The Bargainomics Lady 

Judy Woodward Bates


Who hasn’t seen the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Actor Jimmy Stewart plays a man who believes that his entire life has been one useless waste. But then he’s given the chance to see what his part of the world would be like if he had never been born. Through that experience, Stewart realizes that his life has counted for far more than he could have ever imagined.

Maybe you’re finding it difficult to see where your life is making a difference. It’s not likely that you’ll have a “Wonderful Life” experience, but you can know that your life is making a difference.

Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Luke 11:23a, NIV). If you are truly “with” God, in that you’re living a life that is in keeping with Christ’s teaching and you’re witnessing to others, then count on it: you’re most certainly making a difference.

Paul explained it this way in First Corinthians 3:6: “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (AKJV). We may not have the privilege of seeing the seeds of our witness come to fruition; nonetheless, God is faithful. When we obey Him and sow our witness in others’ lives, He will faithfully bring in the harvest in His own time. Be encouraged, my fellow worker.

“…for in due season we shall reap…” (Galatians 6:9b, AKJV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Can anything good come from a bad experience? That depends on whether or not you give that experience to the Lord. If you do, amazing things can happen.

But still, who in their right mind wants to go through a crisis? I’ve heard people quote Romans 8:28 to explain how a terrible tragedy can be a good thing. Yet I cannot corroborate this with Scripture. All things are NOT good. What the Bible does affirm is that IN all things – good times and bad times – God continues to work for the good of His people.

So can anything good come from our troubles? Isaiah 48:10 says difficulties are part of our refining process: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (ESV).

Still, that’s not much of an answer, is it? Why would God allow one of His children to go through affliction? First Peter 1:7 explains a little further: “…that the tested genuineness of your faith… may be found…”

No one expects you to celebrate bad times, but it definitely takes a lot more faith to praise God when things aren’t going so well. You CAN have hope and peace throughout difficulties; and as you pass through the fire, you can also know that, as you entrust these troubles to the Lord, your faith will increase and mature.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Are your needs being met? I’m talking physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. If you consider yourself short-changed in any of those areas, First Thessalonians may have the right piece of advice to solve your problem.

In 4:11a we read: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands” (NLT).

Okay, that’s three areas for us to examine:

(1) Are you leading a quiet life, or are you trying to cram far too much into one space of living? Make a commitment to God to eliminate some of the unnecessary things that keep your life at high speed. (This is something I have to do on a regular basis.)

(2) Next comes a toughie. Do you mind your own business? Life is often stressful, but stress is first and foremost caused by failing to take our burdens to the Lord, and secondly, by interfering in other people’s lives. A lot of people want to tell others their problems, but here’s what you need to remember: Listening is one thing; interfering or advising is another.

Too many times we add our two cents where it doesn’t belong and we end up being hurt or angry. Certainly we’re to care about and minister to others, but we have to draw the line at forcing our help or advice on anyone. Learn to listen without comment.

(3) The last part of 4:11a talks about “working with your hands.” Plainly put, you can’t bum off others and expect to have your needs met. If you’re physically and emotionally able to care for yourself, do for yourself whatever you can before seeking the help of others. And remember, too, that when a person is busy, he or she doesn’t have time to meddle in other people’s business.

Learn these things and what happens? The next verse gives the answer: “you… win the respect of outsiders [unbelievers], and have need of nothing” (I Thessalonians 4:12b, ISV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


To me, one of the gutsiest verses in the entire Bible is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul is talking to the Corinthian believers about making certain that their walk matches their talk. He wanted them to be Christians from the inside to the outside.

And here’s what he says: “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1, NLT). In others words, “Hey, Jesus is not here in the flesh, but I am. Don’t worry about how to conduct yourselves. Watch me, and do as I do.”

Could you make that kind of statement? I’d be scared silly to tell anyone that! Why? Because too often my walk and talk don’t match up. I don’t want to advise anybody to look to me as an example of what Christ is like.

And yet, fellow believers, here’s the truth: every day people are watching us and assuming that whatever they’re seeing us doing IS showing them what Jesus is like.

Gandhi, a great leader of India, once said, “Were it not for Christians, I might have been one.” God forgive us, there’s a mouthful of truth in that statement.

Like it or not, people are looking to you as an example of Jesus on this earth. Make every effort to be like Him. You truly are the only Jesus some may ever see.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You’re in the showroom, gazing longingly at a brand new car. A salesman walks over and says, “Great weather we’re having, huh?”

You really like that car. You continue to admire it as you tell the man, “My car is just about ready for the graveyard.”

“Uh-huh,” he nods seriously. “Maybe you just need a tune-up.”

“No, it’s so old I’m afraid to drive very far in it anymore,” you explain. “And my job requires a lot of road travel.”

“That’s tough,” he shakes his head sympathetically. Then extending his hand, he says, “Hey, been real nice talking to you.” And off he goes.

“Hey!” you call to the retreating figure. “Aren’t you a car salesman?”

“Well, yeah,” he answers, red-faced, “but I hate to be pushy.”

“Believe me,” you tell him without even attempting to disguise your irritation, “pushy is the last thing I’d call you. When’s the last time you sold a car, anyway?”

“Well, uh,” he stammers, turning an even darker shade of red, “my wife bought one from me a couple of years ago.”

“Oh, brother,” you mutter, as you make a hasty retreat.

Of course, this isn’t a very likely car sales scenario, but it’s very typical of how we often witness – very reluctantly.

People WANT to know about Jesus. People are DYING for lack of that knowledge. No one wants to be bowled over by a pesky, over-zealous Bible-pounder; but if you’re listening and watching for opportunities, you’ll realize how often people want to ask, “Where does your hope and peace come from?”

Don’t pass up chances to tell others about Jesus. Better yet, pray for and consciously seek them.

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

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever feel like God’s a million miles away from you? You’ve already heard all the stuff like “Guess who moved?” and all that, so that’s not what this is about.

Fact is, there are times when a believer is reading His Bible, spending time in prayer and attending church, and yet there seems to be an aching gap between him and the Lord. Are you feeling like that right now? Having been in that spot quite a few times, I may have a solution that fits your case. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people.

See, we can read and pray and “church” ourselves to death, but if we don’t PRAISE the Lord along with doing all these other things, we’re going to eventually hit a wall of separation. After all, if, as the Bible tells us, God is IN the praise of His people, it would certainly explain why He seems so far from me sometimes. And maybe that explains why you too may now feel or have in the past felt a distance between you and the Father.

Maybe you’re not in the best of circumstances right now. Maybe things aren’t going well at all. No matter! Just praise Him, and see the glory of God lift your spirit above your circumstances.

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness” (Psalm 7:17a, ESV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our Blessed Redeemer…” Are those words familiar to you? They’re from one of the grand old songs of faith I grew up singing in church. Maybe you did, too.

As I was sitting down to write, that tune was running through my mind. And I began thinking, why did God create us? A visit in the book of Isaiah answered my question. Isaiah 43:21 says: “the people I formed for Myself that they may proclaim My praise” (NIV).

Wow! The God of heaven formed us FOR HIMSELF – to be His children, to fellowship with Him!

If you delve into some serious Scripture study you’ll find that Lucifer, who later became Satan, was in charge of praise and worship in heaven. And since that was his position before his fall, it is presumable that the angels who followed his rebellion were those who were already under his charge – in other words, the praise team. Certainly the remaining heavenly angels – two-thirds of the original number – honor and praise the Lord. But in the case of mankind, look back at Isaiah 43:21: this was God’s purpose for our creation – for us to PRAISE Him.

So if you’ve ever wondered, “Why am I here?” now you know the answer! Are you fulfilling your purpose in life?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Have you ever seen any of those programs where they interview movie and television stars and show their “before” photos? I remember seeing one and going, “Wow! Did her looks change or what?!?” Patsy Ann McClenny’s (the actress’s real name) high school pics didn’t remotely resemble the person I knew as Morgan Fairchild.

Maybe you remember Andrew Agassi promoting Kodak in the 1990s with the slogan “Image is everything.” True enough, when it comes to photography, it’s all about capturing the right image. But I can think of a few zillion other commercials that emphasize how driving this particular car or wearing these certain clothes or cologne are critical choices in order for a person to maintain the right image.

In today’s society, image is pretty much everything. If you don’t own the latest iPhone, iPad, house, car, boat and everything else, you’re a hopeless outcast – at least that’s what advertising campaigns want you to believe. And in fact, there are a lot of silly indebted-to-their-eyeballs folks out there who have literally bought into this ridiculous mentality.

What I find most interesting is that the word IMAGE is what’s used in Exodus 20:4 as the graven thing we aren’t supposed to create. We’re to be hung up on ONE IMAGE and that one is spelled out at the beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 1:26 the Trinity says, “Let us make man in Our image…” (NASB).

So see, it’s true – image IS everything! But there are a lot of images out there. Make sure you’re following the right one. Submit your life to Jesus Christ and let Him mold you into His likeness.

“…to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:29b, ESV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


So often I’ve opened my big mouth and said something that I would give just about anything to be able to take back. But sadly, once words have been spoken, all the apologies on earth don’t take away the hurt that’s been caused.

The book of James has much to say about the power of the tongue, but I’ve found a passage – Psalm 141:3 – that is a tremendous help. In this verse David is asking the Lord to help him not only KNOW when to keep silent, but to be OBEDIENT to that knowledge. And if a man of God like David felt the need to pray this prayer, I should be praying it all day every day!

It says: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (NLT).

Do you struggle with opening your mouth first and engaging your brain later? I sure do. I hope you’ll make this verse a part of your prayer life. I still have a long way to go, but praying this specific prayer is helping me get there, and I know it will help you, too.

This Christmas season, emotions can run high and so can our tempers. Pray for a peaceful, loving spirit no matter what sort of person or situation you’re faced with. Maintaining a Christ-like attitude is a wonderful way to honor the Savior now and all year round.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Today marks the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While that may seem like a long time ago to most of us, to my Aunt Margie, it seems like yesterday. She’s 92, has dementia, and lives in a nursing home. While I was visiting her yesterday, she asked me several times, “Is today a holiday?” I told her Christmas was over two weeks away and rolled her wheelchair around to see the Christmas trees in the hallway and dining room.

When we got back to the little sitting area where’d we’d been doing our visiting, she suddenly remembered the occasion that was stuck in the back of her mind. In a startled voice, she said, “Pearl Harbor!” Then, in a jumble of memories, she talked about hearing the news on the radio and screaming hysterically until she had to be restrained. She would have been 15 years old at the time.

Only 9/11 gives most of us an idea of what Aunt Margie must have felt like on that terrible day of December 7, 1941. We lost 2,403 Americans at Pearl Harbor, and another 1,178 were wounded. And it was this assault that pulled the United States into what became World War II.

My dad, Ellis Woodward, served in the Army, and I’m sure many of you reading this had dads or granddads – and maybe even a few moms or grandmas – who also served in the military during that time. Their bravery, their willingness to fight for what they believed in, kept America safe from the military forces of Hirohito, Hitler and Mussolini.

Freedom isn’t free. It costs. And we mustn’t forget that. Most importantly, we must not forget what Christ gave for our eternal freedom. Only because of His willing, sacrificial death do we have heaven open to us.

So today, as we remember those who gave their lives in service for our country, let us also remember the One who gave His life “…that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17b, ESV).

Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed to His Father “… for all who will ever believe in Me…” (John 17:20, NLT). Do you believe? Then remember His sacrifice and thank Him.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


A pastor friend of mine told me about one of his old seminary roommates whom I’ll call Sam. Sam’s fiancé had broken off their engagement and he was devastated. When Sam reappeared in the dormitory during the wee hours of the night, my friend realized that Sam had been out drinking.

After a long night of helping Sam through repeated bouts of sickness, my friend was awakened by a very penitent Sam who told him, “I don’t know what got into me. I just went out for a walk, and the next thing I know, I was in one of the bars drinking like a complete idiot. I guess I just left the Lord outside and decided to go in and drown my sorrow.”

My friend was wiser than his years. He looked at Sam and told him, “I wish it was that simple. When Jesus became your Savior, He signed on for a lifetime commitment. You didn’t leave Him outside – you took Him with you.”

Satan has blinded numbers of believers into thinking they can park Jesus sort of like a car and then go do what they please. “Stay right here,” they think they can say, “and I’ll pick you up again when I’m through.” The Christian life doesn’t work that way, folks.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, when you are telling or posting that off-color joke, guess who’s right there with you? And when you check out that porno web site? Oh, I know, you were only looking to see what sort of sick stuff is out there. And even when you’re in an adulterous or other sexual relationship outside of marriage, guess whose heart is breaking as He is dragged through this sort of participation?

None of these scenarios paints a very pretty picture, but they do paint a factual one. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us of God’s promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (KJV).

Don’t ever think that you can set the Lord aside and indulge in sin even for a moment. He is with you everywhere you go and in everything you do. Honor Him with how you conduct your life. No one is more miserable than a Christian holding onto sin.

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long” (Psalm 32:3, NLT).


Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Don’t you love all the wonderful promises in God’s Word? I’m studying Revelation right now, but had been spending a good bit of time in the Old Testament where I rediscovered countless promises of God and dozens of people who walked in awesome faith.

One of the passages I read was Deuteronomy 28. In verse 11, it says: “The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops” (NLT). The Lord promised abundant blessings to His obedient children.

Let’s bring it home to today. Imagine one Saturday morning you tell your teenager to take out the trash, clean his room and wash the family car. As evening closes in, you look out on the driveway and see the car still caked in weeks of dirt. You walk down the hallway and peek into your son’s room, still layered in the debris of youthful living.

Spotting your son lounging on the sofa, remote in hand, you proceed to inform him of your displeasure with his undone chores. “Oh, right, Mom. Point out what I don’t do!” he retorts. “If you’ll look under the kitchen sink, you’ll see that I not only took out the trash, but I put the can back AND put a new liner in. Some gratitude!” (Now I’ll let you complete the scenario to your own choosing, but I KNOW how it would have ended when my son was at home!)

But here’s the point: Your son completed one of the three instructions you had given him. He completely ignored the other two. And for this he expects your gratitude! Some nerve, huh?

As I said earlier, we love to read the wonderful promises of God. What we seem to ignore are what I term the “BUT IFs.” For example, back in Deuteronomy 28, verse 11 has a companion “BUT IF” in verse 15: “But… if you do not obey the Lord your God… all these curses will come upon you” (NASB). Not exactly good news there, is it?

We have to realize that God expects us to FULLY obey His commands, not pick and choose the ones to which we will comply. Just as any sane parent could not be pleased with a child who ignores two-thirds of his parent’s instructions, Jesus Christ is not going to pat our little heads and tell us “Well done” because we have faithfully fulfilled a small percentage of what He has commanded.

Our salvation will result in increasing obedience as we mature.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Many of you may have grown up listening to the songs of contemporary Christian music pioneer Keith Green. Keith wrote so many songs that are considered foundational contemporaries of the faith. Sadly, in 1982 Keith died in a plane crash in what we would consider the prime of his life. A total of twelve people were killed in that crash, including the pilot, Green, Green’s two-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, plus a missionary couple and their six children.

For many years, I’ve enjoyed the radio program “Through the Bible with Dr. J. Vernon McGee.” Dr. McGee’s program continues to air, but Dr. McGee, though he battled valiantly, succumbed to cancer some years ago.

And who can forget Corrie Ten Boom who survived the Nazi concentration camps and went on to preach the Gospel around the world? Yet before her death, she spent years as a bedridden invalid. More recently, we watched Billy Graham as he battled Parkinson’s until his death in 2018.

So many questions come to one’s mind when you hear of deaths like these. Why them? Or why so young? Or why not someone who wasn’t involved in the Lord’s work? Why can’t all believers go quietly in their sleep if they’re not left here for the Rapture?

After the death of a dear saint of God among my own circle of friends I deeply pondered these questions. And the Lord pointed me to something that gave me great peace about the passing of all believers. In the words of one of Rich Mullins’ songs (Rich died very young in a Jeep accident), he sings: “When I leave I want to go out like Elijah…”

How did Elijah “go out”? Second Kings 2:11 tells us that as Elisha stood with Elijah “…suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (NIV). What a way to go! Can you even imagine such a thing?

I believe with all my heart that when a child of God leaves this earth – by passing out of this world in peaceful sleep, through the ravages of disease, in a tragic accident, or by any other means – that believer, just as with Elijah (though he did not experience any form of physical death), is instantly met by the angels of the Lord and transformed, and there is zero memory of pain, suffering or tragedy. And God’s Word affirms this: “…to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8, NASB). And in Revelation 21:4b, we read: “…death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (ESV).

No one wants to be separated from a loved one, but we as believers need to realize that our separation is very temporary and that every child of God who leaves this earth passes into a glorious eternity where all memory of pain and suffering is erased. It’s okay to grieve the temporary loss, but even as we cope with this kind of pain, we can still rejoice in knowing our loved one is eternally celebrating the Savior.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18, NLT).

Can you remember when you first committed your life to Jesus Christ? Though raised in a Christian home and taken to church every time the doors were open, I was woefully ignorant of Scripture, God and most everything else. Today I know I have a long journey ahead of me as I grow in the Lord, but I can also look back and see how very far the Lord has brought me.

But that’s one of the neat things about being a Christian. Even the tiniest step of faith brings us closer to our goal: being like Jesus. And as we move in His direction we see that “first gleam” become brighter and brighter and brighter.

Why’s that? In First John 1:5b we read: “God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” Jesus Christ is the pure and perfect Light; and as we draw nearer through prayer, Bible study and fellowship with other believers, our paths through life truly are illuminated so that we can more and more clearly see the direction the Lord desires us to take.

Another amazing thing happens as we draw closer to the Light: we start to glow, too. Just as the moon reflects the blazing light and power of the sun, we as believers reflect more and more of the SON as we draw nearer. And as we reflect His Light, we in turn show His Light to others.

I love what my former Bible study teacher Sandy often said: “We hope you feel warmed and welcome here.” Warmed, as from the glow of the Son. How’s your glow today?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In Luke 17 we read the account where Jesus and His disciples had come into a town and met ten lepers. The lepers cried out to Jesus, “Master, have mercy on us!” (v. 13, NLT). Jesus did just that, saying to them, “Go show yourselves to the priests” (v. 14).

As far as what the Scripture tells us, Jesus didn’t approach these ten men – He merely spoke to them and gave them one simple instruction. But was His instruction really that simple? Lepers were to steer clear of all other people. They were to call out as they passed nearby, “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn people of their disease. They most certainly weren’t to go near the priests! And yet this is where Jesus sent them. And most significantly, He sent them JUST THE WAY THEY WERE: UNCLEAN.

But as they stepped forward in obedience to the Lord’s command, something incredible happened: “…as they went, they were cleansed…” (v. 14). Hallelujah! What a Savior! The Living Word spoke and ten men were healed of a dreaded disease.

And then what? They all rushed to thank Him? No, the Scripture paints a clear picture of how ungrateful we humans can be once we’ve gotten what we want. One, a Samaritan, “when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’ He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done” (v. 15b-16a). One man out of ten. Weren’t those nine the most ungrateful people you can ever imagine?

But let’s bring that example a little closer to home. We believers are continually asking God to move, aid, and intervene in our lives. Sometimes He acts so immediately that we are astounded, and profoundly grateful. At other times, the little things we’d mentioned during times of prayer are so subtly taken care of that we hardly notice the problem about which we’d been so concerned never even happened.

Is the picture starting to form? The Lord works so many wonders in our lives every single day, and yet, more often than not, we chalk those up to having “had a good day” and never thank Him – say maybe nine times out of ten…

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Second Corinthians 6:14 instructs: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (NIV). In other words, don’t marry or partner in business with unbelievers; and this warning isn’t limited to those two instances. Being married to an unbeliever can often mean being drawn astray, or perhaps struggling to maintain faithful service to the Lord. How many times have you heard of a Christian’s non-believing spouse wanting to spend Sundays on the lake, at the flea market, or anywhere besides in church? Being “unequally yoked” means added conflict.

One of the major benefits of having a believing spouse literally hit me several years ago. My friend Renee and I were returning from a shopping excursion. As we left the shopping center I phoned my honey Larry from the car and told him that we were on our way home – that was at 8:15pm. Within a couple of minutes I was driving my car in the center north-bound traffic lane of Interstate 65. Suddenly an 18-wheeler in front of me threw off a tire tread that came hurtling straight at my car. There were cars on both sides of me, so I had no way of avoiding the impact. I swerved as best I could and at least missed taking the hit head-on. That huge hunk of steel and rubber slammed into the front passenger side of my car with so much force I had to struggle to avoid being knocked into the next lane of traffic.

When I was able to pull to the emergency lane, Renee and I were astounded to see how much damage had been done. The lower front panel was broken; one entire set of headlights and mounting brackets was missing, as well as the fog light beneath; the front quarter panel was crushed; the wheel rim was bent; and even the passenger door had been dented and the trim ripped from it, along with the door handle! The back door even suffered minor damage. Suffice it to say it was an extremely close call.

While we were on the side of the road I phoned Larry again – it was just after 8:30pm. I assured him we were fine and I could hear the relief in his voice. “You know,” he told me, “after you called the first time, I went into the kitchen for a snack, and as I was sitting down at the table, the Holy Spirit prompted me, saying, ‘Pray for their safety right now.’ So I did.”

Minutes before the accident my Godly husband was praying for our safety! And thanks be to God, we were unharmed.

Prayer is such a powerful instrument. “Pray without ceasing,” as First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us. Pray specifically. And any time you feel the Holy Spirit prompting you to pray about something, offer up your prayer immediately.

“I pray for… those you have given Me…” (John 17:9, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


So how much faith did the blind man in John 9 have to have in order to wash in the pool of Siloam? I have no idea. But one thing I’m sure of: once he obeyed, he saw God’s power and came away with even more faith.

Let’s look at a familiar passage of scripture and try to see it from a whole new viewpoint. In Luke 17:6, Jesus talks about having “faith the size of a mustard seed” (ISV). Matthew records a very similar statement in 17:20. And who hasn’t heard a sermon on being able to move mountains if we’ll just have the faith of the tiny little mustard seed?

Folks, that’s the whole point. A mustard seed is a tiny, tiny speck, but if you know anything about the mustard plants that grew around the Holy Lands, you know they were enormous – they were the size of trees!

Here’s the takeaway from this lesson: a mustard seed’s size doesn’t inhibit it from producing an enormous plant. That’s what I believe Jesus was saying in those verses. And I think this passage backs that up precisely: Matthew 13:31a and 32b: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… when it grows, it… becomes a tree” (Jesus speaking, NIV). And read over into Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19. The Lord Jesus Christ must certainly have wanted us to get the point here to have placed this information in so many places within His Holy Word.

