Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.[1]


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Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I have wracked my brain to think of how to introduce this week’s Bible study in some creative and catchy way. But all I can think is that I wish this section was not in the Bible. I know that sounds terrible.

This passage highlights an area of struggle – of inadequacy – for me. Simply put: I do not want to suffer. I want to be comfortable. I want to be free of anxiety and depression and anger and difficulties and…well, discomfort in general. To a certain extent, this means that I am just like everyone else. But, for me, specifically, this is part of the “passions and desires” of my worldly self that need to be crucified (Galatians 5:24).

When I read and study the Bible, I try to follow James 1:22 and be a doer of the Word who hears the Word preached (or comprehends the Word while reading) and actually does it. Unfortunately, that is hard. And I fail at that. A lot. And there are parts that I come to, like today’s passage where I just simply do not want to do what it says or participate in what it talks about.

The idea of suffering in Scripture comes up more than most people realize. Many do not see it because the verses that we pick out to focus on allow us to ignore the sections that deal with it. There is a form of false teaching that is quite prevalent today known as the prosperity gospel. It basically proclaims that God has health and wealth for you should you simply remain faithful. If you give money or support certain ministers or speak positive things into existence, then there is a blessing (in the form of, again, health and wealth) waiting for you.

What about Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego)? People talk about the wealth and prosperity they had in Babylon. They talk about the power to rule and govern that they received. What about when Nebuchadnezzar had the made eunuchs and stripped them of their God-honoring names for Babylonian idolatry? Were they not still slaves in Babylon, far from their home?

What about Jesus? He was poor and hated while on earth. Are we more than Him? No. Listen to Jesus’ words in John 15:18-21:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’”

That passage scares me. And it comforts me. I am frightened of suffering and persecution, but I long to be associated with my Savior. I do not invite suffering – and especially do not long for it – but am I willing to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Today’s passage specifically deals with suffering in a manner that continues in Jesus’ suffering during his time on earth (and for His Bride, the Church). We get to see Paul talk about why the suffering he is experiencing – remember, this is one of the prison epistles written prior to his martyrdom – are worth it because they help bring people to Christ and those who are in Christ to maturity.

Are we willing to suffer – or even be uncomfortable – for someone to know Christ? Is our desire for comfort greater than our desire for Christ?

I am asking myself these questions as I write and can assure you of one thing, I am not boasting of what I have or can accomplish in this week’s Bible study. If no one else needs to hear this, I write to myself.

Paul’s Example

To understand where Paul is coming from – his perspective on suffering, one must first understand his testimony. He was not born Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was born Saul of Tarsus, “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6). He was the cat’s pajamas – all that and a bag of chips – or, to quote one of my sophomores – good, like great.

When the apostles were preaching in Jerusalem following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the church was exploding. The church at the time was known as “the Way” (Acts 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22) because they were in consistently focused on preaching the gospel to everyone who listed and living it out in their lives. Thousands were being baptized and “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Those who were being saved were ecstatic. The Pharisees and Saul were irate – and murderously so.

Peter and John were arrested for healing “a man lame from birth” (Acts 3:2) and proclaiming the gospel in Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:11-26). The powers-that-were admonished them to cease preaching, leveeing every threat they could muster of suffering and death, and Peter infamously replied: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). And speak they did.

From there, the church grew even more. It prayed for boldness (Acts 4:23-30), and God answered their prayer by granting that they “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). The status quo in Jerusalem was in the rear view at that point. The church was thriving and ministering to each other and those around them. The Holy Spirit was moving. But the chief priests and Pharisees were not willing to budge a single inch. Instead, they called in Saul of Tarsus.

Saul enters the narrative of Acts at the end of the life of a man named Stephen who was described as “full of grace and power…doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Local synagogue members rose up against him trying to tear down his preaching, but “they could withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). They were not listening. They did not repent and believe at the gospel preached. They grabbed him and drug him before the council. Their anger was met with grace as Stephen’s face “was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). They leveed charges against him to the council, and he charged them all by preaching. They heard him and were “enraged” and “ground their teeth at him” (Acts 7:54). They heard but would not repent. They “laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). They picked up heavy stones and threw them one by one to execute him.

I cannot imagine being in Stephen’s situation. I am afraid I would have faltered or given in or remained silent. Yet Stephen made two more statements: “Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60). The Lord granted his request and let him sleep while his body was murdered. The servant was not greater than the master. He received what his Savior received. He responded as His Savior responded. “And Saul approved of his execution” (Acts 8:1).

Saul went to work against the church in Jerusalem. His task was described as a “great persecution” where he “ravaged the church” (Acts 8:1, 3). He viciously attacked Christ’s bride. Yet her work continued. The work of the church did not stop in suffering but instead spread, “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). It spread so that Saul got warrants for imprisonment and execution against the church in Damascus – that “if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1). His threat against the Bride grew until he came face to face with Christ on the Damascus road.

If someone had ravaged my wife and I found myself in a show down, there would be nothing but wrath and vengeance. I would do all I could to visit the terror she experienced back on the attacker and more. Jesus blinded him, humbled him, and introduced Himself to Saul. The Pharisee of Pharisees had to be led by the hand to Damascus. He sat there blind for three days.

Jesus spoke to a local believer named Ananias and gave instructions regarding Saul – that He had plans for him. Ananias, of course, was skeptical. Jesus was trustworthy, but Saul had a track record of evil against believers. And Jesus gives him a very odd response,

“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)

What?! The King of kings and Lord of lords – the God who is rich in grace, mercy, and love sets out to make someone suffer for their sins?!

While Jesus was talking to Ananias, Saul was praying. He had been given a vision of Ananias coming to return his sight. Ananias was obedient. Saul’s sight was regained. The Holy Spirit filled Paul, and he was saved and baptized. That which sounded like a punishment – “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” – can it be a blessing? Can it be grace?

I think Paul (Saul made new) can speak best to whether this is grace or judgment. We looked earlier at Paul’s pedigree (“Hebrew of Hebrews”, etc.), now let us listen to the rest of the testimony:

“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 – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

Paul knew what Christ’s salvation meant. He felt like he was the “least of the apostles” because he had “persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). It is through Paul’s words that we know “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). He even described himself as being the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He knew he deserved death and Hell. Yet Christ had saved him. The servant was not greater than the master. He received what his Savior received. And He was forever in awe of the love and mercy that Christ showed him – that Christ had forgiven the sins against His Bride and allowed Him to serve her and bring her members to maturity.

That’s good news.

What Does This Mean for Us – for the Church Today?

The example of a sinner as bad as Paul gives hope for a sinner as bad as me. I hear people often mention some wicked and wretched sinner in their area and tout that there is no hope for him or her – that God simply won’t fool with someone like them. Well, he saved Paul. He saved me. And, if He hasn’t yet, I pray that He saves you, too, despite your sins!

Usually, I give a better exposition and explanation of our passage, but I felt strongly about showing Paul’s history and example. I think that his example – and what he says here in this letter to the Colossian church shows us how we should be working for God’s Kingdom in our local church and the communities around it. So, we will break it down into some bite-sized chunks for us to consider.

  • (v. 1:24) Paul did not mind suffering for Christ because he got to follow after His example and care for His church.
  • (v. 1:25) Paul’s primary goal in his ministry was to be a good steward of what God had given him – the Word of God, and he intended to make it “fully known” to everyone he could.
  • (v. 1:26) The church now knows “the mystery” as God has revealed His full story. We have all the information we need. Everything that can be known about God is found in the Bible.
  • (v. 1:27) God’s people are no longer just Israel. He has made a way in Christ for all people to experience “the riches of the glory of this mystery” and have Christ, “the hope of glory”, in them – to be in Christ.
  • (v. 1:28) Spiritual maturity is a thing. Paul felt a sense of responsibility to help people grow in Christ. That is called discipleship, and it is the command of the Great Commission (“make disciples”, Matthew 28:19). Paul considered it worth suffering for, so maybe we need to repent of not discipling or not being discipled in the Word of God.
  • (v. 1:29) Paul spent his life and all his energy in this task. It was not enough. Nothing would be accomplished without the Spirit’s “energy that He powerfully work[ed] within [Paul]”. The same is true for us today. Our efforts are nothing without His strength (Philippians 4:13).
  • (vv. 2:1-3) Paul wants to make sure that all the churches he can are being discipled – not just the one’s he planted. There are three things that he desires for those who have not seen him “face to face”: 1) “that their hearts may be encouraged”, 2) that they be “knit together in love”, and 3) that they may “reach all the riches of full assurance and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Basically, he desires that they know Christ and make Him known. Such is the essence of Kingdom work.
  • (v. 2:4) There are those who are seeking to tear down the church. They may attack it with the same persecutions that Paul once did. In the case of Colossae, they are attacking it from the inside with cancerous false teachings. This highlights the necessity of discipleship. If one is not rooted and established in Christ, they will be blown over and hoodwinked by false teaching. We will hit on this more in the coming weeks.
  • (v. 2:5) Paul is able to rejoice for the Colossian church’s “firmness” of faith because he trusts that God is going to work in His church by His Spirit and through the ministry of the Word.

Wrapping Up

While I do wish that this was not part of the reality of walking with Christ, I am immensely thankful that he saved a sinner such as me. I do not want to suffer and am not going to seek it out, but I pray that God receive the glory for whatever He chooses to do with my life.

I find that it is not suffering that causes me to stumble. It is aggravation. It is the discomfort. It is not fitting in and being an outsider because of what He has done in me. I want the epitome of the American dream with heaven as a nice retirement plan. But the servant is not greater than the master. If the world hated Him yet loves me, am I His?

I do not deserve the second and third and sixty-seventh chances that He has given me. I do not deserve Him. But He loves me and has given Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). That matters. The fact that I know the magnitude of His love because of the depth of my depravity and sinfulness means that there should be nothing more valuable than that love. I was His enemy; He adopted me into His family. I deserved wrath; He gave love instead.

The servant is not greater than the master. The world hated Him, so it will hate me, too. But, praise be to God, He loves me despite that hatred. His care is greater than the suffering. And, when it inevitably comes, may we be found like the disciples, “rejoicing [to be] counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name” (Acts 5:41).


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2016. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Refresh & Restore — April 21, 2022


***Audio will be uploaded later!***


Greetings Sojourners!

It has been a few weeks since we have last opened the Word together. This is the busy season for me. I teach high school English, get to serve as one of the pastors at Christ Community, and have begun in a Masters of Theology program at William Carey University. Maybe, busy is an understatement.

While I found myself needing to take a break from our Refresh and Restore Bible studies for a bit, I have been thinking more and more about so many who are struggling – including myself. This world is a harsh place. The burdens of life can seem more overbearing that what we can bear alone. And they are. There are weights and burdens that we cannot and were not meant to bear.

Part of the struggle is the perceived demand to be self-sufficient. People misuse and misquote passages like 1 Corinthians 10:13 and make it say that God will not give us more than we can handle on our own. I want to assure you God did not intent for us to bear burdens alone. Those He saves are given His Spirit to dwell inside them. The saved are gathered together as the Church and are parts of local churches.

So, if you feel as if you are at the end of your rope or barely holding on, let the passages of Scripture I offer you today encourage you to reach out to God – and to the support system of your local church. Rest assured, He will not give you more than HE can bear.

His Grace is Sufficient

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.[1]

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

This is the end of a passage in 2 Corinthians 12:1-11 where Paul talks of someone receiving a thorn in the flesh. There are many theories regarding who the man is and what the thorn is (along with variations depending on the combination of man and thorn), but that is not what I am drawing our attention to here. Look at the response that Jesus gave him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That’s good news!

Whatever the thorn was – whatever the reason for the struggle and trouble – Jesus’ direct response to this man was that His grace is “sufficient”. That word in the original language could also be translated as “enough” or something that is satisfactory or to “be contented with”[2]. The grace, the unmerited, undeserved favor, He gives to those He loves is enough. His grace is not only greater than our sin[3]; it is of greater value and satisfaction than the trouble our struggles – our own thorns – bring.

The response of the man brings me hope. It is a testimony that comes while he is still in the midst of his struggles with this thorn. Jesus’ reply to him was not that the thorn would leave him but that His grace would be enough to endure. He has become thankful for his own weakness and inability because he has seen the “power of Christ” carry him. He does not have a testimony of how he overcame and overthrew his difficulties. No, he has a greater testimony that points to Jesus being his strength when he has none.

I know it may not be what you want to hear if you are struggling, but this world is a fallen place (Genesis 3) where evil runs rampant (Ephesians 2:2-3; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Struggles of some form or fashion are part of life here. Jesus promised as much to His disciples in John 16:33:

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

No matter the struggles this world offers, His grace – His strength – is enough. I pray you find yourself so satisfied in Him that your struggles pale in comparison.

His Love, Mercy, and Faithfulness are Continual

21  But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”[4]

Lamentations 3:21-24

Notice the name of the book of the Bible this passage comes from – Lamentations. It is a book of the Bible devoted to lamenting the fall of Jerusalem in 586bc[5]. It consists of five chapters that basically form a funeral eulogy for Israel. Yet at its very center is our passage. In fact, look at Lamentations 3. Jeremiah was likely having worse struggles than you are; they definitely put mine in proper perspective! Yet in mid-lament, he shares what he “call[s] to mind” that produces “hope”: God’s “steadfast love” and mercy.

Again, this is someone who is not yet free from the struggles bearing down on him. But this is what He brings to mind in the midst of the troubles that brings hope.

First, he reminds himself that the “steadfast love” of God – Hebrew hesed (equivalent to agape in Greek) – will never end. We can know more about this love than Jeremiah’s perspective allowed. We know that “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). The hope that comes from that love is more to us than something that carries us through trials and struggles; it carries us into eternity with the God who loves us and has promised in the age to come that 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” (Revelation 21:4).

Then, he reminds himself that God’s “mercies never come to an end”. If grace is unmerited, undeserved favor, mercy is God withholding what we do deserve – ranging from His anger and wrath to “the wages of sins”, death (Romans 6:23). Just like God’s never-ending, never-failing love never ends, the mercy He extends to those He loves never ends. That’s good news for sinners like me! That never ending supply of mercy prompts Him to praise God’s faithfulness – “great is Your faithfulness”! Great it is, indeed!

Finally, he makes the statement that the “Lord is [his] portion…therefore [he would] hope in Him”. That word “portion” in the original language literally meant “share of something” or “a part of something, implying it is assigned”[6]. Basically, it refers to spoils that were divvied out after a victory. Think about that in Jeremiah’s context: he is writing a eulogy for Israel and mourning its fall to Babylon and yet celebrates God giving him Himself as a reward for victory. We know what the victory is! Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is, has been, and will be victorious. And, just as we looked at above in Revelation 21:4, the hope comes from receiving eternity with Him is more than enough to help us in our comparatively-short sojourn in this world!

Wrapping Up

For Jeremiah, knowing that His God would neither leave him nor forsake him put his sorrow over Jerusalem’s fall in perspective. For the man in Paul’s story, knowing that the power of Christ was present during weakness put his hardships in perspective.

And that, dear Sojourner, is what we need: an eternal perspective during our temporal struggles. This is not easy. It is not a quick fix. A perspective focused on Jesus, the concerns of His Kingdom, and future with Him in heaven is something that comes from spending time with Him. What does that look like? It looks like seeking Him in His Word, pouring our hearts out to Him in prayer, and turning to Him again and again (and again some more).

It times of trouble, it is so easy to only see the difficulties in front of us. Times of depression add fog to our points-of-view that makes it difficult to see anything else. At least, I know it is like that for me. Those are times where I have learned – from painful experience and, in joy, finding Christ and His strength during the struggles. I pray. I pop in my ear buds and listen to audio readings from the Bible (the Dwell app is my favorite). I have brothers in Christ I reach out to who are willing to not only share the weight of my burdens and struggles but lift me up to our God in prayer. I know that I can reach out to my faith family at Christ Community to do the same. And all of that lifts the fog and lightens the burden so that my perspective can shift back to Christ.

I hope that this helps you. I know it has helped me to write. But, I want to do more; I want to give you some passages of Scripture that I meditate on when struggles arise. All of them, because most of my struggles currently are mental, deal with the mind in some way. To borrow from Jeremiah, these “I call to mind”, along with our passages from today’s study:

  • 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)
  • But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
  • 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, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
  • 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. 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. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

And one final verse to meditate on comes directly from Jesus at the end of Revelation: “And behold, I am coming soon.”[7]

I am happy to get to help point you to Christ in His Word and would love to help you know Him if you don’t. I would love to help you to find a church family near you. And I am praying for you, which is the most anyone can do – to talk to the God whose love and mercy never end and ask Him to give you what you need.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 12:8–10.

[2] The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011).

[3] “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” (hymn), https://hymnary.org/text/marvelous_grace_of_our_loving_lord

[4] ESV, La 3:21–24.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1475.

[6] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[7] ESV, Re 22:7.

Refresh & Restore — November 4, 2021


…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect….[1]

1 Peter 3:15

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings, Sojourner!

I’m excited to share this week’s devotion with you because it was written by one of my friends and former students, Reid Viner!

He originally wrote this as a profile essay in his English Comp class. It is a profile of Christianity and reads like the appeal of an apologist making a defense for the hope he finds in Christ and in His Word. I am thankful for his heart to share Christ, especially using his platform as a student, and wanted to share it with y’all today!


In a world where people fight to convert other people to their religion, one religion stands out the most: Christianity. 

     Christianity is a religion that wants people to know that what Jesus has done is true and available for them. There’s a great narrative in Acts 3 where Peter and John meet this poor man who has been paralyzed his entire life while they are on the way to the temple. He is looking for money, but they don’t have any. This guy is being passed over again and again. Some are likely casually tossing money his way. But Peter and John stop and get his attention – again, they do not have the money he needs – to share with him something money can’t buy. Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you”, and then tells the man that he has been healed by “Jesus Christ of Nazareth” – to “rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6)! Had they given him money, he would have still been paralyzed, but he offered the man Jesus. That same Jesus is what Christians want others to know about their faith.

The Uniqueness of Christianity

     Christianity’s fundamental aspect of faith being Who that faith is in. Ultimately, the object of worship is more important than the act – which is how worship is inspired in the first place. The Who for Christians is Jesus. And the worship is inspired by what He has done and is doing (which is called the gospel, a word meaning to tell the good news). Basically, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is fully God yet also fully man; He came to dwell among us to bring us to Him rather than us seek to work our way to Him; He lived a perfect life in order to sacrifice Himself to pay for our sins; He made that sacrifice willingly to be our propitiation (fancy word that means He bore our sin to give us His favor), and He rose from the grave, living forevermore. So, Jesus – who He is and what He has done/is doing – Himself is that most fundamental aspect of faith.

     Christianity is quite a unique religion, and I believe that the Bible speaks to what is most unique about Christianity. The Bible teaches about Jesus being Emmanuel – a word meaning God with us. John 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 speak to this beautifully. In John, we see God coming as a human to dwell among mankind. The 2 Corinthians passage tells us why: “for our sake”. He came to dwell among men because men needed Him to make a way to heaven. He traded His sinless life for the sinful life of any and all who would believe in Him. He would trade His righteousness for our shame – and our death.

     This is different from other religions. Here is an analogy I have heard used to explain all world religions. Life is a journey up a steep mountain. The mountain represents all the insurmountable tasks we need to complete to make our way to the positive option of an afterlife. Failure to make it up the mountain leads to the negative option. Basically, all religions would be summed up as journeying up the mountain, overcoming obstacles and trials, to make one’s way to heaven. Yet the Bible teaches us that what is known as Christianity is unique because our God – who Christians believe to be the one and only true God – came down the mountain in the person of Jesus to carry those who trust in Him up the mountain. He overcomes the obstacles. His strength defeats the trials. He just chooses to share the victory with those He saves and loves.

Christianity & Societal Issues

     All religions have their thoughts on societal issues, but Christianity’s are pretty interesting. And rather than looking at ways how Christianity has renounced issues surrounding societal issues, I would like to look at what God intended in the first place. All the way back in the beginning of what we know of as time, God created a man named Adam. He made him in His own image. And He noticed that Adam was alone. Deciding that it was “not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18), God sought to make him a helper. 

The first companions were animals, but, other than keeping Adam busy naming them, they were not suitable. God had a better plan. Rather than starting from scratch like He did with Adam, He put Adam to sleep, took one of His ribs, and formed the woman who would be named Eve. Adam was impressed. He immediately responded in gladness that she was “bone of [his] bone” and “flesh of [his] flesh” (Genesis 2:23). And in that act of creation, God set the precedent for marriage. Man would “leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Some people want this to be ambiguous, but it is right there on page three (at least in my copy) of the Bible: one man and one woman to become one flesh. 

The so-called “societal issues” become issues where people try to take different paths than God originally intended. So, let us briefly look at (they all really require longer, more personal conversations) these issues.

Premarital sex, what the Bible calls fornication, takes issue with the “one flesh” aspect of marriage. Sexual intimacy between a man and a woman is a deeper level of intimacy than casual relationships can bear. Think about how complicated sex makes things between people who are not ready for the level of commitment needed to accompany sex. This goes against the original design, and trouble follows. Teen pregnancy would be another result of this. I struggle with the wording of this because pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous thing. Why is it not a source of joy in this situation but instead is a source of stress and, sometimes, causes people to despair? It is because the casual “one flesh” produced a blessing that the people were not equipped or ready to receive. Kids are not ready to raise kids. Deviating from God’s plan takes that which was meant to be a blessing and makes the baby feel like a burden. It messes with His original design. 

Now, we move on to the “issues” dealing with marriage. Rather than heap on verses that some use to condemn, let me move on to another passage that shows us God’s design. In Ephesians 5:32, Paul says that marriage is a “mystery” that “refers to Christ and the Church”, meaning that marriage is supposed to be a picture of God and His Church. What if God were to respond to His Bride, the Church, with divorce the first time we messed up? Then, He would not be the God that He says He is from the beginning – that He is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Numbers 14:18). So, our willingness to divorce (Malachi 2:16) rather than reconcile (and, yes, there are extenuating circumstances in which divorce is allowed – see Mark 10:1-12 for context and the following quote) is because of our own “hardness of heart”. Ultimately, Christians believe the God who reconciled His enemies to Himself to become a part of His church (Romans 10:10) – a part of His bride – wants to see that reconciliation in the lives of His church.

As far as intermarriage (people of different religions marrying each other), this largely is the scope of Old Testament passages prohibiting marrying people outside of the nation of Israel. These were not racial prohibitions but religious. The best example of the issues that can come from marrying people of a different faith (other than the logical reality that opposing religions are not compatible) is Solomon. God gave Solomon great wisdom and riches, but He also warned Solomon about the consequences of sin and serving/worshiping other gods (1 Kings 9:6). Solomon then entered into a multitude – I think 700 wives and 300 concubines makes multitude a bit of an understatement – of marriage relationships. The result was that “his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 11:4). I think a divided heart speaks for itself. 

Wrapping Up

To get back to the essence of what I want to say here, it is important to understand that God – the Creator of everything – has a distinct plan for how things work best. Any time we deviate from that is sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). 

     Lots of religions nowadays require you to be perfect, no room for sin, but that’s how Christianity is different. Now it is going to come down to how we define “Christian” to answer this. If by Christian we mean those who are born again (John 3) or made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2), then Hell is off the table. Paul clearly says in Romans 8:1 that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Jesus died in our place and rose from the grave, and all who have faith in Him are covered by His sacrifice because He has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us” by “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). Jesus Himself says in John 10:28 that those who are His – those He has given “eternal life” – “will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of [His] hand”. On the other hand, there is nothing about the label of Christianity that protects against sin. One cannot invoke the name or be a registered evangelical Christian and get into heaven. God is checking whether or not we have been covered by His blood, not checking membership cards. 
To get back to the essence of what I want to say here, Christians believe that it is important to understand that God – the Creator of everything – has a distinct plan for how things work best. Any time we deviate from that is sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We can look at all the ways we sin and heap condemnation, or we can point people to the Savior who “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Everyone who “calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 3:15.

Refresh & Restore — October 21, 2021

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

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

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

2 Timothy 2:14-26

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

A Worker for Christ: Unashamedly Handling the Word

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

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

How we talk matters!

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

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

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

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

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

How we handle the Word matters!

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

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

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

Usable Vessels and Willing Doulos-es

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do we go from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah, and amen!


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

Songs for Sunday, October 10, 2021

It’s almost Sunday!

I have a passage on my mind that is going to seem odd considering how excited I am. It’s going to seem a bit sad though I am full of joy reading it. But, then again, that is what hope in Christ does – it flips the sad realities of this earth upside down through the hope of what He has done, is doing, and has promised to do in the future.

Here’s the passage:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?

Psalm 137:1-4

When these words were written, nearly all of Israel was in exile. The punishment God had promised for the idolatry of their kings and the hearts of His people who were supposed to love Him above all had come into fruition. The temple lay in ruins. Jerusalem’s walls were in shambles. And God’s people were far from His promised land and seemed farther away from the covenant promises they had forsaken.

Those who led Israel in worship now found themselves in the crosshairs of mocking and shame. Where there had once been loud singing and music in their hearts, there was only shame. They hung up their lyres. They traded worship for weeping. All the while, their captors tormented them by asking them to sing some of their beloved “songs of Zion” – basically, sing some of those songs about how much you love the Lord and what all He has done for you….

They had no song or desire to sing, only tears.

Their memories of former glory and worship did nothing to satisfy their longing for rescue in their present. The rubble of the temple and reverence for past faithfulness had no effect on their current weeping.

Those feelings are not exclusive to Babylon.

There was a time in my life that I wanted nothing more than to hang up my guitar and sing no more of the Lord. In fact, I sold my guitar to pay the moving expenses to leave ministry behind to move back home ashamed of quitting and being burned out, afraid of the future.

I had barely been home twenty-four hours when a tormentor ridiculed, asking how dare I quit on the Lord and reminding, almost gleefully, of the shame I felt. And tears fell in my car the same as they had once fell by the waters of Babylon.

The joy I had once felt in leading in worship and preaching the Word were not enough to combat the present sorrow I felt during that time. In fact, all of my efforts were wrapped up in the past – past righteousness, past success, past calling, past motivation, past personal worship of Jesus. But, just as with those worship leaders in Babylon with lyres hung on trees and hopes hung up in their past, I found that the past was not enough to sustain my present, much less my future.

Thankfully, God brought repentance and, little-by-little, joy back into my life following after Him. Just as He did for Israel, He healed the pain of my exile, helped me follow Him more closely than I ever did in the past, and held out His mighty hand to me because “He cares” for me (1 Peter 5:7). I remembered that Jesus is alive and well, seated on the throne, and found myself rejoicing in the pains of my past because they highlight Him and how He was with me every step of the way.

And that’s how we will “sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” tomorrow. That may seem odd since we will be in our homeland, so-to-speak, but this world is not our home because “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)! We will gather together, not because of our past faithfulness but HIS! We will remember what He has done, but we will rejoice because our resurrected King is doing things – working for our good and His glory – NOW! And we will rejoice that our exile in this old world is not permanent and He has promised us future eternity with Him where the last of the tears from Babylon will be wiped away by His own hand (Revelation 21:4)!

So, I hope you will join us tomorrow as we make much of Jesus. You can’t do anything about your past, but – PRAISE GOD – He already has! And He has given hope for a better future than we could ever earn on our own.

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Romans 6:1-5

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

  • Romans 6:6-11

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


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 30, 2021

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

Genesis 50:15-21

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

Acts 7:9-10

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does This Mean for Us Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah, and Amen!


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

Songs for Sunday, September 12, 2021

As I sit down to write today, Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 6:34 are at the forefront of my mind —

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Amen.

Do you ever feel like there is more than enough trouble – a surplus of trouble – and peace is hard to find. You are not alone.

Jesus’ words there are in the context of Him reminding His disciples (then and now) that we do not have to be anxious about anything because we can trust that He is in control and is taking care of us.

Listen to His words – the words from the Word, Jesus Christ – for His disciples across the ages from Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Unfortunately, we have grown all to accustomed to being anxious about our lives – whether or not we will have the necessities we need to live (v. 25). We operate like our anxiety is necessary, but Jesus clearly shows us that He takes care of birds and flowers and all of the plants, ecosystems, and food chains that keep them going. How much more will He care for those He made in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27)?

He does not want us to live our lives worrying. In fact, He says that “the Gentiles” (Greek word for “the nations”) live like that; clearly showing He wants more trust – more faith in Him – from us. Rather than seeking anxiety and worry, He would have us seek Him! He would have us “seek first [His] Kingdom…and His righteousness” (v. 33) knowing all of our needs will be cared for in the pursuit.

It seems so easy to just type this out, but it is another thing entirely to live it. I find myself plagued with anxiety. I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders sometimes. I even worry when things are peaceful – I mean, I might have forgotten something, right? Maybe it is less about what God wants from us – like faith and trust – and more about what we get from Him (including the faith that we have – Romans 12:3).

So, when He says that we do not need to be anxious tomorrow, it is because He is the “same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)! And when He says that today’s troubles are sufficient for themselves, we do not have to let the troubles of day take our eyes off of Him. We need to “turn [our] eyes from looking at worthless things” and seek the life that comes from His ways (Psalm 119:37). We need to take our focus off of the troubles that are sufficient and be reminded that His “grace is sufficient” – that His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He was upfront and honest with us: trouble will come, trials will come. But He did not leave us with the bad news. No, He told us: “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)!

Tomorrow, we’ll sing to Him. We will read from the Word and be reminded that nothing can separate us from His love because “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). We will read from the Word and be reminded that He has more grace – a more than enough – for any troubles that may befall us. We will sing of trusting Him in good and bad, resting in the hope that only comes from Him, recognizing that on the other side of the storms of this earth is a nail-scarred hand to wipe away the last tears.

May you lift your voice with ours. May you submit your heart to Him.

Here are the Scriptures & songs:

  • Romans 8:31-39

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.

  • Lamentations 3:21-24

21  But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
23    they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
24    “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”


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 — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

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 29, 2021

Sunday.

For some, it means the last day of the weekend before jumping back into the grind of the week. For others, it is a peaceful first day in preparation for whatever the week may bring. Across the United States, it will be filled with brunches, golf games, traveling, sporting events, and diversions of every shape and kind. Yet for those who belong to Jesus – those He has saved and redeemed, those He has brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:4-5) – it is a day of joyful remembrance and expectation.

For centuries before the birth of Christ, Saturday – the Sabbath day of rest – was the centerpiece of worship. It was a day of rest following the example of God Himself (Genesis 2:2) and set aside as holy (Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8). The shift of focus from Saturday to Sunday was as simple as shifting from Sabbath to celebration – from resting to rejoicing. Just as on that original Easter Sunday when the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and He walked out alive and well – shaking off the pangs of death and crucifixion in His own resurrection power, Sunday became a day for the people of God to gather together in worship and joy at His resurrection and recognition that Jesus “is not in [the grave], for He is risen (still today) as He said” (Matthew 28:6)!

Every Sunday since then, followers of Jesus have gathered. They have gathered through persecution. They have gathered through prohibitions against gathering. And they have even gathered during plagues (and even pandemics)!

There has been a piece of a quote from Martin Luther floating around social media, but it lacked context. It has been used to spur gatherings and to spurn them. Being a lover of context and authorial intent, I looked further for the context of the quote. Here are a few quotes (with the typical social media selection italicized, and, should you desire, you can read the original letter in its entirety):

“You wish to know whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague. I should have answered long ago, but God has for some time disciplined and scourged me so severely that I have been unable to do much reading or writing. Furthermore, it occurred to me that God, the merciful Father, has endowed you so richly with wisdom and truth in Christ that you yourself should be well qualified to decide this matter or even weightier problems in his Spirit and grace without our assistance.”


“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague. Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment. They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office.

“I cannot censure the former for their excellent decision. They uphold a good cause, namely, a strong faith in God, and deserve commendation because they desire every Christian to hold to a strong, firm faith. It takes more than a milk faith to await a death before which most of the saints themselves have been and still are in dread.”


“In the case of children who are orphaned, guardians or close friends are under obligation either to stay with them or to arrange diligently for other nursing care for their sick friends. Yes, no one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me …” (Matt. 25:41–46). According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”


“Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”


“It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

“No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”


As you can see, there is context in history regarding plague and pestilence. Martin Luther wrote this in the midst of the second pandemic of the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death. The first wave in the 1300s had a survival rate of about 50%! Knowing that, it is interesting the perspectives that Luther held regarding this. Trying to be as objective as I possibly can, here is what I got from reading the entire letter (especially the quotes above):

  • Ultimately, there is grace for needing to avoid gathering for the purpose of protecting one’s self and family in times of deadly pestilence.
  • Consequently, there is also grace for consciously deciding to forsake one’s health to care for the sick and serve the Lord even in times of pestilence.
  • Even pastors and those active in ministry get to choose whether to stay/gather or flee/quarantine as long as there are still pastors and ministers to carry on the work.
  • He spends a significant amount of time clarifying the difference between external persecution and personal decisions for safety, even governmental decisions to try to help keep people safe and the support of such things from Scripture. My understanding of his points in those sections says that 1) there is a difference between persecution and personal/governmental decisions and 2) none of them excuse God’s people from carrying out His work. Personal safety does not excuse obedience to His commands, especially regarding caring for one’s neighbor.
    • Interestingly, this does a lot for both camps – gather & separate, but what it does not do is leave room for complete isolation from God’s calling on the lives of those He has saved. Both camps have something to learn here!
  • The last section has a few gems that I find quite interesting:
    • If you need medical help or have medical reasons for not gathering, don’t be foolish! This should go without saying, but, even in the midst of so much talking, it should be recognized that God’s Holy Spirit is sufficient for the wisdom individual believers need.
    • There is nothing wrong with measures for safety in gathering. He speaks of fumigating. Later this afternoon, that’s exactly what will happen to Christ Community (and, consequently, it has happened nearly every Sunday since the onset of the pandemic – every, single chair and all high traffic areas/surfaces, and increasing with every aspect we have reopened/started again). If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you want to sit in the back away from others, do it. If you want to come to 10:00a Bible Study, sit away from others, and slip out the side door before the worship crowd comes in – do that!
    • Know that God is ultimately in control. He has called us to love our neighbors and our families. Yet He has called us to serve Him and give our lives for Him. And He called us to all that fully knowing everything ahead of time!

I know this has been longer than usual, but I felt it would do us good to hear from a voice from Church history instead of the talking heads from contemporary media. Ultimately, all of us need to be seeking the Lord regarding all of this. And we need to look to Him in faith before we make any decisions in fear.

Basically, that’s what we’re singing to Him tomorrow. We are going to seek that He give us insightful wisdom by His Spirit to help us lift up His name. We are going to consider the awe worthy to His greatness and majesty. And we are going to beseech Him to come quickly!

I hope your voice will be lifted with ours!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Ephesians 1:7-14

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

  • Open the Eyes of My Heart
  • Great I Am
  • Ephesians 1:15-21

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

  • Forever Reign
  • Come, Jesus, Come
  • (invitation) Battle Belongs

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 — August 26, 2021

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[1]

Matthew 11:28-30

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

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

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

Identity in Christ Over Ability

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

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

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

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

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

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

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

Faith in Christ Over Feeling Like a Failure

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

1 Peter 5:6-7

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

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

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

Prioritizing Praise in Prayer Over Problems

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

Philippians 4:4-7

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

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

Wrapping Up

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


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

[2] Ibid., 1 Co 1:26–31.

[3] Ibid., 1 Pe 5:6–7.

[4] Ibid., Php 4:4–7.