Tag Archives: freedom

A Safehouse for Sinners | Bible Gleanings – July 10-11, 2021

They were sanctuaries for slaves—homes that made history. Lionhearted abolitionists all across the North volunteered their homes as safehouses for slaves seeking freedom prior to and during the Civil War. Homeowners from Indiana to New York partnered with antislavery activists like Harriet Tubman in a secret network known today as the Underground Railroad. They worked together to provide pathways to freedom for exhausted slaves. And over time, many of these homes were awarded landmark status because history happened within their walls.

When visiting places like the Johnson House in Philadelphia or the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City, one is filled with awe and humility because lives were transformed there. The hardwood floors are not divine. The brick walls are not holy. There is no mystical aura surrounding these historical sites. They are sacred sanctuaries because of what happened there: weary captives were liberated from slavery. 

The same can be said of any biblical church that faithfully preaches the gospel of Christ. A church that proclaims “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) is a holy sanctuary, not because the carpet and stained-glass windows are sanctified, but because enslaved sinners are set free within their walls. It makes no difference if your church is massive or miniscule; what matters is whether miracles happen within its walls. God wants our churches to be “safehouses” for sinners—places where they can be emancipated from spiritual slavery. He wants our churches to be places where hopeless sinners can experience the reality of Romans 6:

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17-18).

Jesus came to release men, women, and children from spiritual bondage to sin, the devil, and the world. He said it Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Such exhilarating freedom comes to weary sinners when they hear and believe the truth about Jesus: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). And it is the duty of every disciple to declare the gospel truth so people can believe it by faith. As God said in Isaiah, “[Say] to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’” (Isaiah 49:9b).

Does your church have “landmark status?” Is it a place where history is made, where sinners are redeemed from spiritual slavery? Is it a safehouse for sinners?


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 (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

Redeemed, Redeemed, Redeemed | Bible Gleanings – Feb 6-7, 2021

Redeemed, Redeemed, Redeemed

A youngster frolicked on the church lawn on a summer Lord’s Day, carrying in his hand a rusty cage with several nervous fluttering birds. Pastor A. J. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?” “Trapped ‘em out in the field, Reverend,” the boy replied. “Well, what are you plannin’ on doing with them?” Gordon asked. “Gonna play with ‘em for a while and probably feed ‘em to the old cat we have at home.” Gordon hated to see the birds consigned to such a fate, so he offered to buy them. The young lad exclaimed, “No sir! You don’t want these birds—they’re wild and can’t sing very well.” “What if I gave you two dollars?” Gordon proposed. As the boy conceded he admitted, “It’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.” The exchange was made and the boy skipped away whistling with his shiny coins. Gordon strolled to the back of the church, opened the wire prison, and released the captive birds into the blue sky.

On the following Sunday, the empty bird cage sat beside the pulpit as Gordon preached on the topic of redemption—the doctrine about Christ purchasing sinners’ freedom with His blood. And Gordon remarked, “The boy told me the birds were not songsters, but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!’”

Redemption in Scripture simply means deliverance by payment of a price, and Christ Jesus delivered and released you from the slave cage of sin by purchasing your freedom with His precious blood! You were not a trapped bird, however, but a slave completely allegiant to sin and miserably held under its dominion. You were willingly in the custody of sin. But God bought you—and He didn’t pay chump change for your redemption: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Once you were captive and captivated by sin—hopelessly confined to its rusty cage. But now liberation from the slavery, penalty, and power of sin are yours as God’s gift to you, paid for in full by the blood of Christ. You are, “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24; see also Ephesians 1:7). The shackles of sin are broken, the chain of sin that would have dragged you to hell has been pulverized, and the prison door has been kicked down. And friend, if you have been redeemed, the only fitting response is singing, “Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child, and forever, I am.”


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 (Aussiedor), and Dot (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 (Aussiedor), 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 (Aussiedor), and Dot (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 (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

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.