Monday, December 8, 2014

Teaching Devotion: A Woman's Touch - Mark 5:27-29

Mark 5:27-29            When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

            It’s one of the most remarkable healing stories in the New Testament. An elderly lady, completely unassisted and acting alone, secretly touches Christ’s robe and instantly she is healed of a chronic illness which has impoverished her. It’s a desperate act of a woman who has spent everything she owned to cure her blood disease. Jesus is her one last great hope, but she is so demeaned by her illness that she cannot bring herself to publicly ask for His help. She is ashamed of the disease which condemns her to being constantly ritually unclean by her religion. All that she wants to do is to be cured and go on her way. No one notices her; no one can help her with her plight. She is all alone in the midst of the people who are crowding Jesus. She is isolated from any act of compassion or kindness from her own community.

            But her act of faith does not go unnoticed. For some strange reason, Jesus feels His divine power being drained from Him by her act of faith. He knows that someone has touched Him seeking healing. He has felt God’s power being channeled out of His own body. Perhaps it felt like an electric current passing through Him to her. Perhaps she felt a wave of energy coming out of Christ to her. Whatever the case and however it occurred, one thing was certain: Jesus knew.

            The woman is scared out of her wits when she is discovered. She has tried to avoid public shame by keeping her disease a secret. Now she is being exposed as someone who has stolen God’s gift from Jesus. She fears humiliation and punishment, but instead she receives mercy, grace, and encouragement from Christ. He is not angry that she has taken something holy from Him; instead, He is glad that her faith in Him has made her well. He does not chide or condemn; instead, Jesus praises and blesses her. He has restored her to God’s favor, as well as the community. He has given her back her life by commending her faith. Christ has blessed her with a new beginning.

            Perhaps you are seeking a blessing from God, a hurt to be healed, a situation to be sorted, or something painful to be resolved. Maybe you don’t know how to put your request into words; perhaps you cannot even voice a prayer. As Jesus would often say, “Fear not! I am with you.” Allow His Spirit to enter you; permit His comfort to support you; let His love sustain you. He has God’s power to protect you, direct you, and even correct you because He totally accepts you. Your faith in Him can make you well; your belief in Him can grant you a new beginning. Take it, receive it, and be renewed.

Questions for personal reflection

What would I like Jesus to do for me? What would He like me to do for Him?

Prayer:           Lord Jesus, heal us of all that harms us in body, mind, heart, and soul. 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 send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest Blue Christmas Candle drawings, simply called “Blue Christmas.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Blue Christmas

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Devotions for Teacher: Street Corners - Matthew 22:9

Matthew 22:9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 

            When I first became a Christian, I wanted to tell everybody about Jesus. He filled my heart and my life with an amazing and wonderful joy. It was a liberating experience for me because from the moment that I gave my heart to Jesus, my life changed.

            On some Saturday nights, instead of going to the city pubs, I joined a group of young folks who stood on street corners in the city center, preaching the Gospel to any passers-by. Sometimes we were jeered and mocked; on other occasions, people stopped to listen, although most of them were drunk. I don’t know if we changed any lives, but it did change us. It made us more connected to Christ and more willing to serve Him wherever He sent us.

            When I look back on those times I often envy those young free-spirited Christians. These days, I preach from the safety of behind a pulpit or a laptop. The message is still the same, but it doesn’t have that raw and wild component to it. There’s a lack of spontaneity, and sometimes a lack of spirit.

            I think this is why Presbyterians are losing ground across the world. We don’t like chaos or improvisation; we feel compelled to present the message decently and with order. We want to lecture people about the faith instead of living it. We want to safely control the Spirit and keep things cozily contained, instead of being moved by the Spirit and sent out into the shopping malls and city streets.

            Perhaps the real point of today’s parable (Matthew 22:1-14) is that Christians are meant to invite people to participate in God’s Kingdom. We get too focused on church attendance and denominational concerns that we forget that Christ’s real work is out there on the city streets and in the busy malls.

Questions for personal reflection

Have I shared my faith with someone else recently? Have I displayed the reality of God’s Kingdom where I live, where I work, and where I shop?

Prayer:           Lord Jesus, You want to invite everyone to come to Your Kingdom and celebrate with God. Forgive us for being focused on too many other things, as well as for forgetting that Your ministry takes place mainly in the world, outside of the church. Grant us the courage and wisdom to share our Christian beliefs humbly and joyfully. 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 about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s popular Fall drawings. It features a wee chipmunk eating an acorn and is called “Fall Break.” If you would like to view a larger version of the drawing, click on the following link: Chipmunk.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Devotion for Teachers: Real Faith - Matthew 9:29-30a

Matthew 9:29-30a   Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored.

