Refresh & Restore — July 22, 2021

Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4 Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

In this episode, we are continuing our study of Ruth by looking at Ruth 2:1-23. You can find the full text of this devotion at https://justkeithharris.com/2021/07/21/refresh-restore-july-22-2021/
  1. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4
  2. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 3
  3. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 2
  4. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 1
  5. Test Podcast — Refresh & Restore (April 29, 2021)

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”[1]

Ruth 3:1-18

Greetings, Sojourner!

Perhaps it is the fact that my day job is an English teacher or maybe I am just a romantic at heart, but I am loving studying the book of Ruth. I have enjoyed getting to write and help others study the Bible, but looking at this narrative – this story – in God’s Word checks all the boxes for me to thoroughly enjoy (what I already enjoy immensely) even more!

Getting to look at how God moved in the lives of these ordinary people is romantic in and of itself. There is something touching about seeing the way that the King of kings – the almighty God of the universe – stoops from the lofty heights of His heaven and intervenes in the mundane. There is a romance to His redemption: a King leaving His throne to rescue His beloved Bride. And if He cared to do such things so many years ago, we can rest assured that our God, Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and is still redeeming and rescuing.

As I said, this reads like a story and flows like a film. It is engaging. The narrator draws our attention to certain things. The focus has already been on Naomi and Ruth’s close relative – and “worthy man” (ch 2:1) – Boaz. He had heard of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and engaged himself in their story by protecting Ruth and ensuring that she was able to gather more than enough to support her little family. Because of these events surrounding Boaz, those two ladies who viewed themselves as empty began to be filled with hesed – the loving-kindness of God through the actions of His people, namely Boaz.

I love the way that Tony Merida lays out Ruth 3:

“We read these events like a movie in which time slows down in view of the risk and the possible consequences of Ruth’s actions…the plan, proposal, promise, and provision….”[2]

We will use the way he framed this chapter to launch our look at Naomi’s plan for Ruth and Boaz, Ruth’s proposal in the threshing floor, and how God had a plan for redeeming Ruth and Naomi – and has a plan to redeem people even today.

Naomi’s Plan

Before we dive too far into Naomi’s plan, I want to say as the father of a daughter that I would not recommend such a course of action. This is a good time to mention that just because we find events in the Bible does not mean that we should live them out in our own lives. There are parts of the Bible that are prescriptive – that tell us what to do and how to live (or how not to do or live). This ain’t that. The book of Ruth is descriptive. It describes. And what a description it gives of Naomi’s plan for redemption – thank God He knows what is best when it comes to redemption and does not rely on the plans of hurried humans!

In the beginning of chapter 3, Naomi assesses the way that Boaz has come into their lives and recognizes the potential that such a “worthy man” could have in giving Ruth the “rest” that she had prayed for. I think we see a bit of the “when the Judges ruled” mentality from chapter 1 because Naomi seems to be taking things into her own hands again. Remember during this time Israel “did what was right in [their] own eyes” (Judges 21:25), which led to the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons in the land of Moab. Here again, she hatches a very risky plan, and the risk falls on Ruth and could have very well outweighed the reward of redemption.

She told Ruth to go out under the cover of night to the threshing floor where Boaz would be working late (v. 2). Before she left, she was to take a bath and put on perfume (“anoint yourself” – v. 3). However, she was not supposed to approach Boaz until he had finished his supper, drank his wine, and laid down to sleep. Once he had fallen asleep, she told Ruth to “go and uncover his feet and lie down”; after that, she said that Boaz would tell her what to do (v. 4).

What a risk! She told her beautiful daughter to go lay down by a sleeping man and that said man would then tell her what to do next…. My dad-heart shudders. We have already seen in chapter 2 that there was risk of Ruth being assaulted as a single foreigner, even in the fields owned by Boaz!

Now, I want to lay things out as honestly as I possibly can here. There are those who try to take this whole “uncover his feet” business and chalk it up to some obscure cultural custom. If it is, it does not appear anywhere else in Scripture or in Jewish history/customs. So, that seems to be a cop out. Also, there are those who would like to sensualize it. The Bible does not shy away from showing people in their true light. If they sin sexually (like Boaz’s great-grandson David and great-great-grandson Solomon or the head of the Moabite tribe Lot), they are portrayed as such without making obscure remarks like “uncover his feet” (even though the word translated “feet” here is translated as “legs” in Daniel 10:6 and threshing floors were known to harbor prostitution from time to time as in Hosea 9:1).

While this situation had a risk of turning into sex outside of marriage – fornication (which would never be God’s plan), God had greater plans than Naomi and had already done a work in Boaz. We should also note the danger in making our own plans that flirt with dangerous territory since we are more likely to walk with God in integrity when we “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV) and reserve threshing floor situations for the “marriage bed” (Hebrews 13:4).

Ruth’s Proposal

Ruth trusted Naomi and promised her: “All that you say I will do” (v. 5). What faith and trust she had for Naomi! She bathed, perfumed, and left for the threshing floor. She waited until Boaz’s “heart was merry” (v. 7) after eating a hearty meal and drinking wine following his long day and evening. Then, when he had fallen asleep, she crept forward undetected, and – sure enough – she “uncovered his feet and lay down” (v. 7).

The scene is not too hard to imagine. We have all woken from sleep with a shiver and sought to re-cover ourselves in bed. But, imagine the shock that Boaz must have felt when he realized he was not alone – that “a woman lay at his feet” (v. 8)! Rather than things taking the most likely path – the path of least resistance when a man and a woman find themselves alone together in the cover of darkness where they should not be, Ruth does not proposition him but proposes. She tells him who she was (because it was that dark). She identifies herself as his servant (as opposed to how foreign she was to him in chapter 2). Then she deviates from the plan and makes an odd request: “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (v. 9).

Boaz’s Promise

A man outside the providence of the Lord could have taken a different path in this situation. The Hebrew words that Ruth spoke meant both “spread your wings” and “spread your garment”. There was nuance and history that gave context, but there was also the context of an obviously beautiful woman wearing alluring perfume laying down near him (and no one in the world knew they were there alone together…). Yet the nuance of a comment that Boaz made about Ruth’s relationship with God in the previous chapter won out: “The Lord repay you for what you have done [all she did for Naomi and her coming to faith in God], and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (ch 2:12). She reminded Boaz of his prayer for her and let him know that she sought him as an answer to that prayer for her redemption – that God’s protective wings would cover her via Boaz!

It would have been easy to respond as the world would by Boaz wrapping her in his blanket, especially in a time so similar to our own when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Yet his prayers for her redemption overcame, and God spread His wings of protection on both of them that night.

Boaz went on to let her know how flattered he was that she would seek to marry him. He calls her a “worthy woman” (v. 11) which is translated “excellent wife” in Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10[3], showing how pleased he would be to get to redeem her. He was honorable to the customs of his people and let her know that there was “a redeemer nearer than” him (v. 12). But, then, he does something odd. He makes a redemptive promise whether or not he is the one to redeem them.

He tells her that he will talk with the redeemer for them and make sure both Ruth and Naomi were redeemed and cared for (if this other redeemer would not, then he would himself). He gives her enough grain to let Naomi know that he is caring for them and not taking advantage of Ruth. And he sends Ruth away to ensure that her reputation – and his – was left intact. He even tagged on a message to let Naomi know that he knew who had orchestrated the whole thing (v. 17).

God’s Provision Then & Now

Naomi recognized that they were on their way to being redeemed, but she had no idea how good God’s plan of redemption was for them – and for us! Boaz’s integrity in an extremely dangerous and tempting situation shows us how serious our God takes redemption. Now, there are those who would argue and question Boaz’s integrity, but I think that 2 Chronicles 3:17 and 1 Kings 7:21 speak for themselves. When Boaz’s great-great-grandson Solomon was building God’s temple in Jerusalem, he named one of two giant bronze pillars “Boaz”. The son of a Jerichoan prostitute and husband of a Moabitess was viewed as a pillar. Why? Because the Lord was a pillar in the life of Boaz!

We can see today that God still takes redemption seriously. When we find ourselves far from Him in lands where people (even us) do what is right in their own eyes, He still seeks to redeem people – to save people. We can look at Boaz and Ruth and think of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Jesus seeks us out “while we [are] still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and sacrifices Himself on our behalf because He loves us (Galatians 2:20). He sees that we are alone, without hope, without Him (Ephesians 2:12), and shows that there is indeed a redeemer closer than Boaz – God Himself. He redeems us by His own blood and does something that no other romantic hero could ever do – He lives after He dies for His beloved! And in that Him – in His resurrection life – there is hope.

