Tag Archives: free

Beggars | Bible Gleanings – Sept 3-4, 2022

A proficient painter once sought to portray the Bible’s “prodigal son” in a pastel painting. He searched every asylum, prison, and soup kitchen to find a man ragged enough to embody the prodigal, but he was unsuccessful. One day, as he was walking home he encountered a poor beggar curled up on the street. The man was disheveled, dirty, and destitute—the ideal candidate for the painting. The artist approached him and offered payment in exchange for being painted as a model, and the beggar agreed.

When the day came, a clean-shaven man in a crisp suit and tie stood in the studio. When the artist asked who he was, the stranger reminded him, “You made an appointment with me, remember?” “Sir, I’ve never seen you before in my life,” replied the painter. “Yes, it’s me!” said the man. “You wanted me to meet you here at ten o’clock!” To which the painter explained, “You must be mistaken; I was to see a beggar here at this hour.” “I am he!” said the man, “I just thought I would dress myself up a bit before I got painted.” And the painter said, “No, no, no! I didn’t want you dressed up and perfect; I wanted you just as you were.”1

And the same can be said of the God who painted the constellations upon the canvas of the heavens. God does not command us to “clean up” and make ourselves presentable before we approach Him. He does not expect us to come to Him adorned in the polished suit of religious works. The Lord doesn’t want you to be embellished in religious makeup or doused in the perfume of piety. He calls you to come to Him just as you are, as a bankrupt beggar in need of the riches found in Christ Jesus.

We have all wallowed like swine in the mire of iniquity, and we reek of sin’s stench. Even so, God urges us to come to Him in repentance to be washed in Christ’s blood and clothed in His robes of white (cf. Luke 15:15-22; Revelation 3:5). Our account of righteousness doesn’t contain a penny of God-glorifying works, either (Matthew 5:3). And yet, Jesus calls us to bring Him an empty cup so that He may fill it with the “unsearchable riches” of His gospel (Ephesians 3:8). The Lord’s invitation to all spiritual beggars is this: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price . . . Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 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 55:1, 6-7).

  1. D. L. Moody was the first to tell this story.
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).

A Free Offer | Bible Gleanings – Feb 12-13, 2022

In addition to receiving monthly bills in the mail, I also get a half-pound bundle of useless vouchers and coupons I never redeem. Limited-time cable and internet bargains, special fast-food discounts, and a membership form for AARP are all included in the colorful paper clump. The real prize lies buried within: a slew of slips emblazoned with the words, “FREE OFFER INSIDE.” And the offers are absolutely irresistible: a $100,000 life insurance policy for only $3 a month, a $200 gift card for a cable service that goes out when a raindrop hits the roof, and a free tank of gas when you purchase a truck with the low price tag of $50,000! 

However, if you read the fine print, you’ll find that the “free” offers aren’t actually free. There are always caveats and strings attached. And besides, none of the offers truly deliver on their claims. Fortunately, there is one free offer that is truly free. It always delivers on its promises, and it is clear of any belying fine print. It is not found in the mailboxes of every street, but it is offered to the heart of every sinner. And I found it, not when I opened a discount mailer, but when I opened my Bible, which says:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

God’s offer of everlasting life is free for all. You cannot buy it with an offering and you cannot earn it through good works (cf. Acts 8:20). Jesus purchased it in full by His atoning death, so you don’t have to (Eph. 1:7). That is why Paul declared, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Furthermore, there is no small print excluding anyone from the offer of forgiveness and eternal life. Salvation is for every tongue, class, and culture. God doesn’t pass you by because of how you look or where you come from. Every person of every race stands condemned before the bench of His righteousness, and every person is invited and commanded to be made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:22-23; 10:12-13).

Friend, this is an offer you can’t refuse. Reach out your hands and accept it by repenting of your sins and trusting wholly in Christ for your salvation (Acts 17:30; Gal. 2:16). And do so now while the offer still stands: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

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).

Sermon: Whosoever Meaneth Me, Part 2 (Acts 10:1-43) | Jan 30, 2022

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).

Sermon: Whosoever Meaneth Me, Part 1 (Acts 10:1-43) | Jan 23, 2022

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).

Leaving the Dark Side | Bible Gleanings – Jan 30-31, 2021

Leaving the Dark Side

Finn is an unusual stormtrooper who served in the First Order under the tyrannical reign of Darth Vader’s grandson, Kylo Ren. This new and daring character was introduced to the Star Wars universe in the 2015 film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Finn (or FN-2187) was one of the bad guys—complete with a bulky stormtrooper suit, intergalactic weapons, and allegiance to the dark side. That is, until he made the bold resolve to break free. Finn and Poe Dameron, a captured Resistance commander (one of the good guys), hijack a TIE Fighter and speed away into space, savoring freedom as they escape the Star Destroyer together. Finn was no longer a servant of the dark side—he broke free from their rank and file. He was no longer bound to his old stormtrooper suit. And he began serving among the rebels—the good guys.

Finn’s break-away story sounds a lot like the believer’s conversion story. Paul the apostle explained in Romans that believers have been released from the stranglehold and tyranny of sin: “And, having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Christ made the bold resolve to break you free from “the power of death” and “lifelong slavery” to sin (Hebrews 2:14-15), and he gloriously succeeded. You have escaped from the dark dominion of evil because God transferred you into His marvelous light (Col. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9). Because you are free indeed (John 8:36), you have died to the old order, the rank-and-file of your former way of life.

Your old relationship to and with sin has been severed and destroyed. And just as Finn ditched his stormtrooper suit, you likewise have shed the old self along with your old ways when you came to Christ: “[You] have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:9-10). What is perhaps most fascinating and paradoxical is that, at your conversion, you died and came alive simultaneously. You came alive at your second birth and you were crucified! As Paul testified, “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

Of course, the old you sticks around and continues to cause trouble. You will continue to wage war against sin that lies within, although the old you has truly died. That’s another paradox in the Christian life. But here’s the point: if you have been set free from sin, you cannot live in it any longer—you must live a new life. God buried the old you so that you “might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). And the Spirit of God will strengthen and enable you to live like someone who has broken free from the dark side.

Here is the exciting scene referenced above:


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).

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).

Review: Finally Free by Heath Lambert

The use of pornography is a prevalent problem today among nearly every group of people—men and women, teens and adults, and believers and unbelievers. It has devastated hundreds of people, wrecked marriages, and even destroyed lives. Many great minds have put forth an abundance of resources about pornography and its devastating effects—books, self-help articles, and documentaries. Frankly, the amount of information on the internet about pornography is innumerable. But Heath Lambert’s work is refreshingly distinct. This book is not a book about pornography—this is a book about overcoming it. Lambert is an experienced counselor and a wise teacher who knows about the gripping power of pornography. In Finally Free, Lambert offers a persuasive and compelling case for incapacitating the sin of pornography through the grace of God in Christ.

Summary

The premise of the book is simple: believers who struggle with the sin of pornography can overcome it through the grace of God. Lambert begins the book by taking the reader to the start of the road to sexual purity—beginning where one should begin in overcoming sin: the grace of God. God’s grace is the foundation in the fight against pornography (and all sin). The grace of God both forgives and transforms, Lambert argues, and the grace of forgiveness and transformation are exactly what sinners engulfed in pornography desperately need. He contends that God’s grace to change a person is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy a person. At the same time, Lambert does caution readers that if they are drowning in pornography, they should read subsequent chapters and immediately start implementing the radical measures he describes in order to overcome pornography.

Flowing from the Bible’s teaching about grace, Lambert then unfolds eight grace-empowered strategies for overcoming and defeating the sin of pornography. This is the main part of the book and in it (chaps. 2-9), he asserts that pornography can be defeated through biblical, practical, and radical approaches. Lambert explains that Christians can use godly sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, spouses, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Christ to overthrow the grip of pornography. Each of these emphasize that overcoming pornography requires strategies that are thoroughly biblical, intensely personal, and sometimes hurtfully sacrificial. But they are all worth it and all empowered by the grace of God.

The book concludes with a stunning and encouraging call to holiness and hope. In the conclusion, Lambert compels readers to holiness and purity but also points them to the hope in Jesus Christ as they wage the battle against pornography. There are other features of the book that are extremely helpful in the battle with pornography. One is the practical suggestions found at the end of each chapter. Lambert lists three or four proactive ideas for how to employ the strategy explained in the preceding chapter. Another great feature of the book is the appendix—Lambert offers much help for people who know others who are struggling with pornography. One final feature which is excellent are the many testimonies laced throughout the book. At every turn, Lambert has included real-life stories of shame, defeat, and even victory that both warn and encourage the reader.

Interaction and Evaluation

Lambert’s approach to this book is the only approach to take—overcoming sin by God’s grace alone. I found that regularly and refreshingly helpful. In previously counseling others, I have often heard very self-dependent statements like, “If only I could quit this,” or “I swear that I am not going to do this again!” I struggled with pornography long ago and I said those exact things. Lambert has pointed out why focusing on “I” will always result in failure. We must focus on Christ and the grace He gives in order to overcome pornography or any sin, for that matter.

I have also found that the failure of many other books on pornography is that they only give you information about pornography. They try to tell you how bad pornography is, but not how to overcome it. Certainly, we need to know how bad it is—which Lambert himself explains. But struggling Christians need more than information—we need transformation. And this only occurs by employing the grace-empowered strategies outlined in the book. There is sufficient application in this book—I don’t think Lambert could have applied the teaching of Scripture more than he did.

Conclusion

Finally Free is aimed at helping people become just that—finally free from the choking grip of pornography—finally free to live a life of joyful purity. For those engulfed in this egregious sin—you don’t need to try harder and you don’t need to have better intentions. What you need is the grace of God and Heath Lambert will point you right to it. He shows you what tools you can use in this fight and how you can stay on the path to victory. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone else, Lambert offers the most biblical, practical, and urgent solutions for becoming finally free from pornography.

Buy on Amazon here. 

Review: The End of Secularism by Hunter Baker

Freedom from God is desirable only by those who wish for their own destruction. In fact, the desire for this freedom is what caused humanity to plunge into sin and death—so there is no reason to pursue it. But somehow, freedom from God in the political realm is the greatest pursuit. A society which is free from God and religion is the highest and inevitable goal of human society—and that is the heartbeat of secularism. According to secularism, human society flourishes when it is free of both God and religion so that we can focus on our fundamental interests, which we all supposedly have in common. History demonstrates that religion has resulted in only demise for human society—wars, division, and strife. Therefore, politics and the public square shouldn’t be guided by superstition or the supernatural. Moreover, as the human species progresses in knowledge and rationality, there simply is no need for religion anymore.

By observation of our surroundings, it would appear that secularism is indeed our inevitable destiny as a society, given its dominance in our government and among our institutions, colleges, and culture. But quite frankly—nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing more than a second glance at secularism is required to reveal that such an idea is far from the best option for a flourishing human society. Secularism is simply not the answer to the question of how we can function in society with so much plurality—and that’s what Hunter Baker establishes in The End of Secularism. Baker succinctly demonstrates that secularism offers no such neutral ground which it claims, and it is not something into which society must unavoidably drift. Instead, it is merely a disproportionate reaction to the numerous calamities resulting from church-state alliances in Western history.

Baker reveals that secularism fails to accomplish what it was designed to do—create and sustain social harmony without religion. Instead, the way to have social harmony is by valuing a public square that welcomes all voices into the discussions surrounding the interests of society. That is the only way to preserve free speech, religious freedom, and a democratic society. The title of the book is very fitting, for Baker explains the end goal of secularism and the end of it, because it is a poor idea coming to its death.

Summary of the Book

Baker accomplishes his goal in two major parts: history and rebuttal. In the first portion of the book, spanning chapters 1-8, he walks quickly through the development of secularism in Western history. Baker demonstrates through historical events and key figures that there has been a struggle for power between the church and the state, and how various solutions have been proposed for how to maintain balance between the two. In the second portion of the book, from chapter 7 to the end, he offers a reasoned rebuke of secularism as supposedly the best answer to this struggle. He evaluates and analyzes the results of the happenings of history and applies that assessment to America’s founding and current situation. The most powerful part of the rebuke comes in chapter 10 on through to the conclusion of the book, where he explains that secularism utterly fails to accomplish peace in human society.

Personal Impact

Prior to reading this book, I had not realized how much secularism dominates in the public square. It appears that any view which even smells of the Christian religion is marginal, while secularism is regarded as not only normal but noble. Separation of church and state has been misinterpreted as a comprehensive privatization of religion, and Baker powerfully demonstrates this in a way I had never realized before. I come away from the book with a new perspective on both secularism and religion.

A Few Issues

Although this book is probably the best on the subject, there are several things that could have made the book even better, in my opinion. First (and this may be a matter of opinion), Baker takes too long to get to the main point of the book. Obviously, the history in the first portion of the book makes a powerful and necessary point. But the book would have read much better had he woven the failures of secularism through the journey of history he explained. The beginning of the book starts by explaining some of secularism’s failures, but that is seemingly dropped until the second portion of the book. In the history section, there are hints here and there of secularism’s detrimental goals, but it isn’t as clear as it could have been. The meat of the book in the second portion was like eating a delicious supper you’ve been waiting for hours on. I feel like he could have at least given appetizers in the first half of the book.

Secondly, there appears to be no clear solution offered for how we can move forward with all of this information. It’s possible that this is not even part of the purpose of the book—but it would have made it better. The last page of the book (194) is the clearest explanation of what we should do regarding secularism:

“Pluralism is better than secularism because it is not artificial. In a pluralistic environment, we simply enter the public square and say who we are and what we believe. We make arguments that advert to religion or other sources of values, and they are more or less convincing on a case-by-case basis . . . In order to preserve our freedom to talk about him [God] in all that we do, even in politics, we need only respect others by seeking to persuade rather than to coerce. Surely that is preferable to replacing the organic heart of our civilization which a mechanical one.”

This is very general, however—a detailed plan would have been better. I don’t feel like there is sufficient application of the ideas presented in the book.

You Still Need This Book

Although there are a few shortcomings in this book, its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. The book is a much-needed rebuke of secularism. Christians who fear vocalizing their ideas in the public square should be emboldened by Baker’s unmatched work. He is the best person to write such a piece—he has been on both sides—once a secularist himself. And his penetrating words are timely—written in 2009 but written as though Baker could see into the future as our culture has become increasingly secularized.

Denying God’s Love (Malachi 1:2-5)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 20th day of May 2018, during the evening service.