Songs for Sunday, December 12, 2021


The Christmas story is summed up aptly by the angels to the shepherds: good news of great joy!

CCC Advent Guide

I love the preaching of the angels in Luke 2!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

I love this passage because of its truth! I love it because of the mercy it displays on those who normally would not be considered worthy to get such news! And I love it because that “good news of great joy” is still – don’t miss this, STILL – good news and for all people even today!

Let’s break this down together.

Mary and Joseph had journeyed to Bethlehem together to be registered counted for the census. For whatever reason, “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) and were forced to camp out in the stable area. Mary had just given birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. Instead of a baby blanket, she swaddled him in strips of cloth. Instead of a bassinet or crib, she laid in a manger – a feeding trough for animals.

While the most important birth – fulfilling prophecy since the beginning (Genesis 3:15) – was occurring without pomp and attention, there were shepherds in the nearby countryside camped out caring for their flocks. They were no doubt dirty. They were definitely the last group to expect to receive an angelic royal birth announcement. Yet it was for them Christ had come, and, to them, would come this beautiful gospel (good news) message that still rings through the years.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

The gospel message is not for fear but faith and hope. There is no greater joy than celebrating that the lost has been found (Luke 15). The beauty of this gospel of great joy is not in the reality that befalls those who reject the message but in the amazing reality of the eternal life that comes to those who believe – that dead men and women find life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5) and find a place in the Father’s house as His adopted children (Galatians 4:4-5)! And it is beautiful because it is for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16-17), whether you be shepherd or king, poor or rich, look-like-you-have-it-together or clearly-a-hot-mess, “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)!

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

These shepherds were the first to hear the news that the Messiah had been born. Herod remained ignorant. Scribes and Pharisees were left in their legalism. Everyone, from the priests to the powerful, heard after these lowly shepherds that the promised Messiah had arrived in the “city of David”, Bethlehem. So, the best “good news” in history rang out to the most insignificant group of people in the most insignificant city and the least significant time of being counted in a census. And it still rings true to those the world deems insignificant in places that seem insignificant and in times that seem like hope is gone or at least quickly leaving. It still rings true because it IS true. What a beautiful reminder that there is this day a Savior. His name is Jesus. And He cares for us!

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds needed a sign to point them where they needed to go. They needed to find Him to worship Him. Praise God, we do not have to look today! They sought Emmanuel (“God with us”) to lay their eyes on Him, yet all we have to do today is believe. He was born, and the shepherds were His witness. He died, and Scripture and, even, history are His witnesses. But He rose again and has given His Spirit. He was and is and is to come (Revelation 1:4). We do not need a sign because we have access to the Savior!

While I write this, “What Child is This?” is playing in the background. There is busy-ness happening all around me. People are buying coffee to fuel their busy-ness. There is chatter throughout the coffee shop. People are driving and walking by. And the poignancy of the words of the song echo the hope I find in this “good news of great joy”.

Read these words and ponder their reality and beauty to prepare your heart to gather with a faith family tomorrow in worship:

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King!
Haste, haste to bring Him laud!

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and beast are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading!

Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through!
The cross be borne for me, for you!
Hail, hail the Word made flesh!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!

Raise, raise a song on high!
Joy, joy for Christ is born!
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Joy to the World
  • 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.
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.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
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.
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
  • Luke 2:8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14    “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

  • Away in a Manger (Forever Amen)
  • Revelation 21:1-5

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.”

  • Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
  • (invitation) The Son of God Came Down
  • (offertory) Mary, Did You Know?

As a church, we are reading through the gospel of Luke each from December 1-4 as part of our Christmas to Calvary advent focus. You can grab a paper copy in the church lobby or download it here.

There are also daily audio uploads if you prefer to listen rather than read. Here’s Luke 4 for today’s reading:


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.

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 — September 2, 2021

Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

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

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

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

Acts 3:1-26

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

Paralyzed & Poor BUT GOD…

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 35:4-6

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

Guilty of Killing Christ BUT GOD…

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

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

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

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

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

BUT GOD Still Today

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

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

Will you receive what He offers?


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

Songs for Sunday, August 8, 2021

Memory can be a funny thing. I found myself sitting here before a blank screen, thinking about the beautiful thing that gathering together as a local church is, when I found myself reminded of some of my earliest memories of “big church”. One of the joys of getting to participate in worship on Sunday mornings has always been singing. And, in those early memories, no song stands out more than one we used to sing – and sing loudly and joyfully – was based on Psalm 118:24:

This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

While my memories of this song/psalm are fond, they pale in comparison to the joy I find today looking at the context of these verses and why we should rejoice in “this…day that the LORD has made”!

We won’t look at the whole psalm, but just the verses immediately before and after verse 24 – and we will see that Jesus Christ alone is our reason for rejoicing!

Verses 19-20 speak of “gates of righteousness” and a “gate of the LORD” for “the righteous” – all of which makes me think of Jesus as “the Way” in John 14:6. The psalmist talks about this way for the righteous is an answer to his prayer for salvation (v. 21). Don’t miss this: the way that God became his salvation (“you have answered me and become my salvation”) is through Jesus! Look at vv. 22-23:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.

Jesus – God Himself (John 1:1) – “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14); He “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” (Philippians 2:6-7). Willingly, He laid aside glory to be our Substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21) and make a Way for us through His own righteousness (1 John 2:1-2), even when His own people rejected Him (John 1:11).

For all these reasons – and the many more that we find in the Word regarding “the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) – this is the day, every day is a reason to rejoice because the Lord made it and all He has done on our behalf in Christ!

But the psalmist did not end in rejoicing alone; he recognized our great need for continued salvation in verse 25:

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!

And that is exactly why we get to gather to rejoice tomorrow – the continued answer to that prayer for all wretched sinners who have found the Way, Jesus – who “will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). We rejoice not in the beauty of the day but in the beauty of the Savior, not in the church but the Christ, not the salvation alone but the Savior!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Philippians 3:7-11

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

  • Philippians 2:5-11

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.


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!

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 — January 7, 2021

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.[1]

1 John 1:1-4

Greetings, Sojourner!

Here we are in our first Refresh & Restore of 2021, and I find myself both excited and nervous. I am excited because getting to open the Word and journey through it with you brings me great joy and is a special time for me each week. But I find myself anxious at how small I am compared to the massive task of “rightly handling the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). But I trust in the power of the Word (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12) more than I fear my own inadequacies. As Augustine said, “Where Scripture speaks, God speaks”; and we so desperately need to hear Him.

What we are setting out to do in this new year – seeking to walk through whole books and sections of the Bible, to genuinely understand it – is not a new task. We will break it down like Isaiah had to in his time: “precept upon precept” and “line upon line” (Isaiah 28:10). We will join in with the likes of Ezra and Nehemiah who, upon returning home from exile, “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8).

So, today, let us set out to read and understand John’s first epistle (letter) and look at the Life, Light, and Love that comes only from walking with Christ – the Word of God.

The first thing we see is how he opens 1 John and how it fits with the gospel of John. He started his gospel by describing how Jesus is eternal and God:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1

Where the other gospels begin with the birth of Christ and/or the work of John the Baptist, John’s gospel goes back before the beginning and shows that Jesus has always been and always been God. 1 John begins by showing us how we can know Him through the experience of those who knew Him as the God who saved them from their sins and the divine Man who was their friend on earth.

John was writing here as he and Peter said in Acts 4:20: “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”. He is bringing Jesus, who “was from the beginning” (v. 1), into focus, showing us how He became knowable. Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and lived a fully human life; He could be “heard”, “seen”, “looked upon”, and “touched”. He was not some abstract being or god. He is neither myth nor legend. He is real.

John is relaying his first-hand experience with Jesus so that we can know Him. He does this so that when he talks about the “Word of Life” it is not some idea to be thought about but, rather, a Person to be known. Back when John was writing, there were people who were trying to convince others that God did not “become flesh”. They wanted to challenge that truth and replace it with theories and ideas (because theories and ideas can be ignored or changed as needed). But John shows that there was more to Jesus.

He was not only the “Word of Life” but the Life (John 14:6). And because He came – was born, lived, died in our place, and rose from the dead – the Life was “made manifest” (v. 2). We do not typically use language like this, so it may be a bit hard to wrap our minds around. But the word translated “made manifest” literally means “to make visible”, “to cause to be seen”, or “to make known”. That is exactly what happened. God, in Jesus, was “born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7); He became a man to make Himself known to us. “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8) so that, by knowing, believing, and trusting in Him we might become “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

This is literally what John is doing here in this letter: He is sharing the Life with us. He wants us to know that he has “seen it”. He wants to “testify to it” so that we can believe it. And he wants to “proclaim” it – “the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest” (v. 2) so that we can have it too.

We have already talked about how John wrote his gospel to show us Christ and his first letter so that we can know Him. Now, we see how he goes from showing how to have eternal life in his gospel – “whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life” (John 3:16) – to showing in 1 John how we can know we have eternal life.

Those who have eternal life have “fellowship” with John, all believers, and – especially – with “the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (v. 3). The word fellowship has a lot of (pardon the made-up word) churchiness associated with it. Where I live in the Southern US, the word fellowship could be associated with the awkward, pre-Covid greeting time at some churches, but it is most often associated with eating (I can almost taste fried chicken as I type this) meals at church gatherings. But the type of fellowship – the very concept that is at the heart of what John is saying here – is so much more than a shared meal, a handshake, or even a hug. It is not a way of life or even a part of life. It is a result of having eternal life – of associating with the Life.

The word here translated “fellowship” is a special word. It could translate as a “close association”, “community”, or “a close, mutual relationship”, but all those things can exist outside of eternal life. They are too regular to communicate what John is talking about here. The “fellowship” he refers to comes out of the shared experience flowing from the grace of God in salvation. It is community built upon the foundation of the gospel – that we are all sinners and are only saved by the grace of God in Christ alone.

The closest earthly example that I can relate it to would be a group of people who survived some tragedy. They would have a bond based on their shared experience of having lived through something together. But that is where the illustration falls apart. The fellowship with God that comes from salvation produces our fellowship with one another. And we do not share the experience of living through something; we share the experience of the Life. We can celebrate the fact that, despite the “wages of [our] sin [being] death”, we have received the “free gift of God…eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We are family – “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:7). This is a bond like no other.

Through knowing Christ in this way – the way that John knew Him, John shares with us the same thing that Jesus gave to him: complete joy. Here in verse 4, John echoes the promise that Jesus made to him – a promise he heard with his own ears. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Joy means the reason for or object of gladness and delight. When we receive Christ, when we are fully known and loved by Him, He becomes the object of our delight and the reason that our hearts can be glad. He has already taken our sin upon Himself on the cross and defeated death, and He is willing to exchange our sorrows for joy. What better news could there be? For that reason, John tells his original readers and us today that he is “writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (v. 4).

I am immensely thankful for the testimony of John – that He would share all that he had heard and seen of His friend Jesus with us. I am even more thankful that Jesus – the Word of Life – came that we “may have Life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Have you experienced the eternal life that comes only from Jesus? All it takes to have eternal life is the same as with any gift – to receive it, to receive Christ because “to all who…receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). It is my prayer that – if you have not repented and believed in Jesus Christ – you do just that. He promises that “whoever comes to [Him] will never [be] cast out” (John 6:37). He will never – never – cast you out but instead make sure that your joy is completely full forever.

Amen.


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

Refresh & Restore – December 10, 2020

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:8-12

Merry Christmas, Sojourner!

I still cannot believe that it is nearly Christmas. I know that I said that last week, but it is still the case for me. We have begun singing Christmas songs at church, our tree is up at home, and there have been ugly sweater sightings all around. To top it all off, I have tasked myself this week to write about joy.

The concept of joy is often foreign for most of us, but it seems especially distant in December 2020. While this season is often difficult for many under normal circumstances, this year has added many unforeseen difficulties. Did I mention that I was going to talk to you about joy today? Even as I sit here typing, I think that this is an odd place to begin. But, then again, Jesus – the source of our joy – decided that His earthly beginning would be odder still.

All of us have seen a movie, television show, or fairy tale that shows the birth of a royal baby. Princes and delegates come from all around. The whole kingdom waits in anticipation of the birth of the child of the king.

But that is not how the King of kings and Lord of lords began His time on earth. He did not choose to be born in a castle – and there were many fine palaces available at the time. He could have been born in the capital and shut the city down with parades and celebration, but, instead, He chose to be born in a seemingly insignificant town – and, even then, in the equivalent of a barn with a feeding trough as His first cradle. He could have had kings and emperors come to bow the knee – and they all inevitably would (Philippians 2:10-11), but He chose a ragtag group of shepherds camping out and taking care of their flocks.

Now, as odd as that is, He did not hold back on the spectacle or the announcement. He gave those shepherds a birth announcement that would outshine all others. Can you imagine what it was like to be those shepherds? They were minding their sheep when, all of a sudden, the angel army of the Lord showed up out of nowhere, fully arrayed in the glory and splendor of the Lord.

Naturally, the shepherds were terrified! Our translation above says they were “filled with great fear”, but the three words that make that phrase in the original language could be translated as “to be afraid”, “mega”, and “source or occasion for fear” – two different words for fear! They were frightened and mega-afraid; who could blame them?

The darkness was filled with light. The shepherds were filled with fear. But the angels brought news that would cure both. They brought “good news of great joy”. And it is in that message that they gave those “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay”[1] where we will find our joy in the same good news:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

(vv. 10b-12)

Good News for All People

I doubt that the shepherds felt that the angels’ sudden appearance was a good thing, but the first bit of good news that they gave was that the shepherds did not need to be afraid. I think that the angels’ response to the shepherds was that their mega-fear was going to be replaced with mega-joy, and that joy was to be “for all people” – available to every, single person.

But, to understand the good news, we must understand the truth about all people. We have all “sinned and fall[en] short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “none are righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). We are sinners. And just as shepherds do not usually receive royal birth announcements, no one is lining up to rescue sinners. But that is just what Jesus came to do! In Matthew 1:21, Gabriel told Joseph that Jesus would “save His people from their sins”. That is good news that brings great joy.

People are often confuse joy and happiness. Happiness is fleeting. If I was to be totally honest, I am not very happy right now. But I have joy. The word translated joy here in this passage means “reason for gladness” or “object of joy/delight”. It is rooted in something deeper than happiness. For sinners caught in their sin and facing a holy God, there is nothing to be happy about. To be faced with the consequences of our sin, namely death (Romans 6:23), is no object or reason to be glad and nothing in which to delight. But Jesus was born to change all of that.

For Unto You is Born a Savior

As I stated above, a sinner standing before a holy God is a frightening prospect. There is nothing we can do to clean ourselves up. We cannot cover our sin. Our shame is on full display before God. It is bad news.

Bad news does not bring happiness, and it is does not produce a reason for gladness. 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” (Ephesians 2:4) provides a way for us to be saved. “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” (Titus 3:4-5).

Just as the angels interjected themselves into the peaceful night of the shepherds, God Himself interjected Himself into our timeline to be born as our Savior. Yes, the reality of our sin is terrible news, BUT GOD came to us as a child. He put on flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). At just the right time in history, God was born as a little baby in Bethlehem to make a way for us – for all people – to be saved (Galatians 4:4-5, John 14:6).

He explains it as clearly in Scripture as the angels’ voices rang out on that clear night so many years ago. 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.” Any and every one – all people – who turn away from their sin and trust in Him as their Savior and Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).

That is good news! That gives reason for gladness. Jesus is the only person – the only thing at all in this universe – that can truly and constantly be the object of our joy and delight. And, just as those shepherds were able to rejoice that night, we can rejoice in Him today.

And This Will Be a Sign For You

This year is probably not going your way. I have found more than enough reasons to complain and am likely to find more yet, BUT GOD has given us reason for joy. The shepherds give us a good example of how to proceed and how to put Jesus as the true object of joy in our lives.

You see, the shepherds did everything that the angels told them to do. They went to Bethlehem and found everything exactly the way that they were told by the angels. They found their sign – the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. It was the same sign that was prophesied so many years before by the prophet Isaiah:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

Those dirty, unworthy shepherds were standing in the presence of God Almighty. He was every bit the King of kings and Lord of lords in that tiny, helpless child as He was when was nailed to the cross –  as He was when He walked out of the tomb – and as He will be for all time. He is just as much Immanuel (which means God with us) for us today as He was for those shepherds.

The God that has always been humbled Himself and became a baby. He lived the life that we are not capable of, and He died the death that we deserve. The wages of sin is still death; He just loved us enough to die in our place (Galatians 2:20). He loved us enough to give us His Life as a free gift, ready to be received by faith in Him (Romans 6:23). Have you received that gift? Have you trusted in Him as Savior and Lord? Have you called out to Him?

The “good news of great joy…for all people” that the angels shared with the shepherds is still good news today. I pray that you look to Him as the reason and object of your joy and gladness today.


[1]The First Noel