Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teacher devotion: Talking to Jesus - Revelation 20:14-15

Revelation 20:14-15   Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)

            When I first read today’s passage from Revelation, I was a teenager who had rebelled against God and my family. The words shocked me and cast a dire shadow over my soul. I felt quite anxious about the whole scenario depicted in Revelation 20, and fearfully convinced myself that God was waiting to punish me for all of my sins on the other side of death. I felt miserable and alone, unloved and hopeless.

            Instead of making me turn my life around, this frightening knowledge only made me worse. I flippantly cast aside God’s judgment for two reasons. Firstly, I was in denial about my own selfish and sinful ways. Secondly, my self-destructive attitude was summed up in an old saying: “I may as well be hanged for stealing a sheep, rather than a lamb." Defiance and rebellion against God fed my despair. Since God was going to punish me anyway, I might as well just sin as much as I could.

            Thankfully, Jesus saved me from myself, as well as from God’s wrath. Giving my heart to Jesus was the best decision that I have ever made in my entire life. It did not make me perfect, holy, or sinless, but that personal commitment offered me a hope to hold on to, as well as a Savior who has never let me go. Each day, I depend upon Him to accept, correct, and direct me; each day I need Jesus to both forgive and fortify me. Without His grace, I cannot truly find God. Without Christ’s love, I cannot truly live.

            Perhaps you are worried about your future with God. It may be the case that you’ve been burdened with a personal mistake, or a deep regret, or a secret shame which makes you fearful of God’s final judgment. Whatever it is, know this for a fact: it can be forgiven; it can even be forgotten. All it takes is a simple act of faith, a prayer of sincere confession to Jesus. Talk to Him about it and ask for His pardon. He will forgive you. He will save you. He will always love you.

Questions for personal reflection

What sins am I still carrying from the past? When will I bring them to Jesus and ask Him to forgive me?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Only One who can forgive our past mistakes and bless us with an everlasting future. We carry our burdens too long and ask too little of You. Forgive our pride and resentment, pardon our shame and disappointment. Help us to come to You today, praying for mercy and asking for love. In Your Holy Name, we earnestly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s drawing is John’s latest digital glass image called ‘Tree of Life.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Tree of Life.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Devotion for Teachers: The Real Thing - Revelation 14:6

Revelation 14:6           Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language, and people.

            Do you remember that old Coke commercial which begins with one person on a hilltop singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing.” By the end of the advert, hundreds of people in different national costumes, and of all races, have gathered together to sing and drink coke. It was one of the most successful ads ever made and people bought into the idea of One Harmonious World, while conveniently forgetting that the actual message behind the commercial was for one brand of soda to be purchased everywhere on Earth. It was very clever and very sublime at the same time. It preached a message of equality, while it simultaneously invoked worldwide capitalism. Whoever created the ad was certainly worth all of the salary that he or she was getting.

            In the Book of Revelation, the idea of one world is expressed through the eternal gospel being proclaimed everywhere on planet Earth. As it states in today’s verse, every nation, tribe, language, and people will have the Gospel proclaimed to them in the Last Days. This represents the mercy of God, for He gives everybody the opportunity of hearing and receiving the Good News of Jesus Christ. No one is coerced to accept the Gospel, but everyone is given the opportunity to hear it. In other words, God’s sees the unity of humankind through the ministry of His Son Jesus Christ.

            This is why Christianity remains a missionary faith, even in a cosmopolitan world. The mission of our faith is to reach people everywhere with the Gospel. We do this through preaching, teaching, and proclaiming, as well as through education, medicine, and support. Through what we say and do as faithful Christians, other people may be attracted to Christ. By all that we proclaim and present in our congregations, other people may be drawn into Christ’s Church. The life, work, and ministry of the Church has one great assignment – to proclaim the eternal gospel to those who live on the Earth – to every nation, tribe, language, and people.

            Our role in this great task is to be messengers and proclaimers of Christ. The people around us and closest to us see the Gospel through us. Our personal mission is to lead them to Christ because, in some cases, there will be no one else in their lives to do this.

Questions for personal reflection

As a Christian, who have I brought nearer to Christ? Am I willing to proclaim the Gospel to my loved ones? Do I actually know what the eternal Gospel is?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, our Christian faith is never meant to be private or personal, exclusive or introverted. We need to remember that someone else in our past brought us to You. Take away our fears of embarrassment about sharing the Gospel. Grant us the courage to share our faith in those precious moments and gracious opportunities that You create 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please email him at Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s bulletin cover drawings, based on a verse from Luke 14. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Bulletin.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

teaching Devotions: Nothing New - 1 John 5:20

1 John 5:20    We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

            The Apostle John lived in a multicultural and diverse world. The Roman Empire contained many different people from all sorts of backgrounds, nations, and religions. The success of the Empire lay not just in its military strength, but also in its tolerance of different cultures. Romanization of different ethnic groups and races did not involve the complete wiping out of local traditions, gods, and cultures. As long as people did not rebel and paid homage by paying taxes to the Emperor, they could remain under the protection of Rome.

            However, when Christianity appeared on the scene, it came into conflict with the Roman authorities almost immediately. The fact that Christ had been crucified under Roman Law meant that His followers were seen as insurrectionists who could not be tolerated or allowed to grow across the Empire. This is why so many of Christ’s original disciples were martyred; they were considered to be hostile extremists whose sole mission was to bring down the Roman Empire. In fact, only the Apostle John who wrote today’s verse, lived to a ripe old age, albeit in exile on a lonely island in the Aegean Sea.

            John was writing his first letter to new Christians who may have been frightened by the persecuting power of the Roman authorities. He expressed to them his absolute certainty that Jesus was sent by God in order to lead people to the Truth, so that his readers would know where and from whom to find eternal life. John states it simply and succinctly: ‘we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.’

            Today, we have the opportunity of sharing in and experiencing the same reality. Christ alone forgives our sins, draws us to God, and grants us eternal life. In a cosmopolitan, multicultural world, this is currently interpreted as being narrow-minded, exclusive, and intolerant. So what’s new? Those were the very same criticisms and charges that were raised against the Apostle John and the First Century Christians – why should we think that the world would see us any differently?

Questions for personal reflection

What makes me a Christian? Do I accept John’s ancient words that Jesus is the true God and eternal life? Why?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we are all seeking the Truth so that our lives can be lived out purposefully, genuinely, and effectively. Keep us mindful of the original beliefs that the Apostles like John had and which the First Christians embraced. In Your Holy Name, may we remain devoted to You. 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 about today’s message, please send him an email to traqair@aol.com.

Please feel free to share and forward this message to your friends and families.


Today’s image is one of John’s Pentecost drawings called “Spirit Window.” You can view a larger version at the following link: Spirit Window.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Young People devotion: Hope for Everyone - James 5:19-20

James 5:19-20            My friends, if someone should bring back another who has strayed from the Truth, take note of this: Whoever convinces a sinner to repent of his erroneous ways will rescue that person from death and cover over his many sins. (JSV)

            There is hope for everyone, even the worst of sinners. I know this to be true for I am part of that category. We all make ill-advised choices, especially when we are young adults, some of which can ruin our lives entirely. We follow our own path and determine our own future. We hate being wrong and don't want to repent of or confess our foolish ways. Some of us would rather keep making the same sinful choices rather than admit to being wrong. Being ornery and stubborn, mule headed and strong minded comes with the territory of growing up. What we eventually become is largely based on how willing we are to change direction, especially if we are following a self-centered and self-destructive path.

            When I was addicted to alcohol, I never heeded anyone's advice. My mother wept over me; my father gave up on me; and my friends began to abandon me. I stubbornly refused to concede that I had a problem. I believed that I was right and everybody else was totally wrong. I wouldn’t seek help and almost got myself into a lot of serious trouble. If I hadn't met Christ on the road I was on, I probably would be dead by now. It took His presence in my life and the candid words of His followers, who were my peers, to turn my life around. Their love convinced me to repent. Their understanding and faith saved me from my sinful addiction.

            Sometimes I worry about our young folk at church, college, and in their new careers. Some of them are making foolish choices just like I did, so I pray for them on a regular basis. I want them to know that the lessons of faith they learned as children or teenagers are still relevant in their lives today. I want them to know that when all else fails, Jesus will never let them down. I want them to have a place of acceptance and love, renewal and hope in their lives.They are still, and always will be, children of God’s grace. My fervent prayer is that they will personally know that for themselves in the most crucial time of their beautiful lives.

Questions for personal reflection

Who are the young people in my church? How often do I think about and pray for them?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You personally know the young people in our lives who are part of our family and church. Please be with them this day and bless them with guidance. Let them know that they are fully loved by You, as well as by Your people. Help them to make good choices which will bring positive benefits to their lives. Let all of them experience Your loving embrace. In Your Holy Name, we earnestly 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 Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is John’s latest Memorial Day drawing called “HERO.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7411/14115352532_981eecd1a7_b.jpg


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Teaching devotion: Common Core - 1 Peter 3:18

1 Peter 3:18    For Christ died once for all sins of the righteous and unrighteous, to restore you to God. He was physically executed, but made alive again through the Spirit.

            Today’s chosen verse contains the common core of our Christian beliefs. Jesus died for our sins because there was no one else and no other way that this could be accomplished. Without His crucifixion, there would be no sacrifice. Without His death, there would be no forgiveness. And without His resurrection, there would be no hope of everlasting life.

            Some people claim that Christ died accidentally for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and confronting the wrong authorities. They say that He never meant to die, but would have continued preaching, teaching, and healing well into His old age. They say this because they can’t cope with the fact that God required His Son to die for us. They don’t believe it because their pride won’t allow anyone to die for their sins. It’s almost as if they think that they will be able to advocate for themselves in the after-life without having Christ as an intermediary.

            Sadly, they are both deluded and wrong. None of us can talk to God face-to-face. We don’t have that right because we are not equals. We won’t be given that opportunity, no matter how cosmically unjust we might think that would be. God does not apply Himself or live by our rules. We, on the other hand, live under His authority and sovereignty. The rules belong to Him.

            Thank goodness, then, that Jesus actually died for our sins. In Him, we have the perfect Savior of our souls and the everlasting Advocate before God. Because of what He has done, we can be forgiven. Because of the blood that He shed, we can be restored. Because of His sacrifice, we can be hopeful of Life beyond death, Heaven beyond the universe, and Love beyond all of our imaginings. He died for our sins – to restore us to God totally, finally, and eternally.

Questions for personal reflection

What does Christ’s death mean to my faith in Him? How else could my sins be forgiven?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Source of our Salvation and the Living One who leads us to eternal life. There is no one else in History, on Earth, or under Heaven who could give us this Blessing of all blessings. We thank You for Your sacrifice and we praise You for Your victory over sin and death. In Your Holy Name, we cheerfully and gratefully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is part of a Holy Week series of images that John created for 2014. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7194/13939576594_9f95bfb516_b.jpg

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Devotion for Teachers: From Death to Life - Hebrews 10:17-18

Hebrews 10:17-18      Then the Holy Spirit adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Every day, a past mistake or a deep regret crosses my mind and saddens my heart. I remember clearly the circumstances of my misdeed and the pain or disappointment that I caused. I feel ashamed at what I did, either as a teenager or an adult, a child or an old man. The past haunts my soul for a time and I shake my head miserably. Once again, I ask God for forgiveness; once again, I pray to Jesus for pardon.

The strange thing about this is that I’m not letting go of what Christ has already forgiven. Emotionally, I revisit my sins in a Calvinistic masochistic way. I want to experience my depravity and punish myself for past foolishness or selfishness. I want to be dour and depressed, wallow in my waywardness, and spirituality meander in my own morbidity. I’m only hurting myself. I’m only hating who I am because of pride. It’s easier to beat my breast and say ‘I am to blame,’ rather than humbling myself and truly asking for mercy. To be human is to hold on to my sin; to be divine is never going to happen.