To find Him, you do not have to clean yourself up like Ruth did. She had been mourning her late-husband and needed bathing and anointing to pursue Boaz (2 Samuel 14:2). We do not need to clean ourselves up to come to Christ because, in fact, we cannot clean ourselves (Romans 3:10-23). No, we come to Him for redemption and find cleansing and grace and mercy and love in such abundance that there are not words adequate to describe. We need only come to Him in belief and faith. He calls us to “confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [our] hearts that God raised Him from the dead” to be saved (Romans 10:9). And, as sure as Ruth and Naomi found redemption – as sure as they found their emptiness filled with joy, we too can find a redeemer – “our blessed hope…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify [to cleanse] for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14).

Once that happens, we can look toward eternity with Him, forsake our worldly home, and lift up a cry similar to Ruth’s to our beloved Redeemer: “Your people shall be my people, and you, God, are my God!”

Hallelujah, and Amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 3:1–18.

[2] Tony Merida, Ruth for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2020), 94. ***Special Note: These four P’s are borrowed from Tony Merida’s layout of this “scene” in the Biblical narrative. This is not meant to replicate his study but to pay homage to the gifting God has given him in laying out a Bible study schema while making it my own.

[3] Here’s an interesting tidbit for you. In the order that Jewish people put the Old Testament, the book of Ruth immediately follows the book of Proverbs. So, Proverbs ends with chapter 31, talking about the “worthy woman”/ “excellent wife”, and the very next page would be Ruth 1:1!

Refresh & Restore — July 15, 2021

Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4 Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

In this episode, we are continuing our study of Ruth by looking at Ruth 2:1-23. You can find the full text of this devotion at https://justkeithharris.com/2021/07/21/refresh-restore-july-22-2021/
  1. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4
  2. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 3
  3. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 2
  4. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 1
  5. Test Podcast — Refresh & Restore (April 29, 2021)

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.[1]

Ruth 2:1-23

Greetings, Sojourner!

I am thoroughly enjoying studying and writing through the book of Ruth. One of the things that I find the most engaging is how easy it is to see God moving in the lives of Ruth and Naomi – two ordinary people. I love how we get to see God work through ordinary (even unlikely) people because, at our core, people typically think it is unlikely they will see God move and work in their lives because they are ordinary, insignificant, or unworthy or whatever other labels we attach to ourselves. Thinking about this brings to my mind another unlikely person that God worked through a generation or so before the book of Ruth: a prostitute named Rahab.

You can find Rahab’s story in Joshua 2 and 6. What comes to mind when I think of Rahab is how God used this unlikely person to fulfill His promise to His people. Before the promised land was taken – before God’s people could receive the promises of God, spies were sent out to help make plans for the conquest of the land. They found themselves in Jericho and in danger. The only person to help them was Rahab. She rescued them, hid them from her own people, and asked only that the Lord – whom she had heard of and now showed faith in (Joshua 2:9, Hebrews 11:31) – would “deal kindly” with her family as she had “dealt kindly” with the spies by hiding them (Joshua 2:12, James 2:25). And that is exactly what God did for Rahab: He dealt kindly with her.

That phrase “dealt kindly” is the Hebrew word hesed which is often translated as loving-kindness and refers to the type of unfailing, loyal love that we know is characteristic of God. The word hesed is prominent in the book of Ruth, showing God’s fingerprints in the lives of the ordinary and the unlikely.

Hesed in the Field of Boaz

Ruth and Naomi find themselves in Bethlehem, the house of bread, during the barley harvest. Their husbands are dead, and they have no one to provide for them. So, what do they do? Naomi is already bitter; does Ruth join her and just sit together and starve in angry sadness? No, Ruth looks at the harvest taking place around them and asks Naomi to “Let [her] go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight [she] shall find favor” (v. 2).

Now, Ruth would not have known that God had already provided for the hungry and the sojourner in the time of harvest (Deuteronomy 24:19), but, surely, Naomi knew because she told Ruth (calling her “daughter”) to go ahead. What faith Ruth showed here to go out into her new home (called “Ruth the Moabite” throughout the chapter) and seek to find favor with a random local so she would be able to feed herself and Naomi. And that faith was rewarded; notice how it says in v. 3 that the field she “happened to come to” belonged to Boaz who turned out to be “a close relative…one of [their] redeemers” (v. 20)! What appeared to her as “happenstance”[2] was actually God’s plan of redemption playing out in their lives! In the same way that Rahab’s house happened to be the one the Israelite spies stumbled into and found safety, Ruth stumbled into the field of the very man she needed to meet – the very man God intended for her to meet.

Boaz had already heard about Ruth, her conversion, and all she had done for Naomi after the death of their loved ones (v. 11). Not only that, he also got a good report about how hard she was willing to work to take care of Naomi from the man in charge of his harvest (vv. 6-7). Hearing these things prompted him to give an opportunity for Ruth to be safe while she worked for her family and be a blessing beyond what she could provide or work for herself.

As far as Ruth knew, she was being the literally breadwinner for her little family. She hoped to be able to help Naomi (who viewed herself as having been “brought…back empty” (1:21) from the land of Moab) by at least filling her belly. She went out to a local field and asked the foreman if she could go behind his reapers and harvest the barley that fell on the ground. She wanted permission to harvest leftovers – scraps off the ground! But, praise be to God, she “happened” upon a field from the “clan of Elimelech” – the clan whose God was their King – and God was more gracious and loving than she knew. She sought to gather leftovers, but she reaped hesed!

Remember the blessing that Naomi prayed over Ruth and Orpah, “May the Lord deal kindly with you” (1:8)? That phrase deal kindly is hesed. When Naomi heard of all that happened in the fields, she recognized the kindness that Boaz showed to them was a blessing of “the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead” (v. 20); the word kindness there is also hesed.

Boaz’s hesed showed up in the way that he made sure that Ruth was protected from the assault she may have suffered in another field at the hands of unrighteous men (vv. 9, 22) it showed up in the way that he allowed her to move along with his reapers for protection and support (v. 8); it showed up in the way that he told his reapers to leave more than scraps behind so she could reap a bigger harvest through her faithful work (v. 16). Most importantly, Boaz showed hesed by blessing her: “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (v. 12). You see, Boaz showed hesed because of the Lord. He was the conduit for the hesed of God – the very same God in whom Ruth had put her trust and taken refuge!

A God of Never-Ending Hesed

Just as Boaz had noticed, Ruth had come to the God of Israel for refuge. She had forsaken the false gods that were part of her heritage in worship of the one, true God. She had left her people and become a part of His people. She had come to the house of bread and sought to harvest bread for her and Naomi. What she did not know was that her God was more than simply a refuge for her but “Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Naomi asked that Ruth receive hesed from the Lord, but Ruth was just beginning to see that her God is “abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6)! He has a surplus of hesed – in fact He is rich in it (Ephesians 2:4) – and had an unexpected harvest for Ruth and Naomi that was more abundant than they could “ask or think”!

This can be seen in how Boaz allows her to have some of his workers’ food at lunch (dipping the morsel seems a bit Lord’s Supper-ish, don’t you think?), enough to eat “until she was satisfied” and take the leftovers to Naomi (vv. 14, 18). She gathered “about an ephah” (about 3/5 of a bushel or thirty pounds) of barley (v. 17)! Naomi felt like she left Israel full and came back from Moab empty, but Ruth left for the field empty-handed and came back with a thirty pound sack full of barley ready to be made into bread.

Even in her bitterness, Naomi recognized the hesed. In that way, she like Ruth was beginning to learn the beauty of God’s hesed. But neither of them knew hesed like Boaz.

You see, Boaz would have learned a lot about hesed from his mother. Many years before, she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. She had two Israelite spies stumble into her house and asked that they give hesed to her family if she gave them safety. Through faith in the Lord and His mercy and hesed, she (in addition to her family, just as she asked) “did not perish” with the rest of Jericho. Matthew 1:5 tells us her name –  “Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab”! What hesed for God to redeem one like Rahab and include her in the family lineage of Jesus!

Naomi had no idea that God would so specifically answer her prayer of blessing in how God would choose to “deal kindly” with Ruth. There is no way she could have known, but He did! When Boaz recognized what God had done in Ruth’s life, there is no way for him to know how God intended to use him in the lineage of Jesus, but God did!

Maybe today you think there is no way that anyone could love you, but know this: God is still abounding in hesed today. His loving-kindness is so great that “He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We have seen how a young prostitute named Rahab placed her faith in Him and did not perish. We have seen how a young Moabitess placed her faith in Him by seeking refuge under His wings and found redemption. That same faith and belief produces the same results today (Romans 10:9-10, 13). So, put your faith in Jesus and find life and redemption in Him.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 2:1–23.

[2] Sinclair Ferguson, Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth (Bryntirion Press, 2013), 49.

Refresh & Restore — July 8, 2021

Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4 Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

In this episode, we are continuing our study of Ruth by looking at Ruth 2:1-23. You can find the full text of this devotion at https://justkeithharris.com/2021/07/21/refresh-restore-july-22-2021/
  1. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4
  2. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 3
  3. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 2
  4. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 1
  5. Test Podcast — Refresh & Restore (April 29, 2021)

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.[1]

Ruth 1:6-22

Greetings, Sojourner!

I hope this finds you well and ready to dive back into the world of Naomi (“Pleasant”) and Ruth. Last week, we started our journey through this narrative and saw that “Pleasant” and her two daughters-in-law were in grief-stricken after losing their husbands (or in Naomi’s case her husband and both her children). While this is an extremely sad situation, it says something about the genuineness of the Bible that it does not glaze over the sad and unfortunate moments. It does not glaze over the sin, either. After all, what good is an example if we cannot identify with it? And what good is a Savior if no one needs rescuing?

Good News (Gospel) for Broken-Hearted Sinners

There is a common phrase in modern-day culture: there is good news and bad news. This usually prompts the person talking to ask if their audience wants the good or bad news first. No matter the order, the good news is always preferred over the bad. Naomi and her daughters-in-law already had the bad news covered. But God made sure that they were in the right place and time to hear the good news; Verse 6 tells us that “she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited His people and given them food”!

Even though they were in a foreign land (where they went to avoid consequences of sin and their need to repent) and heard specifically that God Himself had heard His people’s cries of repentance and ended the famine in the promised land – it was harvest time at the “house of bread”! While that news was indeed good, no amount of food would cure Naomi’s broken heart, but it was enough to prompt her to return to the promised land from Moab.

Before she could “return to the land of Judah” (v. 7), she needed to take care of her daughters-in-law. They, after all, had their own gods, their own ethnic group, and no ties to Israel since neither had children. So, Naomi sent them back to their “mother’s house” – basically giving them permission to go home, get over their sadness, and start fresh. Before she parted ways with them, she did something interesting: she blessed them –  she prayed for them.

This is good news for two reasons. First, it shows that even during her sorrow and bitterness God was working in her life. Second, the specific things she prayed – “May the Lord deal kindly with you” and that He would “grant that you may find rest…in the house of [your] husband” – were very clearly and specifically answered for Ruth (and Naomi, as well, but more on that next week)!

Naturally, there was crying – a lot of it and understandably so since these women had shared life and grief together. Orpah went home just as Naomi told her to do. There was nothing sinful or wrong in her obeying her mother-in-law and starting fresh. There was just something else going on in Ruth’s life that compelled her to stay. Here, it is important to see how the phrase “good news” means something different in the New Testament: it refers to the gospel. And God was working in Ruth’s life in a gospel sort of way which impacted her decisions.

This is good for us because it reminds us of the good news – the gospel – impact of what Jesus has done for us through His death and resurrection. It helps us to identify with Naomi and Ruth. I love the way that Tony Merida illustrates this:

“According to the gospel, it is all of us who are the afflicted, the weak and wounded, the sick and sore. And Jesus has come to our aid. Christians are the people who should most identify with the orphan and widow. We were the orphan, and God adopted us. We were the widow, and Jesus became our Bridegroom. We were the stranger, and God made us citizens of heaven. We were the poor, and Jesus gave us a glorious inheritance. We must remember how God has visited us with grace.”[2]

Let’s look at how God visited Ruth with His grace.

Ruth’s Conversion and Naomi’s Identity Crisis

Looking at this backward across the New Testament at these events, we know that there was no true hope for them in the land of Moab – that the only hope anyone had came from Ruth’s great-great-descendent Jesus Christ. Knowing that highlights how awesome what God was doing in the lives of Naomi and, especially, Ruth truly was. After Orpah went home, Ruth doubled down on her intent to stay with Naomi (v. 16). She did not care that Naomi would not be able to produce another son for her to marry. She did not care that she would be a foreigner in Naomi’s land. She did care for Naomi. And it is in this care that we see the change that God produced in Ruth’s heart.

She told Naomi, “where you go, I will go”, showing their deep bond that she was unwilling to forsake. It showed a commitment to her mother-in-law, but there were bigger changes afoot. Next, she said, “your people will be my people, and your God my God”. This is a big deal because she was forsaking her Moabite heritage and native religion to completely embrace Naomi’s! This meant more than simply moving to a different country; it was equivalent to moving from death to life – from false gods to the God, from the wages of sin to the grace of the promised land. That is good news!

The spiritual change in Ruth’s life shows us the same sort of change that we need even today. Yes, the blessings that Naomi sought for Ruth would occur. God would bless her with a husband in her new home. God would deal kindly with her in many ways. But, before any of the physical or surface-level needs were met, God gave her a new life found only in Him! And, through His blessings in Ruth’s heart, Naomi would eventually find these same blessings again in her own.

Ruth’s conversion provides a huge contrast to Naomi’s identity crisis. Remember, Naomi meant “pleasant”, yet she found herself feeling the exact opposite, bitterness. She changed her name to reflect her heart: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara [Bitter]” (v. 20). For Ruth entering the promised land allowed her to begin to realize that she could “hold fast to the confession of hope” (“your God will be my God”) as she learned that “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). But, for Naomi, re-entering the promised land felt like a prison sentence.

The Barley Harvest & the Beginnings of Healing

“Bitter” and Ruth were a sight to behold when they came into Bethlehem. In fact, we see that “the whole town was stirred because of them” (v. 19). Instead of seeing the family of four that left for Moab, or even the six that could have been including Ruth and Orpah, two grieving widows entered town alone. Ruth had the testimony of a new God and was coming into the land of her new people. “Bitter” believed that “the Lord [had testified] against [her] and the Almighty [brought] calamity upon [her]” (v. 21).

In her sorrow – and anger and grief and, yes, bitterness, she could not see the hope that came from Him, that, in repentance and humility, the “mighty hand of God” would reach down, not to strike but to “exalt” (1 Peter 5:6) and lift her up out of her sorrow and restore her to Naomi. And while the town was stirred and the people had questions, God had stirred the ground in Bethlehem and produced a barley harvest where there was once famine – land that was once cursed by God was bringing bread. “Bitter” misunderstood God’s actions as dealing bitterly with her while, behind the scenes, He was dealing kindness to her like she could not fathom because bitterness had blinded her.

Unfortunately, bitterness can blind us as well. But, fortunately – actually graciously – for us, Jesus offers salvation for people “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive the forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Him]” (Acts 26:18). Amid whatever difficulties we are experiencing – whatever bitterness, Jesus offers hope; He says,

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

May it be so for you today!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 1:6–22.

[2] Tony Merida, Ruth for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2020), 31.

Refresh & Restore — July 1, 2021

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.[1]

Ruth 1:1-5

If you prefer to listen to this devotion rather than reading, you can find it in podcast form here or listen in the player below. The text will follow the podcast.

Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4 Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

In this episode, we are continuing our study of Ruth by looking at Ruth 2:1-23. You can find the full text of this devotion at https://justkeithharris.com/2021/07/21/refresh-restore-july-22-2021/
  1. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 4
  2. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 3
  3. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 2
  4. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — Episode 1
  5. Test Podcast — Refresh & Restore (April 29, 2021)

Greetings, Sojourner!

It has been a few weeks since we have joined each other for Bible Study, and I am excited to begin a new study together today and embark on a journey through the book of Ruth, looking at a beautiful story of God’s redeeming love!

Welcome to Ruth

Today’s devotion will serve as an introduction for our study and help us to get our heads around this book.

First, we need to understand that the book of Ruth is different from 1 John (which we previously studied). It is different because it is a book of the Old Testament which occurred before the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus. It is also a narrative, meaning it is told like a story. This is different than the epistles (letters) of the New Testament which were intended to relay information clearly to a certain audience in specific ways.

The beautiful thing about these differences is that we get to see how God intersects Himself into the life stories of regular, everyday people – how He brought His redeeming love to bear in their lives. This helps us see His fingerprints in our own lives! We will see people who experience the same sorts of troubles and joys that we experience. And we get to see the way that God works in these times – the bad as well as the good – to carry out His redemptive plan.

Second, we need to understand the time in which this book took place. While it simply says, “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land” and sets up its narrative, there is more than meets the eye – more is meant to give us context.

The time of the judges was a crazy era in Jewish history. There are two verses from the book of Judges that give a clearer picture of the world in which they lived. The first is Judges 2:16: “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of those who plundered them.” The nation of Israel during this era repeated a nasty cycle of 1) being warned by God about the consequences of their sin (really, He is describing the blessings of following Him), 2) willfully committing the sins they were warned against (therefore willingly forfeiting the blessings), 3) finding themselves experiencing the consequences God promised would occur, and 4) repenting of their sin, crying out to God to rescue them – which He faithfully did every, single time they repented (it happened 1, 2, 3, 4 over and over throughout their history – and honestly, ours, too).

The second verse is found in both Judges 17:6 and 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And somewhere in between Judges 2:16 and 17:6 is exactly where we start the beginning of the book of Ruth. God’s people doing what is right in their own eyes, fully experiencing step 3 and too hardhearted to reach 4.

Setting the Stage for a Big Move of the Lord

What a context – everyone doing what they wanted to do and treating it as if it were right. Sound familiar? Yet that is exactly where we find our family at the beginning of Ruth’s narrative. You see, before God’s people ever set foot in the Promised Land (the place they left when the famine hit them), He laid out all the blessings He would give them if they followed Him (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) as well as the consequences of their sin, two of which being infertility and famine (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; cf. v. 18) which Elimilech and Naomi’s family experienced!

Since I laid out the cycle for you above, what needs to happen to get out of their predicament? Step 4 – repenting of their sin and crying out to God to rescue them! It seems simple enough, yet they chose another path – one that led them out of the Promised Land, away of their home in Bethlehem (Heb. “house of bread”), and beyond the land of God’s promise. Elimelech and Naomi dug in their heels and decided to take an alternate path out of God’s punishment of sin. The only problem is that there is no alternate path, and the Bible is clear on this. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And death is what they found in Moab.

Elimelech and Naomi thought they were leaving famine to save their lives, but they only found death. They missed the fact that God had sent them a great warning sign of repentance by striking the “house of bread” with hunger. The shelves were empty, and so were their hearts. The message was clear, and not just because of the name of their town; Elimelech is Hebrew for “My God is King”, and Naomi is Hebrew for “pleasant”[2]. Yet Elimelech sought to be the king of his own heart and strike out to leave the Promised Land to take care of himself despite the warnings of the King.

“My God is King” and “Pleasant” had two children, boys named Mahlon (Heb. “sick”) and Chilion (Heb. “frail/mortal”). And, during the decade they were in Moab, “My God is King” died. It turns out that Moab was not beyond the reach of the wages of Israel’s sin. “Sick” and “Frail” grew up, married Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth, and continued living in Moab – that was until they lived up to their names and died.

Can you imagine the heartbreak that these women felt – especially Naomi? When “My God is King” died, “Pleasant” became a widow, but there is no term for a parent who loses a child because it is a reality too unimaginably heartbreaking to be labeled.

And it is in this heartbreak that our story of Redeeming Love is set – in death and sorrow and loss, in a foreign land filled with foreign gods and strangers. One could argue that “Pleasant” was not alone, that she had her two daughters-in-law with her. But when one experiences grief, loneliness generally accompanies it.

Hope in the Midst of Sorrow

As we look at the beginning of the narrative Ruth, I find that I have a few things in common with the people we meet here. I often try to live as if I am king and can decide that what I want is right. That is called sin. I am a sinner. I often decide to delay repenting because I am angry that I am not God. That, too, is called sin (and idolatry, too). I also find myself identifying with Naomi and the pain that comes with grief.

What she did not know – and really what none of them could know, since they lived in OT times, was the hope that comes only from Jesus. I do not think I need to declare a “spoiler alert” here since the Bible allows us to know Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords has already won, but He is the ultimate hero of the book of Ruth (in fact, He is the only hero of the Bible!). The beauty of the way that this book points to Jesus shares in the same beauty as when Jesus arrived on earth, with a birth.

Ruth 4:18-22 give us a genealogy bridging the gap between Judah, father of Perez (whose mother was Tamar – Genesis 38), father of Hezron, father of Ram, father of Amminadab, father of Nahshon, father of Salmon, father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab – Joshua 2), father of Obed (by Ruth), father of Jesse, father of David, who is the great-great-many-times-over earthly ancestor of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

God struck the “house of bread” with a famine and events of incredible sadness occurred when His people decided not to repent. But God, in His sovereign and redemptive plan used those sad things to highlight the good news of Jesus, “the Bread of Life” (John 6:48). Although Naomi and Ruth, in their grief and mourning, do not realize it, “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5); joy in their case would come later when their hearts become as full as their bellies, when God does what He does in redeeming sinners. The cry of a baby will bring joy into their lives just as that baby’s many-times descendant would do for all who put their hope in Him throughout the ages:

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

So, as we walk through the lives of Naomi and Ruth in the coming weeks, let us fix our eyes on what is to be while we are seeing the redemptive plan of God work out in their lives. And maybe – just maybe, we will begin to see how God is working through the sad and unfortunate things in our own lives.

It is my prayer that we, because we can see more than Naomi and Ruth by having the finished Story, can rejoice that our “light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17) if we put our hope and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Then, and only then, can we realize the beauty that comes with rejoicing “in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Hallelujah, and Amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 1:1–5.

[2] The specific English translations for the names came from:
Tony Merida, Ruth for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2020), 20.

Refresh & Restore — June 10, 2021

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.[1]

1 John 5:13-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

We are at the end of our study of 1 John! And, as John does in his letter, we will take this last passage in chunks to cover the text similarly to how he does. Hopefully, this will help you see the difference between 1 John being Scripture – “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) and “not produced by the will of man, but [man speaking] from God as…carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) – instead of just a letter from a pastor to his flock. The words that he wrote are God’s words – to his original audience and to us today.

Each of these closing remarks fit with the message of Life, Light, and Love in the rest of 1 John. And they fit in with John’s ultimate purpose – “that you may know you have eternal life” (v. 13). This verse is similar to the closing of his gospel: “…these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). It is my hope that studying 1 John has given you opportunity to know that you have life in Him by “confess[ing] with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believ[ing] in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9). The good news here is that, if you have believed in Him you will “not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) and that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13).

What can be known “concerning the word of life” (1:1) is clearly very important to John, and Danny Akin very aptly compiled a list of the things John helps us know in 1 John that I believe can be beneficial to us as we close out this study:

“We can know that we know God (2:3, 13-14; 4:7). We can know that we are in God (2:5)…. We can know the truth (2:21, 3:19). We can know that Jesus is righteous (2:29). We can know that we will be like Jesus (3:2). We can know that Jesus came to take away sins (3:5). We can know that Jesus is sinless (3:5). We can know that we have passed out of death into life (3:14)…. We can know love (3:16, 4:16). We can know that God abides in us (3:24, 4:13). We can know the Spirit of God (4:2) [and the difference between] the Spirit of truth and…of deception (4:6). We can know that we love God’s children (5:2).”[2]

And God, through John, has a few more things that we can know that are shared in this closing section – things that we can believe. So, listen to what God’s Spirit would have us to believe through this closing section of 1 John.

We can know God answers prayer. (vv. 14-15)

We have looked earlier in this letter about what it means to have “confidence before God” (3:21) to “not shrink from Him in shame at His coming” (2:28), giving “confidence for the day of judgment” (4:17). This confidence is an abiding one that dwells in our hearts when our lives shine His light and share His love. Now, we see we can have confidence that our prayers are reaching Him – that He is hearing what we pray and answering it.

This is not the first time that John has spoken on this. In 3:22 he tells us that “whatever we ask we receive from [God], because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him”. When we add the aspect of praying “according to His will” (v. 14), we get a clearer picture of what He wants from us in prayer; He wants us to pray as He taught His disciples to pray – “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). You see, seeking His will is key in having one’s prayers heard and answered. God is not bound by some set of magic words to give whatever we request. He is not a genie that we can recite some code to command His response. Instead, He is the holy (“hallowed be [His] name” – Matthew 6:9) and sovereign God of the universe. Seeking His will puts us on the same page as Him, giving us appropriate desires and thereby appropriate prayers. In the same way that we are to “be transformed by the renewal of [our minds to test and] discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2), we should seek to have Him transform our prayer life to want what He wants.

As for what is and is not God’s will, we do not have to perform a séance or ritual. Rick Warren said it well: “God’s will is found in God’s Word – stop looking for a sign and start looking for a verse.” So, for us today, think of all the things that we have studied in God’s Word – look back at the list of things that we can know just from 1 John. If we want our prayers to be heard and answered, they must align with God’s will, and God’s will always aligns with His Word. Once our prayer life is aligned with His Word, we can absolutely know that He is hearing us, and, in His hearing, He is responding.

We can know how to pray for our brothers and to keep them (and us) from sin. (vv. 16-18)

If you read verses 16-18 and thought, “Hmmm, I am not sure what I just read.” You are not alone. We will tread carefully here and let the context of the surrounding sentences, paragraphs, and the letter as a whole guide us so that we have the surest interpretation. There are two things that cue us specifically to what John is talking about. First, the verses just prior to this section are talking about prayer – as does the end of v. 16. So, John is talking about praying for this “brother” who is “committing a sin”. Second, we can look back in 2:1 and see what that “if anyone does sin” they “have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. So, one whose sins are covered (cleansed – 1:9) by Jesus Christ the righteous is saved/born again/has eternal life.

While these verses are indeed difficult (especially v. 16), we are going to keep to the simplest interpretation that fits best with the rest of the Bible, so, even if we err here, we fall back on what is clear in the Word. The simplest interpretation sees two different groups of people: 1) those whose sin “does not lead to death” (v. 17), and 2) those whose sin “leads to death” (v. 16).

The Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), that everyone who is in Christ was once “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [they] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2). The only way to move from death to life is to be “made alive together with [God who has] forgiven all our trespasses by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). This fits John’s teaching that Jesus is our propitiation (2:2, 4:10). So, if “anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death” – seeing one who professes faith in Christ but is actively sinning – “he shall ask, and God will give Him life” (v. 16). We need to hold one another accountable and specifically pray that God will grant repentance (and life) to those who say that they are His yet are living in sin. This is trusting God to take care of your brother (His child) and asking Him to restore him.

In this interpretation, the “sin that leads to death” (v. 16) would be not believing/trusting in Christ. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in John 3:18 that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”. Those who have not repented of sin and trusted in Christ are still dead in their sin – they still face condemnation for their sin (Romans 8:1). The issue lies in how you can tell the difference. For that, I do not put your brother on the stand but your own life. “All wrongdoing is sin” (v. 17); “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); and “…the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Those are all clearly true from the Word of God. It is also true that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (v. 18). We must examine our own lives according to these truths, and, if we profess to belong to Christ, we must pray for God to grant others repentance as well as our own selves (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

We can know Him. (vv. 19-21)

Ultimately John’s goal is for us to know Christ. He ends as he began, showing us “that which was from the beginning” (1:1) – His friend and Savior who he heard with his own ears, saw with his own eyes, touched with his own hands. He had met Jesus and lived the rest of his life sharing the Life that Jesus gave to him, shining the Light of Christ into the darkness of the world around him, and loving others with the Love that Christ loved him.

He wants us to know that even though “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (v. 19) that we can know we belong to Jesus. He wants us to be able to trust that God’s Word is the true because Jesus Himself is truth (v. 20, John 14:6). He wants us to be able to distinguish between the real Christ and idols (v. 21).

Beloved, Sojourner, what a beautiful picture of love – someone wanting to make sure that, in the midst of evil and terror and all of the negative and depressing things in the world, there is a Savior whose name is Jesus who is everything we need. The world produces more idols (if we are honest, our own hearts produce most of our idols – Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 17:20) than we can successfully fend off. We need to be rescued. And that is exactly what we find in Jesus – a Rescuer, a King who left His throne to become a servant so that people can be saved. He is a beacon that shines in the midst of darkness showing all men the Way. He is love even in the face of hatred. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and one day His name will be spoken and “every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Do you know Him?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:13–21.

[2] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014), 1 Jn 5:13–21.

Refresh & Restore — June 3, 2021

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.[1]       

1 John 5:6-13

Greetings, Sojourner!

As I sit and write to you today, I find my mind fixated on this past weekend spent at the Beautiful Feet ministry in Ft. Worth, TX. I could write to you about how jarring it is to see people living in such poverty-stricken conditions. I could write to you of the desperate situations that led many of the people that we met, talked to, and prayed for onto the streets, but, instead, I find myself thinking about John’s words in v. 13 of today’s passage: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” – and that is what stands out in my mind about Beautiful Feet – the eternal life offered and the example of those who are now believers.

This was my second time to go and witness the work that God is doing through Beautiful Feet (the Feet), but there were two things that grabbed my attention this time: 1) the impact that being saved (truly brought from death in sin to eternal life in Christ) has on people, and 2) the beauty of the testimony that God Himself bears about His Son. I believe both fit hand-in-hand (or in-foot, as seems appropriate here) with this week’s passage.

As John continues bringing his letter to a close, he focuses in on the testimony concerning Jesus. We focused last week on how God molds the beliefs of those who are “born of God” (5:1) to share in His love (5:2) and exhibit that love in keeping His commandments (5:3). This week’s passage shows the three-part testimony of the Son (water, blood, and Spirit) through the Father and what it is like for Him to be the object of our faith!

The Testimony of Water – He Was Born

When it talks of water here, it is referencing Christ’s birth (think of a mother’s water breaking when it is time for a baby to be born). The birth of Christ is important, and more than a mere holiday, because it shows His humanity. Part of that testimony is that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). We see in these verses that Jesus’ birth was one of extremely specific timing and circumstances – at just the right time in human history, “foreknown before the foundation of the world but…made manifest in the last times for” our sake (1 Peter 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12), Adam, all men would inherit a sin nature and the struggles that come with it. None of the sacrifices of the Old Testament system could take away sin, they could only point to the One who could, Jesus. Sin produces death (Genesis 3, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-2), and, as we have seen earlier in 1 John 1:9, we need God “to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – to cancel “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Colossians 2:14). Our debt from sin needs to be paid, but everyone on earth is in debt just the same, unable to pay their own way much less anyone else’s.

The only acceptable payment would be via propitiation (2:1-2, 4:10), but no one on earth is worthy to make the sacrifice for us (Romans 3:10, 3:23). So, God Himself stepped down to sacrifice Himself (John 1:14) meaning that the eternal God willingly became mortal. He lived the life that no other human on earth was capable of living (1 John 1:8, 10) – sinless perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15) as the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And He, in the Person of God the Son – fully God and fully man – “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…[and] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-7), which is the second testimony.

The Testimony of Blood – He Died (Yet Lives!)

Blood was an important part of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. Just as we saw our need for salvation through our forefather Adam in the first section, we see that the first physical deaths (God taking the lives of animals in the garden for their skins) were to cover the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). In the same way, our sin – and its shame – can be covered and cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1:7).

Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners shows love like nothing else (John 15:13). As I write this, it is Memorial Day, and I cannot help but think of those who gave their lives for the United States where I live. The way of life that is celebrated in America is bound up in the sacrifice of those brave men and women who died for their country and the ideals it represents. Their sacrifice points to the greater sacrifice of Christ, and we should be moved by and appreciate what He has done for us.

Think of the magnitude of His dying in our place: the God of the universe, “who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it” (Isaiah 42:5), “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Just as it was important that He was born “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), we see that “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). He died the death that would provide cleansing of sins for all who trust (believe, have faith) in Him! Through His death, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, [makes] us alive together with Christ”, saving sinners by His grace (Ephesians 2:4-5). On the cross, He took the “record of debt that stood against us” because of our sin and “set it aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The old hymn “It is Well” sums it up beautifully[2]:

“My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought – my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!”

We do not have to mourn His death – thanks be to God! Jesus did not stay dead, and we can rejoice with the angels who said, “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6)! The “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) was different than other sacrificial lambs – He is risen forevermore as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David”, the “Lamb standing as though it had been slain” on the throne (Revelation 5:5-6)! And through His death, and especially His resurrection, we see the victory that overcomes the world (5:4-5) and can echo Paul when He praises God for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” who is alive and well!

The Testimony of the Spirit
(and the Evidence of Eternal Life Where He Abides)

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are irrefutable evidence from heaven, but He shows Himself to be true here on earth because His “Spirit is truth” (v. 6). This is important because His Spirit dwelling in those who are born again is how God abides in His children (4:16). If we claim to have Christ, we have His Spirit. Now, this is difficult because many people treat the Spirit awkwardly by either keeping Him at a distance and calling it reverence or treating Him like parlor tricks and calling it charisma. This is where last weekend at Beautiful Feet challenged what we far too often are willing to accept regarding being filled with God’s Spirit.

Beautiful Feet is more than a ministry that feeds hungry and clothes the poor. If you read the history of their ministry, you see their motto “Sharing the Gospel, Serving the Poor”, which is the entire scope of their ministry – the heart that God Himself has given them for the least-of-these in Ft. Worth. They want to share Christ with people in equal portion to the physical needs that they meet. They want to bless those who cannot bless them in return by giving them everything that Christ has to offer (and food, clothing, medical care – which pale in comparison to the gift of His grace). The thing that was most striking to me is the number of people who 1) are born again because they found faith in Christ through His grace and mercy and 2) those who are saved, after being discipled in the Word and finding employment and housing (which they desperately needed), are seen returning to the Feet to share the gospel (and meet physical needs) with others who were like them.

The Spirit is evident in their lives because they live out the gospel. The Spirit is not a parlor trick for them because tricks do not save (2 Corinthians 4:2); fake does not fool those who have been turned out on the streets; and only the love of Christ transcends “word or talk” to live in “deed and in truth” when sharing His love with others (3:18). God blessed these disciples through the Feet and servants of God who had “the world’s goods”, saw their brother and sister in need and opened their hearts because of the love of God poured forth in their hearts by His Spirit. These servants shared that love by laying their own lives down as worship – in response to the Life God gave them (3:16-17). How sad it is that this seems so foreign among church-people today!

Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This is more than a theme verse for this ministry – or evangelism in general; they literally seek to be God’s feet as part of the His body – the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). And, in serving with them this weekend, I realized that my feet do not carry the gospel as readily as they should. Forgive the crude parallel here, but I need a bit of a spiritual pedicure – for Jesus to cleanse my gospel feet that I may have share with Him (John 13:8).

John says that “the Spirit and the water and the blood” testify to who Jesus is and agree (v. 8), but he tells us that the “testimony of God is greater” than that of men because “whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself” (vv. 9-10). I have had to look at my life and ask whether it agrees with the testimony of God, and I am asking that He arrange my life so that it testifies more to Him than about me, that my feet can be about His business rather than shod in Sunday shoes in the comfort of a church building or propped up serving my own laziness. I ask that He help you to do the same in your own life and grant the repentance and cleansing to walk His gospel out in the community He has planted you.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:6–13.

[2] Horatio Spafford, “It is Well

Refresh & Restore — May 27, 2021

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?[1]     

1 John 5:1-5

Greetings, Sojourner!

Our study of 1 John is winding to a close; we are in the last chapter! I am thankful for the opportunity to look deeply at John’s heart for those he wrote to and God’s heart for us who read these words today. What good news it is that Jesus has provided for us to partake of His Life, Light, and Love and get to share it with others wherever He plants us!

As I mentioned last week, I am amazed at how God’s Word shows Itself to be eternal and prophetic by how what He wrote so long ago fitting perfectly with what we experience today. And, like the loving Father He is, God provides what we need in the midst of our experiences – before we need them, in the midst of our trials, and eternally as His children!

Today’s passage looks at some beliefs about God and how they are supposed to affect our lives. I would like to urge you to pause here and ask God that this be a time where you can look at your beliefs and make sure they line up with God’s Word. I pray the same thing for you as I do myself when reading the Word: if there be any beliefs out of sync with the Word God, He will grant repentance and correct them.

Jesus is the Messiah (v. 1)

One of the most beautiful things about John’s writings is how his love for Jesus – his amazement by Him through the years – shines brightly. That is why, as he begins to close his letter, he emphasizes Jesus so clearly. Here, he gives us a non-negotiable and necessary belief for followers of Jesus: “Jesus is the Christ” (v. 1). The word “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. It is the English form of the Greek word for Messiah – literally “anointed One”.

Part of Jesus being the Messiah is how God prophesied His coming from ancient times, fulfilling every one and bringing hope to those who trust in Him (Genesis 3:15, 2 Samuel 7:14, Isaiah 53, Hosea 3:5, Daniel 9:25). Even the Messiah’s mission was prophesied and laid out (Isaiah 42:1-7, 49:1-9; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). But Jesus being the Messiah is more than keeping up with a long list of facts.

Believing that He is who the Bible says He is means more than intellectual knowledge! To genuinely believe that Jesus is the Christ to fully put your faith, hope, and trust in Him – not in knowledge but actual and indwelling hope. It is one thing to believe that a bridge will hold your weight; it is another thing entirely to drive a car across it. In the same way, it is one thing to know facts about Jesus; it is another thing entirely to live one’s life according to His teachings with the hope of eternal life – like we know that this world is not all there is. The difference is of eternal significance, as John noted in ch 2:2: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist….” This means that there is no fence position in relation to believing (having faith/trust/hope) in Christ; you are either in Christ or antichrist.

God’s Children are Born of Him (vv. 1, 4)

The idea of being “born of Him” (v. 1) has been developed throughout 1 John. We see it first when John says, “If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him” (2:29) and will see it wrap up later when we study ch 5:18. The whole idea is wrapped up in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. It is talked about various ways: “born again” (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23) and “regeneration” (Titus 3:5), which mean the same thing. The term “born again” is used synonymously with being saved/being a Christian, but it actually means what it says: being born a second time.

To be “born again” begins with the fact that those who are in Christ were dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13). Belief in Him gives the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23, 10:9) bring actual life to what was once dead (Ephesians 2:4-5, Colossians 2:13)! So, to say that we are “born of God” (v. 4) is more than simply a religious term – it is a statement of faith that originates in the Person and work of Jesus, God in flesh (John 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21), and culminates in our lives. I love the way that Danny Akin describes this:

“Jesus did not come to die on a bloody cross to make us kinder and nicer persons. He came to dramatically, personally, radically, and eternally transform us and make us new people. It is by the new birth that He accomplishes this glorious work. Therefore, you must be born again.”[2]

As always when studying these passages, we find ourselves needing to examine our own lives. These first two beliefs leave no wiggle room for us – no room for religious talk or labeling, only for being adopted by Him (Galatians 4:4-5) or left in our sins. Here is a good time to ask: Do you believe? Are you born of Him?

God’s Family is Defined by Love for Him, Love for One Another, and Keeping His Commands (vv. 1-2)

We have talked about this at length over the past few weeks, so I will reference you back to our studies from May 6, 13, and 20 for what it means to be loved by God and love Him. The difference today comes from what John says at the end of v. 2: “when we love God and obey His commandments”. He clarifies that one’s love for Him means that the individual will keep (follow, obey, live life according to) His commandments.

There is a danger here that we see very often, and it is known as legalism. Legalism is when one looks at the things that God has commanded (His Law) and wrap all our efforts into living them out for the purpose of earning our salvation. That is why I am glad that God lays out His Word as He has; before He mentioned keeping commandments, He clarified that there is no earning salvation (how does one earn birth?) but that it has its beginnings and endings in Him.

So, how does one balance keeping and following His commandments but not falling into legalism? Unfortunately, I cannot offer you much in the realm of practical suggestions here. I struggle with past legalism and can probably offer more ways to mess this up than I can living it out appropriately. But I am learning that the key to this is found in the end of v. 3: “His commandments are not burdensome”, which beautifully shows the heart of Jesus:

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Legalism requires labor, but following Christ (including keeping His commandments) is a service of love and appreciation. Legalism leaves people “heavy laden”, but in Christ “will give you rest”. Legalism is a yoke that will break your back and your spirit, but the yoke of Christ comes with His strength, especially when our own is lacking because He promises that His “grace is sufficient” and His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I think that keeping the commands of Christ are like all that goes into bridal preparations for a wedding day. Normally, taking hours and hours to dress and primp and prepare would be a terrible burden. Hearing actors and models discuss all the time it takes to go through make up and costuming sounds like a laborious job, but brides willingly subject themselves to such things merely to get through a 30(ish) minute ceremony and reception. There is a whole industry devoted to helping people elope so that they do not have to go through the burden of such things! So, why would any bride do this? Simple: to please the groom – so that, when the doors open at the back of the church and she is presented to him, his knees will go weak and the moment will be seared into his memory forever.

For that bride, none of the burdens are burdensome. They are labors of love. It is the same for the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27, 32). For those “born of God”, keeping His commandments – especially and specifically loving Him and people (Matthew 22:36-40) – begins out of the overwhelming love and appreciation we have for Him and flows into what naturally occurs over the years as we simply follow Him. Keeping commandments earns nothing but expresses affection from the Bride of Christ to her husband, Jesus Christ Himself.

(faith in) The Overcomer of the World (vv. 4-5)

Remember how we specifically defined the word “believe” above? The word for faith in v. 4 and believe in v. 5 are one and the same. So, when John says that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” and that “our faith” is victory, he does not mean that we, in and of ourselves, have won anything. Rather, he is clarifying that we are believing – putting our faith – in the Overcomer Himself! Look at the confidence and strength in the way that Jesus talked about His victory (in past tense, no less) before He died on the cross: “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)!

Beloved, sojourner, I hope this devotion finds you well, but, more than that, I hope that it also has you to look at your beliefs and make sure they align with what God has for you rather than merely being religious.

As always, know you are loved and prayed for. If you have questions or prayer requests, feel free to reach out.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:1–5.

[2] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014).

Refresh & Restore — May 20, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.[1]


Greetings Sojourner,

The older I get, the clearer I see that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). How else could words written so far in the past ring so true today? There is no literature that holds truth like the Word of God because the “sum of [God’s] Word is truth” (Psalm 119:160), specifically because God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). That elevates the words on the pages of the Bible to more than mere literature, surpassing sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books. We can read it and recognize the truth and beauty in the cry of the psalmist, “give me life according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:25), because that is exactly where we find Life – where we find Christ Himself!

In thinking about the way that today’s passage intersects with our present-day world, a call from the Lord to Israel comes to mind. Jeremiah 6:16 shows us how God called to Israel in the midst of their sin before disaster struck Jerusalem: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” He was calling them to repent – to change their ways – to turn away from their sin and back to Him. Yet their response to Him was simple: “We will not walk in it”.

As we have walked through 1 John verse-by-verse, we have seen how the Holy Spirit through John has pleaded with God’s people down through the ages to examine our lives and know whether or not we walk in the light (1:5, 7; 2:10; 3:10, 14), whether the truth is in us or the Truth shows us to be liars (1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 9, 11, 22; 3:6, 10), and if we are God’s children with His Spirit abiding in us and us in Him (2:20, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 10, 24). The past two weeks (part 1 and part 2) looking at 1 John 4:7-21 feel like a Jeremiah 6:16 sort of crossroads. We see the ancient paths where the good way is (love), yet it is so easy to turn and follow sinful desires (hate, unforgiveness) in the wrong direction.

Our journey through this particular passage began as we looked at how the command to love one another flowed from Jesus’ original teaching (John 13:14), continued through the apostles into the early church (1:5, 2:24, 3:11), and suggested that it was intended to be lived out in the Church today (3:16-18). We then looked specifically at how the love that Christ showed the Church, His Bride, as “the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10), “and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2). We continue today into the end of the passage, and it is tempting to pass over it, calling it merely repetitive because of similarities to other parts of 1 John. But the consequences could be eternally significant should we pass over these truths.

In today’s section, we see John revisiting the theme of assurance – the idea that we can truly know whether we or not we belong to God. We see v. 13 talk about it similarly to earlier in 1 John: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” We can know we belong to Him because His Spirit is in us, and we know that His Spirit is in us because He bears fruit in those within whom He abides, specifically “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)[2]. Those who do not bear this fruit – well, they bear fruit of their own sinful flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).

The difference between how John talks about assurance here than earlier in 1 John is how specifically he ties how we can know that we belong to God (are saved, born again, redeemed) to whether or not we love. In fact, one of the toughest and most alarming verses is the end of v. 20 where it clearly says “he who does not love His brother whom He has seen cannot love God whom He has not seen.” Cannot….

It seems here that he is revisiting v. 8 that showed us a lack of love shows a lack of God “because God is love” and v. 11 that shows “if God so loved us (specifically calling back to John 3:16), we also ought to love one another”. Guess what: he is revisiting it because we need to hear it again and again – because we are foolish and, in our selfishness, we forget (sometimes willingly). We do not want to hear again and again that hatred is evidence of not loving God, nor do we want to hear that a chronic lack of forgiveness and, let us call it what it is, blatant hatred of others is evidence of a spiritual problem. At its most severe, it can be evidence of lostness.

For a religion whose foundation is supposed to be love, there are people – individuals as well as groups – who have done great damage using the name of Christ while spreading and feeding their own hatred. I remember being shocked and dismayed when a coworker showed me a picture of Ku Klux Klansmen standing on the “altar” of a “church” (their sponsor, nonetheless), asking me how I could participate in a religion that condoned hatred and was actively evil. In fact, there are too many examples throughout “church” history of more of the same. But neither tradition nor history change the Word of God. The words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things.

The most startling example perhaps is found in our own hearts – yes, mine as well as yours. Now, we would say that our hatred is different, but, then again, that is what we always say when the sin is our own. We have thought it out, rationalized and justified it. But the words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things.

The word “cannot” sounds so final. That is because it is! What we see as a compound word in English is actually two separate words in the original language (not + a word describing ability or power through any means possible). This is significant because it carries much more weight than our simple “cannot”. The original context describes a situation in which there is absolutely no mindset, no set of circumstances, no ability, no power at all. Jesus uses this very same set of words in Matthew 7:18 to say “a healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit”, Mark 3:24 to say “if a kingdom is divided against itself [it] cannot stand”, Luke 14:26-27 to say that one whose ultimate love is not Christ “cannot be [His] disciple”, and John 3:3 to say that “unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. If Jesus is truly “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “[n]o one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6), how can His cannot be wrong? Can cannot be as final as it sounds? Dear, Sojourner, when God’s Word says it, the answer can only be yes. He gets the final say-so because He is God.

We see here that we have reason to examine our lives, but this should lead us to repentance, not fear. This is why John tells us in this same passage that “perfect love casts out fear” (v. 18). He hails back to ch 2:4 when we see that in keeping and following the Word “truly the love of God is perfected”. If we genuinely believe that ALL “Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), we must not hold only to the teaching and training; we need to submit our beliefs to reproof (God’s Word realigning our beliefs to itself) and correction (of sinful actions or behaviors). If God’s Word is indeed His Word, it must change our lives or else we simply do not believe it. How can one believe that it contains Truth that gives Life if it is impotent to change behaviors in those who claim to follow its teachings?

We know our hearts and our sinful imperfections (Romans 3:10, 23). Sometimes, when confronted with our sinfulness, we find ourselves falling into fear. This is why He gave us v. 18. It is easy to say that “perfect love casts out fear” but another thing entirely to practice it. He goes on to explain that “fear has to do with punishment”. When we are confronted in the Word with sinfulness – specifically hatred in today’s passage, it is good for us to examine our lives. Furthermore, it is good for us to know that hatred is a spiritual problem! But, rather than it driving us to fear – if we say we belong to Christ, it should drive us to repentance. You see, it is when we learned the reality of our sin that we first came to the Savior! Being confronted with sin (again and again) as we spend time in God’s Word, we should be driven to Him more and more.

We do not have to fear punishment because Christ – as propitiation – has “bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Repentance – specifically turning from our hatred to His love and seeking to exhibit the forgiveness He shows His people – shows evidence of His Spirit (just as a lack of it shows the opposite). When confronted with hatred in my own heart recently, I realized that I first had to confess that sin to the Lord (1:9, Psalm 51:1), then confess the sin to brothers I trust to pray for me and hold me accountable (James 5:16), and genuinely seek the Lord for Him to soften my heart and grant repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).

What should we take from this?

First, we are sinners, and our sin is not to be taken lightly. The reality of Jesus being the propitiation for sin (v. 10) is heavy because that means He bore our sin because He had none of His own (2 Corinthians 5:21)! If you are His, that means His death was in the place of yours. And your Life is because of Him. In Him there is hope for us. We need to be thankful for mighty examples of repentance like we find in Psalm 51 so we can learn to seek after God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy and ask that He “create in [us] a clean heart…, and renew a right spirit with [us]” (Psalm 51:10). We need to be reminded that if “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10), we can love because He first loved us (v. 19) – that we can love others because “God is love” and He is in us and we are in Him (vv. 8, 13, 16, 21).

Second, there are those who have misused the name of Jesus. They have claimed His name and committed all sorts of evil, devastating the lives of people in the fall out. We do not need to ignore those sins nor should we believe that atrocities done in His name will be easily corrected or wounds quickly healed. The words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things. And the true Jesus – as found in His Word, does not need us to defend Him or seek to fix errors that others have made. He has spoken for Himself through John and offers the same hope to all that we have found in His Word ourselves. Christ could have hated us and left us in our sin – and been justified in doing it! But, praise God, He chose grace and mercy “because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

If you are reading this and find yourself standing and the crossroads of love and hate and are offered the ancient paths, the good way of the love of Christ, may you respond in faith and repentance, not foolishly saying as those before us have: “We will not walk in it”.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:7–21.

[2] The English teacher in me would like to note that the lack of “and” at the end of what appears to be items in a series is not a typo. This list is known as the fruit (singular – not fruits) of the Spirit – one Spirit, these collectively are one fruit grown by Him in the lives of those who are born again.

Refresh & Restore — May 13, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.[1]

1 John 4:7-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

I do not know about you, but the last few days have really put my convictions to the test regarding last week’s devotion. Love is difficult. Sometimes, not hating is difficult. And, despite how hard we try to hide it, following Christ seems difficult, too.

I believe all these things are difficult – specifically loving (and not-hating) as He told us to in pursuit of Him – because we are forgetful. One of the truths that should be most foundational for us is that our salvation – and His continued work in us (a.k.a. sanctification) is not accomplished by us; they are not produced by our own strength. When Paul described great difficulties (“a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me”, 2 Corinthians 12:7), he revealed some good news told to him personally by Jesus: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), a truth that led him to understand that his strength existed when Christ’s strength carried him through his own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10-11, Philippians 4:13). The same good news is for us today.

When we talk about love, it is easy to talk with very unrealistic expectations and ideals. We view and talk about love like the old Beatles song: “All we need is love (bah-ba-da-da-duh)”. But it is easier to make a mess of love than to find oneself successful and fulfilled. Add to that how woefully inadequate our English language is having only one word to describe how we feel about steak and our children and our spouses and our favorite whatever. But I ask you today to remember the good news from 1 Corinthians 12: our weakness (in this case not-loving/hating) does not limit the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives because He is strong for us!

Last week laid out a heavy challenge for us in that how we love (or hate) shows whether we truly belong to Christ because He “is love” (vv. 7-8). Today’s section helps us see how He can state with such conviction that, because “God is love”, His children will be characterized by love by showing how He is love – by proving it.

John uses similar phrases to deliver this proof to us: “In this the love of God was made manifest” (v. 9) and “In this is love” (v. 10). The word translated “manifest” in verse 9 is used like an old-school snapshot (think Polaroid); it captures a specific moment in time when something is openly shown or made visible. It reminds me of a particular pose that has gained popularity in wedding photography where the happy couple have a picture to capture the moment when the groom saw his bride for the first time in her dress or capturing the groom’s reaction the moment the church doors open, seeing his bride. But, for us, it is the other way around! The “this” that manifests love – proves love to us is our heavenly Groom, King Jesus, humbling Himself and dying in our place to redeem His Bride from bondage to sin and death (Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 5:25-27, 32)! Keeping that imagery in mind, look back at verse 9 in the Amplified Bible: “By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him.” What a beautiful and life-changing truth!

We see this manifested in other passages of Scripture as well, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:20 to name a few. When I look at this great display of love, I cannot help but ask “why”. Why would he do this for me? Love. What did I do to deserve this? Nothing. Why – just why? God is love. He loves us. And He wants us to have the opportunity to “live through Him”. This brings all of the themes in 1 John – Life, Light, Love – together and shows how all are manifested (shown) in the person and work of Jesus Christ!

Not only does He give us the opportunity to have life in Him but He shows us how He did it, showing just how much He loves us. Verse 10 builds on the “this” – Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf – from verse 9 by saying that “this” and “love” are one and the same: “In this is love”. So often, we take this part and turn it around and make it about us and put it from our perspective and from our own initiative. We begin saying things that seem to place salvation from our own doing. But, remember, Christ provides the strength; we provide weakness. We have “the wages of sin” but “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And, as a young man so eloquently put it as he was repenting and believing in Christ: “I did the sinning. He does the saving.” Our salvation lies not in “that we have loved Him” (v. 10); “we love because He first loved us” (v. 19). Our salvation lies by grace alone through faith alone in Him alone. Period.

Look at how John explains it: “not that we have loved God but that HE LOVED US and SENT HIS SON to be the PROPITIATION for our sins” (emphasis added). The key to this verse – the key to understanding His love – is in the word “propitiation”.

We looked at this word when we studied 1 John 2:1-2 where we see the reality of our sinfulness and the way that Christ is our “advocate with the Father” (2:1) when we fail and sin by being “the propitiation for our sins” (2:2). Now, we see that this is not some generic sacrifice that may possibly save some but, rather, a specific act of love to redeem His Bride! I do not want to get too technical here because I do not want to make this seem academic. I just want you to get as clear a picture as you can regarding what Christ has done to share His love with you.

The idea of propitiation is connected to payment and debt, kind of like the way that people refer to those getting released from jail have “paid their debt”. Our sin has consequences, namely death (see Romans 6:23 above). God is just (Romans 3:26) and cannot leave sin – a capital offense – unpunished. In love, He decided that for anyone who “believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And, in love, He decided that He would pay our sin debt Himself. When we were “dead in [our] trespasses”, He “made [us] alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, [setting it] aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). He redeemed us from the curse of sin (Genesis 3) “by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). And He gave us His righteousness in place of our unrighteousness – “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In THIS is LOVE – in this Jesus!

See, propitiation is a sacrifice that trades wrath for favor, in our case the wrath of God that is rightly against sin traded for the favor of the Only Son of God. Propitiation trades unrighteousness for righteousness, our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) for His glory (Romans 8:16-17). It is as if we owe a debt so huge that our creditor can not only garnish our wages or seize our property but take our lives and God in Christ steps in and trades bank accounts with us. He credits our account with more than the creditor could ever take, leaving us to live with Him in His house (John 14:1-3) and Him going down with ours. The only difference is that, if we were to go down for our sin debt, we would never recover. We would be forever damned as a consequence of our sin. But, as Peter preached at Pentecost:

“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24)!

In this is love. In this the love of God is made manifest. In this is Jesus! Not only that, He has provided His strength to fuel us and power us in accomplishing what He has called us to do and be. So, “if He has loved us, we also ought to love one another” (v. 11). Is this too much for people who have been loved like this? No, in the same way that Christ told Paul that His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9), the Spirit tells us through John that our love for others shows that “God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (v. 12). May we share His perfect love with others and see His Word – His love – shared through our own lives!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:7–21.

Refresh & Restore — May 6, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

I chuckle as I begin writing to you today because I have had a song running through my head; I have even caught myself singing it. If you have a church background, you may be trying to guess which glorious old hymn or praise song about God’s love I am singing. And, if so, you are about to be terribly disappointed (although I imagine many of you singing along as you read the lyrics). The song is from 1984 – Tina Turner’s classic, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. Here is the chorus:

“What’s love got to do – got to do with it? 
What’s love but a secondhand emotion? 
What’s love got to do – got to do with it? 
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

To answer and apply Tina’s questions to today’s passage: EVERYTHING! Love has everything to do with today’s passage and everything to do with the lives of those who profess to know Christ. Over the next few weeks, we will be walking through this passage and find out just what it means for us and our lives.

At this point in John’s letter, he is beginning to wind down toward a close. The first half of the letter was devoted to making sure his readers (then and now) knew what it was to have life in Christ and walk in His light. Now, love is being treated similarly – both as an example of what He has given us and as a test to find out if we indeed do “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1:7).

To some it may seem like John is repeating himself, but it is important to note that he is not merely writing a letter. First, this letter reflects his heart as an apostle and teacher of the Word to see his readers know Christ more fully and walk in Him. Second, this letter is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) through John, giving his audiences the Word they/we need to hear from the Lord. So, this is not John repeating himself but the Lord emphasizing truths He knows we need to hear again and again. With that in mind, we can see the importance of reflecting on past sections of 1 John:

  • (1:5) This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
  • (2:2) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world.
  • (2:5) …but whoever keeps His Word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him….
  • (2:29) If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
  • (3:10-11) By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

It is easy to see how the Spirit builds these truths over the course of the letter, namely light, life, and love. Today’s passage begins the final build of the topic of love.

The teaching that we are supposed to “love one another” (v. 7) is not new. We have looked previously at how John’s message here comes directly from Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). The difference in John’s teachings on this in chapter 3 and our passage today is that John adds explanation to his earlier examples: “God is love”. Our lives cannot be characterized by hate and love at the same time any more than we can live lives that point to Christ while walking in darkness; we would be liars (1:5-7).

While v. 7 speaks positively to John’s “beloved”, what we find in v. 8 is tough love. A life that is absent of love is absent of God. I realize this sounds harsh, but the contrast is important. Just as you should love because “God is love”, hatred shows absence of God in one’s heart because “God is love”. This is meant to be tough because love, like we have seen throughout this letter (1:6, 1:8, 1:10, 2:4, 2:9, 2:11, 2:15-16, 3:6, 3:8, 3:10, 3:14, 3:17), is another means to test our lives. God very clearly wants us to know whether we are – or are not – His children (3:10), whether He does – or does not – abide in us (3:24). This is serious business and requires us to honestly check our lives.

On the subject of loving one another, it is important to see that John continues to emphasize this at the end of our passage. In v. 19, we see a bold statement that should give us pause: “we love because He first loved us”. This is reminding us of the love that Christ has shown us! And, while this is something that – if we have experienced it – we should not need to be reminded of, this is a common theme throughout Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, God describes Himself as “abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18). The Psalms remind us that God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136). The most widely known verse in the Bible proclaims it beautifully (John 3:16): For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 

That is a rare, unique love, so special that it multiplies in the hearts of those who receive it. Think back to how, earlier in this writing, we love others because “God is love” and our lack of love shows a lack of God. People do not like being presented with stark realities like that (think right/wrong, love/hate, etc.). In today’s world people want to blur the lines or add gray areas to soften hard truths we are not yet ready to face. But the Holy Spirit through John does not allow for softening this hard truth; look at v. 20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar”. That, dear Sojourner, is a stark reality. He continues, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 

Look at that word “cannot” – can NOT. This word pains me because I struggle with loving people, struggle with hate in my own heart. It seems to say that hatred of a brother and love of God cannot both be in my heart at the same time. And, no matter how hard I try to rationalize – no matter how hard I try to make this fit in my justifications as to why what I feel is right, the Word of God says what it says. What does that mean for me?

It means I need to repent.

It means I need the love that Christ has shown me to impact my life. 

I need to remember that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) – that He died for me knowing all my sin. At the same time, I need to remember how much that love has changed my life: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). Basically, I need to remember that, in my sin, I was an enemy to God and that, while I was His enemy, He loved me enough that He lived for me, died for me, and rose again defeating death, hell, and the grave. If He could show His love for me while I was His enemy, what ground do I have to hate anyone, especially a brother.

“What’s love got to do – got to do with it?” Everything when it comes to knowing I am in Christ. I have to look at my life and test it according to the Word of God, and the Word of God says that hatred – again, especially for a brother (another belonging to Christ) – is evidence that I am not walking with Him. When faced with that fact, those who are not in Christ will make excuses and, ultimately, justify their behavior or decide that their will, their hatred, their sin trumps the Word of God. But, when one of God’s children is faced with the reality of their sin (hatred or otherwise), they are driven to repent and turn back to God.

Where does this leave you? Is your life characterized by love or hate? Do you love (v. 7) or not love (v. 8)? Do you say “I love God” while knowing full well the hatred in your heart (v. 20)? These are questions that I must answer for myself. And they are questions you need to answer on your own, and I pray that you do.

As usual, know that I love you and am praying for you. This week, I am praying specifically that the love of God is poured out on you and that, if necessary, God grants you “repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).