            Faith is a very rare commodity these days. I’m not talking about a religious notion, or a spiritual feeling, or even a mystical experience. I’m talking about real solid faith in Jesus. I've been a pastor for almost thirty years and during that time I've seen many people mistakenly think that what they believe in is faith. What they actually hold on to is wishful thinking, just like in the old Peter Pan stories, where if you think good thoughts and add some pixie dust, you can really fly.

            Faith isn't a feeling, nor is it a daydream. Faith in Jesus actually requires focus, commitment, service, and humility. Because people are so one dimensional in their thinking, they naively believe that just thinking good thoughts about Jesus is all that is required. They delude themselves into the notion that being nice is what counts, and they wrongly equate that with being faithful.

            Faith is much more than a spiritual trivial pursuit; it is the life quest that we are all given from the moment we are born to the day that we die. We have one opportunity to get it right, to be found by God through faith in Jesus. If we set Him aside or falsely think that everything we do is blessed, approved, and condoned by Christ, then we’re tragically and eternally fooling ourselves.

            Faith, real faith, is not just something that we live for, it’s also a divine gift that we die with. If we go to meet our Savior without following, worshipping, or serving Him, then we won’t find Him at all. The Gospels give us all of the material, resources, and clues that we need about what real faith looks like; if we think that we can make it up for ourselves and wing it through life, then we’ll end up on the wrong side of glory. Faith requires commitment, but commitment is so inconvenient at times.

            So, let’s all truly, sincerely, and honestly ask ourselves this today: to whom am I being faithful? To Christ or myself, to His teachings or my own ideas? We cannot hide the truth from ourselves, and we certainly cannot fool Jesus either.

Questions for personal reflection

Am I faithful to Christ or am I just living a lie? Am I committed to His Church or am I just committed to myself?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we all want to have real faith in You. We really want to be Your followers and servants, disciples and messengers. Forgive us for playing at religion, or for feigning spirituality. Challenge our choices when they conflict with Your guidance. Change our lives when we contradict Your Word. 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest artworks. It’s called ‘Chalice,’ and it was made using paper sculpting and crayons. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Chalice.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Youth devotion: Passing On The Faith - 1 Kings 19:19

1 Kings 19:19           So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

            Yesterday, both of our Middle School and Senior High Youth groups led the worship service. They presented to the congregation their own music choices, their own prayers, and their own messages. Their words were wonderful and their enthusiasm was inspiring. They were confident about their Christian faith and they were effective with their combined witness. It was amazing to see the level of Christian maturity that they all have, so my heart was almost bursting with the joy I was feeling.

            Over the years, our wee church has heavily invested in the life and faith of our young people. Through our Planet Worship programs on Sundays, they get to know the rubrics of worship, so they always feel connected to God when we sing, pray, and glorify Him. With our Creative Expression’s ministries, we build up their confidence for public speaking, singing, and acting. And with the faithfulness, reliability, and leadership of our Youth Director, we have grown a superb bunch of church kids who are now becoming spiritual leaders to their own peers. It has been a long process, but the fruits that they are bearing are worth all of the time, effort, and resources that we’ve used to get them this far in faith.

            As I was reading today’s Old Testament passage (1 Kings 19:19-21) concerning Elijah’s appointment of Elisha as his successor, I could not help but thinking about the mantel of Christian faith that our church has placed over our young people. The experiences that they have had in the past will bear a lot of fruit in the years to come. Wherever they go, I think that they will remain strongly connected through the faith events that they have shared together. The Church is in good hands, so my hope and prayer for them is simple: “Lord Jesus, bless them all.”

Questions for personal reflection

Do I have any special faith-forming memories from my youth? How can I encourage the youth in my church?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, thank You for Your message which still continues to inspire people from one generation to the next. Thank You also for the future of faith among our young people and the tasks that You are going to set them. Bless them for the many ministries and missions which they will undertake, accomplish, and fulfill. Be with them and help them to boldly take our faith to new heights and ways. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully 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 an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s psalm drawings. It depicts a verse from Psalm 67. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Psalm 67.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Staff devotion: Limping Around - 1 Kings 18:21

1 Kings 18:21           Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. 

            I can still remember translating today’s passage of 1 Kings 18 from the original Hebrew into English many years ago at seminary. This verse doesn't just say “How long will you waver between two opinions,” the actual Hebrew reads, “How long will you go on limping from your left foot to your right foot?” Elijah had a great way with words and was rebuking his people for their obstinacy and idolatry.

Instead of following God and His words, Elijah’s people worshipped foreign idols and strange deities. They had been led astray by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who made the people forsake their old faith and embrace the savage gods that the original Canaanites had worshipped. Despite being delivered from their One True God over many generations, the people decided to reject the past and dabble with idolatry. They followed the example of their leaders, instead of letting themselves being led by God. They chose the wrong path, so Elijah was sent among them by God to trouble the whole nation and redirect them back to God.

