Where else can you buy A Bargain to Die For?
(1) You can phone, go by, or go online to Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million & have them order it for you.
(2) You can stop by Jeff Dennis Jewelers or Gardendale First Baptist Church's bookstore in Gardendale, AL & pick up a copy.
(3) You can order a signed copy directly from me by mailing $10 check or money order to: JUDY BATES, P.O. BOX 90, EMPIRE, AL 35063. Check out the contest happening now!
(4) For wholesale/bulk orders, contact Judy: firstname.lastname@example.org
BIBLE PASSAGE for WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20
“‘Listen, you priests – this command is for you! Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor My Name,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘or I will bring a terrible curse against you’” (Malachi 2:1-2a, NLT).
Two things to note right off the bat here:
(1) The Lord is addressing the priests. Who are the priests? First Peter 2:9a tells us: “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests …” All who belong to Jesus Christ are “royal priests” with Christ as “High Priest” (Hebrews 9:11). I don’t think it’s any stretch at all to identify modern-day believers as priests addressed by Malachi’s warning today just as the Levitical priests were warned in Malachi’s lifetime.
(2) Over and over in the book of Malachi, the Lord identifies Himself as “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Literally, “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Why that particular title? It shows His might; His realm – all heaven and earth and all creation; His power; and His victory. God is making the point that He takes it very seriously when His Name isn’t properly honored.
Yesterday I posted the study about not cheating the government or the Lord. My inspiration came from someone I ran into whom I hadn’t seen in a very long time. As we talked, he told me he had retired but was doing odd jobs to make a little extra money. Then he went on to astound me. “And this,” he said, “is what I call ‘free money.’ All cash. I don’t even have to pay tax on it.”
Uncle Sam may never find out about all that guy’s side jobs. If he does, he’ll pay dearly. But who knows about them for certain? God. I wish I’d never had that conversation with my friend. I’d always thought of him as a dedicated, 100% honest Christian. It grieves me to realize that he or any other believer can not only be dishonest, but think so little of it as to be perfectly comfortable talking about it. My Bible tells me that “All wrongdoing is sin” (I John 5:17a, ESV).
Folks, Jehovah Sabaoth ain’t playin’. He’s patient, but He won’t withhold His hand forever. If you’re His child and you’re doing anything wrong or failing to do what you know is right, your Heavenly Father will get your attention. Best to repent and make things right before He has to take you to the woodshed.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for TUESDAY, JANUARY 19
The past several days I’ve talked about the importance of putting God first. One of the passages we looked at yesterday was Matthew 6:33 in which Jesus says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV).
What “things shall be added”? Philippians 4:19 answers that question: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When you are faithful to the Lord in both your giving and living, He will bless you.
Does being blessed by God mean a trouble-free, wealth-filled life? No, but it means giving and living to honor Him aligns you for blessings you would otherwise miss out on. Case in point: Larry and I had to pay $266 in income taxes. Why? Because we report every cent we receive, even if it’s only a few dollars someone insists on Larry taking for helping with a repair job. After all, Jesus instructed us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17a). I’m not going to cheat my government or my Lord.
Which brings me back to the amazing, unexpected, undeserved blessings of God. Within days of finding out what we owed on taxes, Larry received $25 from a friend he’d helped with some yard work. During that same time, I received two unexpected checks: one for $50 and one for $174. That money covered all of our taxes except $17. What a blessing!
Let me make a couple of things clear: (1) God’s blessings aren’t necessarily financial; and (2) God’s children still have problems. But when our intentions are to live for Him, and we back that up with entrusting Him with the “firstfruits” (Exodus 23:19) of our labor, we’re under the spout. We’re positioned to receive whatever blessings He chooses to add to all the goodness He’s already poured over us.
I don’t know about you, but the day He saved a wretch like me was far more than I ever deserved if He never did another thing for me. When’s the last time you thanked Him for lifting you “from the pit of destruction”? (Psalm 40:2b, ESV).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for MONDAY, JANUARY 18
“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings … you dishonor My Name with your actions. You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at My commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Malachi 1:9, 10b, 12a, 13a, NLT).
God doesn’t want our leftovers. Not of our time. Not of our money. Not of our thoughts. He says and means, “… seek ye first the Kingdom of God …” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33a, KJV), or as the NLT words it: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else …”
If all God gets from us are our leftovers, He can’t be first in our lives. Over and over we read in His Word that He must be first: “Bring the best of the firstfruits … to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a, NIV). We may not be farmers, but we all have incomes from one source or another. When those deposits hit our wallets or our bank accounts, “the firstfruits” of those paydays belong to the Lord.
Just how serious is He about being first? Look at Revelation 3:16: “… since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (NLT). That little word translated “spit” (or “spew” in some translations) is actually a picture of projectile vomiting. It turns God’s stomach to see His people treating Him as less than Who He is.
I can’t sit here and tell you that I put the Lord first in all I say and do, but that is my desire every day. Tithing and giving offerings has become a wonderful discipline for me and Larry, and we wouldn’t think of not giving the Lord our “firstfruits.”
But honoring the Lord is about much more than money. It’s about giving of ourselves; dedicating our lives to honoring Him and setting an example that draws others into the Kingdom. It’s not “too hard to serve the Lord.” Don’t “turn up your noses at [His] commands.” Obey Him in your giving and living and see Him “pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in!” (Malachi 3:10b).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SUNDAY, JANUARY 17
You have a neighbor you know is really struggling financially. You’re cleaning out your fridge and find some items that have been in there long enough to grow fur. You load them into a nice little gift bag and walk over to your neighbor’s. “Here,” you say, “I thought you might be able to salvage something edible out of all this. Bon appetit!” You wave and toddle back home.
Don’t you know your neighbor is thrilled by your generosity? No, she’s more likely hurt, humiliated, and insulted. After all, in essence, you just told her she was only worthy of the things you no longer deemed fit to consume yourself. Our Heavenly Father isn’t pleased when we treat Him that way, either. Look at what He says in Malachi 1:6b-7:
“A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your Father and Master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for My Name! But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for Your Name?’ You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar. Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect” (NLT).
While we no longer need to or bring animals to church as sacrifices, what we are still required to do is bring our tithes (10 percent of our gross incomes) and offerings – and, as the Bible makes very clear, an offering is a gift given above and beyond the tithe. When we withhold from the Lord what is rightfully His, we’re treating Him exactly as our neighbor in the scenario above: “Here, God. This is how much you mean to me.”
In today’s society the Lord receives little “honor and respect” – none from secular society and pathetically little from those who claim to be His own people.
When we take the attitude that the church isn’t going to get “our” money and we can take it or leave it in every other way, we are “saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect.”
The Bible makes it clear that the house of God deserves our best. It’s the family home. Don’t neglect it. Love it and support it.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SATURDAY, JANUARY 16
“If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26, King James 2000).
This has probably been one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Why? Because of one word: “hate.” You see, the word translated “hate” is actually a word meaning “to show less favor to,” or “love less.” We see this same word used in Genesis 29:31:
“And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”
Jacob certainly didn’t hate Leah, although she wasn’t his first choice for a wife and he was actually tricked into marrying her – see Genesis 28-29 for the whole story. Jacob simply loved Rachel more.
God doesn’t want us to hate anyone, either. What He does want is to be our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Our love for Jesus Christ is to be above all other loves in our lives, including “father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters.” Which is why the NLT (New Living Translation) renders a better understanding of Luke 14:26:
“If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.”
Jesus says our love for ourselves and all these others should dim “by comparison” to our love for Him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t honestly say I have that kind of love for my Savior. I’m learning to. I’m growing in my faith. But I have a long, long way to go.
But here’s the thing: He knows that. And He understands that. We are works in progress – the operative word there being progress.
Your Heavenly Father knows exactly how you feel about Him. He knows exactly how your love for Him stacks up against your love for everyone and everything else. So simply confess the truth to Him. Ask Him to help you love Him more every day. Then do your part by staying in His Word and regularly spending time in prayer and fellowshipping with other believers.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for FRIDAY, JANUARY 15
“And may the Lord reward you for your kindness …” (Ruth 1:8a, NLT).
Kindness is a scarce commodity these days, and Christians, of all people, should be the quickest to dish it out in our actions and in our words. Likewise, we should respond to acts or words of kindness with, at the very least, a sincere “Thank you.”
First, we should daily thank the Lord for His abundant goodness. Secondly, we should make certain we express our gratitude for every kindness shown to us by anyone, whether family, friend, or total stranger.
A few years ago, I was in a drive-through line at McDonald’s. As I placed my order and started to pull forward, a car pulled out in front of me from the second drive-thru lane. It was a close call, but we didn’t exchange any paint. When I reached the window to pay for my order, the cashier told me, “That car in front paid for yours.” I looked up in time to see the car pulling away from the pick-up window and I could see the driver’s face in his rear view mirror. I threw up a hand and waved, mouthing a “Thank you.”
I may have been a split second ahead of that other guy going toward the window to pay, and what happened between our two cars was no big deal. Certainly nothing to warrant him paying for my food. And yet this man wanted to make sure he apologized for this very small incident. And I wanted to make sure he knew I appreciated his kindness.
No matter how busy you are, there’s no excuse for failing to thank people. That card you got in the mail? Give that person an actual phone call or text message or online message. Let them know that kindness meant something to you. Did someone let you over on the crowded interstate? Wave a big “thank you.” Don’t just pull over and keep going.
If we are Whose we say we are – that is, members of the body of Christ – then we need to be the most gracious people on the planet. Make “thank you” a major part of your vocabulary. Use it generously. When someone holds a door for you. When someone stops to allow you to cross a busy parking lot. At every opportunity. Consciously look for reasons to say “thank you.” That simple act of kindness may make the difference in someone else’s day.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for THURSDAY, JANUARY 14
“Give in proportion to what you have” (II Corinthians 8:11b, NLT).
While I’m still on the subject of giving, let me point out that sending money to a TV or radio evangelist is not putting money into “the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) because “the storehouse” is specifically the local church. When there’s a need in your community, it’s the local church who helps out, not the folks on TV or radio.
Is it okay to send these folks money? If the Lord prompts you to do so, then do it. But also do your homework. Know to whom and what you’re giving. Peter Popoff has been around for years and years and, even after being exposed as a complete charlatan, still manages to keep a TV program going and money pouring in, though the writer of a 2017 GQ article notes that when he signed up for Popoff’s “miracle water,” the constant flow of mail he began to receive from Popoff’s ministry always included in big, bold letters: “REMEMBER YOU MUST SOW THE LARGEST BILL YOU HAVE OR THE LARGEST CHECK YOU CAN WRITE.”
I was a young adult when my mom went to heaven, but while she was still with us, she made regular contributions to at least two TV evangelists. These gifts were in addition to her and Daddy’s tithes, and neither of these ministries promised her miracles or prosperity. She simply wanted to have a part in what they were doing to spread the Gospel. There’s no better or less selfish reason for giving.
But first and foremost, give your tithe. If your monthly income is $1,000, give your local church $100. The Lord doesn’t expect us to all give the same amount; that’s why we’re told to tithe: “Give in proportion to what you have.”
What may be a drop in the bucket for one person may be a real sacrifice for another. Giving 10 percent, even if your income is minimal, is a way of stretching your faith and allowing the Lord to show you how He fulfills His promises – see Malachi 3:10.
Copyright 2021Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38, NLT).
For months before my Daddy went home to be with the Lord, he was physically unable to get around very much. He also suffered from the early stages of dementia. But some values were so deeply ingrained that even that horrible disease didn’t take them away from him. And one of those things was his tithing.
When Daddy’s retirement and Social Security funds hit the bank, he wrote out his tithe. When he could no longer write his own checks, he had me or my stepmom make his check out. Even when he couldn’t remember what day of the month it was, he’d ask, “Is it the first? I need to pay my tithe.” Just because he could no longer physically attend his church didn’t mean he wasn’t just as dedicated to supporting it.
