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

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

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

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

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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Devotions for Teachers: Worship Blessings - Matthew 4:10

Matthew 4:10  Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.' " 

            I love worshipping God. It’s good to come among a group of like-minded people and sing together our praises of God. Being with Church family week after week gives me the strength, encouragement, and challenges to face whatever takes place during the next seven days. Without church, I don't know how I could live. Without worship, I don't think I would have any faith, hope, or love.

            Worship to outsiders looks like a dull religious thing. They don't understand the positive power and unique experience that being in God’s House each week creates. They think that worshippers are full of weak, unintelligent, and misguided people. They don’t know about the spiritual pull that God gives to His people to come together to be with Him. It’s a mysterious event where folks are drawn together by the bidding of the Holy Spirit and brought into the favorable, sacred presence of God. There’s nothing like it on Earth; there’s not even anything like it in Heaven because people are already gathered there.

            Going to worship on a regular basis does not make us superior Christians, but it does build up our faith in Christ and love of God. Worship helps us to humbly come before God to praise His Name, seek His forgiveness, and look for His guidance. It’s a filling station for empty spirits; it’s a sacred haven for troubled souls.

            When Christ confronted the devil about worship, He plainly and effectively stated that worship was meant to be directed toward God only. There is no other object of our worship; there is no other being that we are meant to focus upon. When we worship God, we are fulfilling our destiny, our purpose, as well as the meaning of our lives. We are created to worship God, so we are at our most complete when we come to church as believers and worshippers, as well as pilgrims and disciples seeking and receiving His love.

Questions for personal reflection

What does worship mean to me? How do I humbly serve God through regular worship?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we are called to worship Your Father, our Creator, to serve His purposes, and to find meaning in His Kingdom. Thank You for boldly confronting the devil by declaring what true worship is. Help us to humbly and authentically worship God each day of our lives, as well as with Your gathered people. 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 send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest miniature paintings called “Christ Icon.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Christ Icon.

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

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

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.