Tag Archives: john

Don’t Give Up on Saul | Bible Gleanings – June 11-12, 2022

You could tell from the evil glint in his eyes that violence entertained him. A mob of murderers once smashed a man to death with boulders, and he stood beside them with a villainous grin on his face. Like a member of the Gestapo, he violently dragged innocent people from their homes. He furiously detained and imprisoned individuals who were not guilty of any crime. And worst of all, he saw himself as a hero instead of a monster. 

He intended to continue his rampage of carnage, but he was arrested on the road to a city called Damascus. One credible source described it like this: “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-6).

The man was Saul of Tarsus, and Jesus of Nazareth captured and converted him. In one moment, the eyes that once burned with lust for bloodshed were filled with tears of repentance. Saul’s hardened heart was shattered by conviction and mended by grace. The Spirit of God dragged him away from sin toward salvation. After one meeting with Jesus, Saul became a preacher instead of a persecutor, an apostle instead of an adversary, and a servant of Christ instead of a slanderer of the church. 

God loved Saul, and He loves all the Sauls of the world. And He can save them, too. Saul’s salvation shows that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for even the evilest evildoer. As Saul himself testified, “But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:13b-15).

There is mercy for Saul, so don’t give up. Keep praying for the Saul(s) in your life. Keep preaching the gospel to them. Grace is still enough, the gospel is still effective, and God can still transform a Saul into a Paul. As John Piper encouraged, “Look on your adversaries with the eyes of faith—that someday, by the power of God they could experience a turn-around as amazing and unexpected as Saul’s.”

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).

Heaven Is Not About You | Bible Gleanings – Feb 26-27, 2022

The mounting pile of books on heaven sold online and in bookstores is nearly as high as heaven itself. Books written by people who claim to have visited heaven during a near-death or out-of-body experience are adding to the soaring heap. In these popular works, authors describe their blissful voyage to heaven, brought about by either serious medical issues or psychedelic mushrooms. There are more than a hundred such best-selling books, many of which are offered by evangelical retailers like LifeWay or Christianbook. Among the most popular are 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, and The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey (yes, that name is real). 

All of these books have one common theme: heaven is all about you and the fulfillment of your greatest desires. They talk about having the ability to fly like an angel, conversing with God in an eternal question-and-answer session, seeing all of your friends and loved ones (even those who didn’t believe), and enjoying an eternal dream home filled with every conceivable luxury. There’s only one problem: heaven is not all about you. According to the apostle John—the man who actually visited heaven by a spiritual vision—heaven is all about God and extolling His glory in Christ.

John saw a glimpse of heaven’s glory through “a door standing open in heaven” (Rev. 4:1), and he did not see people floating on clouds or sliding down rainbows. Instead, he saw a place where God is exalted and creation is humbled. His magnificent throne is at the center (Rev. 4:2-3). He is surrounded by unceasing angelic praise (Rev. 4:6-11). And the Lord Jesus is encircled by an everlasting chorus that says, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).

Heaven is God’s house, the place where His glory dwells (Psalm 26:8). Fortunately, the door to His immortal abode stands open to anyone who would enter by faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). You may walk through heaven’s door if you are dressed in the white garments of Christ’s righteousness (Rev. 3:5). But you must do so now while the door remains open, for one day it will shut. As Jesus said,

“And while they [the foolish virgins] were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:10-13).

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: The Dead Church (Revelation 3:1-6) | January 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).

The Sting of Conviction | Bible Gleanings – January 15-16, 2022

The truck accelerated down the road toward our little beagle, who was sniffing garbage someone hurled out their window, and her life was saved by a teensy zap of electricity administered by her shock collar. An agitated bobcat hissed at our English shepherd during an evening hike, and a quick jolt from his electric collar yanked him away from the furious feline and back toward me. And, until the day when our Jack Russell first wore her shock collar, she would race beside the tires of passing vehicles in an attempt to outrun them.

Using shock collars may be considered cruel by some, but they have saved our dogs from danger and even death on numerous occasions. Of course, neither we nor the dogs enjoy using them as a means of discipline, but there are times when a sudden sting is the only method to warn them of imminent danger and correct their course.