Is your faith big enough to believe great things? Not one mustard seed has ever looked at itself in the mirror and said, “But God, I’m too little to do all that!” Nope, that itsy bitsy mustard seed just obeys the Lord and says, “Okay, you told me I could do it, so here I go!”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


The blind man in John 9 was seated by the roadside when Jesus passed by. When Jesus stopped beside him, He spat into the dirt, made a mud or clay from the mixture, and anointed the blind man’s eyes. Then He told him in Verse 7: “Go… wash in the pool of Siloam” (NIV).

Now let’s be realistic here. The man couldn’t have had an easy time maneuvering around the city. Doubtless he could have found a well or some other source of water a whole lot closer than the pool of Siloam. But what did he do? He trusted Jesus at His word and fully obeyed His exact instructions.

This is why I said yesterday that I believed him to have been a man of great faith. He didn’t ask Jesus to explain the biological makeup of Siloam pool water. He didn’t question Jesus’ medical credentials or methodology. And he certainly didn’t say, “Let me see what I can do on my own and then I’ll get back to you.” No, he simply did what the Lord told him to do.

And the result? Verse 7b tells us that answer: “He… came back seeing” (NASB).

Do you want to see the power of God? Oh, my brother or sister in Christ, how the Lord wants to do so many great things in your life! I know some things that happen in your life may seem to make no sense at all, but even in those times God is still God. Trust Him and obediently do the things He’s calling you to do. Obedience is always the starting point for blessing.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


So bad things do happen to good people? First of all, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18b, NASB).

Look over in John 11:4 and read what Jesus said about Lazarus: “This illness is not meant to end in death. It is for God’s glory” (ISV). Lazarus was Jesus’ dear friend and yet he obviously endured a sickness severe enough to kill him. And even though Lazarus was brought back to life by the power of Christ, he still went through a very difficult time – to put it mildly – along with his entire family. Have you ever thought about that part of Lazarus’ experience?

And think about this one. Look back in John 9. Here Jesus and His disciples come upon a man who was born blind. Before Jesus heals the man, the disciples ask Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2, NASB). And Jesus’ answer still speaks volumes to those who will hear it with spiritual ears: “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:3, NLT).

Note that Jesus said this before the man was healed. Was the healing how God’s glory was revealed? Surely this was a mighty showing of God’s power. But what was the man’s life like prior to his receiving his sight? I believe it was a life of great faith. I believe he was expecting the Messiah, his personal Savior – and we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

Not only can we show others God’s glory when He performs miracles in our lives, we can also glorify Him in and through sickness and trouble.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Based on yesterday’s study, do you think it’s resisting the devil so forcefully that keeps you worn out? After all, that’s a full-time job in itself.

In Ephesians 6:11 we read: “Put on all the armor that God supplies. In this way you can take a stand against the devil’s strategies” (God’s Word). If you read Verses 14 through 20 there, you’ll see a list of very specific armor we are to be covered in at all times.

But look up at Verse 10. It says: “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (NASB). How strong is God? How limited is His power?

Child of God, there is absolutely nothing that can come against you and defeat you when you are battling in the power and might of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if you’re using God’s power and might, when does He tire and run out of energy?

Sure, in this life, we may experience many things that we’d prefer not to, but the ultimate battle has already been won, and the daily battles can prove Christ victorious again and again when we suit up in His armor and combat the enemy in His strength.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You’re sitting in your apartment watching television one evening when you hear a noise that definitely didn’t come from your TV. You glance toward your front door and are horrified to see that the doorknob is turning.

That’s when you realize you’ve forgotten to fasten the safety chain and dead bolt. As you race toward it, the door edges inward a fraction of an inch and you know that you’re in a battle that could mean life or death. If you can shove the door into place and latch the chain and deadbolt, you’ll have time to phone for help. If you can’t, you don’t even want to think about the possibilities.

Heart racing, you push against the door. The force on the outside pushes a little harder. You push again. The door is shoved back at you more forcefully.

Now, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to answer this question, but I’ll ask it anyway: Pushing against that door is going to be exhausting work. Do you think you’ll give it a couple of tries and quit, or do you think you’ll give it all you have? After all, it’s only your life that depends on what you choose to do.

In James 4:7b we read: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (NIV). Guess what? The original tense of the verb translated as “resist” means to “resist and keep on resisting.” Born-again children of God, every moment of every day you remain on this earth, Satan’s desire is to wreak havoc on your life. He can’t steal your eternal life, but he most certainly can kill your joy, your peace, and any aspect of your life where you do not firmly and continually resist his attacks.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” These words of Jesus are recorded in Mark 11:24 (NLT).

Sounds good, but was He serious? You better believe He was! Yet I’ve prayed for many things I never received. And I’ll bet you have, too. What are we doing wrong?

James answers that question in 4:3: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (NIV). Hmmmm. So you mean there’s no blanket “gimme” factor we can use to call down the blessings of God?

James explains Verse 3 in Verse 15. He says, “…you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will…’” (NIV). Yes, God most assuredly hears every prayer lifted up by a believer, but His answers are according to His will and purpose, not our personal agendas.

Before you ask God for anything, spend time in His Word, in conversation with Him, and in personal reflection and meditation. Then when you do bring a request to Him, you will be far more able to ask only for those things that are within His perfect will.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Strolling across a field covered in neat rows of trees, you look around you and admire the rich red apples covering the branches. When you arrive at the roadside you see a ramshackle old shed and an elderly gentleman seated on the stoop of the narrow front porch.

“Hello!” you call out. “Could I pay you to let me pick a few of your apples?”

“Don’t see why not,” he smiles.

“Your apple trees have really put on the fruit this year,” you comment as you reach for your wallet.

“Oh, them ain’t apple trees,” he looks at you conspiratorially. “Ever’ last one of them’s pear trees. Dangedest thing you’ve ever seen, ain’t it? And this is the first year this has ever happened! Why, up ‘til last year I sold the hound out of pears from that orchard!”

“That’s, uh, almost unbelievable,” you tell him as you slowly replace your wallet. “On second thought, I really don’t need any apples right now anyway. You have a nice day.” You make as quick an escape as possible, wondering all the while about the old fellow’s mental state.

You see, it would make no sense at all for apples to be growing on a pear tree. Why, without grafting or other unnatural interference, that would be an impossible phenomenon!

A plant cannot change the fruit it produces. And the same holds true for believers. James put it this way: “My brothers, a fig tree cannot produce olives, nor a grapevine figs, can it?” (James 3:12a, ISV).

A true believer in Christ Jesus will produce the things of Christ. You don’t have to wonder about your salvation. Look at your crop and you’ll know.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Have you ever dashed into a grocer’s to pick up one or two items? You scurry past the produce, suddenly remember you should pick up a couple of tomatoes, stop, back-track, and bag those. Down the next aisle you go to grab a loaf of bread. But before you get there, you see the shelves of salad dressing and decide you better add that while it’s on your mind. Before you get to the checkout line, you’re clutching a two-foot high stack of goods.

Now let’s suppose you finally decide you need that grocery cart. Would you go get it and then only drop in the things that were falling out of your overloaded arms? No, you’d dump the whole load, wouldn’t you? No one would be foolish enough to wag all that around with a perfectly good grocery cart right there with them, would they?

Yet this is how many of us handle the burdens of life. We’re going along and suddenly a problem lands right on top of us. We take it in stride, move ahead a bit, and then BANG! Another problem drops into our lap. And another, and then another, and then another. We keep this up to the point that we’re carrying all we can carry, our knees are buckling under, and we just don’t think we can take another step without collapsing. And when it finally reaches that point, we say, “Lord, I’m so burdened. Here, take this one and I’ll just keep hauling the rest.”

Why? First Peter 5:7 says: “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (KJV 2000). Note the word ALL. The Lord didn’t tell us to hand over the things that are breaking our backs and our spirits. He said to turn it ALL over to Him.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I don’t think there’s anything much uglier than a murky pool of stagnant water. The floating scum layer on top is smothering all the life that once teemed beneath the surface and the decay occurring during this process sends up a stench that can sometimes make you want to hold your nose. About the only thing this kind of water can attract is germs. Not a very pretty picture, is it?

So hold onto your hats, folks, because there are professing Christians out there who fit that image. Though they claim to be a child of God, their attitude and lifestyle has become so steeped in sin that the new life that was begun within them has become stagnant.

Now your first thought may be, “A real Christian wouldn’t let that happen.” But since we have yet to be appointed God, we are not in positions to pass judgment on the heart of any other human being. What we are to do is check our own attitude and lifestyle.

In John 7:38-39, we read: “‘Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were… to receive” (Jesus speaking, NIV).

Now visualize that image – “rivers of living water.” Can you see it? Clean, clear, sparkling, free-flowing, life-filled, deep, wide, inviting. That’s what our lives are to be like. Our walk with the Lord should be so close that we are literally bubbling over with the joy of His presence.

We should be so excited about what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do in our lives that everyone who comes in contact with us should think, “He’s so upbeat! I’ve got to find out what gives him such a positive attitude.” And when they ask, you can say, “It’s because of Who lives within me.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Your teenager gets a speeding ticket. “That’s it,” you say. “You are no longer my child. I don’t want to see your face again.” Is that how a loving parent would react? Undoubtedly you wouldn’t be happy with this bit of news, but it’s unlikely you’d disown your child – although I would hope you’d at least make him pay his/her own fine.

So how does a loving Father God react when His children sin? I mean, what is it that keeps a saved person saved? Perseverance? Endurance? Achieved perfection? No, the answer can be found in First Peter 1:5, which says: “…who are kept by the power of God” (AKJV). Now that’s holding power!

The Christian life is not a matter of hanging on for dear life, clinging to the coat tail of a Savior who is dragging you along as you plead with Him not to leave you. He is your Heavenly Father and the most loving Father of all.

Know that He loves you enough to discipline you when needed, but also know that He loves you far too much to ever let you go. He may allow you to pay the earthly consequences for your sin, but He will continue to love you as His own dear child.

“…and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from Me. My Father, who gave them to Me, is greater than everyone else, and no one can tear them away from My Father” (Jesus speaking, John 10:28-29, God’s Word).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever felt like no one ever gave you credit for anything? I know I have. No, we don’t want someone constantly pounding us on our backs and telling us how wonderful we are, but every now and then, it’d be nice if someone would at least say, “Good job,” wouldn’t it?

This came home to me some time ago while sitting in Bible study. The question was asked, “Who took Jesus’ body after the crucifixion?” I spoke up and very intentionally said, “Nicodemus.”

The teacher ignored my answer and waited. Once more I said, “Nicodemus.” By this time class members had given me that “poor thing” look and my teacher had finally shook his head at me and said, “No.” At last the answer “Joseph of Arimethea” was extracted from a classmate.

See, in all the Gospel accounts Joseph of Arimathea is credited with taking care of Jesus’ burial. But look over in John 19:38-40: “Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus… He was accompanied by Nicodemus… Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen” (NIV).

Haven’t you ever wondered how Joseph managed to singlehandedly carry and prepare Jesus’ body? And Nicodemus brought the burial spices – about seventy-five pounds’ worth. Together He and Joseph placed these on the body and wrapped Jesus in the customary linens. Yet John’s Gospel is the only one that even mentions Nicodemus’ involvement – three of the four Gospel writers name Joseph alone.

John’s account allows us to be aware of Nicodemus’ actions. While few on earth credit him for his part in Jesus’ burial, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings knows exactly what Nicodemus did as an act of love for His Son.

Don’t ever think the good you do in Jesus’ name goes unnoticed. Most assuredly it’s being recorded in heaven.

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance” (Jesus speaking, Revelation 2:19, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday’s Bible passage encouraged you to get out of the boat and into the water, so now let’s suppose you’ve started to get your feet wet in the waters of service. Mind you, when I talk about service for the Lord, this most certainly doesn’t mean that everyone is called to teach or even to a specific job within your church. But every single Christian most assuredly is called to a place of service somewhere.

Let’s say you’ve found that spot you feel the Lord wants you to work in. You’re wading along and beginning to feel a bit confident in the Lord’s leading. (No, you’ve not doubted God’s ability to lead – you’ve been concerned about whether or not you’re hearing Him correctly.) Before you know it, the water gets deeper. You find yourself up to your ankles, then your knees, then your waist, and on and on.

Or you may be one who steps into a very sudden drop-off. Either way, you reach a point where you cry out, “Lord, I knew this would happen! I’m in over my head!” And there you go, frantically heading back to shallower water.

Stop! Stay right where you are; quit struggling; and be still. So you can drown? No! So you can discover the power of your Life Jacket, Jesus Christ. He wants you to get in deep enough to learn to depend totally on Him.

“Have courage! It’s Me. Stop being afraid!” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 14:27b, ISV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to tell you about a ladies’ Bible study class I used to lead. I am delighted to say that this class began to shrink rapidly after the second year. If that sounds strange, let me explain.

I had taught a number of different age groups from ladies to smaller children, college/career to co-ed adult; and the one thing I’d realized was that most adults liked to “sit ‘n’ soak.” So when I agreed to lead this ladies’ group I fervently asked the Lord for a name for our class that would encourage them to step out in faith.

What He gave me was “The Boat Class.” And He directed me to a graphic artist friend who drew the very picture God laid on my heart for our classroom door. The drawing depicted a small wooden boat – no motor, just oars – with a number of ladies seated or standing inside. One lady was standing in the water with her hand reaching to help the next lady out of the boat.

That image became a powerful message to our class as Sunday after Sunday the Lord gave me His message for these ladies. You see, there are so many lessons we learned from that little boat: (1) as believers in Christ Jesus, we’re all in the same boat. We are one. (2) We are not alone. (3) We are to put there to minister to each other. (4) When we step out in faith we find that our fears are unfounded – God didn’t let us get in over our heads. (The lady in the water was standing only knee-deep; she’d never have known how deep the water WASN’T if she hadn’t stepped out in faith!) (5) God is always ready to help us, often through the ministry of another person. And (6) once we have stepped out in faith, we need to help someone else get their feet wet.

So why did my class dwindle? Almost half the class accepted places of service during the Bible study hour. Don’t be afraid to take action on what you feel the Lord calling you to do. You won’t have to go it alone. Get out of that boat and into the waters of service.

“He (Jesus) said, ‘Come.’ And Peter got out of the boat…” (Matthew 14:29a, NASB).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I've written about this personal experience before, so if it rings any bells, please bear with me. Some years ago, my honey Larry and I were out fishing one night on a lake. Now this particular body of water was notorious for fluctuating water levels. In many places the underwater terrain changed so drastically that you could instantly go from being in a hundred feet of water to only a few feet – or none.

Which is exactly what happened to us. We were headed home and were, we thought, safely in the middle of a deep section of the lake. Suddenly the boat slammed into a solid object and we came to a terrifying and immediate halt. The water level had dropped and we had hit a sand bar!

Fortunately, the sand allowed us to slide to a stop without being thrown out – and we were later relieved to find no damage to the boat except for minor scratches. But we were stuck fast. We spent the remainder of the night huddled in the bottom of the boat hoping for rescue. But no one ever came.

Shortly after daylight we heard a power saw being used somewhere along the shore. Larry decided to swim in that direction and see if he could find help. The bank was far, far away, so Larry snapped on a life jacket and began swimming. He would swim until his arms were exhausted, then stop and float to rest. On and on this went until he was within a hundred feet or so of shore.

But by that time exhaustion had gotten the best of him. He seemed to wilt into the water and, had it not been for his life jacket, he would have been in big trouble. Or so he thought. Next thing I knew, though, he was laughing and his whole body seemed to have revived. “Guess what?” he yelled back to me. “I’m standing up!” That long stretch of water he’d worn himself out swimming across was only four feet deep!

Had he only put his feet down, he could have walked all the way to our rescuer (who very kindly helped us). So many times in life we find ourselves thrashing wildly, thinking that we’re in so deep we’ll never be able to stop swimming. And there’s the Lord saying, “Stop struggling and trust Me. I’m the solid foundation you can stand on.”

“...when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:30-31a, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we were walking along a riverbank and tried to give a verbal swimming lesson to a drowning person. I’m sure you recall how that plan ended in disaster. As we do the work of the Lord, there will be many times when we must be willing to get our feet wet.

Now you may have never done this, but I’m admitting to this: there have been occasions when I’ve looked at a person’s life and thought, “There’s no way!” Have you ever done that?

Is anyone not meant to be saved? No. John 3:16 makes that clear: “For God so loved the world” (KJV). Not just your country. Not just my country. Not just your city. And not just you. Or me. Jesus Christ came that the whole world might be saved.

And guess what? If you are a child of God, He called you to His rescue service, reaching people and telling them the Good News of how to be saved. No doubt you’ve already found yourself in many situations where you’ve had opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. What did you do?

Certainly the Holy Spirit prompts us when He wants us to take action. But many of us have ignored those promptings to the point that our “prompters” are a bit rusty. Witnessing is a privilege, not a chore. And it is the command, not suggestion, of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Every day people all around you are crying out for help, wanting to know Who can help them, Who can save them. Don’t stand there and wish that your preacher was with you. If you know The Answer, tell them.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You’re walking along a riverbank and you hear a frantic, “Help! Help me!” Scanning the water, you spot a man thrashing violently near an overturned boat.

You’ve been swimming for over twenty years. You’ve taken swimming courses, competed in swim meets, and even brought home a few ribbons. Why, you’re the right person in the right place at just the right time to save this guy!

Quick as a wink you dash to the very edge of the water, cup your hands and call out, “The first thing you need to do is work on that fear problem! Think of the water as your friend!” The man continues to scream for help; his head disappears beneath the surface and pops up again, but now he’s too weak to even call out.

“Okay,” you yell confidently, “maybe mental imaging’s not your thing. What you need to do is try floating on your back. Take a deep breath and let your feet float up and your head lay back in the water. You can do it, buddy!” you end on a note of encouragement. But even as you’re speaking, the man slides silently beneath the surface, never to reappear.

“Huh,” you shrug nonchalantly. “Guess everybody’s not cut out to be a swimmer.” Off you go down the bank, whistling a tune, picking wildflowers, and wondering what you’ll wear to church Sunday.

Would you stand and watch as a fellow human being drowned? “Of course not!” you respond. “Who could be so cold-hearted?”

A whole world is drowning in sin, pain, and confusion. So God places specific “rescue” opportunities in the path of His children. “I know that!” you may argue. “I’ve invited people to church! I’ve even given out tracts around my workplace!”

Sometimes it’s not enough just to TELL someone how much God loves them. Sometimes you have to SHOW them.

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


If a baby’s life on earth is to continue, what happens? He must grow up. When we become children of God we, too, start out as infants. But as we feed on the Word of God, listen to sound Biblical teaching, and spend time in fellowship with the Lord and with other believers, we mature.

Think of it this way: if an eight-pound baby came into the world and two years later was still eight pounds, still not talking, and still not walking, you’d know something was very wrong. But even if that child increased in size or OUTWARD APPEARANCE but never developed further skills, this would also be a clear indication that there was a serious problem.

God looks at His children and lovingly watches over them, and He desires to see them grow and mature. The apostle Paul addressed this issue in the book of Ephesians. He talked about how we as the body of Christ need to work together so that “all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature” (Ephesians 4:13, God’s Word). He goes on in the next verse to say: “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:14, NLT).

So many Christians are fearful of witnessing. Why? In many instances, it’s because the believer has not matured and developed a deeper knowledge of Christ and His teachings.

Child of God, let me encourage you to make every effort to grow up in the Lord. Don’t you know how good a father feels when someone looks at his child and says, “He looks just like you!” Our heavenly Father so wants His children to be like Him!

“Imitate God, since you are the children He loves” (Ephesians 5:1, God’s Word).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Remember the disobedient toddler we looked at a couple of days ago? If we’re to understand God’s nature, we have to realize that even a loving God sometimes has to say, “Enough.” So when is enough enough? The only One with that answer is God; but if we live as the Holy Spirit teaches us to live, then we won’t need to know that answer!

First, realize the child in the scenarios we examined was a baby. Not only does a baby unknowingly put herself in harm’s way, but she sometimes purses her little lips, looks you straight in the face, and tells you, “No!” Why? She has to test her limits in order to learn what her boundaries are.

We children of God go through these same stages. And God as our loving Father tenderly watches over us, steering us away from danger, disciplining us for our own betterment, and doing everything we will allow Him to do to bless us and keep us close to Him.

I have a niece whose two-year-old is in the “My do it” stage. She insists on doing everything for herself, whether she’s capable or not. And when Mommy has to put her foot down and tell her that she can’t do something, that little toddler either cries, pouts, or becomes angry. Not once has she ever turned to her mother and said, “You’re right. You’re older and wiser than me and I should do what you tell me.”

Isn’t it amazing the similarities between our children and God’s? So often God clearly directs us toward or away from something, or calls us to do or not do a specific action, and we purse our lips, look Him in the face and say, “No!” We want to test our limits, too, don’t we?

You may have seen those billboards in years past that said, “Don’t make Me come down there. – God.” News flash: He’s already here. The Holy Spirit indwells each and every believer and He stands ready and willing to discipline His wayward children.

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (I Thessalonians 4:7, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Your fourteen-month-old has just begun toddling about on her chubby little legs. This new mode of transportation has opened up a whole new world of exploration for her and she’s eager to see and touch it all.

She crawls over to an electrical outlet and begins to pull at the safety cover you’ve installed. Realizing what she’s up to, you pull her away from the danger and firmly tell her, “No.”

Two minutes later, she’s back, digging even harder to pry the cover loose. “No,” you tell her more firmly; and this time, you pick her up and move her to the other side of the room. Guess what? In no time, she’s back. For Round Three, you add a soft swat on her hand as you tell her “No” once again.

If she returns for Round Four, you have several options. You can take her out of the room, close the door, and consider that room off-limits to her. You can swat her hand more firmly. You can rearrange furniture to hide the outlet she’s fixated on. Or you can probably handle the situation any number of other ways. But however you choose to deal with it, you’re not about to ignore what’s happening. Why? You love her too much to let her do something that will hurt her.

News flash! When it comes to one His children dabbling in something he shouldn’t, God isn’t going to let it slide, either. Oh, He’ll try to gently get your attention at first. But if that doesn’t work, He’ll try a little harder approach; and then a little harder; and He won’t give up until He’s dealt with it.

Accept the Lord’s discipline; turn from whatever sins you’re “dabbling” in; and know the refreshing forgiveness of your Heavenly Father. Remember: He won’t ignore your sin. And sooner or later, He’ll do whatever it takes to bring you back into obedience.

“Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?” (Hebrews 12:7b, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Sometimes it gets downright disheartening to see what ungodly people seem to get away with. Ah, there’s that little word: SEEM. God is consistent. Sin doesn’t take place without consequences – either here or in eternity.

“So,” you ask, “why is it that I get into trouble every time I step out of line and yet my unbelieving acquaintances manage to get away with everything short of murder?” For the explanation, picture this scenario:

You’re in a crowded store and you have your five-year-old with you. As you turn to look at a rack of clothes, you hear a loud crash. Spinning around, heart pounding, you see your child standing right beside you while another youngster is standing three feet off the ground amid a smashed display of merchandise.

“Lady, get that kid down from there!” the store clerk angrily calls to you as he charges toward the scene.

“Hey,” you retort, “that’s not my child!”

Beginning to see the picture here? God’s discipline is extended only to His own children. Those who refuse adoption into His family through faith in Jesus Christ will never be disciplined by God upon this earth. While we as His children may be lovingly reprimanded at every turn, despite our shortcomings and because of His tender mercy, we will one day live with Christ in eternal glory. On the other hand, lost people will be forever separated from God.

So when you see someone who appears to be going unpunished, could be that’s God’s way of saying, “Hey, that’s not My child.”

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering…” (I Peter 4:12a, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Sylvia and Janet sat at lunch and Sylvia dominated the entire conversation. Before their salads were eaten, Janet had learned all about Sylvia’s new dining room suite, her concern over her son’s grade point average, her tiff with a neighbor who seems to have trained his pet to use Sylvia’s lawn as a bathroom facility, and about her plans to redecorate her home office.

“And I’d really like to hear some of your ideas,” Sylvia winds down as she hurriedly shovels in a few bites of lunch.

“Well,” Janet begins, “for starters, seems to me rearranging your desk and bookshelves might give you more space and…”

Janet is quickly interrupted by a muffled shriek from Sylvia. “Would you look at the time! I’ve got a meeting in less than ten minutes!” Leaping to her feet, she throws a ten on the table and says, “Be a dear and take care of the check, will you?” She gives Janet an affectionate pat on the shoulder and says, “Let’s get together again soon. This has been FUN!” Then she swishes out the door.

Sylvia’s not much on manners, is she? But be honest; this is what our prayer life often sounds like, isn’t it? “Hey, good talking to you, God. Gotta go. Amen.”

You see, prayer is CONVERSATION, not monologue. We don’t need to do all the talking. Our Heavenly Father has so much He wants to share with us if we’ll just be quiet and take the time to listen.

“I want to hear what God the Lord says…” (Psalm 85:8a, God’s Word).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Recently, we looked at the importance of including praise, adoration, confession, and intercession in our prayers. Now let’s look at thanksgiving. What’s the difference between praise or adoration and thanksgiving?

Praise and adoration stem from simply recognizing who God is. The Creator of the Universe is worthy of all praise and adoration. Thanksgiving is thanking God not just for what He’s done, but also thanking Him in faith and trust that He has heard your prayer and that He will answer in a way that is in the absolute best interest of you His child.

So before you add that concluding “Amen” to your next prayer, take some time to thank the Lord for having heard you. And let Him know that you thank Him and trust Him not only for what He’s done, but for the things He’s going to do.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (Philippians 4:6, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday, we looked at how shameful it is for professing Christians to criticize churches of any size. Instead, we’re to do what the Bible says: “Encourage each other and build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11a, NLT).

Sadly but true, though, many of us attend churches who are on their last breath. No growth. No vitality. Not the tiniest spark of life.

Time for some CPR – Church People Resuscitation. Where to start? With yourself. Check your pulse. If you’re alive, you have a responsibility to work for the Kingdom of God within and outside the walls of your church building. Ask yourself: (1) What am I doing to help this church grow? (2) How many people have visited this church at my invitation? (3) How many people do I welcome each Sunday?

Whether you’re 20 or 120, if you’re able to read these posts, you’re able to do something to help grow the Kingdom. Homebound? Make phone calls and send cards of encouragement. Send some private Facebook messages to let people know you’re thinking of them and praying for them. Every believer can do something to spread the love of Jesus.

If a church is unhealthy, that’s because its people are unhealthy. Because, see, WE are the church. YOU are the church. Have you consciously, verbally committed to a healthy, growing walk with Jesus? If not, why not? Now’s a great time to tell Him you’re ready.

“…grow in your knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:17b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I sometimes hear professing Christians criticizing big churches or putting down small ones. Who’s right? Nobody. First Thessalonians 5:11a reminds us we’re to “Encourage each other and build each other up…” (NLT). Doesn’t say a thing about tearing anybody down.

How does a church get big? Same way a baby does. By growing. Which is what churches are supposed to be doing. Take a look at what happened when Peter shared the Gospel in Acts 2:41: “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day – about 3,000 in all.” Three thousand new members in one day. I’d say those new believers alone made up a pretty big church, wouldn’t you?

If you’re part of a small church, help it grow. It’s not the pastor’s or staff’s job alone to grow a church. It’s the responsibility of every believer. If your church isn’t growing, it’s time to get busy doing your part and encouraging others to do theirs as you invite and welcome newcomers into your congregation.

What about big churches? If you’re part of a large church, don’t hide in the crowd. Help your church continue to grow and reach out to your community and beyond. During services, introduce yourself to people you don’t know and let them know you’re glad they’re there. Don’t ask, “Are you visiting?” or “Are you new here?” They may be members you haven’t yet gotten to know.

I’ve said this often, but it bears repeating: Jesus never stood outside the church doors and yelled, “Y’all come!” He stood inside the church and told the congregation, “Y’all go.”

“…go and make disciples…” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 28:19).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1, NLT).

Not only must we listen to the Word of God through sermons, reading our Bibles, studying commentaries, etc., but we must “listen very carefully.” Just because a preacher has a TV program or a person has written a book or even posts something on Facebook doesn’t make it “truth.” And if you aren’t daily spending time learning from the Bible, you’re in serious danger of drifting away from “the truth.”

Three times in his letter to Titus, Paul warns about people turning “away from the truth.” Years ago, one of my uncles, a highly educated man, was devastated when his church’s pastor ran off with the church secretary. Instead of blaming the people involved, he blamed his denomination. And he blamed God.

So after years of steering clear of all things “Christian,” he was befriended by some people who drew him and his family into a religion that taught him, among many other things, that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. And by pulling a Bible passage out of context and using it along with this teaching, it was easier than you might think to draw in a person who was ignorant of the Scriptures.

Never rely solely on anyone else’s teaching or books or posts for what you believe about Jesus. Read your Bible. Study it. Know the beliefs and background of the writers of any commentaries or other study aids you use. But more than anything, know the Bible. You can’t go wrong spending time in the Living Word.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


How often do you praise God each day? The answer to that question determines the attitude with which you face the problems and circumstances of your daily living.

Here’s why: Psalm 22:3 says of the Lord: “But you are holy, O you that inhabit the praises of Israel” (AKJV). Our Savior lives in, shows up, and exults in the praises of His people. Based on that information, ask yourself: what kind of house do I provide for the Lord Jesus Christ to dwell in? Is it a glorious mansion built on continual praise and thanksgiving, or is it closer to a pup tent or a hastily erected tarpaulin?

You want to have a closer walk with the Lord? You want the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to be as close as the whispers of your heart? Then “praise the Lord,” regardless of your circumstance.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6, ESV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever prayed and felt like your prayers were bouncing off the ceiling and coming back down unheard and unanswered? That may be exactly what’s happening.

God is an orderly God. First Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a god of disorder” (NIV). Just as His instructions for building the ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and the temple were precise, His instructions concerning prayer require order.

Of course, prayer should begin with a time of praise and adoration. Then comes the hard part: confession and repentance; without these there can be no petition or intercession.

Unconfessed unrepented sin is like a wall or hedge, a barrier between you and the Lord. And the longer that wall is allowed to stand, the thicker it builds and hardens.

Don’t let even what you consider “little” sins go unconfessed. Remember: to God, sin is sin, period. Confession and repentance must always come before petition and intercession.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9, ESV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You go to the store; you buy a tube of your usual toothpaste; bring it home; open it; and squeeze a glob onto your toothbrush. When you begin to brush your teeth you instantly gag. “This isn’t toothpaste!” you sputter. “It’s hand lotion!”

Weird, huh? Of course, this isn’t likely to ever happen. Why? Because it’s pretty much a given: when you buy toothpaste, you get toothpaste. When you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, you get toothpaste. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

But let’s look at the Christian life. Jesus bought us with His very blood, making us His Father’s children, His brothers and sisters in the faith, and heirs to the Kingdom of God. If His death and resurrection and our acceptance of His sacrifice made us all of this, then why is it that we’re so inconsistent? James said it this way:

“Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen!” (James 3:10, God’s Word; read the rest of the chapter and you’ll learn a lot more about this).

And don’t read this and think: “I don’t use bad language.” If negative situations in your life send negative words flying out of your mouth, then you, my friend, are cursing (speaking ill or expressing negative thoughts) rather than blessing – whether you’re speaking of your own life or someone else’s.

Let me ask you, Christian brothers and sisters: When life squeezes you, what comes out? I pray it’s Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“God never changes His mind when He gives gifts or when He calls someone” (Romans 11:29, God’s Word).

Some people have the mistaken impression that the only people God actually calls are the ones who are to preach, pastor churches, or become full-time evangelists. Not so! Each person who belongs to God was called into His family and into a position within that family.

Best of all, once you’re called into the family (which means you’ve obeyed the Holy Spirit’s leading, repented, and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior) you’re a member of God’s household. The Lord will never disown you. No one can remove you from your position as a child of God. Your place in God’s family is, as the NIV words it, “irrevocable.”

You may not be aware of the gifts God has bestowed on your life, but rest assured He has gifted you (not tobe confused with what all believers have – the fruit of the Spirit). God gives one or more specific gift or ability to each of His children – gifts to be used to build His kingdom.

As you grow in grace and faith, ask God to show you your gifts and the places of service where you might best put them to use.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:5, NLT).

Once you begin to take your Christian walk seriously, you’ll probably find the road getting bumpier before it gets smoother. When the times get rough, we have to remember the One in Whom we’ve put our trust. God is always faithful, and even when the odds seem insurmountable, He’s with us and will help us overcome any obstacle that obstructs the direction of His will for our lives.

But please take note: being an overcomer is a process, not a position. We have to depend on God to give us daily – and oftentimes, moment by moment – strength to serve Him and seek His will above all else. What a joyous day it will be when we stand before His Father and the holy angels and Jesus announces us as His own! As the old hymn says, “It will be worth it all.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Now the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed’” (Joshua 8:1a, NASB).

Fear comes on each of us at one time or another. Sometimes momentary fear is justified; at other times, fear is an unnecessary hindrance. God had instructed Joshua to go in and conquer the city of Ai – no small order for him and his army. But God gave Joshua assurance of His presence as He sent him into battle. He told Joshua not to “fear or be dismayed.”

God never sends His people to do His work without going before and with them, preparing them and the way to do the work He has called them to accomplish. Trust God to go with you wherever He is leading you. As long as you’re following His footsteps, there’s no reason to “fear or be dismayed.”

Ask God for the faith to trust Him and do His will in whatever circumstances you find yourself today.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NLT).

Yesterday we looked at SAD, or Seasonally Activated Depression, which causes depression in its sufferers. Researchers for this disorder designed special lamps and even wearable headgear to illuminate their patients with artificial sunlight. From the daily use of these contraptions, studies have documented remarkable success in relieving patients’ depression.

SAD sufferers have learned it’s vital to make sitting under the light or wearing the light a part of their daily routine. A part of our daily routine must be the study of God’s Word, time in deliberate communication with Him, and specific service in His name. He is our Light and we are His, and we have an obligation to tell others about Jesus. Scientists may have found an artificial light that works for SAD patients, but there is not and never will be a substitute for Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, NIV).

Some years ago a scientific study identified an illness known as SAD, or Seasonally Activated Depression. Researchers determined that people suffering from SAD were much more depressed when the days were shorter and nights were longer. Gloomy weather often makes any person feel a little down, but lack of sunshine caused these people to become seriously, sometimes dangerously, depressed.

Jesus brings new light and life into the life of every person who trusts Him as Lord and Savior. The Scripture passage above tells us that we are now His light in the world. So many people are crying out in the darkness. Will you be the one to show them the SONshine?

Ask God to lead you to a specific person to minister to today.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives” (I Thessalonians 4:7, NLT).

When we are honest with ourselves and with God, all of us must admit to some sort of unhealthy habit, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. A person may be an overeater, a smoker, or a sufferer of some other addictive habit. He or she may gossip or have a problem with unclean thoughts.

“Nah, not me,” you say. But what about those who simply lack a desire to pray for and meet the needs of others? Does your comment then change to, “Let’s not go there?”

The Bible’s use of the word “impure” does not necessarily indicate anything that we think of as terribly dirty or evil. Any behavior, thought, or spiritual laziness that hinders us from seeking and doing the will of God is an “impure” thing.

Ask God to point out the impure areas in your life and to give you strength to overcome them.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, ESV).

A helpful way to reflect on your day and your life is to keep a journal or diary. In this way you make yourself accountable to yourself – and what greater critic do most of us have?

Maybe you’re already a journaler. Whether you are or not, your life is writing your story. And as it’s being written, people are reading it and seeing what it’s all about. And God Himself is reading every page and line.

Let me ask you to take a very serious look at yourself. As a book where would your life be shelved? Fiction – are you living a lie? Mystery – do you make it difficult for people to get to know you? Inspirational – are you an encourager? As far as God is concerned, your life literally is an open book. Live so that you’re not ashamed for Him to turn the pages.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15, ESV).

Choices. Most people make dozens of conscious and unconscious decisions every day. Sometimes after periods of great stress, a person will make a decision to “begin a better life for myself.” The trouble with an across-the-board decision like that is that fulfilling that kind of a statement means fulfilling your PERCEIVED NEEDS as well as your ACTUAL NEEDS.

The above Scripture passage is from Joshua’s words to the people of Israel at the time of the covenant of Shechem. In this one short passage he makes two things abundantly clear: that (1) there is a choice to be made; and (2) he and his family had made their choice and had chosen to “serve the Lord.”

As you go through the days of your life, you’ll face a multitude of choices and your PERCEPTION of your own needs will always be as in or out of focus as is the direction of your life. Making the right decisions begins by making the most important decision of your life. Have you chosen to serve the Lord? True living doesn’t even begin until you’ve made a total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


True story: Jim and Brenda had no doubt where God wanted them to serve, so they had no misgivings about their appointment as missionaries to a small war-torn African nation. As Brenda and their infant daughter settled into the compound, Jim prepared to travel to another village. Having been thoroughly schooled in the language of the country, Jim was able to question some of the villagers as to the conditions on the road to the next settlement.

“Normal, normal,” they told him.

With those assurances, Jim hopped into his supply-laden vehicle and headed out. A few miles down the road, Jim rounded a curve and screeched to a halt before a roadblock of armed bandits. One of the men held Jim at gunpoint as the others unloaded the truck. Moments later the men and supplies disappeared into the surrounding jungle.

Returning to the village Jim fought to control his anger as he told the men of the village what had happened. “Ah,” they all smiled. “Normal.”

“Huh?” said Jim. “I don’t get it.”

“They didn’t hurt you and they didn’t take your truck,” one of the villagers explained. “That’s normal.”

Moral of the story? What’s “normal” for one person may not be the least bit “normal” for someone else. To a person in an abusive relationship, “normal” may be being beaten every week or day. To someone struggling financially, “normal” may mean being behind three months’ rent. A person suffering with depression may consider feelings of suicide “normal.”

An old saying says not to judge another person until you have walked in their shoes. Jesus said don’t do it, period: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, KJV). What He does say to do is love each other. How’s your love life?

“And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8, KJV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“What am I doing wrong?” Ever asked that question? Sometimes it seems when we’re trying the hardest to live according to Jesus’ teachings, we find ourselves in the toughest situations.

In Matthew 14 we read about the disciples getting into a boat – at Jesus’ instruction, mind you – and setting out for the distant opposite shore. Lo and behold, a huge storm suddenly hit them and, the next thing you know, the disciples were in a life-threatening situation. The wind was against them; the waves were crashing in all around them; and they were rowing for dear life and getting nowhere. Can you relate to being in this tough a spot?

Now here’s the part you may have missed if you’ve ever read those verses. In Verse 25 the Bible reads: “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them” (NLT). By that time, eight hours had passed! The disciples had been out on the sea and in deep distress, yet Jesus seems to have waited to come to their rescue.

Maybe you’re experiencing overwhelming difficulties right now. Please know: (1) God has not deserted you. He may not immediately resolve your problem, but He will begin working on your behalf the moment you call out to Him. (2), He will deliver you, even if it’s not in the way or timeframe you expected. (3) And here’s the best part: had Peter never been in the storm, he’d never have had the opportunity for the life-changing experience of walking on water. Your storms grow your faith when you entrust them to Jesus. You will never experience great faith until you’ve experienced great troubles.

“Then Peter got out of the boat and walked on water to Jesus” (verse 29, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Maybe you have children of your own; if not, I’d bet you used to be one! Remember whenever you were outside playing? One youngster would be at “home base” as “It” in a game of Hide-and-Seek. “100! Ready or not, here I come!” he’d bellow. Even though you were tucked away in the lower forty, you heard the shout and you knew that he would never figure out where you were hidden.

Now think back about how selective your hearing could be. This time it’s your mom calling you. “I didn’t hear you,” you tell her when she finally comes out to haul you into the house. Sure you did; you just ignored her.

If we aren’t careful, we find ourselves tuning God out, too. At first it’s really hard to ignore Him. But as He calls and calls and you continue to ignore Him, it gets easier and easier to simply pay no attention. Hebrews 3:13 says: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (NIV). This verse is not just addressing the call to salvation; it also speaks to God’s guiding voice calling to believers.

What has God spoken to you about lately, and what has been your response? One day the Lord will shout, “Ready or not, here I come!” There won’t be any hiding then.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


When the apostle Paul was a prisoner, Felix the governor had Paul appear before him so that he could hear about the Way (Christianity) that Paul was following. As Paul told him about Jesus Christ and the judgment to come, the scripture makes it clear that Felix was brought under conviction. However, he refused to take that step of faith; instead, he ordered Paul to leave his presence, saying, “When I find it convenient, I will send for you” (Acts 24:25b, NIV).

Can you imagine? Paul was holding forth the Word of Truth. The Holy Spirit was lovingly speaking to Felix’s heart. And yet Felix rejected it all.

Hopefully you’re already a believer in Jesus Christ. But even we have a tendency to give God a hands-off attitude. When things are going okay, we leave Him out of our daily lives. But let our situations get a little haywire and what do we do? Yell “Help!” Don’t treat God as a convenience. Let Him be your constant Companion and closest Friend.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You gotta be really old (like me) to remember comedian Flip Wilson’s female persona who was always saying, “The devil made me do it.” We may not put it that way, but there have probably been times in all our lives when we’ve said something like, “I know I shouldn’t have, but I just couldn’t help it.”

Maybe you let slip an unkind remark. Perhaps you yielded to something else you knew you shouldn’t have gone along with. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that your actions are by choice and not by irresistible circumstances. Staying in the Word of God and spending time in prayer and with fellow believers will help you stand firm in your faith.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (I Corinthians 10:13, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever feel completely exhausted? Sometimes mental and physical fatigue bring us to that point. And sometimes that exhaustion stems from trying to go through daily life on our own rather than depending on God.

In the book of Acts Luke lays out the perfect formula for revitalization. He says: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19, NIV).

So let’s see. If you repent, that simply means you do a 180-degree turn away from whatever you’re trying to do on your own and you then turn to God. And next? Times of refreshing will come from Him.

Are you tired? Do you need refreshed? Turn to the Lord and He will re-energize your life with His strength.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


One day as Peter and John were on their way into the temple to pray, a beggar who had been crippled from birth cried out to them as they came to the gate where he lay. When Peter said, “Look at us!” the man turned, fully expecting to receive a handout.

What he received was complete healing. The two disciples were put in jail and then brought before the Sanhedrin (Jewish court) and questioned. Peter told them, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong” (Acts 3:16, NIV).

The disciples wanted no credit for what had happened in the beggar’s life; their whole intent was to give glory to God. This, my brothers and sisters, is what all our lives’ circumstances are to be about.

Once the men of the Sanhedrin had heard Peter and John’s defense, their response was inevitable: “they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, NIV).

If you spend time with Jesus – in prayer, reading the Bible, attending church, socializing with other believers – people see it in your walk, your talk, and every area of your life. When you don’t spend time with Him, count on it: they can see that, too.

What do you think people notice most about you?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7, NIV).

Paul wrote these words to his friend and fellow believer Timothy. Paul knew his time on earth was coming to a close; his death was near. Most of us have no idea how long a time we have left on earth. The only thing we can know is what sort of a life we’ve lived while we’re here.

As believers in Jesus Christ we’re to be about His business, sharing His love and showing others the Way to the Kingdom of heaven. Paul could boldly say that he had done his part. The word “race” is actually a word meaning agony. Paul was referring to his work for the Lord as an all-out, gut-wrenching marathon.

So, believer, are you sitting in the spectator seats, walking, jogging, or giving your all? Jesus never said the work of the Lord would be easy; what He did say was that the rewards are out of this world.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“. . .the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7, NIV).

Do you give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wages? Do you feel like you are justly compensated for the amount of work that you do? In the passage above Jesus was talking to those He sent out as workers for His Kingdom.

Everyone who has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior has been assigned as a worker in His field. With that in mind, what sort of payday, spiritually speaking, can you expect to draw? Bear in mind that the “crowns” that you are earning as you do the work of the Lord are not for your own glory, but these constitute the only treasures you’ll be able to lay at His feet. I don’t want to go to Jesus empty-handed, do you?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Have you ever been to a carnival “fun house” – one of those maze-like walk-throughs with all the warped mirrors that distort your reflection? I remember seeing myself much wider and squattier than I already look and then going on a little farther and seeing myself tall and thin with a long, narrow face. No two mirrors were alike and none of them showed a reflection that looked very much like me.

We who are believers in Jesus Christ are to be reflections of Him. Like a good quality mirror we are to reflect Him clearly and consistently. Yet many times our lives are like those fun house mirrors; one minute His reflection is distorted in this area of our lives and at another time the distortion is in a different direction. And when people hear us claim to be children of God, and therefore reflections of Him, they sometimes get a warped view of what Christianity and God are all about.

What kind of image are you reflecting?

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (II Corinthians 3:18, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. . . come out from them and be separate” (II Corinthians 6:14, 17, NIV).

Does this mean we aren’t supposed to associate with unbelievers? No, the term “yoked” is talking about being a part of the same team. Jesus was constantly criticized for His choice of companions – He was a Friend to sinners. But that’s just it; He was a Friend, not a participant.

In the workplace and all around the real world we are in contact with people who aren’t Christians; and unfortunately, we’re also in contact with people who claim to be Christians who live by standards that don’t reflect reverence or obedience to God’s Word. We can’t reach those we refuse to communicate with. Our purpose for being here is to serve God, and a huge part of serving Him is showing Him to others. Be a friend to all, but refuse to involve yourself in any activity that doesn’t honor Biblical principles.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever been asked to make a deposit on anything? I’ve had to make deposits on everything from church retreats to cruises. Seems people want you to put up something that will help them feel confident that you really intend to follow through with your initial commitment.

God, having created us, knows us through and through. He understands that we want to know that our reservations in heaven are secure. Paul explained it this way: “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose [to live with Him in heaven] and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (II Corinthians 5:5, NIV).

If you’ve sincerely accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit has come to indwell you. Not only is He your Friend, your Guide, and your never-failing Comforter, He is also God’s deposit and guarantee that your home in heaven is secured and awaiting your arrival. Now how’s that for Good News!

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32, HCSB).

Jesus compares “the kingdom of heaven” to “a mustard seed,” which He says is “the smallest of all the seeds.” Just how tiny is “a mustard seed”? They’re about one millimeter in diameter, and for those of you unfamiliar with metric measurement, 25.4 millimeters is equivalent to one inch. In other words, we’re talking teeny tiny!

So why is the Lord using something so seemingly insignificant to compare with the “kingdom of heaven”? To answer that, we need to see what’s been done with the “mustard seed.” It’s been “sown in the soil.”

Jesus said “a man took [the seed] and sowed [it] in his field,” which means that the “seed” was placed in prepared, receptive, fertile “soil,” thus enabling it to grow.

And then what? It grows so large that “it becomes a tree.” The planting of that single tiny “seed” results in “a tree” so big, so visible, and so attractive that “the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

Who’s the “man” in this parable? Jesus, in the form of the Holy Spirit. He calls to the lost, urging them to listen, to come to Him. And as quickly as a person turns, listens, and receives the Message of Truth, the Holy Spirit, the “seed” of Truth enters into that life. Then, as that new believer studies the Bible, prays, learns, and fellowships in a Bible-believing and teaching church, that “seed” of Truth brings him deeper and greater understanding. The believer matures, thereby clearly evidencing a mature fruit, or “tree” that attracts others to the Truth.

When you’re “for real,” people know it. When you’re serious about your walk with the Lord, that’s also obvious. And those who are searching for answers, longing for hope, looking for a place to belong, are drawn to you, just like “the birds” in this parable.

Is your life as a believer growing and maturing? How long has it been since you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you get honest about your growth rate, are you flourishing? Inching along? Wilting? Or spreading like kudzu? Mature believers attract other people to the “kingdom.” I pray that’s what you’re doing.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In John 6 we read about the “feeding of the 5,000” – actually more like 10,000 or 15,000 when you add the women and children.You probably recall what Jesus used to perform this great miracle: a boy’s “five barley loaves and two fish” (John 6:9, HCSB). This young man trusted Jesus with all he had. And Jesus used the boy’s offering because it had been freely and fully given to Him. And the boy – not the “stuff” he gave – received the blessing of being used by the Lord.

Through this one young person’s willingness to entrust all he had to Jesus, thousands of other people were blessed. When we offer ourselves to the Lord; when we submit all we call our own to Him; and return to Him the tithes and offerings He tells us to give, our little becomes much in the hands of the Almighty God and Creator.

Jesus’ disciples were used to distribute these blessings. Jesus Christ privileges His followers with opportunities to serve Him and to extend His blessings to others. Whether it’s the blessing of the Good News or a physical or material blessing like the bread and fish, He wants those who are His to be actively distributing His blessings.

Note, too, when the people received the blessing of the bread and the fish. It was after Jesus “had given thanks” (John 6:11a, NKJV). Until the Son thanked the Father for the provision, the blessing of the loaves and fishes wasn’t multiplied. Perhaps many of our blessings would be greater if we were more consistent in remembering to thank our Heavenly Father for providing them.

And let me clarify: I’m not talking merely material blessings. There are many types of blessings, such as the tremendous blessing of peace. And there’s the awesome blessing of witnessing to and leading other people to Jesus. When’s the last time you – or have you ever – asked Him for this opportunity and blessing?

Another important point is that the disciples didn’t distribute the food until the rest of the people had obeyed the Lord’s instruction to “sit down” (John 6:10). Those sitting down were those who heard Jesus’ instruction, obeyed it, and thereby positioned themselves for His blessings.

We, too, can be positioned to receive His blessings. When we know what we are to do and we do it, He blesses us. When we know what we are to do and we ignore it, we miss out on blessings that would otherwise be ours. Friends, it’s the bucket under the spout that gets the water.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


What good does it do to bring children up in a Christian home? Nowadays I hear so many parents bemoaning the difficulties they’re having with their teenagers or even younger children that no doubt they wonder if the Christian training is having an effect. But count on it – it is.

In Deuteronomy 6:2 the Bible says: “you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all His decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life” (NLT).

Does this mean righteous living can extend your years? Certainly that’s possible. But look at it from another viewpoint: it’s also possible to live a long time without enjoying life.

The only way to truly enjoy your life is to know that you have fulfilled God’s calling for you through the upbringing of your children and through the other ministries to which He has appointed you. No, your children may not always honor you or behave in ways that befit a Christian home’s teachings; but have no fear. God is faithful, and when your witness at home is faithful to Him, your children will see and believe.

Of course, we want to see God perfect them before our very eyes, don’t we? This isn’t always how it happens. Remember: spiritual maturity isn’t linked with physical age. Faithfully living out the Christian life before him may bring him into a full commitment at an early age. Then again, your child may not spiritually mature until he is far into his adulthood. Even if you’re already in heaven when that day comes, though, you can rejoice with the angels!

Believe me, I know firsthand how hard it can be to live out the Christian life with true hope and enjoyment when the child you hold dear is breaking your heart. Yet through and in spite of this difficulty, the Lord has taught me to focus on Him, on examining and maturing my own walk, and on learning that the true joy of this journey is in Christ alone.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I really get irked at these Bible-thumping preachers who tell us, “If you have enough faith, you can be healed of anything!” If this is so, then why are so many of these same believers looking through eyeglasses or adjusting hearing aids as they preach to you?

I firmly believe that God can and will heal anything and anyone if and when He chooses, and I also believe that our prayers and faith can move God to act; but how dare we speak to Him in any way as though we have a right to demand healing or anything else? Even Jesus didn’t demand of God. What did He say? “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39b, NASB).

Did you catch that? “If it is possible.” What isn’t “possible” with God? Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:27b: “all things are possible with God” (ESV). What Jesus was saying was “if it is possible for this to be Your will.” “All things” are not God’s will. And that includes earthly healing.

However, ultimate healing belongs to every child of God. The moment any believer in Jesus Christ takes his last breath here, be it wracked with pain or peacefully in sleep, that person is immediately translated from this life into the eternal one Jesus has prepared – a land where “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4b, NIV). Not even a memory of it.

Look at Second Kings 13:14a: “Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died” (NIV). Elisha, that great prophet of God, had asked for and received a “double portion” (II Kings 2:9) of the Spirit who had been with Elijah. Talk about power and faith! Talk about a man who was busy doing the Lord’s work on this earth! And yet he experienced illness, suffering, and death.

The number one cause of death is birth. We are born to die. But our focus should be on living. Live to serve others. In doing so, you’re honoring Jesus Christ and adding to your “reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I have always enjoyed the radio program “Focus on the Family.” When its founder Dr. James Dobson wrote the bestselling book “Dare to Discipline,” I knew he was a man after my own heart!

With all the moms who either choose or find it necessary to work outside the home, sometimes discipline seems to fall to the wayside just a bit. “I just hate having to reprimand him when I haven’t even seen him all day,” one mom told me.

Granted, you don’t want to meet your child at the door with a switch in your hand, but it is sheer nonsense to think that allowing him to disobey you or disrespect you is acting in love.

God addresses this issue throughout His Word. In Proverbs 13:24 we read: “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them” (NLT). In Hebrews 12:8, we read a stern statement about God’s discipline of His children: “If you aren't disciplined like the other children, you aren't part of the family” (God’s Word).

Trendy psychologists and “children’s advocates” of today would have us believe that disciplining a child can do irreparable harm to his little psyche. Begging all their learned pardon, I’d say that failing to discipline a child can do far greater harm. And please understand that when I use the word “discipline,” I am referring to constructive restraint or punishment that is administered firmly and timely, and with an end goal of teaching a child to live within the boundaries his parents set before him.

By establishing consistent rules and discipline, your child will have less difficulty learning to accept the moral and spiritual boundaries of the Christian lifestyle. And until he makes his own decision to follow the Lord, this training, your own lifestyle’s witness, and a whole lot of prayer are the three constants that will help point your child in the right direction. And this goes for grandchildren, too.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Can you imagine having this conversation with God? He asked Solomon: “What should I give you?” (I Kings 3:5, HCSB). And how did Solomon reply?

“You have shown great and faithful love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today” (I Kings 3:6).

What a family of faith! David had repented of his sins and received God’s wonderful forgiveness – so much so that the Lord was able to agree with Solomon’s statement that David had “walked before [the Lord] in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity.” So much so that the Lord told Solomon that if he would “walk in [His] ways and keep [His] statutes and commandments just as [Solomon’s] father David did, [the Lord would] give [Solomon] a long life” (I Kings 3:14).

What God forgives, God forgets, and David was amazed by the tremendous grace of his Heavenly Father. No wonder he wrote in Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Note, too, that Solomon tells the Lord that he is “just a youth who no experience in leadership” (I Kings 3:7b). Age isn’t a factor when it comes to serving the Lord Jesus – it’s availability that matters. Those who submit themselves fully to His Lordship are used for His glory. Look at Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, and yet she was entrusted with the Most Precious Child Ever Born.

So in answer to God’s question, what did young Solomon ask for? “An obedient heart” (I Kings 3:9a). What did David proclaim in Psalm 37:4? “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” Solomon’s heart desired to be “obedient” to the Lord, and because this was truly what he wanted more than anything else, the Lord honored this request, plus heaped on many more blessings:

“So God said to him, ‘Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to understand justice, I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again. In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no man in any kingdom will be your equal during your entire life. If you walk in My ways and keep My statutes and commandments just as your father David did, I will give you a long life’” (I Kings 3:11-14).

Folks, you can’t fool God – He knows your real priorities. And if He’s not first, He’s not your God – something or someone else is. Ask the Lord to strengthen your desire for the things of the kingdom and to lessen your desire for the worldly.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12, HCSB).

A friend whom I’ll call Amanda married a handsome young man she’d been dating for several years. Expecting her new husband to whisk her from their reception to their honeymoon, she instead was drawn aside to hear these words from her new groom’s lips: “I should never have gone through with this. It was a mistake.” And he left. True story.

See, the commitment that guy made at the altar and what he did afterward didn’t add up. Sometimes we as Christians are just as unfaithful to our Father.

“Do not despise the Lord’s instruction.” We can’t ignore or “despise” God’s Word and truly love Him. After all, as John 1:1 plainly tells us, Jesus is “the Word.” To “despise” His Word is to “despise” the Lord Himself.

“…and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father the son he delights in.” I recall a shopping trip where I encountered a mother and grandmother trying to appease a terror of a toddler. Between the two of them, the grownups had an easy 200-pound advantage over their opponent, and at least 65 or 70 years of experience; yet they were obviously losing the battle.

I had to use both hands to grip the clothing rack and pray for divine help to keep my mouth shut so I wouldn’t interfere in their melee. Never have I heard anyone give a more thorough reaming than this child did to these women; and never have I seen any other pair do any more cowering and coddling to try to soothe this tike’s ruffled feathers.

Is it love when parents or grandparents allow a child to behave like that? Is it love that sends a child off to school so accustomed to being the boss that the teacher’s entire class is disrupted by the authority-defiant little person? No! Love is willing to “discipline,” even when it’s easier to ignore the problem than deal with it.

But let’s say a youngster reaches for a hot pan. Does it require more love to swat the hand away or allow the child to be burned? Sure, the initial pain of the swat may not be appreciated, but learning to steer clear of hot pans will be an invaluable lesson for the future. Remember what we talked about yesterday? “Discipline” isn’t merely punishment – it’s training. A good parent will incorporate teaching into whatever punishment he metes out to his children.

You, child of God, are the “one He loves,” the precious child “He delights in.” Expect times of “discipline,” and be willing to learn from them so that these lessons won’t have to be repeated.

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

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“The one who lives with integrity lives securely, but whoever perverts his ways will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9, HCSB).

Real “integrity” is, according to Webster’s, “firm adherence to a code of especially moral values.” It lists “incorruptibility” as its synonym. Paul advised Titus that he should “set an example of good works … with integrity in [his] teaching” (Titus 2:7).

To live “with integrity” is to live firmly holding onto the teachings of Jesus Christ. This means more than going to church. This means more than doing “Christian” things. It means being sold out – inside and out – to the truth of the Gospel.

Let me lightly hit the last half of this Proverb and then I’d like to go back to the concept of living “securely”: “But whoever perverts his ways will be found out.” We can do all the “right” things, say all the “right” things, and still fool only ourselves and other people. God always knows what’s really in our hearts, on our minds, and in our spirits. And when our inward being (not to mention outward, which is another topic in itself) is any way contrary to what He has commanded us, He isn’t pleased – and He will not tolerate any believer’s duality.

Second Peter 3:9 puts it this way: “The Lord… is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Our Wonderful Father doesn’t stand waiting to whack His children the first time one makes a wrong move. Instead, He stands watching over them for their protection, wanting them to walk in His ways and be obedient to His teachings. But when one doesn’t, He “is patient,” giving that believer ample time to repent before meting out discipline. And remember, even discipline is done for the purpose of teaching.

But back to the first half of our Proverb: living “securely.” Accepting the fact that, as His child, God holds your time and your life in the very palm of His hand allows you to rest in Him regardless of your circumstances. Beloved, let this sink into your innermost being, and I hope it will minister to you as it does to me: if God is in control, nothing is out of control.

Who’s in control of your life today?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13b, HCSB).

Nicodemus, “a man from the Pharisees” (John 3:1), came to Jesus “at night” (John 3:2) to learn more about what He was teaching. Jesus told him: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will Other mss add not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

I think we all know the verse that follows (John 3:16), don’t we? Jesus knew that suffering preceded His glorification. Whether we like it or not, folks, the same holds true for every single believer. Be it in mild or dramatic ways, all who claim the name of Jesus will suffer for their faith, and in the end receive glorification, “the goal of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (I Peter 1:9).

The apostle Paul said it like this: “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (II Corinthians 3:18).

John 12 relates what Jesus taught to the crowds after He entered the city on what we refer to as Palm Sunday: “As for me, if I am lifted up Or exalted from the earth I will draw all [people] The bracketed text has been added for clarity. to myself” (verse 32). John notes in the next verse that “[Jesus] said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die.”

If we are to be like Jesus, we must be willing to endure trials for His sake. Being “lifted up” in the Christian world isn’t the same as it is in secular-thinking society. Did Jesus end up in the spotlight? Absolutely; but He did so as a Suffering Messiah. And He did so for one purpose and one purpose only: to “draw all [people] to [Himself].”

If any of us desire to be “lifted up,” let it be with an understanding of what that means as a Christian. We’re works in progress, y’all – the operative word there being “progress.” If you’re not moving forward in your walk with the Lord, it’s like standing on the down escalator – if you aren’t actively pursuing an upward path, you’re sliding downhill. And you may not even realize it.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“You are the light of the world. a city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:14-16).

“A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.” Joseph of Arimathea began his walk of faith as “a disciple of Jesus… secretly” (John 19:38), but his love for the Lord led him to take a very public stand, asking Pilate for the body of the crucified Jesus. A true disciple cannot remain a secret disciple.

Jesus tells His followers – and that includes us – that we “are the light of the world.” He goes on to say that “no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” What would be the point? Which is why Jesus continues, saying that rather than put that light “under a basket,” it is placed “on a lampstand,” which enables it to give “light for all who are in the house.”

What’s the purpose of light? It enables us to see. It’s also a vital part of what enables us to be healthy and grow. A hidden light can do none of these things. A hidden light is no light at all.

Jesus drives this point home in as plainly stated a truth as possible: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Our faith cannot be real and remain hidden. Our faith is not only for our own personal spiritual health and growth – it’s to help others see the Truth, believe it, and then grow in it.

When we shine the True Light “before men,” all the praise and honor and glory goes to the Only One who deserves it – our “Father in heaven.” Our “good works” will never focus the attention on ourselves, but always on the One we’ve surrendered our lives to.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things…” (Psalm 119:36-37a, NLT).

How many times have you heard it said that “money is the root of all evil”? That quote, of course, is a corruption of a Biblical truth: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (I Timothy 6:10a, NASB). Money is neither good nor evil – it’s a tool. A hammer can be used to build or it can be wielded as a lethal weapon. It makes no decision about which it does; its use is entirely dependent upon its operator.

Likewise our hearts and minds. We train them to focus on that which is important to us, which is precisely why the psalmist prayed, “Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!” Every day we’re bombarded with news about and images of the rich and famous. And if we’re not careful to train our focus on the things of God, we find ourselves absorbed in the pursuit of “worthless things.”

Money’s one handy tool. I personally like having it. But I don’t worship it. And I like my freedom from debt far more than I want anything “better” than what I already have. I’ll keep my comfy little mortgage-free house and my paid-for economy car, thank you very much!

Some of my friends would be considered “upper crust,” but I can tell you in all honesty: it doesn’t matter how much they have; somebody has more. And to seek to compete with any other person’s material possessions is pure foolishness.

Be thankful and responsible with the things that the Lord has already blessed you with and save and work wisely to have the other items you need or want. Just make certain earthly “stuff” is not your life’s focus.

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…good works are obvious, and those that are not [obvious] cannot remain hidden” (I Timothy 5:25, HCSB).

“Good works are obvious.” Not always, as Paul makes clear in the rest of the sentence. But often times they are. My pastor and his wife are wonderful, Godly people. They love the Lord, they love the family of God, and they have a tremendous desire to encourage the believer and to share the Good News with the unsaved. If it can be said of any couple that their “good works are obvious,” I would certainly say this of them.

But that’s not why they do what they do. If it were, that too would be evident. Anyone who is interested in puffing himself up will eventually end up like any other balloon of hot air – deflated. Yet it’s not up to any of us to be the one to let the air out: God will deal with that person.

The other half of Paul’s statement addresses those who may get discouraged because their work for the Kingdom goes unnoticed, unappreciated, and unrewarded: “…and those [good works] that are not [obvious] cannot remain hidden.” Everything done for the Lord is recorded in heaven.

In Matthew 10:42, Jesus talked about how even giving a cup of cold water to one of His disciples would be rewarded. Nothing you do out of love for Jesus Christ is unnoticed, child of the Savior. Nothing you give – or give up – for the sake of the Gospel is without reward.

God loves you so much! And He smiles every time you do the tiniest thing for His glory.

Some years ago, I read story about a man who fed parking meters. Every Tuesday, he went to the bank and had $20 changed into quarters, and he used those to go throughout his city and feed any meter that was about to expire. He didn’t leave a tract. Most of the time, he never saw the car’s driver. But what he did do was pray for the owner of the vehicle.

And on the rare occasion when he was caught feeding a meter (which is the only reason his story was ever made public), he simply explained to that person about second chances and the God who gave him that privilege.

Precious people, every good work is being written down in glory. Make this day one that will keep the angels’ pens busy!

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


No one patches an old coat with a new piece of cloth that will shrink. When the patch shrinks, it will rip away from the coat, and the tear will become worse” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 9:16, God’s Word). You’ll also find this recorded in Mark 2:21 and Luke 5:36.

This seemingly simple parable covers only one verse, but is important enough for three of the Gospel writers to record it. Before we get into its teaching, let’s examine the literal action Jesus describes. The natural fibers of the cloth used in clothing-making would shrink with washing, so an “old coat” would have been through enough washings to have shrunken noticeably, which wasn’t a problem when you consider the loosely fitting gowns and tunics of that period.

Now let’s say that the garment gets torn. To put a new piece of cloth onto the garment would mean that the patch would shrink as soon as the garment was washed, causing it to draw up and pull at the old fabric it’d been attached to. Instead of repairing the garment, it would end up making the tear worse. And, as the Luke version of the parable presents it, what person in his right mind would tear “a patch from a new garment?” (Luke 5:36a, NIV). Not only is that a crazy thing to do, it’s also a fact that “the patch from the new will not match the old” (Luke 5:36b).

Here’s the deal: you need either all old or all new. If you’re going to patch an “old garment,” use old cloth. If you’re going to make a “new garment,” the whole thing’s got to be new.

How can we apply this teaching? Think about it this way: What was your life like pre-Jesus? Would how you lived then fit with how you live now? I hope not. When you became a “new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17) through faith in Christ, you “put off the old man with his [old] practices and … put on the new” (Colossians 3:9b-10a, Young’s Literal Translation).

So what was Jesus saying? You can’t “add” the New Life to the old one – it will never work. In order to be a “new creation,” what has to be new? Everything. A person who has fully surrendered himself to the Lordship of Jesus has to daily and moment-by-moment put to death his own fleshly and earthly desires and embrace the higher and greater desires of the Holy Spirit within him. As the apostle Paul said, “I die every day!” (I Corinthians 15:31b). We don’t “arrive” while we’re on this earth. It’s a struggle, a daily confrontation with the forces of darkness who would have us mixing the “old” with the “new.”

And that will never work, because “the new will not match the old” (Luke 5:36b). What you used to do doesn’t work for you any more. Who you used to be pre-Jesus is no longer a part of you. Jesus doesn’t put a BandAid, a “patch,” on a person in need of salvation – He transforms him. Living for Jesus is all or none, folks. We can’t have a little of both, the “old” and the “new” – we have to choose. (Haven’t I mentioned that before?) Choose Jesus.

“…imitate Christ (I Corinthians 11:1b, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates