Refresh & Restore — November 23, 2022

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”[1]

Luke 17:11-19

This is the December 6 reading in the Advent: Waiting for Our Blessed Hope reading guide sponsored by JustKeithHarris.com and Christ Community Church.
  1. Advent 2022 — December 6
  2. Advent 2022 — December 5
  3. Advent 2022 — December 4
  4. Advent 2022 — December 3
  5. Advent 2022 — December 2

Greetings Sojourners!

It’s been too long! But I’m glad to be back studying God’s Word with you!

I’ve been writing – just a different sort of writing. As I have said before, I am blessed to be a part of the Masters of Christian Theology program at William Carey University. It has not been easy, but it has been a blessing to me. As bad as I hate to admit it, I have lost a step or two since I was last in school (as a student), but it has been good to grow in my understanding of the Word of God and in theology; it’s even been good to grow as a writer through the (many) research papers.

While I have, unfortunately, been a little more hit-or-miss in the writings here, that is something that I hope will be remedied between now and when I graduate – and definitely beyond if the Lord allows. I have enjoyed our time spent studying Colossians, but we are going to pause that study for the time being. In the meantime, I will shift the writings between now and graduation to dive into passages that fit into and overlap with passages I am diving into either in personal devotional time or in my studies for Christ Community or at Carey.

Even as I look at how to better maximize my time and strategize to use it more effectively, I am thankful to get to be a part of all I get to do. I get to be a follower of Christ. I get to be a husband. I get to be a father. I get to teach and write and serve. I am even thankful for the time I must schedule all these aspects of my life.

This week is a time set aside in America for one to be thankful. The fourth Thursday in November is supposed to be a holiday devoted to celebrating all we have to be thankful for. Since the invention of social media, some challenge themselves to find and commemorate something they are thankful for every day in the month of November. Part of me thinks that it is sad that we need to be reminded to be thankful, but the rest of me knows just how selfish I am and that, left to my own, I will neglect to be grateful. Maybe you don’t need reminding, but I find that I do.

Today, I would like to look with you to God’s Word at a passage that reminded me to be thankful and convicted me of my own lack of thankfulness.

Meeting the Master and Finding Mercy (vv. 11-14)

Any time I study a passage in the latter half of Luke, I cannot help but think of Luke 9:51: When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. That phrase “set His face” could also be translated “he steadfastly set his face to go”[2]. This describes Jesus’ attitude and mindset when the end of His life was drawing near, knowing full well that the cross is why He was headed to Jerusalem. You see, He was not caught off-guard by His crucifixion. Luke’s gospel records this as the moment of Jesus “turned to Jerusalem to complete his work through the predicted betrayal, death, and resurrection.”[3]

This is important because it highlights that His sacrifice was willing. The fact that “He set His face” illustrates that He was resolutely focused on getting there. It brings to mind the sort of focus that an Olympic athlete has when preparing to compete. They focus only on things that are necessary to carry out that goal. Jesus, however, did not stop doing what He came to do – seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), which is what He was going to the cross to do! So, the encounters He had with those who needed saving were not random encounters or detours, they were part of His mission.

Jesus and His disciples were, as we saw in Luke 9:51, still “on the way to Jerusalem” (v. 11) when they encountered ten lepers. Leprosy meant that these men would have had to declare that they had leprosy when approaching other people by crying out “Unclean, unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45-46) so that 1) people would not come into contact with the infected person[4] and 2) those concerned with being clean according to the Law would be made aware so they would not become unclean.

Leprosy was a catch-all term in the New Testament that referenced any skin disease from the period, but it is safe to say, regardless of the level of severity, that these men had been ostracized and at a distance from society for some time. They would have been unable to work or socialize with others, even family. They would feel isolated and alone. More than that, they were isolated and alone. When these men saw Jesus, they respectfully kept their distance, but they ceased their cries of “unclean” to cry out to Jesus: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (vv. 12-13).

Time and again, those who are outcast and downcast found their way to Jesus seeking help from Him. These particular outcasts asked Him for mercy. The word translated “mercy” here meant “to have compassion or mercy on a person in unhappy circumstances” or “to be gracious toward [or] bestow kindness”.[5] This request for mercy would have been the same whether they were asking for charity or alms or to be healed, so it is difficult to tell exactly what they were seeking. They found more charity than they could have ever hoped to receive.

No matter what they were seeking, they were likely confused by Jesus’ response. He did not toss them a coin or lay hands on them for healing. He didn’t even make mud and rub it on them (John 9:6) or tell them to bathe in the Jordan (2 Kings 5). He simply told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” If they had been familiar with the Law, they would have recognized that this was what those who were cleansed of leprosy were told to do in Leviticus 14:1-32 – to go and show themselves to the priest so that he could confirm they were clean and make an offering for their guilt and atonement for their sin. When the text says, “as they went” (v. 14), it shows that the men – all ten of them – departed to go to the priest. They had faith. Or at the very least belief or held to 1st century Judaism.

Nothing miraculous had happened to spark their journey, merely the command of Him from whom they sought mercy. But after they headed out on their journey, the miracle happened. They were cleansed. The sores on their skin were healed, yes, but something more happened. They were cleansed. Those who had just moments before needed to cry out “unclean” when they approached others were made clean by Jesus. They did not need lengthy washings or offerings by a priest because they had been cleansed by the God those priests served. Those ten men’s lives were changed in a moment. But the heart of one was touched more than the other nine.

Gratitude and Grace (vv. 15-19)

I cannot imagine what those men must have felt in their hearts – and in their bodies! It is important for us to look at the distinctions between the one and the nine in this narrative. Before we judge the nine too harshly, it is important to note as we did in v. 14 that they likely were heading exactly where Jesus had told them to go – to the priest. They were being obedient to Jesus and to the Law. The one who turned back would have had a hard time fulfilling that command, though, because he was a Samaritan.

All my life, I have heard the issue with Samaritans oversimplified to say that there was simply a sort of racial tension between Jewish people and those from Samaria. They have a long history of division. The Samaritans are largely the descendants of people brought in to colonize the region when the Assyrians conquered the land.[6] Those inhabitants were later educated in the Law after God had sent lions into the land to attack them (2 Kings 17:25-26) and some intermarrying occurred with the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.[7] They claimed the same or at least similar beliefs as their Jewish relatives, but they had different holy places and places of worship. So, the tensions over ethnicity are accompanied and highlighted by the religious differences. The Samaritans were not accepted by Jewish people.

A leper would have been ostracized, but a Samaritan leper would have been a total outcast. So, for the Master (v. 13) to show such grace apparently made quite an impact. Ten lepers were cleansed. Nine Jewish former-lepers went to show themselves to the priest like Jesus commanded them. But only one stopped to thank Jesus. In fact, saying that he stopped to thank Jesus is an understatement. Look at what the text says. He saw that he was healed, turned back to where Jesus was, praised God, fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him (vv. 15-16).

Imagine what led this man to have such a reaction – a potentially incurable and infectious skin disease, seeking charity in a foreign land that is hostile to you and your people. Then, he encountered the One from whom mercy could be found. Imagine the feeling when looking down at your hands, expecting them to be covered in sores and boils but seeing clear skin. You would still have to go to present yourself to the priest, but Jesus was still standing there. Being cleared by the priest would mean you could go back to your life, but the One who healed you is right there.

What we see as a display of thankfulness was an act of worship for this man. What does that say for our thankfulness for what God has done for us?

Jesus asked the man some important questions: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” What can he ask of us?

Jesus knew the man’s heart. He knew what he meant when he asked for mercy. And He knew what drove the man to his face at His feet in praise and thanksgiving. Rather than showing himself before a priest, this man laid himself down at the feet of the Great High Priest. Jesus told the man, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Amen.

Wrapping Up

I asked you to imagine what the man must have been feeling, but, if you are in Christ, you know. If you are in Christ, you were formerly outcast (Ephesians 2:12). You were formerly not His people (1 Peter 2:10). You were His enemy (Romans 5:10). And you were dead in your sin (Ephesians 2:1-2, Colossians 2:13). Any of those are hopeless, but all of them leaves one desperate and despondent. Or it leaves one callous and defiant (Ephesians 4:17-19).

If you are in Christ, that means that you have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). You did nothing to save yourself (Ephesians 2:9). In fact, you were and are completely incapable of saving yourself (Romans 3:10-12). Jesus did it all (Titus 3:4-5). When you respond to Christ by believing that He died for your sins and was raised again and confessed Him as your Lord (Romans 10:9-10), a transformation takes place (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The outcast is brought near (Ephesians 2:13). Not-His-people becomes His people (1 Peter 2:9-10). His enemy is adopted into His family (Romans 5:8-11, Galatians 4:4-6). And the dead is made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5, Colossians 2:13-14).

If that is true of you, does it move you to worship? Does it move you to gratitude? When is the last time that you cast yourself on your face before God and thanked Him for His love and grace and mercy?

Religion does not produce such a reaction.

When John the Baptist sent His disciples to Jesus to make sure He was the Messiah, Jesus answered them by paraphrasing Isaiah 29:18-19 and 35:5-10: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” This answer satisfied John, and it points us to who Jesus is and what He does. He is the God who saves! One thing is for sure, dear Sojourner, the ones who can now see or walk who couldn’t before, the ones who were cleansed from their leprosy or given the ability to hear, those who were dead and are now alive – they are grateful! What does it say for me if I am not?

I needed this reminder. It is so easy to forget sometimes what it was to be lost, what it was to be dead in my sins. But there is a Savior who has earned my gratitude. He is worthy of better worship than I can offer.

I urge you to examine your heart – not because tomorrow is the fourth Thursday in November but because encountering Jesus produces a response. Encountering Him either drives us to repent of our sins and put our trust in Him or to vehemently deny Him. There is no middle ground. The good news is that if you find that you are not saved, He is still the God who saves! And I would love to help you encounter Him today.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 17:11–19.

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

[3] Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 151.

[4] Brenda Heyink, “Leprosy,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[5] Zodhiates

[6] Robert T. Anderson, “Samaritans,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 941.

[7] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Samaritans,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1886.

Refresh & Restore — February 24, 2022

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[1]

Colossians 1:3-14

This is the December 6 reading in the Advent: Waiting for Our Blessed Hope reading guide sponsored by JustKeithHarris.com and Christ Community Church.
  1. Advent 2022 — December 6
  2. Advent 2022 — December 5
  3. Advent 2022 — December 4
  4. Advent 2022 — December 3
  5. Advent 2022 — December 2

Greetings Sojourners!

We are wrapping up this section of Colossians today, but I have become so thankful for this prayer!

One of the things that I enjoy about teaching and preaching the Bible – especially if I get to study and write about it – is the fact that it must first be applied in my own life. I wish I could say that this has always been the case (or even always is now), but the older I get and the longer I walk with Christ, I find that He first works on me with His Word before He works through me in sharing it.

This prayer that Paul prayed for the Colossian church has impacted the way I look at 1) the ways God allows me to get to share His Word through preaching, teaching, and writing, and 2) the people to whom He has called me to serve. Today’s verses (vv. 13-14) have me looking at this prayer – and praying similarly – more specifically.

Here is the breakdown we have been working out of for the past few weeks[2]:

  • Paul thanks God often for what he has heard about the church at Colossae – their faith in Christ, love for each other, and hope found in Him – because of the gospel bearing fruit in their midst (vv. 3-8).
  • Paul prays specifically for their continued growth in knowing God and walking with Him so that they can continue the gospel work in Colossae (vv. 9-12).
  • Paul reminds them that the gospel that they believed is the basis for their faith in Christ and his prayer for them – which is enough to combat the false teaching they are encountering (vv. 13-14).

So, today, I want to remind you, dear Sojourner, that the gospel is the basis for your faith in Christ. I want to help you to remember that the truths it holds are more than enough to combat whatever troubles this world is throwing your way. And I want to pray for you (show you the prayer that I am and have prayed for you throughout the week as I have worked on this week’s study).

Deliverance from the Domain of Darkness (vv. 13a, 14)

In many ways, Paul’s letters to the church in Colossae and the one he wrote to the church in Ephesus are similar. Today’s verses share some similarities to what we see in Ephesians 2, and, as far as understanding being “delivered…from the domain of darkness”, Ephesians 2:1-3 is particularly helpful:

“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.”[3]

In talking about the “domain of darkness”, the place our sin holds cannot be ignored. I have cited the above verses from Ephesians several times in these devotions, and I have also cited Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”). The reality of our sins – and especially the consequences of those sins when faced with a holy and righteous God – are terrifying. It should be. The Bible is clear that sin (“Human activity that is contrary to God’s will”[4]) has the consequence of death. And, if one has not been born again – repented of that sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for salvation, that death means an eternal separation from God in Hell. It also means that, in pursuing sin instead of what God wills, we are following “the course of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air” – Satan. The “domain of darkness” falls into his area of expertise.

I think the description Peter gives of Satan is particularly helpful for the context of the “domain of darkness”. In 1 Peter 5:9, Satan is described as our “adversary” and “prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. He is working contrary to the will of God and is seeking to devour (“to destroy, to ruin completely”[5]) people by keeping them away from God and his will.

In Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the Colossian church, v. 13 shows thankfulness that Jesus has “delivered” (“draw or snatch from danger, rescue, deliver”[6]) them from Satan’s domain and the destruction that he sought for them. The most interesting thing to me about that word “delivered” in the original language is that it was not focused as much on the rescue of someone from something as it was a drawing of the needy party to the rescuer. So, rather than simply focusing on the fact that they were no longer in Satan’s domain, he is specifically thankful that the Rescuer, Jesus, drew the members of the Colossian church to Himself that they may have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14, cf. John 6:44).

That is good news!

Transference to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son (v. 13b)

Carrying out of that language of being drawn to God paints a picture in my mind of one being rescued from drowning – which is one of my greatest fears. The image is very specific for me, allowing me to visualize being pulled from the depths by the one doing the rescuing and clinging to him as he rescues. It really puts the picture of what Jesus did for Peter while walking on water[7].

Matthew 14:22-33 tells the full story, but the part that stands out to me is what specifically happened when Peter decided to step out of the boat with Jesus:

“And Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”[8]

That image of Jesus standing on the water – with Peter having, naturally, fallen through its liquid surface – and reaching out His hand is very striking to me. Peter was scared. He was sinking. And he called out to the One he trusted enough to literally step out of the boat and found rescue from Him. I love the progression of the events. Peter “cried out, ‘Lord, save me’, and “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him”.

Could it be that salvation works similar to that? When the Bible teaches that “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13), is that true?

Being delivered from the domain of darkness – in this case a reference to being saved – results in being transferred to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Our position in regard to God changes. We move from the death due to our trespasses and sins to new life in Jesus. Look at the change depicted in Ephesians 2:4-7:

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.”[9]

And again, in 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.”[10]

To be transferred to God’s Kingdom – the Kingdom of Jesus Christ – is to move from death to life. It is to move from being an enemy of God to His adopted child. In a sense, Paul is rejoicing and thanking God that everything Jesus prophesied would happen through Paul’s calling and ministry was happening in the lives of the church members at Colossae:

“…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 forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18)

What a joy it must have been for Paul to see the fruit of the gospel showing up in the lives of people. This was not hypothetical for him. Real sinners who had a genuine need of a Savior – whose eternity depended on Him – had found “redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. That is good news!

Closing in Prayer

I told you at the beginning of today’s devotion that I was particularly for this prayer and that one of the primary reasons for that thankfulness was that it affects the way I view the people I am called to serve. First and foremost, I am called to serve at Christ Community Church – many of you fall into that group of people. But I also have the opportunity to share in Bible study with the rest of you – an extended-faith-family, if you will. Some of you I know and others encounter these devotions by God’s providence and the usage of the internet.

Sojourner, I pray for you often, but today I want to pray specifically like Paul prayed for those in his charge. I typically do not write out a prayer before praying it, but I want to share with you what has been prayed for you.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for those who read and listen to these devotions. I pray that you will fill them with the knowledge of Your will and give them wisdom and understanding by the power of your Holy Spirit.

I pray that if any of them do not know you as Lord and Savior that you would draw them unto Yourself and save them. I pray that they may be delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to Your Kingdom via the redemption and forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ.

For those who know you, I pray that you help them to follow after you in a way that is worthy of You and pleases You. I pray that they may bear fruit for You in the work You have for them to do. I ask that You strengthen them with Your power that they may endure their sojourn here on earth patiently and bear witness for You until they see You face-to-face.

Thank You for Your Word and Your Spirit. May You get glory and praise.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:3–14.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008), 81.

[3] ESV, Eph 2:1–3.

[4] J. Jordan Henderson, “Sin,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[5] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 233.

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

[7] I want to clarify something to you regarding this particular illustration. I believe this was a literal event that literally happened. Jesus Christ, God in flesh, walked across the surface of the water and allowed Peter, so long as his eyes remained on Christ to walk on the water as well. I am not making an allegory out of it nor am I seeking to give you a theology of Jesus pulling you from whatever you are figuratively drowning in. I just find this very specific story about Jesus literally pulling Peter from the water to be a beautiful picture of what Jesus also does for us in drawing us to Himself (John 6:44, Psalm 40:1-2).

[8] ESV, Mt 14:28–33.

[9] ESV, Eph 2:4–7.

[10] ESV, Tt 3:4–7.

Refresh & Restore — November 25, 2021


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 who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.[1]

Philippians 4:8-9

This is the December 6 reading in the Advent: Waiting for Our Blessed Hope reading guide sponsored by JustKeithHarris.com and Christ Community Church.
  1. Advent 2022 — December 6
  2. Advent 2022 — December 5
  3. Advent 2022 — December 4
  4. Advent 2022 — December 3
  5. Advent 2022 — December 2

Happy Thanksgiving, Sojourner!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! It is so nice to have a day when people take the effort to focus on what they are thankful for instead of allowing themselves to look at things that cause stress or distress in our lives. What is interesting to me, especially as an adult (and one who must fight against jaded negativity), is that all of the things that cause trouble do not disappear, yet the forced focus on what one is thankful for gives a reprieve from all of the normal ills.

To a certain extent, that is what Biblical meditation is supposed to do. It is not a form of escapism where we ignore the ills of society. It is a show of trust in focusing on Him who is sovereign, focusing on the Savior. It is not us ignoring our problems but followers of Christ choosing His ways and His words over ignorance and submission to our troubles.

Another reason I love Thanksgiving is the food. There are dishes and desserts that I only get to eat at holidays. Some of these are just because of their difficulty to make and expense. Holidays justify both of these as labors of love. The primary reason is that many holiday foods, at least the ones I am hoping for as I type this, do not belong in our regular diets (and I’ll definitely need a regular diet by January). This brings to mind Don Whitney’s thoughts on Bible intake from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life:

“There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately.”[2]

So, pies are tasty, but pies minus needed nutrition will kill me. The reasons for this are obvious, and there is no substitute for my soul, nothing that will or can satisfy the new heart Christ gave me, than the Word of God regularly.

Thomas Watson, a Puritan pastor, put it like this: “The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”[3] It is my hope that the verses today – all of which center around being thankful for God, specifically His name – will warm you, fill you with His Spirit, and leave you thankful for Him above all else and to Him for everything else.


10 Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.[4]

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Psalm 7:17

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Psalm 54:6-7

We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 75:1

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

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. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

       “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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.”

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 21:1-8

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4

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.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:4-8 –

His Name is Jesus!

He is God!

He is Savior!

He is Lord.

And He is alive!

Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 3:1–4 & Php 4:8–9.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 28.

[3] Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures with Most Spiritual Profit” (1674).

[4] ESV, 1 Ch 29:10–13.

Songs for Sunday, October 3, 2021

Tomorrow is the Lord’s day!

It’s His because of all He has done.

Gathering together as His Church gives us the opportunity to share our worship, our thankfulness, our desperate need for Him!

In these posts, I try to share something that will stir your heart and help you and yours prepare your hearts for worship tomorrow – to help you set your minds on Christ and what He has done for you (Colossians 3:1-4). But I read a poem by the late-missionary C.T. Studd (posted by Kayla Golden) called “Only One Life” that definitely stirred my heart for tomorrow:

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes, only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
Living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me, Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow, Thy Word to keep;
Faithful and true, whate’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh, let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes, only one,
Now let me say, ‘Thy will be done’;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say, ‘Twas worth it all’;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was a missionary to China, India, and Africa. He was saved in 1878, but, for the first six years of his new life in Christ, He described himself as “backslidden” and captivated by a love of the world because he did not share Christ with people. He repented after hearing D.L. Moody preach in 1883, and sharing his faith became a part of his life – so much a part that his love for the world faded as much as his love for Christ grew. May it be so for us!

He gave all his earthly treasures, including a large inheritance from his father’s will to show that he trusted in Christ and was in the will of the Father. And, potentially, his most famous quote showed his heart for following God’s will and sharing His gospel more than any bio could:

“Some wish to live within the sound of a Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell.”

May this be our heart for the gospel as well.

So, tomorrow, we’ll sing of the grace, shed blood, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. May our hearts overflow with gratitude and worship for Him. And may our love grow for Him in such a way that our attraction to this world will dim more and more with each passing breath until we kneel before His throne.

Here are the Scriptures & songs:

  • Hebrews 4:12-16

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  • 1 John 4:9-10

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


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 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!

We also continue to live stream from Pastor John Goldwater’s facebook page and have current and past services on the CCC YouTube page.

Refresh & Restore — Thanksgiving 2020

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
for His steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom He has redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

8 Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!

Psalm 107:1-3, 8

Greetings, Sojourner, and “Happy Thanksgiving” to you and yours!

I hope that this devotion finds you in a place where you are opening up your heart in gratitude for all that God has given you and expressing that thanks to Him and sharing what you are thankful for with family, friends, and food!

Today, I am thankful for the steadfast love of God that is so much more than I deserve! The way that the Bible presents this love completely and utterly blows my mind:

  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • “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….” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

The love of God stands out in my mind – probably because it seems so foreign to me. I understand the need for His wrath. It only takes a quick look at my own sin to see why that makes sense. I also understand His righteousness. Looking at the way that He carries Himself through His Word shows that to be true. But the fact that He loves me – “a sinner, condemned, unclean”[1] – that I do not understand. However, it is because of this that I am immensely thankful!

I think the psalmist of Psalm 107 gives us context for just how thankful we should be. First and foremost, we give thanks to God because He is good. His goodness has nothing to do with what we receive from Him. It is just “who He [is]”[2], plain and simple (Luke 18:19). He would still be good if He had never shown His “steadfast love” to any of us. Thankfully, however, that love that He shows us “endures forever”!

Not only should we give thanks to God because of His goodness and love, but we should give thanks to Him because He redeems. The word “redeemed” means to buy back or to make free. So, when the psalmist says “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so”, he is calling all who have been made free from their trouble and sin to give thanks to God and let our world know what He has done. If He has “redeemed [you] from trouble”, “say so”. If He has set you free from slavery to sin, “say so”. If He has saved you, “say so” – and say thanks!

This psalm was likely sung after Israel returned home from their exile in Babylon. Their redemption and thankfulness were specific to what God had done for them. After all, it was God who “gathered” them back home from “the lands” and the four corners of the world. And, just like their thanksgiving and praise was supposed to be specific, ours should too.

Let us take a brief tour through the rest of Psalm 107 to see some examples of God redeeming His people.

Some of the redeemed (Psalm 107:4-9) spent time wandering and alone, without food or drink, enduring times of trouble and distress. God delivered them by leading them out of trouble, satisfying their thirst and filling their bellies. They thanked God for His continual love and told people what He had done for them.

Others (Psalm 107:10-16) walked paths of the darkness of the shadow of death. They found themselves imprisoned by iron bars and various afflictions. All of that turmoil is because they chose to ignore the Most High. But, because of His great love, He brought them out of the darkness – shined His light to remove the shadow of death – and burst open their prisons. They thanked God for loving them despite their ignoring Him and shared His works with those around them.

Finally, there were also those (Psalm 107:17-22) whose sinful ways had shown them to be fools. Their foolishness nearly cost them their lives. But God – through His Word – kept them from death and healed them. They thanked God for His love and Life and made sure that other fools knew about the wisdom of their God.

Each of these groups had two things in common. First, their troubles were of their own making. Their sin disrupted their lives (Romans 6:23). Second, God was their only Way out of their trouble. In each of those sections of Psalm 107 (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31), we see their response to their being redeemed: “Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!” But look at what comes first every time (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28): “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.”

That may seem to simple, but repentance almost never is. If we say that we do not enjoy the sin that we commit, we are lying. We are not tempted with chores and labors of obligation. We are tempted by those things that make our sinful hearts delight. Those wandering alone did not set out to trapse through the wilderness. No, their path began by following the desires of their hearts. Those in the darkness did not expect to find themselves in the shadow of death; they just merely played in its dusky edges until they could no longer see the light. That is why God’s love is described as steadfast – it sticks with us through thick and thin, from our foolishness to our repentance.

That is good news!

When I think of my sin, I think of my Savior. When I think of my failures, I am reminded of His strength. When I am confronted with my past, I meet Him in my present with thanksgiving.

Maybe you are still wandering and alone in the shadow of death. The same Savior that delivered Israel and every saved sinner in history is available to you. Cry out to the Him in your trouble, and He will deliver you from your distress. The way to do that is clear. Romans 10:9 tells us “…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.” Call out to Him. Confess your sin to Him. Trust in Him. Let Him lead you. Repent, and say thanks.

As always, know that I love you and am praying for you. I hope that your heart is moved toward thankfulness to God today, and I want to leave you with a few verses that illustrate thankfulness. May today be a day where our gratitude to God is clear and constant. And may this be the first of many days where we give Him the thanks He is due.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge – 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you – 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:4-8

21 I thank You that You have answered me
and have become my salvation.

Psalm 118:21

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:15-17

1 We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 75:1

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
3 Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

Psalm 105:1-3

[1]I Stand Amazed in the Presence”, Charles Hutchinson Gabriel  

[2]Good, Good Father”, Chris Tomlin