There are times when the Spirit of God “shocks” us with a zap of conviction to warn us that we are headed for spiritual danger. The Holy Spirit stings our conscience when we drift too close to sin’s deadly road. It certainly burns when He jabs our heart with a prick of reproof, but it is required for us to flee spiritual peril and return to God. Each time He arrests our heart through the sting of admonition, He is saying, “Come, let us return to the LORD” (Hosea 6:1).

He executes conviction for the first time at your conversion, when you realize that you have offended a holy God by your sin. Jesus said, “And when he comes, he [the Holy Spirit] will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). But He continues to alert you of your need to repent, and He will alarm you of potential spiritual danger when it is present. He will poke at your conscience all-day long if you have unconfessed sin in your life (Psalm 32:3-5). And because He guides you into all truth, He will send a spark of correction to your mind when you drift into theological error (John 16:13).

Embrace the Spirit’s occasional sting of conviction—God is using it to save your life.


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).

Thank God for Thrown Bricks | Bible Gleanings – Aug 28-29, 2021

John Wesley (1703-1791), the passionate preacher and founder of the Methodist movement in England, was riding along a road when it occurred to him that he had gone three days without being persecuted. Threats and insults had ceased. No chicken eggs or bricks had been thrown. Wesley came to a halt, alarmed, and shouted, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?” He interpreted the lack of persecution as a lack of devotion to Christ.

Wesley leapt from his horse and went to his knees, pleading with God to show him how he had sinned. A burly man on the opposite side of the hedge heard the prayer and recognized the preacher. He picked up a brick and hurled it at Wesley, saying, “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher!” It landed gently beside Wesley, missing him by only a few inches. Wesley leaped to his feet cheerfully crying, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His Presence!”1

Thank God for thrown bricks! When the world hurls bricks of slander, contempt, and ridicule at you, it simply means you are glowing with God’s presence. The world despises Christ, and when you live like Him, you arouse their rage toward Him, which they then direct at you (John 15:18-25). You shouldn’t be shocked if the world hates you. You should be shocked if they don’t.

That is what the apostle Peter meant when he wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

Do not sulk when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Do not shut up, back up, or give up. Instead, praise God and keep on preaching. Rejoice and continue to represent Jesus in the world. Being ostracized and opposed for following Jesus is a blessing unlike any other. As Reverend Obadiah Holmes exclaimed after being whipped for preaching Christ, “Gentlemen, you have whipped me with roses!”

  1. This story has been circulated for years, but I first discovered it in Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations (Rockville: Assurance Publishers, 1979), 995.

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).

The Uniform is Useless | Bible Gleanings – June 26-27, 2021

The truth always comes out—just ask John K. Giles, the failed escapee from Alcatraz Island. After an unsuccessful train heist, he began serving his federal sentence in the legendary Alcatraz Penitentiary. This maximum-security prison housed gangsters and thugs like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly—and Giles landed himself behind bars with them. Such infamous criminals were sent to Alcatraz because it was considered inescapable. But Giles was cunning—and he found a way out.

The U.S. Army used to send laundry to Alcatraz Island to be washed—it kept the prisoners busy and kept our armed forces in clean uniforms. Giles worked at the loading dock where the military laundry was delivered to be washed. And piece by piece, he sneakily snagged a complete army uniform. Then on July 31, 1945, he merely dressed in the uniform and walked aboard an army boat, pretending to be an officer. Unfortunately for Giles, the boat was not headed for freedom like he expected. The boat docked at Fort McDowell on Angel Island, a major processing location for troops during World War II. As he set foot on Angel Island, he was back in cuffs again.

He fooled the army officials for a while, and may have fooled himself as well—but he couldn’t keep it up forever. He wore an army uniform on the outside, but he was still John K. Giles, the criminal, on the inside.

One of the most sobering truths in all of Scripture is that many people wear the Christian uniform on the outside yet remain unconverted on the inside. You can wear every piece of the suit and still be lost in your sins. You can be baptized, read the Bible, attend church regularly, give large offerings, and do other good works, but none of that matters if you aren’t changed by the gospel. According to Jesus, many individuals will fool others and even themselves into believing they are sincere believers, but they will not fool Him.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

How can you truly be saved, according to Jesus? By coming to know Him in faith. People trusting in their “many mighty works” will be cast away from the presence of the Lord into eternal hell. Only those who know Christ can be assured that their boat is headed for heaven instead of hell. Since you can’t fool the Lord, repent of your sins and believe that Christ and His work are enough for your salvation. 


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 (beagle).

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 14: Light of the World

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” —John 1:8

Candles are a pleasant and beautiful Christmas symbol, and they have been for centuries. Today, the long red tapers protrude from table arrangements of evergreen and holly. In the old days, candles were used as ornaments for Christmas trees (hopefully unlit!). In fact, if you look closely at most Christmas lights, they resemble the shape of a candle or flame.

But as prevalent as candles are this time of year, no one really knows why candles became associated with Christmas. Pagans in ancient days would light them during the winter as a symbol of anticipation for spring. It’s highly likely that Christians of old modified the meaning—lighting candles during Christmas to represent the coming of Jesus, who is the true light.

Candles are lit to provide light in the darkness—so also, Jesus came to bring light to those in the darkness of sin. Every human being lives in the domain of darkness with a darkened heart and is in desperate need of deliverance into the light (Romans 1:21; Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9).

The good news is, Jesus is the light which gives light to everyone, as John said above. Even the Lord Himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Like a brilliantly burning candle in a grim and dark room, Jesus shines brightly in this dark world to give you hope.

Day 12: The Gift of Life

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” —John 10:10b

Christmastime in eastern Czechoslovakia was bitter and cold in 1910. A terrible plaque of diphtheria had swept through and devastated many lives in the little village of Velky Slavhov. Half of the village contracted the disease and many of the victims were just children—less than ten years of age. When anyone in the family would start to show symptoms, they’d put a large black “X” on their doorpost to warn others that it had been quarantined.

There was an “X” painted on the doorpost of the home of Jano and Suzanna Barotkova. In less than a week, this couple found themselves childless. Their oldest child, only five, was the first to pass because of the disease. And even as Jano was working in the woodshed building her coffin, his other two sons were dying.

The two young boys eventually breathed their last and Suzanna finally broke out in agonizing sobs. The couple carefully laid their children, one by one, into handmade pine caskets and lifted them onto a wagon and started towards the graveyard. They passed house after house marked with a black X, but they were too weak and too depressed to offer any sympathy or encouragement to the others.

They buried their children, struggled through the Lord’s prayer and headed back home. Jano himself was sick now. He said, “I won’t see another Christmas. I don’t think I’ll see the New Year in, either.” He pushed away his soup and bread because it was too hard for him to swallow. The diphtheria had begun to constrict his throat. Suzanna gathered some kindling and lit a fire for the night, sure that her husband would be dead by morning.

Suddenly she saw someone approaching—a peasant woman tramping through the snow wearing a red and purple shawl. She had a jar of clear liquid in her hand, and she approached the couple’s home and knocked on the door. Suzanna cautiously opened the door and said, “We have the plague in our home, and my husband is in a fever right now.” The old woman nodded and asked if she could step inside, and she held out her little jar. She said, “Take a clean, white linen and wrap it around your finger. Then dip your finger into this pure kerosene oil and swab out your husband’s throat—then have him swallow a tablespoon of the oil. This should cause him to vomit the deadly mucous. Otherwise he will suffocate. I will pray for you and your family.”

Then, the woman left behind her remedy and left the home. Suzanna followed the woman’s instructions and early Christmas morning, Jano retched up the deadly mucous. His fever broke and Suzanna had a flicker of hope. There were no presents or children that year, but an old woman with her jar of oil was a gift of life to that couple. Jano recovered and eventually, he and Suzanna emigrated to America and had many children.

That story has been handed down through the generations of that family—how a little peasant woman came on Christmas Eve bearing the gift of life for those who were dying. And this is exactly what Jesus has done! He came on Christmas day bearing the gift of life for those sick, dying, and hopeless. The deadly plague of sin has affected all of mankind and we cannot cure ourselves. The good news is, Jesus came to give life—eternal and abundant life. There is hope if you have the gift of life that Jesus came to bring on Christmas day.


Note: You will find this story in many works, but I read it first in Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations by Robert J. Morgan.


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.