Songs for Sunday, September 26, 2021

It’s funny how songs can stick with us and stay vividly fresh in our memories when so many other things fade.

Sitting here thinking about songs from my childhood is a mix of my daddy sitting and strumming his guitar and mama demonstrating proper rock ‘n’ roll joy.

I can hear my daddy’s voice sing about Jimmy Brown the poor newsboy and “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, AZ” as clearly as if I had been transported back to the floor at his feet as a tot. I can almost feel the wind on my face, riding in the car with my mama with Cheap Trick or Springsteen blaring to round out Daddy’s bluegrass and make sure my musical education complete.

But the song that is perhaps most vivid for me today is an old gospel chorus that I treasure more because of the eternal life with Jesus Christ it points to than the sweet memories it evokes:

This world is not my home
I’m just a-passin’ through

My treasures are laid up
somewhere beyond the blue

I just can’t feel at home

in this world anymore

I want to – I try to – I long to feel at home. But I just can’t anymore. And that’s good news.

Listen to how Paul puts it in Philippians 3:20-21:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.

Basically, if we belong to Christ, we no longer belong here. The earth that is where we live cannot compare with our heavenly home. This world is has been ravaged by sin and the Fall (Genesis 3). There are those who walk as “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18) whose minds are set on their own appetites and “earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).

Furthermore, Jesus ascended from this earth (Acts 1:9) to Heaven (Colossians 3:1) and has prepared a place for us to be with Him there (John 14:1-3, 6)!

I can sit and focus on all of the negative aspects. I can dwell on the troubles that I see around me all the time. That’s easy to do – we are after all immersed in this world. Or we can look in expectation for the coming Savior. We can pray for Him to come to us. We can “seek the things that are above” where He is (Colossians 3:1)!

This is one of the reasons that gathering as a church here on earth is so important. Jesus has given us a group of people who live here whose citizenship is where He is. He has given us brothers and sisters who live out the same struggle and need the same Savior. We get to remind each other of Him and lift each other up. We get to “comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). We get to be reminded that “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)!

There will come a day – a day more glorious than our feeble minds could hope to imagine – where we won’t have to hope anymore. On that day, our faith will be made sight and all of the sad days on earth will come suddenly and wonderfully untrue. On that day, Jesus will gather His people together from every land they are sojourning. All the citizens will be brought home, and a loud voice will declare our new normal:

“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.”

Revelation 21:3-4

Oh, the joy that awaits us – not Heaven but JESUS!

And that is what we are reading about in God’s Word and singing to Him about this Sunday, hoping in Him to help us put our focus on Him and what will be rather than the circumstances surrounding us in this weary land.

Here are the Scriptures & songs:

  • Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.

  • Psalm 30

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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.


Songs for Sunday, September 5, 2021

One of the things that I love about worship at Christ Community is the genuineness – that real and raw quality – of it.

First and foremost, our worship is fixated on Jesus, the Savior without whom none of us would have life or hope. It hinges on the hearts and voices of the choir – the congregation. And it is supported by the praise team, all of whom want to see Jesus lifted high and hearts poured out in worship more than we want to sound good or do well ourselves.

This Sunday – honestly not different than any other – we are focusing on the Person and work of Jesus. We are joining our voices to read some passages of Scripture that magnify Him beautifully. Rather than writing about them, the best way to prepare our hearts for worship would be to meditate on these passages today so that they genuinely be worshipful when we read them aloud together tomorrow.

Colossians 1:13-20:

Hebrews 1:1-4:

And He is who we are singing to tomorrow. He’s who we are singing about tomorrow – all He has done, what He is doing, and rejoicing at the return of our resurrected King!

Here are our our Scriptures & Songs:

  • Colossians 1:13-20

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

  • Hebrews 1:1-4

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


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.

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
We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

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

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

Identity in Christ Over Ability

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

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

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

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

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

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

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

Faith in Christ Over Feeling Like a Failure

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

1 Peter 5:6-7

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

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

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

Prioritizing Praise in Prayer Over Problems

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

Philippians 4:4-7

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

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

Wrapping Up

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


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

[2] Ibid., 1 Co 1:26–31.

[3] Ibid., 1 Pe 5:6–7.

[4] Ibid., Php 4:4–7.

Refresh & Restore — August 19, 2021

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

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


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

John Goldwater: Hello!

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

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

Ruth 4:11-12

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

Ruth 4:18-22

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

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

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

John: Awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Matthew 1:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

Keith: …with the “wife of Uriah”….

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

Keith: With that epithet.

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

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

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

John: That’s good news!

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

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

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

John: There’s no king.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith: Or some unknown situation….

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

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

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

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

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

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

John: He wanted Rahab’s boy in there!

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

John: There’s plenty of hesed in Ephrathah.

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

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

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

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

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

John: Thank You, God.

Keith: Amen.

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

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

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

Titus 2:11-14

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

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

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

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

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

Keith:                   And has done. And is doing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 10:9 –

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

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


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

[2] Ibid., Ru 4:18–22.

[3] Ibid., Mt 1:1–6.

[4] Ibid., Tt 2:11–14.

[5] Ibid., Ro 10:9.

Refresh & Restore — August 12, 2021

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

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

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

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

Ruth 4:1-17

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

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

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

Do You, Redeemer, Take This Woman?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redemption at Last

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Refresh & Restore — July 29, 2021

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.[1]

Psalm 73:23-28

Greetings, Sojourner!

We are going to take a brief break in our Ruth series. I feel like there is someone out there who needs to hear this. If not, maybe I just need to write it.

I struggle.

I just want to lay that out there – I do; I struggle. My mind is often a mess, as is my heart. I do not have it (whatever “it” is) all together. I get depressed. I get stuck in my own head.

I am human. I am a sinner. Like I said, I struggle.

As I was reading the Word and studying this morning, I came across this passage. I was initially going to use it for an upcoming series, but I just could not get it to fit. I also could not get it off my mind and heart – two phrases specifically were sticking with me: “nevertheless” (v. 23) and “but God” (v. 26).

So, if you will indulge me. I would like to share a word with you today for those who struggle – for those who do not have it all together. And, it is my hope, dear Sojourner, that you realize you are not alone.

Nevertheless

In the ESV translation, the publishers titled this psalm “God is My Strength and Portion Forever”. That sounds so positive and good. And that is exactly how Psalm 73 starts out: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (v. 1). That is good news if you are Israel or if your heart is “pure”. However, I feel like we are more likely to fall in with the beginning of v. 2 which says, “But as for me…”.

One of my Bible school kiddos did an excellent job explaining what the conjunction “but” means. He said that it cancels out everything that comes before and replaces it with what comes after. So, all that good news for Israel and pure-hearted folks is cancelled and replaced with the psalmist’s (his name is Asaph[2]) reality. He describes his situation like one whose feet “had almost stumbled” or “had nearly slipped” (v. 2). And what tripped him up was his own heart because he was “envious” of “the prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3).

It is easy to get tripped up. For me, it does not have to be some outside stimulus; to quote Tyler Perry, “I can do bad all by myself.” My own mind has a magnetic pull toward darkness. My heart is drawn toward sin like a moth to a flame. But what Asaph describes shows how disheartening our problem can be since he is jealous of those who blatantly work evil because they seem to be doing well (and you can infer that he is trying to do good and struggling).

If you look at how he describes them, it does not seem as if they are doing very well at all. He says that they are not suffering and have all their appetites filled (v. 4). They do not have the same troubles as other folks, “like the rest of mankind” (v. 5). But he also says that their pride and violence is all over them like clothing (v. 6) and that, while they have their appetites filled, they are actually filled with foolishness (v. 7). Ultimately, that foolishness leads them to mock God and mistreat others (vv. 8-11).

Rather than see their plight for what it truly is, Asaph is blinded by his desire to have his appetites filled – to have his own way. Instead of seeing the danger of their lifestyle, he sees them “at ease” and how “they increase in riches” (v. 12). He feels as if his pursuit of God was “all in vain” (v. 13) because of how difficult it was to follow God rather than his own desires (vv. 14-15).

I love the way that verses 16-17 transition and get us closer to our passage today: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to be a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” When he was wallowing in sinful desires and flirting with following the wicked rather than God, it “seemed…wearisome”. It seemed that way until he got alone with God in His “sanctuary”. Then the truth became clear.

That is how that works. When we are with God, spending time with Him in His Word and in prayer, things seem so clear. Yet when we try to live like the world things get muddled. He was jealous of the prosperity of the wicked until he basked in the glory of the only Righteous One! In the presence of God, he could see that those he was jealous of were on “slippery places” and headed toward “ruin” (v. 18). All that prosperity they flaunted would be “destroyed in a moment” (v. 19) as God cast them away like one would a bad dream upon waking (v. 20).

More importantly, Asaph – because of the time he spent with God – saw himself more clearly and honestly! He began to discover that he was closer to the wicked than he was the Righteous One (v. 22)! He found that his “soul was embittered” – he was disheartened. But the good news is that through all of this he was “pricked in the heart” (v. 21). To be pricked in one’s heart is to be sharpened, honed, or taught. In his covetousness of the wealth of the wicked, his heart had become dull. He had grown weary of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

Not only was it good news that his heart was pricked and repentance began to occur, the fact that he could say “nevertheless” in the midst of those difficulties was good news! This is a beautiful contrast to his early descriptions of slipping and sliding because he realizes God was continually with him and holding his right hand providing strength and support (v. 23)! He realized that he was not going to fall – even though he found himself stumbling – because God was guiding him (v. 24). And he realized that striving after temporary rewards like what the wicked had could not compare with the glory that would come “afterward” from his God (v. 24, 2 Corinthians 4:17)!

But God

How easy it is to veer from the path! It does not take much to steer our hearts and minds in the wrong direction; after all, we are only human! Yet the closer we get to God, and the more we realize that what the Bible says about Him is true, the easier it is to see our desire shift – little by little – from the fading, temporary appetites of the earth to God. Asaph’s desires shift when he realizes that there is no one like God and nothing on earth that can compare with Him (v. 25).

The most common advice is to follow one’s heart. But look at where following his heart got Asaph! He began to learn what we find in Jeremiah 17:9-10:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

He could see how his heart and flesh would fail him (v. 26). In fact, that was his reality, slipping and sliding on his path instead of following God on the foundation of His Word. The good news – for Asaph and for us today – comes in the middle of verse 26 – “but God”. Remember that “but” cancels everything before it and replaces it with what comes after. The good news here is that God’s strength replaces our failing hearts and minds; God becomes our “portion”, satisfying our hunger, to replace our earthly failings and lusts. That’s good news!

But For [Us]

Asaph wraps up his psalm by sharing what God taught him through this tough and disheartening time: salvation comes from God and that those who are “far from [Him]” and “unfaithful to [Him] will ultimately “perish” (v. 27). That is bad news for those who do not know the Lord, but it is true. This highlights the contrast in verse 28 when Asaph says, “but for me it is good”. Again, we see that “but” changes things up.

Asaph’s “but for me” shows that his faith in God – his nearness and relationship with Him – has cancelled out the perishing that others would experience. Rather than desiring their wealth, he now takes refuge in “the Lord God” and sets out to “tell of all [His] works” (v. 28). We need the same thing for ourselves today. Maybe you are like me and find yourself disheartened from time to time (or depressed, in a funk, whatever you want to call it). The only lasting solution that I have found is that of Asaph – to take up the “wearisome task” of moping our way to “the sanctuary of God” and letting Him set us aright.

If you are not saved, then you have nothing to set right. In fact, you need a new heart altogether (Ezekiel 11:19). But I urge you: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). God offers us the same help that He gave to Asaph. Yet we have hope that Asaph did not yet realize. God has already come down to help us in Jesus Christ (John 1:14). He has walked every path that we need to walk, overcome every temptation we will encounter, and paid the price so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

If you belong to Him but feel like you are slipping, I want to urge you to reach out to Him. Heed Peter’s words from 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.” Then, we can call out to Christ with the words of Asaph:

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 73:23–28.

[2] Asaph was a worship leader from back in the days of David (1 Chronicles 15:16, Nehemiah 12:46).

Refresh & Restore — July 1, 2021

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

Ruth 1:1-5

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

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Greetings, Sojourner!

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

Welcome to Ruth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting the Stage for a Big Move of the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope in the Midst of Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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

John 16:33

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

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

Hallelujah, and Amen!


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

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

Refresh & Restore — June 10, 2021

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.[1]

1 John 5:13-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

We are at the end of our study of 1 John! And, as John does in his letter, we will take this last passage in chunks to cover the text similarly to how he does. Hopefully, this will help you see the difference between 1 John being Scripture – “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) and “not produced by the will of man, but [man speaking] from God as…carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) – instead of just a letter from a pastor to his flock. The words that he wrote are God’s words – to his original audience and to us today.

Each of these closing remarks fit with the message of Life, Light, and Love in the rest of 1 John. And they fit in with John’s ultimate purpose – “that you may know you have eternal life” (v. 13). This verse is similar to the closing of his gospel: “…these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). It is my hope that studying 1 John has given you opportunity to know that you have life in Him by “confess[ing] with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believ[ing] in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9). The good news here is that, if you have believed in Him you will “not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) and that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13).

What can be known “concerning the word of life” (1:1) is clearly very important to John, and Danny Akin very aptly compiled a list of the things John helps us know in 1 John that I believe can be beneficial to us as we close out this study:

“We can know that we know God (2:3, 13-14; 4:7). We can know that we are in God (2:5)…. We can know the truth (2:21, 3:19). We can know that Jesus is righteous (2:29). We can know that we will be like Jesus (3:2). We can know that Jesus came to take away sins (3:5). We can know that Jesus is sinless (3:5). We can know that we have passed out of death into life (3:14)…. We can know love (3:16, 4:16). We can know that God abides in us (3:24, 4:13). We can know the Spirit of God (4:2) [and the difference between] the Spirit of truth and…of deception (4:6). We can know that we love God’s children (5:2).”[2]

And God, through John, has a few more things that we can know that are shared in this closing section – things that we can believe. So, listen to what God’s Spirit would have us to believe through this closing section of 1 John.

We can know God answers prayer. (vv. 14-15)

We have looked earlier in this letter about what it means to have “confidence before God” (3:21) to “not shrink from Him in shame at His coming” (2:28), giving “confidence for the day of judgment” (4:17). This confidence is an abiding one that dwells in our hearts when our lives shine His light and share His love. Now, we see we can have confidence that our prayers are reaching Him – that He is hearing what we pray and answering it.

This is not the first time that John has spoken on this. In 3:22 he tells us that “whatever we ask we receive from [God], because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him”. When we add the aspect of praying “according to His will” (v. 14), we get a clearer picture of what He wants from us in prayer; He wants us to pray as He taught His disciples to pray – “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). You see, seeking His will is key in having one’s prayers heard and answered. God is not bound by some set of magic words to give whatever we request. He is not a genie that we can recite some code to command His response. Instead, He is the holy (“hallowed be [His] name” – Matthew 6:9) and sovereign God of the universe. Seeking His will puts us on the same page as Him, giving us appropriate desires and thereby appropriate prayers. In the same way that we are to “be transformed by the renewal of [our minds to test and] discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2), we should seek to have Him transform our prayer life to want what He wants.

As for what is and is not God’s will, we do not have to perform a séance or ritual. Rick Warren said it well: “God’s will is found in God’s Word – stop looking for a sign and start looking for a verse.” So, for us today, think of all the things that we have studied in God’s Word – look back at the list of things that we can know just from 1 John. If we want our prayers to be heard and answered, they must align with God’s will, and God’s will always aligns with His Word. Once our prayer life is aligned with His Word, we can absolutely know that He is hearing us, and, in His hearing, He is responding.

We can know how to pray for our brothers and to keep them (and us) from sin. (vv. 16-18)

If you read verses 16-18 and thought, “Hmmm, I am not sure what I just read.” You are not alone. We will tread carefully here and let the context of the surrounding sentences, paragraphs, and the letter as a whole guide us so that we have the surest interpretation. There are two things that cue us specifically to what John is talking about. First, the verses just prior to this section are talking about prayer – as does the end of v. 16. So, John is talking about praying for this “brother” who is “committing a sin”. Second, we can look back in 2:1 and see what that “if anyone does sin” they “have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. So, one whose sins are covered (cleansed – 1:9) by Jesus Christ the righteous is saved/born again/has eternal life.

While these verses are indeed difficult (especially v. 16), we are going to keep to the simplest interpretation that fits best with the rest of the Bible, so, even if we err here, we fall back on what is clear in the Word. The simplest interpretation sees two different groups of people: 1) those whose sin “does not lead to death” (v. 17), and 2) those whose sin “leads to death” (v. 16).

The Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), that everyone who is in Christ was once “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [they] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2). The only way to move from death to life is to be “made alive together with [God who has] forgiven all our trespasses by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). This fits John’s teaching that Jesus is our propitiation (2:2, 4:10). So, if “anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death” – seeing one who professes faith in Christ but is actively sinning – “he shall ask, and God will give Him life” (v. 16). We need to hold one another accountable and specifically pray that God will grant repentance (and life) to those who say that they are His yet are living in sin. This is trusting God to take care of your brother (His child) and asking Him to restore him.

In this interpretation, the “sin that leads to death” (v. 16) would be not believing/trusting in Christ. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in John 3:18 that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”. Those who have not repented of sin and trusted in Christ are still dead in their sin – they still face condemnation for their sin (Romans 8:1). The issue lies in how you can tell the difference. For that, I do not put your brother on the stand but your own life. “All wrongdoing is sin” (v. 17); “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); and “…the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Those are all clearly true from the Word of God. It is also true that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (v. 18). We must examine our own lives according to these truths, and, if we profess to belong to Christ, we must pray for God to grant others repentance as well as our own selves (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

We can know Him. (vv. 19-21)

Ultimately John’s goal is for us to know Christ. He ends as he began, showing us “that which was from the beginning” (1:1) – His friend and Savior who he heard with his own ears, saw with his own eyes, touched with his own hands. He had met Jesus and lived the rest of his life sharing the Life that Jesus gave to him, shining the Light of Christ into the darkness of the world around him, and loving others with the Love that Christ loved him.

He wants us to know that even though “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (v. 19) that we can know we belong to Jesus. He wants us to be able to trust that God’s Word is the true because Jesus Himself is truth (v. 20, John 14:6). He wants us to be able to distinguish between the real Christ and idols (v. 21).

Beloved, Sojourner, what a beautiful picture of love – someone wanting to make sure that, in the midst of evil and terror and all of the negative and depressing things in the world, there is a Savior whose name is Jesus who is everything we need. The world produces more idols (if we are honest, our own hearts produce most of our idols – Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 17:20) than we can successfully fend off. We need to be rescued. And that is exactly what we find in Jesus – a Rescuer, a King who left His throne to become a servant so that people can be saved. He is a beacon that shines in the midst of darkness showing all men the Way. He is love even in the face of hatred. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and one day His name will be spoken and “every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Do you know Him?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:13–21.

[2] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014), 1 Jn 5:13–21.