Tag Archives: God

Day 21: Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” —Luke 2:14

Everyone is familiar with the beautiful refrain of Angels We Have Heard on High which exclaims, “Gloria in excelsis Deo, Gloria in excelsis Deo.” Written by James Chadwick in the 1800’s, most of the carol’s lyrics are in English, with the exception of this well-known chorus. The phrase is the Latin rendition of what the angels declared during their heavenly jubilee as recorded in Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest.” Also, in many other Christmas carols is the rest of the angelic doxology, “and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” The KJV translation is the most recognized: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

No phrase is more fitting to sing at Christmastime since it reminds us of what Christ made possible by His coming: glory to God and peace to men. The angels first declare that glory is to be given to God in the highest. This means that such glory is given to God who is in the highest (since He is the Most High) and it is to be given to Him in the highest degree. The birth of Christ in the Bethlehem and His corresponding work at Golgotha enables you to give glory to God in the highest degree, as you will do one day in His eternal presence if you have made Christ your Savior.

But His coming also brings peace to those with whom God is pleased to give it. The peace and well-being that God gives comes to those who please Him by turning from sin and trusting in Jesus for salvation. If you know the Savior who was born on Christmas day, you can experience peace with God (Romans 5:1), inward peace (Philippians 4:7), and peace with others (Ephesians 2:14-16). This time of year, no matter how busy or even lonely you may be, you can gleefully sing Gloria in excelsis Deo because Christ’s coming empowers you to glorify God and experience true peace.


_fGOro4V_400x400

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, Aries, and Dot.

Day 18: God with Us

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” —Matthew 1:22-23

Many beloved Christmas carols contain references to Jesus as, “Immanuel” or “Emmanuel.” Hark! The Herald Angels Sing exuberantly says, “Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!” It is even in the title of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. What does this familiar word mean? Is it another name for Jesus? The Gospel writer Matthew explains exactly what it means, as he stated that Jesus’ birth fulfilled yet another ancient prophecy.

Immanuel is a title for Jesus—Emmanuel is the Greek transliteration while Immanuel is the Hebrew transliteration (the spelling and language are the only differences). And Matthew said that the title means, “God with us.” This title expresses the wonder of Christ’s incarnation more than any other title for Jesus. Immanuel means that God has come in the flesh to dwell with man. As John the apostle declared, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

God the Creator took on the form of the created. The infinite God assumed a finite body. The Lord God omnipotent and omnipresent became a man with limitations. He came to be with us so that we could be with Him. Jesus brought God’s presence to man so man could be brought into God’s presence. That is what it means for Jesus to be our Immanuel. And this is eternally better than a once-a-year visit from Santa on Christmas Eve, for Christ came on Christmas day as a man so you could be with God eternally.


_fGOro4V_400x400

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, Aries, and Dot.

Day 17: If the Fates Allow?

“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” —Matthew 1:17

One of the most beautiful Christmas songs is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It reminisces about all the joyful Christmases shared with family and friends and wishes the same to be enjoyed by all who hear it. However, one line in the song reflects a faulty (but common) understanding of the ordering of the universe: “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” Fate is the ordering of events outside of human control, usually by some unknown supernatural power. And in the song, fate is credited as making possible or impossible the togetherness of family and friends. Some have recognized the error of this and rightly modified the lyrics to say, “If the Lord allows.”

Fate has nothing to do with the development or unfolding of anything. Only the Lord is sovereign and in control of all situations and events. If the Lord permits something to occur, it will—if He does not, it cannot occur. And this wonderful and comforting truth of God’s sovereignty pulses in every verse of Matthew’s seemingly unnecessary genealogy. To demonstrate God’s rule in the world and His commitment to fulfill His plan, Matthew traces God’s providential hand through history beginning with Abraham and ending at the birth of Jesus Christ (see vv. 2-17).

Many things occurred in those thousands of years that should have obliterated God’s plan to save sinners through Christ, but the will of God prevailed. During the period of time from Abraham to David, there were wars, famines, debauchery, idolatry, and destruction. Many things happened that even threatened the existence of the Davidic line—the one Jesus had to be born into. But God’s plan revealed to Abraham to bless all families of the earth through his offspring was indestructible, unstoppable, and immutable (Genesis 12:1-3). Despite all of this, God fulfilled His word by bringing forth, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” at the right time (Matthew 1:1b).

God’s plan never fails—it never fails for you, either. It might take some time to see it fulfilled and things may appear to be hindering it, but as Matthew’s genealogy demonstrates—nothing can stop the plan of God. As Job of old proclaimed, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). You need not depend on fate—you need only to trust the Lord.


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.

Day 15: O, Christmas Tree

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” —John 3:16 (KJV)

No holiday is as decorative and festive as Christmas. Wreaths are hung on the door. Candles are placed on the window sill. The stair rail is adorned with garland. White lights glimmer outside around the edge of the roof. But most popular and more time-consuming than all other decorations is the Christmas tree. It is the centerpiece of decorating the home for Christmas. Many families even erect their Christmas tree immediately after Thanksgiving, before decorating with anything else.

The beautiful and lively Christmas tree in your living room has a rich history and is also a suitable symbol of a great theological truth. Thousands of years ago, evergreens like Christmas trees were placed everywhere during the winter to remind people of all the greenery that would grow again during the spring and summer. Pagans believed their sun god was ill and weak during the cold winter, but that he would recover in the warmer seasons. Evergreen trees, boughs, and wreaths gave them hope that their god would bless them again. The ancient Egyptians followed this custom as did the Romans and even the Vikings.

Around the 16th century, Christians began bringing decorated evergreens into their homes, probably to symbolize the gift of everlasting life that Christ gave by coming to the earth. Evergreens, as you are probably aware, have leaves which remain green and vibrant in all seasons of the year—hence the name, evergreen. The gift of life Jesus brought by His life, death, and resurrection is everlasting, meaning that it lasts forever. He did not come to make your life better—He came to give you life eternal by providing the atonement necessary for the forgiveness of your sins. The lovely Christmas tree is a wonderful symbol of the everlasting life Christ will give to you when you believe in Him. Interestingly, if you have everlasting life, you will one day be ushered into a place wherein the tree of life is in eternal bloom (Revelation 22:2).


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.

Day 9: The Gift of God

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 6:23

Where did the Christmas custom of giving and receiving gifts come from? Many speculate that it is an imitation of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men gave to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). It is also possible that the giving of gifts models the historical Saint Nicholas who gave gifts to poor children. Whatever the historical roots of tearing open presents on Christmas day, it serves as a fitting reminder of God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus. It is not a mistake that the word of God calls this a gift.

Eternal life is a gift, as Paul says in Romans 6:23. This conveys several things. First, it is given to you and is supposed to be accepted. God extends eternal life to you and you are supposed to receive it. Second, it cannot be earned—that’s why it’s a gift. You can’t work for or earn it. Third, as all gifts are an expression of life, so it is with God’s gift of eternal life—He gives it because He loves you.

All gifts have a cost and so does this one, except the cost is not paid by you—the cost was paid by God when He sent His Son to purchase eternal life. Eternal life comes freely to you because it was paid for by the death of Christ. Have you received this gift of eternal life by trusting in Jesus as your Savior? Nothing would be more of a gift to God than that you receive the gift of eternal life that He is offering to you.


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.

You Are Sealed (Eph. 1:13)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 21st day of October 2018, during the morning service:


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 two dogs, Susie and Aries.

You Are Chosen (Eph. 1:4)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 26th day of August 2018, during the morning service:


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian 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 two dogs, Susie and Aries.

Introduction to Ephesians: God’s Word to God’s People About God’s Blessings (Eph. 1:1-2)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 12th day of August 2018, during the morning service:


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian 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 two dogs, Susie and Aries.

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.