The Bargainomics Lady 

Judy Woodward Bates

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As we looked at yesterday, Jesus’ third letter was a message to the church in Pergamum. Even though there were many who were sincere in their faith and walk with the Lord, others were merely using it as a social gathering place, and the church leaders were doing nothing to stop this.

Some of the believers in Pergamum were not only attending church services, but also participating in the disgusting religious practices of some the surrounding pagan temples. Compromise was killing the witness of the church in Pergamum, which is why Jesus concluded His letter with: “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16, NLT).

Note the exact wording of Jesus’ warning: “I will come to YOU suddenly and fight against THEM…” Jesus’ displeasure wasn’t with the entire church of Pergamum – after all, a church is simply a body of believers, and some of Pergamum’s believers had become filthy with sin. Jesus said He would “come… suddenly,” or unexpectedly. But He was specifically coming to deal with “them.” Who’s “them”? The churchgoers who were also joining in pagan practices. These believers were living like hell itself outside the church and then coming into church expecting the Lord to bless them for simply showing up.

But that’s not the only “them” I believe the Lord was addressing. He was also speaking of those who were in positions of authority within the church who were knowingly allowing these embarrassments to the name of Christ to continue unchecked within their fellowship.

It isn’t every believer’s job to point out the faults or sins of other believers. Even when a church member is absolutely certain of a serious problem within the church, there’s an appropriate way to handle it. The concerned church member should take their information to the pastor or another person in authority within the congregation. That person should not share that information with anyone else within the congregation and certainly not outside it. Above all, that person should pray for the involved party or parties to repent.

When any Christian is more concerned about how they look to other people than how they look to Christ, that Christian is compromising. And compromising is sin. We must keep our focus where it matters, and look to and live for Jesus.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus’ letters to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna have been examined and we have five more to cover, with the church at Pergamum coming up next. Again, let me remind you that; (1) all seven of these letters were to be read before the entire congregations of all the churches; and (2) these letters are for all the True Church today just as it was for those at the time John was given the Revelation.

To review, Ephesus was a busy church, but without the initial love for the Lord and for others that had been and should be the movitation behind every ministry. Smyrna is the only one of the seven churches who is given a clean bill of health. This church was under great persecution but was standing firm.

What about Pergamum? Jesus opens His address to the church in Pergamum with a stern reminder: “This is the message from the One with the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12b, NLT). The word translated “sword” is again the word “rhomphaia,” a broad, long sword, far-reaching and capable of horrific destruction. Jesus’ message continues:

“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin” (Revelation 2:13-15).

The Christians of Pergamum were surrounded by people who worshiped false gods, religions which in many instances included making use of shrine prostitutes as part of their practices. Roman culture in general was “if it feels good, do it.” Christians were considered really weird because they didn’t follow this same self-indulgent philosophy.

With all that went on around them, the majority of those within the church at Pergamum had “remained loyal,” including a believer named Antipas who was killed because of his faithful witness. But that same church also allowed people to stay in their congregation, fully aware that these people were following the practices of the goings-on at the other places of worship, “eating food offered to idols and… committing sexual sin.”

“Eating food offered to idols” may not sound like a big deal until you realize that these people weren’t simply buying leftover ceremonial meat in the marketplace. They were attending the functions of these pagan places of worship and taking part in the ceremonies, which included not only eating the food, but “committing sexual sin.”

Pergamum had become a country club church. Even though there were many who were sincere in their faith and walk with the Lord, others were using it as a social gathering place where they simply came to see and be seen. And the church leaders were doing nothing to stop this. How did Pergamum begin its downhill slide? Compromise. And Jesus warned He would not tolerate it: “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16).

In other words, clean up your own church or I will come and do it for you. He has the same message for any disobedient  individual who is a part of the True Church. God won’t spank the devil’s children, but He’ll flat-out tan the hide of one of His own who refuses to repent and obey Him. Stay on the right track. The Father never likes taking a child to the woodshed, but He loves each one of us too much to let us continue wrongdoing.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Today let’s wrap up our look at the church in Smyrna. Remember, the first letter was to the church in Ephesus. It was a busy church, doing all the right things, but without their initial love for the Lord and for others.

The church of Smyrna was faithfully serving the Lord in spite of tremendous persecution. Is there persecution in the church today? In many countries, setting foot in a church is putting your life at risk. In America, look at the recent shootings that have occurred in churches.

According to a study done by the Center for Homicide Research, there were 139 shootings on church property between 1980 and 2005, resulting in the deaths of 185 people. And bear in mind these murders were long before the more recent shootings like the ones at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina which took the lives of nine people and First Baptist in Southerland Springs, Texas where 26 people died. Christians have been and still are objects of hatred to many.

As with each of the seven letters, the Lord closes with: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:11a). This is followed by Jesus’ specific statement for the believers of Smyrna: “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b).

What is this “second death”? The Revelation leaves no doubt of its meaning: “The lake of fire is the second death” (Revelation 20:14b). And who should fear the “second death”? “…cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars – their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

I wish I had time to expound on this particular list, but suffice it to say that everything listed here along with the word “unbelievers” are lifestyles that in no way reflect faith in Jesus Christ. And as Peter states emphatically in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” The way to heaven is through a total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

And for those who’ve made that commitment? The book of Revelation has a message of assurance: “…the second death holds no power…” (Revelation 20:6b), and as we’ve already looked at in the Lord’s message to Smyrna: “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b).

The Bible leaves no doubt that Jesus truly died for all: “He died for everyone” (II Corinthians 5:15a), but not all accept His free gift of salvation. And Jesus plainly states the final destination of those who don’t: “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41b).

It is not nor ever has been God’s will for a person to spend eternity in hell. Hell wasn’t created for humankind, but “for the devil and his demons.” But there is no fence to straddle. It’s Jesus or Satan, and each person must choose. Choose Jesus, and you’ve chosen eternity in heaven; reject Him, and you’ve chosen eternal damnation. We need to be busy explaining this.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus begins His instructions to John concerning each of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor with: “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger, as in pastor) of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). He follows this statement with a specific word for each church, with Smryna’s letter saying, “These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life” (Revelation 2:8b). Yesterday I said these words were very important for the Christians of Smyrna. Why?

They were under tremendous persecution. If the latter timeline for the writing of the Revelation is correct – and I personally believe it is – then Domitian would have been the ruling emperor (81-96AD). He was the ruler who demanded the title of of “dominus et deus,” meaning “lord and god.” Like many religions today, tacking on one more “god” to worship wasn’t a problem for many of the people in Smryna, but for the Christians, it was completely unacceptable, and that meant facing the wrath of Domitian.

Among Domitian’s favorite forms of torture were boiling people alive in oil, and his favorite targets were Christians. No wonder Jesus began His letter by identifying Himself as “the First and the Last, who died and returned to life.” The faithful saints of God at Smyrna may have suffered horribly, but they did so knowing Christ’s promise as Paul announced to King Agrippa: “…the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead...”

Many of the Smyrna believers may have lost their lives under Domitian’s reign of terror, but they did so fully confident that Jesus, “…the first to rise from the dead,” would “raise them up” (Jesus speaking, John 6:44b) into His eternal kingdom just as He promised.

Look again at Jesus’ message to the church at Smyrna: Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you… Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Remember again, every one of these letters is for the entire True Church. Christians are outcasts in many countries around the world today. They suffer untold horrors while we in America, for the most part, sit back and decide whether we want to take an hour or so out of our day for “church” or make a day of it at the lake or flea market or golf course.

The church in Smyrna is the only one of the seven churches who gets a clean bill of health. Folks, suffering changes us. It changes our focus. The person battling cancer isn’t concerned about that new car or house or trip to Hawaii. And if that person knows the end is near, their focus is one of two places: faith or fear. They’re either ready to meet their Maker, or terrified of what comes next.

The people of Smyrna met their suffering with faith. None of us will get out this world alive – unless we’re here when the Rapture takes place. Even if we are privileged to peacefully leave this world in our sleep, none of us will get to that point without enduring some form of suffering. I pray each one of us will allow whatever hardships come our way to increase of faith and love for the Lord, because “perfect love expels all fear” (I John 4:18b) and “God is love” (I John 4:16b).

Copyright 2019 
Judy Woodward Bates  


We’re looking at the second of Jesus’ seven letters to the churchs found in Revelation 2 and 3. As we’ve already learned, each letter is preceded with the command of Jesus to John: “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger, as in pastor) of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT).

In all seven letters, the instruction to “write” is followed by a different statement. In the case of the church of Smyrna, Jesus says, “These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life” (Revelation 2:8b). How important are those words to the Christians of Smyrna in light of His message to these believers.

“I know your affliction and your poverty – though you are rich! And I am aware of the slander of those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are in fact a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:9-10).

It’s going to take a while to pick all this apart, so I hope you’ll bear with me, but first we see Jesus telling them, “I know your affliction and your poverty…” Smyrna was a wealthy city, yet the Christians lived in extreme poverty, the poorest of the poor. Why? People didn’t want to hire Christians. People didn’t want anything to do with Christians. To profess Jesus as Lord was to be shunned in society, and that included in ways to make a living.

“…though you are rich!” The strong faith it took to stand for Jesus Christ in the face of such discrimination and cruelty didn’t go unnoticed. Nor would it go unrewarded. John Trapp, a 15th century theologian, referred to Smyrna as “the poorest but purest of the seven.” Contrary to what this world teaches, what we have here on earth matters little. What’s important is to “Store your treasure in heaven” (Matthew 6:20a). Which is exactly what the Smyrna Christians were doing.

“And I am aware of the slander of those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are in fact a synagogue of Satan.” Smyrna included a large Jewish community, but those Jews were vehement opponents of anyone who professed to be a follower of Jesus. Paul had dealt with their kind many times, his life often threatened by Jews who refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. And the cold, unyielding hearts of these Jews in Smyrna prompted Jesus to call them what they’d become: “…a synagogue of Satan.”

We may not experience persecution like the believers of Smyrna, but we definitely live in frightening times. Yet the Church still stands and Jesus promises all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18b). So stand firm, believers! God is on our side.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus’ first letter was to the church in Ephesus. His second letter begins: “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write…” (Revelation 2:8a). Just what sort of city was Smyrna?

It was a riverfront community with a burgeoning import/export trade via its harbor. And all that commercialization made Smyrna a wealthy city. It also brought in people from all sorts of cultures, plus many of its own citizens traveled and experienced other cultures. And other cultures meant other religions. These were introduced into Smyrna and received with open arms, with temples of Apollo, Cybele and Zeus worship among many others.

But all these worship centers fizzled into the background when in 196 B.C. Smryna built the first temple to “Dea Roma” – “dea” being the female form of the word “god,” signifying a goddess, and “Roma” meaning Rome. The Goddess of Rome became Smyrna’s trendiest deity and her temple the most popular place to worship.

But bear in mind the message of Revelation wasn’t written until A.D. and most Bible scholars date it somewhere between the years 70 and 96. The later date seems more feasible because historical records point to Domitian as the Emperor who sentenced John to exile on Patmos, and Domitian was Emperior from 81 to 96 A.D.

And by the time of the Revelation, the worship of the Goddess of Rome had changed to the worship of the Roman Emperor himself. Domitian was particularly cruel to Christians, considering himself a god and demanding the title of “dominus et deus,” meaning “lord and god.”

Which didn’t make it easy for Christians in Smyrna, and which came as no surprise to Jesus. After all, He’d told His disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33b).

But He also said, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33c). Good News for Smyrna and Good News for us living today.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus closes His message to the Ephesian church as well as the other six churches with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a, 11a, 17a, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, NLT). Just as He followed “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14) each location with a distinct statement, Jesus concludes the Ephesian letter and the other six letters with distinct statements.

To Ephesus, He says: “To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b).

What was Jesus wanting the church at Ephesus to be “victorious” over? Their lack of love for Him and others. Love doesn’t rekindle itself. We have to consciously seek to rebuild it.

When a marriage vow is broken, it takes a heap of work to keep that marriage together and reconnect the trust and love that should be there. Easy? No. But I know couples who’ve been through major storms but refused to give up on each other – and let me say right here that I am totally aware that it takes two willing parties to save a marriage.

And speaking of marriage, every believer is a part of the Bride of Christ. No matter how unfaithful you or I have been to our Bridegroom, He still loves us. He’ll still forgive us. He won’t give up on us. He wants our love for Him to grow and mature, just as He wanted to see the church at Ephesus continue to not only do all the right things, but to get back to doing them in love. And He wanted to see that love turn from declining to increasing.

“I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” Where was “the tree of life”? Eden, man’s original “paradise.” But “the paradise of God”? This was the dwelling place of our Creator. What did Jesus say to the repentant thief on the cross? “…today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43b).

This is such a significant promise, and remember: it wasn’t merely for the people of the church of Ephesus who heeded Jesus’ words – it’s also for every believer today who will listen and obey. Jesus’ promise is for here and the hereafter.

We can eat of the “fruit from the tree of life” not only in “the paradise of God,” but we can eat of the spiritual “fruit from the tree of life” right now IF we’re putting God first – see Matthew 6:33. Meaning what exactly? When we’re fully committed to Jesus Christ, we miss out on many of the effects of the curse – see Genesis 3.

Will our lives be worry-free? No. The Bible makes it clear we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. But I can promise you this: when you put God first, you position yourself for blessings. Materially? Maybe. Spiritually? Most definitely. And when you do reach “the paradise of God,” you’ll be astounded to learn all the negative things that were kept from your life because of your faithfulness.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


As I mentioned yesterday, before Jesus dictates each of the seven letters to the churches, He instructs John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). As we’ve already seen, the word translated “angel” is also translated as “messenger,” making it likely that these letters were addressed to the human “messenger,” as in the pastor of each congregation.

But after instructing John to “Write this letter…,” Jesus opens each letter with a distinct statement. In the case of the church of Ephesus, Jesus says, “This is the message from the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven gold lampstands” (Revelation 2:1b). In Revelation 1:20b, Jesus had already explained the meaning of the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands”: “The seven stars are the angels [or messengers] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

So Jesus told John to write to the churches. How was he to get those messages to the churches? After all, he was exiled on an island. Well, there are a couple probable explanations:

(1) Boats came and went from the island, bringing supplies and other prisoners. John could have sent the messages by boat. Possible, yes, but my money’s on the second possibility.

(2) Historical records indicate John was released from prison shortly after he wrote down Jesus’ Revelation message. Ephesus was a coastal city and only a short boat trip from Patmos. John could have hand-delivered the message. The other six churches were all within a reasonable distance from Ephesus, so John may possibly have personally delivered the message to all seven churches.

According to all available information, John appears to be the only apostle who lived to a very old age and apparently died of natural causes. Being the last of the original 12 disciples who walked and talked with Jesus, we can only imagine the excitement of having John walk into the church at Ephesus or any of the other six churches. Too, this final message of Jesus Christ would be held in high regard and copies of the entire Revelation made and distributed to not only the seven churches, but to all the churches.

So even though seven specific churches were designated as recipients and the specific goings-on – both good and bad – within those churches are addressed, the message is for all churches in all ages, including today. Seven, signifying completion, encompasses the entire true Church, which may be why Jesus chose to begin the first of His letters, the one to Ephesus, identifying Himself as the One with the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands.” I pray each person reading this is a part of the One True Church.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re in Revelation, chapter 2. Before we wrap up our look at the church in Ephesus, I want to touch on two different lines of thinking about what is represented by the seven churches to whom Jesus instructed John to write.

Some Bible scholars believe each church represents a church age, or time period. Most don’t agree with that viewpoint, including John Macarthur, who says of the letters to the seven churches that “when Christ speaks to those churches, He is speaking to all the churches of all time... There is tremendous prophetic importance in those churches because their messages represent the total message to the total church."

In other words, folks, we need to listen up because all of these messages are for the church of today just as they were for the church of John’s day and every time period between then and now. And let me reiterate that the Church is not a denomination, but is composed of all true believers worldwide.

Two important things we need to note here and take a look at over the next few days:

(1) Before Jesus dictates each of the seven letters to the churches, He instructs John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). As we’ve already seen, the word translated “angel” is also translated as “messenger.” An angel of God assuredly watches over the Church, but the letter was to be read aloud to the entire congregation, making it likely that these letters were addressed to the human “messenger,” as in the pastor of each congregation.

(2) Jesus closes His message to the Ephesian church as well as the other six churches with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a, 11a, 17a, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). You can sit in church every Sunday and “hear” the sermon, but unless you also “understand,” it becomes very easy to leave church having gotten nothing out of the service and having put nothing into it. Just as with reading the Bible, God doesn’t want us to merely read the words; He wants us to “understand” and apply them.

Have you ever sat in church and thought, “I wish So-and-So were here because this message is sure for her!” I’ll put my hand up and admit I’ve done that. Reminds me of a humorous yet serious quote by the great theologian Henry Ward Beecher: “The churches of the land are sprinkled all over with bald-headed old sinners whose hair has been worn off by the constant friction of countless sermons that have been aimed at them and glanced off and hit the man in the pew behind.”

May all us “bald-headed sinners become “the man in the pew behind.”

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re looking at Jesus’ letter to the church in Ephesus, the first of the seven letters He instructs John to write. He commends them for what they’re doing right, but then adds: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4, NLT). He saw this bunch of believers doing all the right things, but without the love for Him or others as they’d had at the beginning of their commitment to Him.

This church was busy, doing good, steering clear of all the evil that surrounded them in their goddess-worshiping city and making sure no false teachers or “apostles” sneaked into their congregation. But even with all that, Jesus said to them: Look how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:5a).

A marriage with a love that isn’t nurtured can become more of an institution than a commitment. This is what Jesus was saying to the church in Ephesus. They still met regularly; they still did good deeds; they avoided all wrongdoing; but their love had dwindled rather than grown. In a marriage, a couple can get so busy going through day-to-day routines that they forget to consciously seek to grow in love for each other. This is what had happened in the church of Ephesus.

So Jesus warns them: “Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:5b).

The church who was doing everything right needed to repent. Why? Because of what they weren’t doing. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 to the Pharisees, those pious worshipers who kept every letter of the Mosaic Law: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

To break a commandment of God is to sin. And the Ephesian church was in sin because of their diminishing love for Christ and, subsequently, for others. Which is why Jesus went on to say, “If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches” (Revelation 2:5c).

Jesus didn’t and doesn’t want a band of robots going through the motions of the Christian lifestyle. After all, He­ doesn’t need us, period. He does, however, love us, and that alone is beyond comprehension when we look at our own lives and the priorities we put in front of Him.

How would Jesus “come and remove” the “lampstand,” representing the church at Ephesus, “from its place among the churches”? The church might keep the doors open and continue to do business as usual, but the favor of God would no longer be on that congregation.

Likewise with an individual Christian’s life. If a person wants the approval of God and the favor of God, then he or she must obey “the greatest commandment” and “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”


Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Jesus instructed John to write “to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11b, NLT). With Ephesus first in line, what did Jesus have to say to the Ephesian Christians?

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for Me without quitting” (Revelation 2:2-3).

First, we see a statement Jesus says to each and every believer: “I know all the things you do.” The Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself, indwells every true believer and He indeeds knows everything about us.

Jesus then commends the Ephesian believers for their “hard work and… patient endurance.” The church at Ephesus was hard at it for the Kingdom of God and they didn’t put up with false “apostles” who tried to infiltrate their congregation and lead them away from the truth.

Despite all that, though, Jesus goes on to say: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4). On the surface, everything at the First Church of Ephesus looked great. But when Jesus took a peek below their carefully plastered façade, He saw a people who went through all the right motions, but without the love they’d started out with.

Newlyweds may be absolutely giddy about their new life and love together, but after a while that giddiness settles down. If that marriage is healthy, though, the love continues to grow and mature. It may not be as flamboyant as it was in the beginning, but the depth of that love assuredly increases.

Likewise a Christian’s love for the Lord and for his fellow believers. When that love is diminishing rather than growing, a Christian is simply going through the motions rather than seriously pursuing a deeper walk with the Savior. “God is love,” (I John 4:8 and 16) and no one can grow closer to Him without loving Him more and loving others more too.

How long have you been a believer? Can you honestly say you love Jesus Christ more today than you did the day you committed your heart and life to Him? If you do, how do you show it in your prayer life? Bible study? Church attendance? Financial giving? Treatment of others?

The Lord has more to say to the Ephesians and more to say to us through this letter. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


The second chapter of the Revelation opens with these instructions from the Lord Jesus Christ to the apostle John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus” (Revelation 2:1a, NLT).

As we’ve already looked at, the word translated “angel” in the NLT and many translations is also translated as “messenger” or “minister” in others. While an angel of the Lord certainly watches over His Church, this message was directed to the leader or pastor of the church at Ephesus who would then share the letter with the entire congregation.

Remember, the epistles, such as the book of Romans, are simply letters written to specific churches, with Romans being the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, and Ephesians being his letter to the church in Ephesus.

The New Testament contains 13 epistles, or letters, from Paul: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Eight more epistles are in the New Testament: First, Second and Third John; First and Second Peter; James; Jude; and Hebrews.

One of these days we’ll look into these epistles, or letters, but for now let’s find out about the city of Ephesus. It was a prominent city, being the capital of the province of Asia as well as the location of the temple of the Roman goddess Diana, who was known to the Greeks as Artemis.

If you read Acts 19, you’ll see that Paul spent at least two years teaching in Ephesus and many people put their faith in Jesus Christ during that time. This infuriated the silversmith tradesmen because a huge part of their income came from the making of household-sized images of Diana.

Like so many pagan religions, the worship of Diana involved sexual immorality, with temple prostitutes a part of the rites of this belief. Imagine having been a part of such a perverted form of worship, then learning about Jesus, repenting and walking away from all that! The Christians of Ephesus had come out of an empty and immoral lifestyle which continued to be a thriving part of the Ephesian culture.

We like to blame the internet and television and all sorts of modern-day media and behavior for how hard it is to live a moral lifestyle today. “There’s just so much temptation out there!” News flash: that ain’t news. Temptation has been around since the Garden of Eden.

It’s up to each and every Christian to be 100 percent genuine in their commitment to Christ. God’s Word reminds us now just as it did then: “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).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man… And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13a, 16b, NLT).

So many Bible passages come to mind when I read this description of the glorified Jesus. Think about the shepherds to whom Jesus’ birth was announced: “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them” (Luke 2:9a). Because that angel (and the “vast host” of angels who appeared soon after the first angel – see Luke 2:13) had been in the presence of God, he shone with “the radiance of the Lord’s glory.”

And in the Old Testament, Moses’ “face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord” (Exodus 34:29b), even though Moses had only had a glimpse of his Creator. Hebrews 1:3a declares, “The Son radiates God’s own glory…” Psalm 50:2b says, “…God shines in glorious radiance.”

Even before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, John, along with Peter and James, were allowed to see His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration: …Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2b).

The light of the Savior reveals everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Our darkest secrets are exposed. Anything false within us is laid bare. Understanding this truth should create in each of us a tremendous sense of urgency to live for Christ and to tell others about Him.

Jesus then instructs John to Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen" (Revelation 1:19). This sentence gives us the three-part breakdown of the Revelation: (1) Chapter 1: “…what you have seen”; (2) Chapters 2-3: “…the things that are now happening”; and (3) Chapters 3-22: “…the things that will happen." 

Chapters 2 and 3 contain the letters to the seven churches, all of which were “in the province of Asia” (Revelation 1:4). As we’ve already seen, “Asia” didn’t refer to the entire continent of Asia, but to a part of what is now the country of Turkey. We’ll begin our look at the churches tomorrow. I hope you’ll go ahead and read Chapters 2 and 3.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re continuing our look at the glorified Jesus: “…His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth” (Revelation 1:15b-16a, NLT).

“His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.” Jesus spoke with His powerful voice of authority and “held seven stars in His right hand.” What were these “seven stars”? The leaders of the seven churches (seven being the number of completion) with whom John was instructed to share this message: “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11).

If we look on down to Revelation 1:20, we see the words of Jesus clearly explaining the stars and lampstands: “This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The word written as “angels” in most translations is written as “messengers” or “ministers” in some translations. Jesus upholds His godly messengers, be they human or angelic, and Jesus upholds His Church.

“…and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth.” You may be thinking you’ve read a similar passage in Hebrews: “For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12a). However, there’s a difference in the two words translated as “two-edged sword” in the Revelation and Hebrews passages.

In the Hebrews passage, “two-edged sword” is translated from the Greek word “machairan” while in Revelation the “two-edged sword” is a translation of the word “rhomphaia.” In the first word, we see more of a double-edged knife, something used in up-close warfare, “…cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12b). The sword in Revelation is a broad, long sword, far-reaching and capable of horrific destruction.

Both swords represent “the Word of God,” which “exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Names on church rolls won’t fool Jesus when He calls out His Church. Only those who have truly received Him as Lord and Savior are a part of the One True Church. And only those have the believer’s single offensive weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

So did John actually see a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus? I don’t know. What I am sure of is that the “Word of God” came from Him. And should also come from us as His children. No earthly weapon can help us fight our battles – see Ephesians 6:12 – but the “Word of God” will always bring defeat to the enemy. Know it and use it.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“…standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13-16, NLT).

