Refresh & Restore — October 21, 2021

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.[1]

2 Timothy 2:14-26

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Greetings, Sojourner!

I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at these But GOD moments in this series. We have seen them be as simple as trusting Christ in salvation and as beautifully complex as Him bringing those who are dead in their sins to life in Christ. We have seen God change the trajectory of men – change their entire lives by saving them and working through their lives. We have seen those men share Him with others and God give life to the seeds of their work by changing the trajectory of future generations, even unto our own.

I do not know whether or not I realized it when I set out to write this series, but I think – deep down – it has always been my goal to emphasize that there must be a change in the lives of those who profess that they were once lost but GOD saved them. If one’s testimony is that they are in Christ, it is that they were once dead but God made them alive. Remember that the conjunction “but” means that all before it is cancelled out by what comes after. So, if all of our past life is cancelled out by God, what comes after should be characterized by Him – we should be different. Our trajectory should be heavenward, even while still on the earth.

A Worker for Christ: Unashamedly Handling the Word

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is markedly different than his first. This is largely because both Timothy and Paul were different. They were both older. Timothy was no longer the young pastor who needed a guidebook for starting out. He had blossomed beyond needing to be reminded to not let his flock “despise [him] for [his] youth” to one whose “example” needed a bit of correcting (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul was at the end of his life and ministry in Rome, having “fought the good fight”, “finished the race”, “kept the faith”, and ready to accept that which was “laid up for [him by] the righteous judge [with] all who loved His appearing” (1 Timothy 6:7-8). He loved Timothy like a father loves a son and wanted to remind him to continue in what he had “learned and…firmly believed, knowing from whom [he] learned” it (2 Timothy 3:10, 14).

We need to be reminded that – despite the trials, tribulations, and trip-ups – God brings us from death to life to live for Him (Ephesians 2:10)! So, let us look at the reminders that Paul gave to Timothy and see how the Holy Spirit wants to remind us. Just as Paul wanted to remind his spiritual son of who he was in Christ, let us be reminded that we are sons and daughters of the King and we are who He says we are!

How we talk matters!

He mentions this several ways in this passage: “not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (v. 14), “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (vv. 16-17), “have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies [which] breed quarrels” (v. 23), “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach” (v. 24), and “correcting his opponents with gentleness” (v. 25). All of these point to how difficult it is to control our speech; so much so that James says that if “anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (James 3:2) and that “the tongue is a fire” that sets the whole life afire via hellfire and “staining the whole body” (James 3:6)! It is no accident that Paul emphasizes it so much here.

If we are going to profess that God has changed our lives, our speech will be the first to betray the depravity of our hearts. We can see how Jesus condemned the Pharisees with the same evidence in Matthew 12:34 and 37:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…. …[F]or by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I realize that this concept seems harsh, but the fact remains that if one’s life has been changed by Jesus there should be evidence in that life of it.

In the earlier years of my marriage, my wife would be quick to tell me that “I’m sorry” loses its meaning if there is no change to follow it. How can repentance mean anything if our speech is still as quarrelsome as those who do not profess Christ? How can we “speak…all the words of life” (Acts 5:20) if our irreverent talk spreads like an infection through the body of Christ?

How we handle the Word matters!

Just as how we talk illustrates the reality of our heart, the place we give to the Word of God shows our hearts, too. I know that I have been guilty of proclaiming that I believe the Bible to be inerrant, infallible, and inspired, yet only following it on a level that was visible to church-folks around me. There was a certain amount of acting that was not being a doer of the word and deceiving myself and others (James 1:22).

Our lives will indeed reflect what we believe about the Bible. Several things that Paul reminds Timothy of in this passage reflect this: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (v. 15), “let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (v. 19; cf. Isaiah 26:13), and to be “able to teach” so that “God may perhaps grant…repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (vv. 24-25). I can already hear the counterarguments of how no one will be able to be perfect and that all of us sin. Yes, and yes. I agree with you wholeheartedly and see the same difficulties in my own life. But I will respond with the same question I have to ask myself: what is God doing in your life, and what evidence is there that He has worked in it and is working in it now?

When Paul tells Timothy that he should do his best to be an unashamed worker, it is not a command to act a certain way or simply not to fail. No! It is a testament to following Christ. It is a testimony to the fact that repentance is necessary to continue following Christ despite our hang-ups and mis-steps. He is not telling Timothy to seek to earn his salvation but reminding him that the esteem given to the Word – the respect, focus, and usage (mileage, even) that it holds – will impact his following. Just as David wrote in Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word.” – if we, like Timothy, will be willing to rightly handle the Word of truth, we will have no need to be ashamed because we will end up face-to-face with our Savior before His throne.

Usable Vessels and Willing Doulos-es

If God has changed our lives, we will actively follow Him. I do not believe that the Bible leaves room for a fruitless, evidence-less Christianity. Now, you could argue faith versus works and pull you a few proof texts (Ephesians 2:8-9 v. James 2:14-17), but, if we are rightly handling the Word and believe that all of it is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), we need to recognize that all of its teachings are true and let its reproof and correction bring us to repentance. So, if you claim to belong to Christ, you must be willing to be His vessel.

Paul uses the illustration here of a house and the different kinds of vessels that can be found in it: gold and silver for honorable use, wood and clay for dishonorable. Much of Churchianity (a made-up word for churchy-religion in the place of biblical Christianity), gets caught up in who gets to be an honorable vessel and who gets to be dishonorable. In fact, too much focus is given to whether we are being honored at all. I want to help us all with a bit of perspective: 1) none of us are honorable until Jesus saves and redeems us, 2) this means that we are all wood/clay until Jesus gives us the value (His value) of gold/silver, and 3) it is much better to be a terracotta chamber pot in the household of King Jesus than a golden toilet in any kingdom of this world (yes, I went there).

If you are in Christ, be thankful for His cleansing (1 John 1:9)! Be thankful that He takes the dishonorable and gives it honorable usage (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)! Be thankful to be set apart, useful to Him, and excited for the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)! But there is more to Paul’s reminder than we are comfortable with. Not only do we need to be willing to be His vessel; we also must be willing to be His doulos.

In verse 24, we see the phrase “the Lord’s servant”. Before I dive into the original Greek word translated “servant” in the ESV, I believe that the best place to begin is with the meaning of the Greek word for “Lord” in that same phrase. The word “Lord” is kurios, and it means Lord, master, or owner. It speaks of one who has authority over the entire life of another and goes beyond the realm of employer. In the context, doulos would refer to one who is in bondage to serve the kurios. This goes beyond being willing to be used – it recognizes that if we are in Christ that we “are not [our] own, for [we] were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This is uncomfortable because of all the – rightful – negative connotations that go with slavery (both in the historical sense with early America and Britain and in the modern sense with human trafficking). But this ain’t that.

This concept goes back to the beginnings of salvation. In these devotions, we often quote Romans 10:9 as a guide to help us see what needs to happen to come to faith in Christ: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. This is the submission that takes place. He is Lord/kurios, and we submit and lay down our lives to become His/His doulos. This is a willing submission that sees us go from death to life, from lost to saved, from bound to hell to bound up in His love, grace, and mercy. This sort of submission means that we entrust our past, present, and future to Him. It means that we step out of the driver’s seat and trust Him to lead, and, in that trusting, submitting to live like He has called us to live.

For many, this is a deal-breaker. This is why many people reject Christ and do not follow Him. They do not want to submit to His will. This is also why many who follow cultural Christianity eventually fall away; they simply cannot abide with Christ being Lord and walk away when their will conflicts with His. This is also why I am bringing this up to you today, dear Sojourner. It is not a minor detail that can be dealt with later. It is foundational to who we are in Him – or not.

Look at how Paul shows how much this submission is going to cost Timothy. It is going to cost him some earthly comfort, respect, and put him in a position to receive some dishonor as he serves out his honorable purpose in Christ. To illustrate, let us walk through verses 24-26 to see why. There will be times where a quarrel will seem logical (or even right) and potentially personally-satisfying, but Timothy will have to choose to be kind and endure the evil. There will be times where his opponents will need clear correction, but Timothy will need to remember that kindness is commanded rather than seeking retribution as he corrects. There will be times that call for harshness, but Timothy will have to respond in gentleness. Why? First, because that is exactly what Jesus would have done (and does for us). Second, there is more at stake than Timothy’s (or our) honor – those who oppose him and are currently enemies of his and God’s are people who need Christ. And they are people that God allowed Timothy to be the honorable vessel to preach Christ to them.

Where do we go from here?

There was a time in my life where, if you had asked me what my life verses were, I would have given you 2 Timothy 2:24-26. They were my way of showing how humble I believed I was at the time. I first encountered them in a seminary class, and I felt that I was receiving more dishonor than I thought I could bear. I was encountering more opponents than I could count and used this as my mantra to show how much better I was than them. But, rather than seeking for God to grant them repentance, I became more and more self-righteous and highlighted and bemoaned my trials rather than preaching Christ to them.

I eventually dropped out of seminary and quit on those life verses. I even quit preaching Christ entirely for a time. During that time, I found myself clinging to that self-righteousness. I wore what I perceived to be mistreatment by “church-folks” and the dishonor that I felt I had suffered to be my reason for burning out and walking away. But GOD was not done with me!

God allowed my dishonorable vessel to be cleansed and filled once more. He reminded me of these things not through quarreling but His kindness. He gently corrected me, loved me because I am His, and granted me repentance that lead “to a knowledge of the truth” and allowed me to come to my senses and “escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (vv. 25-26).

He can do the same for you, and that’s good news! I do not know where you are in your walk with Him, but I would be willing to wager that you could desperately use a but GOD moment in your life.

Maybe you realize that you do not know Him and want to come to faith in Him. I would love to talk with you or help point you to a Bible-preaching/believing church where you live!

Maybe your vessel has gotten dirty and been used for the wrong tasks. I would love to pray with you and help you seek God in His Word and find cleansing in Him.

No matter your situation, know that you are loveA close up of a logo

Description automatically generatedd, prayed for, and not alone! No matter what is going on in your life, if you are in Christ, Paul’s reminder to Timothy is both an encouragement and a challenge to us today:

But GOD’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” (v. 19)

Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Ti 2:14–26.

Refresh & Restore — October 14, 2021

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.[1]

1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Greetings, Sojourner!

Our But GOD series is about to come to a close next week. It has been good for us to look at how God interjects Himself into our lives, our timelines, to change our futures as only He can.

