Better Than Santa | Bible Gleanings [Advent Edition] – December 4-5, 2021

Santa Claus is slightly judgmental. He only brings presents to good boys and girls. Those who misbehave are on the naughty list and will receive only coal in their stockings. As J. Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie wrote in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Only youngsters most deserving of gifts can expect to find presents underneath the tree.

Jesus is the polar opposite of Santa: He gives the greatest gift to those who are the least deserving. He came to grant salvation and eternal life to evil people, not good people. As He Himself said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Furthermore, He came to erase your name from the “naughty list” and write it in His book, the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). 

The fact that shepherds were the first to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth embodies Christ’s mission to save the undeserving. The glad tidings were announced by the exalted angels of heaven, not to kings or emperors, but to some of the most insignificant people in Judean society. Luke wrote, “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them” (Luke 2:8-9a). Shepherds were thought to be insignificant and contemptible. Jews considered them to be unclean, deceitful, and uneducated. Nonetheless, they were the first to hear the wonderful news that the Savior had been born.

The Gospels reinforce the idea that Jesus came for the low-ranking people of the world. The first disciples were fishermen. Jesus healed social outcasts: lepers, paralytics, and the demon-possessed. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He cared for widows and the sexually immoral. There’s no question about it—Jesus came to save the least qualified.

You don’t have to be outstandingly competent to receive His gift of eternal life. The Lord Jesus will grant salvation to you, no matter who you are or what you have done. Eternal life can be yours even if you are sexually immoral, idolatrous, adulterous, greedy, or addicted (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Jesus is the significant Savior who came for insignificant people. That is why Jesus is better than Santa. If you want to learn more about the significance of Jesus’ coming to earth, check out my new Christmas devotional on Amazon: “Let Earth Receive Her King: 25 Daily Advent Devotions.”


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

Heaven’s Christmas Celebration | Bible Gleanings [Advent Edition] – November 27-28, 2021

Thanksgiving is behind us and that means Christmastime is near. Christmas is the grandest and greatest celebration of the year. Unlike other holidays, Christmas has its own decorations, music, foods, traditions, characters, and colors. It is even a worldwide phenomenon, with thousands of cultures across the globe anticipating Christmas Day. How did Christmas become so extravagant and why is it celebrated?

It may seem surprising, but Jesus did not issue a command to celebrate His birthday with holiday carols and hot cocoa. Instead, most modern-day Christmas traditions originated in Europe and parts of the ancient world which were predominantly pagan. During the winter solstice, the Romans honored the god of agriculture during Saturnalia by feasting and exchanging gifts. To appease the wrath of Oden, the Germans adorned their trees with fruit and candles. Other such polytheistic cultures “decked the halls” with greenery during winter because their sun god was ill and needed wreaths and garland to cheer him up.

It appears that early Christians celebrated Christmas to protest such paganism. They “Christianized” the symbols and customs, giving them Christological meanings. They even adopted the Roman holiday commemorating the birthday of the god, Mirtha, which was observed on December 25. Instead of complaining about the pagan festivities of their society, they simply replaced them with new meaning.

According to historical accounts, Christians also out-celebrated pagans because, in their eyes, Jesus was far more deserving of praise than the gods of wood and stone worshipped by their society. They were proclaiming a bold message by celebrating Christmas: only the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of worship.

Apparently, the angels in heaven agree. Heaven erupted in acclamation and praise when Jesus was born: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (Luke 2:13). Once the angel announced that Christ had come (Luke 2:9-12), myriads of angels joined him in the celebration. Heaven’s exuberant joy at Christ’s coming couldn’t possibly be expressed by only one angel—it took millions. So, the early Christians weren’t the first to celebrate Christmas—heaven was.

Heaven had a jubilee that blessed Christmas morn’ because Jesus deserves the highest praise, honor, and glory. And that is why many Christians have observed Christmas for centuries—Jesus is worth celebrating. This season offers a unique opportunity to glorify Jesus and boldly declare that He alone deserves our allegiance, affection, and adoration. Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” invites you to joyfully celebrate with the heavenly host:

Joyful, all ye nations rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!”


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

More Than a Holiday | Bible Gleanings – Nov 20-21, 2021

The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated among the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. Over a century later in 1789, President George Washington proclaimed the 26th of November to be a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving finally became an official federal holiday during the Civil War in 1863 by proclamation of President Lincoln. Thanksgiving is rich with American history. Thanksgiving is also rich with biblical history. The Israelites celebrated their own “thanksgiving” nearly 3,000 years ago, and it was much more than a holiday—it was an act of worship.

Psalm 100 was written to guide them as they gave thanks. The superscript of the psalm says it is, “A Psalm for giving thanks.” You, too, can use this psalm as a manual to assist you in giving thanks to the Lord. This helpful psalm tells us four things about thanksgiving:

(1) Giving thanks can be done through song. The first two verses read, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (vv. 1-2). Singing is essential to giving thanks (Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13). Sing a song to the Lord as an expression of gratitude for who He is and what He has done.

(2) Giving thanks is personal. The psalm continues, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). In order to give thanks to God, you must have a personal relationship with Him. You must be a sheep in His pasture. You cannot give thanks to a God you do not know.

(3) Giving thanks should be corporate: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (v. 4). You cannot fully give thanks to God unless you are in the company of other believers. Thanksgiving happens in His “courts” and “gates,” where His people assemble.

(4) Giving thanks should be done because of God: “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever; and his faithfulness to all generations” (v. 5). You are to give thanks because of who God is: good, loving, and faithful. Even if you had no blessings, God would still be worthy of thanksgiving because He is God.

Let Psalm 100 guide you on Thanksgiving Day as you honor the Lord with your gratitude.


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

Coals in the Fireplace | Bible Gleanings – Nov 13-14, 2021

He arrived bright and early every Sunday to greet each churchgoer with an inviting handshake. You could hear him from the back pew each time the sermon stirred his heart, too. “Amen, pastor. Preach it!” he’d say. He gave generously to every offering and served on every committee. That’s why, after missing church for four weeks in a row, his absence was obvious to all. Something wasn’t quite right.

Although the pastor wrote him letters, the back pew remained empty. Members of the church encouraged him to come back when they saw him in the grocery, but to no avail. “I’ll visit him at home. I’ve got an idea,” the pastor thought.

The minister was warmly welcomed inside after knocking on the door. The two exchanged pleasantries and then sat by the fireplace. “I’m sure you understand why I’m here,” the pastor added. “It’s not good for you to be absent from church.” The pastor then listened patiently as the man rattled off excuses for why he had missed church for so long.

The pastor then reached for the fire poker and pushed one of the coals away from the fireplace. Without saying a word, they both sat watching the coal slowly burn out. “Would you look at that?” asked the pastor. “The heat of the coal goes away if it’s not in the fireplace, surrounded by other hot coals.” The man’s eyes welled up with tears as he realized the object lesson: his spiritual fire was burning out because he had spent too much time away from church, the Christian’s fireplace.

This story has circulated for many years because it conveys a timely truth: Christians need the church to stay on fire for the Lord. We should gather each Sunday with other hot coals in the local church to rekindle our own flame for the Lord and His work. The kindling we need to stay on fire is available every Sunday: fellowship with the saints, preaching from the Bible, and the exercise of our spiritual gifts. The flame of our zeal for God will burn out if we are absent from the fireplace. The pouring rain of life’s trials and the strong wind of Satan’s temptations threaten to extinguish it, too.

The Lord commands us all to congregate with His people so that we can burn for Him rather than burn out: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, KJV). Are you a coal in the fireplace or a smoldering ember?


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

The Place to Be | Bible Gleanings – November 6-7, 2021

1,000 Places to See Before You Die, a New York Times bestseller written by Patricia Schultz, catalogues a thousand unforgettable places on God’s green earth that showcase the “best the world has to offer.”1 Her contention is that you should visit these breathtaking locations before you breathe your last. You should travel to these areas before your soul travels to eternity. Behold the giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park, she says. Admire the intricate architecture of India’s Taj Mahal. Tan your hide on the baking beaches of Fiji.

Schultz affirms an indisputable truth: our planet is magnificently beautiful and indescribably stunning. As Louis Armstrong would say, “And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.” She also confirms a popular misconception held by thousands of people: this world is all there is, so you better see it all before you die. Van Halen used to sing about it: “Whoa, you don’t have to die an’ go to heaven, or hang around to be born again; Just tune in to what this place has got to offer, ‘cause we may never be here again.” 

Frankly, I am more concerned about going to a better world when I die instead of seeing this whole world before I die. The Imperial Palace in Beijing is gorgeous, but it pales in comparison to the glorious mansions built in heaven for followers of Christ (John 14:2). Paris and Prague may be among the most elegant cities on earth, but they don’t compare to the eternal city, “whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). New Zealand’s splendid landscapes are unimpressive compared to the New City that will one day come “down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2). I don’t want to rendezvous among the most lovely countries on earth; I want to rest my soul in “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16).

This world is not all there is. In fact, this old world is “passing away,” and it will one day be “burned up and dissolved” (1 John 2:17; 2 Peter 3:10). Heaven is the place you want to be when you die, my friend. But you will only get there if your name is on God’s “guest list,” the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).

How can you see and enter this heavenly place? Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). You must be made new to enter the city where all things are made new. This happens when you repent of your sins and trust fully in Christ for your salvation. When you do that, you’ll have your ticket to glory on Zion’s heavenbound ship.

  1. Patricia Schultz. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 2003).

Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

When You Steal the Turkey | Bible Gleanings – Oct 30-31, 2021

I could hear the plate being nudged and licked from the next room. Instantly, I knew who produced the eating noises because the suspect was a repeat offender. “Hey! Are you back on the counter again?!” Knowing she was caught red-handed, the guilty beagle hurried forward with her head bowed in shame. The little scalawag had swiped my entire turkey sandwich off the counter.

I have often wondered why she behaves this way. I understand the theft of my turkey club, but why does she always run to me in servility when she’s in trouble? Apparently, dogs do this as a sign of submission. According to zoological research, dogs will frequently lie down, lower their gaze, and bow with guilty eyes to convey, “I was wrong, and I am sorry.” Such humility is an innate habit that dates back to their wolf ancestors. They are demonstrating that they have transgressed the leader of the pack—you.

Mark that down as yet another reason why dogs are better than humans, because we do precisely the opposite when we steal the turkey. When we sin against God, our wicked instinct is to flee from Him rather than run to Him. We seldom ever confess our wrongdoing immediately after grasping something that God has purposely placed out of our reach.

We all suffer from “Jonah syndrome,” in which we strive to stay as far away from God as possible. If there’s a Tarshish-bound ship rowing away from His presence, we’ll pay the ticket and come aboard (Jonah 1:3). Such rebellion and resistance dates back to our human ancestors, Adam and Eve. When they sinned in the Garden, they made a hasty exit from the presence of the Lord: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). 

However, the right response to transgressing God’s divine law ought to be submission to His authority and confession of wrongdoing. We ought to rush into God’s presence saying, “I was wrong, and I am sorry,” especially if we possess a new nature through faith in the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). When we “steal the turkey,” we ought to pray with King David:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment” (Psalm 51:3-4).


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

Weeds Disguised as Flowers | Bible Gleanings – Oct 23-24, 2021

A thicket of royal blue flowers caught my attention. The matte green leaves swayed in the breeze, calmly holding elegant azure petals with a tiny yellow stigma in the center. How had they gone unnoticed? They did, after all, blossom atop the mulch beside my porch. The foreign flowers must have been planted by the wind or a cardinal. 

“Dakota will think I planted these,” I reasoned. She will say that I’ve got a knack for flowers when she sees their splendor. “I need to figure out what these are so I know what to call them.” Unfortunately for me, the research destroyed my boasting. Although they had the appearance of lovely orchids, they were dayflower weeds—a nuisance! Dayflower weeds are pesky, invasive, nutrient-stealing gremlins that have no place in a flower bed. They sure fooled me. The reality is, some weeds look like flowers. 

One of Scripture’s most grim teachings is that many outwardly righteous people appear to be flowers—true believers. But they might be weeds disguised as flowers—unbelievers. Your outward appearance may be elegantly beautiful. You may draw everyone’s attention by your impressive good works. You may check every Christian box with a bold mark. And you may fool every passerby, but you will not fool the Lord God (Gal. 6:7a).

The staggering truth is that you are a weed waiting to be burned if you have never truly exercised repentance and faith toward Christ alone for salvation (Acts 17:30; Eph. 2:8-9). Jesus once spoke about this in Matthew 13:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn” (vv. 24-30).

Everyone’s true spiritual condition will be revealed on the Last Day when God reaps the field of the world. It is God’s job to do the reaping—not ours. Our job is to see that everyone becomes wheat by faith in Christ, so that they can be gathered into the barn of God’s kingdom. Until then, false believers may look like true believers. Weeds will grow among wheat, and weeds may imitate flowers.


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

The Return of the King | Bible Gleanings – Oct 16-17, 2021

Atlanta’s traffic was unusually quiet. The hum of engines and hollers of expletives had simmered down. The once-thundering interstate was eerily tranquil. Except for a swarm of police motorcycles and SUVs, the southbound lane was barren. Seconds later, an army of black sedans and Suburbans with blacked-out windows trailed behind. Moreover, police were stationed at every exit, ramp, and overpass to ensure that no one could enter or exit the interstate. As Dakota and I drove home from a sunbaked Florida vacation, we were mystified by the absence of drivers and the presence of police.

Someone important must have been passing through to require an escort like that. After doing some research, I discovered that Vice President Mike Pence was headed for the airport after speaking at a rally in Atlanta—and we had just missed him. The Secret Service paused everything to protect him. Downtown Atlanta literally hit the brakes because of the presence of the world’s second most powerful man.

A day is coming when the sovereign King of the universe shall return in glory and judgment—and everyone on earth will slam their brakes at His glorious and terrifying presence. The normal traffic of everyday life will come to a halt (Matthew 24:36-44). An army of angels will be His heavenly escort (Matthew 24:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). There will be no road of escape (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). It will not, however, be eerily quiet, as there will be both joyous shouting and horrific screaming (Revelation 1:7). And when this King returns, it will not be a brief visit to one city, but a final visit to earth to judge the wicked, reward the righteous, wage war on Satan, and dissolve our cosmos to make way for a new one (Hebrews 9:28; 2 Peter 3:1-13; Revelation 20:7-10).

Do a little research in the Book—this is what it will tell you:

“When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, [he will inflict] vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7b-10).

Only God knows when this day will come, and no one is allowed to see His calendar. Therefore, prepare yourself now by embracing this King as your only Savior and Lord. As the psalmist graciously counseled, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12).


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

Pardon Me | Bible Gleanings – Oct 9-10, 2021

Proper punctuation saves lives—just ask Maria Fedorovna. She was the wife of one of Russia’s vilest emperors, Alexander III (1845–1894). He ruled as Tsar of Russia in the late 1800s, centralizing power, castigating Jews, and condemning Western ideals. Maria, on the other hand, was sympathetic and sensitive, proving the old idiom that opposites attract. According to legend, Alexander signed an executive order deporting an alleged traitor to exile. The order simply read, “Pardon impossible, to be sent away to Siberia.” Maria, driven by kindness, moved the comma, making the order read, “Pardon, impossible to be sent away to Siberia.” The charges were dismissed, and the man was released, all because of a change in punctuation.

All who are justified by faith in Christ have experienced the same thing (Romans 3:21-28; Gal. 2:16). If you are saved by grace through faith, God moved the comma for you (Eph. 2:8-9). The Judge of all sinners has pardoned those whose hope is in Christ alone. The divine dictum for your trespasses once read, “Pardon impossible, to be sent away to eternal destruction” (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:7). Because of Christ, it now reads, “Pardon, impossible to be sent away to eternal destruction” (John 5:24; 10:28; Jude 1:24).

As a matter of fact, the penal prescript for your punishment has been completely scrapped. As Paul said,

“[God has] forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14-15).

Your hell-sentence was not commuted, as if it were shortened or lessened; instead, it was obliterated. You will never be exiled from the presence of God. You will never spend even a minute paying for your sins in hell.

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

Biblical Resources From Eleven Years of Ministry