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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.


“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 commands, He blessed them. When they disobeyed, His favor was not with them. News flash: He still expects wholehearted obedience from those of us living today.

“I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, ... I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear” (Leviticus 26:3, 6a, NLT).

Ever gone to bed fearful? Or awakened during the night, heart pounding, because of a noise you heard? Being “… able to sleep with no cause for fear” is no small blessing.

But there’s a condition on God’s promise of “… peace in the land …” and restful sleep. He promises to bless us with these things “IF you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands.”

An obedient life is a peaceful life. Obedience doesn’t mean trouble-free living. It means having “… God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7). It means His peace even in our darkest moments.

If you want the best night’s sleep of your life, read God’s Word and talk to Him before you go to bed. Confess anything that stands between you and a right relationship with Him, “… and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you want to live securely in the land, follow My decrees and obey My regulations. Then the land will yield large crops, and you will eat your fill and live securely in it” (Leviticus 25:18-19, NLT).

The passage above or similar ones are found throughout the Bible. Over and over the Lord warns His people that the only way to “… live securely in the land [is to] follow My decrees and obey My regulations.”

Yet we’re “… a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts [are] not loyal to God, whose spirits [are] not faithful to Him” (Psalm 78:8, NIV). Many people today think of God as a fire extinguisher. They may not be able to remember the last time they had contact with it and they rarely ever think of it at all; but when a fire breaks out, they know it’s a very handy thing to have around.

No wonder our world, our nation, and our individual homes and lives are in such messes! We’ve taken the Creator of the Universe and subjugated Him to the level of an emergency tool.

Hear my heart on this one, folks: Jesus Christ didn’t come to HELP YOU OUT. He came to TAKE OVER. If you want daily peace and provision, get out of the driver’s seat and give Him complete control.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Leviticus 22 continues instructions to the priests from the previous chapter, then goes into instructions about offerings. Leviticus 23 details the prescribed festivals. What I want to focus on is the offerings.

Leviticus 22:17-33 talks about burnt offerings, peace offerings, and thanksgiving offerings, giving specifics about what offerings are considered acceptable or unacceptable. In each case, the Lord says, “… whether it is to fulfill a vow or is a voluntary offering …,” there are explicit requirements for what is to be presented.

Which brings us to our offerings today. If you believe in the scriptural validity of tithing, then you’ve made a vow to tithe. If you’re led to give for other special offerings, then you’re also presenting gifts above and beyond your tithe. But here’s the question: what makes whatever you give acceptable or unacceptable?

Your attitude. And your attitude is determined by your spiritual condition. As God told Samuel, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NLT).

The next time the offering plate or bag is in your hands, consider your attitude before you give. And think about your other giving: your time to prepare a lesson; rehearse with the choir; take care of the nursery; visit, phone, or send cards to the sick and shut-ins. Whatever you’re doing, remember Who you’re giving to and why you should be “… a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


It would behoove all believers to spend some time in today’s Leviticus chapters. Chapter 19 is filled with commandments for personal conduct while Chapter 20 prescribes punishment for disobeying those commands. Chapter 21 instructs the priests in how to handle these things. Let’s look at just a few of the commandments from Leviticus 19:

“Each of you must show great respect for your mother and father …” (3a). Respect them, period. Nowhere does the Bible say, “IF they deserve it.”

“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people” (16). If you can’t say something nice, close your mouth.

“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives …” (17a). Don’t harbor resentment toward anyone – family or otherwise.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite [in other words, a believer], but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (18). As the song from “Frozen” says, “Let it go!” Let the Lord deal with those who wrong you.

“… do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord” (28b). Here’s a link to a very good article about tattoos:

“Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord” (32). Don’t you dare make fun of those who are fading mentally or physically. And I think standing in honor of the elderly is a wonderful practice.

“Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord” (14). If you can make fun of any sort of disability, you better back up and reassess your salvation.

I saved Verse 14 for last because I wanted to home in on it. Who is more deaf and blind than those who have yet to open their hearts to the Gospel? Don’t bad-mouth the lost. It’s not their specific sins keeping them out of heaven; it’s their rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior. Just like you and just like me, the moment anyone “… calls on the name of the Lord [that person] will be saved” (Acts 2:21). Pray for their salvation.

You should also read the punishments for breaking these commandments – you’ll be even more thankful to be living in the day of grace!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. You must obey all My regulations and be careful to obey My decrees, for I am the Lord your God. If you obey My decrees and My regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18: 3-5, NLT).

God told Moses to remind the people of Israel that they were to be different from the people around them. Drawing from the warnings of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, the apostle Paul warns the believers of Corinth and of today: “… come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

True life is knowing Jesus. And knowing Jesus means being holy, set apart, different. You’re not into the office gossip. You’re not into the dirty jokes. You’re not into the flirting and innuendos. Nor the dishonesty. Or backbiting. You’re into Jesus.

What will people think of Him as seen through your life today?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But if the mildew reappears after all the stones have been replaced and the house has been scraped and replastered, the priest must return and inspect the house again. If he finds that the mildew has spread, the walls are clearly contaminated with a serious mildew, and the house is defiled. It must be torn down” (Leviticus 14: 43-45a, NLT).

More instructions about mildew? Yep. Again we see God’s care for His people’s physical health. But we also see an important lesson about spiritual health. The instructions for cleaning a mildew-contaminated house said that if the mildew persisted, the house had to be torn down. Completely destroyed.

Spiritual mildew needs to be handled likewise. Let’s say your “pet sin” is alcohol. You start out having one drink at lunch and then two or more. You begin stopping off for a nip or two on the way home, and pretty soon, you find yourself drinking at home and more heavily on weekends.

Eventually you realize your drinking has become a problem and you decide to cut back. But cutting back seems to be sporadic at best. You may slack off one day or one week, but by the weekend, you find yourself right back in the same ol’ rut. Time to tear that house down, folks. Stop the drinking altogether.

Or the lying. Or the illicit affair. Or the embezzling. Or the gossiping. Or the complaining. Or the criticizing. And the list goes on and on. You get the idea. Pick your own pet sin and put it in the scenario.