If we are saved, it is only because He brought us from death to life. We can look back on our lives and see how we were once following after the course of this world and spiritually dead but God made us alive and gave us eternal life (Ephesians 2:4, Romans 6:23). Had God not interrupted our life with His grace, mercy, and love, we would still be dead and without hope.

If we are followers of God, there have been (and will be more and more in the future) situations that are difficult. There have been and will be battles, sorrows, tribulations, trials, and even suffering. But God stays true to Himself and His promises to care for those who are His (Nahum 1:7).

Yet with all the but God moments in our lives, we seem to suffer from spiritual amnesia. We allow good times and seeming successes to fool ourselves into thinking that we got here because of our own efforts – our own steam. In our amnesia, we re-write our history to make ourselves the hero. Sometimes, our re-writing the narrative makes others the heroes of our spiritual journey, but, while God definitely does use His people to meet the needs of others and point people to Him, there is no hope in human effort unless God interjects Himself and His power into the situation.

Paul, Apollos, or Jesus?

As I write this, it is Columbus Day – or Indigenous Peoples Day – or maybe it is the day we are supposed to remember that the Vikings landed centuries before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen-hundred-ninety-two (and that the Native Americans were, well, already native). There seems to be a discrepancy in who we attribute this holiday to or what we are supposed to be remembering. But where are those protesting the wrong attribution by going to work?!?!

Today’s passage shows that there were people whose testimonies (church word meant to describe one’s personal testimony regarding how they once were lost sinners but God saved them) had attribution problems, too. Rather than sharing what God had done in their lives, they argued over the celebrity preachers of their day – Apollos or Paul.

Thankfully, Paul sets a good precedent for us in that he seeks only to glorify Jesus and the work done by His Spirit to bring people to the Father! Paul genuinely believed what he wrote to the church at Galatia: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). He reminds the Corinthian church of their spiritual immaturity (vv. 1-2) and highlights that their problems are not spiritual but merely human (vv. 3-4).

I love the way that Paul explains it and the way his questions show how ridiculous it is to even consider himself or Apollos in regard to salvation (v. 5): “What then is Apollos? What is Paul?” He then answers his rhetorical questions: they are just servants (v. 5) and nothing compared to Christ (v. 7).

When the church at Corinth had testimony issues, Paul chose to remind them more about what Jesus had done than his meager efforts in serving Christ and spreading His gospel. He does not defend his efforts. He also does not diminish Apollos’ work, either. He simply seeks to magnify Jesus. One of them planted the gospel through preaching, sure. The other watered the seed through additional preaching and discipleship, absolutely.  But the only sure thing in the entire equation – the Son’s Light to the sowing and watering – is that “God gave the growth” (v. 6).

He continues on to discuss the work of Christ in making believers His temple and how that temple is built up through the effort of God’s servants, yet the attribution remains consistent – followers of Christ carry out the mission He has given (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8) but God alone saves, God alone brings people from death to life, God alone blesses the work and grows believers into the image of His Son (Romans 12:2).

What About Us?

It would be easy to turn this around and make it all about us – our problems, our difficulties, our spiritual mistakes and foolishness, but I want to zero in on what Paul shared with the Corinthians: “but God gave the growth”.

As you look at your life and think through your testimony, to whom can you attribute the spiritual growth in your life?

Maybe you look back at your life and you find a string of your own efforts and failures instead of seeing the hand of God working things out. You may even find that you do not have a testimony because you might not be saved (born again, regenerated). In that case, rejoice because the seed of the gospel has been planted. Someone preached and you heard. Hopefully, you feel God’s Spirit convicting your heart of sin and drawing you to His grace, mercy, and love through what God has done for you in Jesus. If that is the case, all you must do is “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” and “you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Once a lost sinner cries out to God, praying for Him to save them, their testimony begins with that but God moment.

Maybe you are saved, but you have found yourself caught up in what you have done or what others have done. We must remember that, just as our works cannot save ourselves, our works and efforts cannot save others. We cannot follow after celebrity and find the same solace as following Christ. We cannot celebrate plans and methods over trusting in God to complete His saving work as only He can because even the best of human wisdom – as much as we might try to redeem it – is “folly with God” (v. 19). Rather than boast in men, let us boast in Christ and what He has done, and, when we see God’s people doing God’s work, let us rejoice in Him all the more that He is working through His people – that those who once were dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) are now living and working through the new life that God gave them through Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10)!

So, this week as you go through life, be thankful for the work of the Apolloses, Pauls, and Cephases in your life. Be thankful for those who pointed you to Christ. There are more in my life than I could hope to mention. But they do not want their names listed here. Many of them have gone on from this world and are worshiping the Savior they pointed me toward in their lives.

Hopefully, you will get to plant the seed of the gospel in some lives this week or get to water some that have been planted by others. Most importantly, I hope we get the opportunity to point some people to Jesus who is so wonderful that those who find Him forget about us entirely.

As for me, I hope to be like this quote from Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf – who I know nothing of save this quote: “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten”. Forgotten because I pale in comparison to the One I seek to point to. Yet remembered by Him when I come into His Kingdom because He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)!

Hallelujah, and Amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 3:1–23.

Refresh & Restore — October 7, 2021

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]

Romans 6:20-23

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Greetings, Sojourner!

Check out this week’s devotion from Jamie Harrison. Jamie has been working behind the scenes with all of the writings and projects you see here on the website (editing, proofreading, encouraging, exhorting), and I was finally able to coax him into writing. He also joined in for a conversation in the podcast (link above)!


I’ve been to a lot of funerals in my lifetime. While the principal at Charleston Middle School, I attended funerals for two of my students; I’ve been to several friends’ and mentors’ funerals; and I’ve been to several family members funerals.

Most recently, I attended the funeral of one of my former basketball players. Listening to family members weeping for lost loved ones, preachers doing their best to give comfort, and many, many stories about how “good of a person” they were has driven me to my knees pondering what really is important in this life. Is it being a good person? Is it being financially stable? What about being known by everyone? Or is there something greater? What will have an eternal impact on me, you, and those we come into contact with?

The answers to these questions start in Genesis 2. God tells Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17). In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve do exactly what God warned Adam not to do. Immediately, their eyes were opened to good and evil, and they realized they were naked (Gen. 3:6-7).

In verse 3:8, they hear the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden, and they hide from Him. You read that right: God Himself used to come down for walks in the garden with His creation! We used to have direct access to the King of kings and Lord of lords! What an amazing picture of our Father! BUT we did what we do best by totally screwing it up. Instead of walking with the Father, we chose to walk away and try things on our own. We figured we must know better than God and caused a rift between Him and us. That rift could only be temporarily fixed through blood sacrifices in the Old Testament, with God Himself performing the first one to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (sin) in Genesis 3:21.

Fast forward to today where each and every one of us is born into sin, and “death spread to all people, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Everyone has sinned against a holy and perfect God. Our reward for that sin is death. The part we sometimes miss is that, yes, this is an earthly death, but also a spiritual death. And there are no more stories of God walking with Adam and Eve after they are removed from the garden (Gen. 3:23).

This leads us back to our verses for today. Look back at Romans 6:20-21. The spiritual death we are born into causes us to literally become “slaves to sin”. We don’t like to look at it in that context, but we all know how hard it is to walk away from sin. That slavery leads to rotten fruit being produced by the sinner. In other words, a trail of bad choices: constant anger, sexual sin, deceitfulness, envy, gossiping, slander, arrogance, etc. (cf. Rom. 1:29-31, Gal. 5:19-21). Verse 21 tells us “the outcome of those things is death”. To put it plainly, every person on the face of the earth has a rift between them and God due to their sin. That sin earns all of us an eternity separated from God in hell.

Verse 23 drives the point home by telling us that “the wages of sin is death”. How long would we work for a company that, instead of a paycheck, gave us a free vacation for eternity…in hell?! I can imagine a game show host saying, “Tell them what they’ve won Johnny,” and Johnny saying (loud and proud), “you’ve won a vacation that is sure to keep you warm, tormented, and separated from the God of the universe for all eternity!” When put like that, I don’t know many people that would be interested. But that is exactly what is meant by the “wages of sin”. We did it to ourselves, and we make choices each day that drive ourselves further and further from God.

BUT this is when it gets good! This is where God’s BUT comes in. We all know the word “but” cancels out everything that was said before it. Can you imagine how much more powerful GOD’S BUT is?! “The wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23). Yes, we have earned death. Yes, we will receive our due reward of death. Yes, we deserve every bit of that because of our sin, BUT GOD offers life instead!

Who else but a holy, perfect, righteous, unblemished, sinless, matchless, and indescribable God could offer us such a gift? Matthew Henry put it like this:

“There is no proportion between the glory of heaven and our obedience; we must thank God, and not ourselves, if ever we get to heaven. And this gift is through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is Christ that purchased it, prepared it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it; he is the Alpha and Omega, All in all in our salvation.”

What a gift it is! And this gift is free, unmerited, and available to all. I always think back to Christmas morning and all the gifts under the tree. I didn’t do anything to deserve them (honestly, I deserved coal…every year). Those gifts were freely given by my parents because I was their son. Matthew 7:9-11 says,

“Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”

But God’s gift is eternally better than any wrapped under a tree.

I challenge you to take some time and read Romans 8:31-39. This passage spells out the gift provided by our Father in heaven. Verse 32 says, “He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all”. Verses 38-39 explain (very thoroughly) that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 4:1-7 illustrates this point even further calling those that have a relationship with Christ “sons” and not “slaves” and verse 5 telling us that we “receive adoption as sons”. THAT’S GOOD NEWS!!

Let’s circle back to where we began. We know, based on scripture, that everyone will die. We also know that we will spend eternity in hell if we do not have a relationship with Christ. This means that you don’t become an angel when you die (saved or unsaved). Only being adopted as a son/daughter of almighty God will bring you into His family forever.

If you are reading this and know that you don’t have a RELATIONSHIP with Christ, it’s not too late. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. Right here, right now, IT IS TIME!

In the introduction, I asked several questions: Is being a good person important? Is being financially stable important? Is being known by everyone important? Or is there something greater? Is there something that will have an eternal impact on me/you and those we come into contact with?

The answer is YES, there is something greater. There is something that will have an eternal impact on myself/yourself and those we come into contact with. Verse 22 tells us that, “but now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification-and the outcome is eternal life!” Once we are adopted as sons/daughters, the Spirit of almighty God abides within us and begins to produce fruit.

Galatians 5:22-23 says,

“but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”

As these fruits become more prevalent in our lives, more and more people will be drawn to the love of Christ. My prayer is that each of us will become broken and poured out to the Spirit and allow Him to lead us.

As I think back on all the funerals I’ve been to, there is one question that keeps playing over and over in my mind: “Did I love them enough to share Christ with them?” Friends, if we truly love our family, friends, and those around us, we would be quick to share the love of Christ with them and a little less quick to share the latest gossip, financial tips, etc. with them. Penn Jillette, of the magician duo Penn & Teller and self-professing athiest, said it this way:

“If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Let’s not wait until a funeral to pretend our loved ones are angels in heaven and that “God needed them more than we did”. Let’s share that love with them HERE and NOW. After all, what better story to tell than a story of BUT GOD!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 6:20–23.

Refresh & Restore – September 30, 2021

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-21

“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.[1]

Acts 7:9-10

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Greetings, Sojourner!

I took a well-needed break last week and am thankful for two reasons: 1) God made our bodies in such a way that we are built to know when we need rest (it has taken me this long to learn to listen to it instead of reaping consequences of ignoring), and 2) I needed more time to process the story of Joseph.

Last week, during the time I would normally be working on the weekly devotion, I just happened to start a new Bible reading plan. The plan is via the YouVersion Bible app and is called “Look Up: 35 Days to Finding Hope in Dark Places”. It is not a self-help, psychology devotional. It follows people in the Bible as they walked through “Dark Places” in their lives while they followed the Lord. The first person to walk with was Joseph, the focus of today’s passages.

I have told you before that I am an English teacher. One of the ways I help my students is to train them to notice things that “just happen” in a text because nothing can merely happen without it being part of the author’s plan (can I get an RL.5 amen?). Well, I do not believe that it was an accident that I started reading that Bible plan when I did; I believe it was God’s providence. Just like in one of the texts I give my students, the author’s intent was evident. Jesus, the “Author of Life” (Acts 3:15) and the “Founder and Perfector of our Faith” (Hebrews 12:2), gave me the help my soul and body needed when I sought Him – His help – in His Word. After all, His same Spirit dwells in me when I walk through dark places is the same Spirit who penned the promises of Psalm 119 through David (who is also featured in that Bible reading plan) as he walked through His:

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word! (v. 28)

This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Promise gives me life. (v. 50)

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your Statutes. (v. 71)

If Your Law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (v. 92)

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your Word. (v. 114)

Trouble and anguish have found me out, but Your Commandments are my delight. (v. 143)

But You are near, O Lord, and all Your Commandments are true. (v. 151)

Let my cry come before You, O Lord; give me understanding according to Your Word! Let my plea come before You; deliver me according to Your Word. (vv. 169-170)

For me, my dark place of late has been depression because chemicals in my brain are doing their own thing instead what they are supposed to do. I find myself focusing on all the wrong things “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” instead of shining the Light of Christ as He has called me to do while “holding fast to the Word of Life” (Philippians 2:15-16). So, today, I hope to help you seek help from God in His Word by looking at the example of Joseph.

Meet Joseph
(Brief Summary of Genesis 30, 37, 39-50)

Like many of the Old Testament “heroes”, Joseph’s life was complicated. His story began in one of the strangest and most complicated family situations that one could be born into. He was the oldest son of Rachel (2nd wife of Jacob – and the only wife he loved/intended to marry – check out Genesis 29), and he was his father’s favorite child, largely because of his mother.

You might think that life as the favorite might be – well, favorable, but a good portion of Joseph’s life was the opposite. Being Jacob’s favorite caused a rift between him and his brothers. The family dynamics were already bad since Jacob had children with two wives and two of their handmaidens. In fact his entire clan was born out of the rivalry between his wives Leah and Rachel – over who was loved most and who could most successfully provide sons for Jacob. Add to that the fact that Joseph “brought a bad report [of his brothers] to their father” (Genesis 37:2), was given a “robe of many colors” when the others were not (Genesis 37:3), and multiple dreams that seemed to indicate they (even Jacob) would end up bowing down to him at some point (Genesis 37:5-10) – there is no wonder that his brothers “hated him and could not speak peacefully to him” (Genesis 37:4) and “were jealous of him” (Genesis 37:11). Their jealousy and hatred may seem to be warranted from a human perspective, at the very least it seems understandable, but what happens next is horrific.

Genesis 37:12-36 tells us what happened. Jacob took advantage of Joseph’s willingness to be honest about his brothers’ transgressions and sent him to spy on them. Joseph had to run all over to find them which made them able to see him coming. Rather than be glad to see their brother, their jealousy and hatred won out as they decided to tear his special robe from his arms, throw him into an empty pit, and kill him. Reuben tried to hatch a plan where he could eventually rescue Joseph instead of standing up to their wickedness, so it inevitably failed. Judah saw that there was more profit in selling him into slavery than simply killing him, and the brothers decided to hand him over to Ishmaelite traders for twenty shekels of silver. A little goat blood on his robe and a lie left Joseph secretly on the way to slavery in Egypt and Jacob distraught at the death of his favorite son.

One part of Joseph’s life that his brothers could not see was how God had been working in his life up to that point. God was responsible for Joseph’s mother no longer being barren and conceiving him (Genesis 30:22). He gave Joseph the dreams that showed his future (the ability to interpret would come later). And the “Lord was with Joseph” in Egypt (Genesis 39:2), so much so that his master Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household; Potiphar recognized the “blessing of the Lord” on Joseph (Genesis 39:5). He was even blessed to be “handsome in form and appearance” (Genesis 39:6). But, as with all his blessings, the blessings in Egypt welcomed trouble, too.

Potiphar’s wife was attracted to him and tried multiple times to seduce him. While this was no doubt tempting, he recognized that it was wrong because, as he told her, “you are his wife” and it would be a “sin against God” (Genesis 39:9). This only increased her efforts. She eventually orchestrated a situation where it would be just the two of them in the house. Before Joseph realized what was happening, he was removed from his robe once more; this time leaving it behind in his her grabbing hands. He ran from temptation and sin (like we all should) and found himself in prison when she, angry from her spurned affections, lied to lied to Potiphar.

I could go on, but I believe this gives the necessary context. Genesis 40 tells of his time in prison where God continued to bless him by giving him the ability to interpret dreams. That ability ended up freeing him from all bondage when Pharaoh himself was having nightmares in Genesis 41, proving that, throughout all of his dark times, God never left him – he was never forsaken (Hebrews 13:5).

It is strange to think that we could be right where God wants us when things are not going well. This goes against much of the teachings of churches in America where we like our best life now and all tribulation for those who do not get raptured. But Joseph was right where he was supposed to be: in position to be used by God to rescue Israel, His chosen people yet far from where he would have chosen. But there is no better place than in the will of God!

In Genesis 42-43, famine struck Egypt and the rest of the known world at that time – including the land where Jacob and his family lived and according to Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. His post-prison job was basically vice-Pharaoh where he headed up salvage and storage operations to keep people fed during the famine. Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to by grain. And none of them realized that God’s providence in Joseph’s life, despite their wickedness and sin toward him and God, would save their lives and the lives of their families.

Genesis 44-45 sees Joseph interacting with his brothers to test them and ultimately provide them with the grain they needed. Genesis 46-47 shows how Joseph planned to bring all his family to Egypt and set the stage for all that God would do through Moses in the Exodus. I cannot help but wonder how much the joy of Joseph being reunited with his father overshadowed his darker days. But imagine what it was like for him to meet the God he had followed and trusted through those times – unspeakable, indescribable joy!

What Does This Mean for Us Today?

I spoke earlier about how I believe that it was God’s providence that I read about Joseph’s experiences when I found myself struggling, especially reading through Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7-8 when he mentions Joseph. Maybe you are not familiar with the idea of providence – the protective care of God.

I believe one of the most providential things that God has done for His people is the gift of His Word. In it we find everything that can be known about God. So, I want to close out with some specific application; I would like to point you to some of the same passages of Scripture that reading about Joseph brought to my mind with brief statements to help organize them.

1) I do not have to be strong like Joseph for God to love me. God loves me despite my weaknesses.

  • John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
  • Romans 5:8 – …but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • 1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2) God has a plan for my life to point to Him despite the evil that exists in the world.

  • Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
  • Philippians 2:14-15 – Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
  • Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

3) God has a long track-record of taking care of His people, and none of them could see it until He carried them all the way through (for this, you can look at anyone who followed God/Christ and had trouble, which was all of them all the way through the Bible – He never fails).

4) What God has done for us in Jesus – the hope He gives us through the eternal life in Him He bought with His death and resurrection – is better than our worst days are bad.

  • John 16:33 – 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.
  • Philippians 3:8-9 – Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith….
  • Revelation 21:3-4 – And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5) We will never see what God is doing if we do not lift our eyes off the world and turn them to Him.

  • Psalm 119:37 – Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
  • Colossians 3:1-4 – If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

At the end of Genesis, it is shocking for us to see Joseph tell his brothers: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Having walked through the dark times, he recognized that God had never left him at all; after all, “even the darkness is not dark” to Him (Psalm 139:12).

Then, to see Stephen preach about Joseph in the sermon that would cost his life to say that “the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions” (Acts 7:9-10). That same truth he preached to those who would murder him was what he lived out. Jesus was the last face that Stephen saw before he died and the first he would see when he awoke in heaven.

Maybe you are going through dark times right now and do not know where to turn. I would suggest you turn to a page in the Bible and seek Christ. It is my prayer that you find Him in His Word.

Hallelujah, and Amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 50:15–21 & Ac 7:9–10.

Refresh & Restore – September 16, 2021

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[1]

Ephesians 2:1-10

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Greetings, Sojourner!

Over the past week, I have been contemplating our last discussion regarding the good news of the gospel (and the reality of sin and the bad news it brings). Honestly, I cannot imagine life without that “but God” moment – the moment where He crashed into our lives and changed everything.

We have seen this change the life of a man who had never walked until he met Peter and John on their way to the temple. We saw that the greatest change was not his walking away freed from his burdens but running to worship and proclaim what Jesus had done through His followers. Then, we saw the beauty of Jesus’ demonstration of love in His sacrifice on the cross. There is no more beautiful picture of sacrificial love than one who would be willing to die to reconcile – to change the status – of His enemies.

Today, we get the opportunity to look at the same truths from a different angle. It is an awesome thing to see how we were once enemies, but God reconciled and adopted us. It is an amazing miracle for a man to say that He had never walked but God healed him. Now, we are going to look at the amazing miracle that takes place in the lives of every sinner who is saved: we were dead, but God gave us life!

This passage is life and death serious, so I do not want us to miss anything. We are going to dive in sentence by sentence, sometimes phrase by phrase.

Dead in Our Sins

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…. (vv. 1-2a)

This is an extremely tough reality. It is tempting to excuse Paul’s talking about death here as merely a metaphor to talk about just how bad sin is or as an illustration that could happen. It is tempting but untrue. Death did not exist until sin was first committed. In fact, the verse that immediately follows last week’s passage states clearly that “just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

When everyone’s ancestors Adam and Eve sinned against God by breaking His commandment, they were exiled from the garden, removing their access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:23). That exile meant death, which was what God promised in Genesis 2:17. Adam and Eve never ate of the tree of life again, and, even though he was 930, “he died” (Genesis 5:5). All of his sons were sinners after him, and so on and so on until you and I lived. All of his sons after him died, and so on and…well, you get the picture. Sin and death continued and will continue until Jesus Christ comes again and restores everything as He said He would (Acts 3:21).

If you are in Christ, this is supposed to be what you “once walked” in, but death is the reality that everyone faces because of the reality of their sin. Paul uses two words here to describe the sin. Understanding them brings the terrible nature of our sin to bear more than simply looking at their English translations. The word for “trespasses” basically means to step off of a path or “fall by the wayside” [2]. It works out of the understanding that God, being holy and righteous and the Creator of all things can prescribe a way that is best. Our “trespasses” occur when we seek our own way instead of His. The word for “sins” was an archery term that meant missing the mark or bullseye. The reality is that, in our sin, we are “missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God” [3].

…in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…. (v. 2)

Again, it needs to be reiterated that – for those who profess to be saved, to be born again through Jesus – these realities should fall into the “once walked” category. If one’s life is still plagued with unrepentant sin, it is necessary to look at how the current reality may be evidence that the fruit of your life is not of Christ but of “this world” and “the prince of the power of the air”.

The “course of this world” has become more and more fallen since the Fall in Genesis 3. And, more and more with each passing year, people are captivated into following after Satan – whom Paul calls a “prince” here (“ruler of this world” – John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; “god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4). Sin continues as those aligned with Satan’s agenda (and their own selfish agenda of indulging their own sin), and death seems to reign.

…among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind…. (v. 3a)

Here again we see Paul contrast the new life in Christ with what should be our former life when he says “among whom we all once lived”. He illustrates how the lives of the dead and living are in different spheres. Those living “in the passions of [their] flesh” are not concerned with pleasing God but with “carrying out the desires of [their] body and the mind”. In Romans 6:23, which I find myself quoting often describes the end of living for sinful passions – “the wages of sin is death”.

…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (v. 3b)

To be a child of wrath is the opposite of being a child of God, but every child of God was once under God’s wrath (Romans 5:9-10). That is a result of our “nature” – descending from Adam. But that does not mean that it is Adam’s fault. No, to paraphrase Tyler Perry, we can do bad all by ourselves. Our sin occurs when we find ourselves, “like the rest of mankind”, tempted by our “own desire” and falling into the reality that when “desire…has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Sin and death is clearly our beginning, but, thank God, it does not have to be our end.

Alive in Our Savior

But God, being rich in mercy…. (v. 4a-b)

I cannot read through today’s passage without vv. 4-5 causing my voice to be filled with excitement. Paul sharing the reality of but God here is such a needed contrast to all of the death and bad news of vv. 1-3! Not only that, it is how God changes the reality of death to the hope of eternal life; He is “rich in mercy”!

Church people talk a lot about grace being undeserved favor, but this passage is a particularly good example of the beauty of mercy. Mercy is also undeserved but not because it is favor. No, mercy is the undeserved withholding of punishment that we do deserve. The first three verses of this chapter show how much we deserve death, but that only highlights how rich God is in mercy – He abounds in it. He lavishes it on us.

But God…because of the great love with which He loved us…. (v. 4a, c)

I often find myself wondering why God would spend His mercy – even though He is rich in it – on a sinner like me. He gives mercy because He loves. He gives grace because He loves. And His love is as great as He is rich in mercy and grace! This resounds throughout the Bible, throughout Jesus’ teachings in the gospels. Time and again, passage after passage He tells us He loves us. There is no greater love (John 15:15)!

…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…. (v. 5)

The most amazing aspects of His love is the timeline. He loved us “when we were dead in our trespasses”. Indeed, God “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)! He meets us where we are, amid sin and death, and offers us salvation. Those who respond to His loving offer in faith are saved from sin and death by His grace alone. More than that, it is eternal life (John 3:16) to be spent with Him – “alive together with Christ” – who can promise life after death because HE IS ALIVE!

…and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (vv. 6-7)

Jesus paid the price for our sins, knowing fully that we “were dead in [our] trespasses” (Colossians 2:13) and fully intending to forgive “us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” by “nailing [them] to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14)! He offers the opportunity to move out of the realm of “this world” and “the prince of the power of the air” to be “seated…with Him in the heavenly places” where He will continually “show [us] the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness”! That’s good news! What’s more is that He paid the price for our sins by bearing our sins “in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) – by dying in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21), yet “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24)!

But there is hope for those who are saved by Him. There is a life on earth for those with the hope of eternal life between the time of salvation and heaven.

Living for & Walking with Christ

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (vv. 8-9)

It is important to note when talking about the good works – the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 7:15-20) – that accompanies being saved. Salvation is clearly the result of what God has done for us in Christ and not His response to how good we are. Just as we cannot clean ourselves up and come to God but come in weakness and sin to be cleansed by Him (1 John 1:9), our boast needs to be in what He alone has done (2 Corinthians 10:17, Galatians 6:14).

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (v. 10)

Our works do not earn our salvation. But “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). When God saves us and we are “born again” (John 3:3), He has more for us than a humdrum life waiting to die and go to heaven. As my favorite octogenarian, L.G. Schmitz says often: “God has a plan for your life!” He does! We get to spend the rest of our lives on earth sharing His Life with others! We are supposed to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), not to set ourselves apart and put ourselves on a pedestal but to give an example of the love, grace, and mercy that Jesus showed (and still shows) us. Once you are saved, you begin realizing that you “are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This was not a purchase of a slave but the price to be adopted as God’s child (Galatians 4:4-5)! And we have the privilege and responsibility to plead with everyone we can with the Word and the works God gives us to “implore [all God allows us to meet] on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20) – to let them know that there is mercy, love, and life greater than our trespasses and sins!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 2:1–10.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Ibid.

Refresh & Restore – September 9, 2021

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 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. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.[1]

Romans 5:6-11

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Greetings, Sojourner!

As we continue to look at the idea of “but God” – that God intersects Himself into the lives of people, even our own, we are going to delve more and more into what is known as the gospel. You probably feel very comfortable with the idea of the gospel, but you may not feel as comfortable defining it. At its very simplest it means “good news”, specifically the good news about what God has done for us in Jesus. The specific Greek word that our word gospel comes from (evangelion) is a compound word made up of the words for “good, well” and “proclaim, tell”, giving the meaning that we should be going and telling the good news of Jesus.

In our current world, good news is all too often associated with bad news. Many people (unfortunately, many church people fall into this category) are now bad news people. They (often, we) thrive on bad news. My friend Jamie describes those people as always having their horse in a ditch; no matter their situation, its always the worst. Mainstream media thrives on terrible news, the next always out devastating the earlier. I talk to students every day whose days are consistently worse or the worst. I have to fight within myself to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated” instead of “things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). When asked how I am, I find myself saying phrases like “making it” or “I’m present” even when things are actually going well.

Realistically and biblically speaking, things are going to continue escalating – even for those whose joy is in the Lord – showing us that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). Yet can we not rest in assurance by holding “fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)? Can we not rejoice that our God remains strong and unaffected by the realities of bad? To a certain extent, we may even have to ask whether the good news of the gospel can be good without news of the reality of evil, wickedness and sin – even and especially in our own hearts.

In today’s passage, the presence and existence of sin and its impact on lost sinners makes the good news sweeter. It is, after all, sin that reveals our need for a Savior. So, today, we are going to look at the reality of sin and God’s wrath toward it to understand how those who are saved can say that they were once sinners, but God redeemed them – once were enemies but God reconciled them, even still.

Give Me the Bad News First

In this section of Romans, Paul uses several words to talk about the existence of what we will call bad news: “weak” and “ungodly” in v. 6, “sinners” in v. 8, “wrath of God” in v. 9, and “enemies” in v. 10. Before we dive into these words and their effects, I would like to remind you of our passage from last week’s devotion where we looked at Peter preaching that repentance and turning from one’s sin is what brings the “times of refreshing…from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20) – that the reality of the bad news move people’s hearts to turn from their sins to the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ! So, we will move through the words listed above and hope that God moves our hearts to repentance, faith, and hope in Him.

The words “weak” and “ungodly” in v. 6 are fair and valid descriptions of the before of anyone who is saved or the reality of all who are not born again, redeemed, or saved by Jesus. To say that we were “weak” is to say that we could do nothing to save ourselves. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), illustrating that all of our work – all we can accomplish – is sin and “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). In reality, it is our own sinfulness that separates us from God and makes us “ungodly”. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was tempted to sin in “every respect” that we have yet remained “without sin”. Sinners are his opposites. It leaves us “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

You would think that is about as bad as the news could get. But, then again, we have yet to get to the “wrath of God” in v. 9. This is definitely not a popular or comfortable topic, even for people who crave bad news. Spiros Zodhiates defines the word translated “wrath” here as “the effect of anger or wrath, …  punishment … from God, referring to divine judgment to be inflicted upon the wicked”[2], so it is a reference to the reality of hell (Matthew 3:7, 10:28, 23:33; Luke 16:23; Romans 1:18, 2:8; Colossians 3:6; Revelation 14:10, 20:13-14). God does have wrath toward sin. I am a sinner myself, so that scares me more than I have words or ability to describe. The reality of the bad news is made complete when, in v. 10, we realize that being the focus of God’s wrath classifies us as His “enemies”.

As I said, this bad news frightens me because I know me! I know that what the Bible says about my sin and my heart is true! But I also know that my story does not end as an enemy on whom God has and is going to pour out His wrath. I know that I deserve it, but my story takes a turn with the reality that all of this is true, but God…!

Alright, Give Me the Good News Now

As I have stated several times, bad news makes good news better! Water is never more refreshing than when you have been laboring on the hottest day. One’s health is never more valuable than after facing death or disease. Loved ones are never more cherished than when experiencing great loss. And no one will ever turn from their sin to the Savior without the reality of sin, death, and the wrath of God!

If you looked at our passage for today, you know that this is not a passage of doom, gloom, and terror. No! This is a passage of redemption, salvation, and life! Each of these realities that we have looked at as part of the bad news has a rescue available through faith in Jesus Christ!

Yes, sinners are “weak” and “ungodly”, but at the “right time” Christ gave His own life that they may believe in Him and live! He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) that they may be “found in Him, not having a righteousness of [their] own [actions and deeds], but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9)!

It is in His willing sacrifice for sinners that He “shows His love for us” (v. 8). In America, we have a long heritage of people willing to serve their country, to give their lives if the need arises, so that the American people can have the freedoms we celebrate. Yet we also have prisons full of wicked men and women for whom no one would dare to die. Our American soldiers have gone up against and fought evils from Nazi fascism to terrorist despots and beyond. Yet Christ’s sacrifice stands apart even from theirs. He – our “blessed hope”, our “great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) – demonstrated “the great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4) by reminding us “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8).

This is a love that we cannot fathom. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up because we are too weak to do that. He did not wait for us to find goodness in ourselves because we are ungodly. He did not wait for us to come for Him because He came for us! He came for us while we were sinners. He came in righteous and redemptive love while we were still facing the reality of His wrath as His enemies. That’s good news! There is no better.

The Depths of God’s Love for Sinners Like Us

I am afraid that my trying to illustrate just how good this news is will fall short, and, ultimately, it will because He is better and more powerful and more loving than any feeble human words could describe. So, I want to draw your attention to the reality of what that love cost Him. Let His Word move on your heart and clarify this.

  • God’s love cost Him His Son (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.”
  • Jesus did not deserve to die in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21): “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • Jesus bore our sin that we may have life in Him:
    • (1 Peter 2:24) “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.”
    • (Colossians 2:13-14) “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
  • His resurrection means that His love continues forevermore!
    • (vv. 10-11) “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. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
    • (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures….”
    • (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No matter the reality of the bad news of your sin, you can look to the Savior. Your reality may seem dire, but God alone determines your eternity.

Will you trust in Him and in His great love today?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:6–11.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Refresh & Restore — September 2, 2021

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”[1]

Acts 3:1-26

Greetings, Sojourner!

I am excited about the new series we are beginning today. It is almost like the idea of it has been picking at the edges of my mind for quite some time, and I hope over the next month or so we can see just how beautiful, awesome, hope-giving, and worship-inspiring the words “but God” can be.

While the phrase is just two words, it carries a lot of weight. The word “but” carries with it the idea that whatever comes after it cancels out what preceded it. In this case, whatever comes before is canceled out by God. “But God” carries with it the message of the gospel that shows us that whatever came before – sin, shame, guilt, condemnation, death – is canceled out through the death of Jesus on the cross and, most importantly, His resurrection from the grave! For those of us who live a lot of our lives in the whatever-came-before, there is perhaps no greater comfort than “but God”, knowing that He is a God willing to intervene and make the sad things come untrue in Him. May we find hope in this truth – truths, really – over the weeks to come.

To begin, we are going to look at a passage that we have looked at a couple of times already. It was in this very passage that the idea of these Refresh & Restore devotions came about. In this passage, we see two men whose testimony was “but God”. Peter and John, two ordinary fishermen from some backwater hamlet had their whole lives changed when they met Jesus. They followed Him and became fishers of men (Mark 1:17). Little did they know as they approached the temple to pray that they would reel in a powerful opportunity to see God move in the life of a man who desperately needed God to interrupt his status quo – and get an awesome opportunity to offer the same hope to others and preach outside the temple.

Paralyzed & Poor BUT GOD…

For a “man lame from birth” (v. 2), there were not many options to make a living, but he was blessed to have people who would carry him and putting him in the path of people heading to the temple. Imagine the conviction you would feel encountering a person laying outside your church building “to ask alms of those entering” (v. 3); surely we would be willing to help under any circumstance, but especially one so convicting! The Beautiful Gate was covered in Corinthian Bronze and richly elaborate. There was no better place for one seeking to be richly blessed by people who would be nearly guaranteed to help him.

He was more blessed than he knew when Peter and John walked up. He asked for monetary help from them, but they were poor themselves. BUT GOD moved in the paralyzed man’s life by having Peter and John share of Christ instead of coins – the power of the Almighty instead of alms! Peter’s words in verse 6 fire me up every time I read them: “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Basically, “We’re as poor as you, buddy, except in one area – our God is rich in mercy and overflowing in love and power; in His name, come here!” The entire trajectory of this man’s life pivoted in this “but God” moment!

It seems so simple when we see the words written. Peter reached out and took the man’s hand in his, and “immediately his feet and ankles were made strong” (v. 7). Think of how much it takes to learn to walk for the first time – how long it takes to build the muscles, impulses from the brain, reflexes from so many unperceived impulses. Yet a lifetime of brain chemistry and years of physical therapy occurred in as much time as it took Peter to invoke Jesus’ name. And rightfully, the man’s first steps were not just walking but also leaping, and more than that praising God (v. 8)! As unexpected as this must have been for these three men, none of it was a surprise to God who prophesied such things would come about when He would intersect history in the person of Jesus:

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Isaiah 35:4-6

In Isaiah’s days, these prophesies gave hope but must have seemed so distant, but God gave hope in their fulfillment in the name of Jesus.

Guilty of Killing Christ BUT GOD…

As I said, we have looked extensively at Peter’s sermon before (here, here, & here) since we first launched this ministry. Today, I want us to look at the context of the hope that Peter offered in his sermon outside the temple.

The formerly-paralyzed man clung to Peter and John and followed them – actually ran – to Solomon’s Porch on the side of the temple (v. 11). Peter and John’s fishing expedition was about to cast a much wider net! The crowd could not help but recognize the drastic difference in the man and were rightly “filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (vv. 9-10). Peter began his second sermon, and the content was quite shocking and definitely much tougher than many typical evangelism sermons.

Some of those men in the crowd were in a crowd a few months earlier that was crying, “Crucify! Crucify!” That’s right. The Holy Spirit through Peter called them out by saying, “Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life…” (vv. 13b-15a).

Some, when looking at this passage see Peter seeking vengeance for His crucified Savior and friend. They see anger and empathize with the pain he must have felt. But we need to remember that God’s Spirit was at work this day, not the Peter who drew his sword in the garden. No, I believe that the Peter here today was in full remembrance of the sound of the rooster crowing to herald his betrayal of Jesus. I believe Peter remembered the forgiveness of Jesus when He asked him once for each denial whether he loved Him. I see Peter here essentially preaching to these lost men who voted in favor of crucifying their Messiah something similar to what he said to the paralyzed man. I hear him saying, “What I do have I give to you. I also betrayed the Holy and Righteous One and have experienced His grace.” I hear that in the way that he gave them the offer to “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (vv. 19-20b). Rather than vengeance, he offered the chance to “repent” or cease their sinning and “turn back” to the God they had sought to kill. He reminded them that while they were successful in killing Jesus that His death did not stick because “God raised [Him] from the dead” (v. 15). Essentially, he said you meant evil and committed great sin, but God has already undone it. They had great guilt due to great sin, but God offered grace to be found in the presence of Him who they killed.

There were many who entered the temple mount dead in their sins, but God gave life – that day alone – when “many of those who had heard the Word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (ch 4:4)!

BUT GOD Still Today

When Peter was preaching in Solomon’s porch and confronted those men of their sin, he said, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer He thus fulfilled” (v. 18). It is because of this we can trust in what He says. If He will prophesy that He would take on our sin “for our sakes” (2 Cor. 5:21), we can trust that He, having our best interests at heart, will be sure to offer those who repent and trust in Him “times of refreshing in His presence” (v. 19) and, ultimately, will restore “all things about which God spoke” (v. 21).

Maybe you have yet to have that “but God” moment where God intersects Himself into your life. I cannot intervene for you. I cannot save you. I may not even be able to meet your physical or temporary needs. But what I do have, I give to you: the message of hope that comes from Christ alone.

Will you receive what He offers?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 3:1–26.

Refresh & Restore — August 26, 2021

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[1]

Matthew 11:28-30
This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Greetings, Sojourner!

I. Am. Tired. And, chances are, you are too – even if you aren’t a teacher. We all have work at our jobs and work to do at home and work to put into…well, more work.

I use the idea of “teacher-tired” because of the amount of pressure that teachers put on themselves. Many teachers view what they do as more of a calling than a career. They get to mold young minds and influence the entire future of the students they teach. At the same time, there are other pressures that simply come with the job and compound with that internal stress. And, just like many of you have felt, it just seems like there is no way to get everything done. It feels like we are inadequate for the task, and that can be discouraging.

So, maybe you need to hear what I have to tell myself: it’s okay. It is! There are times where I am just not enough, and that’s okay, too. It’s okay because I have a reminder in Christ that He never expected me to be enough – and how I need a constant reminder that He is enough.

No matter what your work is, it is important to have the appropriate balance. Work is important and has a role in the world, but it is not one’s world. Many times we point to God’s cursing the ground and Adam’s “pain” in working among the “thorns and thistles”, focusing on the “sweat of [his] face in laboring (Genesis 3:17-19), but God had already given Adam responsibility to fill the earth and dominion over it before the Fall (Genesis 1:28, 2:19-20). So, work is not the problem; we are.

Lord willing, today’s devotion is meant to help you see that Jesus is enough and that He is able to help us when we feel we do not measure up – to put our work in the right perspective. That’s why I put His words from Matthew 11. They show His heart for us. They show His care for those who work and are weighed down with pressure, expectation, and responsibility. They show the hope that comes from putting our cares and burdens on Him and taking up His rest. And, as always, it is my prayer that His words will refresh and restore you.

Identity in Christ Over Ability

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”[2]

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Part of our problem – or at least what I have found to be true for me – is that sometimes we allow our work to become our identity. When we allow what we do to define who we are, our entire identity begins to crumble as soon as struggle sets in. As a teacher, there is a pressure to want every period of every day to go well – for every child to fully get everything I teach. Then again, I felt the same pressure when I was a full-time pastor, and I found myself completely burned out at nearly thirty years old. You see, I was my who-I-was ended up wrapped around my what-I-did, leaving every other aspect of who God had called me to be as His disciple, my wife’s husband, my children’s father, etc. woefully ignored. My entire identity was wrapped up in being Pastor Keith, and, when I quit, Pastor Keith stopped existing. I felt like I stopped existing.

Now, on the other side of that experience, I thank God for the burn out. I thank God for allowing my false identity to crumble. Rather than bitterness and hurt, I now understand David’s prayer to God to “let the bones that You have broken rejoice” (Psalm 51:8)! I thank God that He is bigger than my failures. And I can thank Him because when I got out of the way – when I hit the bottom – I found the Rock, Jesus! As embarrassed as I was of what I saw as failure, I found myself echoing the cry of David in Psalm 61:2-3: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” He had been there all along – my strong tower even when my pride in accomplishment – and employment – was the enemy.

I found myself having to be corrected like Paul did for the Corinthians. According to “worldly standards”, I expected myself to be powerful, noble, and wise. Yet, all the while, I was foolish, weak, and low.

You see, when we pursue “worldly standards”, we boast in our own accomplishments. I remember a seminary professor once saying that we could not simultaneously boast in how awesome God is while trying to convince people how clever we are. The Kingdom of God is contrary to the standards of the world. When we are weak, Christ’s strength can be seen. When we are foolish, Christ’s wisdom can be shared. When we are low and bowed in worship, Christ is boasted in and exalted. Our posture of worship, our identity needs to be based in Him – in who He is, what He has done in our lives, and who He has called us to be.

So, maybe you find yourself feeling like a bit of a failure, but what a joy it is to be able to boast like Paul in the righteousness of God that He shares with His sons and daughters, in sanctification because we know He set us apart for His service fully knowing our flaws, and in redemption where His strength shines through and makes us new in Him!

Faith in Christ Over Feeling Like a Failure

[Humble yourselves], therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.[3]

1 Peter 5:6-7

If you haven’t already, you need to hear this: you are going to fail. I know that doesn’t seem very motivational, but it’s true! We all fail from time to time. I mentioned earlier that teachers put a lot of pressure on themselves to achieve and succeed. Yet every lesson in every class period of every week, day, and year is simply not going to be a homerun. For that matter, even professional baseball players don’t knock it out of the park with every swing – or even once in every game! We often look at failure as humiliating, but I would like to help you reframe your failures as lessons in humility.

Jesus does not expect us not to fail. That’s inherent in His invitation in Matthew 11, recognizing that we will find ourselves “heavy laden” and in need of His “rest”. We just talked about how our identities can be found in the wrong things, but our failures and successes can be wrongly founded, too. When – not if – we mess up, God is not standing in judgment over us to smack or smite us. No, if we belong to Him – if we have been saved by Him – we are adopted into His family. And just like a good Daddy, His hand is waiting to pick us up and dust us off. Now, that does not mean that our Heavenly Father does not meet us with discipline sometimes; in the verses that come before the 1 Peter passage, we are reminded of Proverbs 3:34: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Sometimes His grace grates upon our pride and we find ourselves humbled (not willingly but definitively). Yet in that humbling we find grace. In that humbling, we find the “mighty hand of God”, still bearing the scars of the nails He took for us, reaching out to show “He cares”.

It is in those moments that faith transcends feeling. It is our very hope and foundation. Knowing that He cares for His children no matter what frees us from the fear of failure. Just as my own children have asked me from time to time whether I would always love them, we need to be reassured. Thank God that He wants us to cast all our anxieties – all our insecurities on Him. And, most of all, we should be thankful that He cares for us.

Prioritizing Praise in Prayer Over Problems

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.[4]

Philippians 4:4-7

I don’t imagine it was too difficult to convince you that you have struggles and difficulties and failures, but it may take a bit more convincing that they are something to “rejoice” over! Let me clarify what the command is here in this passage. Paul is not saying that we rejoice in the difficulties but that we find joy “in the Lord” – in trusting that He, in His sovereign will and might, have the situation under control. We rejoice that He is “at hand” – that His return is imminent. And we rejoice in the fact that He cares enough to listen when we bring all our requests – that He will take our burdens (again, Matthew 11) and trade them for His peace. Even though He fully knows everything we need and even what we think and feel, He cares enough to want us to pray to Him about it.

So, where does the rejoicing come in? Well, look at the context of these verses: our “prayer and supplication” are to be accompanied by “thanksgiving”. In fact, He tells us that He expects all our “requests” to be accompanied by thankfulness. When we put our fears, anxieties, and needs up against all He has done and that we know He can do, they pale in comparison. And, based on the verses that follow, we can trust that the “peace of God” (v. 7) comes when we look at, learn from, receive, and hear from “the God of peace” who is with us (v. 9)! Knowing you are not alone helps; knowing that You are loved and watched over by the sovereign God of the universe heals.

Wrapping Up

As I stated earlier, we learn about work from the very beginning in the garden. That is also where we learn to rest. When God “finished His work that He had done”, “He rested” (Genesis 2:2). He did not rest because He was tired or needed a break. He rested because what He had done was good, and that day of rest began to be known as the Sabbath. While God did not need the Sabbath, He knew we would. And the only way we can truly have that Sabbath rest is to trust in what He has done, is doing, and has promised to do. No matter what your job is or what your responsibilities are, God is still God. There’s no work mess up that unseats Him from His throne. There’s no consequence or boss’ wrath that can undo who He says you are. In fact, one day all of the toil and responsibility and struggle will be gone, and only one’s relationship with Christ will matter. One day, all the days of trusting Him through toil and trouble will fade away when we see Him face-to-face. So, it is my prayer that you can come to Him to find rest – that you trade Him your labor and your being heavy laden and rest, and trust, and have faith in Him alone.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 11:28–30.

[2] Ibid., 1 Co 1:26–31.

[3] Ibid., 1 Pe 5:6–7.

[4] Ibid., Php 4:4–7.

Refresh & Restore — August 19, 2021

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

This week, instead of a written devotion, John Goldwater and I looked at the blessings and genealogy at the end of the book of Ruth and discussed what they show us about God’s redemptive plan. It is our prayer that this kind of gospel conversation helps you to see how God’s redemptive plan involved ordinary sinners just like us and how God continues to do so today!


Keith Harris: Welcome to this week’s Refresh & Restore [devotion]! We have a special guest today; John Goldwater, say, “Hello”.

John Goldwater: Hello!

Keith: This is going to act as an epilogue to our Ruth series. So, I’m going to read our Scripture passage, and we’re going to have some interesting conversation if nothing else.

11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”[1]

Ruth 4:11-12

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.[2]

Ruth 4:18-22

If you have been listening/reading, you know we say we are affiliated with Christ Community Church – a cool place. So, John, whatever this turns out as is what we will have.

John: Awesome. I’m excited! Thanks for having me.

Keith: You’re welcome! As we look at this, one of the things I wanted to talk about is how at the end of the book of Ruth, you’ve got this fairly weird blessing that ends up pointing to the genealogy of Jesus, specifically David and Ruth. So, I’m going to just read a section, and, then, we’ll just kind of talk about it. You kick off whatever you think, and we’ll pause every so-often.

John: Awesome.

Keith: The first thing, you’ve got these elders, they’ve just seen Boaz pass the sandal with the unnamed not-the-redeemer, and looking at how Boaz is now going to be the redeemer. They say, “May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” So, talk to me about that picture of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah.

John: Yeah, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah – and their cohorts, their handmaids who also added to the family – were extremely important to the nation of Israel for building up the twelve patriarchs. But it doesn’t happen in a way where we would say it’s traditionally good. It’s not a great model for home life, marriage, domestic stuff; like we would suppose they would. They’re in the Bible – they’re wives, they’re leaders – they have good qualities, but it was a dysfunctional home. Usually we think that makes us disqualified, but it seems like that wasn’t the case for Rachel and Leah. 

Keith: Right. It’s definitely not the thing where if we were talking to our kids today or to someone who is about to get married, we’d say, “Wow! We hope you have a long happy marriage of our great-grandparent!” In this case, it’s not. So, in this genealogy at the end of this time of the Judges, everyone is doing what “was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). You definitely see a picture of a whole situation that amasses on other situations like you say with Jacob, Rachel, Leah, the handmaidens, getting back in with Esau and everything co-mingled. It’s just a huge mess.

John: Yeah. It’s a big mess. When I preached on it, I called it “Putting the Fun in Disfunctional”. And we just don’t think of Bible characters that way. It’s pretty cool that they’re in this blessing like this because it kind of tips God’s hand to where He says, you know, “I know what they’ve done; I know who they are.” And, yet, He chose to work through them – with them. That’s pretty awesome.

Keith: It is. And that’s definitely a theme that we see in the book of Ruth that none of the characters…. And we’re very careful to say characters and not heroes, necessarily. Boaz definitely was a – his name was a literal pillar of the temple (1 Kings 7:21), but he himself was imperfect. His mom, Rahab, was a prostitute, but God redeemed that whole situation. You get that beautiful picture. Which moves on to this blessing that, I have to think probably did not make sense to them at the time. Like, maybe God’s Spirit? What do you think?

John: Well, for sure, God certainly inspires His Word, and I think that’s still true for us today in the sense that we may say things and are not quite sure of the whole significance of it. And the significance of the genealogy that you read, they would have no clue. They were just living life. The fact that God was shaping them and their family, as imperfect as they were, to bring out the perfect and only Messiah for mankind. That’s pretty mind-boggling.

Keith: Absolutely. So, you look as God’s Spirit moves on them – at the time, again, they didn’t know that what they were saying was even going to be a part of God’s Word, but they move from there with Rachel and Leah to “may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to [her father-in-law] Judah”.  Ummm….

John: Yeah, we’re calling DHS on them. You know what I’m saying? You’re calling child protective services on them. This is…something went horribly wrong in the Judah-Tamar story. And, because God is our redeemer, He takes our mess makes it a masterpiece, and it’s incredible….

Keith: …and chooses that to be the entire tribe, the entire basis, for that lineage. The entire family tree literally hinges on Israel to Judah. And there were other things that we might be tempted to say, we don’t know that it’s worse, per se, from a human perspective, what Judah did, but God knows what He’s doing. And it’s probably best we don’t get to pick in these situations.

So, you’ve got Rachel and Leah, and Tamar – talking about redeemers, the whole Boaz situation, Judah never should have been in the position to be in that. RIght, he had promised the third son after the first son had died, and then the “issue” with the second one. {John laughs.} Yeah, you can look that one up in Genesis. 

John: That’s right. Look up the word “issue” in Genesis.

Keith: Yes. {Both laugh.} We’re not going….

John: We’re not going to tell you that. You have to look that one up yourself. 

Keith: Yes, we’re not going to go into that. But there wasn’t a redeemer. He says he’s going to promise [Tamar] his son, and, then, Tamar has her people watching Judah while Judah’s people are watching Tamar. They both try to catch each other at the same time, and they, well, they caught each other. And had twins.

John: Wow. Tamar was in a desperate situation, and, you know, she felt like her back was against the wall. Her father-in-law was not – and he wasn’t keeping his word. He was at least very delayed in it. And, nonetheless, this is who God chose. This is the shaping of the genealogy. It doesn’t look perfect to us, but it was perfect because that’s the way God wanted it. It’s pretty wild.

Keith: It is. Like I said, we probably have more to identify with Jacob, more to identify with Judah, with Tamar – our backs against the wall, making the best decisions we think we know how. But we keep running back to that same problem as the end of the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his eyes” (Judges 21:25). Ultimately, that wraps us up. We’ll take a break, and come back and talk about the branch of the genealogy from David’s side.

Alright, so when we look at this next part, we’ve already read the genealogy at the end of Ruth 4. I want to shift now and just, kind of, hit it from a different direction.


The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah….[3]

Matthew 1:1-6

You see a lot of familiar names that we’ve already talked about. You have Jacob father of Judah. We know the whole situation: Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Judah, Tamar; it even mentions all of that. I think it’s cool. I think you said when we were talking [earlier] that we, being on the other side of this get to see the full story. Why don’t you talk to that just a little bit, the full side knowing that this leads to Jesus.

John: It’s really awesome. It really shows, in my opinion, that God is in control, and it gives us a reason to trust. Whether our family history is messed up, you know, in the day-to-day life, we see the mess, we feel the pain, we smell the stink of what’s going on in this world. But there’s a bigger Story. God has a plan. God is weaving together a beautiful tapestry of lives and purpose, and we can’t see it all. 

So, we look at the genealogy, and it has a sense of being clean – being sanitized – if you just look at it and read through it. But when you stop, like we have and you tap on certain areas, you go: oh, man. It got even worse when we got in the New Testament because we bring in David who father’s Solomon by the “wife of Uriah”. And it doesn’t go into, well, who’s the wife of Uriah? And the sinful mess that brought that about. But we see that God used it. God used it all. Now, we don’t – I always have to caution myself when I think of other folks. We don’t have to make any excuse for sin. We don’t need to go out making our own mess. We live in a pretty messy place, and it just happens. But we don’t need to be fatalistic because a lot of folks get that way too now. You know: well, I can’t do it, my parents, upbringing, I just don’t know what I could be good for….

Keith: Or, what’s the use…? I’m going to mess up again.

John: That’s right – just throw in the towel. A genealogy like this, rightly understood, really can make a big difference in this. The first two names: {this is the book…}. These are like our big hero names, and we know the dirt on them. We know the fear and the lying that Abraham, the father of faith, got caught up in. We know the sin of David, the immorality, the cover-up, betrayal, and murder that he got involved in….

Keith: …with the “wife of Uriah”….

John: …OF Uriah, who is in the genealogy of Jesus.

Keith: With that epithet.

John: Yeah. It’s right there. It’s like the both/and. We’re living in our own time, like these people were. Again, we see the mess, we feel the pain, we go through the struggle, but when you see it in the genealogy, it’s like you see it from God’s perspective. God says, yeah, I still used all that for my glory. 

Keith: Right. And I think that is a good example. One of the things you said was sometimes when we read through the genealogies we get this sanitized view. I think part of it is that we don’t…read through the genealogies. We know the parts. Sometimes we have a very Precious Moments, children’s bible view of these things when God has an accurate view of us. 

We’ve been coming back to this verse a lot at Jesus Saves Bro and at Christ Community, I guess over the last month, 1 John 2:1-2: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin…”  – that’s our ideal, sanitized view – “but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

John: That’s good news!

Keith: It is. You should make that a catch-phrase.

John: That could be a catch-phrase. Hey, that’s good news. That’s something worth telling the whole world about. When we say for folks, just leave me alone or I’ve tried Jesus – tried church – I’ve tried all these things…. It’s like, maybe you just need to let God do what God [does]. He saves. He redeems. Whatever mess you’re in, I daresay, I know I’ve had my share of mess. Then, I read David’s mess, and I feel like I’m just a baby-messer. I’ve just got baby mess in comparison. 

Keith: And I think that’s a good view of it because multiple times in the Scripture – in the Old Testament it was prophesies of David that when basically…Samuel’s talking to Saul saying, hey, your kingship is over; God’s going to send me to get a man who’s after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Then, we see David – he kills Goliath – all these things that give him that hero status – but all the while there’s no perfection. There’s humanity. And it’s in that promise that God made [to] David that one day somebody would be on your throne. I mean, just looking at that, you follow the history of Israel…after Solomon, the kingdom splits, and then, ultimately, after they end up in the exile because of more humanity – more sin – you have people in the lineage of David [like] Zerrubabel who comes back and is just a governor. Like, they’re rebuilding Jerusalem but they don’t….

John: There’s no king.

Keith: There’s no king, there’s no throne.

John: There’s no wall for a minute. No temple. I mean, they’ve got to rebuild from scratch.

Keith: But one thing they don’t have to rebuild is the promise of God – the redemption of God. They didn’t need Zerrubabel sitting on a throne. They’ve had all of David’s grandsons and all of that mess. Now, they’re looking for that Messiah-King.

John: Yeah, who’s going to endure forever. He’s going to be the King over God’s Kingdom forever.

And God used imperfect people – very imperfect – to bring that about, to bring His plan, to bring His promise to fruition. That’s awesome. That’s just the awesome thing about God [being] worthy, He’s brag-worthy. You don’t boast except for in the Lord. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). We can say, Lord, you didn’t let our weakness spoil Your plan. You didn’t let our sinfulness – our mess – ruin Your promise. And that’s stout. That’s frank and awesome.

Keith: He is willing to let us participate. He redeems us. There’s the verse that L.G. quotes all the time, Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

That He chose us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2), knowing full well the gamut when we were enemies – when we weren’t even on the same team. And He died for us, and knew what He alone could do with us. It’s cool.

John: It is cool. In going over these genealogies and looking at the people, to me, it’s always been a cool thing. You know, I guess I’m interested – maybe you, have you ever thought, God shows us these things about some of the people – I wonder what’s the dirt on the other people? You know, we don’t know all these other guys. We assume that maybe there wasn’t dirt, but no…. We know they had dirt, too; it’s just not listed.

Keith: I think that goes back to the unnamed redeemer. It’s tempting to look at it as cut-and-dry; like, oh, you’re the closer redeemer. Obviously, there was some play there. Elimilech didn’t have a brother sitting in the wings. He didn’t have a brother who was supposed to redeem. You go back and look at Deuteronomy 25, past the brother, there ain’t a list. There ain’t a genealogy. Someone could redeem, but none of them had to. And so it’s tempting to want to judge the unnamed guy harshly because he didn’t want to be a redeemer.

John: Strangely enough, he could have already had a wife that he loved and didn’t want to take on another. Imagine that, right?!

Keith: Or some unknown situation….

John: …not enough money, not wealthy enough….

Keith: What makes the lack of the name there is that he didn’t participate in the redemption. Ultimately, that’s going to be the difference. Not us participating in redeeming but us partaking in the redemption Jesus Christ offers.

John: A door was open to him, and he didn’t take it. We don’t know why.

Keith: We know they didn’t give his name. And they make a huge point to not say his name.

John: Hey, you could have been used to be a part of the genealogy. That’s like life though. We don’t always know. We don’t know what God’s doing. For this guy, he just missed – he was so close…. Again, he might have had very legit reasons.

Keith: And, obviously, God had a very specific plan for all of this. You go back and you look…Rahab….

John: He wanted Rahab’s boy in there!

Keith: And that’s another cool thing – we looked at it early on in the [series] where we realize that Naomi’s prayer for Ruth is that God “deal kindly” with her. Go back and look in Joshua, and Rahab’s deal with the spies was, hey, deal kindly with me. That hesed….

John: There’s plenty of hesed in Ephrathah.

Keith: That symmetry that God agreed – deal kindly; God agreed [again] – deal kindly. And then you get that whole cool picture.

John: One of the things we’re studying in the book of 2 Kings right now – that we notice is that God tells these guys things. Like He told Jehu, you’re going to have four generations to reign on the throne and when that was accomplished, the writer tells us that was the fourth one so God’s Word is fulfilled. And so much of Scripture is like that. God says it, and we see the fulfillment of it. God’s never going to forget anything. You know, if He promised to be kind to a prostitute in Jericho, you know, He’s going to keep His Word all the way down the line. That’s just God.

Keith: And, I think it was W.A. Criswell who kind of did a little play on the scarlet cord that was tied to signify, here’s where we are…. It’s really easy to see that scarlet cord of Christ work through God’s redemption.

John: It is, all the way through the Scripture.

Keith: And it’s cool that we get to participate.

John: Thank You, God.

Keith: Amen.

We’ll do one more little, short section after…break.

For our little wrap-up section, John and I have been chatting, talking about this next section. And one of the things that kind of comes just from our separate, yet shared, experiences is that it’s easy to convince ourselves that our failures are catastrophic. So, we want to kind of bring this back in because we’ve been dancing around the idea – and just haven’t said it yet – we are regular people. And you who are listening/reading are regular people; you have sin and failures, but, if you trust in Christ, He is the same God who dealt kindly with all of these that we’ve talked about. So, we’ve got some verses to kind of wrap it up and bring it together.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.[4]

Titus 2:11-14

You look at that first part, and we mess that up quick – self-controlled, upright, godly lives. Well, no checks there. But “waiting for our blessed hope”…. So, talk to us about this, John, and kind of bring it together so we can understand.

John:                    This is the lynchpin. We look at our sins; we look at our failures, our mess, and we do think we’ve blown it. And we have blown it for ourselves. We’ve blown it in our performance. We’ve blown it in our morality. We’ve blown it, maybe, physically. Maybe you’re in a place where you’ve hurt yourself through stupid acts. But nothing that we can do is greater than what God has done. We can’t undo God’s plan for us – God’s redemptive plan. That’s what we got from the genealogies – the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”. Well, His first appearing came through really regular people like us – sinful, messy folks. And His second appearing is coming to save folks like us – to rescue us. He died on the cross and rose from the grave in the gospel to save us. He’s coming. It’s a rescue mission. He’s coming to save us, not because we’re worthy or because we have everything in a row, our ducks in a row.

I’ve got a sign in my office at The Foundry that says, “I don’t have ducks. I don’t have a row. I have squirrels, and they’re everywhere.”

Keith:                    The good news is, so is Jesus. {Both laugh}

John:                    Jesus, He’s the one! So, when we look at ourselves, and we get trapped catastrophizing…we make everything so dramatic. It’s as if we’re discounting what God has come to do and what God can do and what He’s going to do.

Keith:                   And has done. And is doing!

John:                    That’s right. And, if anything, we can take courage and say, “Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep trusting the Lord.”

Hope is a valid strategy going forward. I hope that my God and Savior – and I don’t say hope as in I’m doubting, I’m saying my hope of any kind of redemption and eternal life all is firmly set on how Christ is good enough. And how He’s big enough, not me, not on my love, not even on my faith. A lot of people say, well, you put your faith in God; well, God gave me faith. That’s a gracious gift from God in the beginning. Everything comes down to God is our Savior – the Savior of real people, messy people, sinners who have blown it bad. And He is the One. That’s good news!

Keith:                    Man, it’s good news! And again, to bring this together, remember we’ve talked about this multiple times today and throughout this series: a Jerichoan prostitute asked for them to deal kindly with her; an Israelite widow prayed over her Moabite daughters-in-law, and said may God deal kindly with you and give you a husband.

You get this beautiful picture of Orpah who did nothing wrong, she went back home just as her mother-in-law bid her to do. She was obedient. But Ruth who was obedient to a higher thing, God was working in her life and says where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. You get that picture from Revelation 21 when Jesus comes back, when our “blessed hope” is not distant but realized and we’re in His presence. All of the things that we struggle with, they’re not going to just magically come untrue; that last tear is going to be wiped away by His hand. Now, it’s not, okay, I’m going to be your people. It’ll be like I’m here with you as my people. I’m here with you as your God.

John:                    That, especially that Revelation picture, that reveals what God’s heart has been the whole time. You know, He created people in the garden for fellowship. We fell. We rebelled. We betrayed. We sinned. But God said, I’m not giving up on what my original plan is; I’m going to dwell with you. I’m going to be your God. You’re going to be my people. And  we see in the book of Revelation that happens. He makes it happen.

Keith:                    And Jesus was part of that original plan. And none of this surprises Him.

John:                    We who are looking at the Word and trusting God can afford, like Ruth, to go forward – to go forward in faith, forward in love, forward in hope. Again, you mentioned Orpah, did she do wrong? No, but just think about it superficially…she went backwards, and Ruth went forwards. We make those decisions. I would encourage all of us – I try to do the same for myself – go forward with God. Walk forward with God even if its scary and you don’t think you’re worthy, remembering that God ultimately has a plan for us to be with Him forever through Christ.

Keith:                    I think this is a good time – and we do this often in the devotions, all the time at Jesus Saves Bro, all the time at Christ Community, where we let people know how to receive that redemption.

Romans 10:9 –

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.[5]

                              It’s just that simple. If you’re listening/reading today, that’s not an accident, but, if you’re placing your hope in what you can do, think about some of the not-heroes that we’ve talked about and the One hero, Jesus Christ, that we’ve pointed to. As always, if you want to talk or have questions, you can contact us through the website. We’d love to talk to you. Or come check us out Grenada, MS – 2950 Carrollton Road – Christ Community Church, and you can talk to John Goldwater in person. Or any number of people who will be absolutely glad to tell you how Jesus is their blessed hope.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 4:11–12.

[2] Ibid., Ru 4:18–22.

[3] Ibid., Mt 1:1–6.

[4] Ibid., Tt 2:11–14.

[5] Ibid., Ro 10:9.

Refresh & Restore — August 12, 2021

This is the 7th and final episode in our But GOD series where we look at the impact of knowing and following Christ. You can find the written copy of this at: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/10/20/refresh-restore-october-21-2021/ Next week, we will have a guest on the podcast and a very special episode indeed!
  1. But GOD — Episode 7 (finale)
  2. But GOD — Episode 6
  3. But GOD — Episode 5 (Guest: Jamie Harrison)
  4. But GOD — Episode 4
  5. But GOD — Episode 3

Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.[1]

Ruth 4:1-17

Greetings, Sojourner!

It has been a few weeks since we have last been in our study of God’s Redeeming Love in the book of Ruth, so I am glad to get to return to it today! We last saw Ruth and Naomi discussing Boaz’s promise to ensure that they would be redeemed – if not by him then by the redeemer closer than him (ch 3:12-13). I love how, for the first time since all her losses and throughout her time of grief, we get to see a glimpse of Naomi (Sweet) again where there was only Mara (Bitter). In fact, the last thing we saw in chapter three was an example of her faith and hope in what was to come: “Wait, my daughter [she told Ruth], until you learn how this matter turns out, for the man will not rest but settle the matter today” (ch 3:18).

This position of faith is important for us as we look at this narrative. First, it is important because all reading in God’s Word needs to be understood from a position of faith rather than a mere intellectual exercise or simply reading comprehension; it is, after all, not just a book but the Scriptures that are “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and contain all that can be known about God. Second, it is through faith that we can see the beauty, depth, and breadth of God’s redemption for all people as He displays how He had been working behind the scenes in the lives of the clan of Elimelech, showing that He, indeed, is their God and King!

So, join me as we walk through the final scenes in Ruth that display God’s redeeming love, specifically in the lives of these seemingly ordinary individuals while illustrating the especially spectacular love of our great God and Savior! We will be able to see this in both the interactions between Boaz and their unnamed relative and in their beautiful new reality when redemption finally happens.

Do You, Redeemer, Take This Woman?

I have titled this section similarly to the wording of the vows in most contemporary wedding ceremonies. Typically, you will hear the pastor ask: do you {groom} take {bride} to be your lawfully wedded wife? In the case of Naomi and Ruth’s redemption, it was a bit more complicated. You see, there was more than meets our contemporary eyes.

Marriage to Ruth would be what is known as a levirate marriage:

“A law and custom in ancient Israel that if a man died without sons his brother would take the widow for a wife in order to provide male offspring for his dead brother. The children then would be the heirs of their dead father’s land and possessions and the family line would not be broken.”[2]

This was typically meant to honor both lineage and the keeping of the land (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In the case of Ruth and Naomi, this would involve taking possession of Elimilech’s land and marrying Ruth; however, this means both marrying a Moabite, the first-born child belonging to Mahlon, and possession of Elimilech’s land reverting to “Mahlon’s child” when he came of age. This would require selflessness and an understanding that it would not be a lucrative long-term investment for the redeemer.  

Boaz did what he promised and followed suit with what is written in Deuteronomy 25. He went to the city gate and waited for the closer relative to see whether he desired to be the redeemer. One thing that stands out in the narrative is that this relative’s name is never mentioned. Sinclair Ferguson holds to the idea that his name is not mentioned because he “will have no role in the advance of God’s kingdom” since he “refuses to fulfil his covenant obligations”[3]. Whether or not this is the case, it is clear that God did not intend for his name to be recorded – as clear as his desire for someone else to take his place in redeeming Ruth and Naomi.

At the gate, Boaz meets him and discusses the situation. All the elders of Bethlehem are witnesses. Boaz first tests the waters by asking if he would be interested in having the land (vv. 3-4), offering the opportunity to buy it right them. The anonymous relative sees the value in the land and the increase it could bring to his financial portfolio and agrees to redeem. Then, Boaz reminds him that he would also “acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (v. 5). Sadly, the relative sees marrying Ruth as something that would “impair [his] own inheritance” and asks that Boaz take his place. He chose “what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25), just as Elimilech had done years before, and missed out on the blessings of redeeming – in being a part of what God had planned.[4]

I do not want you to miss the sadness and the beauty in this scene. The one who was supposed to be the redeemer saw no value in redeeming even though God laid this out in His Word. Imagine the heartbreak that would have been solidified in Naomi’s heart should redemption be denied her. Imagine the inferiority that Ruth would have felt. Imagine how destitute they would have been with no way to provide for their livelihood. Thankfully, we do not have to imagine, because Boaz wanted to redeem them. He had no qualms about marrying Ruth. In the same way, there is nothing but sadness on the horizon for sinners like us if we wait on the world or people to redeem us or love us, yet there is a Savior “who loves [us] and gave Himself for [us]” (Galatians 2:20). And the redemption that takes place in the lives of these seemingly insignificant people is exactly what God uses to bring us Jesus!

Redemption at Last

I plan on talking about the blessing of the elders and the women in the community next week in a sort of epilogue to this study, so we will move on to the big moment: the marriage!

It seems odd to say marriage instead of wedding, but that is what is emphasized in the text. Boaz did just what he said he would do and married Ruth. Then, “the Lord gave her conception” (v. 13). This is important because, no matter how happy we are for Ruth no longer being alone, we must be happier that God’s will was being carried out in her life and in these circumstances! Three chapters before, Ruth had been a childless widow in a foreign land but now is neither anymore. Three chapters before, Naomi lost both of her children, her husband, and her home and found her heart empty and bitter, but now she “took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse” (v. 16). There is no doubt in my mind that Mara (Bitter) was long gone as the cries of that baby boy gave way to joy – to Sweet once again – in her life.

As far as Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi knew, God had visited them just as He had Bethlehem in Ruth 1:6. But we know the fuller and better truth: one day Ruth’s son Obed would marry and have a son of his own named Jesse. Then, Jesse would do the same and have a son named David, and David would be a king in Israel and a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). Then, one day centuries later, God Himself would be born of that same lineage in the person of “our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us” (Titus 2:13-14).  

While Ruth and Naomi did not know the fulness of what God was putting together in their lives, their hearts were no less full because they had been redeemed. It can be the same for us today!

Just as God worked and loved and redeemed these regular people in their times of trouble, He still works and moves in lives like theirs (ours) today. Maybe you look at your life and think that no one cares, but I assure you that there is a God who cares for you very much (1 Peter 5:7). He cared – no, He loved you enough that He would choose death on your behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21) when no one on earth would even attempt it (Romans 5:7). All one must do to receive redemption is to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), and you will be saved – you can be redeemed.

I do not know your situation or your history, but I would love to talk with you if you have questions or would simply like to have prayer. There is hope to be experienced in Jesus Christ, and it is my prayer that you find and experience it for yourself!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 4:1–17.

[2] David Witthoff, ed., The Lexham Cultural Ontology Glossary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

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

[4] The sandal ceremony has some interesting facts, history, and cross-references, and I would love to discuss it if you find yourself interested. But I do not want to take the focus off of redemption in this devotion.