INVITE ME to speak to your church or civic group! Email me at: [email protected] or visit my INVITE ME page for more info.
Available now! A BOATLOAD OF TROUBLE, the 2nd book in the Bargainomics Lady mystery series. Where can you buy it?
(1) You can order a signed copy directly from me by mailing $11 check or money order to:
JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063
(1) A Boatload of Trouble is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook formats. It's clean, fun, and has a message.
(2) For wholesale/bulk orders, contact Judy: [email protected]
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. It's available on Amazon right now in Kindle (ebook) format for $2.99, & paperback for $11.99.
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.
I now have copies in the Encouraging Word Bookstore at Gardendale First Baptist Church.
Copies are also available at Jeff Dennis Jewelers in Gardendale, AL. $12 each.
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.)
(3) For wholesale/bulk orders, contact Judy: [email protected]
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