Songs for Sunday, July 25, 2021

This week has been VBS at Christ Community Church, and it has been wonderful! There is nothing like the sound of sixty-some-odd children laughing, singing, praising, and learning about Jesus!

That’s what a church should sound like (even from us older folks).

One of the beautiful truths from God’s Word that these kiddos learned was that of EmmanuelGod with us! Usually, this is something we typically focus on in December, but that beautiful and glorious gospel truth that God is still with us is going to drive our worship.

That means we’re going to be a bit Christmas-y in July. This is going to be good for us for a few reasons.

First, even though Christians are an Easter people and find our hope in the death, burial, and – especially – resurrection of Jesus. But, how could He do any of those things if He was not born first? This week at VBS, our kiddos began looking at how great and glorious our God and King is. Look at the verses we started with:

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

Psalm 145:1

and

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 145:3

God is King and Creator – there is none like Him. From there we looked at Isaiah’s vision and the declaration of the seraphim:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Isaiah 6:3

In Isaiah’s vision, the Lord was seated on His throne. This is where the importance of Emmanuel comes in: God left His throne, laying aside His glory, to put on flesh and dwell among us in Jesus (John 1:1, 14)! No other king would abdicate his throne to serve the least of his people. But God is not like any other king.

This is highlighted by Thursday’s verse:

…but God shows His love for is in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Knowing the full extent of our sin and guilt, He loved us and died in our place. He knew before He came. That’s a gift worth celebrating.

Second, understanding the gift of Jesus (Romans 6:23) should drive us to worship Him all the more. Sometimes, changing the calendar from November to December does not drive us to worship. I heard numerous people remark in both Easter and Christmas 2020 that it just did not “feel” like it. Lord, willing, it will feel like it Sunday. The calendar does not drive us to worship, but the Christ does!

Finally, we have missed a lot of gathering together over the past year. Flippant things like singing a few Christmas-y songs in July will not make up for lost time, but the joy of gathering together is good for us and something we could all use a bit more of.

So, let me kick off our tomorrow with a hearty “Merry Christmas”!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

  • We Have a Savior
  • Born to Die
  • Isaiah 53:10-12

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

  • Jesus Paid It All (O Praise the One)
  • King of Kings
  • (invitation) Joy to the World (King is Coming)

We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are still concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

Refresh & Restore — July 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth 3:1-18

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naomi’s Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth’s Proposal

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

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

Boaz’s Promise

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

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

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

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

God’s Provision Then & Now

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah, and Amen!


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

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

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

Songs for Sunday, July 18, 2021

What a great day to get to be at Christ Community this Sunday! We celebrate in baptism!

I am excited for several reasons. First, baptism means that people have gotten saved – that Jesus has brought them from death to life (Ephesians 2:1-5), that the lost have been found (Luke 15), that those who were once slaves to sin are adopted by God as His own children (Romans 6:7-8, Galatians 4:4-5)!

Second, there is no clearer gospel presentation than baptism. Paul describes it in Romans 6:4: We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. That picture, being submerged under the water and coming out of it again to cheers and shouts of joy, illustrates dying, being buried, and then experiencing resurrection. There is only ONE person who has experienced that – our God and Savior Jesus Christ!

Finally, we need to be reminded! We need joy to shake the dust of grief and pain and this tired old world off of our hearts! Just as we need to hear the gospel again and again, we need to see it again and again as well. We need to know that God is working, that sinners are being saved – lost are being found – unloved are receiving love – and the wayward find the Way!

I find myself coming back again and again to Titus 3:4-7:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I am so thankful that I do not have to hope in “works done by us in righteousness” – because we have none, definitely not enough to pay the debt of our sin. Jesus, our “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13), is rich in “goodness and loving kindness”, and He alone can pay for our sin – to die our death – to be raised and make it so that we can “walk in newness of life”. We’ll put that on display all morning long this Sunday. Our hearts will cry out to Him with thankfulness because of what Christ alone can do for us – what He has already done, is doing, and will do “according to His great mercy”.

That’s good news!

Here are the Scriptures & Songs:

  • Psalm 30

I will extol You, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help,
and You have healed me.
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
and His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By Your favor, O Lord,
You made my mountain stand strong;
You hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To You, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!

  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he 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. 10 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.

  • Acts 4:12

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”


We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are still concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

Refresh & Restore — July 15, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth 2:1-23

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

Hesed in the Field of Boaz

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

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

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

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

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

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

A God of Never-Ending Hesed

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Refresh & Restore — July 8, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth 1:6-22

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

Good News (Gospel) for Broken-Hearted Sinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth’s Conversion and Naomi’s Identity Crisis

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

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

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

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

The Barley Harvest & the Beginnings of Healing

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

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

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

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

Matthew 11:28-30

May it be so for you today!


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

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

The Mighty Hand of God

Twice this week, I have been taken aback by something my son has done.

He has always wanted to seem bigger and older than he is, which is typical of little boys. He has never liked having to hold someone’s hand whether it be to cross the road or to help him walk when he was first learning. He places a high value on being independent – on showing he can do [whatever] all by himself. Yet twice this week, he has reached up and wanted to hold my hand.

Both times were identical in circumstances. Both times were in Buccees (once going on vacation and the second on the return trip). Now, if you have ever been in Buccees – at least all of the times I have been – it is crowded and busy and loud and boisterous. Picture a gas station with the energy and chaos of a toddler. It is almost too much for me, and, apparently, it was too much for him because he reached up to hold my hand.

Don’t get me wrong here: I was glad to be needed, glad to be a comfort to him. But it threw me nonetheless because my little, independent-not-scared-of-things-he-should-be son was unnerved and a bit frightened. I tried to ask him if he was okay, but he didn’t want to talk. I tried to tell him it was okay to be nervous – that I myself was nervous, too. Both times, his response was the same: “I just want you to hold my hand”. Both times my response was merely quiet contemplation.

Today, we just walked around Buccees hand-in-hand. He slowly came out of his shell and was pointing to this and that as we navigated the crowd to walk where he wanted to walk and look at what he wanted to look. While we were walking, I saw something that filled my eyes with tears then and does now even as I type. I saw the same event between father and son taking place in a different perspective.

The dad was likely in his late fifties or early sixties, dressed as dads of that era do all Americana on vacation. That was not different as I was sporting my generation’s dad travel gear. What was different was that he was holding the hand of his grown son – every bit my age with special needs. They were talking about how Buccees was too much for the son but how everything was okay because daddy was there. And, sure enough, as long as he was holding his daddy’s hand, all was right and all of the frightening and alarming and anxious events taking place around droned out because he had his daddy’s hand in his.

What a beautiful picture. What a sobering and humbling reality.

See, the other dad surely knew what I did – that there was nothing magical about our hands, that there were dangers that we are not enough to battle against as much as we would try. That’s why I tried to talk to my son both times, to help him more that I felt my hand could accomplish on its own. But there is a hand that is stronger than ours.

I have been thinking of 1 Peter 5:6-7 ever since we left Buccees:

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.

The “mighty hand of God” is a symbol of His strength and His power. That strength and power protects His children, but it also disciplines. It chides against enemies but also chastens His children. It is a hand of unimaginable strength, but it is also gentle and loving.

The same hands that formed Adam from dust and Eve from a rib are the same hands that can strike down mountains and nations.

They are the same hands that became small when He came as an infant. They are the same hands that did hard labor as a carpenter.

They are the same hands that were strong enough to carry our cross and bold enough to take the nails in crucifixion.

They are the same hands that eternally bear scars from those nails.

And they are the same hands that will one day wipe away the last tears from our eyes.

Things are often overwhelming, and life is hard. Some things are more than we can bear. Our Father knows that. He does not seek to beat us down but that we would humble ourselves, repent and cry out to Him to be lifted up.

The picture of 1 Peter 5:6-7 is the same that I saw in Buccees, a Father reaching down to His children to lift them up when the world is too much. And, thankfully, I can share with my son about the “mighty hand of God” to carry Him through when my own hands are too weak for the task.

Maybe things are too much for you right now. Maybe you feel like there is nowhere to turn or no one to turn to, but let me assure you there is a hand that will reach down and can pull you out of death and give you life. If you would humble yourself and come to Him, He will lift you up because “He cares for you”. And His hands are strong enough to care for “all your anxieties”.

That’s good news.

Thinking on Loss, Burnout, & Gospel Recovery


Disclaimer – This post is filled with feelings of lost. Understand that if you are looking for typical JKH writing, this is not it. This is dealing with intense feelings and will likely be updated as these feelings continue to be dealt with.


This morning, I woke up with high expectations for today. An Uber was scheduled to pick my family up from our hotel and take us to Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA; from there we would take in our first Braves game. It has been a beautiful day filled with laughter and sunshine. We heard a riveting example of John 1:14 at church. We shared in ridiculously large pieces of pizza and great tacos. Then, about halfway through the game, I was confronted by the enormity and finality of loss.

If one could add together the analogies of the feelings of being hit by a freight train and having one’s train derailed, you might get close to what loss feels like. And, as jarring as mine was, there are family members and friends much closer to the friend I lost than I, and my heart goes out to them. I pray for them in the aftermath of this loss that they will continue to feel more and more through the next few days, months, and years.

I had not talked to this friend more than in a few passing conversations on Facebook in a few years. Every time we saw one another, we embraced and were thoroughly glad to see each other. I kept up with him through social media. He did the same with me. Again, passing messages and participating in each other’s social media presences was the limit to our interactions for a few years.

We knew each other well when I was youth pastor at Duck Hill Baptist and he was a youth. We spent hours together each week. We talked about the Bible, movies, books, food, and life. We experienced joys together, and we experienced hurt and loss. When he was in trouble during his high school years and on through early adulthood, he knew he could call me and did when he needed me. We stood in ditches together with backward-facing cars in tall weeds. We stood together when parents arrived after the wrong place and time had been experienced. We rode together after vehicles had broken, even after our friendship began to feel a bit more distant. Then, he grew up, and I left Duck Hill. He grew up, and time and distance grew us farther apart.

I have reflected a lot on those years spent at Duck Hill, wondering where I went wrong. So many of those youth went their separate ways, and friendships began to become distant as well.

I was burned out at the end of my time there and did not realize it until I fully burned out in Picayune, moving back here hoping to leave ministry behind for good. There were so many battles fought during those Duck Hill years, so many foolish idols taking center stage instead of what was important. In the past, angrily, I have pointed the finger so many places, but the only blame I can place is on myself for being sidetracked by the idolatry of others and creating idolatry of my own. The fight initially took my focus, but I made it my focus all by myself. And a lot of kids I was responsible for discipling took on the fight themselves and lost a little in the effort.

God graciously redeemed my burnout and lit a fire in my heart that was never truly there in those Duck Hill years. I get to do all of the things that I actively did during those years. I get to lead worship, get to disciple, get to preach and teach the Word. But I do not get to fight any more. God has allowed me to get to make contact with many of those former youth from that era, including the friend that I lost. And I have gotten to reflect with some of them on how I feel like I failed them. But, now, I am thankful to begin to see how God has redeemed even my burnout. I am thankful I got to share that with my friend while he was alive.

I cannot un-live my past. But, praise God, He is redeeming my present and holds my future. I cannot un-lose my friend. But I can redeem the time I have with my friends.

If you are reading this and you were a youth when I was a youth pastor, I want to share with you what I was too foolish to understand then. I was never meant to be your primary example; I was supposed to point you to Christ. I was not supposed to be a role model of works-based theology but a living embodiment of preaching the grace of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

I find my older, present-day self thinking more and more of the value of Paul’s writings in 1 and 2 Corinthians, namely these two passages that follow here.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

“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. 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; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

During those years at Duck Hill, I pridefully built up a workaholic persona that was “wise according to worldly standards” but foolish according to God’s. I prided myself on how much of the Lord’s work I could do in my own strength only to find out that the Lord deigned sometimes to bless my work with His strength and all of the other times I wasted by showing works over grace. I boasted how much closer to God I was than those who touted their idolatry only to make an idol of the fight itself. Thankfully, he has allowed me to be broken to the point of realizing that I am only “in Christ Jesus” because of His grace, mercy, and love. I no longer want to boast in my strength because “what is weak” has shamed me. I no longer want to boast in my wisdom because foolishness has shamed me. I want my only boast to “boast in the Lord” and Him alone.

The second passage is Jesus’ words to Paul (and what Paul learned through the experience), recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

“But He 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.”

I cannot go back and undo my past. And I do not need to. My weakness, foolishness, and, yes, even my failures have been a proving ground for the grace of God. He has proven that He is enough while I am not.

It is tempting to make a plea to reach out and help those who I may have led astray following my early pastoral example. But my strength now is still weakness. But, praise be to God, I can rejoice in the words of Christ – that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness. Rather than pointing you to me for more foolhardy examples, I point you to Christ and boast in Him. I pray you are able to find Him.

If you are reading this and have no idea what I am talking about, that is okay, too. Sometimes I get to write to get my feelings out because it is the only way I can. This is one of those times. I pray that God can use this foolishness for His Kingdom.

Refresh & Restore — July 1, 2021

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

Ruth 1:1-5

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

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

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

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

Welcome to Ruth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting the Stage for a Big Move of the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope in the Midst of Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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

John 16:33

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

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

Hallelujah, and Amen!


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

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

Songs for Sunday, June 27, 2021

Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

There is no telling how many times we have all heard that in our lives. Sometimes, we pick the bad news first because we want to soften the blow we are about to receive. Other times, we seek out the good news first to prepare us to deal with the bad.

The Bible has a special word for “good news” in the Bible – the word gospel. And there is no better news in all the universe than the gospel.

What is the gospel you ask? Rather than defining it in human terms, I would like to point you to a few passages of Scripture that define it better than I could:

  • 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.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake He (God) made Him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

In those verses, we find the good news as well as the bad.

The bad news is found in the reality of “sin” and is seen in both passages. When we see “for our sins” and “for our sake” in these two verses, we see the reality that we have sinned against (committed wrongs against) God. He created everything and, therefore, gets to decide how everything is intended to be. When we rebel against that, it is called sin. And the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

There is no worse news than death, and that’s what makes the good news of Jesus so good – He offers a path out of death! If we finish out the bad news verse above, we see that it gets to the good: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ”! Even though we are “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2), He offers us life because He is “rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).

The gospel tells us that He offers us life because “He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3), because “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sins” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He died the death we deserve on our behalf. Oh, what a love that is! “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

If you are thinking that it sounds like He took the bad news to give us good news, you are not wrong! “He who knew no sins” bore our sin so that the price/debt (think “wages” from the verse above) our sin cost could be paid. Look at the cool way Colossians 2:13-14 put it:

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 canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Amen! Hallelujah!

But, just as the bad news of our sin is replaced with His good news, there is better news yet – Christ did not stay dead! Yes, “He was buried”, but, most importantly, “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! And He is still alive today!

So, how would you like some more good news? Jesus offers people life today out of the death their sin has earned. Look at the invitation to come to Him in Romans 10:9-10:

“…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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

There is life to be found for the dead. There is good news in the midst of the bad. And all of it is found in Jesus!

That’s what we are offering Sunday morning – to point you to Jesus. That’s what we are singing about – the good news, the gospel. And we hope to see dead come to life! We hope those living in Him will be living for Him!

The

Here are the Scriptures & Songs:

  • Scripture Reading | Titus 3:1-7

1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

  • Scripture Reading | Galatians 2:19-20

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

  • Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 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.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have two services Sunday morning!

  • 8:00a for those who prefer greater social distancing and masks worn by all
  • 11:00a for everyone else

Songs for Sunday, June 20 – Father’s Day 2021

I have been blessed to be a father for a little over eleven years now and to be around the church my entire life. You would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but often the church clashes with fathers.

This Sunday around the country, churches will be trying to exhort and encourage fathers, but it will come across as more of a rebuke and a bashing of fatherhood. That’s not what we’re going for this Sunday at Christ Community Church. We are going to worship our heavenly Father for the work of His Son in the power of His Spirit – and, hopefully, encourage some earthly dads to learn from Him as we do.

One of the things that has changed my perspective from rebuking/bashing in the name of statistics/warnings to encouraging/exhorting in the name of discipleship is my own experience as a father. You see, I do not need statistics to tell me of fatherly failures – I have been one many times and, unfortunately, will fail again. I want to look briefly at two passages today that show me that there is hope in the Father to make me (and anyone who knows and follow Him) a godly father.

Galatians 4:4-7 tells us,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

No matter how much of a failure I am as a father, I am a child of the King and He is not a failure. The fact that His Fatherly love sent His Son to redeem me is a gift sufficient enough to account for my continued failings. After all, if He can bring me from life to death, if He is willing – in love – to adopt His enemy as His Son, is redeeming my care, parenting, and discipleship of my children too big for Him to accomplish? No! He has not just redeemed me but given me His Spirit to know when to cry out to Him like a child to a Father. And that same Spirit works in my heart toward my own children.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says,

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Being a godly father begins when, because we have been adopted/born again/saved, we worship God and love Him. This is not a Sunday-only deal. When we look at Moses’ declaration to fathers in Deuteronomy 6, he illustrates that one loves “the LORD [their] God” while they are talking to their children, while they are going about their day-to-day, while they are laying down to bed, and when they get up in the mornings. Worship is a lifestyle, and the lifestyle of a dad is a classroom for our kids. God is calling us to love Him in such a way that even our failures (and necessary repentance) point to Him!

That’s good news because I have plenty of failures but the Father has plenty of grace! And the more time I spend with my Father the better my kids’ father will be because the time spent with one’s father forms their future – for good or for bad.

So, that’s what we’ll be singing about and to this Sunday morning. We’ll lift high the name of our King Jesus by looking at the glorious love of the Father. Amen.

Here are our Scriptures & Songs:

  • Praying Scripture | Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV for familiarity) —

Our Father which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.

  • Scripture Reading | John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

  • Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

  • Scripture Reading | Galatians 4:4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.


We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have two services Sunday morning!

  • 8:00a for those who prefer greater social distancing and masks worn by all
  • 11:00a for everyone else