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

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:

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

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:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Easter devotion: Crown Prince - Hebrews 5:5

Hebrews 5:5    So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 

The main purpose of a priest is to make prayers before God on behalf of the people. Mostly all religions appoint holy men and women to intercede between their deity and the community at large. Festivals and feasts, holy days and religious celebrations from all over the world have this in common: at the center of the event, prayers are made to God, as well as petitions, confessions, and thanksgivings.

As Presbyterians, we practice the priesthood of all believers which is why we make our prayers of intercession and confession together in church. The only High Priest that we recognize is Jesus Himself and so we offer our prayers in Christ’s Name. Some people say that we miss out the ‘middlemen,’ but that’s not really what we do. Our prayers are always sacred and so we make them sincerely to Jesus, in the confidence and knowledge that He is always in the presence of God, His Father.

When Jesus left Heaven to come to Earth, He did not feel entitled to His appointment as the Chosen One. He still had to be given that High Office directly from God. This is why we read several times in the Gospels about God declaring and proclaiming that Christ is His Son. It is not just a public statement made in the presence of the disciples and other witnesses, it is a genuine calling from God to Jesus. It is the act of a High King conferring the title of Crown Prince on his son; it is the divine deed of the Creator bestowing the highest honor upon His child.

Today, we will all say prayers. We will make confessions about our mistakes, as well as intercessions about our circumstances. Whatever the case, and whenever we pray, we all need to remember this: our prayers are made to Christ and we send them to Him because He can then take them on our behalf and bring them before God. This is what our High Priest does; this is Christ’s duty as the Crown Prince of all Creation.

Questions for personal reflection

What am I praying for today? Am I truly giving my prayers to Christ?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we worship You as our High Priest and Heavenly King. We praise You as the Crown Prince of all Creation and the Lord of all our lives. Thank You for receiving our prayers, as well as for interceding each day on our behalf. May we serve, glorify, and honor You forever. 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 a question or make a comment about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Holy Week drawings. It’s called “Tormented Sky,’ which depicts Christ in silhouette carrying His Cross to Calvary. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lenten devotion: Lentbook - 2 Timothy 2:23

2 Timothy 2:23           Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

I love debating with other people. It’s part of my training as a pastor. At seminary or university, candidates for ministry are taught apologetics through class presentations or theological debates. The arguments usually spill over into the canteen area and can get very heated at times. I guess when people are really passionate about their beliefs, confrontation and conflict are inevitable.

This happens quite a lot on Facebook, too. Ever since I joined it, I've found myself sucked in to various theological tussles and inter-church conflicts, which have been quite severe at times. I wish that I could write that I have always kept to the high ground and not become embroiled in fiery free-for-alls; the truth is this: Facebook brings out the worst in me at times, and also among my Christian friends.

So, here’s what I'm doing for Lent: I am going to seriously attempt to give up quarreling on Facebook. It’s so easy to get involved in a fight or write a comment that does not help the situation. Now this won’t be simple for me either, because I can be quite self-righteous and highly opinionated at times. However, if the main purpose of Lent is to help me grow closer to Christ and value His sacrifice, then perhaps avoiding negative belligerent comments and making positive posts instead, may help me overcome this bad habit. And, in order to enable me to be reminded of this commitment, I've taped today’s verse to my laptop keyboard.

Perhaps you may feel led to do the same thing as well. It’s better than giving up chocolate or candy…J

Questions for personal reflection

How do I interact with other people on social media sites? Do I honor Christ with my comments and posts?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, from the Gospels You taught about the consequences of careless words and thoughtless deeds. You commanded us to love one another, including our enemies. Forgive us when our foolish pride and strident stupidity diminishes our Christian witness before other people. Help us to use this sacred season of Lent as a special time to review what we write, post, and express in our emails and comments. 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 on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image says it all…J You can view the original here:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Staff devotions: Called to Serve - 1 Samuel 16:7b

1 Samuel 16:7b          “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Unlike its summer counterpart, I prefer watching the Winter Olympics because snow and ice are great equalizers when it comes down to individual performances. Even the best winter athletes can slip on the ice or fall on the snow, so you never really know who is going to win an event. There also doesn’t appear to be as much self-promotion and personal aggrandizement that you now sadly get with the Summer Games. In fact, I stopped watching the Summer Olympics years ago because it was more about good looks, commercial success, and money marketing than the sports themselves.

Today’s highlighted verse derives from a special event in the life of the Old Testament prophet Samuel and that of Israel’s most famous king, David. Samuel has been sent on a special mission by God to anoint a successor to the failed King Saul. When Samuel sees the sons of Jesse, he initially thinks that the most powerful and strongest among them should become king.

But God intervenes and reminds Samuel that He looks at the heart of man, and not his outward appearance, when He chooses a person for a special purpose or calling. Samuel should have easily remembered this because he was chosen by God as a lowly child to become a great prophet.

Churches often call upon their members to take up ministries, missions, and tasks for which the individuals may not feel worthy or best suited. In my own time as a minister, I have seen some people turn down a request or invitation to do something special for the church, simply because they do not feel adequate. But if the calling ultimately comes from God, then He believes that the person can fulfill the task and He will provide them with the ability and strength to carry out His plan. Feeling unprepared or unworthy shows both integrity and humility, two beautiful qualities that actually delight the Lord, and also enable Him to work with that person to fulfill their calling.

Questions for personal reflection

Have I been asked to serve the church in a special capacity? How did I respond?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You call all of us to follow and serve You in our churches and communities. Open our hearts, minds, and lives to do Your bidding, even though we may feel anxious and unworthy about being asked or called. Guide us and grant us the acceptance and ability to do whatever we can for You and Your church. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. If you would like to ask a question or make a comment about today’s message, please send John an email.

Today’s drawing is one of John’s latest Snowbird drawings called “Bluebird Dawn.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lent devotions: Walking to Calvary by John Stuart

My new Lent devotions e-book “Walking to Calvary,” is now available. It has 40 new daily devotions, along with artwork, Bible verses, prayers, and personal reflection questions for each day in Lent. You can purchase the book on Amazon at the following links:


Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year devotions: Happy New You

Like everyone else, I try to make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. Like most people, I fail to live up to my own expectations. This year I'm going to try something different. I've written a new e-book called "Happy New You," which contains 31 short daily devotions for the month of January. My plan is to read and reflect on God's Word each day and try to get closer to Christ right at the beginning of the year.

I believe that if I do this, then I will make God the focus of my 2014 journey. Would you like to join me? If so, then you can also do this by getting the e-book for your kindle, PC, Mac, or mobile device. The link to the book is contained in the box below.

God bless you all. May 2014 be a year where your hopes and dreams are all fulfilled in Christ!