Eventually, the idolatrous and scandalous ways of Ahab and Jezebel would be defeated and true worship of God would be restored. But it would take several years to be accomplish and not even Elijah would see the fruits of his prophesies.

Every generation is faced with the same temptations. These days, we are prone to worship celebrities and follow their false lead. Much of the ambivalence in today’s society is caused by people ‘limping from the left foot to their right foot.’ There does not seem to be any consistency among faithful people and so we suffer from the same idolatry that almost ruined Elijah’s people.

It’s time to reclaim who we are as Christians by re-establishing the foundational truths of our faith. If we continue down the same path of inconsistency that we've been travelling on for years, then faithlessness and meaninglessness will devour the spirits of our people. True worship of God is based upon three simple things: daily Bible reading, daily prayer, and daily service to God. If we honestly think that we can get by without these three elements then we are sadly deluding ourselves and will end up making our own idols. However, if we truly want our lives to change for the better and for God, then we absolutely need to stop limping around and start walking toward Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Questions for personal reflection

How strong is my Christian faith? What do I do to keep it strong?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You invite us to follow You in order to become Your disciples and servants of God. We cannot do this on our own, nor by wishful thinking. Help us to turn to You in order to truly change our lives. Keep us mindful of the foundational role that the scriptures, prayer, and service have in sustaining and strengthening our faith. 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 send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.

Today’s image is a drawing of Elijah in the wilderness that John drew for Vacation Bible School this year. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Elijah.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Devotion for Teachers: Son Light - Matthew 5:16

Matthew 5:16           In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

            Quite recently, Evelyn and I had our front yard re-landscaped. The bushes were overgrown and the whole yard needed a major makeover. I’m not much of a gardener, so we hired two people to do the work. They labored for two days. On the first day, they dug out the old bushes and trimmed the trees. On the second day, they planted some new bushes and flowers, and mulched the whole area. We were both very pleased with the results.

            We also purchased some small white fencing to ‘prettify’ the whole garden, which looked terrific during the day. At night-time, however, something was missing. We bought solar powered globular lights and placed them in the mulched area. They were perfect! Their additional lighting has brightened the whole garden and added to our delight.

             I personally love the additional fact that the solar lights don’t need to be switched on, or have their bulbs replaced. They build up their energy during the day from the sun’s rays, and at dusk they turn on by themselves, giving the garden some extra charm. It makes the whole place look attractive and is very pleasing to the eye.

            As Christian people, we are supposed to reflect the love of Christ through our daily deeds so that others may be attracted to God. If we build up our faith resources through daily contact with the Son using prayer and scripture reading, then we will have the potential to make good choices and become better witnesses for Jesus. At times, the world around us can be a dark and frightening place, but with Christ’s light shining from His people, the world can be transformed into a place of healing and help, light and love.

Questions for personal reflection

How do I recharge my faith in Christ each day? How do I display His light through my daily deeds?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You are the Light of the world and we are called to reflect Your brilliance through our deeds and choices, faith and lives. Help us to seek better and more consistent ways to reenergize our spirits and deepen our connection to You. Grant us opportunities this week to be compassionate and loving disciples of Your words and ways. 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 questions, please contact him by email at Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s crayon drawings called ‘Lamp.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Lamp.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Teaching devotion: Three Important Things - Matthew 4:23

Matthew 4:23           Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

            Teaching, preaching, and healing – those were the three main strands of Christ’s ministry among His people. He taught them the Word of God in new and authoritative ways. He preached the Word of God by challenging their ideas and confronting their sins. And He practiced the Word of God by healing the people of their illnesses, anxieties, and distresses.

            Teaching, preaching, and healing – these should be the three major strands of Christ’s Church throughout the world. People still need to be taught the Word of God, otherwise they make up their own set of beliefs to suit themselves. Folks need to be preached to, and at, in order to shake up their choices and life styles. And people still need to be healed because there is brokenness, suffering, and despair all over this planet.

            If we are truly taught the Word of God, we can become Christ’s followers. If we are fully receptive to the preaching of God’s Word, we will make good and honest choices. And if we allow ourselves to be healed of the past, as well as cured of our present woes and anxieties, we will discover a newer, brighter, and more blessed future with Jesus.

            Teaching, preaching, and healing – the continuous and effective ministries of Christ which we can still experience today, in any part of this planet, in any place where the Spirit of the Lord can be personally known – which is everywhere and by everyone.

Questions for personal reflection

What part of Christ’s teaching means the most to me? How has preaching increased my faith as a Christian? When and where has Jesus healed me?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, thank You for being the True Teacher, Preacher, and Healer of the world. Help us to rely upon Your words and ways each day. Grant us the grace to receive, retain, and apply God’s Word through Your teaching, preaching, and healing 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 send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest Lectionary art images. It’s based on a verse from Psalm 67. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Psalm 67.