Yesterday we saw that “the lampstands” represented the Church. In the very midst of the Church we see “the Son of Man.” Jesus. Daniel also sees the glorified Christ and describes Him in Daniel 7:13b-14: “I saw someone like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal – it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”

Jesus is “wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest.” Here is a picture of Jesus as our High Priest. Part of the job of a priest in the temple was to tend the lamps, making sure they were clean and filled with oil. Jesus, as our Eternal High Priest, watches over His Church to encourage the Church and to inspect it. Remember: each and every believer is a part of the Church, the body of Christ.

“His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow.” White hair was a sign of old age and wisdom. Unlike the disregard for the elderly we see in our culture today, many cultures still have great respect for the aged. To see the Risen Savior with “hair… white as snow” pointed to His wisdom and His eternality. Jesus Christ is “the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come” (Revelation 4:8b) and “His kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:33b).

“…His eyes were like flames of fire.” The penetrating gaze of Jesus was as “flames of fire,” seeing into the very hearts of men and judging each one accordingly.

“His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace…” Bronze indicated strength and permanence. If you look in Exodus 27 at the description of the altar in the temple, you’ll see that the entire altar was covered in bronze. Jesus Christ became our Living Sacrifice, placing Himself on the altar of the cross as the One Perfect Sacrifice that would pay mankind’s sin-debt for all time.

And the cost to me and you? “Only believe” (Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50b, HCSB). Do you?

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


John takes one look at the glorified Jesus and what happens? “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead” (Revelation 1:17a, NLT). But Jesus immediately reassured Him: “Don’t be afraid!” (Revelation 1:17b).

But it was hard not to be. Revelation 1:12-16 describe the scene that’s taking place: “When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.”

John sees “seven gold lampstands.” A lampstand serves one purpose: to hold a lamp. And a lamp serves one purpose: to bring light into a place that would otherwise be in darkness. Jesus said in John 9:5, “…while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

But look at Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. He said of those who would believe in Him, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a). The Holy Spirit, Christ Himself, indwells every true believer, making each one a “Light… in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4a).

And what is the church but a body of believers? “Light… in the darkness.” Seven, being the number of perfection or completion in the Bible, points us to the Church, the body of Christ, as represented by the “seven gold lampstands.” The lampstand has no ability to produce light, but it can hold the light forth so that others can see it.

That’s the church, folks. Jesus never designated nor intended His body to be broken into factions of this and that denomination. He is the Head of the Church, regardless of what denominational name – or lack thereof – is on the sign outside.

But as I said, the Church is made up of believers. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are the Church. I am the Church. Are we shining forth His light? In this age of darkness, we sure better be.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. It said, ‘Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea’” (Revelation 1:4, 10b-11, NLT).

“…the province of Asia…” At the time John received this Revelation from Jesus Christ, “Asia” was part of the Roman Empire. John wasn’t talking about the entire continent of Asia, but a part of what is now the country of Turkey, and he was instructed to write down this message and share it with a select group of “seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

Who is this “loud voice like a trumpet blast”? He has already identified Himself in the previous verses. In verse 8, He says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end… I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One.” Only the Lord Jesus Christ holds this title, so it is Jesus Himself speaking to John at this point in the Revelation. If you read a red-letter Bible, you’ll see this passage and more in red, since Jesus is speaking.

“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen’” (Revelation 1:17-19). Jesus is not only speaking directly to John, but John is seeing Him! Can you even imagine?

We’re going to begin a look at the glorified Jesus tomorrow. But for now, let me ask you: do you want to see Jesus? A much younger John began his Gospel with: In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Living Word inhabits every page of the Bible. Read it and you’ll grow to know Him better and better.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we kicked off our look at the book of Revelation, noting first and foremost that the apostle John is only the recorder – the Revelation is “from Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1, NLT). I also pointed out what a tough job John had ahead of him since he was describing: (1) future earthly things he’d never seen before; and (2) heavenly things he’d never seen before. The apostle John not only recorded this “revelation from Jesus Christ,” (Revelation 1:1), he also wrote the Gospel of John, as well as the books of First, Second and Third John.

The Book of Revelation opens with the offer of a special blessing: The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (Revelation 1:3, HCSB).

But in order to understand Revelation, you have to know the rest of your Bible as well. It’s important to make Bible study a daily practice. Not merely reading, but using a good study Bible or reliable commentary to help you understand as you read.

Psalm 49:20 speaks of “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding…” (NASB). There is little benefit to reading the Bible unless we understand what we’re reading. James 4:2 reminds us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (BSB). As you begin this study and as you read your Bible, pray and ask the Lord for understanding.

If you’re a KJV person, consider reading a New King James Version (NKJV). As incentive, I highly recommend you compare the KJV and other translations of First Kings 16:11 and First Samuel 25:34 to see how drastically language has changed over the centuries.

All that said, where was John when he received this “revelation from Jesus Christ”? John tells us, “I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. It was the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:9b-10a, NLT).

John, now an elderly man, had been brought to this island prison “for preaching the word of God.” He’d been telling people “about Jesus.” And for that, the Romans took away his freedom. Or so they thought. But John knew the truth of Jesus’ own words as he recorded them in John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (KJV). John’s body may have been trapped on a tiny, isolated island, but his spirit was “free indeed.”

I hope you’ll go ahead and read at least the first chapter of Revelation. And please invite others to this study. The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (Revelation 1:3, HCSB).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to His servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1-2, NLT).

Yep, we’re diving into Revelation. Note it’s a single revelation, not plural as you often hear said: Revelations. The word translated as “revelation” comes from the ancient Greek word “apokalupsis,” meaning “apocalypse,” or a revealing or unveiling.

This “revelation” was given to John the apostle, not John the Baptist. If you look back at Mark 6, you’ll see that John the Baptist was beheaded long before John the apostle was given this divine revelation. And this isn’t John’s revelation – it’s a “revelation from Jesus Christ.”

About what? “…the events that must soon take place.” It’s been 2,000 years and these events still haven’t “taken place.” Is the Bible in error? Never. The word translated “soon” is another ancient Greek phrase, “en tachei,” meaning suddenly happening. It doesn’t mean these things will take place soon after the Revelation has been given, but that at whatever time they take place, they will begin suddenly. (“Tachei” refers to speed or rapidity, which is why its Greek root word is the basis for our word “tachometer.”)

And what’s the purpose of the message of Revelation? “…to show His servants…” the future. For many years, preachers and teachers steered clear of Revelation because of its confusing symbolism and its dire warning: “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book” (Revelation 22:18). But the Revelation has been given and shouldn’t be ignored.

As we begin this look, remember: (1) In many places, John is describing things of the future, things he’s never laid eyes on before. Imagine someone from 2,000 years ago trying to describe TVs and cell phones, trying to explain hearing and seeing pictures that appear seemingly right out of thin air! John’s mission is not an easy one. (2) John has a second difficult task: to describe things he is privileged to see in heaven. The apostle Paul notes one occasion when he was given a glimpse of heaven:

“I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know – only God knows. …I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4).

So there’s a bit of starter under our belts. I hope you’ll hang with me for this study and invite others to join us.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Has the Lord ever done anything incredible in your life? If He’s saved you and brought you into His eternal Kingdom, He most certainly has! Every day we receive countless blessings, divine protection, untold touches of the Lord’s love, yet we rarely even notice.

Did you make it to work safely today? Do you have an income that meets your needs? Are you healthy today? As human beings we tend to complain to each other and to the Lord when things aren’t going well, but how often do we thank Him when things are going right?

Ever noticed how when you give a little child a special privilege or treat, he’s forgotten all about it and is ready for something else in no time at all? “But that was a long time ago!” he may tell you. Don’t we act just like that? When a momentous event occurs in our lives to clearly show the hand of God intervening in a situation, we are thankful, joyous, ecstatic. But a few years or months or even days later, we’re back to “situation normal” and we fail to appreciate His hand continuing to protect us and meet our daily needs.

How can we ever hope to win a lost world to Jesus Christ when we are so ready to complain and so slow to give thanks? We should be busy telling others what the Lord has done for us. We should be mindful of the little blessings just as we are for the big ones. We should have so much joy that those around us who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior look at us and have to ask, “What makes you so different?”

We should be praising God when we find a safe parking place at the mall. We should be thanking Him for the money to whisk through the drive-through and pick up dinner. We should be glorifying His name for His continual presence in our lives. Our attitudes of joy should be winning others to Jesus.

“For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NIV).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at how the disciples were taught an important lesson about how those things we entrust to the Lord can be bountifully blessed and multiplied. But that same passage, Matthew 14:13-21, contains another valuable lesson.

In Verse 16b Jesus said “You give them something to eat” (NIV). Think about that for just a minute. Did Jesus need His disciples’ help? Of course not! Yet He privileged them with an opportunity to be a part of His ministry.

Jesus doesn’t need our help either; yet He gives us this same privilege of being used for His glory. If you read the wonderful words of John 21:15-17, you see Jesus instruct Peter: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17b). And then over in First Peter 5:2 Peter continues his Lord’s command: “Feed the flock of God which is among you” (King James, Cambridge edition).

Jesus wants those of us who have been nurtured in the Word to share our food! We’re not to tank up even on the Word of God for only the sake of feeding ourselves – we’re to share with others.

Are you being spiritually nourished? If so, are you sharing your bounty with others?

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“I’m just one person!” “We’re a small church.” “A lot of the classes are bigger than ours.” “You know, we’re not ‘money’ people.” You hear all these statements often preceded by “We [or I] wish we could do more, but…” Truthfully, though, what does each one of these boil down to? WE CAN’T DO IT!

The disciples were people just like us. In Matthew 14:13-21 we read about the five thousand men who followed Jesus far out into the middle of nowhere. In addition to the men there were untold numbers of women and children. Jesus began to minister to the crowd and, as evening drew closer, the disciples pointed out to Jesus that He should send the people away so they could go buy something to eat. Isn’t that just like us humans – imagine, giving the Lord advice!

Jesus, knowing the people were hungry and knowing His disciples needed to learn a lesson, told His disciples, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them” (Matthew 14:16, NLT).

So the disciples promptly obeyed, right? Not exactly. They went through the crowd and came back to Jesus and reported, “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” (verse 17). In other words, they were saying, “See, Lord! What you asked of us is impossible. Now send these people away so they can find food.”

But what did Jesus do? He multiplied that which was entrusted to Him and thousands of people were fed on the bounty of one submitted meal. How He desires to do the same thing for us today! No, He won’t pry it from your hands and force you to hand it over, but when you willingly give Him your time, your talent, your gifts, your money (which are all His anyway, if you are His – see First Cor. 6:19a-20b) He will multiply these abundantly.

True enough, we can’t do much. But we serve an awesome God who can do ANYTHING through a believer who is fully trusting Him.

What wonders will you allow the Lord to work through you?

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Read Luke 13:23-30 and you’ll have a very graphic picture of what it will be like for those who ignore Christ’s calling and refuse to accept His offer of salvation. Jesus warns His listeners in Verse 24a to “enter through the narrow door” (NIV) – like aiming at the right target in yesterday’s passage. Many people would have us to believe there are many ways to enter in heaven. Jesus very clearly states that HE is the ONLY way and that many people will try to enter through other means – and fail.

But it’s important to realize Who is in charge of that door. He goes on in Verse 25b and says: “When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late” (NLT). Time after time the Lord offers His saving grace to the lost, but a time will come for each person when that window of opportunity is no more. A person may repeatedly feel God calling him, feel that Holy Spirit tug at his heartstrings, and yet refuse to submit to His Lordship; only the Lord knows if or when that person has refused his final opportunity for salvation.

The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is the central theme of the entire Bible, both Old and New Testament. When God commanded Noah to build the ark, who shut the door when the rain began? The Lord Himself. Noah had warned the people throughout his years of boat-building that the flood was going to happen, but no one believed until the Lord closed the door of the ark and the rains began to fill the earth. Then all those who had laughed at crazy old Noah were suddenly pounding on his boat, begging, “Let us in! Let us in!”

But just as Noah hadn’t had the authority to close the door, neither did he have the authority to open it – that right was solely in the hands of a Sovereign God.

If God closed the door of salvation this very moment, would you know without a doubt that you were safely inside His fold? What about your family members? Your friends? Your co-workers? A day is coming when Jesus will return for His own and only for His own. But even before that time comes, many will have ignored their very last opportunity to be a part of His Kingdom.

If you haven’t yet accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, please do so right now. If you have, then commit to use every day of your life to honor Him and draw others into His family – while there’s still time.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Seth was a young man known throughout the region as a remarkable marksman. His skill meant there was always meat on his family’s table. In fact, he was so good that he killed enough game to be able to sell meat to his neighbors. Many of these folks were quite elderly and could no longer get out and hunt for themselves, so Seth was their only source. Well aware of this, he had no qualms about making an exceptional profit from his talent. In fact, when winter came and food was really scarce, his prices became exorbitant.

One day the town council was planning the community’s centennial celebration. “We need a fundraiser,” one councilman said, “something we can use to put some money back into our benevolence fund. Last winter was especially hard and the needs just about cleaned us out. We want the money to be there if folks are in need again this year.”

The group mulled over a number of suggestions before one man hit upon the perfect solution. “Why not an archery contest?” he grinned. “Everybody knows how good Seth is. A lot of folks would pay to watch a thing like that, don’t you think? And if we offer prizes and charge an entry fee, we could fatten our benevolence fund and show everybody a fun time in the process. What do you say?”

The idea met with enthusiastic approval. When the celebration day dawned, Main Street was already beginning to fill with excited spectators. Only two men had had the courage to compete against Seth and both silently hoped to be the one who walked away with second prize. Seth had brought his custom-made bow and the other contestants eyed it with silent respect and submission.

As the judges took their seats along the sidewalk, the councilmen set three circular targets side by side at the end of the street. The three contestants stepped to the line, with Seth taking the center position. “Gentlemen,” the grand marshal boomed, “you each have your own target and will be allowed three arrows. May the best man win. You may begin.”

Seth turned to the man on his left. “You first,” he ordered. And no one dared to argue. The man notched his first arrow and fired. At the end of his turn, two arrows had hit the first target’s bull’s-eye and one had barely missed.

Turning to his right, Seth stifled a mock yawn and commanded, “Now you.” This contestant swallowed hard and lifted his bow, shakily notching an arrow and firing a shot that barely hit the edge of the third target. Disappointed and embarrassed, the man made a feeble showing with his next two shots and quickly walked away.

Smiling confidently to the crowd, Seth drew his bow and fired. “Aaaaahhhhh!” the crowd sounded as his arrow cleanly split the first contestant’s arrow inside his target’s bull’s-eye. Seth winked at a group of young ladies and fired the next missile so accurately that it split his own first arrow. The crowd exploded with cheers and applaud. Bowing slightly to the remaining contestant, he cleanly stacked the third arrow into his second one. The onlookers went wild! Never had they seen such incredible marksmanship!

Seth’s competitor reached to shake his hand, but Seth ignored the gesture and turned to the judges to receive his prize. “The winner and champion,” the grand marshal announced in a thundering voice, “is Asa Blackburn. Congratulations, son. Come get your prize!”

Seth’s face contorted with anger and the crowd murmured in confusion. “What do you mean, Asa!” Seth shouted. “I’m the one who hit THREE bull’s-eyes!”

The grand marshal looked evenly at the red-faced Seth. “Yes, you’re right, Seth. You did hit three bull’s-eyes, but you fired at the wrong target.”

Worldly attractions seem to have many of us “firing” at the wrong targets. But this is hardly a new problem. When Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he knew the people of that day were having just as tough a time keeping their focus on the right thing. That’s why he told them, “No, I haven’t ‘arrived’ yet, but I’m working at it” – the Judy-ian translation. Then he went on to say: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14, NIV).

Some people go through life with a scatter-gun approach: “If I fire at everything, I’m bound to hit something. Christians KNOW what their target is – to be like Jesus. Where are you expending your energy? Want to be a real winner? Aim at the right target.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


In Mark 5:21-34 we read the account of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. This poor lady had been bleeding for twelve years and had spent everything she had in seeking a cure for her illness.

Imagine enduring this kind of problem every single day for twelve years – what probably began as an ordinary “time of the month” had turned into a sickness that continued for over 4,000 days. This blood loss had sapped her strength and health.

Equally troubling, she lived at a time when there were no feminine care products to help with her malady. This may not sound like such a big deal, but if you read Leviticus 15:19-30 you’ll see that the Levitical law imposed serious restrictions regarding this. Of course, we have to realize that some of the law was a means of dealing with genuine health concerns, but it still meant that a woman afflicted with continual bleeding was a veritable outcast.

Physically, emotionally and financially ruined, the woman had nowhere to turn. Then she heard Jesus had arrived in her town. She hurried to where He was, only to find Him surrounded by a huge crowd of people.

Now let’s be realistic. How would many of us have responded? “I guess it wasn’t meant for me to get near Him. If it was, there would have been an opening in the crowd.” “I’ll just stand over here, and if it’s meant for Jesus to heal me, He’ll know I’m here and come and touch me.”

How often do we use “I guess it wasn’t meant to be” to excuse our own lack of faith or will to strive for victory? This woman was weak, sick, helpless and hopeless. Yet in faith she fought her way through the crowd and went to Jesus. She didn’t get there and say, “Oh, now maybe He’ll turn around and touch me.” No, she reached for Him with all the strength she had. She grasped the hem of his garment IN FAITH and received her healing.

Jesus immediately knew that power had gone out from Him. When she told Him what had happened, He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Mark 5:34a, NIV). She received physical, emotional and spiritual healing. First Peter 1:9 talks about the spiritual healing that can only come through faith in Jesus Christ: “The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls” (NLT).

None of this would ever have happened had this woman not had the faith and will to overcome the obstacles between her and the Lord. Do you desire healing? Do you simply want a closer walk with the Savior? What are the obstacles between you and Jesus? What are you willing to do to overcome them?

It is never “meant to be” that anyone not be saved. It is never “meant to be” that a believer walk in less than total victory. Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from touching Jesus. He stands ready to meet your every need. Push aside the obstacles and go to Him today.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


The father doted on his son. On the boy’s sixteenth birthday, Dad had handed him the keys to a brand new red convertible, the very one his son had admired in a local dealer’s showroom. The father had already upped the young man’s allowance to an amount almost equal to his own first paychecks, but with his own birthday approaching, Dad stopped his son on his way out the door. “Here,” he said, handing him an extra fifty-dollar bill. “You might need a little extra this week.”

On Dad’s big day the family gathered to celebrate. While one table was laden with every imaginable good food, another was mounded with presents. The father beamed with pride and excitement as he saw his son slip a small package onto the stack.

The birthday songs sung and the cake and ice cream having topped off the meal, the father was ushered to a seat beside the gift table. He opened and admired each gift, profusely and sincerely thanking each giver. This went on for several minutes, with the father carefully moving the smaller package about, saving his son’s special gift as the last.

He scanned the crowded room and gave his son a quick wink as he reached for the final package. Tearing off the paper, he lifted the top from the box and lifted out a $5 gift card to a local fast food eatery. Fighting the redness he could feel growing in his cheeks, the dad forced a smile as he met his son’s eyes. “Thank you, son. That was very thoughtful of you.”

Now let’s be honest here. Was the dad disappointed? Certainly. Was he embarrassed when the other people saw the token gift his son had presented to him? Yes. Obviously the dad was not in need of anything. Financially he was able to buy himself whatever he needed or wanted. But knowing his son had put so little thought into his gift, that he had obviously squandered the extra money he’d been given rather than use it for his father’s present – this is what hurt the most.

In Malachi 1:6, the Lord expresses His own feelings about how we show our respect to Him through our tithes, offerings and service. “So if I am a Father, where is My honor? …where is My respect?” (God’s Word).

Our Heavenly Father deserves our best. Not our leftovers. Not a dollar tossed in the plate every week or so. The Lord wants you to give of yourself financially, physically, spiritually and emotionally. He wants your life to be a daily witness of His saving grace and life-changing power.

Picture yourself at your Father’s party this very minute. There’s no time to dash out for a last-minute purchase. Your “present” to the Father is the respect and honor of your current lifestyle and giving. Hold onto that mental image. He’s opening your package right now. What will He say to you? And what will you say in response?

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Many studies rank financial problems as the number one excuse for divorce. We’ve all been so brain-washed into the mentality of the NOW generation that we don’t want to wait on anything. If we see a new car, we buy it. After all, you can get one with no down payment and no payment due for the next six months. Can’t afford a vacation? Why, just say CHARGE IT! Who needs cash when plastic gets the job done even quicker?

Satan has fooled us into thinking that the money we earn is our own. Not so. First Corinthians 6:19b-20a begs to differ: “…you are not your own; you were bought at a price…” (NIV). Jesus Christ gave His very life to pay for your salvation. You are HIS and, therefore, everything you claim to have is His and not your own.

My Daddy used to tell me that I needed my “wanter” turned off. I think a lot of us would do well to heed Daddy’s advice. Getting caught up in the desire for worldly possessions is not a new thing. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk addressed this issue in Habakkuk 2:6b: “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own” (ESV). The NIV goes on to say: “Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim” (Habakkuk 2:7).

Strong words, huh? And if you’re being haunted by overdue debts, you can certainly relate to feeling like a victim. In this day and time it’s very near impossible not to owe money for housing or transportation, but we have allowed ourselves to be drawn into a society where credit is used for everything from groceries to gasoline (and I’m not talking about the rare few who use a credit card and pay the balance in full every month). And this shouldn’t be.

Only two verses earlier we see a much more familiar passage: “…the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4, NASB). When we LIVE BY FAITH, we trust the Lord to provide our needs. Certainly we do our part to see that these needs are met, but we do so with the understanding that our NEEDS and our WANTS are separate issues. When it comes to wants, saving and waiting is the way to appreciate those extras when we acquire them and it’s also the way to honor the Lord by refusing to be foolishly encumbered with debt.

How are you honoring the Lord with your money management?

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at Nehemiah, we see his work on the walls of Jerusalem was a breeze, right? After all, God had appointed this task to him and the king had provided him with help and supplies. The people had all jumped in to help and everything was going along peachy-dandy. Am I right so far?

Not even close. First, if you look in Nehemiah 2:19a, you see the typical naysayers that are always around to offer their encouragement: “But when Sanballat…, Tobiah… and Geshem… heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us” (NIV). Nehemiah had risked his life in getting the king’s permission to go and lead in the rebuilding, yet these men, rather than offer their help, criticized the whole idea.

Opposition to the work became so severe that Nehemiah had to divide the people so some stood watch as armed guards while others performed the labor. Nehemiah 4:21 says: “So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared” (NASB). Backbreaking dusk to dawn work.

And yet the people kept at it and succeeded. How? Nehemiah 4:6b holds the answer: “…for the people worked with all their heart” (NIV).

Note two things about this passage: (1) the people gave their all on this project. It wasn’t just a work of man – it was a divine assignment blessed by the Lord; and (2), because the people understood this, they worked with ONE HEART; the passage doesn’t say “all their HEARTS.” The people were of a single heart, mind and spirit.

What is the Lord calling you to do today? Whatever it is, do it. And do it with your whole heart. When you do, God will bless you with success.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Nehemiah served as the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. One day his appearance was so sad that the king asked Nehemiah what was troubling him. Nehemiah explained to the king that one of his brothers had come from Judah and told him how Jerusalem’s walls had been torn down and the gates burned, that the people were disheartened and in need of help.

Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes to allow him to go to Jerusalem to take part in the rebuilding. How did Nehemiah succeed in getting the king’s permission? First, according to Nehemiah 1:4, he sought the Lord the moment he received the news of Jerusalem’s condition: “When I heard this, I sat down and cried. I mourned for days. I continued to fast and pray to the God of heaven” (God’s Word).

Which means that Nehemiah was confident he would be allowed to go to Jerusalem, right? After all, Nehemiah 1:11b shows us that he specifically asked the Lord to “…grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me” (NLT).

But no, Nehemiah was still human, and in Nehemiah 2:2b we read: “I was terrified.” Nehemiah was TERRIFIED to approach the king. After all, how dare this Jew prefer a city in rubbles to the luxuries of a king’s palace! Nehemiah knew that if the king was angered by his request to leave the palace, he had the power to end his life in an instant.

But being fearful didn’t stop Nehemiah from going through with what he believed the Lord wanted him to do. He received the king’s permission and was not only allowed to go, but the king provided soldiers and letters granting Nehemiah supplies and safe passage. Nehemiah 2:8b puts it this way: “And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me” (ESV).

If you read on, you’ll see that Nehemiah’s work was hindered from within and without. His task was at no point easy. But he was successful because he continued to trust in the Lord and do what he believed God had called him to.

Too often when we’re led toward a decision, we think our fear is a sign telling us this isn’t the direction God would have us to go. Yet Nehemiah’s life shows us this isn’t necessarily so. Through prayer and, yes, through fasting, we can be far more certain as to what the Lord would have us to do; but fear must not stop us when God is calling.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


I’m always quick to call on my brothers and sisters in Christ to join me in praying for a need. I know there’s power in prayer and that some people are true prayer warriors who won’t quit until they KNOW they’ve heard from the Lord.

But when people ask me to pray for their needs, how do I do? Do I pray for these needs as fervently as I do for my own? Not always. Yet when MY needs are being prayed for, I want people who are fully committed to bringing my requests before the throne.

While reading the book of First Samuel, I came across this passage in 12:23: “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (AKJV).

Whoa! Not praying for someone can be a sin? Well, let’s see what the New Testament has to say: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17, NIV).

Have you told someone you’d be praying for them when that very moment was really about the last time you gave their request a single thought? Or do you seek the Lord for others as sincerely as you want others to seek Him on your own behalf?

We are family, God’s children. Let’s encourage and pray for each other as our Father would have us to.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Once when my dad was in the hospital I had gone downstairs to the cafeteria and was standing in a long line of employees and visitors, each of us waiting for our chance to place our lunch order. I watched the ladies behind the counter as they hurried from one task to another, each one completing their own part before the order was passed to the next worker so she could perform her part of the preparation.

By the time the tray was delivered to the cash register each worker had had a hand in making the meal. Everyone had helped prepare the food. And what was really amazing was that each person had done her part cheerfully. Those ladies worked together like well-oiled machinery. Their goal was not just to move each patron through the line as quickly as possible, but to also treat each person kindly and fulfill their requests.

Not a single one of them complained about anyone’s order. None of them whined about the monotony of their work. None of them demanded special attention or pointed out that their part in the order was the most important. They all smiled and joked with each other and with their customers and made our wait in line much more pleasant than it could otherwise have been. I even suspect that these dear ladies worked with the realization that the people standing in that food line didn’t need any added stress in their day – after all, many were either working with critically ill patients or sitting with critically ill family members or friends.

The church, the body of Christ, is to work together with this same fluidity, this same oneness of attitude and purpose. Each member of the body of Christ has a responsibility to do the Kingdom’s work, to meet the needs of others and to do it CHEERFULLY, “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23, ASV). The people we encounter each day don’t need any added stress, and we as Jesus Christ’s representatives here on earth certainly don’t need to be the source of added stress.

The cafeteria ladies left no doubt as to the Source of their teamwork and spirit. At the end of the counter was a handwritten sign: “Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth!” Don’t we all need that kind of help! And guess what? It’s available. All we have to do is ask.

“I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say” (Psalm 39:1, NLT).

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NIV).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


While in a large East Coast city on business, Dan had spent the evening drinking in the hotel bar. Having sworn this trip would be different, he was feeling pretty disgusted with himself the next morning. He decided a long walk might clear his head and his mood, so he struck out and soon found himself on a narrow residential street. The houses were small but clean and well kept, and Dan sensed that he’d chosen a good direction.

About halfway down the block an elderly gentleman looked up from his chore of raking leaves and greeting Dan warmly. “Good morning to you,” he smiled. “Looks like the Lord has put together another beautiful day, doesn’t it?”

“I guess,” Dan shrugged, staring down at his shoes.

The old man looked at Dan’s bleary eyes and rumpled clothes. “You know, son, Jesus Christ could make this the best day of your life if you’ll let Him.” He reached into his pocket and handed Dan a small tract. “Why don’t you look this over and stop by and see me again?”

Dan half-heartedly thanked his benefactor, stuck the tract into his jacket pocket and went on his way. He didn’t read the tract, but somehow he never quite managed to throw it away. A year later, on another business trip, Dan found himself frantically pacing his hotel room. He was at the end of his rope spiritually, financially, emotionally and physically.

By habit, he threw on his jacket and started for the door. But as he shoved one hand into his pocket, that persistent little tract touched his fingers. He pulled it out, went to his bed and read through its entirety. He opened his nightstand and found his room’s Gideon Bible and carefully researched the verses the tract had referenced. He fell to his knees and, at that very moment, ended his old life and began a brand new one in Christ.

The following years of Dan’s life were a whirlwind of joy and struggle. He became a minister of the Gospel and was invited to city after city, country after country, to share his love for the Lord and the miraculous way in which the Lord had changed him. Time after time as Dan shared his message people would come to him and say, “That’s amazing! You know, I was in that same city, took a wrong turn and stopped in front of a house to ask directions. An old man was working in a flower bed and he gave me a Gospel tract.”

Each story was different, and yet each story told how people from all over the globe and for many different reasons had come to that city and found themselves drawn to a narrow residential street where an old man worked in his yard.

Some time later Dan returned to the city where his new life had begun. But this time he was there to preach a revival in a local church. Remembering the old man who had given him the tract, he made his way to the tiny white house. Seeing no one outside, he knocked on the door. A slow shuffle of feet could be heard, and finally the door cracked open.

“Sir, you probably don’t remember me,” Dan began, “but you gave me a Gospel tract several years ago and I wanted you to know that it’s because of your faithful witness that I now stand here as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The old man swung the door open wide, revealing a metal walker before his bent and feeble body. “Come in, come in,” he told Dan as the tears streamed down both their faces. Dan followed him into a tiny living room.

“Praise God!” the elderly gentleman’s voice shook with age and emotion. “All these years I wondered if I was making a difference. You see, my wife – she’s gone now, God rest her soul – was an invalid and I couldn’t get out except to work in the yard. For her last eighteen years I had to be here all the time, so I prayed every day for the Lord to send me people who needed to hear the Word. What a blessing to know about you, son.”

“Oh, sir,” Dan told him, moving to his side and taking his hand, “I’ve heard about you all over the world.” And as Dan told of the many people who’d come to know the Lord through the witness of this silver-haired believer, the man wept uncontrollably.

“Thank you, Jesus,” the faithful old witness kept repeating. “I never knew. I just wanted to be faithful to my Lord.”

Like the gentleman in this scenario, you may never know the lives your witness is touching. But one thing you must know: God will reward your faithfulness.

“And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (I Corinthians 3:8b, Douay-Rheims Bible).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


On a city sidewalk a man roughly shoves past an elderly lady who is toddling toward the crosswalk. Suddenly the woman cries out, “My purse! That man stole my purse!” The thief darts across the intersection and disappears.

A policeman, hearing the alarm, hotfoots it to the lady’s side. “You say your purse was stolen?” the officer asks.

“Yes, that’s right,” the woman shakily answers. “He ran that way,” she points.

“Okay,” the officer says, flipping open his notebook. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

“It’s difficult for me to explain,” the lady stammers. “Maybe that gentleman over there can help.” She indicates a hot dog vendor nearby.

“You! Come here a second, will you?” the policeman calls. The vendor steps in front of his cart and looks questioningly at the pair.

“Did you see the man that snatched this lady’s purse?” the officer questions.

“Nah,” he replies, “I was taking a break. But I was mugged last year. This big guy…”

“Uh, thank you, but I want to know what happened to this lady,” the officer interrupts.

“Now look, ma’am,” the policeman turns back to the woman. “You’re your own witness. So let’s have it. What exactly went on here?” He poises his pen expectantly.

“Officer,” the woman indignantly huffs, “I’ve been through enough already! I refuse to talk about it.”

Did the behavior of the lady in the above scenario strike you as a bit odd? Yet that’s exactly how most of act when anyone approaches us about witnessing. Whether your conversion was a simple act of confession as a child or a dramatic change of lifestyle in later years, YOU are the one it happened to. And like it or lump it, this obligates you to tell your story. Every person who has experienced the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is a witness, albeit a good one or a lousy one. What sort of witness are you?

“A truthful witness saves souls…” (Proverbs 14:25a, World English Bible).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


A man sat down for his interview with the sales manager of a shoe manufacturing firm. “I’m a salesman,” the man told the manager. “That’s what I’ve done for the past twenty years and that’s what I still want to do. All I need is a chance.”

“Well,” the manager told him, “we only have one opening and it’s in a very remote country on the continent of Africa.”

“I’ll take it!” the man told him, and off he went to the little country in Africa.

Shortly after his arrival, the sales manager received an email: “Am returning as soon as possible. No one in this country wears shoes.”

Some time later another man asked for an interview with the sales manager. “I’m a salesman,” he said. “That’s not just what I do. It’s who I am. All I need is an opportunity.”

“I’m going to tell you the same thing I told the last man,” the manager said. “The only opening we have is in a tiny country in Africa.”

“I’ll take it!” the man responded, and off he went to the little country in Africa.

Shortly after his arrival, the sales manager received this email: “Send the largest assortment of shoes you can ship. EVERYONE in this country needs shoes!”

You see, where the first salesman considered his trip to Africa CHANCE, the second man thought of it as OPPORTUNITY. Where the first salesman saw a people with no desire for shoes, the second man saw a people who needed someone to introduce them to shoes.

Just as the pessimist sees the glass half empty while the optimist sees it half full, your willingness to see and use your OPPORTUNITIES to witness are all in your attitude. And like the shoeless people in the story, non-Christians aren’t interested in what they know little or nothing about. In order for them to see their need, someone has to tell them.

Don’t write anyone off as not worth witnessing to. Don’t think CHANCE will ever bring you to a time to witness. OPPORTUNITY is everywhere. When the grocery clerk asks “How are you?”, tell him, “I’m blessed; and I hope you are too.” You can’t imagine the doors a simple statement like that can open. Every day we have dozens of OPPORTUNITIES to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. How many of yours are you using?

“…and you shall be My witnesses…” (Jesus speaking, Acts 1:8b, NASB).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


We’ve spent the last couple of days looking at how God’s greatest gift to us is the Holy Spirit. Only through the willing substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ was the continuous indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit made possible. If you look back through the Old Testament you’ll see that, of course, the Holy Spirit has always existed as the third person of the Trinity, but prior to Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for our sins, the Spirit’s presence only visited a person. In other words, He temporarily anointed people for specific tasks.

However, when Jesus was going to the cross He told His disciples, “And He (the Father) shall give you another comforter… I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:16, 18, KJV2000).

“I will come to you.” Jesus said, “I!” God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are truly ONE! As Jesus returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit came to be our constant Comforter, an ever-present help. Amazing! Christ our Savior, the very Lord of the universe, day by day and moment by moment living within and offering guidance to His children.

And note that I used the word GUIDANCE. The Spirit is GOD. The Spirit cannot and never will behave in any manner contrary to God’s own character. He doesn’t make anyone repent and He doesn’t make anyone live a Christ-like life once that person is saved. The Holy Spirit both gifts and indwells the believer and OFFERS guidance, strength, comfort and every true blessing. But being God, He allows us the freedom to choose the way in which we conduct our lives as well as whether or not we receive or reject His gifts.

Maybe you’re trying to figure out what direction your life is headed. Maybe you see where you’re headed and aren’t pleased with it, but just can’t figure out a way to change your course. Start by admitting that YOU can’t do anything on your own. A believer needs the strength of the Lord, the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to help, lead and guide at all times. Confess your need to the Father, attune your spiritual ears to His leading and He will set you on the path of peace.

“…the way to live a godly life is not an easy matter. But the answer lies in Christ…” (I Timothy 3:16a, LB).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“So if you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 7:11, NLT).

That verse from Matthew was included in yesterday’s devotional. The book of Luke includes a very similar passage: “So if you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Jesus speaking, Luke 11:13).

Matthew 7:11 is so often used as a “name-it-and-claim-it” passage, yet look at its partner from Luke. These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. The “good gifts” of Matthew 7:11 are clearly defined in Luke 11:13: “the HOLY SPIRIT.” The third person of the triune Godhead is the greatest gift we can ever receive. And He is the one who gifts each and every believer to be a working member of the body of Christ.

Think of it this way. You can eat an apple and say you’ve eaten, right? But let’s suppose you sit down to a meal of fresh baked bread, lasagna, salad and cheesecake. You can also say you’ve eaten then, can’t you? But which was more filling? The full-course meal, of course.

Or look at it this way. A person can go to a two-hour seminar and learn the basics of CPR, but would you want that person performing open heart surgery on one of your loved ones? No way! In order to develop that kind of skill, a person would have to spend years and years and years getting the necessary education and training.

The moment a person asks Jesus Christ to become Lord and Savior of his life, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside that person. But through reading and studying God’s Word, listening to sound preaching and teaching, it’s possible to receive a deeper filling of the Spirit.

Look back at the passage from Luke. Jesus said, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit.” Would He have said MORE if more wasn’t possible? Certainly not! But most believers are operating on so much less than what God has to offer them, missing out on so much that He wants us to know, receive and have working in our lives.

How do we change this? God is never the One who complicates things. He said, “to those who ask.” You want the “good gifts” in abundance? Study the Word; be faithful in a Bible-teaching church; and ask God for a deeper filling of His Holy Spirit.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Many people picture God as a stern Father who stands with one hand on His wallet and the other carefully guarding the keys to His storehouse. Even though we speak of God as a “good God” and “our Father” and use other terms of intimacy, we still think we have to beg Him to bless us financially, spiritually, physically or emotionally.

Not so! Certainly we can’t sit on our laurels and expect God to meet and exceed our every need. But when we 100 percent entrust our lives to Him and then, so to speak, put the feet on our prayers to do everything we can and should do to bring about the things we desire, then God will honor our obedience and faithfulness.

Will He rain down financial, spiritual, physical and emotional blessings? If He chooses to do so, yes. But I believe financial blessings are chiefly through meeting our needs, not our wants. When we listen and obey, the Holy Spirit will guide us to the pursuits that will best serve His purposes. These pursuits may also bring about financial, physical and emotional blessings, but this is NOT His highest purpose.

What He desires most of all is for US to desire HIM most of all. When Jesus Christ is our first love, He will also be our first pursuit. He will be the goal we strive toward. We will want to be like Him: serve like Him, love like Him, spread the Good News of Him.

These are tough questions, but think about them for just a minute: would you rather be rich or in the will of God? If God can be glorified through your hardship or poverty, are you willing to submit to that? Can you praise God and tell others of His goodness even as you go through a time of poor health or sickness? Maybe you’re struggling with emotional issues right now. Are you able to lift up the name of Jesus even in these difficulties? Is your walk with the Lord as close as it can be? Is He truly the most important thing in your life?

Let me say that I fully believe in our Lord as a miracle-working God. But those miracles are HIS choices and not our own. You see, it’s possible that putting God first may not change anything at all about your circumstances. But what I guarantee is that it will change YOU. And when that happens, your eyesight will change. And through that new spiritual INsight you’ll discover a myriad of His blessings already surrounding you – He’s just been waiting for you to see and acknowledge them.

“So if you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 7:11, NLT).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Living in the “Bible Belt,” I pass churches galore whenever I’m out driving. Most have signboards out front where changeable messages can be posted. Recently I did a double-take as I saw one that read: “If you die without Jesus, you will split hell wide open.”

Was it a true statement? Absolutely. But was it Good News? No! Read your Bible and you won’t find a single place where Jesus reprimanded the unbeliever. His only harsh words were for those who claimed to know and believe. Jesus reached out in love. He gave hope. And we’re to do likewise.

Certainly inside the church the whole truth is to be taught; but as we reach out to those outside the body of Christ, we’re to do so with a positive message. Telling someone that he’s condemned to hell is not a great way to entice them to walk through the church doors.

Let’s not criticize those outside the body of Christ. Instead, let’s pray for them and show them the hope we have in Christ Jesus. And let’s not bad-mouth our brothers and sisters in Christ, either – to those within the church and especially to those outside it. Matter of fact, let’s keep all our criticisms to ourselves – there are more than enough people out there ready and willing to share a discouraging word. Let’s share a message of encouragement, within and without the body of Christ.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (I Thessalonians 3:12a, NIV).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday I shared with you about my mistaking nominating committees for the hand of God. Granted, a prayed-up, dedicated committee can be led directly to the very person to fill a job, but that isn’t always what happens. Sometimes the committee hasn’t spent enough time praying for the Lord to lead them to the right people. Then you also have to factor in the possibility that some of the ones who are truly called of God to fill certain positions are going to refuse their calling – in which cases a church can sometimes end up with nothing more than warm bodies filling slots.

I spent two wonderful years teaching eighth grade girls in Sunday school. When the nominating committee approached me about teaching this class for a third year, I turned them down. I’d thoroughly enjoyed my two years with these girls and I believe I was exactly where the Lord would have me to serve during those two years.

But the Holy Spirit had already been dealing with my heart and I knew He had a new work for me. When I told the nominating committee I didn’t feel I should continue with the eighth grade girls, I knew in my heart that another teaching job was going to open up for me. I didn’t know where or even when, but I knew my gift was teaching and that God would lead me to a place of service that enabled me to use that gift.

Sure enough, I was asked to teach a co-ed adult class. It was a perfect fit. This class was my Sunday school hour group for many years. Later I worked with a ladies class; then I spent the longest stretch with a college and career group. On other occasions I worked with high school students and with senior adults.

I say all this to say that every calling is not permanent. Your gift, however, is. Whatever God has gifted you to do, if you seek His will, He will lead you to the very place where you can best minister in your gifted capacity. And that place of service may remain the same or change from time to time. Whichever occurs, you’ll know what’s right for you when you seek the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

“In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” (Romans 12:6-8, NLT).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Years ago I used to think a nominating committee and the hand of God were pretty much one in the same. When I was asked to lead a Wednesday night class of first and second grade girls, I must say I was stunned that the Lord would appoint this task to me; after all, I was used to being around boys, not girls, and I’d always worked with groups a little closer to adult level. But if God was calling me to teach these youngsters, who was I to refuse?

Thus began the most miserable year in my teaching history – and I suspect an equally memorable and miserable one for those poor little girls. I in no way related to them. Even as a young girl myself, I was a tomboy. Week after week we struggled through the lessons. I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy with my position as their teacher when God had obviously directed me to fill that slot. How wrong I was!

The Lord has a place of service for every person in His kingdom. No one is left out of that calling. Sure, some prefer to work quietly behind the scenes. Others love to be up front, the very center of attention. But wherever your spot is, you’ll feel drawn to it. Maybe you’ll have to try several places before you find your fit, but you will KNOW when you’ve found the right place.

Looking for a place of service? Pray diligently for the Lord to lead you to where He would have you serve. Uncomfortable in where you’re now serving? Consider changing positions. As a member of the body of Christ, most assuredly there’s a perfect fit for you somewhere.

“…the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12:12b, NLT).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“My Bible study teacher doesn’t teach – she reads the entire lesson straight out of the book.” “Why is Johnny always singing the solos? He can barely carry a tune.”

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out why certain people end up in the positions we find them in. At times it seems some spots are filled by the absolutely most unqualified, incapable people. Why is that?

Paul answers this in a humorous but honest way in First Corinthians 12:12-26. He talks about a foot deciding it would rather be a hand, an ear that wants to be an eye, or an eye that decides it’s so important that it doesn’t need the other body parts. Sound ridiculous? Not really, when we look at this as Paul intended: a glimpse into the body of Christ here on earth.

Some of us just feel like any job could be better handled if WE were the ones in charge. Then there are others who think their abilities are not adequate to allow them to perform any role within the church. Both attitudes can create problems. When someone takes over an area where he isn’t called or gifted to serve, it’s just like the foot preferring to be a hand. And when someone refuses to recognize or be obedient to his own calling, that position ends up being filled by someone who really doesn’t fit that part – like the ear trying to perform the eye’s job. The result is a crippled and barely functional body.

You have a place of service in the body of Christ. If you’re overloaded, realize you’re not THE BODY – you’re only a part of it. If you’re miserable in the place you’ve taken, recognize the probability that you’re not performing your designated function within the body. And if you aren’t doing anything, get busy! Pray; seek Godly counsel; and find your place of service for the Lord.

“God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them” (I Corinthians 12:18a, NIV).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


One night I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom, and since I’d accomplished this feat plenty of times without mishap, I didn’t bother to turn on any lights. This time, though, I got a little too close to the foot of the bed and caught my little toe on the base of the footboard.

Talk about pain! I let out a yelp and collapsed to the floor, hugging my poor foot and hoping that I’d not broken my throbbing toe. Once I was able to get up and flip the light on, I could see that I was going to live, albeit with a badly bruised toe.

You know, a little toe makes up a very small percentage of the human body, but when injured, it can sure put the entire body into some kind of pain. Similarly, the body of Christ is made up of many parts, each with its own specific function. There are no unnecessary parts and, in order for the body to be healthy, no parts should be nonfunctional.

Paul wrote in First Corinthians 12:26a: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (NIV). This is a twofold statement, in that: (1) when a fellow believer hurts, we as his brothers and sisters in Christ should share his pain; and (2) when any part of the body of Christ is not functioning properly, the rest of the body suffers.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a part of His body. So let me ask you: do you know your position, your place of service, in the body of Christ? And are you diligently fulfilling that function?

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (I Corinthians 12:27).

Copyright © 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“Only God is truly good” (Mark 10:18b, NLT).

You’ve read the following quote many times and I’ve seen it attributed to many different people, but I think Billy Sunday is the one who actually said it first: “Going to a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” What exactly did he mean when he said that?

Some people use it as a criticism against all the “hypocrites” who are churchgoers. But Billy Sunday’s statement was actually a caution to make sure your commitment was to the Lord Jesus Christ and not simply to showing up when the church doors are open. I know for a fact there are plenty of lost folks in church because I went my entire life and had even been baptized before I truly gave my heart and life to Jesus in my early twenties. Then I asked to be baptized as a true believer rather than the unwitting “hypocrite” I had been.

Was I doing anything “bad” or living an immoral lifestyle? No. I just didn’t know Jesus. I had made all the right decisions with my head and not a one of them with my heart. People don’t go to heaven because they’re “good” and they don’t go to hell because they’re “bad.” People go to heaven because they know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and they go to hell because they haven’t surrendered their lives to the Savior.

“…Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6b, NASB). Or as verse 8 of the same passage puts it, …while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If He did such an unthinkably selfless thing for you, how can you not choose to live for Him? And living for Him includes supporting His earthly body, the church, through attendance, prayer and financial giving.

I live in what’s known as the Bible Belt. Many of you reading this do, too. There’s a church on every corner. I pass nearly a dozen churches on the way to my church. If you say a “church” has hurt you, that’s a lie. Some person or persons did that. Find another church and get active in it.

If you are physically able to go to church, go. If going to church is of no importance to you, remember: the church is who Christ gave His life for. Love Jesus enough to love His church.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12, NLT).

How’s that for a cheery Scripture passage? Yet it’s true. If you hold firmly to your faith, you’re going to suffer because of it. To most of us in America, we consider it “suffering” if we get picked on or made fun of. To Christians in other countries, “suffering” means being beheaded; having all your property taken from you; or being thrown into prison.

According to my Bible, the Christian life on earth has not nor ever will be intended as a Garden of Eden – that fell a long time ago and we live in the resulting sin-sick world. And as long as we’re in this sin-sick world, Christians are going to be the outcasts. We’re not going to fit in. And when we stand up for our faith, there’ll be times when we pay a price for doing so.

And that brings up another point that takes us right back to what we looked at yesterday: the gospel of prosperity. The Bible has no such gospel. The Bible promises no happy, fluffy, carefree life this side of heaven. If you’re giving money to a televangelist who’s promising you a big return on your bucks, cut it out. The only one enjoying your “investment” is that preacher.

According to an article on, some American televangelists are incredibly wealthy. What’s the net worth of some of the more popular ones? (1) Benny Hinn: $42 million; (3) Joel Olsteen: $40 million; (4) Creflo Dollar: $27 million. And there are many more. And I’m not labeling any of these. Whoever you’re listening to, you have to decide for yourself if he or she is preaching prosperity or the truth of the Bible.

Many professing Christians are so caught in believing a prosperity gospel that they’re not bothering to see what the Word of God says. If any preacher tells you serving God and giving him or her money will bring you prosperity or health or anything else in this world, that person’s gospel is no gospel at all; it’s nothing but a lie.

Jesus didn’t die for us because we were valuable. Jesus didn’t die for us because we were of any use to Him whatsoever. Jesus died for us because HE LOVED US. And still does. And He makes the faithful this promise: “…great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23a, NIV). If you want money, work for it; don’t expect it to fall out of the sky. Focus on working for the Kingdom because the Owner has an amazing retirement package awaiting His workers.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm” (II Corinthians 11:24-27, NLT).

God’s hand was on Paul. Paul had a special anointing and calling to do the work of the Lord, but he certainly didn’t have a life of ease and prosperity. While it would be wonderful if all of us experienced excellent health and big bank accounts, that’s not what the Christian life is all about. Serving the Lord can be hard. Serving the Lord can even be downright dangerous.

We live in a time where prosperity preaching is super popular. Love God? You’re gonna be healthy, wealthy and wise. If you believe that hogwash, you can forget the “wise” part because no one who knows their Bible could possibly believe such drivel.

Corrie Ten Boom spent years in a concentration camp and lost her family in those camps. Jim Elliot and his companion missionaries were slaughtered by the Waodoni people of Ecuador when they attempted to share the Gospel with them. People are mistreated and killed every day for the sake of the Gospel. In China, Iran, Iraq and many other countries around the world, Christians endure everything from ridicule to death for claiming the name of Jesus.

News flash: the Gospel isn’t American. We can hear so-called evangelists preach prosperity all day long here, but it’s a lie. If it were true, it wouldn’t be limited to America. If it were true, it wouldn’t be limited to those evangelists who are lining their own pockets and living off the money they wheedle out of their misguided followers.

So with all that said, is the Christian life even worth living? Absolutely. But we live it as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13b, KJV). Perfection awaits us. Painless, joyful eternity awaits us. We just have to remember we’re not home yet.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10b, NLT).

So many professing believers want to straddle the nonexistent fence between living according to the world’s standards and living the way the Bible teaches us. Folks, it’s just as Jesus said: Anyone who isn’t with Me opposes Me, and anyone who isn’t working with Me is actually working against Me” (Matthew 12:30 & Luke 11:23).

A person who isn’t serious about his walk with the Lord shouldn’t go around announcing to people that he’s a “Christian.” Jesus gets so much bad publicity because of people who aren’t what they claim to be or who are trying to live with one foot in the world and one in the Kingdom.

I hope every believer reading this will commit to being a God-pleaser rather than a people-pleaser in 2019. Yes, be kind to others. Yes, help those you can. But don’t make the focus of your life winning popularity contests.

If you totally commit yourself to Jesus, you’re going to suffer some rejection. I can personally attest to this. Did I try to shove my faith down my rejectors’ throats? No. I simply tried to maintain a consistent lifestyle according to Biblical teaching. Did I always get it right? Of course not. But I never intentionally compromised my faith. And for some, that made me the party pooper who was eventually dropped from their friend lists.

I posted a quote a couple of days ago which said, “I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God.” I don’t know who originally said that, but I definitely feel the same way. How about you?

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


“She is energetic and strong, a hard worker” (Proverbs 31:17, NLT).

Yesterday we began looking at getting organized. While all of you aren’t working outside the home and some of you are disabled, most of us are at least able to do basic household chores. The question is: are we doing them?

When a house becomes cluttered and disorganized, it becomes so depressing that it’s hard to see a solution. It looks like a hopeless mess, so rather than figuring out where or how to begin, sometimes we simply just continue to let things go. This means more clutter, and that means more stress. It’s a nasty, vicious cycle.

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Lot of truth in that. When we have designated places to put things, we don’t end up losing them and stressing out over not being able to find them. If you don’t have a designated location for house and car keys, now’s the time to create one. Whether it’s a set of hooks on a wall or a bowl on the kitchen counter, set aside one specific place for keys so you’re not constantly having to search for them.

If there’s a room in your house that has turned into the unofficial junk room, make that your starting point for decluttering. Don’t look at the room as a whole – that’s too overwhelming. Look at one stack, one bag, or one drawer. Have a bag or box for trash and another for giveaways. If you allow only 30 minutes a day to get that room organized, you’ll get it done in a matter of weeks even if it’s a total disaster. Simply choose one specific spot to begin cleaning and forget about the rest. One step at a time. One spot at a time. Don’t let the overall picture overwhelm you.

When you finish that room, you’re going to be so proud of yourself! Move on to the next one. And it won’t be long before you have a clutter-free home and a much lower stress level.

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” (I Corinthians 14:33, NLT).

While the passage above is in a section of Corinthians where Paul is speaking of order within the church, I don’t think it’s in any way misusing this passage to also direct it at our homes and personal lives. Some years ago, I read a study which said the biggest part of the average person’s stress was caused by disorganization.

For example, when you work all day and come home to a house that looks like an explosion, what do you feel like? Defeated. Depressed. Disgusted. You don’t have time to clear the existing clutter out of the kitchen, so instead of taking even more time to cook, you end up stopping and picking up dinner, which is generally far more expensive and far less healthy than what you could have prepared at home.

How do you get out of this vicious cycle? Organization. Before you and your family go to bed at night, have every family member spend just 10 minutes straightening up an assigned area of the house. It takes about five minutes to load or unload a dishwasher, so get those clean dishes put away and the dirty ones loaded to wash. Throw in a load of laundry like towels or undies that will be okay in the washer overnight.

When your eyes fly open the next morning, spend a few minutes in prayer and Bible reading before you start your day. The Lord will multiply the rest of your time when you put Him first. Then, unless your spouse is still in it, make that bed – that’s about a three-minute job – and instruct the kiddos to do likewise. Next, throw that load of laundry into the dryer. By the time you’re ready for work, that load will be ready to fold and put away – another very quick job.

I guarantee if you’ll put these simple tips into practice, you’ll find your house so much more organized and your stress level dialed back. I’ll add some more tips tomorrow.

“… be sure that everything is done properly and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40).

Copyright 2019

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at Little Sis and Margaret’s son Frankie, two irresponsible adults who will forever be bumming off other people until someone shuts off the financial faucet. Margaret sees herself as “helping” Frankie, just as her parents had seen themselves “helping” Little Sis. In truth, Little Sis’s parents and Margaret were nothing but enablers.

It’s hard to refuse to give money to someone you love when they always have what sounds like a legitimate reason for needing a handout, but a constant lifestyle of mooching off others is not something anyone should encourage. Let me elaborate a bit more on Margaret’s situation.

Margaret is a widow on a minimal fixed income. Margaret lives in a modest two-bedroom home and drives a 12-year-old car. Her son Frankie works for a major corporation and pulls in close to six figures a year. He and his wife live in a large home in a posh neighborhood. They have the best furniture, the nicest cars and all the other trappings of a “successful” lifestyle.

Recently Frankie came to Margaret and said he needed the money to pay his country club dues. When Margaret offered to go by the club and pay them, Frankie almost had a heart attack. “No!” he yelped. “Make the check out to me and I’ll pay them.” Frankie had no qualms about taking his poor mother’s money, but he sure didn’t want his country club buddies knowing Mama had footed his bill.

Margaret has as big a problem as her son. See, she likes knowing Frankie “needs” her. Truth is, Frankie doesn’t need Mama – he’s using her. And it’s time for her to stop letting him.

Teach financial responsibility to your children while they’re still children. Then please, let them stand on their own two feet. If your adult child is unable to work, do everything you can to help. If there has been a sudden loss of employment, do likewise – temporarily, but not long-term. If there’s been a divorce, help all you can – within reason. Catastrophic illness? Ditto.

But when an adult child simply refuses to reign in his wants and live within his means, the last thing he needs is someone encouraging him to keep up the immature habits. Turn off the financial faucet and steer your child toward a path of financial independence and maturity.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


A leech has two daughters, and both are named ‘Give me!’” (Proverbs 30:15, GNT).

Why is it we humans see all the wrong other people are doing, yet we can’t see our own mistakes? I’m sure I do things that I find irritating in other people – I see what they do, but I don’t recognize the same things in myself. But I’m not the topic for today. This is about an acquaintance of mine I’ll call Margaret.

Margaret grew up in a home where the youngest sibling was indulged in every way. Things Margaret and the others could never have gotten away with were everyday occurrences with Little Sis. So when Little Sis grew to be an adult, Little Sis was immature, irresponsible and constantly begging her parents to bail her out of one financial mess or another.

Margaret and the other siblings could never convince their parents to stop shoveling money into the furnace of Little Sis. The parents shelled out their life savings, mortgaged and re-mortgaged their home and still, Little Sis’s situation never got any better.

Enter Margaret’s child Frankie. Frankie is a male version of Little Sis. He always has an excuse for why he’s short on money. He always has an excuse for needing Margaret to help him out financially. And of course, it’s “that no-count wife of his” that causes all the trouble – at least, according to Margaret.

Margaret is repeating her own parents’ mistake, giving money to an adult child who has not been and never will be financially responsible as long as he knows he has Mama to rescue him. Yet Margaret doesn’t see her own situation as anything at all like that of her parents’. “This is different,” Margaret has often said.

No, it’s not. Margaret is in no way helping her son. She’s enabling him to continue an immature, irresponsible lifestyle.

An adult child who isn’t working and saving toward retirement is headed toward disaster. The parent of such a child who is doing anything to keep such a child afloat is NOT helping – he or she is ENABLING.

If your adult child or sibling or anyone else is constantly coming to you with a financial sob story, make 2019 the year you pull their hands out of your pockets and point them to a financial counselor. Giving money to a moneyholic is no different than giving drugs to a drug addict or alcohol to an alcoholic. Love that person enough to say, “No.” And pray for the strength to keep saying it.

Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10b, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Elijah was one of the great Old Testament prophets. Just as each of us has a time to leave this earth and, if we are truly saved, go on to be with the Lord in heaven, Elijah knew that a time would come when he would no longer walk the earth. In preparation for that day, he took Elisha under his wing and taught him so that the work of the Lord would continue even after Elijah’s departure.

The miracles God worked through Elijah are numerous and astounding. Surely Elisha witnessed things beyond what most of us could imagine. But more importantly, through the power of God, Elisha went on to DO equally amazing things.

Having learned from the greatest prophet of his time, having been in the limelight, so to speak, along with Elijah, Elisha was well aware of the awesome power that had been bestowed upon Elijah. As Elijah is preparing Elisha to take over as prophet, he asks Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away” (II Kings 2:9a, NLT).

Wow! Having seen such wonders first-hand, Elisha could have expectantly asked for a zillion things, but he didn’t. He asked for one: “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me” (II Kings 2:9b, ESV).

What’s your greater desire – more faith or more “stuff?”

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33, NASB).

Copyright 2018
Judy Woodward Bates


“God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3b, ASV).

So many Scriptures teach the importance of faith. I wanted to start out with a verse that makes it clear that God gives faith to each believer. But are there differing degrees of faith?

In Luke 17 the disciples make this request of Jesus: “Increase our faith!” (5b). Did they need greater faith to perform greater miracles? Did they need more faith to continue the ministries to which the Lord Jesus had commissioned them? No doubt they would need great faith to keep speaking out in Christ’s name once He had stepped out of His earthly body.

But if you look at the preceding verses in Luke 17, you’ll discover something very surprising: the thing that prompted the disciples to ask the Lord to increase their faith was His admonition to them to forgive those who sinned against them. How difficult it is to turn the other cheek! How hard it is to forgive, let alone forget!

If you were to take a moment right now to think of the people who had wronged you, how much trouble would it be for you to think of particular names and incidents? For most of us, a list would come all too easily.

The same Book that says, “I will never again remember their sins” (Jeremiah 31:34b, NLT) also quotes Jesus saying, “If he (a brother) sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:4, NIV).

We are to forgive – and we are to do our very best to forget as well. No, it’s not always possible to totally wipe a wrong from your memory, but by giving that hurt to the Lord, forgiving the offender, and refusing to dwell on that past incident, it will become easier to let go and fully forgive.

“So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


My sister and I are the only two children of our parents. My sister became the “Mama’s girl” and my dad took me under his wing as “Daddy’s girl,” making me into a pretty fair carpenter and woodworker in the process.

One of the tough projects I worked on with my dad was rebuilding my grandfather’s garage. It had been torn down years before and my dad wanted to rebuild it right where it had originally stood. The concrete floor remained, but that was about it.

As we surveyed the situation, I was flabbergasted that my dad wanted to take up all the concrete and start from scratch. “Daddy, that’s a lot of work,” I told him, as if he didn’t already know.

And I remember his reply: “I know that, but the garage won’t be any good unless we come up off the right foundation.”

There’s a world of wisdom in that little sentence, isn’t there? Psalm 127:1 speaks of this very thing: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (NIV).

Single people, is your home planted on the Solid Rock of Christ? Being single may be your desire for your lifetime, but if you’re seeking a lifemate, what’s the basis for the relationships you’re cultivating? Are these firmly built upon Jesus?

Maybe you’re already married. What foundation is your home on? Is it the never-failing foundation of Jesus Christ, or do you find yourself built upon shaky ground?

As long as you’re breathing, it’s not too late to change who’s in charge of your life’s direction. Whether it’s your personal commitment to the Lord or your commitment to your spouse, your significant other, your children, or anyone else, the Foundation stands Rock solid and ready to lead you. All you have to do is put aside all the junk and rubble of the things of man that you’ve tried to build on and call on Jesus. He’ll show you how to clear away the debris, climb out of the mess and start building on that one Foundation that will never, ever fail you.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Today let’s take a look at the duty of man. Webster’s defines “duty” as: “obligatory tasks or functions that arise from one’s position.” We, as Christians, are in what position? Ephesians 5:23 teaches us that “Christ is head of the church” (ESV). And who is the church? The body of Christ. Us. That same verse goes on to remind us that “He is the Savior of the body.” What body? The church. Again, that’s us!

So, as His earthly body or representatives saved solely by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are UNDER the Lordship of Christ. And if we are UNDER Him, then He is ABOVE us, making us, sort of as Webster’s put it, obligated to Him based on our position in Him. In other words, we have a DUTY to Christ.

And just what is that duty? The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us in 12:13: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (ESV).

See? Nothing mysterious or hard to understand about that, is there? (Bear in mind, of course, that the word FEAR means REVERENCE.) One old hymn talks about Christians being “soldiers in the army of the Lord.” A true soldier will honor his Commander-in-Chief by fulfilling his DUTY. Do you?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


There are often no explanations for the troubles Christians experience in this life. One of my dear friends was a strong woman of faith and yet she went through more tragedies than some of us can imagine.

Her house burned; her son was shot in a freak accident; her first grandchild was stillborn; and she battled cancer three different times. That may sound like an overwhelming heap of trouble, but believe me, I’m only hitting the highlights.

Tragedy seems to strike indiscriminately, or as the Bible puts it: “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:45b, NLT).

So what makes us as believers different from non-believers? OUR RESPONSE. We can go along the bumpiest of roads knowing we are not alone.

Secondly, we who are children of God know that at the end of our road is an eternity with a loving Father who will never again allow us to suffer and will erase all memory of every pain and sorrow we’ve experienced.

“Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b, NASB).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“When Israel was a child, I loved Him, and out of Egypt I called My Son” (Hosea 11:1, NIV).

“Out of Egypt”? But wasn’t Jesus a Jew? Wasn’t He born in Bethlehem? Wasn’t He a Nazarene? Yes to all of these.

According to the passage we’ve already looked at in Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

How does all this mesh? Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Let’s look at Luke 2:1-7a: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.”

Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth: “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).

How’d Jesus come “out of Egypt”? In Matthew 2:1 we read: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).

The idea of royal strangers coming from another land to worship a baby king terrified Herod. After the “wise men” (magi) failed to return and report to him the whereabouts of the infant king, Herod consulted with his astrologers to determine the time when the Christ Child was born and then “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).

But God sent an angel to warn Joseph: “‘Get up,’ [the angel] said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you’” (Matthew 2:13).

So Joseph took Mary and little Jesus and fled to Egypt. “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt” (Matthew 2:19) and told him it was safe to take the family back to Israel. Apparently Joseph’s first plan was to go back to Judea, the region in which Bethlehem was situated. “But when [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there” (Matthew 2:22). So instead, Joseph took his family to “the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:22b-23).

No other child could have fulfilled even these few prophecies. Jesus IS the Son of God! Celebrate Him. Share Him. Thank Him.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In Genesis 49, we read the account of Jacob calling his sons before him to give them his blessing. (Remember: Jacob was renamed “Israel" by the Lord – see Genesis 35:10 – and was the father of the people who became the twelve tribes of Israel.) When he comes to his son Judah, he speaks these words: "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).

In Matthew 1:3-6, we read the lineage from Judah to David: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar; Perez the father of Hezron; Hezron the father of Ram; Ram the father of Amminadab; Amminadab the father of Nahshon; Nahshon the father of Salmon; Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab; Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth; Obed the father of Jesse; and Jesse the father of King David.”

Then we read in Luke 2 about Caesar Augustus ordering a census that required each person to report to their lineage’s hometown. Verse 4 says that “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.”

So we see that Joseph was of the lineage of David. But what about Mary? If you look in Luke 3, you see another genealogy of Jesus – the lineage of Mary, also a descendant of David. In verse 23, Luke says, “Joseph, the son of Heli.” Most Biblical scholars agree that Heli is actually Mary’s father, Joseph’s father-in-law.

Jesus’ physical/human lineage came through Mary, as seen in Luke. But even though the Holy Spirit placed Jesus into the womb of the Virgin Mary, Joseph was considered to be Jesus’ father since he was the husband of Mary; which is why His legal lineage is traced through Joseph, as seen in Matthew. In Mary and Joseph’s time, it was quite common for cousins to marry, so it would certainly not be out of the ordinary for Joseph and Mary to have been related. As you see from comparing the two genealogies, Joseph’s lineage intertwined with Mary’s.

In coming to earth as a baby and being born of Mary, Jesus Christ fulfilled the words of Jacob/Israel spoken to Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” And He also fulfilled His promise to continue the rule of the house of David forever: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).

My prayer is that you truly know and celebrate Christ this Christmas. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NIV).

Yes, we looked at this same passage yesterday, but there’s much more to what we’ve already covered. A bit of recap first: We aren’t to get bogged down in the things of this world: “…let us throw off everything that hinders…” And we’re to stay ‘fessed up and living as God wants us to: “…let us throw off… the sin that so easily entangles…”

And then we’re to do what? “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We’re to give our all for the Kingdom of God, not just mambypamby into it, but dedicated, pushing on even when it isn’t easy. We’re to continue on the course “…marked out for us.”

So where am I going with this? THERE ARE NO SPECTATORS IN HEAVEN. Heaven will be filled with participants. Participants who have been working for the Kingdom and will continue to actively worship and proclaim the goodness of the Savior.

So where do spectators fit in? Jesus tells us in Luke 16:22b-24 of the man who didn’t go to heaven: There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. ‘The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames’” (NLT).

The person in hell is the spectator, clearly able to see heaven and fully aware of what he’s missed out on for all eternity. Get in “…the race…” and “…run… with perseverance…” Urge others to join in too. Jesus wants no one to be a spectator.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Therefore… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NIV).

Note verse 1 above begins with the word THEREFORE. In others words, the writer is saying, “So because of the things I’ve just told you, “let us throw off…”

And what had just been said? Hebrews 11 is known as “the faith chapter” because it lists the great heroes of faith from throughout Scripture – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, Samuel and on and on. The writer of Hebrews is saying, “Look what each one of these people accomplished. YOU can do great things for the Kingdom, too, when you put your trust fully in Christ.”

Look at the formula in those verses: (1) “Throw off everything that hinders.” In other words, give those burdens to the Lord; a runner strips himself of every unnecessary weight. (2) Get rid “the sin that so easily entangles.” How can a runner hope to win the race with one foot tangled in a trap? (3) “Run with perseverance.” Where do you get the stamina to keep going? From daily communication with your Heavenly Father and time in His Word. (4) “The race marked out for us.” As a believer, like it or not, you’re in a race. You aren’t a spectator. You’re a participant. Live your life so as to finish knowing you have done your very best. (5) “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on the prize. When you focus on Jesus, He will keep you on track.

Now you’re probably familiar with the part of verses 1 and 2 we just looked at. But what else does Verse 2 have to say? “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Jesus endured the cross because He saw beyond it to His eternal glory and the redemption of those He loves.

Run your race with the same attitude. Look beyond your circumstance and concentrate on your goal. Racing requires your best, your all. That’s what Jesus was willing to give for YOU. What are you willing to give for Him?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I have a confession to make: I’m a chocoholic. I love chocolate. I love milk chocolate, light chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate. I just plain love chocolate.

Chips and dip are another of my weaknesses. Onion dip, salsa, cheese, you-name-it – these are all absolutely scrumptious to me. Although I’m working hard to resist some of these taste bud tantalizers, I sure do enjoy each and every one of them.

No doubt you have favorite foods, too. And if any of them are junk foods, I’m sure you’ve noticed the same thing I have: no matter how much you eat, these never seem to fill you up. They look good, they smell good and they taste even better; but their nutritional value is minimal or nonexistent. They may temporarily fill the tummy, but they just don’t do much at all to provide proper nourishment.

I’ve sometimes wondered what the junk food of the Bible was. If there was such a thing, you know David – being a king – had access to it. Matter of fact, he was such a powerful ruler that there was nothing he hadn’t had opportunity to sample, including forbidden goods.

But through all his experiences he came to an awesome conclusion: he realized the emptiness of filling his life with ANYTHING other than the Lord.

Sure, we need physical food, but taking in the RIGHT FOODS is critical to our bodies’ well-being. The same holds true of our SPIRITUAL INTAKE. There are many spiritual diets that can temporarily ease our hunger; but there is only ONE TRUE BREAD OF LIFE. Honestly evaluate your spiritual intake and see how healthy your diet is.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8, God’s Word).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“As long as I have you, I don’t need anyone else in heaven or on earth” (Psalm 73:25, God’s Word).

If you had to give an immediate answer, what would you reply if asked, “What’s the most important desire of your life?”

I would imagine there would be any number of answers. “I want to have a child of my own.” “I want to find a lifemate.” “I hope to become a…” Consciously or unconsciously, every person determines in his heart what he wants to do with his life.

I can remember writing being a part of my life even as a small child. I was seven when my Papa Woodward had to go to the hospital. I wrote him a letter every day and my daddy would take it to him as he went to visit – children weren’t allowed to visit back then. When Papa passed away, writing a poem about his death was the only way I could deal with my grief. Even though it was many years before I became a full-time writer, I always knew in my heart that I wanted to do just that.

I can’t say that God intended for me to wait until I was in my forties to do some of the things I’m now doing, but I do know that in earlier years I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to have been entrusted with most of the opportunities He’s giving me in my latter years. While I still have much growing to do, I at least know that anything I’ve accomplished for the kingdom of God has been through Him and certainly not through any strength or ability of my own.

What is it you want to do with your life? Maybe you, too, have a desire to write. Perhaps your desire is to do something entirely different from writing. Whatever it is, let me assure you that if you seek God, He will guide you and equip you to do whatever it is He has planned for you.

In recent years I’ve had some incredible opportunities come my way. And in a lot of cases, I have to confess I’ve been tempted to think, “This is so good, it’s got to be right!” But I’ve learned – and am still learning – that any time I don’t seek God FIRST, that glamorous opportunity may turn out to be a disastrous choice. Only when I’ve prayed and sought the Lord’s guidance have I been able to move forward with confident assurance of God’s blessing.

Child of God, your Father loves you. He wants to see you bloom into a mature and fragrant witness of His goodness. Every plan He has for you is in your very best interest. If there’s ANYTHING you’re seeking more strongly than to PLEASE GOD, you’re walking on a treacherous pathway that could crumble beneath your feet at any moment. Stop right now, before disaster strikes, and submit your life totally to His leading and Lordship.

“But first, be concerned about His kingdom and what has His approval. Then all these things will be provided for you” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday’s devotional talked about the importance of consistent discipline for children. I want to expound on that a bit more today.

Can you imagine this? A policeman stops you for speeding.

“I was doing 55, sir. This is a 60 mile per hour zone,” you tell him.

“I know the sign says that, but we’ve decided to reduce it to 50,” the officer replies.

Disgusted though you are, you pay your fine and put the incident behind you. Two days later, you’re driving down the same stretch when a patrol car again pulls you over. “Now what?” you grumble as you fish for your license and registration.

“Ma’am, this is a 45 mile an hour zone and you were doing 50,” he tells you. “I’m gonna have to write you a ticket.”

“But,” you sputter, “the sign still says 60! And I was doing 50 because I was just told two days ago that 50 was the new speed limit through here!”

“Yeah, well, that was a couple of days ago, ma’am,” the officer shrugs. “We’ve decided that just wasn’t slow enough, so we dropped it another five miles an hour.”

Now wouldn’t that make a whole lot of sense? And yet on an almost daily basis, I run across parents whose rules and discipline are every bit as inconsistent. Verbal threats seem to be the weapon of choice: “You better not! I’m warning you. I mean it now. Alright, I’m going to count to ten.”

Then more often than not, nothing ever happens. When the parent finally acts, the child is astounded and distraught. Equally significant, having heard the parent’s idle threats so often, the child hasn’t the first clue what suddenly warranted the punishment.

Without clearly defined rules, it’s impossible for a child to understand his boundaries. Our Heavenly Father wants us to understand the confines within which He wills us to conduct ourselves, so surely His example should be the one we follow as earthly parents.

Make certain your children or grandchildren know precisely what rules your household operates within. In making these boundaries clear, you’ll avoid many conflicts and give those children a far greater sense of security.

“…bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4b, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I love Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” programs. When he wrote the bestselling book “Dare to Discipline,” I knew he was a man after my own heart.

With all the moms who choose or find it necessary to work outside the home, sometimes discipline seems to fall to the wayside a bit. “I just hate having to get onto 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’s 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 this stern statement: “If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all.”

Trendy psychologists and “child 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 of course, when I use the word DISCIPLINE, I’m 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 or grandchild 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 that child in the right direction.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Few people can imagine what Jonah went through while he was in the belly of the whale, or great fish. Scripture tells us that when Jonah repented, the fish vomited him out onto dry land – and he hurried off to do what the Lord had commanded him to do in the first place.

I’ve heard people who think themselves scholarly explain that the story of Jonah is merely a fable, a fictitious parable, meant to teach us a lesson about obeying God. I beg to differ! John identified Jesus as the WORD; Jesus called Himself the TRUTH. Why should THE WORD AND THE TRUTH have to use fiction?

Somewhere in the volumes of your local library is a book called The International Shark Attack File. In it you’ll find every documented case of shark attack known to man. You’ll even find the attacks that inspired Peter Benchley to write the book “Jaws.”

But among all those other bits of information, you’ll find the account of a sailor who fell overboard and was swallowed intact by a mammoth shark. The shark was later killed and hoisted onto the ship’s deck. When the shark was cut open, the crew was astounded to discover their shipmate was alive! The only permanent harm the man seemed to have suffered was that the acids within the shark’s body, in working to digest him as lunch, had bleached the poor fellow chalky white from head to toe!

God told Jonah to go and preach to the Ninevites so they could be given an opportunity to repent before their wickedness brought down God’s destructive wrath. Maybe they would have listened had Jonah gone on over there when he was originally commanded to. Who knows? But undoubtedly, when a cotton white guy walked into town and began telling them about his experience in trying to run from God, don’t you know those Ninevites wasted no time turning over a new leaf and begging God to forgive them?

Admittedly, this is my own speculation on how Jonah looked when he came out of that fish; but the point is, there is modern evidence that proves an incident such as Jonah’s was a realistic account. Don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking any part of God’s Word is less than genuine. Over and over again, the Lord continues to show man that His Word is irrefutable and everlasting.

“The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 12:41a, NLT).

Copyright 2018

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