Tag Archives: fellowship

Bad Company | Bible Gleanings – January 21-22, 2023

It didn’t make sense. How could this have happened? How did a brand new bag of lemons go bad so quickly? Except for one moldy lemon I had forgotten to discard, they were all glistening and golden yellow. This mystery left me sour—how did they all turn from ripe to rotten in a week? 

The good lemons had apparently acquired the invasive mold from the bad lemon. Mold is an aggressive fungus that contaminates everything within its reach in the blink of an eye. Hence, the miniscule mold of one rotten lemon was enough to corrupt all the healthy ones. As the old adage says, “One bad apple can spoil the barrel.” It must also apply to lemons!

It also applies to the company we keep as believers. No matter how much of a “good lemon” you are, you can easily acquire infectious sin from fellowshipping carelessly or continuously with “bad lemons.” The Bible is clear that even good Christians can be corrupted if they keep evil company. The apostle Paul admonished, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals”” (1 Cor. 15:33). The applicable Proverbs also warn against keeping bad company: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20).

Placing yourself in the same sack as the ungodly ensures that their sin will creepily cling to you. As Solomon warned, “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Prov. 25:26). You can still associate with the wicked; after all, how else will you fish for men (Mark 1:17)? However, you must never let your guard down or keep only evil company. Even Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, but He never participated in their sin (Matt. 9:10; cf. John 8:29).

Abstain from the company of “bad lemons” just as David did when he declared, “I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked” (Psalm 26:4-5). Don’t hold hands with the ungodly, “lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Prov. 22:25). Remain diligent especially when striving to help others overcome sin, so that their sin doesn’t entice you: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). And surround yourself with other “good lemons” in God’s family, namely, those who are living exemplary lives of godliness: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17).

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

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).

Being With Jesus | Bible Gleanings – December 31-January 1, 2023

The scolding sun seared my skin as I sat by the sea in the Sunshine State. My giant forehead glowed red, and the rest of my body had roasted like a rotisserie chicken. When I returned home, no one assumed that I had painted myself brown or miraculously changed my ethnicity. I had clearly been basking in the blistering sun because the proof was all over me. That’s simply what time in the sun will do for you.  

That’s what time with the Son will do for you, too. When you spend enough time with Jesus, the proof will be written all over you. Talking often with Him will make a difference in the way you talk to others. Praying unceasingly before His face will change even the look on your face (cf. Acts 6:15). You cannot bathe in the rays of the sun without being noticeably affected, and you cannot bask in the presence of the Son without being profoundly transformed. 

People will notice the difference in your character and conduct, and their attention will be drawn to the One who made it (cf. Matt. 5:16). Even your adversaries will see the change in you, just as the satanically controlled Sanhedrin couldn’t deny that Peter and John had been with Jesus. As Luke said, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). These men were with Jesus for so long that He rubbed off on them! They were walking and talking like the Lord because they had been walking and talking with the Lord. 

The transformation Jesus makes can also be very unsettling to those around you. Some may be worried that the Lord will rub off on them as well. Those who are not prepared to change their life may be intimidated by the change Christ has made in yours. They may resist getting close to you, fearful that they might get too close to the Lord by doing so. That is what happened to Moses after his extended meeting with the Lord atop Mt. Sinai:

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:29-30).

The radical transformation that comes from being with Jesus is precisely what William D. Longstaff (1822-1894) expressed in his beautiful hymn, Take Time to Be Holy. The second verse encourages all believers to spend more time with Jesus in order to become more like Jesus:

“Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;

Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.

By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;

Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.”

Will you take time to be with Jesus?

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

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).

An Unexpected Obstacle That Hinders Evangelism and Fellowship

“Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” — Acts 11:1-3

The Jerusalem church received an incredible report: the Gentiles embraced the gospel with open arms. The gospel ship landed on the Gentile shores of pigs and pagans. The sweet sound of salvation in Jesus’ name echoed from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Acts 4:12; 10:1). The promises Jesus made about His gospel reaching the nations were being fulfilled (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

The only right response is, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done!” But strikingly, that is not the way the church in Jerusalem responded. Instead, they scorned Peter, saying, “What have you done?”

They were appalled that Peter made friends with the Gentiles, glossing over the awesome reality that the Gentiles became friends of God. They criticized Peter for socializing with Gentiles, slighting the fact that Peter evangelized the Gentiles. They reprimanded him for welcoming Gentiles with a hand of fellowship, disregarding that God had welcomed Gentiles into His kingdom by His righteous right hand.

Genuine believers like Andrew, James, and John criticized Peter for doing good—taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Of course, they were stirred up by the devout Jews of the “circumcision party,” but isn’t this bizarre? How could true believers be so frustrated by a trivial issue such as eating with Gentiles? And why were they hesitant to welcome the Gentile believers into the church?

On the one hand, you have to cut them a break. They did not yet understand what God was doing by expanding His kingdom beyond Jerusalem. We have the books of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Hebrews to explain the union of Jew and Gentile into one body; they did not. Additionally, the Lord had only spoken to Peter in a vision about including Gentiles in His saving plan (Acts 10:9-16).

On the other hand, this was a grave error. Because of their fixation on circumcision and the Law of Moses, they instinctually required Gentiles to do more than embrace Christ as Savior and Lord—they also had to embrace Judaism. Thankfully, they later understood their error and addressed the issue as a congregation (Acts 11:18; 15:1-35). But at this point, their high regard for circumcision and law-keeping was a barrier to unity and a roadblock to evangelization. Their imposition of criteria and conditions that had no saving value were a clenched fist to communion and a locked door to fellowship.

We should be careful in pointing fingers at these Jewish Christians for their subtle favoritism, however, because the Lord points His finger at us for precisely the same sin. Sometimes, we tend to focus on trivial issues that have no saving value. Whether we realize it or not, we sometimes erect artificial barriers that disrupt unity and discourage evangelism. This is what we refer to as legalism, when we knowingly or unknowingly bind others to observe man-made rules.

This may sound shocking, but sometimes what hinders evangelism of unbelievers and fellowship with fellow believers is not cultural differences, geographical distance, or even Satan—it is us. And believe me, I want to shout, “Say it ain’t so!” But if believers were totally immune to such partiality, Paul would have saved his ink in Romans 14 where he wrote, “Don’t quarrel over opinions” (v. 1), “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (v. 10), and “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (v. 13).

Every true believer should be enthusiastically offered the hand of fellowship, regardless of whether they vote differently, look differently, or hold contrary opinions. External and superficial matters like these do not matter to the Lord who sees the heart—what matters is that one’s heart has been changed by the Lord.

Furthermore, the gospel message should be fervently carried to every unbeliever, regardless of whether they are alcoholics, addicted to drugs, immersed in false religion, stubborn to the things of God, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, black or white, or pro- or anti-vaccine.

All those guilty of such partiality will give an account to the Lord for standing in the way of the saving gospel and sanctifying fellowship. Such a discriminatory spirit is anti-gospel, satanic, and should be immediately repented of when found in the heart. Don’t let inconsequential things get in the way of fellowship or evangelism. Every believer should be embraced. Every unbeliever should be evangelized.

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 Prayingest Prayer I ever Prayed” | Bible Gleanings – March 13-14, 2021

Prayer Posture

It was a sweltering and sultry summer day—an unpleasant ninety-five degrees—when five local clergymen convened for an afternoon of enriching fellowship. The baking heat outdoors paled in comparison, however, to the steam in the meeting room. These residential ministers—deacons and pastors both—had begun to argue. Not long after the exchange of pleasantries and mutual spiritual check-ups, the men engaged in a respectful but conviction-driven debate about the proper way to pray.

“The proper way for a man to pray, and the only proper attitude, is down upon his knees,” said Deacon Keyes. His proposition was immediately met with retort from Reverend Wise. “No, I should say the way to pray, is standing straight, with outstretched arms, and rapt and upturned eyes,” he remarked. Elder Slow, who couldn’t bear this heresy, corrected: “Oh no! Such posture is too proud! A man should pray with eyes fast closed and the head contritely bowed.” Having heard enough nonsense, Reverend Blunt observed, “It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front, with both thumbs pointing toward the ground.”

After everyone zealously preached their opinions, Brother Cyrus Brown decided to preach his experience. Leaning back with his thumbs in the straps of his overalls, he recounted, “Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well head first, with both my heels a-stickin’ up, my head a-pointin’ down; and I made a prayer right then an’ there—best prayer I ever said, the prayingest prayer I ever prayed, a-standing on my head.”1

Cyrus made his point loud and clear: there is no correct physical posture for prayer. As long as you are an adopted child of the heavenly Father (Gal. 4:6), God will hear your prayers at anytime and at any place. Moreover, people in Scripture were heard by God whether they prayed kneeling (2 Chron. 6:13; Dan. 6:10), prostrate (Neh. 8:6; Matt. 26:39), with lifted hands (Ps. 141:2; 1 Tim. 2:8), or lying down in bed (Ps. 6:6). What matters in prayer is not your physical posture, but your spiritual posture—not the position of your body, but the position of your heart.

In the passage famously known as The Lord’s Prayer, but more fittingly called The Disciples’ Model Prayer, Jesus explains what the right heart position is for prayer (read Matthew 6:5-13). First, the motivation of your heart must be right. You ought not pray only for the approval and applause of others (vv. 5-6). Don’t pray to be seen by men—pray to be seen by God, who “sees in secret.” Second, the mindset of your heart must be right. God is omniscient and “knows what you need before you ask Him,” and therefore you do not need lengthy liturgical prayers and mindless religious repetitions to get His attention (vv. 7-8). Don’t try to impress God when you pray—just be humble and honest before Him. Finally, there is a model you must follow in order to orient your heart in the right position (vv. 9-13). Jesus instructed that your prayers should begin with a focus on God, His kingdom, and His will (vv. 9-10). After expressing praise to God and submission to His will, you should pray for your physical and spiritual needs (vv. 11-13).

Take it from Cyrus Brown—the prayingest kind of prayer depends, not on where you are, but where your heart is.

  1. This story is modified from a poem by Sam Walter Foss. Some say the poem stands by itself, some say it is adapted from an anecdotal story. This is just how I’ve told the story through the years, though it is not entirely original.

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

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).