My Daddy’s love for Jesus couldn’t be killed by poor health. It couldn’t be killed by dementia. When I read the New Living Translation of Romans 8:35, 37, I can almost see my Daddy standing and proclaiming its words: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
Don’t be stingy. Be a giver. You are blessed to be a blessing, not to hoard it away. Remember: “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for TUESDAY, JANUARY 12
“I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put Me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse … Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing” (Malachi 3:10, CEV).
Nowhere else in the Bible will you find a passage like this one, where the Lord actually invites believers to test His faithfulness. Christians should support their churches – “the storehouse” – financially, and tithing 10 percent of your gross income is what the Lord asks. In return, He makes this promise to tithers: “I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.”
“Oh, that church ain’t about anything but money,” I’ve heard many people say. But without exception, I’ve found the person making that statement is someone who either doesn’t go to church at all, or sporadically goes and gives little or no money.
What a lot of folks don’t realize as they drop their two dollars in the offering plate is that they aren’t giving an offering, even though that may be what they call it. See, an offering is something given above and beyond the tithe.
Wanting to collect on the blessings of God may not be the right reason for becoming a tither, but the Bible clearly promises blessings to those who tithe. The Lord goes on in the very next verse to explain one blessing bestowed on tithers: “I will also stop locusts from destroying your crops and keeping your vineyards from producing” (Malachi 3:11).
While most of us don’t depend on agricultural crops for our income, it’s easy to grasp the meaning of this passage: when you trust God with 10 percent of your income, He blesses you and wards off a lot of the problems you might otherwise have. That old clunker will just keep right on humming along. That major roof problem will turn out to be a simple need for some caulking.
Until we can trust God with our finances, we certainly aren’t capable of trusting Him with the other areas of our lives. For the next 90 days, take the tithing challenge and see the faithfulness of God like never before.
Copyright 2021Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for MONDAY, JANUARY 11
“… it is love that strengthens the church” (I Corinthians 8:1b, NLT).
Imagine calling your doctor’s office and being told that your doctor will meet you at Burger Buddy. You think that’s a little weird, but, hey, you need to see him. So you walk in and slide into the other side of the booth, a puzzled look on your face. “Why are we here?” you ask.
“Oh, I got burned out on going to the office. I don’t do that anymore.” He opens his medical bag, takes out his stethoscope, and says, “What seems to be the problem?”
Are you going to tell him? Are you going to submit to an exam in your burger booth? I don’t think so. The minute that doctor told you he didn’t go to his office anymore, his credibility with you was completely shot.
Likewise with a professing Christian who rarely or never attends church. Folks, it is imperative that we practice what we preach. If you love Jesus, you must love His church. No, no earthly church is perfect, but with hundreds within easy driving distance, there’s no excuse for not settling into a church home, unless you are physically unable to get out and about.
And may I add here that I know many dedicated believers who are pretty much homebound. But on the flip side of that, I know a bunch who say they can’t sit through church or walk well enough to attend church. However, these same people go tearing through Walmart on scooters or anywhere else they really want to go.
And as I keep saying during this time of Covid weirdness, you can stay home and still be an active participant in your church, through watching online or on TV, and through giving online or by snail mail.
It was love that kept Jesus on the cross – love for me and you. And “… it is love that strengthens the church.” Love Jesus; love His church. Support it with your presence, and support it financially.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SUNDAY, JANUARY 10
“… your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, GNT).
When we do a good deed, speak a good work, or do anything whatsoever to help or in any way benefit or encourage another person, that word or action should do one primary thing: lead others to “praise your Father in heaven.” If all I accomplish by writing books, posting devotionals and Bible studies, and telling folks about bargains is to create a following for Judy Bates, I have miserably failed. But if I point people to Jesus and help them to draw closer to Him, then and only then is the Lord pleased with what I do.
How about you? Do you love to get that pat on the back, that compliment on what a hard worker you are, your name in the church bulletin or program? Human nature loves being seen and known, but Christians aren’t to point to themselves, “Look at me!” They’re to point to the Savior.