If ANYTHING besides the Lord God Almighty controls YOU rather than you controlling it, you’re in trouble. Take Barney Fife’s advice and “Nip it in the bud.” Don’t cut back. Cut it out.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now suppose mildew contaminates some woolen or linen clothing, woolen or linen fabric, the hide of an animal, or anything made of leather. If the contaminated area in the clothing, the animal hide, the fabric, or the leather article has turned greenish or reddish, it is contaminated with mildew and must be shown to the priest. After examining the affected spot, the priest will put the article in quarantine for seven days. On the seventh day the priest must inspect it again. If the contaminated area has spread, the clothing or fabric or leather is clearly contaminated by a serious mildew and is ceremonially unclean. The priest must burn the item – the clothing, the woolen or linen fabric, or piece of leather – for it has been contaminated by a serious mildew. It must be completely destroyed by fire” (Leviticus 13: 47-52, NLT).

Care of mildew-contaminated clothing doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? But fact is, many of the Lord’s commands were for the protection of His people’s physical health. Mildews and molds can be lethal, and by requiring these items to be inspected by the priest and appropriately cleansed or burned, the spread of the contaminant was eliminated.

As our Great High Priest (see Hebrews 4:14; 10:21), Jesus Christ sent His Holy Spirit to indwell each of us who believes on Him as Lord and Savior. His Presence convicts us to examine ourselves and confess any sin that has contaminated our lives and witness; and those confessed sins are forever blotted out by the purifying fire of His Spirit.

“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV – see also Hebrews 12:29).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord gave Moses specific instructions as to the construction of the Tabernacle and everything associated with it, including the clothing and conduct of Aaron and his sons who were to serve as priests. But one day two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, disobeyed the Lord’s instructions and presented “… coals of fire in their incense burners [which they had] sprinkled incense over … In this way, they disobeyed the Lord… So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2, NLT).

What prompted Nadab and Abihu to act so foolishly? The Lord’s words to Aaron make it clear what had happened: “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation” (Leviticus 10:8).

Nadab and Abihu had been drinking, and their overindulgence cost them their lives. God didn’t give us His commands in order to hamper our fun – He gave them to protect us and teach us a better way of living. Father always knows best.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If you are called to testify about something you have seen or that you know about, it is sinful to refuse to testify, and you will be punished for your sin” (Leviticus 5:1, NLT).

It seems that this passage has been totally forgotten by a lot of believers today. Instead, it’s been replaced with the ever-popular “I don’t want to get involved.”

How often do we read or see on news broadcasts reports about horrible crimes being witnessed by entire crowds of people who made no attempt to help the person in need or even offer information that could help the police catch the criminals? As believers in Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to help others, which includes being willing to get involved in situations we’d prefer to steer clear of.

Is there a need around you that you’re ignoring?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“If the entire Israelite community sins by violating one of the Lord’s commands, but the people don’t realize it, they are still guilty. If one of Israel’s leaders sins by violating one of the commands of the Lord his God but doesn’t realize it, he is still guilty. If any of the common people sin by violating one of the Lord’s commands, but they don’t realize it, they are still guilty” (Leviticus 4:13, 22, 27, NLT).

When the Lord spoke the words above to Moses, He followed each one of the listed sentences with: “When they become aware of their sin …” (Leviticus 4:14a). In other words, at whatever point the person or persons realized they had committed a sin, they were to bring an offering before the Lord and seek His forgiveness.

And each of those offerings required the shedding of blood. As New Testament believers in the resurrected Savior, we know that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross paid the one perfect and permanent blood sacrifice for the sins of all who would accept His saving grace. However, we still need to remember that we, corporately as the body of Christ and individually as His children, have a serious obligation to confess our sins as soon as we realize them.

God never breaks fellowship with His children, but a believer can allow a barrier of unconfessed sin to build up like a wall between him and the Lord. Don’t let sin “pile up” unconfessed. As my former pastor was advised by a wise older preacher, “‘Fess ‘em as you does ‘em; don’t bunch ‘em.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38, NLT).

The people faithfully gave so the Tabernacle could be completed. Once it was finished, what happened? “... the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34, NLT). God’s presence was with the Israelites in a real and visible way and remained with them “... throughout all their journeys.”

You may never see a visible manifestation of God’s presence while here on earth, but if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have His very real Presence within you and He will remain with you “… throughout all [life’s] journeys.”


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: ‘Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!’ So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project” (Exodus 36:6-7, NLT).

Can you imagine a church with a problem like this? The people of Israel so eagerly gave to help build the Tabernacle that Moses finally had to tell them, “Enough!” Why were they so happy to give? They recognized the worthiness of the Lord, and they saw their giving as a privilege and not a burden or obligation.

How do you see your giving? Matter of fact, how does God see it?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord replied to Moses, ‘I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.’ Moses responded, ‘Then show me Your glorious presence.’ The Lord replied, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will call out My name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at My face, for no one may see Me and live.’ The Lord continued, ‘Look, stand near Me on this rock. As My glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and let you see Me from behind. But My face will not be seen” (Exodus 33:17-23, NLT).

“He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

That shadows a dry, thirsty land;

He hideth my life in the depths of His love,

And covers me there with His hand,

And covers me there with His hand.”

(He Hideth My Soul, by Fanny Crosby, 1890)

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2, NIV).

“As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:33).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep My Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between Me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy’” (Exodus 31:13, NLT).

Most Christians celebrate Sunday as the Sabbath, with Seventh Day Adventist as the most notable exception. They follow the Jewish Sabbath, which was and is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. While there are some Christians who would vehemently argue the importance of worshiping on Sunday, in recognition of Sunday as the day of Christ’s resurrection, rather than Saturday, the big issue here is to set aside a day that is unlike any other and spend it resting from your normal weekday routine; meeting with fellow believers and truly worshiping the Savior; and reflecting on His goodness.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… Aaron will carry the names of the tribes of Israel on the sacred chestpiece over his heart when he goes into the Holy Place. This will be a continual reminder that he represents the people when he comes before the Lord” (Exodus 28:29, NLT).

As a member of the priesthood, Aaron represented his fellow Israelites when he stood before the Lord in the Holy of Holies. As a fellow Israelite and as a member of the priesthood, Aaron represented his Lord every time he stood before any other person, whether Jew or Gentile.

Have you ever stopped to think about who you represent? If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you represent Him wherever you go, whatever you do and whomever you stand before. Honor Him.

“And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple. What’s more, you are His holy priests” (1 Peter 2:5).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Have the people of Israel build Me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:8-9, NLT).

God is a God of detail and order – see First Corinthians 14:33. He didn’t instruct Moses to build some sort of sanctuary. He gave him precise instructions about every single part of it including the furnishings.

If God is so detailed, why do we think we can be so haphazard? Haphazard about what? Our time in the Word. Our attendance at our chosen place of worship. Our prayer life. Our witnessing. Our lifestyle.

Today God does a lot more than “live among” us. Jesus’ death and resurrection empowered the Holy Spirit to indwell each and every person who has trusted Christ as Lord and Savior. And when He comes to indwelling a believer, He doesn’t do so sporadically. He isn’t there one moment and gone the next. He promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, NIV).

Jesus Christ is consistent. Faithful. Completely trustworthy. Are you?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood [of the sacrifice] from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, ‘Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions’” (Exodus 24:7-8, NLT).

When Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord, he also received many other instructions about social responsibility, annual festivals, and more. The Lord also promised to send an angel before them (see Exodus 23:20) to protect and lead them, making them this promise: “… I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you” (Exodus 23:22).

But this promise was conditional. The Lord would fulfill His part of this particular covenant IF the Israelites kept their part of the agreement.

Making a commitment to the Lord is a serious matter. When it comes to committing your heart and life to Him, it’s truly a matter of life or death. Those who choose Jesus choose life.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


"Then God gave the people all these instructions: ‘I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.’

(1) ‘You must not have any other god but me.’

(2) ‘You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject Me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Me and obey My commands.’

(3) ‘You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse His name.’

(4) ‘Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.’

(5) ‘Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.’

(6) ‘You must not murder.’

(7) ‘You must not commit adultery.’

(8) ‘You must not steal.’

(9) ‘You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.’

(10) ‘You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor’”

(Exodus 20:1-17, NLT).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow My instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual. Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell” (Exodus 16:4-5, 19a, NLT).

The people of Israel complained about their lack of food in the desert and the Lord miraculously rained down manna from heaven, instructing them that He would provide this heavenly food every single day except the Sabbath and that the normal amount they prepared on the sixth day – be it manna-cotti or manna burgers – would be enough for the Sabbath’s meals as well.

Isn’t it interesting how quickly the Israelites became accustomed to a daily miraculous provision of manna? And even though the Lord provided for each day’s food, many still didn’t trust Him. Instead of waiting for the next day’s provision, they hoarded away extra manna just as the Lord had told them not to do. And the result? Rotten unusable manna.

That hoarded manna was just like worrying: no good to anyone. If you trust God at all, you have to trust Him daily. Jesus said, “… don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.’ So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers – the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived. But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides” (Exodus 14:26-29, NLT).

Never doubt that God is still in the miracle business. We may not see literal waters parted for our deliverance, but His hand still works to deliver His people. Does He always? No, not when it comes to earthly deliverance. His way of doing things doesn’t always jive with the way we think things should be done or turn out – read Isaiah 55:8. But still today He sometimes chooses to intervene in miraculous ways.

But what exactly constitutes a miracle? It’s far more than just the parting of the Red Sea. I’ve posted this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so if you’ve never seen this news report, please take a moment to look at this brief video about a 92-year-old woman’s deliverance from a would-be mugger:

God is faithful and He loves you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Lord says: ‘At midnight tonight I will pass through the heart of Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die. Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites’” (Exodus 11:4b-7, NLT).

After all the plagues the Lord sent against Egypt, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart and refused to release the people of Israel from slavery and allow them to leave the land. Finally, the Lord sent the most terrible plague of all – the death of the first-born. But the Israelites weren’t touched by this horror. Why? Because they were protected by the blood of the Lamb.

There is always a distinction between God’s true people and those who don’t belong to Him. When my father went home to be with the Lord, he was living with me and my husband Larry. I held his hand as he drew his last breath and Larry was right beside him. Even though we didn’t want him to leave us, we were at absolute peace because we knew where he was spending his eternity. Afterwards, when the hospice nurse arrived, she said, “We’re not supposed to talk about religion, but I know this is a Christian home. You wouldn’t believe the chaos we have to deal with when a person dies in a household where there’s no faith in Jesus Christ.”

Do you know Jesus as Lord and Savior? Take comfort in knowing you’re covered by the blood of the Lamb.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what the Lord had commanded them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They threw down their staffs, which also became serpents! But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs”
(Exodus 7:10-12, NLT).

Through Aaron and Moses the Lord worked miraculous signs and wonders before Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. When Aaron “threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, it…” was transformed into a snake. But Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same thing, but when they did, Aaron’s one snake swallowed all of theirs!

The Bible clearly warns us that the devil can mimic miracles. Paul reminds us that, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14b).

But that’s just the point: it’s only a disguise. Nothing Satan can throw down is remotely as powerful as what the Lord Jesus Christ can do. Besides, Satan is really just a big dog on a short leash.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though You have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.’ Then the Lord asked Moses, ‘Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say’” (Exodus 4:10-12, NLT).

Many people lack self-confidence – Moses, for one. Having had the finest education the royal family of Egypt could provide, he still felt inadequate for the task God laid before him.

Do you ever feel like Moses – totally out of your own league? If you’re a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, your Heavenly Father has great confidence in you. He’s placed His Holy Spirit within you to guide and instruct you, and there is nothing He will ever call you to do without equipping you to do it.

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. … God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ ‘Here I am!’ Moses replied. ‘Do not come any closer,’ the Lord warned. ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then the Lord told him, ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them... Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt’” (Exodus 3:2a, 4b-6a, 7-8a, 10, NLT).

By the time of Moses’ birth, Joseph’s importance to the Egyptians had long been forgotten. The Israelites had become slaves and the Egyptians had become cruel taskmasters. Fearing that the growing population of Israelites would outnumber the Egyptians and cause trouble, Pharaoh ordered the death of all Israelite baby boys.

But Moses’ mother protected him and he was taken into the household of the Pharaoh’s own daughter. Later, as an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian he saw beating an Israelite slave. He then fled for his life and ended up in Midian.

Moses may have been hiding out, but God knew exactly where to find him and the plan He had for his life.

God has a special plan for the life of every believer, including you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


As Jacob lay on his deathbed, he blessed each of his sons, saying to Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the One to whom it belongs, the One whom all nations will honor” (Genesis 49:10, NLT).

From the lineage of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel – look back at Genesis 35:10) came the Lion of Judah. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. What are you trusting Him for today?

“Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory” (Revelation 5:5b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So Jacob set out for Egypt with all his possessions. And when he came to Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. During the night God spoke to him in a vision. ‘Jacob! Jacob!’ He called. ‘Here I am,’ Jacob replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ the voice said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. But you will die in Egypt with Joseph attending to you’” (Genesis 46:1-4, NLT).

When Jacob’s sons returned and told him the good news about Joseph, their father was overjoyed. Gathering all the family’s members and possessions, they headed for Egypt to live on the land Joseph had offered them.

Imagine leaving your home country at the ripe old age of 130 to settle in a foreign land. It took faith and trust in Jehovah for Jacob to make such a move. But note how Jacob began his journey: by offering sacrifices to God.

Faithfulness is always rewarded. Jacob trusted the Lord and the Lord gave and fulfilled a tremendous promise to him.

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


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. And He is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh – the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. I will take care of you there …’ Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him” (Genesis 45:4b-5, 8b, 10-11a, 15, NLT).

During the widespread famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt hoping to buy grain. How stunned they were to find that the brother they’d sold as a slave had become a powerful ruler! How terrified they were that he would take revenge on them for what they had done to him!

But look at Joseph’s response. He realized that his hardships as a slave and even in prison were all part of an amazing plan orchestrated by God Almighty. A right attitude on Joseph’s part brought blessing for himself and for his family. A right attitude can do the same for you.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge …, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. So Pharaoh asked his officials, ‘Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours’” (Genesis 41:37-40, NLT).

Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers; falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife; and thrown into prison. Then after Joseph interpreted the royal cup-bearer’s dream and assured the man that he would be released from prison – which is precisely what happened – the cup-bearer completely forgot about Joseph for two full years.

But when a troubling dream upset Pharaoh, the cup-bearer remembered Joseph languishing in prison and told the Pharaoh about him. Joseph was brought to Pharaoh, interpreted the dream and, in doing so, helped the entire country prepare for a coming famine. The Pharaoh was so grateful that he put Joseph in a place of authority second to no one but himself.

Joseph used an amazing gift to help the Pharaoh. Joseph’s amazing God gave Joseph that gift; and Joseph, in turn, gave the Lord full credit for his ability.

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor” (I Peter 5:6).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully” (Genesis 39:6b-7a, NLT).

Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt and bought by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guards. The man treated Joseph kindly and trusted him. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph rejected her advances, infuriating her so that she falsely accused Joseph of trying to attack her. Joseph was sent to prison and, as far as we know, Potiphar’s wife continued her life as usual.

What was fair about that? Nothing. But you’ll find that Joseph’s circumstance does eventually change for the better.

Vera’s granddaughter stormed in one day, complaining, “My tryout was just as good as Haley’s, but she made cheerleader and I didn’t. It’s just not fair.” Vera’s answer said a mouthful: “Honey, FARE is what you pay to ride the bus.” Life isn’t always fair; but God is always faithful.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt” (Genesis 37:28, NLT).

Joseph’s brothers despised him and decided to kill him. One brother intervened and convinced the rest to throw him into an empty well (cistern) to die on his own – this brother’s real intent was to come back and rescue him when the rest of the brothers weren’t around to stop him. But before he could act, a chance to make a fast buck came along and Joseph was sold into slavery and carried off to Egypt.

Sounds like a horrible ending, doesn’t it? But God’s plans are so much bigger than anything we can imagine! Joseph’s journey into Egypt brought him blessings and enabled him to become the rescuer of his entire family.

Remember, my brothers and sisters: sometimes our darkest moments are truly just before dawn.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26b, NLT).

Have you ever been desperate for an answer to your prayer? I know I have. God is faithful, but you must also be. If you know in your heart that what you’re asking is in His righteous will, then do as Jesus instructed in Luke 11:9:

“… 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.”

In Ephesians 1:17, the NIV quotes Paul as saying, “I keep on asking …”

Never give up. Keep praying; keep asking. Hold on and believe.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another” (Genesis 31:49, NKJV).

These were the words of Laban as he and Jacob parted ways. As they made their agreement, these men stacked stones together as a memorial and as a boundary between them.

Note what Laban’s words recognized: that even when they were not in each other’s sight, the Lord was with both of them and watching over them. No act is done in secret from God. No agreement is ever broken without His knowledge. Be faithful to your Lord and honor the commitments you’ve made.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and He said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions – to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants’” (Genesis 28:11b-14, NLT).

The Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream and made Him a promise: “… all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” And ever true to His Word, God fulfilled that promise by sending the Messiah, the Lion of Judah, through the lineage of Jacob’s son Judah. (Remember, the Lord gave Jacob a new name, Israel – see Genesis 35:10. Jacob/Israel was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel – see First Chronicles 2:1.)

Think of all the promises the Lord makes to us throughout His Word. He is faithful!

“For all God's promises are ‘Yes’ in Him [Christ Jesus]. And so through Him we can say ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ISV).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, ‘I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!’ (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means ‘red.’) ‘All right,’ Jacob replied, ‘but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.’ ‘Look, I’m dying of starvation!’ said Esau. ‘What good is my birthright to me now?’ But Jacob said, ‘First you must swear that your birthright is mine.’ So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn” (Genesis 25:29-34, NLT).

Before her twin sons were even born, the Lord told Rebekah, “your older son will serve your younger son” (Genesis 25:23). Nothing takes God by surprise. He’s seen the future just as surely as He’s seen the past. Being first-born son was a huge honor and a huge responsibility, yet the Bible records that Esau “showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.” For a bowl of stew and a piece of bread, this man gave up his birthright.

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are a child of God. And Romans 8:17a says that “since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.” What an incredible privilege!

And yet how often do we show contempt for our birthright as believers in Jesus Christ by talking or behaving in ways that dishonor Him? And sometimes we do this just so we can fit in at the office, at school, or with “friends.”

Stay true to Christ. Before you even knew Him, He loved you so much it hurt.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then [Isaac] said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering’” (Genesis 22:7b-8a, NKJV).

The Lord tested Abraham’s faith by seeing if he would place his and Sarah’s only son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. The elderly Abraham obeyed. And just as amazingly, the strapping young man Isaac obeyed his father’s command to lie down on the altar. As they walked the final steps to the place of sacrifice, Isaac looked at his father and asked, “… where is the lamb …?”

And Abraham answered with confidence, “God will provide … the lamb …” Folks, that’s faith. Two questions for you to ponder: (1) Is there anything you’re holding back from God? (2) How much are you willing to trust Him?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26, NLT).

The blast of intense heat as God rained down judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah transformed Lot’s wife into “a pillar of salt.” Whether you want to take her demise literally at face value or delve into a more scientific explanation of the event, it happened.

Because of what? Looking back. But may I suggest that Lot’s wife did more than look back? She also hung back. See the passage again: “… as she was following behind him …” While Lot and his daughters moved away from the evil cities God was about to destroy, Lot’s wife dawdled, not wanting to break her ties with a place that, were it not for its impending destruction, she would not have wanted to leave.

If you stick close to evil, it rubs off on you and can lead to your earthly and/or eternal destruction. If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, don’t look back on your old life. Look to Jesus and move forward for His glory.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:13-14, NLT).

Sarah doubted, and what did God do? Fulfilled His promise. Are you struggling with doubt? Confess it – your Heavenly Father already knows.

NOTHING is “too hard for the Lord.” Trust Him to work His will, His way, in His time.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!’ And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:5-6, NLT).

The God of the Impossible has never made a promise He hasn’t kept. He told the aging and childless Abram that he and his wife Sarai would have descendants as abundant as the stars in the sky. A big promise? Yes. But a small thing for an Almighty God.

His Word is full of promises for you and me. What are you believing Him for today?


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Today completes our readings in the book of Job, and we’re going to focus on what I think is one of the most important lessons in the entire book. I hope you’re committing the time to read the full Bible passage for each day. Nothing you can do with your time will bless you like absorbing the Living Word. After all, John 1:1-4 clearly identifies Jesus Christ as the Word. That said, let’s wrap up our look at Job:

“When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10, NLT).

Job’s friends had been more his accusers than his defenders. Yet the Lord told those men, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf” (Job 42:8b). Though his friends had acted more like enemies, Job was willing to pray for them, an impossible task unless Job had refused to hold any ill will against them. He fully forgave them and asked his Creator to also forgive them.

And the result? Job was blessed. AFTER Job had “prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes.”

“… I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:44-45a).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


One more day in the book of Job and then we’re back in Genesis. If you’re reading the entire Thru-the-Bible passage for each day, you’re starting this year off right! Now on to today’s passage:

“Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?” (Job 38:36, NLT).

An older gentleman I knew when I was growing up often said, “A fella’ll do okay if he’ll just use the sense God gave him.” There’s a lot of truth in that. Our Creator made us “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27) and, in doing so, He gave us “intuition,” which is perception of truth independent of any reasoning process. In other words, sometimes you just KNOW. Likewise with “instinct” – it’s a natural intuitive power.

Despite man’s tendency toward sin, we instinctively know when something is wrong. No one “falls” into a lifestyle of sin – a person walks in step by gradual step. Those God-given alarm bells go off, but he ignores them. And every time, it gets a little easier until, finally, he doesn’t even hear the alarm anymore.

God has given you His wisdom – read First Corinthians 1:30. Use it. No, your life won’t be trouble-free if you do; but you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary difficulties by staying attuned to the Holy Spirit’s warnings.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


Two more days in the book of Job and we’ll be back in Genesis. I hope you’re committed to reading through the Bible and reading the entire Thru-the-Bible passage for each day. Now take a look at today’s focal passage:

“We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though He is just and righteous, He does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear Him. All who are wise show Him reverence” (Job 37:23-24, NLT).

God sees our sinfulness and yet “He does not destroy us.” Why? Because He loves us. And He doesn’t just love humanity as a whole – He loves each one of us individually. The One so mighty that His Word alone spoke the world into being cares for YOU. For ME. He knows us by name; and we should daily thank Him for His grace and mercy.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“We don’t set the time when we will come before God in judgment” (Job 34:23, NLT).

Have you ever talked to someone about the Christian life only to have them say something like, “I’m gonna get myself right with God one of these days?” How foolish for any person to risk eternity by delaying putting his faith in Jesus Christ!

None of us are guaranteed our very next breath. Life at best is short – and believe me, the older you get, the faster time flies.

Second Corinthians 6:2 reminds us: “… the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” No believer should waste an opportunity to tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And no believer should begin or end a day without consciously searching his heart and confessing any sins of omission or commission.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for He knows my integrity” (Job 28:28, NLT).

Job’s statement is a bold one. Is your life so aligned with God’s perfect will that you could say such a thing? I know I’d be terrified to! But here’s what I don’t want us to miss: Job’s statement says more about the Lord than it does about himself. In spite of all his troubles, Job knew God was the Righteous Judge and that he could trust Him.

Do you? He’s worthy of your absolute faith and confidence.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“… this is what He says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding’” (Job 28:28, NLT).

There’s such a thing as a healthy fear. I had great parents, but I feared them. No, I wasn’t terrified that they’d hurt me or abuse me in any way; but I did know that disobeying them carried consequences. And I also knew that many of the rules they laid down weren’t to cramp my style or spoil my fun, but to protect me and teach me. Above all, I never doubted they loved me.

Our Heavenly Father is the Greatest Parent of All, and He loves us beyond what any human can even comprehend. His rules, His commandments, are for our good. When we mature as believers, we realize this truth; and we realize that a healthy fear of who He is and His absolute authority is a very good thing.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“I go east, but He is not there. I go west, but I cannot find Him. I do not see Him in the north, for He is hidden. I look to the south, but He is concealed” (Job 23:8-9, NLT).

Have you ever felt like you were praying but no one was listening? Ever felt so alone that you had no sense of God’s presence? Job did. And I know there have been times when I’ve felt that way.

Yet the Lord Himself makes each and every believer this promise: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5). The Christian life is not just about feelings – it’s about faith. Trust Him even when it doesn’t seem He’s listening – because He is. Trust Him even when it seems He isn’t with you – because He’s there and He’ll never, ever leave you.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27, NLT).

How long has it been since you’ve stopped to think about the awesome reality that you will one day see God for yourself? That you will one day see Him with your own eyes? Job realized this truth and, even in the midst of his troubles, was “overwhelmed at the thought!”

Eternity is more real than the present. Your Redeemer is more real than your greatest difficulty or worry. Your Redeemer is more powerful than any enemy that can assail you. Your Redeemer lives! And He knows you by name. We serve a loving, all-powerful, personal God.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes. Yet I have done no wrong, and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:16-17, NLT).

I vividly remember some of the remarks that were made about me and Larry when our son and his wife first stopped communicating with us. Even though we said repeatedly that there hadn’t been a disagreement or any reason whatsoever that we were aware of for the break in our relationship, it had happened and all our efforts to talk to them were ignored. I remember two “friends” in particular who told anyone who’d listen, “I know something happened between them. They just won’t admit it.”

Years later – we’re headed toward 17 years of their absence, and we now have two granddaughters we’ve never met – those same two people came to me and said, “We owe you an apology. I know the whole family didn’t offend them, and they’ve cut themselves off from everyone on your side and Larry’s.” News flash: we could have told them that a long time ago.

In the course of speaking in umpteen churches, I’ve come across so many people who are in the same boat as me and Larry. It’s astounding how many broken relationships exist among professing Christian families. And yes, some of those rifts began for specific reasons. Others have no idea what set things off.

Point is, we can be doing as close to 100% right as we know how, and yet find ourselves in a heartbreaking situation. That, my friends, is life in this fallen, sinful world. So what can we do about it? Confess that hurt and pain to the Lord and give it to Him over and over every day until you can truly let it go – I can’t count how many times it took for me! And once you let it go, LET IT GO. Don’t bad-mouth anyone. Don’t talk about it except in prayer or in a way that can minister to someone else who is hurting. Don’t become the whiny person everyone steers clear of. Become an overcomer in the Name of Jesus!

Have that good, long cry. Have a bunch of ‘em if that’s what it takes. But keep giving that pain to Jesus until you can fully let it go. There is real joy available through Christ even when, at this time, life isn’t what you’d hoped it would be.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


“But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 10:13, NLT).

When Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar heard of Job’s troubles and came to him, they sat with him in silence for seven days. You can read more about the Jewish custom of “sitting shiva” by following this link:

And after the seven days had passed, they began to offer their words of “wisdom,” chiefly that Job should confess and repent of the sins he had committed that had caused these catastrophes to come upon him.

Job’s response was firm: “Stop assuming my guilt, for I have done no wrong” (Job 6:29). Job wisely rejected his friends’ advice and clung to his trust in God not only in spite of, but also because of, his circumstances. Troubled times are not the time to turn FROM God, but TO Him.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


“If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together” (Job 9:33, NLT).

Job longed for someone to stand between him and the Lord, someone to speak to God on his behalf, “a mediator.” How thankful we should be to have been born after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, after He sent His Holy Spirit to live within each and every believer!

Every moment of every day we have access to the One whom Job so greatly desired. As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “... there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).


Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates 


“‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!’ In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1:21-22, NLT).

Job had been slammed with all sorts of bad news – and more was to come. Yet he chose to trust God rather than focusing on his current difficulties and sorrow. Child of God, troubles pass; but the love of God is never-ending. The resurrected Jesus Christ sent His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to indwell every person who has put his faith in Him.

If we allow our problems to embitter us toward God, to whom can we turn? In John 16:33b, Jesus reminds us: “In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world” (GWT).

The Conquering Savior is following His plan. Through His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection, He defeated the curse of sin. But if that’s so, why are there so many terrible things in this world? As the writer of Hebrews says: “… this world is not our permanent home …” (verse 13:14a, NLT).

As I’ve said many times, Satan is a big dog on a short leash, and God holds the leash. He is allowed this time on earth before he is, as Jesus told us, cast “… into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41b). And believe me, as bad as things may sometimes seem, Satan is greatly restrained by the hand of God. But that will change completely when the Church, the Bride of Christ, all those who truly know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is taken out of this world. Then, my friends, there will truly be hell on Earth. Oh, how we need to get busy warning others!


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates 


When the floodwaters subsided and it was safe to leave the ark, what did Noah do? He “… built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose” (Genesis 8:20, NLT).

But if Noah only brought two of each creature onto the ark, how’d all the species survive if Noah used some of them as burnt offerings? Because the Lord had instructed him: “Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood” (Genesis 7:2-3).

Some animals and birds were used as offerings and others were kept to repopulate the earth after the flood. Remember: even the temporary forgiveness of sin back in the Old Testament always required a blood sacrifice. Only when Jesus came as fully God, yet fully man, was there One Perfect Sacrifice to permanently forgive the sins of all who would believe in Him.

So how did God respond to Noah's offering? “… the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night’” (Genesis 8:21-22).

Noah expressed his gratitude for God’s protection and, because he did, “… God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables” (Genesis 9:1-3).

And then God made a covenant for all time: “… God told Noah and his sons, ‘I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, and with all the animals that were on the boat with you – the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals – every living creature on earth. Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth. Then God said, ‘I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.’ Then God said to Noah, ‘Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth’” (Genesis 9:8-17).

Next time you see a rainbow, remember that it’s a promise from God. And whatever promise He’s placed in your heart, trust it too. He is faithful.


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


(Yesterday we started reading through the Bible in chronological order. If you missed yesterday’s reading, scroll down and catch up and let’s read the entire Bible together in 2022.)

“When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous.’ So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him. That very day Noah had gone into the boat with his wife and his sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth – and their wives. Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (Genesis 7:1, 5, 16b, NLT).

Prior to the flood, humans lived long, long lives. Noah was 600 years old (See Genesis 7:11) when the flood came and he’d spent years – there’s a big debate over just how many years – building the ark. The world of Noah’s day, instead of living to please God, had chosen evil. And because of that, God said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years” (Genesis 6:3).

I’ve heard people quote “three score and ten” – 70 years – as a normal lifespan. Where does that come from? Psalm 90:10a: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (KJV). Or as the NLT words it: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.” God didn’t set 70 or 80 as a limit – the writer of Psalm 90, Moses, stated it as what he was seeing as a typical lifespan. Point is, whether you live to 70, 80, or 120, God determines your years and has reduced the years of man from what it was in Noah’s day.

Several things I want us to note about Noah’s situation: (1) God told him to build the ark – God didn’t do it for him. God warned Noah of the impending flood – see Genesis 6:17 – but Noah had to choose to believe God and obey Him. God doesn’t drag any of us to His safety – He simply gives us a very clear choice. (2) Noah’s faith became his family’s faith. Noah set an example that rubbed off on his family. (3) Noah believed God in spite of the likelihood that he had never even seen rain, let alone flooding.

Lastly, (4) look who closed the door of the ark – God did: “Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (Genesis 7:16b). The ark represents Christ. In Him and through Him alone is there salvation. “God waited patiently” (1 Peter 3:20b) for Noah to finish building the ark and then He sent the floodwaters. Undoubtedly Noah’s sons worked alongside him in its construction and endured the scoffing and ridicule of their neighbors – the construction site had probably become a regular tourist attraction. But had any of those onlookers believed when Noah told them why he was building the ark, God would have spared them. Their unbelief, however, forced a just and holy God to close the door on their opportunity to be saved.

I don’t believe for a skinny minute that Noah neglected to warn his neighbors. There’s no way that a man like Noah could have developed a fatalistic attitude toward all those souls he knew would be lost forever. And neither can we. We are not responsible for the outcome of our witness; but we are assuredly responsible to witness. Time is short. Tell somebody about Jesus.

“Noah was a righteous man … and he walked in close fellowship with God” (Genesis 6:9b).


Copyright 2022

Judy Woodward Bates


How many times have you read the entire Bible? Jesus is identified as “the eternal, living Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23b, NLT). That alone should tell us how important it is to know the “Word of God.” I hope you’ll join me for a chronological look through the entire Bible during 2022. We’re going to start with the earliest writings and go all the way through in the order in which it was written. In addition to what you’ll see here, there’s a suggested reading to follow. If you do that during 2022, you’ll read the entire Bible in only a few chapters a day.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then God said, ‘Let Us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us’” (Genesis 1:1, 26a, NLT).

“In the beginning God …” The Creator of the Universe is, always was, and always will be. When Moses had his burning bush experience as God commissioned him to lead Israel out of slavery, Moses asked how he should identify the One who sent him. “God replied to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

In John 8, Jesus, while teaching a crowd of Jews, said to them: “Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to My coming. He saw it and was glad.’ The people said, ‘You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:56-58a).

God the Father was present at creation. The Holy Spirit was present at creation. Jesus was present at creation. John opens his gospel proclaiming the preexistence of Christ: “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).

So we see that the Triune God who created everything in existence did so through the “Living Word.” Jesus. As you read today’s passage, you’ll see that Jesus literally spoke the world into being. And speaking of being, what an astounding thought that we human beings, of all living things, are the one and only part of creation made in God’s own image. Use your life to show others how good God is.


Judy Woodward Bates

Copyright 2022


“If the Lord does not build the house, it is useless for the builders to work on it” (Psalm 127:1a, GWT).

Jesus delivered this same message in Matthew 7: “… a foolish man … built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and battered that house, and it collapsed, and its collapse was total” (verses 26b-27, ISV).

A house without a firm foundation cannot survive the storms of life. Neither can a marriage. No life built on anything other than the firm foundation of Jesus Christ can ever reach its full potential. No life lived without Jesus Christ will ever see the eternal life He promises every person who will trust Him as Lord and Savior.

Want a solid life? Put it fully in the hands of Jesus: “Therefore, everyone who listens to these messages of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation was on the rock” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 7:24-25).

“…the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’ …” (2 Timothy 2:19a, NASB).

“… the Good News of peace – a firm foundation for your feet” (Ephesians 6:15b, Weymouth New Testament).

“… He will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10b, NLT).

A brand new year is about to begin. Commit to live it more fully for Jesus.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6, ESV).

I couldn’t begin to count the number of tears I’ve cried over our son and his family who have no contact with us. And, no doubt, many of you could say the same thing about loved ones in your lives. Jesus understands our sorrow and He promises in His Word that “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”

Our sorrows should never keep us FROM Jesus, but should lead us TO Jesus. We can cry until our eyes are dry, but unless we’re also crying out to Jesus, we’re only expressing distress – we’re not doing anything that can alleviate it.

When we pray in and through our sorrow, we “sow in tears.” As we release our worries and grief to the Lord, the Holy Spirit comforts us and brings us peace. And as we see those prayers answered, we “reap with shouts of joy!”

No tear shed in prayer is ever wasted. Anything big enough to worry you is big enough to give to God.

“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).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“… the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:7b-8, NIV).

When Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross to pay our sin debt, then died and rose again, “He broke the power of death” (2 Timothy 1:10, NLT), showing all who would believe on His Name the only doorway that could lead them to heaven. He clearly identified Himself in John 10:9 as “the door.”

And that “door,” my friends, was and is our only escape from an eternity in torment. Hebrews 2:3 reminds us: “… how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (NIV). Jesus also warned the hypocritical religious holier-than-thous: “How will you escape the judgment of hell?” (Matthew 23:33b, NLT).

There’s only one “escape” from “the judgment of hell” and that’s through faith in the Suffering Servant Savior, Jesus Christ. As today’s passage tells us, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Without Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, no one will ever enter into heaven.

Have you given much thought to what Jesus’ free gift of salvation has made it possible for you to “escape”? You should, you know. And your life should reflect your gratitude.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Back to that wandering sheep again. The shepherd, having left “the ninety-nine others” (Luke 15:4b, NLT) searched diligently until he found the lost sheep. Then what?

 “And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders” (Jesus speaking, Luke 15:5). He takes the weight and smell and dirt of that sheep upon himself and carries the frightened fur ball back to rejoin the rest of the flock.

Was the shepherd tired after climbing up and down hills and valleys and risking and possibly facing predators during his search for the missing sheep? He most likely was exhausted. But he put the welfare of the sheep above his own, even when that meant carrying that sheep every step of the journey.

So let’s say this same little sheep roams away again. Will the shepherd leave it to die this time? Of course not! Instead, he leaves the flock and goes to find it. But this time, when he finds it, he teaches it a very hard lesson: he breaks one of its legs.

Sounds pretty mean, doesn’t it? But here’s the rest of what happened. After breaking the sheep’s leg, the shepherd would bind the leg so it would heal. He’d then hoist the sheep onto his shoulders and carry it back to the flock. Once there, he’d sleep next to that sheep because it was the most vulnerable to predators – as always, the shepherd puts himself between his sheep and any danger.

Next morning, when it was time for the flock to find new grazing ground, the shepherd hoisted that heavy sheep again and lugged it along to green pastures. Can’t you just see the shepherd pulling up plants and helping it feed? And that night and every night until the sheep’s leg was fully healed, the shepherd slept beside it, maybe even resting his head on the soft wool of its body.

When the leg was healed, what happened? The sheep that used to wander became the shepherd’s closest follower. God never disciplines out of anger, but only in love.

“I used to wander off until You disciplined me; but now I closely follow Your word” (Psalm 119:67).

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

“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Psalm 51:8, ESV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we saw that sheep are smelly, dirty, vermin-infested, and dumber than a box of rocks. Do they have any redeeming qualities? One, which often appears to make them smarter than we are: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow …” (Jesus speaking, John 10:3b, 4b-5a, ESV).

Sheep recognized the voice of their shepherd. Even when corralled with dozens of other flocks in a community enclosure, a single shepherd could come to the pen and open the gate, and only his own sheep would follow him out. Why? Because “they know his voice” – those who weren’t a part of his flock would stay put: “A stranger they will not follow.”

“I just want to know what the will of God is for my life.” What’s His will? For you to follow Him. Following Jesus doesn’t always mean knowing precisely what He wants you to do every minute of every day. It simply means choosing to put that moment, that hour, or that day to the very best use for the glory of God.

Let’s say you have an off day and you’ve been dreaming of piling up on your sofa with a good book. Or playing a round of golf. Or hitting the mall. But you also remember that your widowed neighbor Mrs. Cravat is alone and recovering from surgery. Do you go on with your plans or change your plans to minister to your neighbor?

News flash! Many times when we give up our selfish plans to do a selfless deed, our time is miraculously multiplied back to us. You might just manage to bring some sunshine into Mrs. Cravat’s life and still have some sofa, golf, or shopping time. And even if you can’t manage both, I guarantee the joy you’ll receive from spending time with Mrs. Cravat will far outweigh what any of those other pursuits would have given you.

Knowing Jesus means knowing “his voice.” And knowing “his voice” means being able to distinguish between what’s of God and what isn’t. When you attune yourself to the Holy Spirit, you don’t have wonder or wander. He will lead you “in paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3b, NIV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at Psalm 119:67: “I used to wander off until You disciplined me; but now I closely follow Your word” (NLT). I want to start there and dig a little deeper.

I’m sure you’ve seen paintings of Jesus the Great Shepherd carrying the little lamb in His arms. A shepherd spent a lot of time out in the wilderness with a bunch of smelly, dirty, vermin-infested sheep – sounds fun already, doesn’t it? And those sheep were so dumb that they were utterly helpless. They could feed themselves, yes, but only because the shepherd took them to places where there would be plenty of greenery on which to forage. Let any kind of trouble come along, though, and those sheep were clueless as to what to do. They were entirely dependent upon their shepherd.

Which is why the shepherd couldn’t afford any wanderers. See, the wilderness included plenty of vicious carnivores that would love nothing better than a meal of fat juicy lamb chops. The shepherd, wielding no more than a staff or a slingshot, could make quick work of any predator who tried to harm his sheep. The shepherd would always put himself between any threat of danger and his sheep. Matter of fact, if necessary, “The good shepherd [was willing to lay] down his life for the sheep” (Jesus speaking, John 10:11b, NIV).

But the sheep never gave any thought to what the shepherd was willing to do to keep them safe. Sheep basically had one thought: what’s to eat? And in pursuit of their life’s goal – food, food, and more food – one would sometimes meander away from the flock and find itself lost and terrified with no idea how to get back to the flock and zero means of protecting itself from danger.

The vigilant shepherd, however, knowing every one of his sheep, would quickly realize which sheep was missing, and as Jesus asked, “Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4b, NLT).

The shepherd had to leave the rest of the flock on its own while he went after the wandering sheep. One sheep’s ignorance put the entire flock at risk. But the shepherd considered that one little sheep worth going after.

Our Great Shepherd puts Himself between us and danger more times than we’ll ever know this side of heaven. Our Great Shepherd lovingly brings wanderers back into the fold. Our Great Shepherd loved us enough to “lay down His life” to save us.

What are you doing with your life to thank Him?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates