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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 check or money order to:
JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. 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 check or money order to: JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. And any amount you could add to help cover postage would be greatly appreciated. It costs $3.45 to ship to most zip codes. You can also pay with PayPal & order directly from me.
(3) I now have copies in the Encouraging Word Bookstore at Gardendale First Baptist Church.
(4) Copies are also available at Jeff Dennis Jewelers in Gardendale, AL. $12 each.
(5) 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
Where else can you buy A Bargain to Die For?
(2) You can order a signed copy directly from me by mailing $10 check or money order to: JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. (Any extra for postage would be greatly appreciated.) You can also pay with PayPal & order directly from me.
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 18
“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 about 20 percent of America’s 118 million people are in church on Sunday. 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, dependent on what day of the week it is or how we feel. We somehow think that a little bit of religion is “good enough.” According to God, 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).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 17
I recently heard someone make a comment about those who “can’t afford Christmas.” I commend and support the organizations that help the needy year-round and during the holidays, but I also believe we need to be careful about developing the mindset that Christmas is about “stuff.” Christmas is first and foremost about celebrating the birth of the Savior. Christmas is “Christ-mass” – the celebration (“mass”) of Christ.
Secondly, it’s about others. Jesus came to earth as a helpless infant not for His own benefit, but to meet the needs of others, the greatest of which was salvation. He willingly came for the purpose of dying in our stead.
I hope you’ll make this Christmas a totally Christ-centered celebration. Don’t worry about gifts. Don’t panic over all the warnings flying around about short supplies. If there’s food on your table, you’re blessed!
Spend your time and money doing for those who can’t afford to have a turkey dinner or put gifts under the tree. I’m betting that most of the people you’re buying gifts for can afford to buy those things for themselves. Why not enjoy food, games, and fellowship with friends and family and forego the gift-giving except for the little ones? Put that money to better use being a blessing to those truly in need.
And when all those sales roll in on “Black Friday,” remember: there was a far more important Black Friday over 2,000 years ago: the day Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay our sin-debt. Be thankful, don’t go “buying crazy,” and leave your worries with the Lord.
"God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others" (2 Corinthians 9:8, CEV).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 16
In preparation for the time when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God gave them the Ten Commandments as we read in Exodus 20:
1. Do not worship other gods.
2. Do not worship idols.
3. Do not misuse God’s name.
4. Keep the Sabbath holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not lie.
10. Do not covet.
Of course, this wasn’t all God had to say to them at the time; the rest of Exodus 20 through Exodus 23:19 contains further instructions from the Lord which are known as the “Book of the Covenant.” We read in Exodus 24:7: “Then he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people” (NIV).
But here’s what I want us to look at concerning all this: at what point were the Commandments given? AFTER the Lord had saved the Israelites from their Egyptian captors. The sign of the firstborn had already been given. Neither receiving the law nor obeying the law brought salvation to the people of Israel any more than it can do that for us today. They needed a Savior. We need a Savior.
In the New Testament, Peter says of the redeemed: “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession” (I Peter 2:9b, NLT). Peter was quoting from the very words the Lord had spoken in Exodus 19:6 to Moses concerning Israel – BEFORE He had given them the Commandments.
So are the Commandments even relevant today? Well, let’s see. How did Jesus put it? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, ESV).
Jesus, as fully God yet fully man, was and is the only Person to have ever perfectly kept the Commandments (“the Law”). In doing so, He showed us the importance of not only obeying the Law, but of going beyond the written letter of the law and maintaining purity of intent. In other words, we’re to be clean inside and out. How? By focusing on the things of God.
May this upcoming season of friend and family gatherings be much more than food and fellowship for you. May it be a time of reflection on the goodness, provision, grace and mercy of the Savior.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 15
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.’ So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on” (Exodus 17:5a, 6, NLT).
The Israelites, having been freed from slavery in Egypt, were on their way to the Promised Land. However, they quickly learned that this was no easy journey. Trekking through a desert that is today as inhospitable as it was back then, they were entirely dependent upon the Lord for all their provisions. In Exodus 16 and Numbers 11, we see that God literally sent them bread from heaven: “The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night” (Numbers 11:9). (Incidentally, the word “manna” means “What is it?”)
But the people were also in a dry land and became so thirsty that they feared for their own lives and livestock. So what did the Lord do? Gave them water and showed them what He was willing to do for His people.
Look back at our opening passage. God told Moses to “strike the rock,” but where was God when Moses struck it? “On the rock.” Don’t miss that.
Now look at what David wrote in 2 Samuel 22:47b: “Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!” (NIV). David clearly identifies his “Savior” as “the Rock.”
Moving over to the New Testament, we see Jesus, the “Savior,” “the Rock,” hanging on the cross: “One of the soldiers struck Him on His side with his spear, and at once blood and water issued forth” (John 19:34, Aramaic Bible in Plain English).
And if you still haven’t made all the connections, the apostle Paul clearly does that for us. He says that the Israelites wandering in the desert “… were drinking from The Rock of The Spirit, which was with them, but that Rock was The Messiah” (I Corinthians 10:4b).
From beginning to end, the Bible shows us Jesus. Our Suffering Servant Savior “was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).
Jesus is, has always been, and always will be. He, the Rock of our Salvation, was struck to provide Living Water for all who will believe in Him. The Bread from Heaven came down to provide for His people.
Folks, getting to our Promised Land, heaven, is no easy journey, but we have a Savior who goes with us and before us. Trust Him as your All-Sufficient God.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 14
Yesterday I stated that when God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the sea just after the people of Israel walked across the bottom of the sea on dry land as the Lord held the waters back and allowed them to safely cross over. Today I want us to focus on those last two words: cross over.
Where had the Israelites been? In Egypt. In slavery. In a land filled with the worship of false gods.
Where did God want to take them? To the Promised Land. “A land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9, NIV). To freedom.
Getting out of Egypt was impossible for the Israelites, but as the angel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “Nothing is impossible with God.” What the Israelites couldn’t do on their own, God did for them completely on His own.
Like the Israelites, every person born into this world was at one time in a place of slavery. In bondage to sin. Without hope and impossibly lost. But those who heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, and received Him as Lord and Savior crossed over from slavery to freedom just as surely as did those Israelites of old.
In Mark 4:35 Jesus tells His disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side …” (NLT). Folks, this is the same message Jesus speaks to every person on this planet. He desires for us to cross over from slavery to freedom. From spiritual death to spiritual life.
Was it easy for the Israelites to step into that divided sea, seeing those huge walls of water on either side of them? No, it took courage. It took leadership. Someone to step out in faith and lead the others.
How about you? If you’ve crossed over from death to life, it should be your burning passion to show others how to receive this same great freedom. You should be leading others to Jesus.
After all, you are leading others. There isn’t one solitary professing believer – legitimate or otherwise – that isn’t being watched and imitated. What does your life tell others about Jesus? Where is your lifestyle leading those who follow in your footsteps? Be certain your words and actions are Christ-honoring and directing others in “the paths of the Lord” (Psalm 25:10, NASB).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 13
“Who among the gods is like You, O Lord? Who is like You – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11, NIV).
When God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the sea just after the people of Israel walked across the bottom of the sea on dry land as the Lord held the waters back and allowed them to safely cross over. Moses and all of Israel sang a song of thankfulness to God for His deliverance of His people. The passage above is from that song.
Note the beginning of the passage: “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?” Every people had their own deities – gods and goddesses for specific areas of their lives. Only Israel worshipped a single deity, the One True God. Egypt believed its war god went before them and that terror personified went before their god to put fear into the hearts of their enemies even before their god arrived on the scene, let alone their army.
Conquering a people meant conquering their gods. Egypt, like most ancient peoples, believed that as their army fought against an opposing army, their gods fought against the opposing army’s gods. So when the One True God whipped the Egyptians singlehandedly, it was irrefutable proof that Israel’s God was so powerful that He didn’t even need a single Israelite follower to lift a finger – let alone a sword – to defeat the enemy.
Winning armies always composed victory songs to glorify their gods and to taunt their opposition, so any other people hearing the Israelites’ song – which no doubt the people sang many times – would immediately understand that their God was being proclaimed as Victor. Just as importantly, they would realize that this God was so powerful that He accomplished the win with no help whatsoever from His people.
Remember our verse from Exodus yesterday? “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). Letting God fight our battles is the very best way to deal with most of our problems. Confrontation may occasionally be necessary, but most of the time, leaving the problem in God’s hands is the very best solution. Try it. You, like the Israelites, may very well “stand still” in wonder as you see His mighty hand bring about your victory.
“… majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 12
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13a, 14, NIV).
Who spoke those words and under what circumstances? Moses was addressing the people of Israel who had just been delivered out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Now they found themselves trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s approaching army. But having seen the plagues God sent on the Egyptians for refusing to release them from slavery, they were cool as cucumbers, right? Wrong.
They’d just told Moses: “What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11b). Doesn’t sound like overly confident people, does it? Not in themselves; not in their leaders Moses and Aaron; and certainly not in Jehovah.
What plague had finally brought about the Israelites’ release? The death of the first-born. Every first-born child and animal died when the death angel passed through Egypt. But what of the Israelite households? They were protected against this plague, having been told to put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that the death angel would “pass over” the houses covered by the blood – see Exodus 12. Thus the celebration of “Passover.”
Covered by the blood. The death of the first-born. Throughout the Bible we see God painting the picture of Jesus. It took the death of Egypt’s first-born for Pharaoh to release the Israelites. It took the blood of a lamb to save the Israelites from the death angel’s reaping. And though they’d seen these miracles, the people of Israel huddled in terror as the Egyptian army marched toward them.
Sometimes we too find ourselves in situations so terrifying that we forget the many other times we’ve seen God work wonders on our behalves. We feel helpless. It’s not that we don’t know where to turn, as we sometimes say; it’s that we forget where to turn, which is to Jesus.
You may find yourself in the midst of a battle right now. Pray. Pray fervently. Seek the Lord’s guidance. And when you’ve done all you can, stand still. And “stand firm.” Don’t let the devil hoodwink you into thinking you’ve got to face this all on your own. “The Lord will fight for you.”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 11
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1, NIV).
“Out of Egypt”? But wasn’t Jesus a Jew? Wasn’t He born in Bethlehem? Wasn’t He a Nazarene? Wasn't He a Galilean? Yes, to all of these.
According to the passage we’ve already looked at in Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).
How does all this mesh? Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Let’s look at Luke 2:1-7a: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.”
Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth: “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).
How’d Jesus come “out of Egypt”? In Matthew 2:1 we read: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).
The idea of royal strangers coming from another land to worship a baby king terrified Herod! After the “wise men” failed to return and report to him the whereabouts of the infant king, Herod consulted with his astrologers to determine the time when the Christ Child was born and then “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).
But God sent an angel to warn Joseph: “‘Get up,’ [the angel] said, ‘Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you’” (Matthew 2:13).
So Joseph took Mary and little Jesus and fled to Egypt. “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt” (Matthew 2:19) and told him it was safe to take the family back to Israel. Apparently Joseph’s first plan was to go back to Judea, the region in which Bethlehem was situated. “But when [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there” (Matthew 2:22). So instead, Joseph took his family to “the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:22b-23).
No other child could have fulfilled even these few prophecies. Jesus IS the Son of God! Celebrate Him. Share Him. Thank Him.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 10
In Genesis 49, we read the account of Jacob calling his sons before him to give them his blessing. (Remember: Jacob was renamed “Israel” by the Lord – see Genesis 35:10 – and was the father of the people who became the twelve tribes of Israel.) When he comes to his son Judah, he speaks these words: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).
In Matthew 1:3-6, we read the lineage from Judah to David: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar; Perez the father of Hezron; Hezron the father of Ram; Ram the father of Amminadab; Amminadab the father of Nahshon; Nahshon the father of Salmon; Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab; Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth; Obed the father of Jesse; and Jesse the father of King David.”
Then we read in Luke 2 about Caesar Augustus ordering a census that required each person to report to their lineage’s hometown. Verse 4 says that “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.”
So we see that Joseph was of the lineage of David. But what about Mary? If you look in Luke 3, you see another genealogy of Jesus – the lineage of Mary, also a descendant of David. In verse 23, Luke says, “Joseph, the son of Heli.” Most Biblical scholars agree that Heli is actually Mary’s father, Joseph’s father-in-law.
Jesus’ physical/human lineage came through Mary, as seen in Luke. But even though the Holy Spirit placed Jesus into the womb of the Virgin Mary, Joseph was considered to be Jesus’ father since he was the husband of Mary; which is why His legal lineage is traced through Joseph, as seen in Matthew. In Mary and Joseph’s time, it was quite common for cousins to marry, so it would certainly not be out of the ordinary for Joseph and Mary to have been related. As you see from comparing the two genealogies, Joseph’s lineage intertwined with Mary’s.
In coming to earth as a baby and being born of Mary, Jesus Christ fulfilled the words of Jacob/Israel spoken to Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” And He also fulfilled His promise to continue the rule of the house of David forever: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).
My prayer is that you truly know and celebrate Christ this Christmas. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 9
“His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” (Micah 5:2b, HCSB).
Jesus is and was God. John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).
As believers, it is critical that we realize that Jesus didn’t have His beginning as the tiny baby placed by the Holy Spirit within Mary. He was and is the Living “Word,” and “He was with God from the beginning.”
“Beginning” of what? Time as we know it, the world as we know it. And even once we’ve grasped this, we need to understand that this is NOT the point at which Jesus’ life started – this was the moment in which CREATION was started. Remember what Jesus told the Jews? “I assure you: before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
Catch the tense Jesus used: “I am.” Jesus, being God, has never NOT existed – He always was, always is, and always will be. And yet you can’t separate any of these phrases or tenses and really make an accurate statement about Him – all of them apply simultaneously.
As we move toward another year, I hope you’ll think long and hard about what it means for Jesus to be “the light of men.” John 1:5 goes on to say that “that light shines in the darkness.”
For each and every one of us, there was a time when our lives were in “darkness.” Only the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, could place His Internal and Eternal Light, the Holy Spirit, into us and transform us into His likeness. And having done that, then what?
Well, let’s see. If we were transformed into His likeness, what does that make us? The “light [that] shines in the darkness!” I’m a firm believer that the spiritual and the practical don’t necessarily contradict – in fact, that they can go hand-in-hand. So, looking from a practical viewpoint, let’s say that we’re all spiritual flashlights.
Now, having visualized ourselves as spiritual flashlights, what makes us work? What makes us “light”? Number One, we each need a bulb – the actual “light” that makes a flashlight what it is. Jesus, of course, is that “Light.”
Number Two, we need batteries. That, my friends, is the indwelling Holy Spirit. And being indwelling, that means He needs a receptacle in which to be placed; and that, beloved, is US.
So, having received our “Light,” we have become willing receptacles for our batteries, which is the indwelling Holy Spirit; in other words, we’ve become equipped. To do what? “Light … the darkness.”
How much good is a flashlight if it doesn’t shine? None whatsoever. Deep thought here, folks: do you have to take the batteries out of a flashlight in order for it to no longer be functional? No, you can be a totally ineffective flashlight simply by neglecting to keep them charged.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t fizzle out, leak out, or walk out – He remains, but His power is evidenced, is available, in our lives only as we continually “recharge” through regular prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers.
Where is the “darkness”? Anywhere Jesus isn’t shining. Your life, my brother or sister in Christ, is an assignment, a calling, to be Jesus wherever you are. And that makes you “light.” Charge up, then charge out, and shine for His glory.
“Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 8
This verse inspired yesterday’s study, and continues to be our focus for today: “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:2a, HCSB).
“You are small.” God isn’t impressed with size. Yes, a healthy church is a growing church, but it’s not about the numbers – it’s about the people. The Biblical goal of every physical church body is to teach, train, encourage and strengthen BELIEVERS, who are the spiritual body of Christ. It is then the BELIEVERS’ jobs to go out beyond the confines of the physical church and witness and win the lost and bring them into the fold.
Maybe you think of yourself as “small,” insignificant in God’s big picture. Child of God, nothing could be further from the truth! May I share with you a passage of New Testament Scripture that addresses this very issue? First Corinthians 1:24-29: “… to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Brothers, consider your calling: not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen the world’s foolish things to shame the wise, and God has chosen the world’s weak things to shame the strong. God has chosen the world’s insignificant and despised things – the things viewed as nothing – so he might bring to nothing the things that are viewed as something, so that no one can boast in his presence.”
I hope you’ll read this passage through several times and really let it sink into your heart. “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Of course, Paul is being facetious in even suggesting that God has “weakness” – He doesn’t. Which is the whole point. We who are equipped by God through faith in His Son and the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit are strong as long as we are depending on Him and not ourselves.
And what about those of us who don’t exactly consider themselves to have the I.Q. of a genius? Look how Paul says you’re equipped: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.” Another tongue-in-cheek statement. There is no “foolishness” in God! You are equipped beyond your wildest imagination – all you need to do is pull out that equipage and use it!
Know why I’m so sure of this fact? The Bible says so! And this is a good spot to add the adjoining verse, First Corinthians 1:30, one of my favorites: “But from Him [that is, God the Father] you are in Christ Jesus, who for us became wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”
Talk about being fully equipped – just look at what you received when you received Jesus: “Wisdom.” And not just any ol’ wisdom, but “wisdom from God,” along with “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”
Precious one, the moment you were redeemed, your equipage began; and it continues throughout your lifetime as you pray, read your Bible, study His Word, regularly attend a Bible-believing church and live your life as the hands and feet of Jesus along your pathway.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 7
Today let’s read a verse from the book of the prophet named Micah: “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” (Micah 5:2, HCSB).
What a great passage! How awesome to read its fulfillment throughout the New Testament! Let’s take a look at two connected passages:
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).
“And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him snugly in cloth and laid him in a feeding trough – because there was no room for them at the inn” (Luke 2:4-7).
It was no accident that Caesar Augustus ordered a census that would cause Joseph and Mary to travel from their hometown to Bethlehem. It was no accident that it was at that time that Mary gave birth to the Child the Holy Spirit had placed within her. God had promised that the “ruler over Israel” would come from this humble little village, and Christ’s earthly life began right there in a stable.
And it was certainly no coincidence that God placed a special Light in the sky to guide the “wise men from the east” to come and worship Jesus. Bear in mind, too, that these men didn’t jump into their cars or catch a plane to get to Bethlehem. They traveled so far and for so long that Scripture records that “When they were come into the house, they saw the young child” (Matthew 2:11). Most scholars agree that Jesus was already a toddler and that his parents had taken up residence in a house in Bethlehem before returning to Nazareth.
Are you grasping the significance of the timeframe here? The “wise men” sought Jesus diligently, and yet their efforts weren’t rewarded overnight – it took time and persistence, faithfulness to their goal. Likewise, we as believers may set out on many a plan that we truly believe to be a direction God is leading us in. But, unlike the “wise men,” when we don’t quickly “arrive” or achieve what we thought we were going to, we become discouraged and stop our efforts.
Beloved, God doesn’t quit on you, so don’t you quit on Him! Sure, reevaluate your direction; reexamine your goals and be sure they’re in alignment with God’s calling on your life – He most certainly has a calling and direction for each and every one of us. But once you’re assured you’re not heading off in the wrong direction, get back at it and hang tough for the long run.
Which brings up another point. GOD CALLS NO ONE TO DO NOTHING. You are not called to sit and wait on your calling. You are called to get with the program and do whatever you can for the glory of God until such time as you feel a stronger or more compelling leading into a different or clearer direction.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 6
“He saw that there was no man – He was amazed that there was no one interceding; so His Own Arm brought salvation, and His Own Righteousness supported Him” (Isaiah 59:16, HCSB).
“There was no man … no one interceding.” Of course, this statement first and foremost speaks of the impossibility that any man could bridge the gap between himself and God, or between God and any other person – it simply cannot and could not be done. Until Jesus came. The One and Only Perfect Son of God could do and did do what no one else could: He became the Bridge of Forgiveness.
As we look at this verse, we also have to look at the reality of humanness. Even though there were priests among God’s people Israel who sincerely sought to please and honor Him and who cared passionately for God’s people, there were also many who were simply doing the job their lineage had landed them in – in other words, they were going through the motions. They weren’t truly, from the heart, “interceding.”
But before we frown on these people’s behavior, what about our own? How often are we, in church and at home in our prayer or quiet time merely going through the motions?
For years I was part of a weekly prayer and Bible study group. As I led the studies, another lady, Sue, led the prayer. Every week she’d come with her spiral binder filled with praise reports, ongoing prayer requests, and new things to bring before the Father. It took a long time for what I already knew to sink into my heart: that Sue’s prayer life at home was no different than her prayer life in front of our study group. That woman prayed for every need as if it was her own.
And so should we. I am so thankful that God is patient with nitwits like me! I had always been such a stickler for keeping an ongoing list of grocery and household items on a magnetic holder on my refrigerator – I knew I’d never remember those things if I didn’t write them down the minute I thought of them or realized we needed them. And I also realized that I could never go to the grocer’s and come home with what we needed without taking the list with me.
Which brought me to the realization: how dare I come before our Holy God and haphazardly rattle off the pitiful little I can remember! I should never have done that, and neither should you.
If you aren’t already doing so, start today keeping a list of prayer requests and praise reports and use it whenever you pray. I know folks whose lists are so long that they’ve broken them up into days of the week – my family is prayed for every Tuesday by one person. Whatever it takes, there should be a system, an ORDER to your prayer life, and to ALL your life because our Lord is “not a God of disorder” (I Corinthians 14:33). And we are to be like Him.
Add to that list all the things you’re thankful for. Also, write down the sins you struggle with. As you see God work in these areas and answer these requests, write down your thanks and tell Him how much you love Him for “interceding.”
What we couldn’t do for ourselves, Jesus Christ did. We owe Him our everything!
“His Own Arm brought salvation.”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 5
Today we begin our look at a new passage from Isaiah: “Pay attention and come to me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David. Since I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples” (Isaiah 55:3-4, HCSB).
To understand these two verses more clearly, we need to look at Matthew 26:28. As Jesus gathered with His disciples for His final earthly Passover meal, He broke the bread and then presented the wine, initiating the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, or communion. He told them, “This is My blood [that establishes] the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus clearly identified His “blood” as the one thing, the single act, which established “the covenant.” What “covenant”? Look back at Isaiah 55. Jesus is speaking of the “everlasting covenant” established by His shed blood, the one that for all time will cleanse and set free any person who accepts what He has done for them.
Hebrews 10:4 reminded the Jews that “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” These imperfect sacrifices were a temporary fix to a permanent problem: man’s sinful nature. Man needed ONGOING forgiveness, an “everlasting” pardon. And only the Perfect Sacrifice of the Son of God could open that doorway.
Man was trapped in permanent, inescapable condemnation until Jesus Christ became “the door” (John 10:7)! Now each person who calls out to Him for forgiveness and salvation receives a full pardon, and LITERALLY passes “from death to life” (1 John 3:14).
Let me encourage you to read Hebrews 8:6-13 today. It speaks of Jesus as is “the mediator of a better covenant” (verse 6) and goes on to declare God’s promise that He “will be merciful [concerning our] wrongdoing, and … will never again remember [our] sins” (verse 12).
This day and every day, we have so much to be thankful for.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 4
“He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form or splendor that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, HCSB).
“A root out of dry ground.” Didn’t get much dryer than Nazareth. Philip told Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about…, Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” To which Nathanael immediately voiced what I’m sure many people were thinking: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46).
Isaiah 11:1 speaks more about this “young plant,” this “root out of dry ground.” He says: “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Of course, He’s speaking of Jesus and His lineage through the house of David, the son of Jesse.
“He had no form or splendor that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him.” Jesus wasn’t gorgeous, nor was it likely that he was blonde and blue-eyed with pale white skin – He grew up in a hardworking carpenter’s family and spent years working with His hands, learning Joseph’s trade, helping provide for His family. He wasn’t the physically beautiful person we see depicted in paintings and movies.
May I stop right here and say that you may consider yourself one with “no form or splendor,” “no appearance that” would make you desirable. Child of God, those who came to know the true Savior fell in love with Him! And it wasn’t because of His outward looks – it was because of the irresistible inner beauty that radiated from Him.
One of the greatest struggles for women, particularly – and also for many men – is self-esteem. You’re always your worst critic, and you may see yourself as unattractive and undesirable. May I say to you, first, that GOD DOESN’T SEE YOU THIS WAY. And may I say to you, secondly, that God has a plan for your life, and if you’ll only trust Him, He will be Your Everything, with or without an earthly life mate. Seek Him, and He will meet not only your FELT needs, but your TRUE needs.
Isaiah 40:7-8 reminds us, “The grass withers” and “the flowers fade.” Folks, if we keep on living on this ol’ earth, ain’t none of us gettin’ any younger! And while it’s important to care for our physical health, our spiritual health is even more important.
Which is precisely why Peter wrote that “Your beauty should not consist of outward things” but “instead, [it should consist of] the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes” (I Peter 3:3-4).
When my Aunt Syl passed away, she was well into the winter of her lifetime. Her preacher said at her funeral that in all the years that he’d pastored her church, he’d never one time heard her say a single unkind word about anyone or anything. Which means, my friends, that, in the eyes of God, my Aunt Syl was stunningly beautiful.
May this be my prayer and yours: O God, for a mouth that can only pour out kindness, and for that inward beauty that is “valuable in [your] eyes!”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 3
“In the future he will bring honor to … the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. [The people] have rejoiced before you … for you have shattered their burdensome yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor … For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (from Isaiah 9:1-7, HCSB).
We see in this passage another promise concerning Jesus coming from the lineage of David. But we see much more than just that. Isaiah declared that the Messiah would “[shatter] their burdensome yoke” and do away with “the rod on their shoulders” and “the staff of their oppressor.” Jesus came declaring freedom!
We see this prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 4, where in Verses12b-13a we read: “He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea.” Verses 15-16 of Matthew 4 go on to quote Isaiah 9:1-2.
The biggest “yoke,” the heaviest load on the “shoulders” of the people of Israel, was their religion. Their leaders had added and added to what God had commanded until the law had become incredibly “burdensome.” God, through Jesus Christ, lifted that burden, as Paul explains in Romans 8:1-4a: “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His Own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished.”
There’s something else I want you to see in the Isaiah passage: “A child will be born for us.” The word “for” is so significant here, folks. Please don’t miss that. The purpose of Jesus’ coming as an innocent newborn baby was “for us.” The purpose for His perfect life and willing death was “for us.” The purpose of His return is “for us.”
The infant Jesus had one purpose and one purpose only: to pay the sin-debt of "the world" - see John 3:16. All Christ suffered, He suffered “for us.” And what He asks in return is that we believe in Him and tell others about Him.
All this He’s done for you. “For us.” What have you done for Him?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 2
Today let’s read Isaiah 7:14: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (HCSB).
A virgin have a baby? Ridiculous! Yet the very Child this virgin bore told us: “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). If we would but latch onto the kind of faith it takes to believe Jesus’ statement in every situation!
Mary had that kind of faith. When the angel appeared to this young lady – who was probably around 14 years of age – she told him, “… may it be done to me according to your word …” (Luke 1:38).
And exactly what had the angel told her? “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you ... Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God … You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (from Luke 1:28, 30-33, and 35).
Mary asked one question: “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” (Luke 1:34).
Don’t misread her question as doubting – her statement is literal: tell me how this will be done. The angel’s reply is recorded in the passage above, beginning with “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” He concluded in Verse 37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
This was enough information for Mary to reply: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
If we look back to Genesis 18 we see a prophecy concerning another “impossible” birth – elderly Sarah and Abraham having Isaac. The angel said to Abraham: “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14a).
Let me give you just a few other verses I hope you’ll take time to read: Matthew 17:20; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27; and Mark 14:36. Please, please, please read Mark 14:36! We need to realize that while nothing is “impossible for the Lord,” He doesn’t always act in the ways that we think He should. He doesn’t always intervene like we want Him to. In other words, He just doesn’t act like we think He should.
I have no doubt that you can think of one or more situation in your life in which you wanted God to do a certain thing, but He didn’t. Folks, we don’t think like God does. He doesn’t think like we do. While we see this tiny glimpse of His plan and creation, He sees the whole picture, and even when we don’t understand, He’s always acting with our best interests at heart.
What are you asking the Lord to do for you? Are you asking Him to do it your way, or are you asking Him to work His perfect will?
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways …” (Isaiah 55:8).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for OCTOBER 1
And now we come to Psalm 72:10-11, which says: “May the kings of Tarshish and the coasts and islands bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. And let all kings bow down to him” (HCSB).
Now let’s look at the New Testament’s correlating passage: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born. ‘In Bethlehem of Judea,’ they told him, ‘because this is what was written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.’ Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.’ After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was – the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-11).
The “wise men” quoted to Herod from Micah 5:2: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.”
Notice that the Matthew passage tells us that the family was now living in a “house.” Jesus was most likely a toddler by this time. These wealthy kings had started out in search of a newborn and found Him only because they stuck to the journey.
What hadn’t these men done? Worried about who was running their kingdoms while they were away. Fretted because their families and subjects might think they were nuts for putting so much time into such a preposterous presentation – they were, after all, bowing down to a BABY. They were paying homage to a poor family’s Child.
Ridiculous? Definitely – to those who saw with earthly eyes only. But for those with spiritual vision, they saw and recognized the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! These “wise men” are forever remembered as those who fulfilled Old Testament prophecy as they “offer[ed] gifts … and … bow[ed] down to” Jesus.
Big lesson here, folks. The “wise men” weren’t called “wise” without reason: They knew the writings of the prophets, and because of this, they were in the right place at the right time. And when God gave them a sign to follow, they were obedient and followed it – and we’re not talking about an overnight train ride.
Maybe there’s a passage in the Bible that’s been speaking to you. You may have that same passage pop up on every turn until you get His Message. And if that’s not enough, He may even send some very significant signs and pointers for you to follow.
You don’t have to doubt and you don’t have to wonder. If you’re hearing or sensing a leading to do anything that fully aligns with God’s Word, it sure ain’t the devil talking.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SEPTEMBER 30
Hopping over to the book of Jeremiah, we come to one of the many wonderful prophecies that tell us that Jesus will come through the lineage of David: “‘The days are coming’ – [this is] the Lord’s declaration – ‘when I will raise up a righteous branch of David. He will reign wisely as king and administer justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. This is what he will be named: the Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6, HCSB).
Moving over to Chapter 33, Verses 15-16, we read a similar passage: “In those days and at that time I will cause a branch of righteousness to sprout up for David, and he will administer justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely, and this is what she will be named: the Lord is our righteousness.”
And if we go back to the book of Psalms, we see another prophecy concerning this: “The Lord swore an oath to David, a promise He will not abandon: ‘I will set one of your descendants on your throne” (Psalm 132:11).
In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit had come down so powerfully on the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke boldly to the men of Jerusalem, proclaiming this promise to David concerning the Messiah. I strongly urge you to read all of Acts 2, or at least Verses 22-36. This is an awesome declaration of the Good News of Jesus, in which Peter concludes: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” (Verse 36).
I hope you’re catching a passionate excitement about the Word of God. How it thrills me to know that every word is true and abundantly rich in meaning. In addition to all the connections we’ve looked at above, think about this:
(1) The Lord sends Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king over Israel. Jesse calls seven of his sons to stand before Samuel, but Samuel asks:
“‘Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ [Jesse] answered, ‘but right now he’s tending the sheep” (I Samuel 16:11).
(2) The youngest was the chosen one. The one no one even thought to call in for the lineup. And what was he doing? Tending sheep. Jesus said: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
“Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
We don’t need to seek the spotlight. What we do doesn’t have to attract attention, or even be attractive, for that matter. We simply need to quietly and faithfully do whatever we believe the Lord has appointed us to do. You see, God doesn’t reward us for good intentions, or for whining about wanting a bigger or better assignment – He rewards us for being faithful. Do that, and in His timing, He will reward you with greater responsibility and blessings.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SEPTEMBER 29
Continuing our look at some of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, we come to Psalm 35:11: “Malicious witnesses come forward; they question me about things I do not know.”
Jesus was illegally arrested as He prayed in the Garden – no warrant had been issued, no formal charge had been made. He was then brought before Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas – I hope you’ll read the full account in John 18. To be arrested and then questioned in private by a single individual was also against the Jews’ own governing regulations.
Then they convened an assembly, another illegal act since meeting at night – or literally, before the morning sacrifice – was unlawful. Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin (the chief priests, elders, and scribes), and Mark records this as happening: “… many were giving false testimony against Him, but the testimonies did not agree. Some stood up and were…stating, ‘We heard him say, ‘I will demolish this sanctuary made by [human] hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’ Yet their testimony did not agree even on this” (Mark 14:56-59).
Ever told a lie? Once you tell one, it seems to always require another to support the first one, and then another one to support the second one, and on and on it goes. Pretty soon you’re stumbling over your own words, unable to keep track of all of the stories. This was the mess the Sanhedrin and their hired liars had gotten themselves into.
And what did Jesus do about it? Mark continues to tell us: “Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, ‘Don’t you have an answer to what these men are testifying against you?’ But He kept silent and did not answer anything” (Mark 14:60-61a).
There’s an extremely valuable lesson in Jesus’ response here. Folks, a liar will always be found out. Haven’t you ever noticed that they’re the ones who so frantically defend what they’ve told? Truth doesn’t have to be shoved down people’s throats – only a lie is that difficult to swallow.
We need to be very careful not to allow any liar to upset us. Why? Because we know that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12), and we know that Satan “is a liar and the father of liars” (John 8:44b).
Many years ago I was at a Christian retreat and one of the other speakers present told the director of the retreat something untrue about me. I was hurt that this person would do such a thing, but I gave it to the Lord and let Him deal with it. And He did. The Lord continues to increase my opportunities to represent Him before audiences. Why? Because I have a Great Defender who will never ever fail me.
And so do you. Let the Lord fight your battles; rest in Him and HE will take care of the victory! Got a problem with a liar? Personalize this prayer from the psalms of David: “May the Lord my rock be praised ... He is my faithful love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him; … rescue me …, and set me free from the grasp of [put the name/s here] whose mouths speak lies, whose right [hand/s is/are] deceptive” (from Psalm 144:1-2, 7-8).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SEPTEMBER 28
If you believe at all in coincidence, then it’s certainly possible for someone to come along in history whose life coincides (thus the word “coincidence”) with some Old Testament writings. But when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ, there are over 300 prophecies, EVERY SINGLE ONE of which He fulfilled! This is only possible because of Who He Is, our God and our Creator, Who Wrote the Book!
Today we look at Psalm 22:18: “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing” (HCSB).
All four Gospels record the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothing. John, the beloved disciple, gives the most detailed account: “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but toss for it, to see who gets it.’ [They did this] to fulfill the scripture that says: ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.’ And this is what the soldiers did” (John 19:23-24).
Why do you think John gave the most information? Because he was there. Standing and watching her precious child suffer such agony, the Bible records that Mary was comforted by several women and “the disciple [Jesus] loved.” John.
And John’s account continues: “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, ‘ Woman, here is your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).
There’s so much rich truth in this passage. The Bible tells us that Jesus had brothers and sisters – actually half-brothers and half-sisters – who were the children of His mother Mary and her husband Joseph (see Mark 3:32). Yet none of these were given the honor and privilege of caring for their mother.
Which brings up another subject. Where was Joseph? Every indication is that Mary was widowed by the time Jesus went to the cross. Traditionally – and well it should be – it was the responsibility of her children that one of them should take her into his home and care for her. But her Firstborn appointed that responsibility to another, to John the Beloved.
Why? We can only speculate, but I believe there were several important reasons: (1) to show John the confidence and trust He had in him; (2) to reward John for his faithfulness in being with Him all the way to the cross; (Please read John 18:15. In the courtyard of the high priest as Peter denied Christ, there was “another disciple” present, John.); and (3) to show the strength of John’s family tie through his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s just think about that third reason for a minute. How many of you will be honest enough to say that you have brothers and sisters in Christ with whom you feel more connected than with your own flesh and blood family? Spirit draws Spirit, and the Holy Spirit unites all believers as brothers and sisters, as joint-heirs, and as missionaries of the Kingdom.
I want you to think of John caring for Jesus’ mother. This is a picture of our responsibility too. We are to go above and beyond what is “normal,” above and beyond what sometimes even makes sense to those around us, in caring for and meeting the needs of our fellow believers – they are our family. And we are to continue to invite more people to come into the fold. John’s work didn’t stop at caring for Mary – it continued in the faithful spreading of the Gospel.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SEPTEMBER 27
Take a look at this powerful passage from Psalm 2: “I have consecrated my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ I will declare the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:6-8, HCSB).
The Son of God was always the heart of God’s plan for man’s redemption. In Genesis 1:26 we read: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” Jesus wasn’t an afterthought as a plan to save man – He was and is God Himself; and the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – had no beginning and will have no end. The one and only plan God ever had or ever will have to redeem fallen man is in the name of Jesus.
Jesus came to John the Baptist as he was baptizing people in the Jordan River and asked that John also baptize Him. John immediately said, “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14), but Jesus insisted: “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
Then as Jesus came up from the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit came down and the voice of His Father spoke: “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!” (Matthew 3:17). This important event in the earthly life of Jesus is also recorded in Mark 1:11 and in Luke 3:22 and is a clear fulfillment of what was spoken long before in Psalm 2.
We don’t often hear the thunderous voice of God speaking to us, but we do sometimes hear His whisper, don’t we? And we also sense His Holy Spirit leading and guiding and prompting us to live in obedience.
In Romans 8:14 Paul makes this astounding statement: “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.” What a revelation! What an unspeakable joy! He goes on to say, “We are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16b-17a). Brothers and sisters, we have inherited the Kingdom!
Do you live like it? Do you walk in that victory? We have a tremendous inheritance and, with it, a tremendous responsibility to be Jesus to all those around us and to lead others to join us as “co-heirs.”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SEPTEMBER 26
Another of Psalm 22’s prophecies concerning the Messiah is found in Verse 11: “Do not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help.”
Psalm 22 begins with the very cry Jesus uttered in His moment of “distress”: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; & Mark 15:34).
As Jesus took on the sins of the whole world and put them to death on the cross, His Father turned His back on Him. The Triune God knew that this was the only way to redeem fallen man, and God the Son was willing to be that Holy Sacrifice.
Hear my heart on this one, folks: JESUS ENDURED ABSOLUTE REJECTION BY THE FATHER SO THAT YOU AND I NEVER HAVE TO. I hope you’ll read that statement over and over. ALL who will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will NEVER be deserted. As Hebrews 13:5 plainly promises: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
This verse quotes Deuteronomy 31:6, yet another wonderful evidence that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Which brings up the topic of consistency. If we’re to be like Jesus, and Jesus is consistently loving and forgiving – even as we saw Him in yesterday’s passage on the cross – how are we to be?
Doesn’t leave a lot of room for criticism and complaining, does it? Nor selfishness and greediness, huh?
“… let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us …” (Hebrews 12:1).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SEPTEMBER 25
Psalm 22 contains at least eleven prophecies concerning the Messiah. We aren’t going to look at all of them, but we are going to get into several. Let’s start today with Verses 7-8: “Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads: ‘He relies on the Lord; let him rescue him; let the Lord deliver him, since he takes pleasure in him” (HCSB).
It’s not very hard to recognize this one, is it? In Luke 23:11 we read: “Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated Him with contempt, mocked Him, dressed Him in a brilliant robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.”
Of course, we know that that was only a tiny portion of the humiliation and suffering Christ endured in our place. Luke 23 continues the account: “The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!’ An inscription was above Him: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” (Verses 35-39).
When we compare Psalm 22 with Luke 23, we again see clear proof that nothing takes the Lord by surprise. He knew what He was going to suffer before He ever came to be born of a virgin. He knew how He would be humiliated, and yet what do we find Him doing in this very same passage? Forgiving. As the one thief hurled “insults at Him,” the other turned to Him for salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (Verse 42).
And what was Jesus’ reply to second thief? “ I assure you: today you will be with Me in paradise.”
“I assure you.” These are words translated in the KJV as “verily,” but we need to understand that the actual wording was a phrase only Jesus used about His promises. He wanted this forgiven criminal to know, and He wants us to know, that His words can be trusted. Literally, it’s “Amen, I say to you.”
Know the song “Blessed Assurance”? This is what it’s all about – the total trustworthiness of the words of the Savior. What has He promised you? Whatever it is, believe it as though it’s already come to pass, because your Messiah is able to do it!
And what about forgiveness? Look at Jesus’ situation as He talked to the thief on the cross. He was bruised, beaten, and totally naked. Unlike the modest and respectful paintings we see of the crucifixion, there was nothing to cover the Savior’s body – He was totally exposed and totally humiliated. And in agony.
Yet His thoughts were not on Himself. Insults being shouted at Him from all around, pain shooting through every portion of His body, His focus was on others.
When we’re in pain, when we’re hurt or humiliated, where is our focus? If you’re like most of us, it’s not on others; and it certainly isn’t on Jesus. It’s on “poor, poor, pitiful ME.”
Hmmmm. Sure are a lot of lessons we can take from this passage. How about forgiveness? Could you stand a little improvement in that area? If you want to be like Jesus, if I want to be like Jesus, we’ve got to keep our minds off our own troubles and focus on ministering to others.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 24
“But God will redeem my life from the power of Sheol, for He will take me” (Psalm 49:15, HCSB).
Jesus’ birth, death, and role as Redeemer was continually proclaimed throughout the Old Testament. He would come and die, becoming Living Grace, the Bridge between fallen man and their Holy Creator.
In First Corinthians 15:54b-55, we read this familiar passage: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Not only does this passage hint of Psalm 49:15, we also see Paul’s reference to at least two other Old Testament passages – Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14:
“He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said, ‘Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:8-9).
“I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death. Death, where are your barbs? Sheol, where is your sting?” (Hosea 13:14).
If you’ve heard me tell this before, bear with me, but it’s well worth repeating. It was fall and late afternoon, and I was about 10 years old when I went with my daddy to my Great Aunt Jocie’s house so that he could put a new sink in her bathroom. As Aunt Jocie and I wandered in and out of the bedroom, peeking through the doorway into the small space where Daddy was working, I remember surveying my aunt’s humble surroundings.
The bedroom was sparsely furnished, with the unfinished heart pine floors barely peeking out around the edges of a linoleum rug patterned in big pink roses and swirls of different shades of blue. A small braided oval rug in a dingy rainbow of colors made a warm spot for Aunt Jocie’s feet whenever she climbed out of bed and an ancient coat of pale green paint covered the beadboard walls and ceiling. Overhead, in the center of the room, a single light bulb dangled from its wiring, and faded homespun curtains were pushed to each side of the window.
The rest of the furnishings were a chifferobe, her bed, a rocking chair, a nightstand, and a lamp. The old iron “bedstead” was brown painted metal and the bed cover was a well-worn handmade quilt. The rocker was slat-backed, cane-bottomed, and armless – as simple and unadorned as my aunt who stood no taller than myself. It stood opposite the bed from the nightstand and was angled just enough to allow its occupant benefit from either the lamp or the natural light from the room’s solitary window.
Beneath the lamp on the small square bedside table was a time- and use-worn leather-bound Bible and I remember watching closely as Aunt Jocie’s fingers caressed the cover before she lifted it. Pulling it to her breast, she hugged it fiercely as she stood and gazed at the gathering starlight, the loose hairs from her braided silver bun scattered about her face like a gossamer halo.
“You know,” she said, “sometimes I can’t sleep at night, so I get up and come to this window. I look up into the stars and get so excited, thinking, ‘Lord, will this be the night that you come to take me home?’”
It wasn’t too many years after that when Aunt Jocie went to heaven and I can only imagine how many hairpins flew from that bun as she ran down the streets of gold to Jesus! She had kept her heart and mind aware of where her real home was. How I pray for that same kind of passion for our real home to grow greater inside me. How I pray for this same kind of passion to grow within you.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 23
In Deuteronomy we read this powerful declaration: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to My words that he speaks in My name” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, HCSB).
The people of Israel could not stand in the presence of the Holy God – it was far too terrifying. They had seen Moses come down from the fire- and smoke-covered mountain, his face glowing from having been in God’s presence. They’d also seen Moses’ anger when he found them worshiping an idol they’d created during his absence.
Moses knew their bent toward disobedience – which is plain ol’ sin in any form – and even more importantly, God Himself knew their sinful natures. The people wanted Him to watch over them, but they knew they couldn’t bear to stand before Him – they needed Someone like Moses to act as their go-between.
Which is why God had already prepared to come in human form. The Triune God sent Himself as His Only Begotten Son to be born of woman and live and walk among men, and to die as the once-for-all Living Sacrifice as payment for man’s sin-debt. From Genesis to Revelation, the Book keeps pointing to the Savior!
Speaking of the New Testament, let’s move over there. If you recall the passage from Acts 3 that we looked at a couple of days ago, we saw Peter and John on their way to the temple. They stopped at the gates where a man who was born crippled had been laid to beg from passersby. When he called out to them for money, he instead received healing. The rest of the people were amazed to see this, so they flocked around Peter and John and the man who’d received the healing.
Peter used this opportunity to preach to them the Gospel: “Moses said: ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to him in everything he will say to you. And it will be that everyone who will not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.’ In addition, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days” (Acts 3:22-24).
Peter announced, “The Savior, the Deliverer, you prayed for has come! Jesus!” Matter of fact, Peter went on to say these very words: “God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways” (Acts 3:26).
Man never was, isn’t, and never will be capable of being sinless on his own. He needs a Savior. And even having met and accepted that Savior, we still tend to disobey, to sin. But the amazing grace of God continues to cover our sins as we confess them, and the Holy Spirit continues to indwell each and every believer to convict them not to sin. Every natural man has a desire to sin, but thanks to the tremendous mercy of our Heavenly Father, we have an Advocate who sticks with us and keeps guiding us away from what can hurt us and toward the One who loves us.
If we’re to be like Jesus, guess what? We’re to be doing the very same thing: guiding people away from what can hurt them and pointing them toward the Savior. Is that what your life is doing? Ask the Lord to give you divine appointments to share the Good News with others.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 22
In Chapter 49 of Genesis the elderly Jacob lies dying, and he calls his sons to him and prophecies over them. Here we find this beautiful passage of Scripture: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, or the staff from between his feet, until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him” (Genesis 49:10, HCSB).
“The scepter,” the staff or symbol of kingship was with Jacob’s son Judah. And who was Jacob? In Genesis 32:28 God changes Jacob’s name to ISRAEL, so the tribes of Israel are the families growing out of the sons of Jacob, or Israel. Judah was one of these sons, and the one through whom the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ, would be manifested.
Moving over to the New Testament, we see it begins with Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus: “Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers, Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Aram, Aram fathered Aminadab, Aminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered King David. David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife [Bathsheeba], Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, Abijah fathered Asa, Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, Joram fathered Uzziah, Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, Ahaz fathered Hezekiah, Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, Amon fathered Josiah, and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. Then after the exile to Babylon Jechoniah fathered Salathiel, Salathiel fathered Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel fathered Abiud, Abiud fathered Eliakim, Eliakim fathered Azor, Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, Achim fathered Eliud, Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, Matthan fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:2-16).
All that waiting, and at last Jacob/Israel most assuredly saw the fulfillment of his God-given prophecy concerning his son Judah.
Child of God, your wait may be long, but hold on. God is faithful, and He will fulfill every promise that He’s given you. (And if this wasn’t for another soul reading this today, it was surely for me!)
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 21
“The Lord said to Abram: ‘… I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Genesis 12:1a, 3, HCSB).
Remember, God later changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah. But even before this, God had made Abraham a promise: “… all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
We see this again in Genesis 18:18, after God has changed their names and after they have been told that the elderly Sarah would give birth to a son: “Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.”
Don’t miss that: “… through him.” Through Christ Jesus our Lord. The God of the Impossible made an elderly childless couple a great part of the lineage of the Lion of Judah. God can do great things with ANYONE who is fully surrendered to His leadership. I pray that you are that submitted.
And now for the New Testament fulfillment. Luke records Peter addressing the crowd in the temple complex: “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways” (Acts 3:25-26).
What had happened here? If you look back to the beginning of Acts 3, you see Peter and John on their way to the temple. At one of the gates a man born crippled has been laid to beg from passersby. He calls out to them for money, but Peter, instead of meeting his APPARENT need, meets his TRUE need: “… Peter said, I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have, I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6).
Was the crippled man’s true need to walk? No. The man needed to know Jesus. But the Lord also wanted the man to see that He could meet his physical need for healing.
We need to be careful and prayerful to look beyond people’s apparent or conceived needs and look for the true need within them. When a person doesn’t know Jesus, all the self-help programs in the world won’t fix the problem, nor will all the other helping hands or programs.
Am I saying not to meet people’s physical needs? No, I’m saying to be intelligent about how you choose to help anyone. A person who is able but won’t work doesn’t need help paying his bills so he can keep on not working – he needs encouragement and maybe some very tough love to help him get out and earn his own living.
Every situation is unique and requires prayerful consideration. Yes, we are to minister in the name of Jesus to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others; but we are to do it in a way that honors the Lord and seeks to draw those people to Him.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 20
We’re at Genesis 3:15: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:15, HCSB).
This verse lets us know that Genesis is going to show us the pathways of the two seeds. Remember, everything in the Bible is leading up to Jesus. Early on, we see the division as Cain chooses the way of rebellion and murders his own brother, Abel. Seth, the child born to Adam and Eve after the murder of Abel, is the forefather of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob – the lineage of the Seed of Jesus Christ.
There are always two clear choices: the way of the world, which is following the pathway of Satan; or the way of the Lord, which is following the pathway of the Savior. In Galatians 4:4-5 Paul explains Jesus’ fulfillment of His role as Messiah: “But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Look back at Genesis 3:15: “The woman” and “her Seed.” In God’s perfect timing He sent His Son to be “born of a woman.” He chose to be “born under the law.” Why?
For a sacrifice to be acceptable it had to be perfect; and it had to be the right kind of sacrifice. Sure, the blood of sheep, bulls, and goats were accepted as temporary fixes for man’s sin, but what was needed was a permanent solution. Only a perfect man could once-and-for-all pay the sin-debt of mankind, and there wasn’t one. Until Jesus. He, out of His great love for all of us, left the glory of heaven and was born of Mary to be the sacrificial Lamb of God. So we see in Galatians the fulfillment of God’s words spoken hundreds of years before in Genesis 3:15.
Since we’re been looking at seeds, I hope you’re thinking about yours. What sort of seed are you sowing? A harvest is coming your way; may it be a great one for His glory!
“Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, as you are enriched in every way for all generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11a).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 19
Let’s take a look at some of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. We’re going to look not only at where the passage is found, but when it was written, and when it was fulfilled: The dates of the prophecies range from 1450BC to 430BC; the fulfillments date from 45 to 95AD. We begin at the beginning, in the book of Genesis.
“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:15, HCSB).
What’s happening when these words are spoken and who’s doing the speaking? At the prompting of the serpent – that is, Satan – Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of life and gave it to her husband Adam, who also ate it. They then realized they were naked and were embarrassed at their uncovered bodies, so they hid themselves.
Why? Because, according to Genesis 3:8, they “… heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden …” Can you imagine! The first two humans had such intimacy with the Lord that He literally came down and walked with them in the garden that He had created for them to live in!
And they traded that kind of fellowship for a bite of fruit. How foolish! And yet how often are we guilty of the very same sin? We prefer so many things over reading and studying God’s Word that time in the Bible is usually minimal or nonexistent in most homes today. And think of our attitudes too. We’d rather be done FOR than to do for others. And yet we know we’re to be like Jesus.
God Himself is speaking, talking to the serpent as He speaks the words of Genesis 3:15. He was saying that mankind and Satan would be continually at war with each other, but He was saying something far more specific:
“Your seed” refers to the “seed” of Satan – is rebellion, sin, which came into the world when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent. Satan is the author of all rebellious behavior.
“Her Seed,” the Messiah, would be born of woman, fully man and yet fully God. Jesus would be attacked by Satan – “you will strike His heel,” (a wounding blow), but the Messiah would have the victory: “He will strike your head” (a death blow).
Eve was deceived and Adam along with her. Yet fallen humanity is redeemed by a Savior who is born of a human, a woman. How’s that for grace and mercy?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 18
Amos concludes with the promise of the Lord to His people when they have repented and turned to Him: “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be … The days are coming … when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel … They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” (Amos 9:11, 12-15, NIV).
God restores the fallen. God heals the broken. He never forsakes those He loves; and the Bible makes it clear that He loves “the world” (John 3:16) and accepts all who repent and “call on the Name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13).
When the Lord Jesus Christ reigns over the earth, His people will experience the three things spoken of in today’s passage: prosperity; fertility; and security.
(1) Prosperity. “New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.” There will be abundance and it won’t belong to a select few, but to the entire family of God.
(2) Fertility. “The reaper will be overtaken by the plowman … The planter by the one treading grapes.” Talk about your bumper crop! Read this carefully. There will be no more waiting! Never again will there be an unfulfilled need.
(3) Security. “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” God’s people will live with Him forever!
Praise God! Doesn’t it thrill you to think of what Jesus has ready for you? Don’t you want your friends and family to share in it?
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (First Corinthians 2:9).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 17
We’re continuing our look at the Lord’s indictment against Israel: “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth – yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob” (Amos 9:8, NIV).
“The eyes of the Sovereign Lord” see everything and everyone. No sin is hidden from Him, no matter how many people are fooled by the front a person puts on. Israel may have done a fine job of looking “religious,” but God knew that their hearts were far from Him. And even though He did and does show enormous patience, He eventually is left with no choice but to render discipline on the wayward person or nation.
But weren’t there some “good” people in Israel? Certainly; including the prophet Amos. But sin is never contained. It spreads like gangrene and it contaminates all who come in contact with it. The alcoholic or drug addict parent causes untold grief for their spouses, children, and other family members and friends. The money-holic who keeps his or her family buried in debt does likewise. And sin is sin. God is no more pleased with the irresponsible money manager than He is with the alcoholic or drug addict.
Yet He also reminds us of His mercy. Even though the nation of Israel was sinful, He promised not to “destroy” it completely. And He goes on to make a very important additional statement: “All the sinners among My people will die by the sword” (Amos 9:10a).
That may not sound too cheery, but look at this verse carefully. While the whole country may suffer greatly for their corporate/collective sin, the emphasis here is on individual accountability: “All the sinners.”
God is patient and loving and merciful, but He will only allow so much disobedience from a person or a nation who claims to belong to Him. The United States is in a heap of trouble, folks. Why? The individual believers are doing little or nothing to reach others with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Islam/Muslimism is one of our fastest growing religions simply because the followers of that faith are actively inviting others to know more about what they believe in.
How about you? Yesterday is past; let’s talk about today. Who is coming to faith in Jesus Christ because of your witness? How many people will you share the Good News with this week? What does your life this very day tell others about Jesus? I pray that your walk and talk draw others to Him.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 16
The Lord isn’t through with what He has to say to His people Israel. Amid even more rightful accusations, He tells them that He hears what they are saying, namely: “When will the new moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath ended that we may market wheat?” (Amos 8:5a, NIV).
The Israelites watched the clock, so to speak, waiting for the religious holidays and Sabbaths to be over so they could get back to business. Yes, they went through the motions of worshiping Almighty God; but He who sees all hearts knew that they were worshiping the almighty dollar.
We who don’t own businesses may enjoy a Sunday off, but what do we do so often? Use our “day of rest” (see Exodus 20:8-11) to catch up on all the work and shopping we weren’t able to do all week.
When I was a kid, my little town “rolled up the sidewalk” at 5pm. Businesses closed at noon on Wednesdays and weren’t open at all on Sundays. Why? People wanted to be home with their families in the evenings. People wanted to be in church on Wednesday nights and on Sundays.
Even more astounding, most restaurants followed the same schedule. People had their evening meals at home and Sunday dinners meant gatherings of friends and families in homes. And people actually managed to put gas in their cars and have the necessary food and other items taken care of before Sunday rolled around.
How’d all that change? Greed. People saw more opportunities to make money. People saw ways to get out of cooking. Stores started staying open a little later. Service stations opened on Sundays. Restaurants began offering Sunday lunches. And as the old saying goes, one thing led to another.
I’m as conditioned to these changes as the next person, but can you imagine how much less hectic our lives would be if Sundays were treated as Sabbaths? If churches didn’t schedule every meeting for Sunday afternoons and evenings. If Christians weren’t out shopping on Sundays. If believers gathered as friends and family and enjoyed meals and fellowship in home settings. (And I know some of you keep Saturday – literally sundown Friday to sundown Saturday – as the Sabbath.)
Like hamsters on wheels, we’re running because we’re on the wheels. We don’t know how to get off. We don’t know how or why we ever got on in the first place. And yet we still feel the need to keep pace with all the other hamsters.
Folks, it’s time to slow down. Get rid of some of the busyness in your life. And when you do, you’ll find time for Jesus. And you’ll also find that He’s exactly what you’ve been missing most of all.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 15
Yesterday we looked this rightful accusation the Lord makes against Israel: “I despise the pride and false glory of Israel, and hate their beautiful homes” (Amos 6:8, Living Bible paraphrase).
I brought us to the present by pointing out how many of us live in “beautiful homes” with huge monthly payments that we manage to meet, even though we return little or no money to the Lord through our churches or other Christian organizations.
It boils down to this, folks: you can’t be STUFFED-obsessed and be CHRIST-possessed. If you’ve given Jesus Christ Lordship over every area of your life, there’s no place left for obsessing on materialism, because where Jesus reigns, He’s enough.
Am I saying that a true believer isn’t going to want nice things? Of course not. But a true believer who is totally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ isn’t going to have nice things while refusing to give to the work of the Lord. And a truly sold-out believer isn’t going to ignore the needs of others while he stacks up stuff for himself.
As we move closer to Christmas, I hope you’ll spend some serious time in the Word of God and in reordering your priorities. Spend less on stuff this Christmas. Refuse to spend for things you can’t pay cash for. Instead of giving to those who already have more than enough, agree among your friends and family to put that money to better use by providing for those less fortunate.
If you don’t think your little bit of money can make a difference, let me ask you to take a quick quiz. Not even considering all those unnecessary (and often unwanted) gifts we buy each Christmas, how much money do Americans spend just on CANDY during the holiday season? Is it more money than the annual budget of: The American Cancer Society; (2) The American Heart Association; (3) Habitat for Humanity; or, (4) All three combined.
If you chose Number 4, you answered correctly. Can you think of better ways and places to give your time and money now and this Christmas season?
“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and … your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (Second Corinthians 9:10-11, NIV).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 14
Moving on through the book of Amos, what else does the Lord have to say against Israel? “I despise the pride and false glory of Israel, and hate their beautiful homes” (Amos 6:8, Living Bible paraphrase).
Was the Lord angry at the Israelites for having nice houses? No. He was angry that the “haves” could enjoy such wealth without giving a thought to those around them who were needy. He hated the “pride and false glory” of the Israelites.
The Israelites were proud of the fact that they were God’s chosen people. They thought themselves above others and, in spite of countless disciplines, continually set themselves smugly upon a pedestal, thus enthroning themselves in their “pride and false glory” and dethroning the very One who chose them and set them apart.
How often I hear a Christian talk about how foolish the Israelites of the Bible were to treat the Lord as they did. And yet look at us Christians. We go to church if the wind’s blowing in the right direction or if it’s not blowing at all. We crawl to work with our noses dripping and our eyes watering; but if little Susie even has a sniffle Sunday morning – and I’m talking long before Covid – the entire family has to stay home and help her recover.
We can quote more of what The View or Ellen has to say than we can Scripture. We slap those fish emblems onto the rear of our cars and then break the speed limit; run traffic lights; cut people off in traffic; and in general, show people that Jesus Christ hasn’t done much of anything to make us different from the unbelievers.
We live in “beautiful homes” that are mortgaged and re-mortgaged up to our eyeballs. We manage to scrape up that big payment each month, but return little or no money to the Lord through our churches or even through organizations who help those less fortunate.
Folks, until WE aren’t the center of our attention, CHRIST can’t be who He’s supposed to be in our lives. And until people see Him as the center of our lives, they aren’t going to see Him at all – they’re going to see messed-up people with wrong priorities who give unbelievers a totally wrong impression of what the Christian life is all about.
You’ve heard this before, but bring it down to you and you alone: YOU’RE the only Jesus some may ever see. What does your life tell others about Him?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 13
We’re still in the book of Amos and the Lord is speaking through His prophet Amos to the people of Israel. He’s told them: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring Me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring Me choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps!” (Amos 5:21-23, NIV).
And why did the Lord reject Israel’s worship? One word is a big part of the answer: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion …” (Amos 6:1a).
What does the word “complacent” mean? Pleased with yourself; self-satisfied. The Israelites went through the motions of worship, but in their hearts they were smugly content in and of themselves. In other words, they foolishly thought that their half-hearted worship placated (appeased, pacified) the Lord and that was all they really needed to do.
And so He continues His charges against them: “You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and calves. Your strum away on your harps like David and improvise on your musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions …” (Amos 6:4-6a).
To put it into today’s terminology, the Israelites lived like they had it “made in the shade.” No worries, mon. They had a lot of nice stuff and they loved it. Was having the stuff the problem? No. Being “complacent” was their problem.
Amos 6:6 ends with this: “… caring nothing at all that your brothers need your help” (Living Bible paraphrase).
The well-to-dos looked around at those in need and yawned. Those who had more than enough looked at those who were doing without and said, “It ain’t my problem.”
But it was their problem. And people in need today are our problem. As members of the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we aren’t to ignore the needy – we’re to help them.
As we sit down to meals of abundance, let’s remember those less fortunate and thank the Lord for putting the food on our tables. But even before we do that, let’s do something radical and Christ-like: invite a lonely person to share our meal, or in these days of Covid and distancing, deliver a meal to someone who’d appreciate a good hot dinner. Do something to show that we have the time and the compassion to touch a life less fortunate than our own.
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me. Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:40, 45).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 12
Back to our look at Amos. The Lord had a problem with how His people were doing “church” in Amos’ time. Let’s see if we see any correlation with today’s churches:
“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring Me offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring Me choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps!” (Amos 5:21-23, NIV).
We can go through all the “right” motions and fail to please God. How’s that? Look at Jesus’ words to the religious know-it-alls of His day: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
In other words, as the Lord said to Samuel, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). He saw the hearts of His people in the Old Testament; He saw the hearts of the people in the New Testament; and He sees the hearts of the people who claim His Name today.
And sadly, we’re sometimes no different than those other folks. We’re “full of greed and self-indulgence.” We do “church as usual.” We may tithe; teach; sing; or play music – we may even do all four! But God knows our hearts – and so often, what He sees within us breaks His.
God’s people should be the last people on earth to be dishonest. God’s people should be the last people on earth to lack compassion, since they’re indwelt by Compassion Incarnate. God’s people should know that going to church is going to the FILLING station and that the work is OUT IN THE FIELDS.
We can’t mistreat others and rightly represent Jesus. And there’s more to mistreating than we sometimes think about. Neglect is a form of mistreatment. I personally know pastors who stand in the pulpit and preach the love of Jesus while refusing to forgive and reconcile with people who have offended them. I personally know of believers who wouldn’t dare miss a church service, but they allow their elderly parents to sit home alone day after day without so much as a phone call. God forgive us!
And He wants to. He wants us to repent. And He wants us to be like Him – He even tells us how: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24).
We’ve received far more than “justice” from our Heavenly Father – He’s extended His grace and mercy. Do likewise; treat others fairly. We’ve been given “the righteousness of God” (Second Corinthians 5:21) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Walk in Him. Talk with Him.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 11
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and of the crash caused by courageous passengers on United Flight 93 that preempted another attack. Where were you? Larry and I had just finished having breakfast on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I’d told Larry I was going to spend what little Canadian money we had left by picking up some souvenirs in the adjoining gift shop. Only moments later, Larry came to my side, all the color drained from his face, and said, “We need to leave now.” He pointed to a TV mounted in the corner of the café, where he’d just seen the first plane slam into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
When we reached the border crossing and a guard was checking our trunk, another guard walked up and told him, “We’re closing the border. Don’t let anyone else through.” We were waved on, and the cars behind us were turned back into Canada.
Only two weeks before, I had flown United to New York City and spent a week with my friend Alice. We met another friend, Marlene, for lunch in Manhattan, and then Alice and I rode to the top of the Empire State Building and had someone take our picture. The Twin Towers were right behind us.
On Larry and my trip, we had flown United to Buffalo, New York and picked up a rental car before driving into Canada and touring around. When we left the café and made it across the border, we rushed to the rental agency at the airport, but they wouldn’t allow us to keep the car and drive it home. So we sped to Amtrak, then Greyhound, trying to find transportation. Everything was shut down. We were praying, praying, praying – not only to get home, but for the safety of everyone in the Twin Towers. We were praying for Alice’s husband, a policeman. For her son-in-law, a fireman. For her priest, who was a chaplain for her husband’s police unit. We didn’t even know about the other hijacked planes at that time.
When we returned to the airport, not knowing what else to do, we handed over the car and went to a different rental car desk inside the terminal. No one was even allowed in line without a reservation. Miraculously, Larry spotted a red phone with a sign that said, “Reservations.” We walked to it and he held that phone for ages until someone finally came on the line and we were able to get a one-way rental. Then Larry was allowed to get in line. I don’t remember what kind of little car we ended up with, but we were thankful to have one. Outside the airport, the quiet was so strange. It was as if the whole world had gone silent.
The only planes we saw during out entire 20+ hour drive to Atlanta (where we’d left our car) were U.S. military fighter jets. We took turns driving and sleeping. Over and over, I tried calling Alice, but couldn’t get through.
We were almost in Atlanta when I reached Alice. Her husband and son-in-law were okay, but her priest had stayed inside the Trade Center with some people who were trapped. That area collapsed, and he, along with the others, were all killed. My friend Marlene’s daughter worked in the Trade Center. She had an apartment within walking distance. As she left for work that morning, the heel of her shoe broke, and she turned around and went back home to change to another pair. Little did she know that running late for work would save her life.
The Sunday after 9/11, churches were packed. For months afterwards, people flocked to church, seeking the Lord, seeking comfort, seeking answers. And then we got over it. Life went on.
Today we need to remember. We need to recognize all the heroes, like Michael Benfante and an unnamed coworker who carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 flights of stairs. Like Roselle, the guide dog for Michael Hingson, a blind man who worked on the 78th floor of one of the towers. Roselle’s calm plodding down the rubble-filled stairwell encouraged many others to follow them and make their way to safety.
So many stories of heroes, and yet every one of them will tell you: “When we were running out, they were running in,” referring to the countless firemen and policemen who hurried into the Towers, 412 of whom gave their lives. In total, 2,977 people died that day in the Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on the four planes terrorists used in the attacks.
And as for blaming all Muslims for the horrors of terrorism, let me remind us that 31 of the people killed by those radical lunatics were Muslims. Their own people. Their own faith. Three were innocent passengers on the planes used in the attacks. Twenty-eight were in the Twin Towers, including Abdul Salam Mallahi, who worked at the Marriot inside the Trade Center. As other people ran out, he stayed inside, helping many to safety before losing his own life as the building gave way and crumbled.
Recalling 9/11 is painful but necessary. We need to realize it could happen again. We need to realize who the enemy really is. Ephesians 6:12a reminds us: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world” (NLT). The only enemy we need to concern ourselves with is the ruler of darkness. And the only thing we need to do about him is trust the Lord’s plan that will one day end his power forever. And in the meantime, those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ will be safe. Safe for eternity. Forever. Even if some of us “… must endure many trials …” (1 Peter 1:6b) as we wait for our Savior to take us home.
So remember 9/11 and pray we are spared from ever experiencing anything else so devastating. But refuse to be fearful. Faith and fear are opposing forces. Choose faith. Ask the Lord to remove your fear. Put your trust in Him. “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a). And the result of that trust? “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7b).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 10
We’ve seen God’s words of judgment against the six nations surrounding His people Israel: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab. And we’ve seen His judgment upon disobedient Judah (southern kingdom). Now He speaks to Israel (northern kingdom): “… I will not turn back My wrath. They sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed” (Amos 2:6-7a, NIV).
The people of Israel had become self-centered, self-absorbed, self-pleasing. They sold as slaves anyone who owed them money and couldn’t pay; and they sold slaves even when doing so meant separating families. The “haves” had no regard for the “have nots.” Sound familiar?
But the Lord was just getting started. He continues through the next chapters:
“As a shepherd saves from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites be saved …” (Amos 3:12a).
“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to Me” (Amos 4:6).
“‘You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the Lord. ‘Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God …’” (Amos 4:11b-12).
In spite of warning after warning, God’s people refused to repent. He names a number of disasters that failed to get their attention, repeating after each one, “Yet you have not returned to Me.”
Did the Lord give up on His people? No. Instead, He tells them, “… seek Me and live” (Amos 5:4a). And again He pleads with them, “Seek the Lord and live” (Amos 5:6a). And “Seek good, not evil, that you may live” (Amos 5:14).
Our merciful God hates sin, but loves the sinner. No good parent refuses to discipline His child; and the Best Parent of All is certainly no exception. He wants His people to obey Him. He wants His people to live as He has called them to live. He wants His people to position themselves for His blessings, not His discipline.
It’s back to that choice thing. Right this very moment your life is either positioned for blessing or discipline. Which is it?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 9
I want to add one more comment about the end of our Amos passage: “… I will send fire upon Judah …” (Amos 2:4b-5a).
Fire is used as a symbol of God’s presence and as a figurative or literal representation of His power. Let’s look at a few passages:
Numbers 11:1-2: “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them His anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down.”
First Kings 18:36-38: “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!’”
Exodus 13:21: “By day the Lord went ahead of them [the Israelites] in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”
Revelation 1:14: “His head and [His] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes [were] as a flame of fire.”
Hebrews 12:29 (quoting Deuteronomy 4:24): “For our God is a consuming fire.”
Matthew 13:40: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.”
Fire represents the presence of the Lord and it represents the judgment of the Lord. But it also represents the purifying of the Lord: Isaiah 6:5-7: “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”
If you have accepted His free pardon of sin, Jesus Christ has already redeemed you and set you free. He experienced the fiery trial and suffering of crucifixion and death so that you wouldn’t have to know the eternal suffering of “… the second death …” (see Revelation 20:14). If He never did another thing for you, hasn’t He done enough already?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 8
Another look at these verses from Amos: “… I will not turn back My wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah …” (Amos 2:4b-5a).
We’ve seen why the Lord is angry with His people. They (1) “… rejected the law of the Lord.” (2) They didn’t keep “… His decrees.” (3) They allowed themselves to be “… led astray by false gods.” (4) And they followed the “… the gods their ancestors followed.”
What “gods” have our ancestors followed? The same ones many of us are following today. For the vast majority, the god of America is not Jesus Christ – it’s stuff. Materialism. We want a better job so that we can make more money. We need a better job to pay for the stuff we’ve already acquired. And when we get a better job or an increase in pay at our current one, we want to use it to acquire more stuff so we can owe more money. We’re so used to the rhythm of indebtedness that it never occurs to us to stop the cycle.
After the Depression, when people began to get back on their feet, everyone wanted “to give my kids better than I had growing up.” It was a great sentiment at the time. Today, for most of us, it means shoveling nonstop money into insatiable appetites. We’ve conditioned our kids – and ourselves – to believe that we not only should have what we want, but that we deserve what we want. Truth is, we’re getting what we deserve when we overextend ourselves and find ourselves chained to the debt monster. Money is a tool, not a god; and it’s a monstrous master when it has you in its power.
First Corinthians 3:11-15 tells us: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God don’t play. (Bad English, good theology.) Unless we get serious about our walk with the Lord, we’re headed for a fiery judgment. Get real or get left. That’s what it boils down to.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 7
Continuing our look at Amos, the Lord addresses Judah: “… I will not turn back My wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah …” (Amos 2:4b-5a, NIV).
Why is the Lord angry with His people? (1) “They have rejected the law of the Lord.” (2) They “have not kept His decrees.” (3) “They have been led astray by false gods.” (4) He’s been patient; this has been going on a long time – “the gods their ancestors followed.”
Countless wars have been fought and are being fought over religion. Countless lives have been snuffed out in the name of religion, including Christianity, and by the hands of both Catholics and Protestants. Over and over people have risen to power who said, “Either you believe like I do or you die.”
But how did Jesus say we’re to reach people for His kingdom? Just like He did. In love.
So why are other religions growing by leaps and bounds in our nation? In the world? Because God’s people aren’t living like God’s people should live. And because God’s people aren’t loving like we should love. If we aren’t exemplifying Jesus, it’s impossible for us to show anyone a better way than any other religion offers – because if we aren’t exemplifying Jesus, we aren’t showing The Way!
Let me give you some statistics from a U.S. study by the Barna Group (www.Barna.org). I pray this will wake us all from apathy: “An estimated 73 million adults are presently unchurched. When teens and children are added, the total swells to roughly 100 million Americans. To put that figure in context, if the unchurched population of the United States were a nation of its own, that group would be the twelfth most populated nation on earth (trailing only China, India, the churched portion of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan and Mexico). Included among the unchurched is an estimated 13 to 15 million [professing] born-again adults and children.”
Believers in Jesus Christ are rapidly becoming a minority. Why? We’re not reproducing. How many people have come to faith in Jesus Christ through your witness?
“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while He was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him. [Jesus said to them:] ‘…I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit’” (Matthew 21:23, 43).
We have our assignment. What are you doing with it?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 6
Our shepherd-prophet Amos is a great example of God equipping the called rather than calling the equipped. Before we get into our verses for today, let me just say that if the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart about a ministry or mission, be obedient. Follow His leading. If He’s calling you, He’s equipping you to do whatever He wants you to do.
Meanwhile, back at Chapter 1 of Amos. The Lord has spoken a series of judgments against Israel’s neighbors, so far covering Damascus (verses 3-5); Gaza (verses 6-8); and Tyre (verses 9-10). And then He moves a little closer to home, to Edom, the descendants of Esau: “I will not turn back My wrath, because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually, and his fury flamed unchecked” (Amos 1:11-12, NIV).
In verse 9, one of the condemnations addressed to Tyre, a prosperous city of Lebanon (north of Israel), is this: “They broke their treaty with their brother, Israel; they attacked and conquered him, and led him into slavery to Edom (the descendants of Esau)” (Amos 1:9, Living Bible).
Who was Esau? The twin brother of Jacob and son of Isaac and Rebekah. Esau dishonored his parents by marrying two Canaanite women (see Genesis 26:34) and later, in a badly misplaced effort to get back into their good graces, added Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael (Abram’s son by Hagar – see Genesis 16:15), as another wife (see Genesis 28:8-9).
Who was Jacob? Twin brother of Esau; son of Isaac; grandson of Abraham. After a divine struggle (see Genesis 32:28), Jacob was given a new name, Israel (“wrestler with God”), and became the father of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Note that God didn’t give Abram his new name of Abraham (“father of a multitude”) until years after the birth of Ishmael but before the birth of Isaac – see Genesis 17.
But what I want us to focus on for today are the words spoken to the people of Edom: “I will not turn back My wrath, because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually, and his fury flamed unchecked” (Amos 1:11-12).
The enmity (hatred; ill will; feeling of hostility) Edom felt for Israel was long-standing. They had even taken Israelites “into slavery to Edom” (Amos 1:9). How did that come about? Through bitterness. Envy. Refusing to let go of past hurts, “he pursued his brother,” Israel.
Are you pursuing past hurts? Are you refusing to let go of the bad feelings brought about by a negative experience? If you’re to live for Jesus, you don’t have an option – your one right choice is to let it go. Otherwise, you open yourself and your friends and family to the horrible legacy of bitterness.
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 5
I want to spend some time looking at the book of Amos and the message the Lord gave him – a message, like so much of the Word, which can greatly be applied to us today. For starters, who was Amos and how did he become a prophet?
Chapter 1, Verse 1 opens by telling us, “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa – what he saw concerning Israel … when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash (or Joash) was king of Israel” (NIV).
Amos isn’t mentioned in any other book in the Old Testament. He’s sometimes confused with Amoz, the father of Isaiah, but he’s not the same man. Scholars do estimate the time of Amos’ writing as between 860 and 850BC, which would make him a contemporary (one who lived in the same time period) of Isaiah and Hosea.
Amos’ hometown of Tekoa was about ten miles from Jerusalem. It’s important to realize that, at the time of Amos, the Israelites were divided into the Southern Kingdom – Judah, where Tekoa and Jerusalem were – and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos, a man of Judah, was sent as a prophet to Israel.
According to Amos 7:13-15, the shepherd-prophet was prophesying in Bethel (literally, “Beth-el”, meaning “house of God”), one of the southernmost cities of Israel. Names were highly significant in the Bible, and Amos’ name means “burden bearer.” The Lord had given Amos a burden for the people of Israel, to speak out about their sins and call them to repentance.
The first two chapters of Amos are devoted to God’s judgment against first the Gentiles and then against the people of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In verse 9, one of the condemnations addressed to Tyre, a prosperous city of Lebanon (north of Israel), is this: “They broke their treaty with their brother, Israel; they attacked and conquered him, and led him into slavery to Edom (descendants of Esau)” (Amos 1:9, Living Bible).
I think there’s a huge warning in this passage that can certainly be applied today. Every nation needs to be careful how they treat Israel, “the apple of [God’s] eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10). Psalm 122:6 makes us this promise: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee” (KJV).
Do you, like Amos, have a burden for the lost? If not, pray for God to give you one. And pray for “the peace of Jerusalem.”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 4
“And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be trusted with money of your own?” (Jesus speaking, Luke 16:12, NLT).
In order to understand this passage, we have to look at it in the Light of eternity – you’d do well to read Matthew 25:1-30. As believers here on earth, we should understand the truth of First Corinthians 6:19b-20a which addresses every believer: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV). When we don’t even have ownership of our own lives, we certainly can’t claim ownership over the “stuff” associated with earthly living. No, the money and other material possessions we lay claim to actually belong to the One who paid the ultimate “price” for our eternal pardon.
If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you’re managing His money. That life of yours means you’re also managing His time. He’s entrusted you with a specific amount of each – time and money – and He’s watching to see just how well or how poorly you can be trusted.
I’ve used this example many times, but allow me to once more ask you to picture a 3-year-old. You place a dollar in this little angel’s hand and she immediately toddles off down the hallway. Within moments you hear a familiar flushing sound and she returns to you empty-handed, palm out, expectant.
“What did you do with the dollar I just gave you?” you ask her. She smiles sweetly, shrugs her shoulders and continues to hold out the palm of her hand, waiting for you to hand over more money for her to play with.
Knowing what she did with the previous money you entrusted to her, how eager are you to give her more? Knowing how you’re managing what the Lord’s already entrusted to you, how eager should He be to trust you with more?
“We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.” (Dwight L. Moody)
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 3
“Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or extra clothing, did you lack anything?’ ‘No,’ they replied’” (Jesus speaking, Luke 22:35, NLT).
Never forget, folks: Jesus doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. Don’t spin your wheels worrying about how to come up with the money for anything that’s in the perfect will of God for your life. If you’re lacking in an area of need – not want – it’s time to reexamine where your dollars are going.
A great practice is to keep a record of every penny you spend for a full month – whether it’s a credit card payment; gas for your car; eating out; or a pack of chewing gum. Write down everything – how much you spent and what you spent it for. At the end of the month, look over your list and categorize your expenditures. You’ll quickly spot the areas where you need to be less wasteful.
And when you cut your outgo, use that “extra” money to pay down some of those credit card debts. Pick out the card with the lowest balance and start piling on as much money as you can each month until that debt is paid. As soon as you knock out the first bill, attack the next one in line. By targeting your lowest debts first and taking them one at a time, you see a faster “reward” for your effort as that first monthly payment is eliminated. And then another. And another.
If God is your Provider, He’s not short-changing you. He’s providing. Question is: what are you doing with His provision?
“A man in debt is so far a slave.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“You cannot serve both God and money” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:24b, NLT).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 2
“… Don’t begin until you count the cost …” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28a, NLT).
Yesterday I talked about the commitment of marriage. What other commitment can we apply this verse to? In Luke 9:59-62 we see Jesus calling a man to be His disciple. The man accepts Jesus’ offer of discipleship, then tells Him, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father” (Luke 9:59).
What was Jesus’ response? “Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60b).
Was the Lord being unfeeling? No. The man’s statement was an excuse. Scholars believe the man’s father was alive and probably well. What the man was saying is, “Yes, Lord, I’ll follow you – but not until my father is no longer living.” He mouthed a commitment, but his actions proved his words were insincere.
In this same passage, a second man also agrees to follow Jesus. But he, too, says he has something he needs to do “first” (Luke 9:61). Jesus replies: “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Some people misunderstand this statement, thinking it means that if a believer messes up, as in “looks back,” he’s booted out of the Kingdom. This isn’t what Jesus was saying. Both of the men in this passage were being OFFERED the opportunity to BECOME disciples of Jesus Christ. Both men verbally COMMITTED to becoming disciples, yet both men’s ACTIONS proved them otherwise.
If you promised to drive your child to school, would you drive halfway and then decide, “Okay, he can walk from here?” If you were hired to work Monday through Friday, would you work all five days or just the days that you felt like it?
Has the Lord called you to be His disciple? If you’ve accepted Him as Lord and Savior, that’s exactly what you’ve COMMITTED to. Lip service doesn’t make you His – it’s your follow-through that is PROOF of your COMMITMENT. Be faithful. You know what “the cost” was to Jesus.
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work” (Vince Lombardi). And may I add, a church too.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE STUDY for SEPTEMBER 1
“… Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills?” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28, NLT).
We make a lot of commitments without thinking them through. Marriage particularly stands out when I think of commitments. Does God forgive divorce? Absolutely. Is He pleased by divorce? Most assuredly, no.
Time and again I hear something like, “Our marriage ended a long time ago.” Or, “we’re just not in love anymore.” Puh-leeeeeeze! You’re not “in love” with your job, either; but you’re not quitting it, are you?
Your marriage ain’t over until life is over. Your commitment isn’t over until life is over. No, your marriage isn’t perfect – show me one that is – but it’s YOUR marriage. As much as it depends on you, stay in it. No, don’t tolerate abuse; but don’t make excuses for window-shopping or breaking your vows. “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; ‘til death do you part.” I think that about covers it.
“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.” (Robert Anderson)
Judy Woodward Bates