I’ve written several drama skits and full-length Christmas programs, none of which have ever been performed with my name on the program. Why? Because I asked that my name not be published. I don’t want people complimenting a person. I want them talking about how the Lord got their attention or touched their hearts through the presentation.
A lot of the good you do will never so much as earn you a “thank you.” A lot of the good you do will never be acknowledged or reciprocated. But don’t let that discourage you or stop you. The One who really matters sees everything you think, do, and say and, whether anyone on earth ever notices, He will one day tell you, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21a). And that, my friends, will be worth everything.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SATURDAY, JANUARY 9
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 11:18a, 19, NLT).
Do your kids, grandkids, other family members, friends, and neighbors hear you talk about Jesus? If not, why not? Perhaps it’s because you’re afraid one of them will ask you a question you can’t answer. If I let that stop me, I’d be in big trouble. There are so many questions I can’t answer.
Don’t let the enemy intimidate you into silence. Jesus said in Matthew 10:33, “… everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” Refuse to be a silent Christian. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, simply say, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up together right now.” Then start digging – even Google knows the Bible!
Talking about Jesus should be as natural as breathing – after all, He’s the One that made those lungs you’re using, and the air you’re breathing. Also, if you’re going to talk about Jesus, be a faithful follower. Your attendance and support of a local church is vital, even if, for now, that’s by internet or TV, and by giving your tithes and offerings via snail mail or online.
Your attitude toward church is a direct reflection of your attitude toward the Lord. After all, the church is the Bride of Christ for whom He was willing to suffer and die. I’ve talked to so many people who say they don’t go to church anymore because someone offended them, or because they’re waiting for their spouses to go with them. Honey, if church means diddly-squat to you, you’ll find another church to be a part of. You’ll go with or without that spouse.
Let me ask you a serious question: If Jesus were as faithful to you as you are to Him, would you be okay with that?
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for FRIDAY, JANUARY 8
“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).
In his book Full Surrender, J. Edwin Orr talks about the time he was in the audience at Oxford when Bishop Stephen Neill told about hearing a Christian evangelist from India tell the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15): “The evangelist pointed out that when the prodigal … walked his weary way home, … he could not have understood the enormity of his offence. Even when his father rushed out to meet him, even during the welcome-home banquet, he did not fully understand. It was not until some days afterwards that the prodigal noticed that his father’s hair had turned white in his absence. Then he appreciated the cost of forgiveness.”
Loving other people can be painful. Emotional hurt can be as agonizing as a knife in the heart. Worrying about a person you love can make you older than your years.
I never doubted my parents’ love for me, yet how many gray hairs did I give them? How much emotional hurt did I cause them? I could say I wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t all that bad, either. But truth is, every time I disobeyed, I hurt them.
Every time I disobey my Heavenly Father, I hurt Him. And hasn’t He already been through enough on my behalf? He didn’t deserve to be spat on or beaten or mocked. He didn’t deserve the humiliation of being nailed naked and bleeding, in agony, to a cross. He didn’t have to do any of that. But He considered ME worth it. He considered YOU worth it.
Jesus said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask My Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly?” (Matthew 26:53). Our Savior had an easy out. And He’d done absolutely nothing wrong. He was perfect in every way. He was fully God yet fully man. But He stayed on the cross, experiencing every moment of suffering just as any other human would have, because as the Only Perfect Sacrifice, only He could once-and-for-all pay the sin-debt that we owed. That, my brothers and sisters, is Perfect Love.
It was no small thing He did for us. So live to thank Him. How? By treating others the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). By loving others so much it hurts (John 3:16). By not giving up on those who’ve gone astray or have never come into the family of God (Luke 15:20). By being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). By being a faithful follower on Sundays and the other six days of the week, too (Ephesians 5:25).
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for THURSDAY, JANUARY 7
“… I jealously guard My holy reputation!” (Ezekiel 39:25b, NLT).
