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Actor Portrayal | BIBLE GLEANINGS AUGUST 22-23, 2020

Actor Portrayal

Many commercials on television promote new products and services with personal testimony from people who have benefited from the product themselves. When a new gadget hits the market, you’ll see someone in the commercial rave about how it has changed their lives for the better. When a new medicine is developed, the person in the commercial is seen enjoying their lives like never before. However, if you pay close attention you will often see the words ACTOR PORTRAYAL in tiny print near the bottom of the screen. That signals that the individual in the advertisement hasn’t actually used the product or service for themselves.

I don’t know about you, but I immediately question the effectiveness of whatever they’re advertising if the company has to hire an actor to promote it. In fact, it makes me think the product or service doesn’t work at all! The actors are real and so is their enthusiasm, but their claim about the proficiency of a product or service is repudiated when there is no real evidence that they themselves have been changed by it. It’s all acting.

The Bible talks about actor portrayal. The Lord Jesus sternly warned that it is possible to offer lip service to God while your heart is far from Him: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). You can be enthusiastic about God and the gospel without actually being changed by the gospel or encountering God for yourself. Reading the Bible, going to church, singing hymns, and doing good works are just an actor portrayal if you haven’t experienced the life-changing power of the gospel firsthand. Even if you have genuinely trusted in Christ and believed the gospel, people will question the effectiveness of the gospel if you show little to no evidence that you’ve been changed by it. If you don’t practice what you preach, people will wonder whether or not the gospel works at all. When we live no differently than anyone else, it is as though “actor portrayal” has been visibly labeled upon our lives.

Hypocrisy always kills the appeal of the gospel. God doesn’t call you to act before men, but to live a genuinely righteous life before Him: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Obviously, no Christian is perfect and there’ll even be times when you live hypocritically—it happens to all of us. The issue is not with occasional falls into the sin of hypocrisy. The issue is if you promote the effectiveness of the gospel but contradict that claim by living the same as everyone else. Have you been changed by the gospel or is your life an actor portrayal?

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 will be posted for reading here.

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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).

The Fiery Tongue | Bible Gleanings August 15-16, 2020

The Fiery Tongue

“Only you can prevent forest fires.” We are all familiar with this stern warning from Smokey Bear. The Forest Service created this advertising icon in the 1940’s to encourage the prevention of wildfires, since over 85% are caused by the neglect and carelessness of human beings. His famous catch phrase reminds us that we must never underestimate the destructive potential of fire. Even the smallest flame can consume an entire forest in a matter of days. As recently as 2016, thousands of acres in the Smoky Mountains went up in flames because of a fire started by two minors. To this day, wildfires continue to ravage our beautiful country, often because of unattended campfires, discarded cigarettes, and the burning of garbage and debris. The point is, you can never be too careful when it comes to fire safety in the outdoors. That’s what Smokey’s warning is all about.

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:5b-6). Are we as familiar with this austere warning about the calamitous capability of the flame that lies caged behind our teeth? James the apostle said the tongue is like a small spark or flame that can set an entire forest ablaze. Although the tongue is small, it has the potential to burn down your life or the life of others. An ill-spoken word, a false rumor, a white lie, a crude joke, or any other sin of the tongue may bring destruction and damage that is irreparable. Your words can easily ignite a fire that will burn out of control.

How can you prevent a fire from breaking out of your mouth? (1) Think carefully about your words before you say them: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). (2) Pray for God’s help and yield to His Spirit: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3). (3) By God’s grace, learn to use your tongue for good instead of evil: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). (4) Understand that without God’s power, you can never tame your tongue: “But no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:8a).

Let the Lord have control of your words so He may extinguish the smallest spark before it grows. Only He can prevent a fire from breaking out of your mouth.

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 will be posted for reading here.

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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).

Too Close! | Bible Gleanings August 8-9, 2020

Too Close!

Like most people, you probably enjoy the comfort and security of a hotel room when on vacation. A quality room with a plush bed and coffee maker are the closest you can get to home when you’re away from home. However, if you get a kick out of getting as close to danger as possible, there are plenty of options out there. If you’re vacationing in Zambia, you can sleep in a glass igloo surrounded by elephants, giraffes, and wild dogs. Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia is just the place. They offer eighteen chalets in the exotic thicket of South Luangwa National Park. If you like tree houses, you can book your stay in a transparent capsule on the side of a mountain in Peru. Thanks to Skylodge Adventure Suites, you can sleep on a cliff in a see-through capsule which is accessible only by zipline. Maybe you’re the type that loves water. No problem! You can reserve your own bubble room sixteen feet below sea level at Manta Resort in Zanzibar. At this resort, guests are guaranteed a private underwater room complete with a butler who comes to you by boat. Yes, for a hefty price, you can forfeit all safety and security and turn your next vacation into a near-death experience!

Some people like to live on the edge—it’s inherent in their nature. As a matter of fact, inherent in your nature is a desire to get close to the edge—the edge of sin. As sinners, we try to bend the rules and camp on the cliff when it comes to violating God’s commands. More often than not, we flirt around with sin and see how close we can get when we should be getting as far away as possible. Because of our sin nature, we love to play with fire and come as close as we can to the fiery dangers of sin.

Think about all the biblical characters who destroyed themselves by coming too close to the edge. Adam and Eve lingered near the tree which God forbade before eating its forbidden fruit. Lot camped on the border of the detestable city of Sodom before going full speed down a path that wrecked his life. Samson dilly dallied in Gaza before going into a prostitute which defaced his once-honorable legacy. David watched from his palace as Bathsheba bathed before committing adultery with her.

No matter how thrilling it may be to our sinful nature, coming close to the edge always leads to destruction. The bill for sin always comes due. Instead of testing the limits, God calls you to flee from sin as fast as possible. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). Flee from sin and its danger. Don’t make your reservations in places that’ll get you closest to it (1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).


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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).

A Guide for Thanksgiving

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it’s important to remember the history of this holiday. The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated among the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. Over a century later, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, the 26th of November 1789, a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. However, Thanksgiving became an official federal holiday when President Lincoln declared it as such during the Civil War, 156 years ago. Thanksgiving is rich with American history.

And while nothing is more American than abandoning our diets and fighting each other over discounts the day after we remember what we’re thankful for, Thanksgiving is not exclusively American. The Bible tells us that 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.

Three millennia ago, Psalm 100 was written as a guide for the Jews as they gave thanks and expressed gratitude for their blessings, much like we do at Thanksgiving. It is, as the superscript of the psalm says, “A Psalm for giving thanks.” It provides guidance and instruction regarding thanksgiving. And as Thanksgiving approaches, you can use this psalm as a manual for how to give thanks to the Lord.

Psalm 100 tells us four things about thanksgiving:

(1) Giving thanks can be done through song. In the first two verses, it says, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” 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 your 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 know Him as Lord. You must be among His people—a sheep in His pasture.

(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 presence of other believers. Thanksgiving happens in His “courts” and “gates.”

(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 God is good, loving, and faithful.

Let Psalm 100 guide you this week—honor the history of Thanksgiving by honoring the Lord with your thanksgiving.


profile pic5Brandon 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, Aries, and Dot.