And then I read wonderful verses in the Bible about God’s love for me, Christ’s mercy for me, and the Holy Spirit’s grasp of me. My sins are totally forgiven and remembered no more by God. I don’t need to keep beating myself emotionally, physically, spiritually, or mentally because Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary is infinitely more than enough to wipe away my tears and cleanse me of the past. I don’t need to wallow in sin; I just need to follow Him.

Holy Week does incredible things for all of us. It reveals our humanity being rescued by Christ’s humanity and divinity. It takes us from the depths of utter despair to the heights of true happiness. We journey through this week as dying, hopeless creatures and end up becoming everlasting children of God. We are forgiven and lifted up because we are meant and made to be Easter people. This is the Gospel Truth. This is the Good News!

Questions for personal reflection

Is there a past mistake in my life that I have never forgiven myself for committing? Am I willing to bring it humbly to Jesus and truly seek His pardon this week?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, our times are in Your hands, and You know our past mistakes. Help us to let go of our bad choices, foolish deeds, and sinful events by bringing them humbly and sincerely to You. Take us from despair and death; lead us to love and life. 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 traqair@aol.com.


Today’s drawing is one of John’s Holy Week images for 2014. It’s called ‘Lazarus.’ If you would like to view a larger version of the drawing, please click on the following link: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7336/13848753255_9631f3fa5e_b.jpg


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter devotion: Annual Reminder - Hebrews 10:3-4

Hebrews 10:3-4          But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Usually, when we break a promise or disappoint someone, we seek their forgiveness and hope to be given an opportunity to redeem our mistake with a gift. Sometimes parents do this with their children, especially if they've been unable to keep a special promise because of work related commitments. At other times spouses, who disappoint their partners, have a lot of giving to do in order to make amends. And even businesses, that unexpectedly fail their customers, usually offer a discount or free gift to make up for the disappointment. In all of these cases, some process of sacrificial giving is necessary in order to restore relationships, confidence, and trustworthiness.

In Old Testament times, when God’s people disappointed Him, they quickly offered a ritual sacrifice of a bull, a goat, a sheep, or some pigeons. Their mistakes and sins damaged their relationship with God. Because the people absolutely depended upon His bounty and blessings to sustain them, their livestock, and their crops, they sacrificed the best of their animals or the first of their produce to placate Him. They feared God’s wrath in ways that we cannot understand or even accept today.

But no matter how many times they sacrificed, the people still sinned. No matter how often they kept special feasts or religious rites to glorify God, they still were contaminated by their past mistakes and personal regrets. Their sacrifices were not sufficient to meet God’s requirements. Their regular religious rites could not effectively redeem and restore them to God.

This is why Christ came from God to enter into history and the world. This is why He sacrificed Himself so that our sins, as well as those of Christ’s own people, may be absolutely forgiven by God. After all, if the sacrifice of God’s Only Son was not enough to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness and justice, then there is nothing in all of existence that can save human beings from sin. We may not like the idea of God’s just demands; we may not ever fully understand why Christ had to die; but this we can know: Jesus died for our sins, so that we can be absolutely forgiven and eternally restored to God. This is also why the other name for Holy Week is “Passion Week’ – a sacred commemoration and faithful focus on Christ’s suffering, His Passion, for us.

Questions for personal reflection

Do I accept that Jesus died for me? Do I realize that His Death has given me Life?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we cannot fully comprehend why our sins would condemn You to death on a Cross. We don’t fully understand why God’s justice demanded such an awful and shameful thing. However, we are fully thankful that Your personal sacrifice has completely atoned for our sins, as well as restoring us to God forever. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and gratefully 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 traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest Holy Week drawings. It’s called ‘Descent.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7142/13439105075_cac310d7e5_b.jpg