own.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price …” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“… Solomon has abandoned Me and … has not followed My ways and done what is pleasing in My sight. He has not obeyed My decrees and regulations as David his father did. For the sake of My servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed My commands and decrees, I will keep Solomon as leader for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you. His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign, shining like a lamp in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for My name. Because of Solomon’s sin I will punish the descendants of David – though not forever” (1 Kings 11:33-36, 39, NLT).

The Lord spoke to Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah, promising that he would rule over the vast majority of the tribes of Israel. Why the change in plans? Because God’s blessing on Solomon’s family was conditional on Solomon’s obedience.

Solomon blew it. And because he did, his descendants missed out on the abundant blessings the Lord had promised His faithful servants in the lineage of David.

You, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are aligning your families, your descendants, for blessings or curses. Which is it?

“I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses” (Deuteronomy 30:19a, God’s Word).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 10-11; Second Chronicles 9

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10a, NLT).

“Do everything you want to do; take it all in.” Good advice when coupled with the next part of today’s passage: “But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.” When you submit your will to God’s will, the things “you want” and the things you’ll “take … in” will be things that are pleasing and honoring to the Lord Jesus.

Who’s “young” these days? As we see people living longer and longer, young has taken on a whole new meaning. “You’re as young as you feel!” is an oft-spoke sentiment, and I believe that’s true. No, I don’t move as quickly as I used to, but I still love to be active. Matter of fact, I love it more now than I did when I was younger. Why? Because I realize my time on earth is growing shorter.

Don’t wait until your health is failing to begin doing all those things you were going to “get around to.” “… refuse to worry …” “… Keep your body healthy.” Live fully. Live now. Live for Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak”

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-7, NLT).

You’re heard the saying many times, and it’s so very true: “Timing is everything.” Grieving a loss is a necessary part of healing, but there comes a time when, if given daily to the Lord, the hurt lessens and leaves you with happy memories of your loved one. Yes, there’s a time for everything Solomon wrote in today’s passage, one of which I think is critically ignored these days: “A time to be quiet and a time to speak.” When is the last time you finished praying and then sat silently waiting on the Lord to speak to you?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person” (Proverbs 27:19, NLT).

When Solomon had completed the Temple, the Lord appeared to him, saying of the Temple: “My eyes and My heart will always be there” (2 Chronicles 7:16, NIV). Just as He watched over the Temple before the day of Pentecost, so He focuses His love and attention on believers whose bodies are now “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19a, NLT).

We, too, focus on the things we love. How did Jesus put it? “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Luke 12:34 & Matthew 6:21).

You can “play church” and “play Christian” and fool a lot of people. You can fake concern and even fake friendship; but the One Person who really matters is never fooled because He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows your heart because He created it. And He didn’t make it to be fickle or phony.

“O God, let the secrets of my heart be uncovered …” (Psalm 139:23a, BBE).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Remove the impurities from silver, and the sterling will be ready for the silversmith” (Proverbs 25:4, NLT).

Throughout the Bible we see passages that help us understand Who’s the Boss. Take, for example, Isaiah 64:8b: “We are the clay, You are the potter …” (NIV). And look at Ephesians 2:10a: “For we are God’s workmanship …”

Likewise, today’s passage reminds us that Christ is “the Silversmith” and we are merely the “silver.” But note what that verse also tells us: in order to be usable, we have to be pure: “Remove the impurities from the silver …”

The removal process involves heating the silver to such a high temperature that the impurities, or dross (the word the NIV and many other translations uses in Proverbs 25:4), are separated out of the silver. The dross was the waste product, the useless stuff left behind. Are you beginning to see the picture?

God wants to use you for His glory, but in order for Him to do that, you have to be cleansed, emptied of all that isn’t like Jesus. What’s in your life that you need to let go of in order to be “ready for the silversmith”?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“I have set this Temple apart to be holy – this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart” (1 Kings 9:3b, NLT).

The Lord told Solomon that the Temple was set “apart to be holy.” The word “holy” itself means “set apart,” as in for the worship or service of the Lord.

After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the Holy Spirit came to indwell all believers. While still walking this earth as a Man, Jesus spoke about how the Holy Spirit’s coming would change the way those who believed in Him would worship.

Remember what He said to the Samaritan woman? “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21, 23-24).

WE are God’s temple – every person who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are to live lives of holiness, set apart to worship and serve Him. And each and every one of us is “dear to [His] heart.”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 9; Second Chronicles 8

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NLT).

When it comes to a broken heart, complaining never helps. Crying may make you feel better for a little while; and pouring your heart out to a sympathetic friend can be a temporary fix.

But let’s face it: some things hurt too much to even talk about. Like the refusal of our son and daughter-in-law to communicate with us, or allow us to meet our two precious granddaughters. There was a time when that pain cut so deeply that I couldn’t even find words to explain how much I hurt. As I prayed time and time again, I would run out of words and simply sob and plead before the Father.

And you know what? God heard me. Romans 8:26 explains it this way: “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (NIV). God’s Holy Spirit expressed what I could not.

And not only did He hear me, but He healed me. He took that pain – yes, I had to turn loose of it – and He made it His own. He carries for me what I can’t bear to carry. He’s a great God.

No matter what you’re going through, give it to Jesus. He’ll carry your burden if you’ll let Him.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“So Solomon finished the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, ‘… I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy – a place where My name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to My heart” (2 Chronicles 7:11-12a, 16, NLT).

The Lord told Solomon that the Temple was “dear to [His] heart.” What about nowadays? Does the Lord have a special place where He desires to be worshiped? You betcha: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV). “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20a, NLT).

YOU! ME! In our lives is where God desires to be worshiped. If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, His Spirit lives within you and is worthy of your praise.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Chronicles 6-7; Psalm 136

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple – the Most Holy Place – and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. And the Levites who were musicians – Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers – were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: ‘He is good! His faithful love endures forever!’ At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God”
(2 Chronicles 5:8, 11-14, NLT).

This special day called for great celebration and the people of God let loose with absolute joy. When’s the last time you recall a worship service that exciting?

While it’s important to have a worship plan: planned sermon, music, etc; it’s also important to be sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit and willing to get off the printed page or schedule and get on the same page as whatever the Spirit is leading in.

Can you imagine! “The glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God” to the point that “The priests could not continue their service.” I’m so thankful to have a pastor who is sensitive to the Spirit of God. There have been times when God’s presence is so heavy in our services that we do nothing but pray and praise Him.

Don’t put God in a box and expect Him to stay there. He is in charge of worship and He is the One to be worshiped.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 8; Second Chronicles 5

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram to come from Tyre. He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon” (1 Kings 7:13-14, NLT).

Even as the Temple of the Lord was being built, God was pointing us to the day when those who put their faith in Jesus Christ would become one blended family. Because Huram’s mother was Jewish, Huram was legally considered a Jew; but his mixed lineage brings to mind Jesus’ no doubt startling words to His Jewish listeners in John 10:16: “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

The Lord spoke to the Jews through the prophet Isaiah, declaring: “I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6b). Addressing the Gentiles or non-Jewish believers, Paul said, “You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. … God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into His cultivated tree” (Romans 11:24a).

Rich or poor; black or white; male or female; Jew or Gentile; we who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are one family.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 7; Second Chronicles 4

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“It was in midspring, in the month of Ziv, during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, that he began to construct the Temple of the Lord. This was 480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 6:1, NLT).

After 480 years, the Israelites were about to see the construction of “the Temple of the Lord.” Why did it take so long? Why do we have to wait so long for so many things? The answer, my brothers and sisters, is multi-faceted:

(1) Waiting is a part of life. Jesus Himself knew what it was like to wait: “The right time for Me has not yet come” (Jesus speaking, John 7:6a, NIV).

(2) Living in accordance with God’s law prevents needless delays in God’s plans for your life. Look again at what the Lord told the disobedient Israelites after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt and they had refused to go in and claim the Promised Land: “Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years – a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins” (Numbers 14:34, NLT).

(3) God doesn’t force His will on anyone. Even if you’re living according to His Word and praying fervently for a lost loved one, that person still must choose to repent and turn to Jesus Christ. God is never the hold-up when it comes to salvation: “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b). Just remember that every prayer you pray sends the Holy Spirit to speak to that lost person’s heart and “The Lord is patient” (Nahum 1:3a, God’s Word).

(4) When you live for the Lord and trust Him regardless of your circumstance, He will “… lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6b, NIV). “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NASB).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Kings 5-6; Second Chronicles 2-3

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small” (Proverbs 24:10, NLT).

Other translations word this passage as:

“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” ( NIV).

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (ESV).

“If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited” (NASB).

“If you faint in a crisis, you are weak” (God’s Word).

What all that boils down to is this: if you can’t handle tough times, “your strength is too small.” The strength the Lord Jesus Christ provides to each and every one of His children is UNLIMITED; so if you’re “weak,” it’s because you’re fighting life’s battles in your own strength. Don’t do it.

“The Lord gives strength to His people …” (Psalm 29:11a, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3, NLT).

Why is it that some people want to take personal credit for anything good that happens in their lives and want to give God all the blame when anything bad comes along? While we all experience problems in this world – Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble …” (John 16:33, NIV) – there are many totally avoidable difficulties that come into people’s lives because of their own foolish choices. Yet they still want to be “angry at the Lord” for allowing these things to happen.

As I’ve said many times and many ways, God isn’t our “go-fer.” And He should never be treated as our fall-back guy – the one you rely on or blame things on when your own efforts don’t work out. Pray BEFORE you take action. Pray BEFORE you make decisions. And don’t just talk to God; wait and listen for Him to speak to you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“It’s poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt or put up security for a friend” (Proverbs 17:18, NLT).

Now here’s a proverb that the Bargainomics Lady has mentioned on many occasions. Why is it “poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt”? Let’s answer that question with a question: Why does a person need a guarantor, as in co-signer? Because his credit isn’t good enough to qualify for a loan on his own. Which means what? Most likely, the person has a poor repayment history.

What about young people who are just getting started in the credit world? Don’t help them get into debt. Companies are overly eager to get their credit cards into the hands of young adults – many will issue one to an unemployed college student.

I’ve said this many times and many ways, but a person who mismanages his own money doesn’t need your money to mismanage. Likewise, a person who poorly manages his credit doesn’t need your credit to mismanage.

Creditors extend credit well beyond what some people have the ability to repay, so you can only begin to guess how overextended or underemployed a person must be in order to need a co-signer. If a friend or family member asks you to co-sign a loan, do the right thing: say “No.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

Yesterday we looked at the dangers – and sins – of harboring hatred and slandering others. Today’s passage is a good follow-up since we’ve been talking about refusing to speak negatives to or about other people.

Think about these scenarios and choose the pair that would “deflect anger” and which one would “make tempers flare.” (1) Kaye tells Pat, a volunteer in the church library, “It’s impossible to find anything in here! You should keep this place in better order.” (2) Kaye tells Pat, “I’m hoping you can help me find a book that isn’t on the shelf.” (3) Pat responds to Kaye: “If you and a lot of other people would put a little time into volunteering in here like I do, things wouldn’t be so messy and you’d know your way around.” (4) Pat tells Kaye: “I’m sorry about the problem. Tell me what it is you’re looking for and I’m sure I can either locate it or see who has it checked out.”

(1) and (3) would definitely make “tempers flare.” (2) and (4) would “deflect anger.” But think about these individually. What if the conversation began with (1) and Pat responded with (4)? Or if it began with (2) and Pat responded with (3)? It only takes one calm voice to “deflect anger.”

Words are powerful. Even when we aren’t the angry party, we have to choose whether to respond in KIND or respond in KINDNESS. Which would Jesus choose?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool” (Proverbs 10:18, NLT).

Some of Solomon’s proverbs are pretty straight-spoken, aren’t they? How does “hiding hatred” make a person “a liar”? Think about how many times you’ve smiled and greeted someone at church or work or elsewhere – maybe even at home – and said to yourself or to someone else as you walk away, “I can’t stand that person!” If you’ve ever done that, you, my friend, are “a liar.” And I can’t write another sentence without first admitting that I’ve been guilty of this very thing myself.

“But you don’t know what that person did to me!” you may retort. No matter. You and I both know what Christ has done for you. Whatever anyone else has been done to you, the right thing to do is to forgive. And when you forgive, you can’t hate.

Today’s passage also warns that “slandering others makes you a fool.” Whether your information is true or not, don’t bad-mouth other people. It only shows you to be a troublemaker and a negative busybody. (Here again I step on my own toes.)

Let me summarize with the words of Paul from Colossians 3:13: “Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been forgiven an awful lot. I “must forgive others.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NLT).

What are the meanings of “knowledge,” “wisdom” and “understanding”? According to, “knowledge” is “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.” “Knowledge,” in other words, means knowing.

“Wisdom” is “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.” “Understanding” is “knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing.” Just comparing these three definitions is a real eye-opener to grasping the truths of Proverbs 9:10.

Allow me to give you the long, but I think clear, “Judy-an” translation: The fear (awe, great respect, reverence) of the Lord is the starting point for realizing that everything about Jesus Christ is fact and truth. He means exactly what He says and He does exactly whatever He says He will do. Knowing this to be true, having investigated and studied everything about who He is, a person can literally become acquainted with the God of the Universe in such an intimate way that this relationship dictates how that person chooses to live his life: in accordance with the teachings and will of God.

Read that last paragraph again, slowly and then answer this question: how intimately do you know Jesus?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT).

Yesterday we looked at Proverbs 3:5, which begins with the words: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Now re-read our passage for today: “Guard your heart above else, for it determines the course of your life.”

If your heart is fully trusting in Jesus, there’s no room for doubt. If your heart is fully focused on Jesus, there’s no room for sin. Will you make mistakes? Certainly. Will you sin? As long as you’re breathing. But get this: it’s impossible to sin when you’re one hundred percent focused on Jesus – like Peter sinking in the sea (see Matthew 14), you start sinking into sin when you take your eyes off the Lord and start looking elsewhere.

Every human sometimes thinks or does things he shouldn’t. And even more so, every human sometimes fails to do the things that he knows he should do. But knowing this doesn’t give us a license to sin; we should be consciously refusing to allow any form of sin to take root in our lives.

When you determine to “guard your heart,” you mess up far less and you avoid so many needless heartaches and problems. Are you married? “Guard your heart” against any wrongful affections. Single? “Guard your heart” so that whether you’re determined to be married or stay single, your One True Love is always honored.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

Write them deep within your heart.

Then you will find favor with both God and people,

and you will earn a good reputation” (Proverbs 3: 3-4, NLT).

While the above passage might not be familiar to you, I’m sure you recognize the passage that follows it:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV).

In order for you to be able to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” your heart has to be “loyal.” Are you a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Do you follow Christ’s example of treating everyone with “kindness”? Then and only then will you “find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation” – for yourself and for the One you claim as your Savior.

Jesus gets plenty of bad press. Please don’t be the reason anyone gets a negative impression of the totally positive Redeemer.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“I am the rose of Sharon, The lily of the valleys” (Song of Solomon 2:1, NASB).

In this book of poetic verse about the Bride and Bridegroom, we see the passage written above, a verse which may remind you of the hymn that says, “He’s the Lily of the Valley …” But in this passage, it’s not the Bridegroom, but the Bride who identifies herself as the “rose of Sharon” and “lily of the valleys.” (Look in your own Bible and you’ll see these words are attributed to the “she,” not the “he” in this passage.)

Most commentaries attribute the “rose of Sharon” to the crocus family of flowers. These delicate blossoms are some of spring’s earliest bloomers and push their way up even through late snows. Their fragrance is powerful and attractive. The “lily of the valleys” refers to the type of lily that would be found in the East, a tall and beautiful plant but with a weak stem that requires a very strong root system to sustain it.

Are you beginning to see the picture? The Bride of Christ, the church – that’s me and you, my brothers and sisters – is, as Paul words it in Second Corinthians 2:15, the “… fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing …” (NASB). And without the firm foundation of Jesus Christ we’re weak, but in Him we “… from weakness [are] made strong” (Hebrews 11:34, NASB).

Whose strength are you living in today?

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Song of Solomon 1-8 (also called Song of Songs)

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105, NLT).

Today’s passage describes the Word of God – the Bible and the Holy Spirit’s inner guidance – as “a lamp” and “a light.” Picture yourself as a hiker lost in the middle of a dense forest. It’s dark and you want to find a way to safety. In your pocket is a flashlight – what are you going to do? Turn it on! Put it to use!

And when you turn on that flashlight, what happens? Light floods your path. But there’s a problem: it only lights the way a few feet ahead of you. So do you stand there feeling hopeless because you can’t see very far ahead? No! You start walking. And as you walk, the light goes with you and in front of you and lights more and more of the pathway as you continue walking.

So it is with the Christian life. Jesus, [the] Lamp to guide [your] feet and [the] Light for [your] path,” goes with you and before you. No, He doesn’t show you the entire pathway all at one time – if He did, it’d be more than you could handle. What He does do is shows you enough; enough for you to take the next step and the next step and the next step.

Like the flashlight in the hiker’s pocket, God’s power is present in every believer’s life. Like the flashlight, He’s waiting for you to avail yourself of His power. Don’t live life in your own strength when the Greatest Power in the Universe stands ready to guide you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“‘Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David … Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.’ The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, ‘Because you have asked for wisdom in governing My people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies – I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for – riches and fame!’” (1 Kings 3:7a, 9a, 10-13a, NLT).

Solomon is still considered today to have been the wealthiest man who ever lived. But he didn’t get that way by asking the Lord to heap riches on him. He got that way by asking the Lord for “an understanding heart.” Have you ever asked for that?

Having “an understanding heart” would mean being able to cope with your own problems and help others with theirs. Having “an understanding heart” would mean having a lot less arguments and lot more agreement.

You want to load up on true riches? Ask the Lord for “an understanding heart.”

“… who will trust you with true riches?” (Jesus speaking, Luke 16:11b, NIV).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71, NLT).

Is any suffering “good”? It is when we learn from it. Is any suffering unnecessary? I answer both questions with a question: Ever got a speeding ticket? We suffer from it – our wallets and our insurance rates – but we also learn from it: slow down.

While life can bring about some painful and inevitable suffering, there’s a great deal of unnecessary suffering that we endure because of disobedience. When a person has become a child of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, acceptance of that kinship means that your Father is going to love you enough to dish out whatever discipline is necessary to get you to obey his “decrees” (laws, commandments, teachings).

Discipline may involve suffering, but its goal is always to teach, just as with David who said that his “… suffering … taught [him] to pay attention to [the Lord’s] decrees.” God wants us to be like Him; and that, my brothers and sisters, requires discipline.

Jesus didn’t beat around the bush when He said in John 16:33: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” Suffering is a part of life, and it can make you bitter or better – it’s up to you which you choose.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Helen Keller)

“God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” (Saint Augustine)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, ‘I will make myself king.’ So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time …” (1 Kings 1:5-6, NLT).

David, elderly and growing feeble, had already promised the throne to Solomon, his son by Bathsheba, even though Adonijah was David’s oldest living son. Knowing this, Adonijah still had no respect for his father’s decision nor his father. He didn’t even wait for David’s death to make his move.

So what became of Adonijah? Today’s passage tells us that David enthroned Solomon and that Solomon mercifully spared Adonijah’s life only to have him ask – immediately after the death of their father David – for Abishag, David’s youngest and newest wife/concubine. Adonijah even had the nerve to send Bathsheba to make the request of her newly crowned son King Solomon.

That may not seem to us like a particularly significant deal, but Bathsheba and certainly Solomon knew exactly what Adonijah was up to: marrying the widow of King David was a way of staking a claim to the throne. That was the last straw for Solomon, who had Adonijah executed.

Why did Adonijah’s life come to such an early end and why was he so disobedient and disrespectful? “… his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time …” Proper discipline is an act of love, even though the disciplined party never sees it that way at the time. We are DISCIPLES of whatever DISCIPLINE we follow. Discipline consistently; and make sure your own life is one of discipline according to the Word of God – you’re teaching whatever you’re living.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: 1 Kings 1-2; Psalm 37, 71, & 94

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Light shines in the darkness for the godly.

They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.

Good comes to those who lend money generously

and conduct their business fairly.

Such people will not be overcome by evil.

Those who are righteous will be long remembered.

They do not fear bad news;

they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

They are confident and fearless

and can face their foes triumphantly.

They share freely and give generously to those in need.

Their good deeds will be remembered forever”

(Psalm 112:4-9a, NLT).

“They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.” Like the fruit (singular) of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22), you can’t separate these three attributes of a believer.

A true believer is generous, when it comes to giving to his church or helping his fellow man. A church that is filled with true believers doesn’t struggle for money because it is filled with generous, thriving, giving, loving people.

Compassion is the very essence of who Christ is, and if He lives in you, you can’t be stingy or self-serving.

And although our own righteousness is, as Isaiah 64:6 words it, “as filthy rags,” we are righteous if Christ’s Holy Spirit lives within us because Christ Himself becomes our righteousness – see First Corinthians 1:30. Can we still sin? You betcha. We not only can, but will; which means that the daily – and sometimes even more often – confession of our wrongdoings is imperative to an unhindered fellowship with the Savior.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“So now, with God as our witness, and in the sight of all Israel – the Lord’s assembly – I give you this charge. Be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, so that you may continue to possess this good land and leave it to your children as a permanent inheritance. And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve Him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek Him, you will find Him” (1 Chronicles 28:8-9a, NLT).

David was about to pass his crown to his son Solomon and he wanted all Israel to hear the words he shared with his son. While none of us like to think about dying, nothing short of the Rapture will prevent our deaths. One day each one of us will speak our last words on this planet. What will your last words here be? If you knew you that your time was very short – and let’s face it; even a full lifetime passes like proverbial greased lightning – what advice, what words of wisdom would you want to leave with those you love? David leaves us some very good examples.

“Be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God …”

“… learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately.”

“Worship and serve Him with your whole heart and a willing mind.”

“If you seek Him, you will find Him.”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: 1 Chronicles 26-29; Psalm 127

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“O Lord, You have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.

You go before me and follow me.

You place Your hand of blessing on my head.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too great for me to understand!”

(Psalm 139:1-6, NLT).

Nothing is hidden from the Lord. If we really latch onto that truth, we’ll live much purer, holier (set apart, not like the rest of the world) lives. He knows “everything about” us. He knows when we “sit down or stand up.” He knows “everything [we] do” and “what [we’re] going to say even before [we] say it.”

And knowing “everything about” us, what does He do? Forgives us as we confess our wrongdoing. Loves us. Expects great things from us. Not only that, but He will “Go before [us] and follow” us, surrounding us with His Holy Presence, love, mercy, grace, and protection. And get this: He “place[s His] hand of blessing on [our] head[s]!”

God isn’t merely a great God. He is THE GREAT AND ONLY God. He isn’t watching for chances to discipline us for doing wrong – He’s looking for opportunities to bless us as we live our lives in obedience to His will.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 131; 138-139; 143-145

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel” (1 Chronicles 23:1, NLT).

“For everything,” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a tells us, “there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.”

David knew that his time was growing short. In preparation for his own death, he “… appointed Solomon to be king over Israel.” David didn’t merely call Solomon into his presence one day and say, “Okay, son, I’m turning my kingdom over to you.” No, David spent Solomon’s lifetime teaching him by example so that, when the time came, Solomon would know the kind of person and ruler his father was and wanted him to be.

Was David perfect? Hardly. Yet what did the Lord say? He called him “… a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

The Lord doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Matter of fact, He knows we won’t be – at least, not this side of heaven. But what He does want is for us to seek to be like Him. Because whatever our example, we’re passing it on. Let’s teach others to live and love like Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet’” (Psalm 110:1, NLT).

Jesus quotes this same passage in Mark 12:36, asking the gathered Sadducees and other religious leaders: “David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” (Mark 12:37a, NIV). The verse goes on to say that, “The large crowd listened to him with delight” (Mark 12:37b).

The Holy Spirit, speaking through His servant David, penned Psalm 110, declaring to all, as Jesus Christ Himself declares in Revelation 22:16, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David …” In other words, as God, He was preexistent, meaning He has always existed. But He also chose to come to earth and be born of a woman long after the time of King David, thus becoming also “… the Offspring of David …”

The Bible is a wonderful treasure for those who will take the time to delve into its pages!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12, NLT).

Tuscumbia, Alabama-born Helen Keller was without doubt one of the most hard-working, ambitious women ever to live. Stricken both blind and deaf by an early childhood illness, Keller chose to concentrate on her abilities rather than disabilities. She was the first deaf and blind person to achieve a Bachelor of Arts degree and she went on to author a dozen books and countless articles, as well as traveling the world over and tirelessly working for every cause she believed in.

Don’t wait until “things are better” to choose joy. Choose it now. If the Light of Jesus Christ lives within you, you are never in darkness.

“I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.” (Helen Keller)

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Samuel 24; First Chronicles 21-22: Psalm 30

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“The Lord has announced His victory and has revealed His righteousness to every nation! The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God” (Psalm 98:2, 3b, NLT).

Have “[t]he ends of the earth … seen the victory of our God” ? Yes and no. For those who see with eyes of faith, it’s as clear as the proverbial handwriting on the wall – see Daniel 5. But for those who lack faith, it’s impossible for them to see or believe that Jesus Christ has already won “… the victory of our God.”

Jesus addressed that very topic in John 9:39. He told the religious leaders, “I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

The only real “Know-It-All” is God Almighty. When we put our faith completely in His Son, we can know with absolute certainty that we will receive the promised inheritance of eternal life in Christ’s Kingdom.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57, KJV).

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you …” (1 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“My heart is confident in You, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing Your praises!” (Psalm 57:7, NLT).

Confidence. Webster’s defines it as “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper or effective way.” How strong is your faith in God?

Some years back, Gwen and Billy were battling cancer. Gwen was edging into her senior years while Billy was in his 30s. Both of these believers had absolute confidence in God. Gwen was undergoing extremely powerful chemotherapy, yet used her good moments to write cards of encouragement to others and to pray for them. She also made phone calls checking on and uplifting her friends and family. And until she was no longer able to stand for any period of time, she cleaned the houses of several of her church’s shut-ins.

Billy recorded his testimony for our church. I can assure you that there wasn’t a dry eye in the building when the video was shown. But again, here was a believer being totally realistic about his condition and putting absolute faith in Jesus Christ to work His will regardless of whether He chose to heal him here or in eternity.

Confidence. Unwavering faith in the eternal promises of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Is that what you have?

“No wonder I can sing Your praises!”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Samuel 22-23; Psalm 57

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a, NLT).

When’s the last time you could truly say that you longed for the Lord’s presence? If your life is feeling dry and empty right now, your focus needs to be on Jesus. And when it is, the Faithful Father will make His presence known.

Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 3:19-20a: “Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins. Then wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord …”

Did you notice that little word THEN? We can’t dabble in sin and know God’s peace and contentment. We have to ‘fess up and “… be cleansed …” if we want to experience those “… wonderful times of refreshing …”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“After this, there was another battle against the Philistines at Gob. As they fought, Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph, another descendant of the giants. During another battle at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem killed the brother of Goliath of Gath. The handle of his spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam! In another battle with the Philistines at Gath, they encountered a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in all, who was also a descendant of the giants. But when he defied and taunted Israel, he was killed by Jonathan, the son of David’s brother Shimea. These four Philistines were descendants of the giants of Gath, but David and his warriors killed them”
(2 Samuel 21:18-22, NLT).

Ever been in a battle against a giant? There have been quite a few times in my life when I’ve sure felt like I have. People of God, no giant is a match for God Almighty. Matter of fact, NO ONE and NO THING is a match for Him!

Whatever you’re up against, God is greater. Remember what David said to Goliath? “… You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord ...” (1 Samuel 17:45). Believer, stand firm and declare to the enemy: “Today the Lord will conquer you … This is the Lord’s battle” (1 Samuel 17:46a, 47b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“You have given me an inheritance reserved for those who fear Your name” (Psalm 61:5b, NLT).

What does it mean to fear the name of the Lord? The easiest way for me to relate is to tell you about my daddy. Ellis Woodward was a kind, gentle man, but he was also a father who expected his children to do what he told them to do. I knew that my daddy would never do anything to hurt me and that he would put his own life on the line to protect and defend me.

However, if I ever disobeyed him, I was in trouble, because I knew he meant what he said. If he said, “When we get home …,” I knew the punishment might be delayed, but it was still forthcoming. In other words, I had a very healthy fear of my daddy.

As good as my daddy was, though, God is far better. And the reward, the inheritance, promised by Him to all those who accept His Son as Lord and Savior is incomparable.

Those who truly know God can’t help but have a healthy fear or reverence for who He is. Do you? If so, your inheritance awaits you.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 26, 40, 58, 61-62, & 64

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates  


“During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab … Then [Joab] took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him” (2 Samuel 18:9-10a, 14b-15, NLT).

As we read a couple of days ago, Amnon assaulted his own half-sister and their brother Absalom took Amnon’s life as revenge. Now we see Absalom’s own death. Folks, it never pays good wages to seek revenge. After all, what does the Bible say?

“Never take your own revenge … but leave room for the wrath of God …” (Romans 12:19a, NASB).

The Lord is Judge – not me, not you. And when we seek revenge on a person who has wronged us or anyone else we care about, we’re usurping the place and authority of the Lord God Almighty. Don’t do it. He can and will dish out justice in His own time and way.

“Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,

In due time their foot will slip;

For the day of their calamity is near,

And the impending things are hastening upon them”

(Deuteronomy 32:35).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“O Lord, I have so many enemies;

so many are against me.

So many are saying,

‘God will never rescue him!’

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;

You are my glory, the one who holds my head high”

(Psalm 3:1-3, NLT).

Sometimes it feels like no one believes in you, doesn’t it? But child of God, while earthly friends and even family may let you down, God never will!

Sure, things get rough sometimes, and all this craziness with the pandemic has been hard to deal with, but we will never know this side of heaven how many negative events never came to pass in our lives because of God’s mercy, because of having Him as “a shield around” us.

Even when you don’t feel like holding your head up, guess what? Jesus loves you enough to do it for you.

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3, Amplified Bible).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 3-4; 12-13; 28; 55

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half-brother, fell desperately in love with her. Amnon became so obsessed with Tamar that he became ill. She was a virgin, and Amnon thought he could never have her. But Amnon had a very crafty friend – his cousin Jonadab. He was the son of David’s brother Shimea” (2 Samuel 13:1-3, NLT).

Jonadab was a friend that Amnon should have done without. Because of his “very crafty friend,” though, Amnon set a trap for his own half-sister and brutally assaulted her. Had Jonadab chosen godly friends, his life would have been different and so would poor Tamar’s. In only two year’s time, Amnon lost his life when his brother Absalom took revenge for Tamar’s attack.

We need to be very careful not only about the company we keep, but the advice we listen to. Surround yourself with godly counsel and steer clear of “crafty” people.

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel …” (Proverbs 1:5, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Pray for peace in Jerusalem.

May all who love this city prosper.

O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls

and prosperity in your palaces.

For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,

‘May you have peace.’

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem”

(Psalm 122:6-9, NLT).

The Bible tells us to “Pray for peace in Jerusalem.” Do you? The Lord’s promise to the Jews hasn’t changed. Even though non-Jews (called Gentiles in Scripture) who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have become members of the family of God, the Lord hasn’t tossed aside the Jews. And neither should we. We should include Israel in our daily prayers.

“…I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in… You are just a branch, not the root. Remember – those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree” (Romans 11:14-15a, 17b-18a & c, 20a, 23).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her”
(2 Samuel 11:1a, 2c-4a, NLT).

David’s “one-night stand” with Bathsheba had enormous consequences that affected not only David, Bathsheba, and Uriah, but many other people who died in David’s attempt to hide what he had done. How did David get himself into such a mess?

The same way we sometimes do. David should have been on the battlefield with the rest of his army. And because he wasn’t, he found himself in a position of temptation that otherwise would never have happened.

Temptation is a powerful tool of the devil, but every believer has an even greater Power within to resist. Remember: resisting begins with a strong prayer life and commitment to Jesus Christ, but also requires staying out of situations that put you in the pathway of temptation. Never be where you shouldn’t be.

“Resist (literally, keep on resisting) the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Samuel 11-12; First Chronicles 20

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18, NLT).

Unconfessed sin hinders our communication with the Lord. Think of it this way. You just drove by a local mall and saw your teenage son going in the door during school hours. When your son arrives home, you try to carry on a normal conversation and give him time to ‘fess up on his own. But he doesn’t. And the more you try to talk to him, the more frustrated you become with the fact that he isn’t being honest with you. A barrier has risen up between the two of you and the only thing that’s going to resolve it is his admitting that he’d cut class. How you wish he’d do that without you having to confront him!

Your heavenly Father feels likewise. He doesn’t want to have to bring up your sin – He wants you to confess it of your own volition. And until you do, there’s that barrier.

Don’t let anything hinder your communication with God. Your prayer life is far too valuable. Stay ‘fessed up and know the joy of an open line between you and your Father.

“But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw His unfailing love from me” (Psalm 66:19-20).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.

May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.

May He send you help from His sanctuary

and strengthen you from Jerusalem.

May He remember all your gifts

and look favorably on your burnt offerings.

May He grant your heart’s desires

and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory

and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.

May the Lord answer all your prayers”
(Psalm 20:1-5, NLT).

“May the Lord answer all your prayers.” No matter what that country song told us, there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. I remember praying fervently in the third grade for my friend Teddy’s family not to move away, but they did. Did the Lord ignore my prayer? No. He didn’t give me what I’d asked for because He understood the importance of Teddy’s dad having found a job in another community. All I wanted was not to lose Teddy.

What about when we pray for healing? Does the Lord ever say, “No?” What did He tell Paul when Paul asked for healing? “My grace is sufficient for thee …” (2 Corinthians 12:9, KJV). Even when He allows suffering, He gives every believer ultimate healing in the end, leaving this temporal world and entering eternity where there will be no pain or suffering – matter of fact, there won’t even be a memory of it!

So if God never ignores a believer’s prayer, why haven’t we seen the salvation of all the people we’ve been praying to be saved? Does He refuse to save any person? God is NEVER the holdup when it comes to salvation – He simply doesn’t force anyone to turn to Him. “Today is the day of salvation,” declares First Corinthians 6:2b (NLT). Every time you breathe a prayer for someone to be saved, the Holy Spirit speaks to that person’s heart; but it’s up to that person to listen and obey. Keep praying! Keep praying!

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Samuel 10; First Chronicles 19; Psalm 20

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“With God’s help we will do mighty things, for He will trample down our foes”
(Psalm 60:12, NLT).

Or as Paul said it in the New Testament, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).

The key to success in any area is the Lord Jesus Christ. Being centered in His will positions us to be blessed with success!

Instead of coming up with a great idea and then asking God to bless it, try putting first things first: (1) ask the Lord what He would have you to do; (2) wait on His answer; and then (3) obey wholeheartedly.

“When they call on me, I will answer …” (Psalm 91:15a).

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength …” (Isaiah 40:31a, NKJV).

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly …” (Deuteronomy 11:18, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So David reigned over all Israel and did what was just and right for all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15, NLT).

“… David … did what was just and right for all his people” – what a way for a leader to be remembered! What a way for anyone to be remembered!

Unless we make it out of here in the Rapture, each of us will one day be the visited rather than the visitor at the funeral home. And when that day comes, what will be said? “She did what was just and right” or “I just hope she made things right before it happened?”

Not a single solitary one of us is guaranteed tomorrow – or even our next breath, for that matter, as recent tornadoes and this crazy pandemic have certainly reminded us. We need to live every moment of every day as if it could be our last, because it very well could be.

“We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the One who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” (Jesus speaking, John 9:4).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Samuel 8-9; First Chronicles 18

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord is good and does what is right;

He shows the proper path to those who go astray.

He leads the humble in doing right,

teaching them His way.

The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness

all who keep His covenant and obey His demands”

(Psalm 25:8-10, NLT).

“The Lord is good and does what is right.” Unlike us humans, God doesn’t have to consider whether or not something is the right thing to do – He knows with absolute certainty what is right because He is “… the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jesus speaking, John 14:6).

Look at the passage that began today’s study. Notice what those three short verses say about God’s leadership: (1) “He shows the proper path to those who go astray.” More than a disciplinarian, God is a loving Father who points His wayward children to “… the proper path, teaching them His way.” (2) He’s also a God who “… leads with unfailing love and faithfulness …” Who wouldn’t want to follow a Guide who is never going to lead you astray and never going to bail out, no matter how difficult the journey? (3) But there’s a condition to being led “… with unfailing love and faithfulness …” It requires “… keep[ing] His covenant and obey[ing] His demands.” “… His demands …”? You betcha. The God of the Universe has yet to make a suggestion!

“The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep His covenant and obey His demands.” Does this mean that He doesn’t lead “… with unfailing love and faithfulness …” those who disobey and follow wrong paths? That’s exactly what it means. He won’t desert you, child of God, even if you go down the road of adultery or pornography or gossip or lying – no, He’ll stick right with you. And He’ll urge you to return to “the proper path.” But He won’t make you.

A believer is never alone, even when they’re in the midst of the worst kind of sinfulness imaginable. The Holy Spirit is right there with them.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 25, 29, 33, 36, & 39

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house – a temple – for My name.’ Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family’” (2 Samuel 7:12-13a, 18, 25a, NLT).

David wanted to build a temple to the Lord, but that wasn’t God’s plan – His was for David’s son Solomon to carry out that task. How often do Christians come up with ideas to do something “for the Lord” and then get all miffed if their fellow church members and/or church staff don’t jump on board and go along with it?

David had a good plan, an honorable plan; but it still wasn’t God’s plan. Maybe you have an idea that you believe would greatly benefit your church. Be careful how you present it. More importantly, be PRAYERFUL how you present it.

First and foremost, spend a huge amount of time in prayer making certain that this idea is from the Lord. Even if you’re 100 percent positive, your suggestion may be turned down. If it is, don’t get angry or get your feelings hurt. Wait on the Lord and trust Him to open that door in His own time and in the place of His choosing.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Second Samuel 7; First Chronicles 17

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!

Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before Him, singing with joy.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are His.

We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving;

go into His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and His faithfulness continues to each generation”

(Psalm 100, NLT).

Psalm 100 contains the formula for pure worship. Plenty of us go to church, but how many of us truly worship? Many buildings hold what they call “worship services,” but look around at the faces and ask yourself if the Lord would call what He’s seeing “worship.”

We aren’t to sit and humdrum our way through an hour’s service. We’re to “Shout with joy to the Lord …!” We’re to “Come before Him, singing with joy.” We’re to “Acknowledge that the Lord is God!” We’re to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving [and] go into His courts with praise.” We’re to “Give thanks to Him and praise His Name.”

“We … His people, the sheep of His pasture,” have a Great Shepherd watching over us, a Great Shepherd who “… lays down His life for the sheep” (Jesus speaking, John 10:11, NASB). You, child of God, have much to be thankful for! There’s nobody who loves you like Jesus.

Now that the pandemic is winding down, I hope you’ve returned to church with a new enthusiasm for worship. And those of you who haven’t been attending a church fellowship, please take this opportunity to go and be a part of corporate worship as a body of believers.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 89; 96; 100-101; 105; & 132

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

He leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

for You are close beside me.

Your rod and Your staff

protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me

in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord


(Psalm 23, NLT).

In this familiar psalm, we see the manifold blessings bestowed on those who walk closely with God. But one thing in particular I want to point out:

“He lets me rest in green meadows …” Note the verb in that passage: “lets” – it’s a more correct translation of the original language because it denotes a word of permission, allowance, privilege. So many exhausted Christians trudge through life without ever slowing down to rest in Jesus.

The pandemic forced us to reduce our busyness. Now that things are beginning to return to whatever the new normal is, discipline yourself to keep some open time in your schedule. Intentionally slow down. Eliminate the unnecessary and make room for the important.

You’ve heard this a thousand different ways, but it’s true: we make time for whatever we really put value on. If your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is worth anything, it’s worth reevaluating where you spend your time, reducing or stopping activities you can, taking time to talk to the Lord and read His Word, and simply resting in Him.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 1-2; 14; 22-24; 47; & 68

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him” (2 Samuel 6:16, NLT).

In his joy at having the Ark of the Covenant returned to Jerusalem, King David made a complete spectacle of himself. He forgot his dignity. He forgot his kingship. He forgot everything but the joy of the Lord. His wife Michal, however, only saw that her husband, the king, was behaving in a manner unbefitting his position of royalty.

Matter of fact, verse 20 tells us that “When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, ‘How distinguished the king of Israel looked today …!”

What was Michal’s problem? True, she was jealous of the attention David was drawing from the women who admired the handsome king. But look at the hint we get from this other portion of today’s passage:

“They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people returned to their homes” (2 Samuel 6:17-19).

The people of Israel worshipped and celebrated with King David. “Then all the people returned to their homes.” But what about Michal? She didn’t have to go home because she’d never left there! When you aren’t part of spirited worship and celebration, it’s easy to criticize those who are participating. Maybe Michal saw herself as far too dignified to be a part of such an overboard display of emotion. Maybe Michal didn’t want to mingle with common folk. Whatever her reasons, Michal stayed home from worship, missed a blessing, and negatively impacted her relationship with her husband and her Lord.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: 2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 1 Chronicles 13-16

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let them praise the Lord for His great love

and for the wonderful things He has done for them.

Let them exalt Him publicly before the congregation

and before the leaders of the nation”

(Psalm 107:31-32, NLT).

Our assignment as members of the body of Christ is to “… praise the Lord for His great love.” How do we do this? In words. In heart. In action.

As today’s passage clearly shows us, our praise isn’t confined to times of private prayer. We’re to “… exalt Him publicly before the congregation …” Does the joy of the Lord shine on your face as you worship? Do you ever raise your hands in an open display of praise? No, you shouldn’t be trying to draw attention to yourself, but let’s face it: in most cases, our lack of display in worship isn’t for that reason, but because we don’t want to be embarrassed or stand out as “fanatics.”

Note that the psalmist doesn’t stop with telling us to “… exalt Him publicly before the congregation …” He also says we’re to exalt Him “… before the leaders of the nation.” It doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with. There’s no time like the present to put in a good word – or deed – for Jesus!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


"How wonderful and pleasant it is

when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil

that was poured over Aaron’s head,

that ran down his beard

and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon

that falls on the mountains of Zion.

And there the Lord has pronounced His blessing,

even life everlasting.”

(Psalm 133, NLT)

The word HARMONY comes from the Greek word HARMONIS, meaning JOINT. I want you to hold onto that thought as we look at the definition of the word HARMONY: accord; internal calm; tranquility.

Our passage today proclaims “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” It says that “… harmony is as precious as … anointing oil …” It’s “… as refreshing as the dew …” Harmony, in other words, has enormous value.

Remember that thought I asked you to hold onto? Now put it to use. If the word HARMONY comes from a word meaning JOINT, we should realize that the best way to have HARMONY is to BE FLEXIBLE.

“Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.” (Albert Camus)


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… all Israel gathered before David at Hebron and told him, ‘We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord your God told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be the leader of my people Israel.’ So there at Hebron, David made a covenant before the Lord with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel, just as the Lord had promised through Samuel” (1 Chronicles 11:1-13, NLT).

David was just a youth when the prophet Samuel was appointed by the Lord to anoint him as Israel’s king. Years later, at age 30, David became ruler over Judah. It wasn’t until he was around 37 years old that David ruled over all Israel – both Judah and Israel.

Had you been the youngster David, would you have wondered if the Lord was ever going to fulfill His word? I know I would have! Even as an adult I have trouble waiting on the Lord’s timing. Do you? Patience isn’t easy, but it definitely is Christ-like.

It’s important to realize that God doesn’t work on our time schedule, but that He is ever faithful to carry out every promise He’s ever made. And remember, too: when it comes to a person’s obeying the Lord’s plan, He doesn’t force anyone to do His will. If you’re waiting on a loved one to be saved, God isn’t the hold-up.

“Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything He had spoken came true” (Joshua 21:45).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: 2 Samuel 5:1-10; 1 Chronicles 11-12

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let all that I am praise the Lord;

with my whole heart, I will praise His holy name.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;

may I never forget the good things He does for me.

He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases.

He redeems me from death

and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

He fills my life with good things”

(Psalm 103:1-5a, NLT).

“May I never forget the good things He does for me.” Yes, I’ve known sickness. Yes, I’ve known sorrow. And what we’re seeing happening on the news shows us that, right now, many people are enduring incredible terror, pain, and loss. Compared to that, most of us have little to complain about. And in spite of any troubles we have or have had in the past, the vast majority of us have had many, many days of peace, joy, love, and overwhelming blessing.

So ask yourself these questions: has the Lord “… [forgiven] all my sins”? You betcha. Has He “… [healed] all my diseases”? Yes, He has. Not necessarily in this world, but He’s promised me a new one where “He will remove all of [my] sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils [will be] gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, He’s done all these great things for you. He has shown you His “… love and tender mercies [and] He [has filled your] life with good things.”

If you’re in a position to help someone going through a rough patch, do it. You never know when you may be on the receiving end of that kind of assistance.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now the Philistines attacked Israel, and the men of Israel fled before them. Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons – Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua. The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him. Saul groaned to his armor bearer, ‘Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to taunt and torture me.’ But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he even consulted a medium instead of asking the Lord for guidance. So the Lord killed him and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (I Chronicles 10:1-4, 6a, 13-14, NLT).

Saul “… consulted a medium instead of asking the Lord for guidance.” While this was hardly the only charge that could be laid against him, this was a very serious one. The Torah, or Pentateuch (“penta” meaning five), the first five books of the Bible, were scriptures that Saul was well acquainted with. For example:

Leviticus 20:6: “If any among the people are unfaithful by consulting and following mediums or psychics, I will turn against them and cut them off from the community.”

Deuteronomy 18:10b-12a: “And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the Lord.”

God hasn’t changed. He abhors the TV and roadside psychics of today just as He did those in the days of Saul. And He finds those who consult these ungodly people equally appalling.

Don’t “dabble” in witchcraft. Horoscopes, tarot cards, mediums, and psychics are not of God.

“So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God?” (Isaiah 8:19).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“You thrill me, Lord, with all You have done for me!

I sing for joy because of what You have done.

O Lord, what great works You do!

And how deep are Your thoughts.

Only a simpleton would not know,

and only a fool would not understand this:

Though the wicked sprout like weeds

and evildoers flourish,

they will be destroyed forever”

(Psalm 92:4-7, NLT).

My husband Larry loves rollercoasters; me, I’m terrified of them. My idea of high adventure is bicycling around Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park. One thing we can both agree on, though, is this: Jesus Christ is the biggest thrill in our lives.

What about you? When you think of “… all [He has] done for [you],” does it make you want to “… sing for joy …” ? I hope so.

When believers look around and see those who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior happily plugging along through life with financial security and seemingly few problems, sometimes we wonder how we got so short-changed. “… simpleton[s] …” that we can sometimes be, we forget that we didn’t get short-changed – we inherited the wealth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our eternal home and the glories of heaven will outweigh the most luxurious lifestyle ever seen on this earth.

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither” (C. S. Lewis).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“David assigned … men to lead the music at the house of the Lord after the Ark was placed there. They ministered with music at the Tabernacle until Solomon built the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They carried out their work, following all the regulations handed down to them. These are the men who served, along with their sons …” (1 Chronicles 6:31-33a, NLT).

I recall visiting my grandfather’s church many times when I was a youngster. Papa often led the music and I can remember being so proud of him as he stood, little red hymnal in hand, joyfully singing out, “How Firm A Foundation,” “Bringing in the Sheaves,” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Something else I recall, though: the vast majority of the congregation was women and children. Rather than attending themselves, many of the men sent their wives and kids to get their Sunday dose of religion for them. Folks, it was wrong then and it’s wrong now!

Men were ordained by God to lead in worship (which is not to say that women can’t also be spiritual leaders – many families depend on a mom as the head of the household) and yet many of them have allowed Satan to convince them that attending church, praying, and reading the Bible is for wimps. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Ladies and gentlemen, go to church. And don’t just go to “church.” Go to worship. Take your Bible – and don’t keep it in the back car seat in between Sundays. Read it daily. Do this and you’ll not only grow as a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll be setting an example that will lead your children along the right pathway.

“These are the men who served, along with their sons …” (1 Chronicles 6:33a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Whom have I in heaven but You?

I desire You more than anything on earth.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,

but God remains the strength of my heart;

He is mine forever”

(Psalm 73:25-26, NLT).

Let’s bring it down to the proverbial brass tacks today: either God is real or He isn’t; either heaven exists or it doesn’t. Do you really believe in God? Do you know Him as Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior? If you do, then you should have no doubt that no matter how many loved ones who knew Him have gone on before you, He is the One and Only Way to ever see those loved ones again. He is the One, your Righteous Advocate that you “… have … in heaven …”

A friend in his 30’s – a young husband and father of two beautiful little girls – battled colon cancer for years. His health failed, but “… God remain[ed] the strength of [his] heart.” He left a lasting testimony that touched thousands of lives and he’s now experienced ultimate healing.

No, he didn’t want to leave his family; but he knew that even if he did, he would see them again. He refused to be angry with God for allowing cancer to afflict him. Instead, he and his precious wife and girls chose to do what all of us should do: trust God and cherish every moment of their lives.

Don’t wait for something catastrophic to realize how precious life is and how much you can trust the Lord with your future – here and in eternity.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today’s passage ends with the history of the tribes who remained east of the Jordan when the Israelites entered the Promised Land:

“There were 44,760 capable warriors in the armies of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. But these tribes were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors. They worshiped the gods of the nations that God had destroyed. So the God of Israel caused King Pul of Assyria (also known as Tiglath-pileser) to invade the land and take away the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh as captives. The Assyrians exiled them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan River, where they remain to this day” (1 Chronicles 5:18, 25-26, NLT).

These Israelites had plenty of military men and weaponry, but what they didn’t have was a healthy fear of God. Because of their unfaithfulness they ended up slaves of the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-pileser.

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, actual Assyrian inscriptions uncovered by archaeologists “… afford striking corroboration of the Biblical narrative. Pul assumed the name of one of his predecessors, Tiglath-pileser I, and reigned as Tiglath-pileser III [from] 745 B.C. to 727 B.C. [as] … one of the greatest of Assyrian monarchs.”

A monument discovered in the ruins of ancient Assyria has an inscription that gives you an idea of the sort of brutality the Assyrians inflicted upon their captors: “Their men, young and old, I took as prisoners. Of some I cut off the feet and hands; of others I cut off the noses, ears, and lips; of the young men’s ears I made a heap; of the old men’s heads I built a minaret (a tall narrow tower).”

So much suffering and all of it needless. The decisions we make today affect our own futures and our future generations. Choose a strong faith in Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Those who are wise must finally die,

just like the foolish and senseless,

leaving all their wealth behind.

But as for me, God will redeem my life.

He will snatch me from the power of the grave”

(Psalm 49:10, 15, NLT).

No one escapes death. Yes, the Bible records a couple of people who didn’t experience physical death: Enoch and Elijah – see Genesis 5:23-24 and Second Kings 2:11. But for the rest of us, unless we’re alive when the Rapture of the Church occurs, there will come a day when we draw our last breath on this planet.

What you’ve done with Jesus Christ prior to that moment will determine where you take your next breath. For those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the place will be heaven. David confidently trusted that his life would be “… snatch[ed] from the power of the grave.” And so can you.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, death is the natural transition into the eternal supernatural. While I don’t think any mentally healthy person relishes the idea of dying, neither should any Christian fear it. Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us what we are to fear: “Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person.”

No one will escape God’s judgment. No unbeliever will enter heaven, and no believer will miss it. There are so many confused and lost people in this world. Don’t be one of them. Know the Light and share Him.

“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell” (C. S. Lewis).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel. The sons of Israel were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Jesse’s first son was Eliab, his second was Abinadab, his third was Shimea, his fourth was Nethanel, his fifth was Raddai, his sixth was Ozem, and his seventh was David” (First Chronicles 1:34, 2:1-2, 13-15, NLT).

In Genesis 12:1 Abram (whom the Lord renamed Abraham) was told, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.” Obediently he took his wife Sarai (whom the Lord renamed Sarah) and went. Then in Genesis 15:5 Abraham was told by the Lord, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that – too many to count!”

Only problem with God’s message was that Abraham was older than dirt and he and Sarah had no children! So what did he do? The next verse tells us: “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6).

In Exodus 1:9 we read the words of Pharaoh, unknowingly affirming the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham: “These Israelites are becoming a threat to us because there are so many of them.”

From 100-year-old Abraham came Isaac; and from Isaac came Jacob whom the Lord renamed Israel – see Genesis 32:28. And through Israel’s son, Judah, came the line from which Jesse’s son David was chosen as king. And that same line was the one through which the Lion of Judah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords chose to be born in human flesh to walk this earth as a Perfect Man and then die as the One Perfect Sacrifice for the sins of fallen man.

Abraham. One man’s faith – and look at what happened. Imagine the promises in store for the generations of your family because of your faith. What are you believing God for?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“When I behold Your heavens,

the work of Your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which You have set in place—

what is man that You are mindful of him,

or the son of man that You care for him?

You made him a little lower than the angels;

You crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler of the works of Your hands;

You have placed everything under his feet:

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

(Psalm 8:3-6, 9, BSB)

David asked a question that all of us should ask as we look around at the wonders of all God’s creation: “… what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them?” (NLT). What an amazing love the Lord has to love us flawed and constantly problem-causing humans!

And yet He, in His incredible compassion and mercy, entrusted “… everything [He] made …” into our care. While we’re not to worship nature as deity; we are to worship the Creator who gave us the beautiful landscape of this planet. And we’re also to care for it. Believers in Jesus Christ should do their part to conserve energy; reduce landfill waste; prevent littering; and anything else that will help maintain this magnificent place we call Earth.

While we’re caring for our temporary home, though, we’re to be telling others about the eternal place God is preparing for His people. Who have you told today?

“But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world where everyone is right with God” (2 Peter 3:13).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


In First Samuel 16:13 we read where the Lord showed Samuel that David was the one to be anointed as king over Israel. He was to replace the wayward ruler Saul. But years passed and David still wasn’t on the throne and had even had to go into hiding out of fear for his life as Saul, intent upon David’s death, pursued him.

In today’s passage David learns of the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan. He mourned this loss, but asked the Lord, “Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?” and the Lord replied, “Yes” (from 2 Samuel 2:1, NLT). So David sent a message to the people of Israel, “Now that Saul is dead, I ask you to be my strong and loyal subjects like the people of Judah, who have anointed me as their new king” (2 Samuel 2:7).

“But Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul’s son Ishbosheth. There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over … Israel. Meanwhile, the people of Judah remained loyal to David. David made Hebron his capital, and he ruled as king of Judah for seven and a half years” (2 Samuel 2:8-9, 10b-11).

Ishbosheth’s kingship and the resulting fighting between Judah and Israel “… was the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those loyal to David. As time passed David became stronger and stronger, while Saul’s dynasty became weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1).

As a young man – hardly more than a boy – David was anointed king over all of God’s people Israel. But his ascent to the throne didn’t happen immediately or even in a short time. And in the meantime, David did nothing to force his way into power.

If the Lord has made you a promise about anything, wait on His timing. As we’ll see with King David, God’s timing is always perfect.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I look up to the mountains –

does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;

the One who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, He who watches over Israel

never slumbers or sleeps”

(Psalm 121:1-4, NLT).

Do you ever feel totally alone and deserted? I sure have, and these days, many of us are really feeling that way. But the truth is, if you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He is always with you. Just look at the promises in the passage above:

(1) Your “… help come[s] from the Lord.” Where could you get greater help? Nowhere! You have the most awesome Power in existence ready to meet your needs.

(2) “He will not let you stumble.” If you attune yourself to the Holy Spirit, He will keep you from slipping up. You won’t have to wonder if something is right or wrong – He’ll tell you.

(3) “The One who watches over you will not slumber.” God is with you 24/7. He’s the on-time, all-the-time God who loves you unconditionally. There is never a problem too big or too small to take to Him, and there’s never a time when He’s too busy to listen.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 121, 123-125, 128-130

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I love You, Lord;

You are my strength.

The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Savior;

my God is my Rock, in whom I find protection.

He is my Shield, the Power that saves me,

and my Place of Safety.

I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and He saved me from my enemies”

(Psalm 18:1-3, NLT).

In this psalm of praise, David thanks the Lord for saving him from his enemies: the Philistines; the Amalekites; and even his own nation’s king, Saul. He proclaims the Lord his “Rock, Fortress, Savior, Shield, Power that saves and Place of Safety.” If you look back through David’s psalms, you find him praising the Lord even while he was still waiting on this deliverance.

How about you? How much do you praise the Lord IN your troubles? Your willingness to give Him glory when things aren’t going well determines the attitude with which you handle your troubles. And the way you cope with your troubles shows both professing believers and unbelievers how a Christian trusts in Jesus Christ even when he finds himself in a very negative situation.

Don’t wait for good times to praise the Lord.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1, a psalm of David, ESV).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“O God, You are my God;

I earnestly search for You.

My soul thirsts for You;

my whole body longs for You

in this parched and weary land

where there is no water.

I have seen You in Your sanctuary

and gazed upon Your power and glory.

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;

how I praise You!

I will praise You as long as I live,

lifting up my hands to You in prayer”
(Psalm 63:1-4, NLT).

David, out in the wilderness of Judah, knew what it was like to be thirsty. But as he wrote this psalm, he wasn’t thinking about physical desires, but spiritual ones. Look at what he says in these four short verses:

(1) “I EARNESTLY search for you.” How much effort are you putting into seeking the Lord? So many people tell me they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives. Just start doing something that you know will honor Him. Make that first move and He will continue to point you in the direction you should go.

(2) “My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you …” Spiritual thirst can only be quenched by the Living Water. Jesus Christ isn’t hiding from you – you have as much of Him as you truly want.

(3) “I will praise You as long as I live, lifting my hands to You in prayer.” Want more of God? Praise Him! Be bold! Be radical! If your church doesn’t show much in the way of outward displays of praise, dare to be different – even if your hand-raising is only during times of prayer when the congregations eyes are closed.

God has so much more for each of us than most of us ever experience. Seek Him and know the mighty work He wants to do IN you and THROUGH you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral” (1 Samuel 25:1, NLT).

Samuel had been faithful to God and the often unfaithful nation of Israel knew it. Are you a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Both the faithful and the faithless know the real thing when they see it.

Some years ago I attended the funeral of a professing believer who, to my knowledge, never went to a church service in all his adult years. The pastor who’d been drummed up by family members and spoke at his funeral couldn’t even keep up with the man’s name and struggled valiantly to make some positive statements about the deceased’s faith.

A dear friend of mine, also a professing believer, along with her husband, are currently bringing up two children who have hardly ever been inside the doors of a church. How are these children ever going to know the wonderful Word of God? How are they ever going to know the priceless worth of Jesus Christ? Yes, I know these things can be taught at home, but are they? If parents don’t see the value of being a part of a church, their children certainly won’t see the importance.

My paternal grandparents left no money, but flooded our family with their examples of faith. When your time to leave this world comes, what will be said at your funeral? Who will be there? What will you be remembered for? And what values will you have left behind for your family to follow?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”
(Psalm 56:8, NLT).

Don’t ever think that Jesus Christ doesn’t care about what you’re going through – He does. And don’t ever think that the tears you shed as you pray for yourself, your family, your friends, your church, your country, this world, and anything else that lies heavy on your heart are without purpose. God is keeping track of them!

Most of you are aware that Larry and I have two granddaughters we’ve never been allowed to meet. Our son and daughter-in-law stopped communicating with us well over a decade ago and have ignored all our efforts to find out why or reestablish our relationship.

Larry and I both have cried an ocean of tears over this. And as we’ve cried, the Lord has heard us, comforted us, and collected and recorded every single one of our tears. The Man of Sorrows knows our sorrow, and I can say with absolute sincerity that He has replaced our tears with absolute peace, even though our situation hasn’t changed.

Is God the holdup in reuniting our family? Certainly not. He’s a Gentleman who will never force anyone to do the “right thing,” including turn to Him. But He is the Sustainer and Giver of Peace that keeps us living joyfully and fully even as we wait for the day when our family is together.

Whatever you’re going through; whatever you’re waiting for; He is enough and He is faithful.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 56, 120, & 140-142

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I come to you for protection, O Lord my God. Save me from my persecutors – rescue me!” (Psalm 7:1, NLT).

“Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done …” (Psalm 27:11-12a).

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time” (Psalm 34:19).

Ever been accused of something you didn’t do? I have. And one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was to refuse to bad-mouth the person who invested a great deal of her own time and energy into bad-mouthing me. Instead, I did what David did – I gave my problem to the Lord and asked Him to deliver me.

And He did. Did His deliverance include clearing my name with everyone who’d heard the falsehood the other person was spreading? No. But what He did do was give me absolute peace. I stopped worrying about what that person was saying or who she was saying it to, and started praying for her. And the longer I prayed for her, the more I found myself sincerely wanting good for her rather than hoping to see payback.

Got enemies? Pray for them.

“I have heard the many rumors about me … But I am trusting you, O Lord … My future is in your hands” (Psalm 31:13a, 14a, 15a).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 7, 27, 31, 34, & 52

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


After being upstaged by David, Saul decided that David must die. David ended up fleeing for his life and hiding out in a cave. We pick up the story here:

“After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! ‘Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, ‘Is that really you, my son David?’ Then he began to cry. And he said to David, ‘You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil’” (1 Samuel 24:1-4, 7b-8, 11, 16-17, NLT).

David, urged by his men, could have killed Saul and felt justified in doing so. But he refused to harm the one God had made king over Israel, choosing instead to wait on the Lord’s timing to ascend to the throne himself. We need to be careful about taking matters into our own hands. Sometimes “opportunities” aren’t opportunities, but tests.

Secondly, look at Saul’s response to David’s behavior: “… you have repaid me good for evil.” Saul wasn’t the only one who saw this – his 3,000 companions also witnessed it, as well as all the men who had accompanied David. Word gets around. People talk. And when they talk about you as a believer in Jesus Christ, your behavior should cause them to speak of your kindness, not your vindictiveness.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song: ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!’ This made Saul very angry. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!’ So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David” (1 Samuel 18:5-9, NLT).

One day Jill decided to exercise her authority over newly hired underling Tisha, instructing her to finish a project that their boss, Nathan, had originally dumped in Jill’s lap. Tisha completed the project in record time; then delivered it to Nathan who praised Tisha’s quick start at the company, assuring her, “People like you have a real future here.”

Jill was more than bit miffed. She’d figured on Tisha needing her help. She’d already rehearsed her speech to Nathan about “the new girl just putting more work on me while I train her.” Instead of Jill’s move earning her points with her boss, Tisha scored the kudos while Jill stood watching from the sidelines – kind of like Saul did with David.

Jealousy is lethal. It can destroy a relationship, a career, and even a home. Refuse to go through life with “… a jealous eye …”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11 & 59

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the house of a man named Jesse to anoint the new king; but He had not yet told Samuel who that person would be. Jesse assembled his seven big strapping sons, but the Lord didn’t indicate any of them as the chosen one.

At last Samuel turned to Jesse and asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:11, NLT). Then Jesse told him that he had one more, but that he was out in the fields taking care of the family’s sheep. Samuel told Jesse to send for him and, when the young man arrived, he was the runt of the litter and the youngest of them all!

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him (each of Jesse's sons individually). The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Little David was the “… man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14b).

You may not consider yourself the biggest, best, or even brightest bulb in the box; but you have to remember that these are not the attributes God is looking at. He sees the heart; and will work great things through anyone who is seeking after His.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Israel had demanded a king and they’d gotten one – Saul. Samuel was no longer over the people of Israel, but as the Lord told him, “… it is Me they are rejecting, not you” (1 Samuel 8:7, NLT). By asking for an earthly king, they’d rejected their Heavenly One and were going to reap the harvest of their foolish behavior.

Saul was fighting with the Israelite army against the Philistines. Samuel had instructed Saul to wait for him at Gilgal where Samuel would come and offer sacrifices and pray for the Lord to give them victory over the Philistines.

But like we are today, Saul was impatient and his troops were tired of waiting too. Finally, Saul commanded, “‘Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!’ And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, ‘What is this you have done?’ ‘Saul replied, ‘I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.’ ‘How foolish!’ Samuel exclaimed. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of His people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:9-14).

Saul was a big man, but not too big for the Lord to discipline. Saul had become enamored with his own power and had forgotten Who placed him in that position of authority. Therefore, his authority was about to be removed and given to “… a man after His own heart.”

Are you “… a man [or woman] after [God’s] own heart”? These are the people He blesses.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Samuel has made his farewell speech. The people have asked for a king, so Samuel will no longer lead them as their judge. But even though he’s being displaced, he tells the people: “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:23-24, NLT).

A good while back, Larry and I ran into a guy who, some years ago, had been in church with us. We chatted a while and then asked him where he and his family were presently going to church. “Oh,” he said, “my business is taking off like wildfire and I’m working six days a week. Sunday is our only day to relax.” In other words, they weren’t going to any church.

This Covid outbreak cured that guy’s need to work six days a week. In fact, it made it downright hard for him to even make ends meet, let alone prosper.

If God is good enough to be our God in the good times, He’s good enough to be our God in the bad times. In fact, if He’s God at all, He’s God of All – good times and bad.

If you aren’t regularly attending a Bible-teaching, Jesus-preaching church, find one and get started. Learn and grow with a group of fellow believers – there are tons of online resources and I’ll be happy to point you to reliable ones. Heed the words of Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV).

God is good, so “… faithfully serve Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


In that great old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” we sing the words, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.”

Why are we raising an “Ebenezer” and, even if we are, what are we raising? The word comes from a portion of today’s passage. I hope you’re reading the entire sections for our through-the-Bible study; if not, let me urge you to read this one – it’s power-packed.

In today’s passage, we see that the Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines. But the Lord sent such trouble upon them that they returned it to the Israelites. Still, the Philistines continued to be a thorn in Israel’s flesh. Samuel, who was judge over Israel, told the people, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then He will rescue you from the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:3, NLT).

The people did as Samuel told them and the Lord intervened so that the Israelites were able to defeat the Philistines. And that’s when “Samuel … took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means ‘the stone of help’), for he said, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us!’ So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time” (1 Samuel 7:12-13a).

You, my brothers and sisters, also have a Stone of Help. Got problems? You’ve also got an Ebenezer! Lift up His Name and see Him perform a mighty work in your life.

Hope you’ll take a few minutes to hear “Come Thou Fount” and sing along and celebrate your Stone of Ebenezer, the Lord Jesus Christ. The lyrics will be on the screen:


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Hannah, the previously barren wife of Elkanah, had been blessed with a son, Samuel, whom she promised to dedicate to the Lord. True to her word, she brought him to the temple as a young boy, and he served and trained under Eli the priest. Eli had two sons, which the Bible says, “… were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests” (1 Samuel 2:12b-13a, NLT).

One has to wonder about Eli’s efforts as a disciplinarian, particularly in light of the fact that he didn’t seem to be particularly in tune with the Lord. After all, if you read First Samuel 1:14, which was before Samuel was conceived, Eli had already accused Hannah of being drunk rather than in fervent prayer. We see him again having difficulty recognizing the movement of God:

“Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon. One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. Suddenly the Lord called out, ‘Samuel!’ ‘Yes?’ Samuel replied. ‘What is it?’ He got up and ran to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ ‘I didn’t call you,’ Eli replied. ‘Go back to bed.’ So he did. Then the Lord called out again, ‘Samuel!’ Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ ‘I didn’t call you, my son,’ Eli said. ‘Go back to bed.’ Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’” (1 Samuel 3:1-9a).

If we want to recognize the voice of God, we have to be attuned to Him by faithfully praying, reading our Bibles, and gathering with fellow believers. Through His Holy Spirit, God still speaks to people today. Has He spoken to you? Be ready to hear and obediently respond.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


When the widow Naomi’s two sons died, one of her two Moabite daughters-in-law returned to her own people. The other one, Ruth, refused to leave her mother-in-law, telling her: “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16, NLT).

Ruth’s words are often repeated as part of a wedding ceremony. Her commitment was firm – Rock solid, in fact. She promised not to leave; to go wherever Naomi chose to go; to live wherever Naomi chose to live; and to accept Naomi’s people and God has her own. In other words, her commitment was completely selfless.

So many people today tend to live by the motto of “to thy own self be true” – if it’s not the best move or decision for ME, I’m outa here. “I” problems are destroying our homes and marriages. And married or single, there is nothing pleasing to God about an “I”-centered lifestyle.

What motivates you – self-desire or the needs of others?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25, NLT).

At least four times in the book of Judges you see the above passage repeated. And if you read the remaining chapters of the book, you see just how messed up the people of Israel had become. Why?

“Israel had no king.” More accurately, “Israel had no King.” The Lord wasn’t revered as head of the nation. Therefore, “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” And what the people decided was right and what was truly right were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Let me add another reminder that the people of the Old Testament lived pre-grace. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, didn’t indwell all believers as He did after Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. Jesus had told His followers, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7, KJV).

And because we believers of today have God within us, His Holy Spirit to “… guide [us] into all truth …” (John 16:13, Jesus speaking), we are “… without excuse” (Romans 1:20) when we sin. We know better. We have God Himself inside of us warning us away from every wrongful thought or action.

Who is your King? Whoever or whatever is most important to you. I pray your answer is Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Samson, an Israelite and a Nazirite, didn’t want an Israelite wife – he wanted a pagan Philistine. His parents had already tried to reason with him, saying, “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry? Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” (Judges 14:3, NLT).

But Samson ignored his parents’ pleas. Scripture records that: “Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver’” (Judges 16:4-5).

Hebrews 11:25 speaks of “… enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.” That’s exactly what Samson did – until one day Delilah succeeded in prying his secret from him: “‘My hair has never been cut,’ he confessed, ‘for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me …’” (Judges 16:17).

Samson fell asleep, foolishly trusting Delilah, who had someone come in and cut off some of his hair. If you read the rest of Judges 16, you see that Samson was blinded literally and spiritually and his life came to a tragic end.

There’s a warning here for all of us. Sin is attractive. Sin is exciting. And sin can be downright fun – “… for a season …” (Hebrews 11:25, KJV). But ask a pregnant teenager or a guy with HIV if it was worth it. The price of sin is always far greater than the pleasure.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Israelites were still under the oppressing hand of the Philistines. During this time, there lived a man named Manoah of the tribe of Dan whose wife hadn’t been able to have a child. One day, “The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son’” (Judges 13:3, NLT).

This child was the famous strongman Samson. His parents were instructed to raise him from birth as a Nazirite, a person who made specific vows to the Lord – in Samson’s case, he was never to drink alcohol or eat the fruit of the grapevine and he wasn’t to cut his hair. As we’ll see in tomorrow’s passage, breaking his vow to the Lord cost Samson dearly.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 (NASB): “… you have heard that the ancients were told, 'you shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’”

As a believer, you are constantly being scrutinized by those who want to see what, if anything, makes you different from “the average Joe.” Whether it’s a simple commitment – “I’ll call you tomorrow” – or a big one – “… ’til death do us part” – keep it. Be a believer who shines Jesus in a positive light daily.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


For the umpteenth time the Israelites were living in disobedience to God and found themselves oppressed by the Philistines and Ammonites: “The Israelites were in great distress. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, ‘We have sinned against You because we have abandoned You as our God and have served the images of Baal.’ The Lord replied, ‘Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to Me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned Me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!’” (Judges 10:9b-14, NLT).

So much of man’s misery is self-made. Ed, the married man who has a fling with his co-worker Tara. Julie, the married woman who has an affair with Andy, her best friend’s husband. Carmen, who spends her aging parents’ money she’s been entrusted to manage for their care.

In every case, the one person’s sin affects many. Ed’s marriage ends and his wife and children are devastated. Tara becomes known as an easy mark for every man in the office. Julie’s husband will struggle for years to ever trust her again. Ditto for Andy’s wife. And Carmen’s parents find themselves unable to afford the assisted living they’d so carefully prepared to pay for.

God is merciful, but He won’t undo the results of our sins. He will, however, forgive us. Look at what happened with the Israelites: “But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.’ Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And He was grieved by their misery” (Judges 10:15-16).

The Lord doesn’t delight in our misery – He grieves over it. His desire is for His people to live in such a way that we are blessings to Him and to each other.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.’ But Gideon replied, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!’” (Judges 8:22-23, NLT).

Gideon’s victory over the enemies of Israel with only 300 fighting men at his side was an impressive one. According to Judges 8:10, they’d been pitted against an army of 135,000! But Gideon knew who had given him the victory – the Lord God Jehovah.

Gideon’s mistake came after the battles had ended. When he refused to be made king, he asked that each man give him a gold earring from the spoils of their enemies – see Judges 8:24-26. Gideon made an ephod, a priestly vestment, out of all this gold; and in no time at all the Israelites began worshiping the ephod! Once again, the people forgot the God who’d given them the victory.

But let’s not lambast the Israelites until we examine our own doorsteps. Man has always had a desire to worship “stuff.” God is the one who gives us the air we breathe; the strength and ability to think and work; and yet how often do we find ourselves adoring our new car or new house or new jewelry or new something else instead of the One who made all these things possible?

Be careful to worship the Creator and not the created.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


A divine messenger appeared to Gideon as he was going about a normal task, threshing wheat, and called him to lead the people of Israel to victory against their oppressors:

“‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’ ‘But Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’ The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man’” (Judges 6:14-16, NLT).

Gideon’s story isn’t one of a brave warrior. Gideon was afraid and he even asked the Lord repeatedly for signs of assurance that He would be with him. And merciful God that He is, God assured Gideon at every turn.

And the story just gets better and better. Gideon mustered 32,000 men to fight against the Midianites, but the Lord told him, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to Me that they saved themselves by their own strength” (Judges 7:2).

In obedience to and in growing confidence in the One who called him, Gideon heeded the Lord’s instructions and trimmed his troops to only 300 men.

Maybe you think you’re too insignificant to accomplish much. Maybe you think you need more backers to do whatever you’re considering. Brother or sister, if the Lord is on your side, you’ve got all the help and backing you need. Trust in Him completely.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They forgot about the Lord their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles. Then the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim. And the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years” (Judges 3:7-9, NLT).

How could the Israelites who had seen so many powerful acts of the Lord turn away from Him and serve false gods? The same way many professing Christians serve money, materialism, and other false gods today. By focusing on themselves rather than Him.

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you belong to the mighty loving Lord of heaven and earth. Loving, yes; but willing to discipline. Even though we live in the wonderful day of grace, the Lord warns us through His Word and through checks in believers’ spirits as His indwelling Holy Spirit reinforces those warnings, urging us away from sin and its consequences.

Sin carries a terrible price. Jesus Christ paid the sin-debt for every person who believes on His Name; He became the door into the Promised Land of heavenly eternity. And while He forgives and forgets the sins we repent of, our sins still set in motion earthly consequences that affect not only ourselves, but those around us. No believer ever “gets away” with sin and no sin affects only the sinner.

If you’re harboring a “pet” sin, now’s the time to repent of it and get rid of it.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord …” (Acts 3:19, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:8-10, NLT).

My paternal great-grandfather was a circuit-riding minister. My paternal grandfather was an active member of his church’s congregation, using his carpentry skills to build pulpits and pews and serving in a number of leadership roles; my grandmother served alongside him. Likewise my daddy. He and my mother sang, taught, served, and lived out lives that showed me as much as they told me about what they believed. One generation set an example that led the next generation into lives of faith and service.

What kind of example are you setting today with your involvement in church? I have a dear friend who has been telling me for over 20 years that she and her husband are “going to get started in church.” Today they have a son who, based on conversations I’ve personally had with this young person, knows next to nothing about who Jesus is and hasn’t been in church a handful of times in his lifetime.

One generation, folks. That’s all it takes. One generation can put a family on the pathway to heaven or steer a course straight for hell. There’s no middle ground. If church, if Jesus, is a “little bit” important to you, it’ll be a little less important to the next generation of your family. Serving Jesus must be first priority in your life if you’re to lead the next generation to “acknowledge the Lord.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Joshua 23:14, NLT).

Joshua wanted to leave his people with a reminder of God’s faithfulness. In spite of what had often seemed insurmountable odds or difficulties – including the Israelites’ self-made ones – the Lord had kept His word and brought them to the Promised Land.

However, even this new land wasn’t problem-free. No earthly place is. Sometimes we get discouraged and we turn our eyes onto our troubles instead of The Promise. We wrestle with understanding why there are so many difficulties in this life even when we’re trying to live according to God’s Word.

Beloved, don’t be discouraged! The apostle Paul reminds us again of God’s faithfulness: “… He always does just what He says, and He is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:9b).

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, NKJV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land He had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything He had spoken came true” (Joshua 21:43-45, NLT).

God is the ultimate Promise Keeper. It was never God’s perfect will for the Israelites to take so much time getting to and conquering the Promised Land. Sin delayed the fulfillment of their promised reward, but their faithful Father didn’t break His promise.

He is just as faithful to you, child of God. What are you trusting Him to do? Believe, even if, like the father who asked Jesus to heal his son, you have to cry out, “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!” (Mark 9:24).

The Lord has no problem with absolute honesty. Remember, He identified Himself as "… the way, the truth, and the life …” (John 14:6). He already knows what you’re thinking. Why not talk to Him about your doubts and fears? He wants to assure you that “Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord [has given you will be left] unfulfilled.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then Joshua asked them, ‘How long are you going to wait before taking possession of the remaining land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given to you?’” (Joshua 18:3, NLT).

I once read that author John Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, was rejected 47 times before he found someone willing to publish it. Making it in the writing world takes persistence. Matter of fact, making it in this world, period, takes persistence.

We can’t always blame God for the delays on things we want or hope for. I’m waiting on the day when my son and daughter-in-law allow my husband Larry and me to meet our precious granddaughters.

Is God the holdup? No way. Every time Larry and I – or the many friends and family members who are also praying – lift up a prayer for our situation, the Holy Spirit moves and speaks to our son’s and daughter-in-law’s hearts. But God is a Gentleman. He gives us the freedom to choose. Likewise, He gives us the freedom to take the actions necessary to accomplish our goals in life, and hopefully those are goals in accordance with His will and purpose.

If you’re waiting on something to happen, examine your heart and life and prayerfully seek God’s guidance. Is there something you can do to move this process along? Is this something you should do or is it something you should resist doing? Is this a time to wait or act? Ask your Heavenly Father and He’ll show you the right answer for your situation.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord gave the Israelites the Promised Land, but in order to receive it, they had to fulfill their part of the covenant. They had to cross the Jordan and possess it and they had to conquer the peoples who already inhabited the land. And so they did:

“When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, ‘You are growing old, and much land remains to be conquered’” (Joshua 13:1, NLT).

Joshua spent his entire life fighting to keep sin out of the lives of his people. And even as his life drew to a close, the Lord reminded him that the battle wasn’t over.

Folks, sin is never stagnant – either you're defeating it, or it's defeating you. Which is it in your life?

As long as you are living on this earth, there will never come a time when you “arrive” spiritually – sin-free. You’ll always need to be battle-ready, actively seeking to remove any sin that comes into your life and steering clear of any sin that you would otherwise wade into. Then when your life comes to a close, your greatest accomplishment will be to have left behind an example that taught your children and grandchildren to be ready for battle.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord gave the Israelites the Promised Land, but in order to receive it, they had to fulfill their part of the covenant. They had to cross the Jordan and possess it and they had to conquer the peoples who already inhabited the land. And so they did:

[Joshua and the army of Israel] completely destroyed everyone in the land, leaving no survivors, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. So Joshua conquered the entire region – the hill country, the entire Negev, the whole area around the town of Goshen, the western foothills, the Jordan Valley, the mountains of Israel, and the Galilean foothills. The Israelite territory now extended all the way from Mount Halak, which leads up to Seir in the south, as far north as Baal-gad at the foot of Mount Hermon in the valley of Lebanon. Joshua killed all the kings of those territories, waging war for a long time to accomplish this” (Joshua 10:40b; 11:16-18, NLT).

Old Testament history, remember, is pre-grace and sometimes bloody, gruesome, and difficult to understand. Boiling this down far more simplistically than it really is, the gist is that the vast majority of earth’s inhabitants had become evil and disobedient and turned to false gods. Rather than destroying the entire population of the planet as He had come close to doing in Noah’s day – see Genesis 7 – God chose for Himself one people, the people of Israel, to spread His Name and Truth. The other peoples and the disobedient Israelites – those who followed false gods – were to be totally eliminated. As brutal as it seems, Joshua obediently wiped out the people of every city the Israelites conquered.

Sin, like cancer, can’t be destroyed if it’s only partially removed. The people of the cities Joshua conquered worshiped idols and practiced some really sick “religions,” including some that required children to be sacrificed. The Lord didn’t want His people picking up any of these people’s evil ways, so He instructed Joshua to destroy them.

God knows we’re all going to mess up, but He still doesn’t want us to allow any habitual sin to remain in our lives. Getting rid of it, however, takes time. Yes, there are those rare few whom the Lord delivers from addiction the moment He saves them, but most believers have to fight a daily and even moment-by-moment battle to keep sin knocked in the head. Hang tough, claim your victory in Jesus, and remember that even for Joshua and the entire army of Israel, it took “… a long time to accomplish this.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Israelites had come to the walled and fortified city of Jericho. With a vast army at his command, how was Joshua to conquer it? One way – by obeying the Lord’s instructions:

“I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town” (Joshua 6:2-5, NLT).

Can you imagine how creeped out the people of Jericho had to have been, watching this army and waiting for the attack that never came? What happened? The Israelites did exactly as the Lord told them and, because of their obedience, the Lord did precisely what He’d said He would. Joshua 6:20 records that: “When the people [of Israel] heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it.”

You can’t outsmart God. If (haven’t we seen that word before recently?) you’ll only submit your will to His, He’ll lead you to victory, whatever the battle. Don’t exhaust yourself futilely trying to win your way; listen to the Lord’s instructions and obey Him.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8, NASB).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


We saw at the end of the book of Deuteronomy that Moses died and, in one of the most astounding passages in the Bible, “… the Lord buried him …” (Deuteronomy 34:6). Joshua, the faithful spy who along with Caleb brought back the only favorable reports from the Promised Land, had been training at Moses’ and Aaron’s side, and now takes over leading the people of Israel.

The Lord speaks to Joshua, saying: “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

This is My command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-9, NLT).

Repetition is one of the strongest means of reinforcing a statement. In this passage, the Lord repeatedly tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous,” even “very courageous.” And notice that, in case Joshua still didn’t get it, the third time around the Lord emphatically states: “This is My command!”

God’s command to Joshua stands true for every believer. Each of us is a leader. Each of us has other people watching us, looking up to us, and following our examples. If (there’s that little word again) we “Study this Book of Instruction continually,” we’ll succeed in leading many others to faith in Jesus. Don’t wimp out on your witness in your workplace, school, home, church, or social setting – “Be strong and courageous!”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you make the Lord your refuge,

if you make the Most High your shelter,

no evil will conquer you;

The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love Me.

I will protect those who trust in My name.

When they call on Me, I will answer;

I will be with them in trouble” (Psalm 91:9-10a; 14-15a, NLT).

Three things I’d like us to focus on from today’s passage:

(1) That little word “if.” It just keeps popping up, doesn’t it? “If” makes the statement conditional: “IF you make the Lord your refuge, IF you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you.” Want the strength to resist evil? Then obey the word: “… make the Lord your refuge” and “… make the Most High your shelter.”

(2) “No evil will conquer you.” Note that nothing in this passage says that evil won’t tempt you – it will. But IF you “… make the Lord your refuge,” evil cannot and will not win in your life. As First Corinthians 10:13 puts it: “… remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”

(3) “I will be with them in trouble.” If we weren’t going to sometimes find ourselves “in trouble,” there’d be no reason for the Lord to promise to be with us in it. Here again, despite what the name-it-and-claim-it preachers would have you to believe, God doesn’t promise you smooth sailing – He promises to go with you through the storms.

“… for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23b).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91

Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a, NLT).

You know, there’s living and there’s surviving. According to an MSNBC article, the majority of Americans are simply surviving. They spend their lives at jobs they despise: 61 percent of workers under age 25 fall into the job-hating category, along with 55 percent of workers ages 45 to 54.

Work isn’t a curse; it’s a privilege. And God has created each and every person with special gifts, talents, and abilities that can be used to earn a living in a field that is both satisfying and rewarding.

If you want to know the right pathway for your life, first you have to know Jesus. And if you know Jesus, you’ll realize He isn’t hiding or complicating His will for your life. What has He given you a passion to do? What has He given you the ability to do? Look for a place where you can put that passion and ability to work. And as you search, pray this scripture:

“Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow” (Psalm 25:4).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


More than America needs health care reform or debt reduction or anything else, we need to turn back to faithfully serving the Lord Jesus. And that turning, my friends, begins with YOU and ME. Take a look at the passage below and note the number of times you see the word “IF” (which I’ve put in all caps).

“IF you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all His commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings IF you obey the Lord your God:

Your towns and your fields will be blessed.

Your children and your crops will be blessed.

The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.

Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed.

Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.

The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven!

The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land He is giving you.

IF you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in His ways, the Lord will establish you as His holy people as He swore He would do. Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you” (Deuteronomy 28:1-10, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to the Lord against you, and it would be counted against you as sin” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15, NLT).

Everyone doesn’t have a college education. Everyone doesn’t have a high school education. Matter of fact, according to an article on InsideHigherEd’s website, the United States scored below average in literacy (reading, writing, understanding what they read), numeracy (math), and technology (solving problems via computer). Just as one example, Japan’s scores were almost four times as high as those of the U.S.

According to a survey done by the U.S. Department of Education, more than 1 in every 8 American adults has very poor literacy skills (reading and writing ability). The majority of these 32 million adults have trouble finding any type of work and, in most cases, perform jobs that pay very little and often include hard manual labor.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:12a: “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” If you are financially blessed enough to afford to hire workers to help with projects around your home or office, or if you’re in a position of authority within a business or other organization, remember the words of Jesus and pay a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility” (Deuteronomy 22:1-2, NLT).

Most of us probably don’t have a neighbor who owns “… an ox or sheep or goat …,” but we do have neighbors. And this passage hammers home one truth about them: “Don’t ignore your responsibility.” We have a God-commanded responsibility to help our neighbors.

Nowhere in the Bible do you hear the theme song, “It’s not my problem.” Instead, you read the words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How important is it to “love your neighbor as yourself”? Critical, I’d say; especially when you consider that you’ll find this stated in at least nine passages: Lev. 19:18; Matt. 19:19; Matt. 22:39; Mk. 12:31; Mk. 12:33; Lk. 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; and James 2:8.

Lest we forget who our neighbors are, Jesus answered that question in the Parable of the Good Samaritan – see Luke 10:30-37. And look at today’s Deuteronomy passage: “If its owner doesn’t live nearby …” Pretty much sums up the fact that neighbors aren’t just the people close around you.

“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ [Jesus asked.] The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:10b-12a, NLT).

Horoscopes, Ouija boards, psychics. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9b, “… there is nothing new under the sun” (NKJV). The gadgets and gimmicks of this so-called “New Age” have been around for centuries; and they’re just as wrong today as they were in Moses’ day.

Note the word “witchcraft” in today’s passage. We need to take a look at what the prophet Samuel had to say to King Saul who had just finished partially obeying a specific command of the Lord – see First Samuel 15: “For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft …” (First Samuel 15:23a).

Folks, partial obedience is disobedience. And disobedience is sin. And sin is plain ol’ rebellion against your Creator. If there’s any area of your life you haven’t fully submitted to the Lord Jesus, repent and surrender everything to His Lordship.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land He is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as He has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you” (Deuteronomy 15:4-6, NLT).

“There should be no poor among you …” According to a 2018 report more than one out of every ten Americans live below what the U.S. government considers the “poverty threshold.”

But it’s not just individual Americans in financial straits – it’s also corporations and even our federal government. And as only a couple of examples, China and Japan each hold over one trillion dollars of our federal government’s debt.

The country that wants to bail everybody else out is enormously in debt to other countries. What has happened? We’re no longer a nation “under God” – that is, under His leadership. If we want the favor of God on America, we must seek the will of God and the Wisdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 1:30), and enthrone Christ as the Ruler of our hearts and our nation.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods” (Deuteronomy 11:16b, NLT).

While you may not worship “Mother Nature” or any other pagan deity, it’s still a good idea to examine your values and see if some “other god” has crept in and stolen the Lord’s place in your priorities. Such as? The god of “stuff.” People today are obsessed with having stuff, stuff, and more stuff. And if we’re not careful, the pursuit of material wealth can easily exceed our pursuit of Christ.

What do you spend the most time on: thinking about how you can reach a lost family member or friend, or thinking about how you can get that new boat, car, bike, house, or other temporary “treasure”?

Real life isn’t about loving stuff – it’s about loving people. Love others enough to tell them about Jesus.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:20, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey His commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful!”
(Deuteronomy 8:11b-13, NLT).

America may be going through some tough times right now, but compared to what’s happening in Ukraine, we’ve no idea what real hardship is. In this girl’s humble opinion, America’s biggest problem is that we have forgotten. We’ve forgotten to put Jesus Christ first. We’ve forgotten how truly blessed we are. We’ve forgotten that material possessions aren’t what this life is to be about. In short, we’ve forgotten pretty much everything that Moses warned the Israelites not to forgot if they wanted the favor of God to remain with them.

If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, He’s not just your God in the good times. He’s your God in the toughest of times, and all the times in between.

Stop right now and count your blessings. And tell your Heavenly Father “thank You” for all His provision.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again 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. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NLT).

Do you have a quiet time of your own, a time when you get alone with your Bible and read and pray? Do you encourage your kids and/or grandkids to have a quiet time? And what about your spouse? If you’re married, do you and your spouse read the Bible and pray together? Do you and your kids or grandkids read the Bible and pray together?

Let’s use our imaginations for a moment, shall we? You’ve just read in the paper that a farmer in a nearby county has discovered a spring on his property that is a real fountain of youth. One application of this water and your skin is as smooth as a baby’s. And even more amazing, the farmer refuses to accept any payment from those who come to his spring. How quickly would you make a beeline over there? Wide open, I’d bet. Why? Because there’s something amazing there and it’s free for the taking. How quick would you be to tell someone else about it? As fast as your fingers can text or speed dial!

And yet look at the Living Water offered by Jesus. You want to talk amazing and free – He’s more than a wrinkle remover – He removes the sin that would separate you from Him for eternity! If He’s all that big a deal, if He’s the Real Deal, then tell somebody. Starting with your family. And then your friends. And everyone you can. While there’s still time.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time” (Deuteronomy 3:39-40, NLT).

My life verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV). Nowhere in the Bible is there a secondary verse that says, “But seek ye second … and most of these things …” There’s only one way to live life rightly, and that’s God’s way.

So many of life’s difficulties are self-made through disobedience. Why add unnecessary troubles to the ones the Bible already tells you are going to be a part of life on earth? Jesus Himself warned: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33a, NIV).

Thank God that’s not the end of that verse, though. Jesus also said: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Believer, whatever you’re going through, there truly is victory in Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The book of Deuteronomy opens while the people of Israel are still on the east side of the Jordan. Moses reminds the people of God’s instructions and all they’ve been through from rebellion to victory. And he also reminds them of the Lord’s constant presence:

“… you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now He has brought you to this place” (Deuteronomy 1:31, NLT).

Where do you find yourself today? It wasn’t the Lord’s perfect will that had the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty long years – it was their own disobedience, their rebellion against Him. God had a perfect plan for them, but they rejected His way for their own way.

God has a perfect plan for you. And the day you choose to follow His leadership is the day you get on that right pathway. IF you’re already listening and following, know that He truly “… has brought you to this place” wherever you find yourself today. And be it a valley or a mountaintop, He’s with you and will bless you as you trust Him to guide you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there Myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel” (Numbers 35:34, NLT).

You’ve probably heard the old hymn that says about Jesus: “You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart.” Do you honestly believe that? If you do, then the verse printed above from today’s passage applies to you. And it applies to every person who claims Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Christians are to live as though Jesus is right there in the room, in the car, or on the sidewalk with us. Because He is.

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16, NIV, Peter quoting from Leviticus 11:44).

To be holy is to be different, set apart. Don’t try to fit into the world; stand out and stand up for Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The tribes of Gad and Reuben, along with half the tribe of Manasseh (one of the two sons of Joseph whose families were counted along with Joseph’s brothers as tribes of Israel), received land on the east side of the Jordan. The remaining nine and a half tribes (remember, the Levites weren’t allotted their own property) were to receive property on the east side. So the Lord gave Moses gave these instructions:

“Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun are the men designated to divide the grants of land among the people. Enlist one leader from each tribe to help them with the task. These are the tribes and the names of the leaders:

Judah – Caleb son of Jephunneh

Simeon – Shemuel son of Ammihud

Benjamin – Elidad son of Kislon

Dan – Bukki son of Jogli

Manasseh son of Joseph – Hanniel son of Ephod

Ephraim son of Joseph – Kemuel son of Shiphtan

Zebulun – Elizaphan son of Parnach

Issachar – Paltiel son of Azzan

Asher – Ahihud son of Shelomi

Naphtali – Pedahel son of Ammihud

These are the men the Lord has appointed to divide the grants of land in Canaan among the Israelites” (Numbers 34:17-29, NLT).

Imagine the honor and responsibility of being one of these leaders! And yet, when you stop and think about it, everyone is a leader. YOU have people looking up to, watching, and emulating what is seen in YOU. I pray that your example is pointing your watchers to Jesus.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The tribes of Gad and Reuben were rich with livestock and, as they reached the banks of the Jordan, asked Moses if, rather than crossing over and taking land on the other side of the Jordan, they could have land where they were at present – the east side of the Jordan. Moses told them that it wasn’t fair for them to take land that had already been conquered when the rest of the Israelites had to do more fighting to take the land on the west side of the Jordan. So the men of Gad and Reuben committed to cross over and fight alongside all the other Israelites even though their own two tribes would settle on the east side.

“Then Moses said, ‘If you keep your word and arm yourselves for the Lord’s battles, and if your troops cross the Jordan and keep fighting until the Lord has driven out His enemies, then you may return when the Lord has conquered the land. You will have fulfilled your duty to the Lord and to the rest of the people of Israel. And the land on the east side of the Jordan will be your property from the Lord. But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out’” (Numbers 32:20-23, NLT).

When we think of “sin,” all too often we think of things we’ve done that we shouldn’t have. But what about things we SHOULD have done, but didn’t? James 4:17 holds the answer: “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

The men of Gad and Reuben kept their word and they and their families were blessed. We will never know this side of heaven how many blessings we have, as individuals, as families, and as churches, missed out on because of failing to keep our commitments.

Want to be blessed? Keep your word.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do” (Numbers 30:2, NLT).

What exactly constitutes a vow? According to Webster’s, it’s a solemn promise or assertion; specifically: one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition. To put it simplistically, making a vow is keeping your word.

No Christian should ever break a promise, a commitment, unless there is absolutely no way he or she can prevent doing so. When a believer promises to help coach a ball team, that guy or gal should be the most encouraging, enthusiastic, and faithful coach that team has ever seen. When a believer promises to come into work early or stay late to catch things up, he or she should be there hammering away at the task, regardless of whether or not there’s anyone else at the office to see the job being done.

You are a member of the body of Christ. You represent Him. And He hears every promise you make – and the Living Word expects you to be a man or woman of your word.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“One day a petition was presented by the daughters of Zelophehad … These women stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance of the Tabernacle, ‘Our father died in the wilderness,” they said. ‘… But he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear from his clan just because he had no sons? Give us property along with the rest of our relatives.’ So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord replied to Moses, ‘The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father’s relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father. And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters” (Numbers 27:1-8, NLT).

It was never the Lord’s intention for a woman to be considered a lesser person than a man. As Peter declared in Acts 10:34, “God shows no favoritism” (NIV). Or as Paul put it in Colossians 3:28 (NLT): “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Male, female, rich, poor, black, white; God loves each of us individually and equally.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“God is not a man, so He does not lie.

He is not human, so He does not change his mind.

Has He ever spoken and failed to act?

Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”

(Numbers 23:19, NLT).

Balak thought he was sending Balaam to curse the Israelites, but in God’s plan, Balaam was sent to bless the Israelites; and he did so three times, one portion of which is shown above. Let’s take these four simple statements apart and look at each one of them individually:

(1) “God is not a man, so He does not lie.” Jesus identified Himself as “the Truth” (John 14:6). Every word of the Bible is Truth, and “… all God’s promises are ‘Yes’ in [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ISV). If the Word of God says it, it’s so.

(2) “He is not human, so He does not change his mind.” Jesus came as fully God and fully man, not as simply man. Maybe this second statement would be better understood if it was worded as: His mind doesn’t change. It’s not that God never relents. It’s that He’s consistently who He is. Faithful. True. Just. And merciful. If you read Isaiah 38, you see King Hezekiah at the point of death, having been told by the Lord to “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover” (Isaiah 38:1, NIV). And yet after Hezekiah prayed and wept before the Lord, He sent Isaiah to tell him, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:4b).

(3) “Has He ever spoken and failed to act?” Again, this speaks of God’s consistent nature. God told Jonah that He was going to destroy the people of Nineveh. And He would have done exactly that. But when they listened to Jonah’s preaching and heeded his warnings of impending judgment, the Lord relented and spared them – see Jonah 3.

(4) “Has He ever promised and not carried it through?” Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). Stephen, even as he was drawing his last breath, “… gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Acts 7:55, NLT). Stephen left this earth, immediately experiencing eternal life; and the Bible records for us his very first glimpse of heaven.

I wish I could develop this further, but in the interest of keeping these dailies brief, let me just say this: Nothing changes God. Prayer changes the PRAY-ER. God will never behave in any way contrary to who He is. It’s our attitudes and actions that either enable Him to bless or necessitate His discipline.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


When the Israelites crossed into Moab, Balak the king, seeing how vast their numbers were and having heard of their victory over the Amorites, sent a message to Balaam requesting that he “… come and curse …” the Israelites (Numbers 22:6, NLT). Eventually Balaam agreed to go with the men, but en route, his donkey three times saw an angel of the Lord and refused to move forward on the roadway – see Numbers 22:23-26. Finally, the Lord opened its mouth and gave it the ability to speak!

“‘What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?’ [the donkey] asked Balaam. ‘… I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life… Have I ever done anything like this before?’ ‘No,’ Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him” (Numbers 22:28, 30-31).

There are an unlimited number of great lessons from today’s passage, but what I’d like to focus on is the donkey. Did the Lord need a donkey to speak for Him? Does the Lord need ANYONE or ANYTHING to speak for Him? The answer, of course, is a resounding, “No!”

And yet He chooses to speak through His creation. In Psalm 19:1, David rejoiced, saying, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (NIV). Mankind is also His creation. When Ananias told the Lord that he didn’t want to go and minister to Paul (also called Saul), the bloody persecutor of the followers of The Way, God told him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument …” (Acts 9:15a).

In Romans 9:20b-21a, Paul wrote: “Can an object that was made say to its maker, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ A potter has the right to do whatever he wants with his clay.”

God can and will do what He wants, when He wants, with and/or to whomever or whatever He chooses. He doesn’t need our help in any way, and yet He loves us enough to include us in His great plan of salvation and to use us to further His Kingdom by letting others know how much He loves them. Please don’t neglect this tremendous privilege and responsibility.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Israelites had encamped at Kadesh in the desert of Zin, and Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, had died there. There was no water in the area and the people turned on Moses and Aaron and, as usual, wished themselves back in Egypt where they now recalled the plentiful food and water but forgot the severely harsh treatment they’d received as slaves of the Egyptians. The Lord, as always, heard their complaints and spoke to Moses, saying:

“‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water.’ Then [Moses] and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust Me enough to demonstrate My holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’” (Numbers 20:8a, 10-11a, 12, NLT).

The Lord had instructed Moses to take the staff with him and Aaron, but to merely “… speak to the rock …,” not strike it. And yet Moses, with Aaron alongside him, disobeyed the Lord’s instructions and struck it twice, plus said of himself and Aaron, “Must WE bring you water from this rock?”

God’s word is to be obeyed, not partially obeyed. It isn’t to be distorted or ignored. And no one – not even the person through whom the Lord chooses to work – should ever take credit for God’s miraculous actions and power. Neither Moses nor Aaron dropped dead on the spot when they did, but both paid the price of never entering the Promised Land because of their disobedience – see Numbers 20:28 and Deuteronomy 34:5. God is good. God is patient. But God is also Righteous. No one, not even anointed leaders like Moses and Aaron “get away” with sin. Nor do we.

“… be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, ‘You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and He is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?’” (Numbers 16:1-3, NLT).

Moses hadn’t called himself into the position of leadership over God’s people – the Lord had appointed him. Criticism of and jealousy for Moses’ authority led to one of the most horrifying judgments you’ll find in the Bible. I hope you’ll take the time to read the entire through-the-Bible passage for today.

We need to be very careful about criticizing those whom God either places in authority or even allows within His permissive will to have positions of authority. If you don’t like the way your company, your family, or your country is run, don’t criticize the leaders – pray for them.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2:13a, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Seventy years are given to us!

Some even live to eighty.

But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;

soon they disappear, and we fly away.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,

so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:10, 12, NLT).

Life is so very short and, believe me, the older you get, the faster it flies by and the more you look back and see things you should have done differently. While nobody is going to get it all right all the time, we can avoid a lot of regrets by staying in the Word and surrounding ourselves with strong, faithful believers who will lift us up and encourage us. And as we’re lifted up and encouraged, we, in turn, are to do likewise for others.

I hear so many people talking about when they’re going to “get in church.” Stop talking about it and do it. Your children and grandchildren are following your example, and if being a part of a body of believers isn’t important to you, why would you think your kids or grandkids will find any value in it?

We need to remember that no one is “good” except God. No one will spend eternity in heaven because of their own goodness. Only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be there, and the Bible makes it clear that the proof of genuine faith is living in obedience to the Word of God – see what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21.

Christ died for the Church, not a denomination, but the corporate (combined/all) body of believers. In return, He asks believers to live for Him. If you aren’t attending church on a regular basis, your kids and grandkids are very likely following you down a pathway that doesn’t lead to heaven. No matter what else you give them, if you fail to give them Jesus, you have truly and utterly failed them. Please stop making excuses and get yourself and your family involved in a Bible-teaching, Jesus-preaching church.

“… how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned … This was their report to Moses: ‘We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country – a land flowing with milk and honey. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified.’ But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. ‘Let’s go at once to take the land,’ he said. ‘We can certainly conquer it!’ But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!’ So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites” (Numbers 13:25, 27a, 28, 30-32a, NLT).

The scouting party saw the Promised Land, but everyone didn’t return with the same positive report. They all saw the beauty and bounty and they all saw that the land was exactly what the Lord had told them it would be. But the majority also looked at the people who inhabited the land and said, “We can’t do this.”

As humans, it’s easy to get scared. But as Christians, we absolutely have to learn to trust in our Creator. He who spoke the world into being calls us “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8b, NIV). He loves us so much!

And He’s 100 percent trustworthy. When you feel God leading you to do something, do it. Take “I can’t” out of your vocabulary. Because if God calls a believer to do something, He equips them to get ‘er done. There’s no limit to what He can and will do through His fully surrendered children.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. But from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle looked like a pillar of fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. In this way, they traveled and camped at the Lord’s command wherever he told them to go. Then they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the Lord commanded. Then at the Lord’s command they would break camp and move on. Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. So they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them through Moses” (Numbers 9:15, 17-18, 20-23, NLT).

Can you imagine not knowing from one day to the next whether you’re going to have to pack up and leave or stay put? The Israelites lived with this situation for forty years. And despite all their grumbling and disobedience, they did get this one thing right. When it came to going or staying, “… they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them …”

Our lives are rarely ever stationary. Things are constantly changing. And as Christians, we’re to listen for God’s directions. He speaks to us through His written Word and He speaks to us through His Holy Spirit IF we’ll only listen.

If you’re facing a big decision, pray, pray, pray; and ask other believers to join you in prayer. Get alone with God and listen – don’t do all the talking. He’s ready and willing to guide you. Whether it’s “… two days, a month, or a year,” wait or move forward as the Lord leads you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Ark’s cover – the place of atonement – that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord spoke to him from there” (Numbers 7:89, NLT).

Where did Moses first meet God? While tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Read Exodus 3:4: “When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ ‘Here I am!’ Moses replied.”

What about Samuel? First Samuel 3: “… the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon. One night … Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. Suddenly the Lord called out, ‘Samuel!’” (from verses 1-4).

And Paul (or Saul – see Acts 13:9)? He was on the road to Damascus, intending to arrest anyone he could find who was following “The Way.” Suddenly a light blinded him and brought him to his knees. Paul said: “I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene ...’” (Acts 22:7-8b).

Whether you’re young like Samuel; old like Moses (see Acts 7:23-30); or in the prime of your life like Paul, God can speak to you today anytime, anywhere. No, He may not choose to do so in an audible voice and He may not choose to accompany His presence with a burning bush or blinding light; but He is just as real and reachable today. And His Holy Spirit is constantly speaking, encouraging the hearts of believers and urging the lost to come to Jesus.

Find a quiet place and listen.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace.’

‘So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them’” (Numbers 6:22-27, NKJV).

Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to choose whether we spread blessing or cursing, favor or disfavor. Child psychologists say that for every negative or criticism you speak to your child, you should speak at least 10 positives. I’d say that’s good advice about speaking to anyone anytime.

Think before you speak and consciously choose words that are positive and uplifting.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re seeing a consistent theme throughout our passages: obedience brings blessing; disobedience removes God’s favor. Look at these verses from today’s passage:

“‘Record the names of the members of the tribe of Levi …’ So Moses listed them, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 3:15a, 16, NLT).

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now count all the firstborn sons in Israel … So Moses counted the firstborn sons of the people of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 3:40a, 42).

“And Moses gave the silver for the redemption to Aaron and his sons, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 3:51).

“… the total number came to 3,200. So this was the total of all those from the Merarite clans who were eligible for service. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded through Moses” (Numbers 4:44-45).

“And so the registration was completed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Numbers 4:49b).

In every passage we’ve looked at today, we see the same phrase: “… just as the Lord had commanded.” God’s way is the only way. Nothing is more important than obedience.

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So the Israelites did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Numbers 1:54, NLT). At least, they did on this particular occasion.

The Lord delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and promised them “the land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:3a, NIV). He told them to “Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy” (Numbers 33:53, NLT).

So how did they end up wandering around in the wilderness for forty long years? We find the answer in the Lord’s words in Numbers 32:11-12: “Of all those I rescued from Egypt, no one who is twenty years old or older will ever see the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they have not obeyed Me wholeheartedly. The only exceptions are Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have wholeheartedly followed the Lord.”

When the Israelites were “wholeheartedly” – not half-heartedly – obedient to the Lord’s