Monday, December 2, 2013
Galatians 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I could give two precious gifts to the world this Christmas, they would be grace and peace.
Grace would be given, so that folks could forgive one another and allow their past mistakes to remain in the past. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters could set aside their differences and begin again. Fractured feelings, persistent pride, and baneful bitterness could be gone forever, replaced by love, kindness, and compassion. What a gift to give our broken world!
Peace would be given so that different groups could learn to dialogue with one another; nations could recommit themselves to the betterment of humanity; religions could turn their theological barbs and spears into plowshares for effectively working against poverty, oppression, and injustice. Races across the globe could respect the wonderful variety of God’s image in all people and work together to eliminate bigotry and prejudice, humiliation and rivalry.
The bad news is that I don’t have the ability or power to give those gifts to the world; but the good news is this: Christ has already given those two great blessings through His sacrifice on Calvary and obedience to God. The gifts of grace and peace are already ours; we only have to find and apply them in each of our lives to begin the worldwide celebration of God’s love to the world.
Questions for personal reflection
Where have I experienced God’s grace and peace in my life? To whom can I share these great gifts during Advent?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are both the greatest gift and the greatest gift-bringer in the history of the world. You came among us to grant all people everywhere the opportunity of being restored to God’s favor and love, as well as His grace and peace. Help us to share these blessings with the other people in our lives. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message or ask a question, please send John an email to email@example.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest Christmas drawings called “Tree Window.” It’s a stained glass design of a Christmas tree. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7389/11164226093_863c950b18_b.jpg
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
2 Corinthians 2:12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me.
Quite frequently, I get asked to say prayers for church members, families, and friends when they are considering changing jobs, careers, or homes. It’s very humbling to be asked because it means that the person making the request trusts me to pray for what’s best in their situation. Usually, I take time out that day to say a short prayer and then on the day of an interview or a house viewing, I pray as close as possible to the time of the event itself.
Sometimes the person comes back to me with good news, so I can say a quiet ‘thank you, God’ prayer later on. At other times, I hear nothing else, so I keep praying for God to give guidance and open up the right door for the person.
I guess that most of us do the same, especially for our loved ones and dearest of friends. As we pray, we hope that God will indeed open doors and grant new opportunities for the person concerned. Prayer becomes a vehicle of God’s goodness, as well strengthening the bonds of faith and friendship between the one who prays and the other who is prayed for. It’s a remarkably effective and personal way to both practice and apply our faith on behalf of other people.
Questions for personal reflection
Has someone asked me to pray for them? Is there someone that I can be praying for today?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You taught us to pray and showed us the value of being a praying people of God. Help us to make time today to pray for others, especially those who are looking for new doors of opportunity to be opened for them. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and cheerfully pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask a question or make a comment about today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s lighthouse drawings called “Guiding Light.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6225/6290707518_a96fd3c801_b.jpg
Friday, November 1, 2013
2 Corinthians 1:11b Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
I was reading another church’s newsletter this morning. It contained a special ‘thank you’ note from one of the members. He was expressing his gratitude for the many prayers that people in his congregation had given to God, especially when he was undergoing some serious and complicated surgery.
It’s wonderful to read those kind of notes. Not only does it help the person express his gratitude to God and His people, it also encourages others to use prayer as a means of obtaining God’s help in different situations. As the Poet Laureate Lord Tennyson once wrote, “There is more wrought by prayer than the world dreams of.”
Perhaps you or someone close to you is going through a hard time, or some sort of crisis – whether medical, financial, or relational – is presently occurring. Never underestimate the power of prayer, especially when those prayers are sent up by a whole host of people. At the wee church that I serve, we employ an email prayer chain so that whenever someone is in hospital or experiences something troubling, the majority of our people are quickly notified and the praying begins.
Even Mahatma Gandhi had this to say about the efficacy of prayer: “Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”
Questions for personal reflection
What type of prayers do I usually bring to God? When have I seen prayer work in my life?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You taught us how to pray and You also showed the power of prayer. As Your followers, help us to make prayer a regular part of our lives. Encourage us to see prayer as a sacred means of being spiritually connected to You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make a comment or ask a question of today’s message, please send him an email to email@example.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest bulletin drawings. It’s called “Mackintosh Poppy” and has been drawn for Remembrance Day (Nov 11th) of this year. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2839/10594576655_b2f63d3fe3_b.jpg
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Psalm 30:2 O LORD, my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me.
I always find 9/11 difficult. I grieve the world that we once knew, and tragically lost on that day of infamy. All of our lives have changed and nothing is as it was before. 9/11 altered everything and no matter how many times people or politicians say that we need to carry on just as we once did, we cannot ever go back to a pre-9/11 existence.
I usually start this day quietly and think about the past. At some point I go to visit the graveyard next to my daughters’ High School. Some wonderful church friends are buried there, including one who died on 9/11.
It was nice and quiet this morning as I walked on the dew covered grass next to the gravestones. I thanked God for the people I had known whose names are carved on the headstones. It was both a very realistic and surrealistic moment in time, where reality and eternity meshed together. I came away smiling because of the fond memories that I inwardly recollected. And I reminded myself, yet again, to bring some flowers next year.
They say that time heals, but really what they mean is that eventually some experiences from the past grow distant like waves retreating from the shore. Despite this, I know that I shall see those dear friends again in His Garden. My soul is at peace with that wonderful thought.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, on this fateful day, draw to near to us who remember the world as it once was. Walk with us as we go down hallowed and fearful paths. Heal our memories and grant peace to our weary souls. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and quietly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a question about today’s message, please send John an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is John’s 9-11 drawing for this year. It’s called “Always Remember.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3733/9725769218_18af60e748_b.jpg
Monday, August 19, 2013
Romans 11:5-6 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Yesterday, we celebrated Rally Day in our wee church. It’s a special Sunday because it officially kicks off the new Church year with regard to discipleship. A lot of good people put in a lot of time and work to make the whole venture successful. Breakfast and buttons, classrooms and coffees were all prepared for this annual occasion.
God is so gracious to us! Many families and members turned out, not just to enjoy breakfast, but to also get actively involved in discipleship. It was wonderful see people of all ages make an initial commitment of their time to learn more about God, to share their spiritual experiences, and to make strong connections with their peers. At Erin, we all want to grow in hope, faith, and love. God has graciously made all of this possible, so we are truly thankful to Him for allowing us such a blessing.
Grace is a wonderful gift in any church, congregation, or community. Later on, during the worship service, we were reminded of the hostility and violence that our Egyptian brothers and sisters are currently experiencing. Their churches are being burned and their Christian faith is being severely challenged. Compared to what they are presently enduring, we are so blessed with peace, fellowship, and love. The challenge that we now have today is this: how can we prayerfully support and care for the Coptic Christians in Egypt? What can we do, in the midst of our blessings, to ease their distress and rebuild their faith communities?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to remain committed to growing more in faith, so that we can support those whose faith is being attacked. Keep us focused on strengthening our congregation and churches, so that we may support, send aid, and stand with other Christians around the world who are facing real persecution in their lives. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a question about today’s devotion, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is from one of my collectible card drawings called “Cat’s Eye Moon.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3806/9420111961_5c2249a355_b.jpg
Monday, August 12, 2013
Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
John Calvin, the Father of the Presbyterian Church, used to finish his lectures with the above verse. In the midst of the Reformation, which brought about a hundred years of war all over Europe, John Calvin encouraged Reformed pastors to remain resolute and focused. He knew that for Protestantism to survive, the clerical leaders had to be faithful and courageous. Many of them would be hunted down, imprisoned, and even killed. Calvin used this verse to inspire them with the knowledge that God was on their side.
Five hundred years later, we appear to be at the beginning of a new Reformation in the life of the Presbyterian Church. Throughout ‘mainline’ Christianity, a lot of huge changes are taking place. At the moment, no one knows what shape we will take or where we will be in the next decade. A lot of guessing and envisioning is going on, which in turn is creating a great deal of anxiety among pastors and members alike.
No matter how it ends, the smartest thing is to be faithful and endure. John Calvin recognized this five hundred years ago, just as Paul did when he wrote the original verse to the persecuted Roman Christians almost two thousand years ago. Both Paul and Calvin did not know what the outcome of Christianity’s troubles would look like, but they both believed that God was in control, shaping Christian history and reforming the Church, just as He had intended. If God could do that centuries ago, then surely He is still doing the same today? After all, if God is for us, then who can be against us?
Questions for personal reflection
What makes me anxious about today’s Church? Where do I see God at work in today’s Church?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, the Church is Your Everlasting Bride. During these troubled times for Your Church on Earth, remind us of Your Love for Her. Help us to see what You are doing through the Church and allow us to fervently join You in that holy work. In Your Sacred Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a question about today’s message, please send him an email to email@example.com.
Today’s image is John’s latest drawing for his Psalms art project. It’s based on a verse from Psalm 137. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2838/9426814170_b4797dbe53_b.jpg
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
We all struggle with sin. There is not one of us who lives life perfectly, so in God’s eyes, we are unholy, imperfect, and just not good. We can justify our sins and make excuses for our mistakes, but that just compounds the difficulties in our lives and our relationship with God.
Most of us just want to be happy and hope that God understands when we fail Him. We want to be loved and tolerated, accepted and embraced by God, without being challenged or changed. We want our choices to be approved and our lives to be given an A+, but that’s a sinful delusion and selfish way of dealing with life. We are not at the center of God’s great universe; we are not God’s sole focus in the world. We are sinners who do unholy, unworthy, and ungodly things. We are careless creatures who cast God aside when He gets in the way of getting what we desire, and living the way that we want.
Thankfully, God knows us better than we actually understand ourselves, which is why He sent us His Son to die for our sins, in order that all things could be redeemed, reconciled, and restored perfectly to Him. Great sinners like ourselves need a Great Savior. Who else but the Holy Son of God can forgive our sins and bring us back to God? In all of the universe, there is Only One; in All of Creation, there is just One Savior: Jesus Christ.
Questions for personal reflection
What is my most repeated sin? How can Jesus forgive me, and empower me to overcome that persistent sin?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive our foolish and imperfect ways. Pardon our sinful and unholy words. Challenge our lives and change us for the better. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a questions about today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.