What exactly is a “reputation”? It’s the estimation in which a person or thing is held. Do you value your reputation? If you do, then you wouldn’t appreciate someone throwing your name around in a crack house or beer joint, would you? If that would upset an imperfect mortal such as you or me, how much right does the Lord have to be indignant when He hears His Name being used in places and phrases of anything but respect or honor?
The Lord Himself says He “jealously guard[s] [His] holy reputation!” When we read His Word, we can be sure that everything it says about Him is true.
And we can also be assured that everything He says He will do is going to be done. Over and over from the Old Testament to the New, we read passage after passage declaring, “He is faithful.” To name just a few: Isaiah 49:7; Psalm 33:4; First Corinthians 1:9; First Thessalonians 5:24; Hebrews 10:23; and First John 1:9.
Our Faithful Father and Savior deserves a spotless reputation because He’s the Spotless Lamb of God. And since He never does anything in any way wrong, the only way He can get a “spot” on His reputation is through the negative examples set by those who claim to be connected with Him – His followers, His people, His children.
Every day your life is helping others form an opinion about Jesus. Do as He does: carefully “guard [His] reputation” by honoring Him with your every word and action.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6
“How gracious and merciful is our Lord! What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has! Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey Him” (Psalm 111:4b, 9b-10a, NLT).
“How gracious and merciful is our Lord!” Boy, that’s a mouthful! When I think of all He’s done for me and forgiven me, I am astounded that He calls me His own.
“What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has!” The names of God – Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Christ, and many others – are all “holy” and should never be used in any way that isn’t honoring to Him. As I’ve said about “Oh, God!” I say the same about “Jesus!” If you use either of those phrases, you better be calling on the Lord because, otherwise, you’re dishonoring our Savior.
“Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.” Our conversations about the Lord should never be flippant. The more we grow in the Lord, the more we realize what an awesome God He is. Revere – that is, honor and respect – Him. Consciously avoid any thoughts, talk, or behavior that would embarrass His name or grieve Him.
“Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey Him.” I want us to especially note how these two sentences tie together. “True wisdom” comes from having “reverence for the Lord,” and “true wisdom” is rewarded. How do we know we have “true wisdom”? When we choose to “obey” the Lord. And there is no way to disobey the Lord if we truly have “reverence” for Him.
How obedient a child of God are you? Your answer tells you how much you truly have “reverence” for Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for TUESDAY, JANUARY 5
“The Name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NLT).
So much meat on this seemingly little bone. First, note that the word the NLT (New Living Translation) translates as “godly” shows in some other translations as “righteous.” Both words refer to a person who is striving to follow God’s commands and teachings. With that under our belts, let’s look at a couple other translations and then break down this passage a little.
“A tower of strength is the name of Jehovah, Into it the righteous runneth, and is set on high” (Young’s Literal Translation).
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe” (AKJV).
Note the word “LORD” in all caps. When you see that, it always means “LORD” has been substituted for YHWH, the letters for what eventually became written as Yahweh or Jehovah. Early believers thought God’s name too holy to even speak or write. But that’s another lesson entirely.
Back to the NLT passage. And what exactly is a “fortress”? A fortified structure. “A strong tower.” “A tower of strength.” The old hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” opens with this line: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing …” What’s a bulwark? A protective wall. When we are IN Christ, we are withIN His protective boundaries. However, God’s walls are not a prison. We’re free to come and go and, unfortunately, many believers choose to spend a lot of time outside God’s protection by living contrary to how He says we must. And when do, we suffer needlessly.
Life has plenty of problems simply because we live in a fallen world. We can lessen those problems by choosing to live righteously.
And speaking of righteousness, today’s passage goes on to say “the godly run to Him and are safe.” Like a runner preparing for the Olympics, those who are walking daily with the Lord are spiritually ready to “run to Him and are safe.” Their situations may not even improve, but God’s peace surrounds them regardless. Those who aren’t spending daily time with the Savior aren’t spiritually able to “run.” Instead, these folks tend to go into panic mode.
Life is lived at high speed. So when it comes to spiritual training, I highly recommend starting this New Year preparing for the Olympics.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for MONDAY, JANUARY 4
In the past three days, we’ve looked at nine of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly, even if that's online or via TV for now. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. (7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. (8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. (9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances.
(10) Determine to
live within your income. Trust God as your Provider and refuse to create credit
card or any other unnecessary debt.
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11b).
(11) Begin to eliminate all credit debt. Concentrate on paying off credit cards, focusing first on the one with the lowest balance. Romans 13:8a says, “Do not owe anyone anything…” Pay your debts on or before their due dates.
Faithfully tithe to your local church and trust God’s Word for His provision.
Like a bucket under a spout, tithing aligns believers to receive God’s
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Judy Woodward Bates
In the past two days, we’ve looked at the first six of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly, even if that’s online. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff.
(7) Learn your spiritual
gifts and use them in specific places of service. Until you find that perfect
fit, serve wherever and however you can. Think of it this way: you’re far more
likely to find shoes that fit by trying them on rather than by staring at them
through the window. And you’ll find less time to be stressed and anxious if
you’ll focus on others instead of yourself.
“Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (First Peter 4:10).
(8) Consciously seek
opportunities to tell others about Jesus. The day you accepted Christ’s offer
of salvation, you volunteered for service in the Army of God. And that means
active duty – you’re on assignment. Even if you’re mostly staying at home, you
can still call and text. You can also order gifts or gift cards to be sent to
those you know could use a helping hand or a bit of encouragement.
“… in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us” (Second Corinthians 5:19).
your need for Christ’s control over your finances. Everything we claim as our
own is simply on loan to us from the True Owner. Commit to follow His guidance
in managing all that’s been entrusted to you. Only through the leadership of
the Holy Spirit can we properly manage money.
“Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? You can’t be slaves to both God and money” (Luke 16:10, 12, 13b).
I hope you’ll go back over today’s and the past two days’ studies and evaluate where you stand on the nine topics we’ve covered so far. We’ll wrap up with the final three tips tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
BIBLE PASSAGE for SATURDAY, JANUARY 2
Yesterday we looked at the first three of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. The first three were: (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants.
And now we come to the next three:
(4) Spend time
daily in the Word and in prayer. The Living Word wants you to spend time with
Him. Remember that prayer is a two-way conversation; don’t just talk to God –
sit quietly and wait for Him to speak to you.
“Happy is the man [whose] … delight is in the Lord’s instruction… he meditates on it day and night” (from Psalm 1:1-2).
(5) Attend church
regularly. As a member of the family of God, it’s important to spend time with and
worship with fellow believers. Even if Covid has you staying at home, you can
fellowship by joining in an online worship service, Zoom classes, and through
texts, calls, and maybe even through leaving small gifts at friends’ doorways
as you stand back and maintain your social distance while saying, “I wanted you
to know I’m thinking of you.”
“… not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other …” (from Hebrews 10:25a).
(6) Become a
blessing to your pastor and church staff. According to a survey of 1,050
pastors conducted by the Francis A.
Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, 802 (71 percent)
respondents stated they were burned out and struggled with depression and
fatigue on a weekly and even daily basis. Can you imagine how tough 2020 has
been on many of them? There is no end of volunteers to criticize pastors; be
one of the rare few who encourage them. Send a card. Send a gift. Text or call
to express your appreciation.
“Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work” (First Thessalonians 5:12-13a).
We’ve covered half the tips already. Look over them. Pray over them. And I’ll have three more to add tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
As we close out 2020 and begin 2021, I want to give you my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Today, I’ll give you the first three:
(1) Commit yourself
fully to Jesus Christ. God wants more than a relationship; He wants a total
“Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).
your commitment to Christ above all else. Only when Christ has first place in
your life can the rest of your life be in right order.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33).
(3) Put the needs
of others ahead of your wants. If we look at the life of Jesus, we realize that
our time on earth is not about personal comfort, but about being a comfort to
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 10:45a).
Voila! You have the first three tips. I hope you’ll mull these over and truly examine yourself to see what areas need the most improvement. I’ll just go ahead and put my hand up and say I need improvement on all three. I’ll have three more for you tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates